Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Singapore Chapter

It's hard to put into words what my time in Singapore has meant to me. Within the last semester alone, I've taught 263 students, four courses, 15 weeks. I've conducted a research study. I've traveled to Japan, seen museum exhibits, eaten incredible meals, had cultural experiences... and interviewed for and was accepted for a tenure track position with SUNY Fredonia, a post I will take up in the Fall of 2016.

I am full of a range of emotions. I am jubilant that I have been chosen to work at Fredonia, a beautiful, close-to-home campus bursting with vibrant energy. I have been working toward this moment since I started my Ph.D. This is the career path on which I have been hoping to direct myself.

But I also feel a bittersweet sense that is best described through a metaphor. You finish an excellent book. It's been full of ups and downs, and the reading experience has changed you forever. You are ready to read another book. You know you can always re-read that same book you've just finished, but it will never be the same as the first time you read it. And the future books you read will forever change your perspective.

I am closing the Singapore chapter. I hope to return to teach summer courses, if I am invited to, and if the logistics work out. But my full-time teaching time in Singapore is ending, after four years.

I started teaching at SIM with a freshly minted Ph.D. at the age of 28. I planned to stay for a year. Now I am 32, and leaving full of experience and memories. I feel like my four years in Singapore have been a degree all of their own.

I was sitting at my desk in SIM as I started to write this post, between my 8:30 and 3:30 classes. I flew out the next day, and I had just spent an hour on a reflective journey back through my photos of my time here in the Lion City before running off to the classroom on the third floor of Block C (where I was to be surprised by a delightful sending-off party by my students). Now, I finish this post as I sit on the sofa with Ginny snuggled up next to me. It seems appropriate that this post should be started and completed on two separate sides of the planet.

Would you like to go on a journey of reflection with me? Unfortunately, it will not be terribly linear, but instead I shall show you the kaleidoscope of memories I've gathered.

In the scope of four years, I've made twenty-two transoceanic trips - back and forth from Buffalo to Singapore 11 times. That's approximately 220,000 miles. But who's counting.

Changi Airport: 2012. My journey is just starting. 
I'm about to become a different person, and I don't even know it yet.

I've stayed in three different apartments during my four years in Singapore:
Fraser Suites on River Valley, my first apartment, Fall 2012

Fusionopolis, my second apartment, Spring 2013-Fall 2014

Treetops, my third apartment, Spring 2015-Spring 2016

I've experienced so many incredibly different cuisines.

I've taken in the unique beauty of classical buildings
set against the modern backdrop of this city-state.

I've done fun, random things, like seeing the world-traveling Harry Potter exhibit, Fall 2012

I've appreciated Singapore's iconic sights by day and night.

I've planned experiences, and I've stumbled upon some, too, like this regatta in Spring 2014.

I've gone exploring, been lost, and found, and dazzled.

I read scores of guidebooks, and learned that nothing compares to the experience of being there.

I found new favorite places, like Chinatown.

...Where I made new friends and had new experiences, like this wine and mooncake event.

I learned that some of the quietest places by day...

...Are a whole new world at night. Fort Canning Music/Art festival, Fall 2015

I was lucky enough to be invited to cultural experiences:

like this community dinner at a Taoist Temple...

This Chinese New Year dinner at a student's house

And this student's Bollywood themed 21st birthday party.

I learned how it feels when the drums of the lion dancers actually replace the beat of your own heart.

I saw two concerts thanks to my students - 
Death Cab for Cutie in Spring 2016 and Mute Math in Spring 2013.

I saw performances, ranging from theatrical: those found at beautiful, local festivals.

I've enjoyed new traditions with new friends, like a regular dumpling run on the picturesque East Coast of Singapore to indulge in local delicacies, to the regular German food and beer buffet at Paulaner's for some more home-like fare. And each of the four years, I enjoyed hosting a springtime egg-dyeing party for my colleagues. 

Everywhere I looked in Singapore, there was new beauty to take in:

From the unique blend of cultures influencing its architecture.

To that of the wild, natural jungle in which this city-state is built.

My proximity to Japan, combined with the generosity of my "Japanese Parents," has enabled me to visit Japan four times, packing in numerous unique experiences with each visit.

I also visited Malaysia to experience the similarities and vast differences between these two countries that share the same peninsula.

Each November, I've enjoyed the grand "Light Up" of Orchard Road for the Christmas season before flying back for a snowier version at home:

I also can't deny that spending misty mornings and afternoons in San Francisco, my stopover city between Buffalo and Singapore, has also become something of "tradition" during this chapter.

I've lived in Singapore during its clearest days:

...And during some of its haziest.

I've watched Singapore change in many ways. I've witnessed depths of sorrow while Singaporeans mourned their leader, and I've seen the height of jubilation as they celebrated their 50th National Day. I feel like I've given Singapore a little piece of me, and I've gotten a little piece of her in return.

I've watched students grow.
I've watched a university grow.
I've watched a country grow. 
All in four years.

I feel like I've really soaked in the new experiences all around me, and gained comfort over the course of this chapter in my life. I'm coming home, but I know home will never be the same, because I'm not the same. And I'm okay with that.

And now, I embark on a new chapter, forever changed by the last four years. I am excited to think that a life well-lived is, in fact, full of chapters, and I can't wait to see what the next one holds. I'm grateful beyond words for the experiences that I've had in Singapore. On my last Saturday in Singapore, I went to some of my favorite spots - Chinatown for Dim Sum. The Bayfront for the views of the city on the river. And finally, the Flyer for a birds-eye view of the country I had called home. At the top of the Flyer, a voice-over announced that we should take this moment to look at the scene before us, and to take in the fact that Singapore had started out as a small fishing village. The voice-over went on to suggest that through hard work and aspiration, we viewers, too, could achieve our dreams.

I have grown professionally. I have grown personally. I have secured a tenure-track position in my hometown. I have just bought a house. I am moving on to the next chapter, but like a well-written book, each chapter builds the ones to come. My Singapore chapter has laid the foundation for the rest of my "book." Majulah! Onward!


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