Overdue, from Houston

Well, after all that — here we are. Back in Houston — home. We’re home to family, and we’ve managed to see most (though not quite all) of our family over the past month. We’re home to our new house, where we have started to establish ourselves in the Heights neighborhood. We’re home to our new jobs, and everything that comes with that. Roger is with us again. In short — we’re back, and now it almost feels like our two years in Singapore was an abstract kind of dream. I had no idea how much I would miss it — the people, the atmosphere, the people, the weather, the people… the glitz and excitement and foreignness, the convenience of living in a condo. I miss it dearly, and most of the time I feel like no one can relate to this loss!

Luckily, I have plenty of wonderful things in my life to compensate.

  • Our house is fantastic, and we love it! We are just getting settled — our shipping container with most of our stuff only arrived last Friday, so we are a mess right now. It’s funny… I got used to my mostly-empty home, with minimal (and new, gleaming, beautiful) furniture, and zero clutter… now I’m not ready to accept the totally un-sleek reality that is my life! I’m going completely Kando and throwing out practically a third of our possessions during the unpacking process. It will be another 3 weeks before we successfully put away everything.
  • We’ve been trying to nail down a good routine, and I think what we have is pretty successful — though it’s only just now being tested with “busy-ness” and the idea that it’s actually hard to walk away from work at 4:30pm when there are questions to be answered, emails to be written, people looking for me, etc. Brad is basically in charge of child transport and logistics, while I am in charge of dinnertime — I arrive back at the house about half an hour earlier than he & the kids do, so I have been cooking quality meals nearly every night.
  • I’ve been cooking! I signed up for this meal plan / recipe service through a website called Cook Smarts, and I completely love it. It’s a fair bit of work each evening (about 45 minutes of prep and cooking), but it really helps me to.. I don’t know, center myself? Each evening. And it’s tasty, and healthier, and just fun.
  • We’ve all adjusted well. The kids are happy in their preschool / daycare. They’re even in a little soccer program through the place — it’s so fun! And they have many friends, some of them even old friends, from before-Singapore. Just ask Elodie about her favorite friends.
  • We’ve taken care of so, so many things since arriving back… little work on the house, cleaning, unpacking, buying new cars, buying furniture, selling old furniture. It’s been a jumble of constant tasks, and we’ve hardly had a chance to socialize in between.

Anyway, this is a quick update only. I’ll try to come back with photos and such soon!

Pattaya, Melbourne, and Southern Ridges

Back in October, I went to Pattaya, Thailand for an offsite work meeting. We mostly stayed inside the hotel for all-day meetings, but in the evenings we did get to go watch the sunset. I only carried my Lensbaby lens with me, so I only captured a few photos.

Apart from the meeting and sunset, we got to eat a lot of yummy Thai food (of course), and I got a bunch of mosquito bites.

A few weeks later, I had a bit more work travel — first, to Melbourne, and next, to Shanghai. Melbourne was lovely — though very, very far from feeling summery, as it’s supposed to be (we were downright chilly the entire week-long trip). It was my first visit, and I really enjoyed walking along the waterfront, through the different alleys and arcades, and our unofficial walking tour that our colleague/host gave us over lunch.

On our last evening, we drove out to Saint Kilda, which was a really nice way to end the trip.

I arrived home just in time to join the kids for our condo’s Deepavali festival. Mainly, the kids enjoyed dancing, and watching other kids dance.

We had a nice weekend at home, and tried to enjoy some of our last unburdened days in Singapore by going on a walk through the Southern Ridges trail.

The next week, I flew to Shanghai… where things were decidedly less picturesque. It was rainy and smoggy, and we could hardly see outside our windows at the hotel. I didn’t take any photos.

This weekend, we are packing, as the movers come on Monday to pack up our stuff for our shipment, and we move to a hotel for our last 5 days. Time is flying by! And soon we’ll be home!

Houston, here we come

Well, when things finally started to feel like they were moving forward, it feels like every hanging/vague/abstract question about our move suddenly became clear and is now charging ahead.

When do we officially fly out of Singapore? December 12. Just after midnight, to be exact, arriving in Houston — through time travel magic, of course — in the morning on the 12th. Will I be employed when I return to Houston? Okay, this one is a definite yes, and my move has been decided and announced in the past few weeks (and, I’m very excited about the opportunity I’ve been given). These were the big two questions, of course, but the myriad detailed and no-less-important questions have been answered, too — what do we need to do to transfer T’s employment to her new boss? (done); which benefits are we entitled to for the move? (understood and most have been booked); what forms do we need to fill up, what other checklists should we be following… everything is answered, and now we just need to execute. The next two weeks will go by very quickly! We’ve started getting organized pre-packing day, which is December 7.

The tougher thing to do as we prepare to leave, is get ready to say goodbye. How can we do it? We’ve had the ups and downs that are inevitable with expat life — missing home like crazy, frustrated by the habits and quirks of strangers that are so unlike typical Americans’ way of doing things, sick from the drastic change in diet, lonely and feeling isolated when we realize we haven’t spoken to some of our best friends and favorite people in months at a time — but we’ve loved our time here. It’s my first time really living somewhere else, and hence my first time to really move away and say a permanent goodbye. It’s so hard! How will we say goodbye to T? How will we say goodbye to our fantastic colleagues and friends? How do we just take all of the things we’ve experienced and learned with us and go? It seems impossible.

I’ve been asked a lot lately, “what will you miss most about Singapore?” …and I’ll have to come back and answer that in a separate post very soon, because the list is entirely too long. When it comes down to most, it will have to be T, who has been such a blessing to our family. In close second would be my professional life, which is close to perfect — incredibly interesting work, the chance to learn about the transportation and logistics markets in a part of the world where logistics is everything and growth is booming… an extremely capable team that treats each other like family… you just don’t come across this in too many assignments. Anyway, as I said, I will come back soon and share more about the many other things in Singapore we’ll miss.

In the meantime, apart from preparing for our move, we’re also excitedly getting ready for Christmas. The kids are loving animated Christmas movies and shows, so I know they will love getting back to the US and being able to watch some classics on ABC Family (that we can’t find streaming). So far, their favorite is definitely Curious George’s A Very Monkey Christmas — but they also love Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and Frosty. Beyond shows, they love decorating our tiny tabletop tree, and singing Christmas songs. I’m going to give 25 days of Christmas activities a try this year, since we’re taking so much vacation time, so we’ll see how it goes!

I’ve been so behind on editing and posting photos, but I do have many to share from the past few months. So I will try to come back and do that soon, too! If I can find time in between goodbyes and packing, that is. Houston, here we come!

Success! Homeowners again

Last week, we finally closed on our house, with much help from my mom (and, of course, our realtor). I’m so happy to be a homeowner again, so glad that the nightmare of lending uncertainty is over, and that we can move on to the “fun” parts of picking out paint, scheduling contractors, ordering various pieces of furniture… we’re feeling so thankful to finally be in this place!

Of course, the next big question is When. When do we move back, leave Singapore? My backfill’s announcement was shared at work, which is begging the question of what my future holds, etc. I don’t have anything to share, but in any case, we are physically hoping to return to the US around the 13th of December or so… still to be confirmed. Unfortunately the repatriation process is not super-clear, so we have a lot of questions about such important topics as timing, reimbursement, allowances. We definitely hope to be back in the US within two months from now, which is crazy in itself!

It’s hard to imagine that it was only a couple of months ago that we were traveling all the time, exploring outside in Singapore, going to the zoo every few weeks… this hazy “blah” has obviously taken over our family life, as there’s almost nothing we have been able to enjoy or do over the past 8 weeks or so. It’s hard to imagine that I was complaining about how sick to death of it all that I was, in late September! It seems like empty whining now, sitting here in late October and still facing daily haze readings in the “unhealthy” range. It’s enough to make you crazy… it’s just a shame that our departure from Singapore has to be poisoned by the haze, to some extent, and that we are all dying to get away. It’s unfair, because of course we know that our stay in Singapore has been borderline magical! With or without the cancerous pollution in the last several months of our assignments. Sigh.

Nothing should be able to bring me down, of course. We closed on the house! My all-consuming obsession has been transmuted to daydreams about moulding and landscaping and area rugs. The exciting life that I lead, I guess!

Frustration and No Closing Yet

We have had one of the most nerve-wracking and frustrating two-weeks that we’ve ever had, all in trying to move forward in our home buying process. We had originally planned to close on the house last Monday, but it’s now been delayed two times (currently planning for Wednesday), and I have to say that I am genuinely amazed at how absurd this process is. Yes, we are taking out a rather large loan… but, not to brag, we are just about the most ideal buyers you can conjure (apart from all-cash buyers, obviously)… and yet the underwriters on our loan are treating us like we are criminals on the lam, masquerading as good citizens but secretly running some multi-national scam. Anyway, I shouldn’t talk about it online too much, but suffice it to say that we are at our wits’ end. Hopefully this entire saga will be behind us soon, and we will finally become owners of an adorable little house in the Heights.

In other news… well… dealing with house/lender issues has basically taken over our lives, so there is no other news. (Seriously — for the last 2 weeks, we have been up at all hours of the night trying to chase answers from people in the US who work ridiculously short mid-day hours… bankers’ hours, I guess — it is like having a brain muddled by dealing with a newborn baby all over again). But, I guess I can give a quick rundown of what’s going on in the rest of our lives.

Obviously, it’s still a hazy hellscape out there — though at least the last few days have been a bit closer to normal outside due to some change in wind direction. Not that it mattered, because with all of the sleep we’re not getting, Brad and I both came down with colds and spent the weekend stuck in our apartment anyway (preparing documents for our lender and watching Disney movies… thank you, Aladdin).

Brad celebrated his 30th birthday last week! We didn’t do anything too big, especially because we were both sick, but we did go for a nice dinner at our favorite restaurant in Singapore. I got Brad some pretty pitiful presents, and realized later that they are all consumable — hard-to-find candy from the US (Brad’s favorites, like toffee Hershey’s nuggets), some super-fancy Japanese whiskey that Brad had never tried before, and nice dinner. I wish I could have given him something really cool, but all of our energy and money is really, really focused on… yep, the house. THE HOUSE. It’s my dream and my nightmare.

I’m traveling to Pattaya, Thailand, for an off-site meeting for work the rest of this week. I would be looking forward to it if I weren’t so distracted, and if it weren’t apparently thunder storming in Pattaya all week. The perils of trying to plan travel during Thailand’s rainy season.

The kids are doing okay, they are still playing too violently with each other, and getting them to eat their dinner each night has become way too hard. We are getting excited for Halloween, mainly by watching the Curious George Halloween special episode/mini-movie on repeat (Curious George’s Halloween Boo-Fest or something like that). Elodie chose to dress up as Bulbasaur this year — a Pokemon, of course — and Ben at some point said that he wanted to be Daniel Tiger, so we’re going with that. My kids and their TV obsession.

Since my last update, I officially finished my 20-book reading challenge for 2015! It was an arbitrary target but I’m glad that I met it. The last book that I read was the Salman Rushdie book that I mentioned, “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights.” It was alright, but I’m willing to bet it was not his finest work. I then re-read the third Harry Potter book, because I’m a fangirl. I’m currently reading a book that I had picked up in 2013 before moving, called “Woke Up Lonely” by Fiona Maazel. It’s a bit goofy and fun, but I am starting to lose interest about halfway through it… I’m sure I’ll finish it, but I’m not in a hurry. In the meantime, of course I switched over to re-read another Harry Potter book (the fifth) before I return to it.

Someone posted this to Facebook: Only 10 Fridays ‘Til Christmas!! And, I should add, only 9 until we move back home! Now, it’s back to dealing with these lenders and figure out whether we will have  a home to move into…

News & Updates from Brad & Christine