Though there are many wonderful things about expat friendships but there is one sad reality of life also which is having to say farewell far too often.
When I first arrived in Singapore I was scared to make friends, felt sad and longed for the family and friends left back home. Many people reached out to me and I was very touched by the kindness of strangers and fellow expats who were always willing to lend me a hand in circumstances I hadn’t dreamed of back home. Hence strangers quickly turned into friends. Friendships were forged over shared experiences and the most tedious of circumstances.
But for many expats Singapore is a temporary stop on their journey and after a few years they will call time on their tropical paradise chapter and head back home or on to their next adventure.
Such was the time for one precious Friend of mine, it was time for her to move on to her new adventure. To say we had “only” been friends for 1.5 years but to feel, it is like I have known her a lifetime. That’s probably because it is a lifetime – our lifetime in Singapore.
We met under the most ordinary circumstances. Susan was walking her dog and I was taking a yoga class in the children’s playground area in our Condo. She had recently arrived from U.K. and was looking for activities to pass her day. She leaned over the fence and asked if she could join the yoga group. We were 4 ladies including the instructor and we were very excited to have her join. So we met twice a week for yoga. Our yoga sessions were tough (but that is a story for another day). We bonded over the ‘cries’ and ‘screams for no more’ as our muscles were pulled to their limits in some very difficult postures and repetitions.
Our small group then started to meet up for some regular walks to explore Singapore, some dinners and lunches and lots of chit chat.
Susan and I met more often as we both liked to take long walks. Living in the same condo was a big blessing. From conversations during the walk to cups of tea while chatting, eating cake and swapping stories as we both tried to adjust to our new lives in Singapore.
When I started to experiment with food, I discussed all my challenges with her. She happily tried my food and gave me the most encouraging feedback. My food was superb every single time, I was really touched by her generosity. One day after a long walk I asked her to tell me frankly if my bread was good enough to buy and she said yes I would buy it from you. I felt over the moon. She did buy food from me though never bread.
Today writing this I find it difficult to visualise how quickly our time went. Our friendship blossomed. In a foreign country when you meet the right person, you cling together for the much needed support. Expat friendships are especially intense, making it even harder when they leave. It was time for Susan to leave.
We had our farewell parties, I had one for Susan and Peter, other yoga buddies had one for her and then we had 2 parties where we all came. Susan invited us to her place for an English Tea. Something that I had been asking her about. Having read in many novels as a child about the English afternoon tea, I was quite intrigued by it.
She made us a lovely and rich spread. It was tough even for me to try every dish (I did manage though) and I enjoyed every bit of her cooking. We started with the Cucumber Sandwiches, followed by a Leek Pie and Cheese Scones. So yummy!
Next came the Scones served the “English” way with jam (strawberry) and clotted cream. We had found clotted cream on our hunt at a gourmet shop on Orchard. I loved the scones.
Then the Lemon Possets with shortbread biscuits. The melt in the mouth biscuits and the strong lemony dessert, I couldn’t stop myself from taking another helping. It was WOW!
By now the other ladies could hardly breath and we still had 2 more dishes to share. The rock buns with the orange and raisins were so good. I think I’m running out of words to describe the food. The blueberry cheesecake though it came in end, was delicious! I loved every bite of it. After this lovely tea, some good byes were said. It was so emotional we all tried to keep tears at bay but they did flow. Susan you were só brave that day. It was a tough day indeed.
I am so glad you looked over the fence that day and decided to join the yoga group.
The truth is that goodbyes never get easier, no matter how many times you rehearse them. Life in Singapore is full of farewells as one is plunged into a sea of friends and acquaintances who come and go daily with the tide. I’ve met people at coffee mornings and made a mental note to get to know them better, only to find that they’ve announced their departure before I’ve even put a date in my diary.
Though I have said many farewells since I came here but saying farewell to Susan really tested my constitution, I needed nerves of steel and significant emotional muscle to not break down and cry. Susan was already looking so upset I didn’t want to upset her more. So I kept a big smile on my face and said it’s not a good bye, we will see each other soon and I will come to see you. It’s going to be ok!
I wanted to see her off at the airport but decided it would be too much for us both. Some part of me still wanted to believe that she was around in the condo and the airport scene would have shattered that illusion.
I knew in my heart that her going away did not mean that we had said goodbye forever. We had only said goodbye to this phase of our life in Singapore and we would remain friends.
Whatever I tell myself, my heart longs to be able to talk to her every now and then, right over the fence or wall or as we crossed each other in condo as she walked her dog. Though I’m scared of dogs but Toby (her dog) behaved so well around me, he knew that I was not to be smelled or licked.
Susan I wanted to say this to you but found it hard to voice it so I’m writing down.
To my dearest friend,
I have loved sharing this part of my journey with you and I am so happy to have been part of your family’s journey too over the few months and days that we met. We have so many treasured memories together and I hope remembering your Singapore days will always bring a smile to your face and happiness to your heart.
Sadly our paths have parted and you have headed home to begin an exciting new chapter in your journey. I wish you all the best for it. While I am sad for myself, I am really happy for you, that you will get to be closer to your family and live in an awesome city (and so jealous that you will live in U.K. country of my childhood dreams). Please know that we will always be friends!
I continue my adventure but you were such a big part of my day-to-life that there will no doubt be a hole! I will apologise now for the fact that my whatsapping knows no geographical boundaries (and unfortunately no time zones) so you can expect some late night/early morning random messages as I reach out to you for advice. So this is not goodbye, not by a longshot.
It is farewell, à bientôt, adieu.
Until we meet again.
Which we will.
Have a safe journey and happy next adventure.
Hugs and Kisses