To most people, my life seems to be quite bizarre. Come to think of it, I don’t really know anyone else personally who has moved around the world as much as I have throughout both childhood and as an adult. It’s not even from country to country, but it included moving city to city, and from suburb to suburb.
When I was in Hong Kong for the first 11 years of my life, my life was probably less nomadic. I went to an international school, so I kind of felt like an outsider in my own ‘home’ anyway and holding Australian citizenship since I was born made me feel like an Aussie, even though I wasn’t technically living in Australia. I remember for a potluck on International Day in primary school, classmates would bring in for their awesome dishes from across the world, and me, not knowing how to cook (and my helper didn’t know how to cook anything Australian either!), decided to bring in Maltesers as my Australian heritage. So I’ve always been a pretty international person, starting from the school I went to.
When I migrated to Australia, I felt really out of place at first. I missed HK dreadfully and was super nostalgic and ‘homesick’ for the first few years. I thought I’d prefer living in Australia as I was getting sick of the noise and crowds in HK, but it was a huge cultural shock and I had to adapt. People say there are already enough changes happening in a teenager’s life already as is; you can imagine the added changes happening in my life at the time moving to a new country. We stayed in Adelaide for around 1.5 years or so; during then we changed houses twice (I went to North Adelaide Primary which was more international, then to Hallett Cove East Primary which was considerably more ‘white’). Being so different, I was obviously bullied by others (I always was bullied anyway in primary school, but being ‘FOB’ meant I stuck out like a sore throat more than anyone else.
Somehow, I managed to make it through those years intact. I’m not sure how, but I managed to adapt and be resilient. Learn the new ways of living in a new country, getting used to, and even starting to love Australia. But after Adelaide, we moved to Wagga, and I have to admit, I didn’t really like living in a country town. Going from a suburban Adelaide town with already very little international influence, to Wagga Wagga (where there were probably just a handful of Asian people living there at the time), kind of turned my life upside down. Suddenly, I was even ‘weirder’ than everyone else than ever, and being a typical teenager, wanted to conform. All my friends in the all-girls Catholic high school I went to were into tanning, beauty products, shaving… and slowly, I drifted to doing these things just so I wouldn’t be laughed at for having hairy legs. We’d purposely put our arms out in the sun (especially my inner arm because that was most white!) during recess. I read Dolly magazines and watched Lizzie McGuire.
Eventually, I got sick of trying to conform and ended up hanging out with a bunch of misfits (the all-girls’ school combined with the partner all-boys school to become co-ed), whom were the most kind and accepting people in the school. We were the ‘gothics’ at the time, even though I never adhered to their rituals of wearing black, getting piercings and tattoos etc; I felt most comfortable in this group.
Again, after around 1.5 years in Wagga, my family moved to greener pastures in Brisbane, and of course, all the farewells were sad, but surprisingly became easier with every move. We were initially living in a service apartment at Toowong, and we could see Wesley Hospital from the window. I remember the road trip from Wagga to Brisbane, transporting quite a few of our goods to the new city. A new city with a vibrant outlook; I kind of fell in love with Brisbane the first time we saw it (when I moved there!). Suddenly we could eat Asian food again without having to ask our family friend Chinese restaurant owners to help us buy stock from Sydney (which we did in Wagga!). Brisbane River was beautiful and the night landscape was stunning from the apartment. I thought we’d be here for a long time, and indeed we were there the longest (stayed there for around 8 years) out of all the cities in Australia.
My parents found a nice house in Wellington Point, and we lived there for a while. I remember how quiet it was there; and how long of a walk it was from the train station! I loved the coast nearby though and exploring the nearby forests. We were looking at school options around the area; there was Redlands College, Ormiston College, Wellington Point High, and Wynnum State High. I’m not sure how it was decided exactly, but somehow I wanted a more ‘central’ location and went to Wynnum State High for a few months. Obviously, that was a really bad choice and I was surrounded by unmotivated classmates and rednecks. Don’t get me wrong, some of them were lovely people, but I couldn’t imagine myself studying well in that environment. I then transferred to Coorparoo Secondary College and for the first time, had quite a few ‘Asian’ friends in Australia. Still feeling like the academic rigour of the school was quite lacking, I mentioned I was interested in going to BSHS to my parents. But I was already in Year 9 at the time; it was far too late to get in via the academic or art merit. The only option was via catchment; and since my parents were so mobile anyway, they moved to West End to let me get in through that route. I really appreciated this sacrifice they made for me though. I liked living in West End; it was a Queenslander with a lovely wooden deck backyard and birds of paradise. It was so serene despite being so central. I remember often going to the Vietnamese bakery and grocery shop to snack on the buns and prawn crackers, and the continental Greek shop for their nuts, as I was walking home from school.
After half a year or so in West End, we moved to a quaint, creaky little Queenslander in Holland Park West. My most vivid memories of the house were the beautiful rose gardens in both the front and backyards. I loved cutting the roses out and having a fresh bouquet in my bedroom every day. We stayed there for a while, but eventually, my parents bout a Queenslander (again!) in Upper Mt Gravatt, where I’d stay for most of my time in Brissie. It probably wasn’t as unique as the other places I was in, but it was homely and was next to a football field so I enjoyed walking across the lawn as I traversed to Garden City every day for public transport. My mum’s dental surgery was at 2012 Logan Rd so I helped out at the surgery quite often as it was so convenient.
Of course, having the usual globe-trotter genes in me (no I’m just kidding, to be honest I don’t think it was the best thing moving so much!), I was worried about job prospects as a dietitian in Australia and applied randomly to hospitals in Singapore, thinking I probably wouldn’t be considered anyway. In typical Singapore fashion though, they were extremely efficient and I was offered a job almost straight away after my Skype interview before I even graduated. I grappled with the decision; I loved Australia and I didn’t want to leave home… but my mum broke the news that they were planning on moving to Malaysia soon, and told me to take the opportunity to go elsewhere otherwise I’d probably just stay in Australia and not learn about the world. Since I wasn’t even going to have family in Australia anymore (at least immediate family), plus how insane it would have been to reject a job offer in a terrible career landscape for dietitians in Australia; I agreed to move. I thought it would just be a 2-year stint (that was the length of the contract) anyway, and that I could always move back home to Australia when I wanted.
That 2 years has become 5, and probably a lot longer, living in Singapore. After the 2-year contract was over (and I was not happy working where I was), I knew I had to apply elsewhere to keep up a visa in Singapore. I was in a relationship with my ex-boyfriend since I arrived in Singapore, and did not want to leave him to go back to Australia. So I got a new job in another hospital and worked there for another 1.5 years. Things were getting quite rocky with the relationship then, but I decided to stay in Singapore anyway as I was getting more job opportunities here. I was actually contemplating moving to Australia with my ex-boyfriend under a partner visa at the time, but of course, since things were so rocky, it never went through. I was initially living in Outram Park with a Singaporean auntie (not related!) who did not allow cooking, visitors etc; basically, she was really draconian. I moved to a room in Bishan closer to my new workplace, but the main flatmates were so overbearingly mean that I moved out to my ex-boyfriend’s place in Hougang. They were in the process of moving house too, so I then moved to Sengkang with them (all in the northern district in SG); just for a few months or so. Eventually, I moved out of his family’s place as they didn’t like me cooking in the kitchen, and my ex and I co-habited for some time in another apartment at Outram Park. We would have ‘breaks’ in-between where we kind of broke up and he moved back to his place though.
Sometime during the rocky periods with my ex, I met my current boyfriend online… we chatted intermittently for a whole year, but never really met face to face. Early last year, I decided to have another ‘break’ with my ex. Perhaps unlike most Singaporean girls, I am a very idealistic, naive and tolerant person. I was willing to sacrifice so much for him and would do anything for him, even if there were obvious problems in his life and he was not taking appropriate actions to improve it. I learned though, that love alone is not enough to sustain a relationship. We loved and cared for each other very much (towards the end of the relationship anyway), but sometimes, you have to accept you’re not meant to be with someone who is bringing more pain than joy in your life, no matter how much you are both pining for it to work out.
I have always been a very sentimental person who feels attached quite easily. Once I fall in love, I fall in deep… which is why it took so long to end it. So in 2016, I started dating guys I met online (which is how I met Travis). When Trav finally asked me out (one year ago), I fell head over heels for him.. I think if not for falling for Trav, I’m not even sure if I may have eventually wound up going back to my ex after the ‘break’. It’s not that I would ’settle’ for someone; I need someone I feel a strong connection with, which I did with all the relationships I’ve had. It’s that despite the pain and hurt that he gave me, I might still end up with him just because we had a long history together of trying to make it work, and it hurt me so much to leave him. I met up with quite a few guys but I didn’t feel enough chemistry with any of them, so that’s why I got back together with my ex in mid-2016. It felt like a comfortable and safe place to be. I guess it took someone really amazing (my current boyfriend) to realise how I needed to really evaluate my life and direction, and kind of sweep me off my feet.
So anyway, since I had been with Trav, I moved house because I was getting so sick of the construction noise (happening in wee hours of the night for the darn new MRT station!) and decided to move to Coronation Arcade, at Botanic Gardens (near the MRT anyway), since it was close to Trav’s house and my workplace too. The new room was next to a Korean couple, who was using the bathroom right adjacent to my bedroom, at 1-2am and 7am every day. I didn’t want to be wearing earplugs the whole night just to sleep, and the kitchen was always a mess from Indian students downstairs that I didn’t ever feel like cooking. So I just moved to Lutheran Road, just 2 streets away from the old room. It’s still not perfect (the maids wake up at 6am to start mopping the floor -_- which obviously wakes me up), but at least I have my own bathroom, have a timeframe of between midnight to 6am where I don’t need to wear earplugs before I’m awoken, and the kitchen is cleaner.
I don’t really know what the purpose of the passage was; I guess it was a bit of self-indulgent nostalgia to write up all those memories otherwise I might forget this in the decades to come… and it kind of came from the feeling of the dilemma about where my home is. Eventually, I know I’ll probably settle down somewhere (exactly where I’m not sure). But I read somewhere that home is not necessarily a place, but a collection of people you love and moments you treasure, and it could be several places. This way of looking at it makes me feel a bit better about my nomadic life which I sometimes feel self-pity about. There’s nothing to feel bad about, even if most people believe it was not an easy life. It wasn’t, but it has been an enriching journey that has helped me become a resilient, resourceful, independent, tolerant, open-minded and adaptable individual. I realise that all of it happened for a reason to make me who I am today and meet all the people who are precious in my life now.