When I returned to Singapore this time, things have stayed the same. And they have definitely changed.
The same house and bed. My family is still there. I met with the same friends I have spent so much time with.
But my parents are visibly older. Many of my friends have married and some of them actually have children. And many of Singapore’s roads and buildings have changed in dramatic ways.
It feels like home but in some indescribable ways, it doesn’t feel totally familiar.
The ghost of a memory, Singapore seemed to be a shade removed this time.
Similarly when friends and family ask me “so what is it like working in the United States?”, I’m unable to captivate them with expected larger than life Americana vignettes. Since I have been working in Boston for more than a year, they probably think my life is what they see on American sitcoms. They are really looking for mythology, the archetype American life of big houses, fast cars and unimaginable wealth.
Unfortunately I drive a Toyota, have 3 housemates even when I’m 30 and I don’t think my sorry bank account will impress anybody.
So they are not convinced when I say “Working in the states? Boring lah, the same lor. Go to office, come back, eat, sleep.” They think I’m hiding juicy details, private enjoyment I’m not sharing.
But really American working life is probably alot more boring than Singapore. I don’t have as much friends to hang out with, going out is expensive and nothing here is really a short hop away.
New York Times had two excellent articles that spoke to my feeling of transcience:
1. “World Banker and His Cash Return Home”, 3/17/08
2. “A Guide to the French. Handle With Care”, 3/23/09
I particularly liked the world banker story cos he comes from Asia and he shares the conflict of east versus west, poverty versus affluence etc
In the article, he says “On bad days, I do feel lonely in a way that I can’t explain”.
It’s a feeling I know too well.