I’ve been neglecting this blog… I can’t explain why exactly. I know that when I procrastinate it tends to be tied to anxiety. I think that I’ve always tried to have a sense of direction in this blog, and lately I’ve felt a little disoriented.
Singapore is beautiful—I fell in love immediately! It’s a thoroughly modern city with stunning architecture that embraces greenery. Skyscrapers and apartment complexes have rooftop gardens of carefully cultivated tropical plants, and even in the densest parts of the city you can find trees.
I’ve been trying to meet people and make friends through meetup.com (highly recommended, btw!) but I still spend most of my time alone at home while M is at work. I don’t mind the time alone—it’s good for creativity!—but the lack of structure and lack of change can be draining.
M has been burning the candle at both ends—getting up early to commute to the Singapore office in the morning, then staying up late to telecommute to meetings at the home office. He’s exhausted, and sometimes grumpy, but still offers to help with the dishes after dinner… which oddly makes me feel guilty instead of grateful.
It turns out that being alone on the other side of the world can put a lot of pressure on your new marriage. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me, but it did. While it would be misleading to say we had a fight, we definitely had one of those late night discussions full of phrases like “When you ____ it makes me feel ____.” and “I know you love me, but when you ______, I feel like you don’t.” We sometimes don’t communicate well, so these conversations can be long, digging up hurts and misunderstandings that have begun to accumulate until we find the solid foundation of understanding that lies beneath. And then it’s like a breath of fresh air, and we move forward.
The thing that worries me the most is money. Groceries—the ones I’m used to—are much more expensive here, as they’re all imported. In addition, anything we do for entertainment also eats into the bottom line. Since I currently have no income, I get a little bit anxious thinking about it. (It’s part of the reason I stay home so much.) I’m trying to relax about some of our expenses though—this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and if we make the most of it, the memories will be worth it! (For the record, we also have a budget that we discussed beforehand, but I’m a natural penny-pincher and am not used to seeing a downward trend in my bank account!)
But that’s enough of the negatives! Money worries aside, making adjustments to my shopping lists and looking up new recipes has actually been a kind of fun challenge. A lot of foods here are expensive, hard to come by, or just different, so it’s definitely been a learning experience. It also turns out that eating dinner out in local food courts is about the same price as dining in. In many shopping plazas (which exist every few blocks in this dense urban area), you can grab a full meal at a food court for just 3-5 Singapore dollars.
Another adjustment I’ve had to make is to my beloved morning coffee. Cream is impossible to find here. Impossible! I’ve checked every grocery store I’ve passed for the past week and come up empty. Ground coffee is nearly as difficult, and so expensive that it’s an unsustainable habit. The local favorite seems to be instant coffee, which comes in a variety of flavors, most of them very sweet. M and I decided to make the switch to instant coffee, for the sake of convenience and the bottom line, but that didn’t stop us from going on a quest to find “real coffee.” It took about a week, but we were able to get coffee filters (surprisingly easy to find, considering), a pour over dripper (much cheaper than a coffee maker), and real coffee grounds ($11 for 8 ounces from a specialty import store). Mission accomplished!
Our weekends here have been a lot of fun. We’ve had a chance to explore the Gardens by the Bay, the Singapore Night Zoo, the night life of Clarke Quay, and the intimidating maze of shopping complexes at Orchard Road. (Have you ever gotten so lost in a mall that you accidentally ended up in another mall? I have—multiple times now!) So far, the Gardens by the Bay have been my favorite—it’s a beautiful mixture of different plants from around the world and amazing sculptures. It’s so big that it feels like it goes on forever, and around every turn is something surprising and breathtaking.
In summary, our first week in Singapore has felt like a mix between a honeymoon, a couples therapy retreat, and one of those game shows where you’re forced to cook a meal from random ingredients. Between the explorations and adventures, M and I are learning to be patient with each other when we hit low points, and helping each other through the challenges of starting a life in a new country. And on rare occasions, we sit down to enjoy a cup of real coffee… with soy milk.