settling in Singapore

late june 1992

Settling as a resident of Singapore. I’ve rented an airy, spacious flat on the 11th floor of a block, what’s known as a point block here, and enjoy good views of the district and of the sea and this high up i don’t need a/c. I’m lucky the block isn’t surrounded by others, as many are, and there’s a distinct feeling of space both inside and out. I’m within walking distance of the MRT – to you, the tube, the metro or the subway – and across the road is the post office and a host of shops. A good supermarket is five minutes away and I’m 20 minutes by taxi from the airport.
After the confinements of my flat in Bkk, this place is like a football field. The entire floor area is covered in white tiles which need frequent mopping but which make walking a cool pleasure and are excellent support for the Iranian carpets i dragged all the way from Kuwait via Bkk. Some things you don’t part with.

I’ve started my new job. Moving house and starting a new job at the same time isn’t a combination to be recommended, too much to be done at home and outside.
I’ve been appointed supervisor and co-ordinator of English Language studies at SSTC, fancy title, and my work permit/residence pass is being processed by Immigration.
SSTC is off Orchard Road, right in the heart of the city, and i ride the MRT to work. Door to door it takes 40 minutes and that includes a lovely 7-minute walk from my house through the local park before i catch the train. I get off at Somerset station, cross the street and walk through Centrepoint, a shopping mall, to get to the 7th floor of the building behind. If i want to shop, i ride the lift down to the 4th floor and walk into the mall. Tuesday and thursday evening i work with a Japanese businessman. His English is advanced but he needs help drafting technical documents; the tutoring’s not exciting but it’s highly lucrative and the eight sessions a month pay more than half the rent of the football field.

I left here on May 11th after my five-week stint at the college and returned to Bkk for three weeks to see out my contract. What a dramatic three weeks they turned out to be! Just before i was due to fly to Bkk my passport was stolen. It’s a long involved story i shan’t go into. The British High Commission came to the rescue and issued me a new passport in rapid time; i returned to Bkk only one day late for work which didn’t upset anyone much. Since my Thai residence disappeared with the disappearance of the passport, i had to enter the country as a visitor on a 15-day visa but managed to get an extension before making my final exit on June 4th. All of that sounds relatively easy; it wasn’t.

The problems in Bkk were waiting for me good and proper and i was back a week when the fireworks started. If outsiders saw any of the events on tv they saw more than we did as censorship reared its head. During the shooting, the killing and the looting the military-controlled tv stations in Thailand treated us to Chinese movies. The newspapers were controlled as well but both the Bangkok Post and The Nation were brave enough, especially The Nation, to run pictures of the worst atrocities. How many died in the mayhem will never be known. The authorities grudgingly admit to sixty, the pro-democracy people put the figure in the hundreds and there are still more than 600 unaccounted for. The schools were closed so we were able to avoid possible flashpoints. Where i used to live, Rajaprarop, wasn’t by any means in the thick of it although a few unpleasant things did take place there but i was never in danger and didn’t feel threatened. Others weren’t so lucky and a few foreigners bit the dust. Things have quietened down now but the problems are by no means solved and there’ll be more bloodshed if the next election isn’t a fair one. During the troubles i was worried i wouldn’t be able to make a smooth exit but in the event all turned out well and i left Bangkok on Thursday, June 4th. My old friend jj – he of the ‘beautiful people’ – was at the airport to see me off. I never did join him and his wife for one of their ‘fancy dress’ evenings but he didn’t hold it against me. He was very quiet at departure and as we said a final farewell he grabbed me and gave me the fiercest of hugs and tears ran down his cheeks. I’ll always be grateful to jj for showing me so much of his city tourists and resident expats never see and always grateful for his friendship. He is a thoroughly decent man.

Two years ago, Patrick promised he’d come and visit me, ‘next month, for sure,’ and last year he said he had plans to recruit hundreds of Thais to work in Kuwait. Well, i waited and waited and not a sign of him. Then, would you believe it, he showed up on the very day Thais were shooting Thais in the streets and tanks and jeeps and soldiers were everywhere…and that’s not an exaggeration. He stayed only one night but for that night we talked and talked till all hours. We weren’t able to go out, there was 6pm to 6am curfew, so we ate in. Next morning he flew off to who knows where or to do what – skin cavies in Peru or foment revolution in the Outer Hebrides? He vowed he’d be back the following week before i was due to leave for Singapore; i’ve not heard a word since. That’s Patrick. I must say the blighter was looking well.

The week before i left Bkk my Singapore friends came for a visit and to help me with my baggage, i was able to use their allowances. Because of the turmoil they were worried about making the trip but i advised them not to cancel, peace could come at short notice, and three days before their scheduled arrival the revered and widely respected King Bhumibol intervened and the Thais went home to patch their wounds and bury the dead.
I had my packing done before my visitors arrived so i was able to spend time with them and show them around. For me it was the final visit to several spots i like and for one of our outings we went to the bridge on the River Kwai. As we walked across the bridge in glorious sunshine i remembered i’d not been there for six years. That was my final trip outside Bangkok; 48 hours later i left the country.

From my 11th floor i look across a large part of this city and see the cars and the trains passing by and the lights of so many ships in the distance. This has to be my final destination, i’m tired moving and i want to settle. At the moment i’m happy even if i’m unpacking boxes and sorting things out and deciding what goes where – the joys of relocating – but once it’s done i know i’ll relax and be at peace. The quiet and order here appeal, everything works, everything’s efficient and it’s all done without fuss.

It’s exactly a year since i made the decision to move to Singapore and i haven’t for one moment regretted that decision. I turned down the offer to work in California and said no to Taiwan. I chose Singapore and i feel in my bones i made the right choice. This is my kind of town.

57 thoughts on “settling in Singapore

  1. Still enjoying seeing Bangkok and Singapore through your eyes and experiences. Thanks for the vicarious travel.

    Made it to various places in Europe on thirteen visits, but no where else other than Mexico. So, your stories are a view into a different world than I know.

    One son lives in Cambodia and a grandson was in Batam, Indonesia, then in Afghanistan, so I get to explore the world through them also.

    The internet has expanded my contacts and given me a much more personal understanding of so much more of the world. So glad I have lived long enough to experience this. It gives me hope for the future for my 11 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.

    • Happy you’re enjoying the ‘travel’
      Eileen
      and that I could share these experiences with a person who has such great interest.
      Thank You very much.

      Best Wishes to You

      john

  2. It sounds John as though you have the right attitude for living anywhere, respect the locals and make friends.At least you missed the last lot of troubles in Thailand which brought the military back to power again.
    I’m glad you’re still enjoying Singapore.
    Hugs

    • I try not to judge
      David
      but that’s not always easy.
      Most people are friendly if you are friendly to them; inevitably you meet the grumpy, the very rude and the snide and they usually have some sort of pain so I try and make allowances.
      Yes, I missed the latest military takeover in Thailand but I hear from people there that things under their command this time are running more smoothly than the western media admit.

      Thank You so much for reading and for your interest.

      Big Hugs

      john

  3. Spring has arrived in the glorious West Midlands, and we are bathed in cloud-disrupted sunlight. Time for our own air-conditioning to kick in (open a window!) I think!
    Lovely read. Take care. Chris

  4. Moving is such dreadful work; it sounds as though you are settling in very nicely, John. Singapore sounds like a lovely place to live. 🙂

    Hugs,

    Jackie

    • I wouldn’t be able to do it today, it takes energy;
      You are so right, Jackie, moving is a pain in the arse
      but all that was years ago and I’m a settled citizen today.

      Many thanks for the support and interest.

      Bless You!

      john

  5. Whew! You went through an exhausting adventure before you found your heart, John. May joy, peace, contentment and success fill your days forever more. Bear hugs from me to you.
    blessings ~ maxi

    • Thank You
      Dear Audrey.

      I’ll return to the topic a bit later with more of what went on when I first moved here in 1992.

      As always, your support means so much to me.

      Big Hugs

      jf

  6. John, I love your description of your flat, I’m jealous. (I have to smile, I’m an antique carpet collector, so right you are, never leave them behind!) What a whirlwind in those last few weeks before leaving Bangkok, and settling in Singapore. For me your words are quite sentimental and you sum it up perfectly. “I chose Singapore and i feel in my bones i made the right choice. This is my kind of town.” John, this a delightful way to start my Saturday, reading your words and partaking in your experiences vicariously, thank you! Please enjoy the rest of your weekend.

    Hugs and warm wishes,
    Pepperanne

    • Still have those carpets,
      Pepperanne,
      They were such good value in the markets of Kuwait and Baghdad and of course they last forever.

      Bless You

      And have a great weekend, too.

      john

  7. At the beginning of reading I thought I was reading a cops-and-robbers novel… then I understood… hehehe… I was in Thailand 19 years ago and it’s very interesting for its history and the land is wonderful, however i wouldn’t live there. Singapore is other matter… very clean, nice… plenty of different people living there but coming from countries. I think you did a good choice living and working in Singapore.
    It’s very interesting to travel to know other races, customs and never think that “our place” is the perfect one. OOOOO…
    Are you coming back to Spain, just for a visit????

    • Thank You, Dear Rosa
      For all the interest and support, I appreciate it very much.
      I’d love to return to Spain some day for a visit, I still have friends in Madrid I’m in contact with but my travelling days are over – poor health and failing eyesight are not helpful to travel.

      Abrazos

      john

      • Ah… no….don`t tell me you can’t come due to your health… mine isn’t good either, however I’m trying to strengthen it as I’d want to go back to China, Yunnan is what I want to visit!!!! I had an operation on my heart 28 years ago, perhaps I’m having another, my back hurts me a lot… but I have to go on and Yunnan is in my bucket list.

  8. A very enjoyable read, learning how you ended up in Singapore. Your move was exhausting and not without its dangers. Equally nice to have a friend on the other side of the world!

    • Thank You, Noelle
      For all the interest and support.
      Looking back I suppose it was demanding but I had much more energy in those days than I do today..ah, aging!

      Bless You!

      John

  9. Thanks for sharing more about yourself brother! I have a friend named Peter, who is a little like your Patrick. We made plans to hang out earlier this year, but until yesterday, I hadn’t seen him since probably last October. It sounds like settling in Singapore has worked well for you brother, I’m glad you found a place you are happy at. Sometimes I think I would like to move somewhere else, but lately I have greatly been enjoying the river at the park, so I suppose where I am at now works well for me!

    My best to you brother!

    Ry

    • The BHC was very good about issuing a new passport in rapid time
      but there was a helluva lot of running round before that happened..and phone calls and two police reports and..it went on and on.

      Thank You, Bruce, for reading and commenting and for the interest.

      john

  10. Gripping detail. Your final exit from Bangkok was not without its tribulations.

    Once again, a great read.

    Winnie and myself send love.
    Harry

  11. Uncle John in your writing I feel a real calm and sense of peace with your life in Singapore – yes, this is where you belong. An interesting journey, places you’ve been and life that you’ve lived, but today it just seems right. Have a beautiful week ahead.

    • and i’m glad to say, Miss Mary, that calm has been with me since. Yes, there have been a few moments of trouble – who doesn’t have those? – but living in Singapore
      has turned out to be more than good for me.

      Thank You so much for reading and for your kind words.

      Big Hugs and a great week ahead for You, too

      uncle john

  12. Thank you, John, for posting details of your move from Bangkok to Singapore. I find your travels, and descriptions of your feelings, fascinating. Our son lived in Cheng Du for a year, and then went back for another year in Shanghai. He’s in Florida now, but only long enough, probably to gather enough funds to make another trip. It’s interesting to hear your impression of the Chinese. Our son made a point to go up to strangers and try to speak to them. He said they looked intimidated at first, but warmed up considerably at his efforts to speak to them in Mandarin. Thank you again for your descriptions. I read part of them to my husband, and we agreed that you’ve led such an interesting life. I hope your health allows you to enjoy Singapore to the max.

    • Linda,
      Thank You so much for your lengthy and very interesting response, I enjoyed it very much.
      Your son is right, if we’re friendly to people they usually respond positively, it’s often easier to make friends than we think for most people want to be friendly and those who don’t are usually in some sort of pain, or so I’ve learned.
      My health is poor now but I can still get around..just.

      Bless You!

      john

  13. Enjoyed the retrospection and your perspectives immensely John. This story gives me more details of why you chose Singapore as your home. Thank you for tying in the sociopolitical events of the era in Thailand. Ever your friend, Jon Michael.

  14. Feeling the rightness of choice in our bones is, quite possibly, one of the best feelings life offers. And, it’s not fleeting. By their very nature, bones only let in the lasting.

  15. To fascinate over the unknown! I thoroughly enjoy these accounts John…so marvelous to engage in perspective from afar. To know something, anything, of countries and its peoples on the far side of the planet makes for compelling reading and your own perspective leaves one with a comforting sense of having been there if only through the marvelous words of another.

    I have a current client who lived in the United Arab Emirates with her Diplomat husband for quite a few years. I am editing two of her book and find her own stories wonderfully engaging. Her adaptation and connection with her new lifestyle and the people of the cities, the desert dwellers, the food…all such a fascination to me. I draw parallels from her experience to your own…very interesting.

    You narrative leaves me anxious to see more!

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