How can I sum up our first year living overseas? That task seems almost as impossible as pulling off this move seemed a year ago.
Maybe starting with some stats would help. Here are a few vital statistics from this past year:
Countries Visited: Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and the U.S.
Cities Visited: Bali, Beijing, Bintan, Chengdu, Chiang Mai, Guangzhou, Hanoi, Kyoto, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabulu, Kuala Lampur, Ningbo, Shanghai, Siem Reap, Tokyo
Friends Who Visited: Ben, Mary, Max, and Gracia. Mike and Mady, Melissa, and Cyndi.
- Finishing 10th, 8th and 6th grades. In Singapore…nuff said.
- Learning new languages: Tamil, Malay, Mandarin and Spanish.
- Making cross-cultural friends
- Figuring out how to shop, hire a handyman, find doctors, work and play in Singapore
- Exploring many new foods
- Participating in Celebration of Hope
- Managing an insane pace of life
- Awards for Most Valuable and Most Improved Athletes
- Meeting and hiring the best woman, Veronica, to run our home
- Applying and being accepted into a Ph.D. program at Regent University
- Winning SEASAC International Cross-Country Championships
- So much growth!!
Favorite Places in Singapore: Botanic Gardens, MacRitchie Reservoir, Merlion Park, Pulau Ubin, St. John’s and Lazarus Islands, Changi Village Food Center, Wisma Atria, The Larder Cafe, Food Junction at Junction 8, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio park, International Baptist Church, Just Anthony, Arab Street, Little India and too many others to list.
- Visiting Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary
- Climbing Mt. Kinabalu
- Cruising Halong Bay
- Rafting in Thailand
- Nagano Snow Monkeys
- Celebration of Hope
- THE FOOD!!
- Sharing the gospel overseas
- Having Veronica live with us
- Visits from loved ones
- Volunteering at Stamford American school
- Counseling cross-culturally
What It has Been Like
Before we left, many told us this experience would be like a vacation. I understand how others believe that as they see our vacation opportunities and experiences. BUT. In the middle of those experiences, we still have to do all the normal, mundane things.
Going to school, working, managing our health, family, and home consume most of our time just like it did back home. All of this work is done in a new country with laws, customs, and amenities different from ours. It is quite stressful balancing all these things while learning a new way of life.
Work and Travel
When we first arrived, I couldn’t understand how or why expats in Singapore traveled so much. Truthfully, not all of us do. But most of us are traveling all we can. In the course of this year, I learned why.
One, people in Singapore work HARD. I mean, like 90-100 hours a week is normal for locals and expats. Many workers log those hours flying across the globe far from their families. When they get home, they want to maximize the time with their loved ones away from responsibilities. Our family is no different. Chris has found he has to travel much more than we hoped. As soon as he comes home, he wants to soak up time with us.
Two, expats are used to traveling, so it is natural to spend recreational time doing it. Frequent flier miles from work travels subsidize our vacations and there are many wonderful opportunities within two to four-hour flights. Weekend travel is simple to pull off if you can get schedules to line up.
Finally, travel in SE Asia can be really affordable compared to traveling in the U.S. Families can enjoy week-long vacations in nice resorts for less than a weekend’s cost in similar U.S. destinations. The people in neighboring countries are hospitable and welcome tourists. Those two factors draw expats to explore new places while they have the opportunity.
The Robbins’ traveled quite a bit as you saw above. However, it is much less than we hope to do in the coming two years. The strains of school, work, and making a life here often kept us home. Having settled in, we hope to have more energy for trips next year.
Well, school was all that we’d heard about Singapore education and more. Jonathan, Michael and Ariana attend an international school that some consider less academically rigorous than other options…if that is true, I feel for those other students.
Our experience at Stamford American School has been largely positive. We found committed, skilled teachers, amazing facilities and opportunities, and a challenging curriculum there. Our children grew exponentially in their view of the world, themselves and other people. They also experienced great stress and fatigue. Growth is hard work…
We hope next year will be easier for them as school will be familiar and they understand the curriculum. Jonathan will be traveling to Yunnan, China for field studies. Michael will go to Chiang Mai, Thailand, and Ariana will visit Yogyakarta, Indonesia. These are amazing opportunities for them and we look forward to sharing them with you!
For me, this past year has been one of renewal. Despite all the challenges, I had time to discover who I am apart from homeschooling and raising the children. I found a strong drive to learn and work with those who are suffering around me.
Singapore, for all its wealth and opportunity, harbors many hurting; even oppressed, people. I’ve had the opportunity to do some cross-cultural counseling and connect with organizations that help people caught in trafficking and abuse situations. Working with these organizations promises exciting opportunities to learn and grow.
Church has been a wonder and blessing to our family. Worshipping with a truly international body is better than can be described. Still, our involvement differs from what we expected. We are learning how to navigate our hectic schedules. However, I have gotten to serve on the care ministry and attend bible study. Chris and I found a small group. We hope to expand our involvement during our time here.
Just in front of us is a visit from our beloved friends, the Smiths. We so look forward to our time together in Singapore! We will fly home with them to visit Houston this summer. If time permits, I hope to catch up on some blogs too. There is so much to write about!
Our time in the U.S. will be a welcome relief from our schedules here. I especially look forward to seeing our children relax in their home country. All too soon, we will fly back to Singapore in July to start another crazy, full, and wonderful year. We hope you will stick with us and follow along!