By Mummy B.
1) Operation Spring Cleaning … in summer!
Departures and arrivals of expat people are often divided into two main periods: summer and Christmas holidays. Once again we are no exception leaving Singapore in July. But before flying to France for holiday, we had some things to do … a lot of things! A real spring cleaning … in summer!
Sorting out: Well, naturally, even in few months (so what about years or decades), you accumulate stuff. And when you have a child, specially a young one, the whole mess becomes worse. So you have to decide what will be the future of your personal belongings… “trash”, “luggage”, “moving boxes”, “garage sale”, “donation” … and it’s really not easy! We would like to bring everything with us but the reason prevails (and also the budget … of course!). Therefore you will have to go through this strategically and psychologically exhausting moment : sorting out! In the end, your appartement seems to be the scene of a love triangle: yourself and the ones you keep on one side, the ones you leave on the other side. But don’t think it is over yet! You still have to pack, sell, give, or throw away all these things!
Paperwork: Aha! Always a pleasure! Such a joy, THE real bliss … and totally free! Paperwork! Piles of documents that fall on your little airhead. Because, just like me, you quickly put your mail in a drawer, the kind of drawer that you prefer forget. A drawer that sometimes you take for a space-time portal, a secret door to Narnia, a sort of no man’s land of your home or the Lost City of your living room … Well, a drawer where you cram a lot of stuff (more or less important) that you naively think they will sort themselves or magically disappear. Yeaaaah … but no! Too bad!
So, once again, you have to decide what you will absolutely need to keep with you during your weeks in Neverland…er Motherland for holiday, what can be put on a boat to America (and so completely inaccessible for several weeks) and what can be destroyed (oh yeah! camp fire!). It will take hours, or even days depending on the degree of motivation and efficiency, to classify tons of paper that you didn’t sort in the last weeks / months / years (delete as appropriate).
Terminate: Telephone, TV, internet, electricity, bank account, and so on … i let you complete the list. Getting your security deposits paid back, sometimes interrupting the apartment lease… You must terminate all contracts made, break every subscriptions … be the Dexter of the Convention, the serial killer of the trade agreement, the sniper of breakage costs. Nothing less! And finally leave no evidence of our presence, nothing but a scorched earth behind you … Attila and his Huns in a more bureaucratic version. Well… almost!
2) Garage sales
Garage Sale … In English please, because it sounds much more fun that the french not-so-cool “vide-grenier” (you can translate “empty your attic”)! But hey, no illusions, it’s the same boat whatever the language you can speak! First you have to define what is still in good shape to be sold but not useful or profitable to bring in our new little nest in the kingdom of Far Far Away. Then determine a price .. the suitable price, as if you would like to hear Drew Carey or Bob Barker says “The Price is Right!” … the price that will give the impression to the buyer to make a good deal but won’t let us full of tears and bitterness at the time of the exchange.
Not so easy. Especially when you sell to strangers the little dress worn by your Little Miss Princess for her first birthday, or even the brand new blender, which has neither the proper electrical connection, nor the appropriate voltage to be convenient (or even survive!) abroad. Selling out your personal belongings (and particularly at low prices) can make you feel selling out your memories, your life … yourself somehow.
Fortunately after hours of mental and physical torture for photographing any item likely to fill your piggy bank, tagging every prices on it to avoid endless questions the D-day, negociating to the nearest dollar with some stingy… er thrifty buyers…, actually you can also have some fun if you see your big garage sale like a small playing shop. A nice way to falling back in your childhood! And if you are in the mood to share your garage sale with a friend, it even ensures you good hours of chatting and laughing!
3) Saying Goodbye
The not funny part (or party …) that you would like to repel, deny, that you try to downplay. But the departure approaches, so you have to … say goodbye. The Farewell Party as they say, in English again (even if it’s not your mothertongue), because it sounds funnier than in french even if actually it is gonna be a two-speed party. For us it was quite strange to be shared between happiness and excitement to go to new horizons, to achieve our American dream but also sadness of leaving so soon while new and growing friendships began to make us really feel at home in Singapore.
So after the big party that brings everyone, we organized small gathering of friends to get full of laughs, talks to remake the world and confidences. We promised to meet again, to give news and that our Californian door will be always open for our friends so far away. And we hope with all our heart that these special bonds created in the tropics will hold the distance and time.
4) The movers
And then the big day arrived. The day when we saw six Mr. Muscle from Asian Tigers Mobility coming at home, with their arms full of boxes and adhesive tape to pack all our Singaporean life. Souvenirs : packed! Dishes, plates : wrapped! Toys, books, DVDs, clothes : carried away! Just like this, in a jiffy (or rather in one hour and a half) almost 7 cubic meters of boxes were standing in the lobby of the building, waiting to be loaded onto a truck, then a boat to San Francisco.
We also had to explain to our 2 years-old daughter that her toys will cross oceans and wait for her in our new home, and that she has to choose her favorite ones. The ones she will bring everywhere, with her heavy heart, in a small backpack. A bag that she will keep tight, frightened to see her last buddies go without her. Not easy for our princess to understand what is going on in the head of mom and dad.
In those moments, we find our 3 feet toddlers suddenly very mature and brave.
5) Last-minute sightseeing
Before going away for good, we try to check all of our “what we have to do in Singapore and around” list. The last visits, the last restaurants, the last sounds, smells, tastes … An explosive conclusion, a first-class end for all our senses. Another Asian shot, the last one before flying to the New World.
Of course we hardly managed to do half of what we planned. No time, with our heads full of administrative procedures, our hands busy of sorting, our feet running in all directions … Anyway, we take a final day in Singapore to remember all the discoveries and wonders from the beginning. And then the taxi driver, with his GPS probably programmed for tourists, brings us to the airport through Chinatown, Little India and let us see one last time Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Flyer, ArtScience Museum … and finally the Skyline that we watch becoming smaller and smaller on the horizon and leaves us with our stomach tight, our eyes bright, and our head full of all these special moments spent here … 13 months … An eternity passed to the speed of light or a few days which seem to extend over a lifetime … It was long, it was short, we do not know anymore. It was intense, that’s for sure!
Singapore, you annoyed me, tired me, made me feel angry or exhausted … but I’ll never forget you, because you also showed me a world that I didn’t know. A world with an extravagant architecture, full of advanced technologies, with an impressive history, a surprising social and ethnic mix and a lot of magic places… a city where sometimes moments are just suspended in time … I’m leaving but I’m sure of one thing: Singapore … we will see each other again!
6) Dealing with unforeseen events
Initially we planned to stay the whole month of August in France and then take a plane to San Francisco in early September. That was the plan… but things do not always go as expected!
To live in the United States, we needed the key which open the american door to any future expatriate: the visa. To do so, we filled out a form online with a bunch of very smart questions like “Are you coming to the United States to engage in prostitution?” or “Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization?” … We have enclosed a stack of paper that had to prove that Daddy B. will have a real job in US, that Mummy B. is truly Daddy B.’s wife and Mimi B. their daughter.
Then we waited for the Embassy of the United States in Paris to fix an appointment in order to meet us and validate our visa application. We expected it to happen in August, but administrative slowness and parisian inactivity that month delayed the date to the 22nd of September.
Three weeks during which Daddy B. had to begin his work in California while Mummy B. and Mimi B. extended their visit in France. Three weeks of separation that were not expected at all…
It was not the only unexpected (and absolutely not wished) episode … Doggy B.’s tranportation was also quite problematic and difficult (not easy to find an airline that allows a dog to travel as checked baggage). It was surely as complicated as our trip to San Francisco. The transit in Chicago was too short (we had to pass the very busy immigration stand, then get our luggage and dog, have the papers of Doggy B. verified, then check in again for the next flight, go to another terminal and pass the crowded security stand: a real obstacle course!) so we missed our second flight which happened to be delayed and arrived 1h30 later … very long and tiring journey!
But the most important now is that we are finally together again and safely arrived… so we can enjoy every single day!
And for you, how do you (or did you) organize your big move?