Our last three months in Singapore were hectic and went by very quickly. We tried to make the most of our time. After a Christmas trip to the US, we started January with a ten day trip to New Zealand to do the Milford Track. In February I did a two week trek in Nepal while Sandy took a month-long trip to the US to meet the people in her new organization, spend Shannon's birthday in Wisconsin and buy a house in Boise. Then in March we had our final visitor, Mary Beth, who wisely took advantage of a last chance for a visit to Singapore while we were still there. She left for the US exactly one week before our own departure date. You can't say that we didn't get our money's worth out of our last few months in Asia. But that meant that our last week in Singapore was pretty intense.
Intercontinental moves are tough because you have to have everything completely done at one end before you leave. There is no going back to clean up a few details. All the services that you are used to having need to be completely terminated at one end and don't start up at the other end till some time after you arrive. That means no cell phones, bank accounts, internet access, cable tv - in other words all the things that you take for granted. Personal belongings shipped from Singapore would take about two months to show up in the US. Not your usual spend one night in a hotel until the movers show up at the new house. There is also the fun of dealing with customs. And last but not least the time difference makes it tough to try to make any arrangements at the other end ahead of time by phone. So it is a challenge.
Hp had changed its move policy and that made things more difficult. They decreased the amount of the shipment home to a half container. Our flat in Singapore wasn't that big. A lot of our furniture there was always intended to be temporary anyway. But after someone from the moving company came to give us an estimate it looked like we wouldn't even be able to take half of our stuff. That created an issue for getting rid of it. In Singapore that is difficult. We had already gotten rid of our car so it would be hard to haul things away. And besides - there is nowhere to haul it. In a country as densely populated as Singapore, trash disposal and landfills are a real issue. I ended up preparing a list of everything that we were going to get rid of and emailing it to all of our friends. It had everything from small household appliances like clock radios and desklamps and portable fans to complete bedroom sets. Every time a friend came over during the last month I would see if they wanted to take something. How about a desk chair? A lamp? Maybe an end table? Some of our things we were able to get rid of piecemeal - a fan here, a chair there. Luckily we got a break when a couple who are good friends decided that they could do a refesh of a lot of their furniture. They hired a truck on Saturday and were able to take a lot of the large pieces. That was a relief as I really wasn't sure what I was going to do otherwise. After that I was able to call the Salvation Army and they took most of the remaining items. We were able to get our stuff down to what would fit in our shipment.
There were a lot of hard decisions. Fortunately in the end we had more room in our container than we had been told. One item that we had struggled with was our dining room table. Sandy wanted to buy a new one back in the states and the one we had was very large. But besides using it for meals it had been my gaming table in Singapore and I really wanted it back in the US. I had dreams of my own game room when we got home and wanted that table. Fortunately the movers managed to fit it in. Likewise with my computer desk and that is where my keyboard and monitor sit this moment as I type this. Our large sofa with matching recliner, which Shannon and I both really liked, didn't make the cut. But we found it a really good home in Mike and Wendy's apartment.
Hp also eliminated the air shipment option. When we moved to Singapore we were allowed to ship a reasonable sized air shipment. It allowed us to send all of our PC's, our dishes and a few other essentials that let us set up housekeeping in Singapore right away. Now the policy was a certain dollar amount that basically allowe us to ship one or two things. We dedided to use it for my Blackbird PC and monitor. I certainly didn't want to be without my beautiful PC for two months after all the effort we had gone through to get it to Singapore in the first place.
The air shipment turned out to be a disaster. My PC showed up in Boise the same day that we did and was delivered the first day that we were in our new house. But it looked like it had been skewered by a fork lift or something and the box was severely damaged. When I hooked it up it wouldn't even boot up. After two or three days on the phone with Voodoo support I had to send it back to the factory to be repaired. First I had to wait a week for them to send me a special carton to ship it in. Then it took six weeks total for it to be shipped back, wait in the repair queue, actually get fixed (that took one afternoon!) and then sent back. In the end, I got it back about a week after our surface shipment had arrived via slow boat from Singapore. Good thing I had shipped it by air! To add insult to injury, the insurance company pointed out that the fine print said that electronics wasn't insured against damage to electronic components so we ended up paying about $450 out of pocket for the repairs. Oh well.
The last week in Singapore was hectic to say the least. Sandy was really busy with her new job and was totally consummed. That was a good thing as she had obtained a really good position and we were both glad that she had found the spot that she had. But that meant that I had to schedule and juggle a lot of things. We had movers, shippers, Salvation Army, apartment cleaners, apartment inspection, closing accounts, workmen, all doing there thing in the apartment at the same time. It was (hopefully organized) chaos. One panic occurred when we took our cable tv box back to StarHub to return it. We closed out our account, which would take effect at the end of the month (which was important because our cable provider was our internet service provider). We gave them their equipment back since we didn't have time to watch tv anyway. When we got home we found out that our internet service and phone was already turned off. This was very bad. Sandy needed internet access for work and I needed internet access for...well I needed internet access. Since it took us a week to get service when we moved to Singapore it looked pretty bad. But a phone call to StarHub tech support and our internet access was back within the hour. Whew! That could have been a disaster.
It was kind of tough as our departure date approached. Every time that we went somewhere, we knew that it was probably our last time that we would go there. We went to some of our favorite spots. I walked around Sim Lim Square (the computer mall). Sandy and I had dinner along the Singapore River. I had lunch at Botok Jones. Each visit was tinged with a little bit of sadness.
There was one more aspect to leaving Singapore that was even more important. We had to say goodbye to all of the good friends that we had made. That was very tough.
We had dinner with Rich and Kristen who were also expats from Boise. Sandy had hired Rich to come and work in her group. Kristin and I usually got together for lunch every month or so to compare notes on housekeeping, shopping, where to find various products or services in Singapore, and especially travel plans. We had our final dinner at Dan Ryan's Chicago Grill, an excellent traditional American steak place. In Singapore we could always find just about any kind of food that we were used to from the US. Sandy claims that Dan Ryan's has the best chocolate lava cake that she has ever had. Rich and Kristen returned to the US several months after we did and ended up locating in Vancouver, Washington.
One afternoon we had lunch with Sandy's admin assistant Nancy. Since Sandy's replacement was going to be in India she needed to switch to a different job in Hp. Normally for a good admin that would not be difficult, but the number of jobs at Hp in Singapore had been steadily declining over the past two years. The rumor that I heard was that Hp CEO Mark Hurd was mad at the Singapore government for awarding an IT contract to a competitor so he kept cutting the size of Hp in Singapore. So when Sandy planned to leave for the US Nancy had decided to look for other opportunities while the job market was still doing ok in Singapore. It was a bold move but she found a good job at a hospital working in the administation. We met her during our final week for a great lunch at a marina near Sentosa Island and heard all about Nancy's new job. We were both glad to hear that her move had worked out well.
Before we left I was able to get in a last round of game sessions with my main wargaming buddies.
Sng was able to come over to refight the Second Punic War. We had played many games of Hannibal, Hammer of the Scots and Rommel in the Desert. But Hannibal was always our favorite. When everyone else had gotten tired of it and moved on to other games we still played it. Several times we played multiple games in a single long session. And we did this for our last session, playing four games and splitting with two wins each.
Alexis and I played many great games but especially the Avalon Hill classics. We played Turning Point Stalingrad, Breakout Normandy, Russian Front, Panzergruppe Guderian and Panzer Armee Afrika. In our last week in Singapore Alexis invited me to his house and we played several C&C Ancients scenarios. I had played that game more than he so I came away with some wins. Alexis is the only gamer I know with a game collection significantly more extensive than mine. Man, I think that he has every wargame ever published. And since he designs his own, he even has some hand made games that haven't been published.
Mike and I had a standing wargame night every week. He worked at a language school only two blocks from our house. His wife taught at the same school. So when she had an evening class he would come over to our place and we could get some gaming in till his wife finished her class. That way they could take the train home together. Our last session was a short game - Rage Against The Marines. It covered the Battle of Iwo Jima (I won by the way. Thank you for asking.). Then we watched an interesting History Channel video called Battle 360. It used computer animation to portray battles in WWII in the Pacific. We watched the episode on the fight for Guadalcanal. I was impressed enough that I bought the series for my brother-in-law Dan for his birthday (which I hope to borrow when he is done with it).
I had a last wargaming session at my friend Michael's to play Bittereinder. This is a simulation of the Boer War. Since Michael is South African, he totally kicked my butt (for the second time - we had played the game once before). He was polite enough to say that he had trouble against me when we played American Civil War games like Price of Freedom or A House Divided. As he said, it showed that we had both been paying attention in our high school history classes. Afterwards I had a late night walk home. I had walked home from Michael's many times after playing wargames till late. It took just under an hour to walk home. It was always great - in Singapore the temperature was pleasant late at night and the city was quiet and peaceful. And I always enjoyed the fact that Singapore was such a safe city that it was no big deal to be walking alone downtown at midnight or two in the morning. I knew that I would miss these walks home thinking about how our game that night had gone.
Just before we left we had one last evening out with our friends. Sandy and I met Mike and Wendy after they finished work. We went down to Emerald Hill, a famous street near our house with several well known bars. We had always intended to go there for a drink in the evening but had never made it. Now we took advantage of our last chance. Mike bought us some Sapporo beers there (he and Wendy had lived in Japan for many years). Then we all went to Tratorria La Fiandra. It was the favorite Italian restaurant in Singapore for both Sandy and I. There we met Michael and Dhara. We had a delicious dinner with good wine and lots of stories about wargames we had played over the past two years. The evening went by quickly. Then it was time for goodbyes and hugs before going home.
One piece of good news. Mike and Wendy are planning to visit us in Boise this fall. I am really looking forward to it.
An interesting note - I usually played wargames with both Mike and Michael once a week while I lived in Singapore. When I left they said that they hooked up with each other and kept the weekly sessions going. But I will mention that four months later, Mike and Wendy just found out that they are expecting their first child and Michael and Dhara just found out that they are expecting their second. I'm not sure that they really kept their dedication to wargames in my absence.
After that we went through the last steps of leaving. The movers finished taking our stuff. We moved from our flat to the Hilton Hotel. That was sad as we had spent so many beautiful evenings on our patio admiring the lights of the city. Our landlords inspected the apartment and must have been happy - they decided to move in themselves. Then early one morning we caught a taxi to the airport and took a flight back to the US. It really felt strange to be leaving. An exciting chapter of our life had ended.
I really enjoyed our time in Singapore. We had a chance to travel and see a lot of Asia. I learned a lot about Asian culture and history. We had made some great friends. We had been made to feel welcome by the people in Singapore. While we lived there it always felt comfortable. So while I was glad to be going back to the US and to Boise, I was also sad to be leaving Singapore. But I will remember what my friend Alexis said to me before I left, that I should always consider Singapore to be my second home.