We had big plans this weekend, just like we have every weekend we spend in Singapore. We planned a roller blade ride on the 25 km long path in the East Coast Park along the beach, rent a Catamaran and get a nice ride with the hope of not falling in the dirty water and if time permits, perhaps also get ready for next week’s 40 km bicycle ride on the streets and highways of Singapore, an event in which we enrolled. Yes we had big ambitious plans and that is after saying NO to a couple of other activities we were proposed.
But as I am writing this blog, it is Sunday morning and we are both sitting relaxed, Pierre reading a book and me writing to you. We both are avoiding to provoke one another with a question such as: Should we get ready to start our activity plans? The cause of our deflating balloon: Our Social life in Singapore!
On Thursday we were at the opening of a the movie “Up in the Air” with George Clooney, Friday at Nicky’s place (our good friend from New-Zealand) for a BBQ by the pool, Saturday night (last night) we had 16 people over at our place for a night “Al Fresco” on our patio with more food and fun that we could handle. Now we are getting ready for tonight’s social engagement: Dinner at Jim and Val’s place with our trekker friends from Nepal.
The expression “Al Fresco” used by Singaporeans to define eating out on a patio simply makes me smile as it is always a hot 32 degrees celcius, while reaching 19-20 degrees low in the freezing air conditioned restaurants! Nevertheless, social activities in Singapore fill your agenda to the brim. Every week we say yes to an average of 3 invites and say “sorry we can’t” to the same amount and perhaps more. Do you want to come with us to the Wine Dinner Tuesday? How about brunch at the Fullerton on Sunday? Do you wish to come to a pic-nic at the Botanical Garden with us? Let’s do a walk in the Mangrove forest! A cocktail at the Embassy or a night out on a boat, a patio, at someone’s home, etc…You can never feel alone when you are an expatriate in Singapore!
Don’t get me wrong, we are not complaining at all because every opportunity we have to have a great time with our French, American,Indian, Australian, New-Zealander, British, Malay, Armenian or Singaporean Chinese friends, we are tortured when we have to say no. We never run out of rich conversations with them, amazing culinary experiences or delectable wine tasting. They are also a great set of friends that we can count on and that would do anything to help us if we needed anything. We know they feel the same towards us. The sad part is living with the thought that they or we could be transferred, change country or move on to a new challenge elsewhere in the world. That is part of the reality when you are an expatriate. Although you know they will stay your friends for the rest of your life, we will not be able to see them as often. Perhaps even never again.
It is the case of our friend Ian who is returning to his home country at the end of March. Ian is the master photographer who is behind a lot of our wedding pictures. We saw him twice in the last two days and only brushed the subject of his departure superficially because we know that it is useless to get into it. He is leaving for good reasons (nothing to do with Singapore) and probably for good. What could discussing his departure bring to the table? Nothing! Life is taking him to a new journey and perhaps this also means that within the year Nicky would move too. We will see him a couple of times during the year when he visits, each time briefly, happy to see him but having to say goodbye again; a goodbye that is a constant reminder that it is too bad that we did not have time to spend more fun moments with him, that we did not go a second time to Bintan Island for a weekend of pleasant conversations with Nicky while watching Pierre and Ian trying to master Kite Surfing, or even just a simple night out somewhere in the heart of Singapore. This constant “va et viens” of great people that you can only freeze for a moment in time is the harsh reality of expatriates. This is perhaps why you do need to have a good social life, because you never know if your great set of friends might need to be constantly renewed, while hanging on to the ones that will now become global ones.
So perhaps I could give a new meaning to Al Fresco nights. To me it now means that you get a cold chill in your spine even at 32 degrees when you learn that someone you really like is no longer going to be cheering on the patio with you at your next social event.
Cheers my friends!