A (Not Quite) Whole New World

Moving across the world sounds like a big shift, but some things here are more different than others. Here’s a shortlist of five things that had potential to change with our decision.

1. Residence. From our quaint Glen Rock house to a spacious twenty-fifth floor apartment, our actually living space has changed quite a bit. In Singapore, it seems that you need at least a 1:1 ratio of bathrooms to humans dwelling in the residence, so for that reason, we have five. Penny was most surprised at the way the elevator opens directly into our living space and when leaving the apartment, she has a tendency to aggressively click the down button in such rapid succession that I fear it will inevitably stop working.

Our apartment building in the early evening

2. Transportation. Both Seb and I used to have separate Garden State Parkway commutes that could take anywhere from 25-50 minutes depending on time of day. While we settled in Glen Rock because it was a town with a walkable downtown, most days we were a two-car family. Now, Seb gets to work via the subway, riding the local line three stops. I’m a more heavy user of the city buses, which are reliable with a stop conveniently located at the end of our street. We do a ton of walking, which I’ve found to be surprisingly effective supplemental exercise between the temperature, the hills, and the fact that I’m always either wearing or pushing two small children.

Waiting for the 54 bus, which takes us to our favorite playground in less than 10 minutes.

3. Support. In New Jersey, we were lucky to live an hour from our parents, which meant the kids saw their grandparents often. This was the arguably the hardest thing to knowingly do without for the next two years. In Singapore, we’ve added a lovely new member to our family, our live-in helper, Jona. She has made the adjustment much easier on all of us and I can’t imagine facing the week ahead, in which Seb is traveling to two separate countries for work M-Th, without her support. Still, we are hoping Grandma and Nanny & Da book their flights to visit us soon.

4. Recreation. So far, we’ve found it easy to continue to do the things we love here. I immediately found a Crossfit affiliate that had robust class offerings. Seb found a weekly soccer meet-up. There’s much less pressure here to enroll small kids in extracurriculars like kickball or soccer, but all the preschools we looked at do offer choice-based supplemental programming in athletics and arts. Penny has been talking most enthusiastically about exploring gymnastics and continuing her love of running by participating in the Crossfit Kids classes which start at age 4. We all definitely do more swimming now. And we still read a ton of books, the library being our most frequented Singaporean destination so far.

Penny browses the picture book stacks at the library@harborfront

5. Culture. It seems so far that by living in Singapore, we can broaden our culture and tradition without forsaking anything too near and dear to us. As a nation, Singapore has their own secular holidays while also observing public holidays for all of the major races and religions represented. Penny will be relieved to learn that even Halloween is celebrated in one particular neighborhood each year, allowing expat kids to have continuity in the annual tradition of picking a costume and overindulging on candy. Our first new holiday is National Day, slated for this upcoming week, which commemorates Singapore’s independence from Malaysia. We hear the fireworks and jet flyovers make it pretty epic.

The World’s Longest Flight

One week ago, we took the world’s longest direct flight from Newark to Singapore with a 6 month old baby who had just started to crawl and a three and a half year old who was actually looking forward to the experience because we’ve convinced her that the iPad that contains downloaded episodes of Daniel Tiger only works on planes.

Having flown with Penny to New Zealand last year, I was less daunted by this undertaking than you might expect. On that trip, I was contending with horrible morning sickness. We had to take three separate consecutive flights, schlepping through four airports before we reached our destination. And we flew economy, though we sprung for the convertible seats on our longest Air New Zealand flight that allegedly turned into a bed. This upgrade was a bit of a bust because my recently concussed husband insisted on finding a way for all three of us to lay down, despite the directions clearly stating that only one adult and one child could safely – and comfortably fit. In short, doing that trip twice in two weeks left me feeling like I knew how grisly things could get and this would just have to be easier than that.

Yes, we have another kid now and no grandparents aboard to offer extra hands. But Penny is far more reasonable one full year of development later. And Harper still needs a nap every 2.5 hours. This was a one-way direct flight. Plus, it was Business Class.

We boarded the plane at 10am EST, with Harper fully ready for a nap. She nursed and slept through takeoff without issue. It was such a smooth start that I saw the man adjacent to us visibly relax. He had been torn between celebrating his luck in securing the bulkhead seat with extra leg room and cursing his luck because this placed him in close proximity to an infant for nearly an entire day.

A dozen rows back, Penny settled into her seat, which seemed ludicrously expansive for her pint size. Seb sat next to her, armed with aforementioned iPad and an entire bag of carefully wrapped plane bribes – sticker books, new storybooks, a headband decorating kit, Crayola Color Wonder pages featuring her favorite characters, new outfits for the baby doll she loves enough to stick in her carry-on. We also lucked out and a kind-hearted man at security opened her lunchbox of yogurt products and waved us through anyway, which meant she wouldn’t starve when her toddler tastebuds inevitably scoffed at the surprisingly sophisticated airline dining options.

After lunch, they immediately dimmed the cabin lights, and a shocking number of people went to sleep at what was essentially mid-day. This did not work on Penny. By the time she was ready to drift off, eight hours had passed since takeoff and the lights turned back on for the second meal service. Alas, this meant she was awake for all but three hours of the flight, a horrific amount of sleep for any human, but it ultimately served us well to get her settled once we landed. EST and Singapore are diametrically opposed – when it’s noon in the NYC, it’s midnight here, so when we had her in bed our first night at a time that should have felt like early morning, she was thankfully more than ready to crash hard.

Harper slept like a baby, which to me means she woke every 2-3 hours and I tried to keep her up for a bit between sleep cycles so she’d also need a consolidated sleep after we landed. She fussed a little here and there. Our feet wore treads in the aisle’s carpet, I experienced the bizarre sensation that accompanies bouncing a baby in mid-air several times. There’s something discomforting about essentially jumping downwards on a plane you need to remain in mid-air. But in all, she only lost her marbles upon landing, too full of milk to nurse and otherwise unable to sort out the pressure in her ears. At that point, everyone is so relieved to be descending that we didn’t even get a single dirty look.

The best part was that the flight clocked in at just about 18 hours, a ten percent discount I was all too happy to accept. I found the service and dining options to be incredible, though it was logistically hard to savor my high-brow wonton soup while holding an infant. My seat ostensibly came with a bassinet, though the reality was more like a cloth basket attached to the wall that zippered baby in like they are wearing a straight-jacket. Suffice to say, it served a purpose as a receptacle for Harper’s medley of teething rings,

Would I do it again? Sure, though I’m certainly happy our next trip across the world has yet to be booked. Not having to do the trip in reverse twelve days later made the whole thing much more tenable. We arrived haggard and tired but also exceptionally grateful that things went as smoothly as they did.

Checking in for our flight.

Lots of tummy time at the airport.

Some plane bribes, pre-wrapping.

Penny and her carry-on.

A “WE SURVIVED” selfie.

Trolly no longer optional. We had to take two cabs home.

The Journey Begins

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

Our family of four is about to embark upon an exciting adventure.

Sebastian has taken a new role at Prudential, supporting their Asian businesses from their Singapore office.

Kristen, Penny (3), and Harper (5 months) will join him overseas in July.

This blog will be a place for us to share reflections on this experience. We’d love you to join us for updates on our time abroad.