Here I am sitting among boxes as I wait for the packers to remove our final belongings as we prepare to leave Singapore. It’s been an experience, mostly wonderful. We came here as refugees – from the emotions surrounding the loss of our daughter Louise and the wish to mourn in a private and fulfilling way, by adventuring and ringing the changes. The deep sense of grieving never goes away and, as I have said many times, time is NOT a healer; but it is possible to fill your mind and your heart with happy experiences that take the raw edge off that insistent nagging realisation that every day you wake up is another without her.
This blog arose out of the desire to record our adventures; but our new peace of mind was rudely shattered by my diagnosis and treatment for soft tissue sarcoma (and resulted in the birth of a new blog www.healthylivingwithcancer.co). Now two and three quarter years into remission we are looking forward to the ‘small party’ I am allowed after three years. Ross’s prostate cancer is now four and half years in the past and his latest radiotherapy earlier in the year has seemingly done the trick and his PSA counts are down to normal. Phew all round.
So for both of us it has been quite a journey: Ross has simply adored his work here, building and being part of a great team that checks up on Novartis all over SE Asia. His travels have taken him from India to Korea, via China, Japan (one of our favourite places) Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia and of course Malaysia. I have seized the opportunity and gone with on many occasions, and of course we have had wonderful holidays. It’s a big wrench for him to leave.
For me the highlights have been visits to Myanmar, Mumbai and India to stay with friends, Laos, and the fantastic diving trips we have had, including two on the luxurious Dewi Nusantara to Raja Ampat and, recently, to Komodo and Flores. Tommy and Olivia visited us two years ago and it was fun sharing our new city with them. And I almost forgot about a recuperative post-op visit to Cyprus to stay with chums Penny and Mike…not SE Asia, but close enough!
Perhaps my greatest thrill has been becoming a Trustee of United World Schools and the visit to the school in Kiri Vong Sa that Ross and I sponsored. While in Singapore I have engaged with both Singapore schools to forge partnerships and the corporate world to encourage CSR sponsorship. We held two large events, plus a dinner, to beat the drum.
In May some girlfriends and I popped up to Phnom Penh with 120 kgs of duplo for the schools – and had a great weekend!
We have loved all of it in fact – from visiting Shanghai and Beijing, The Great Wall and the Forbidden City in temperatures of 45 C; following the Tea Horse Trail in Yunnan culminating with the rather disappointing Shangri La; skiing in Japan; hiking in Taiwan and travelling round Tamil Nadu. Many of these trips we have done with dear friends and family. We have been, and remain, truly blessed in so many ways. Despite all.
As for Singapore itself – well it’s not unlike Switzerland, clean, regulated and runs like clockwork. But not without its charm either. We have adored the delicious food, ranging from fine dining to hawker centres and, while supermarket shopping is exorbitant, taxis are cheap – hence no need for a car. Our apartment was functional and central, with a lovely pool; though had we stayed longer I think I would have liked to live Somerset Maugham-style in a black and white house, with open verandah and Balinese furniture.
The city is green – a city within a garden – and full of wonders: the Gardens by the Bay; the Botanic Gardens with its sumptuous orchids; the Marina Bay Sands boat; China Town and Little India; the canals and quays and of course the shophouses, always in the shadows of the tower blocks. And there is always some sort of religious festival – Buddhist, Muslim or Christian, all celebrated with garish street decorations.
We have made some good friends here too, ones we will cherish for life, as well as reacquainting with some old ones from university days – you can’t take Cambridge out of the girl even if you take her out of Cambridge! And my time here was not wasted either, as I managed to write and publish a book…there are some advantages to being an accompanying spouse!
While Ross has mixed feelings about leaving (the perils of big office society loom large in Switzerland), I am thrilled to be going home to our newly renovated but not yet completed house (groan). Gonna kick a bit of ass when I get back – be warned!
But first we are off to Western Australia to swim with the humpback whales, snorkel and dive the Ningaloo reef and sample the wines of Margaret River. We will raise a glass (or several) to the past three and a half years. Cheers!
You can read about our three and half years here by scrolling through this blog! And the latest adventures will be in the next one!