By Krithika Roy | 28 July 2021
Hi there, dear reader, how are you? I hope you are hale and hearty in this crazy 2021.
It is 3 degrees here and 7pm in the evening. The outside is pitch dark and the night sky is filled with a million bright stars. My two babies are tucked in bed and my husband is on his next flight. I am sipping on my piping hot Teh C and slurping down my bowl of Laksa noodles. With my last packet gone now, I’m feeling a tinge of sadness not knowing when I will be stocking up on it next. It will be 10 years since I left Singapore this 2021 and I am writing to you from Johannesburg, South Africa.
As a teenager, I was always fascinated with travelling around the world. Growing up in a traditional family where my parents thrived on stability and comfort zones, I would appease my enthusiasm by burying my nose in travel books, memorizing maps, learning the names of capitals, towns, watching travel documentaries and making long lists of places I would visit before kicking the bucket. Little did I know that when the time would come to “settle down and take roots”, I would instead be embarking on the most exciting, and unpredictable times of my life, with my equally adventurous partner and two very adaptable little kids!
After I got married in 2011, unlike most of my friends in Singapore who were busy planning their honeymoons or buying their first home, I was on a flight, heading towards the unknown! Much to the shock of my family and friends, I resigned from a nice cushy job in an MNC and followed my partner to Jakarta, Indonesia. Two years later, we moved back to Singapore. Four years later, we took a giant leap and moved to Johannesburg, South Africa. As I write this, it is our last few weeks here and we will be moving to the United Kingdom for another 4 years. Exciting, crazy, or pure madness? I would say all of it.
South Africa has been one of the most eye-opening, humbling yet exciting times of our life. There is only one similarity between Singapore and South Africa – that the sky is blue in both places. Everything else you see and feel, even the very smell of the earth is so different! In most people’s minds, South Africa is crime ridden and too dangerous a place to visit, let alone move to. Yes, there is crime and yes, it is unsafe in some areas, like many of the other major cities around the world. However, South Africa is also welcoming, has outstanding natural beauty, the people are wonderful and loving, their music will give you goosebumps, the local produce insanely delicious and so affordable, multicultural, also the country is huge; both in terms of area and population compared to Singapore (1695 Singapore’s fit into South Africa!)
South Africa has 65 million people and bears a very proud and powerful history. I learnt to drive here at the age of 34 as public transport is non-existent. Everyone drives and cars are cheap, and you can see cars without headlights and a Lamborghini side by side on a highway. The poverty humbles you beyond words. You can see young children in school clothes, performing street stunts at the traffic robots (traffic lights!) to bring food to the table. In my time here, I worked with charities and organizations that support young children and teenage mothers. Working in the townships is not easy, as is extremely hard to access a lot of places due to the lack of transport options. Living in South Africa makes me very grateful and thankful for all the wonderful things we take for granted back home in Singapore.
My children, Rey and Arshia have very exciting lives! Rey, now 7, has moved happily with us in every country, changed schools, made friends, became adaptable and confident. I was initially anxious about what he would miss out and if he could ever fit in, but we take it in our stride. He has since learnt Mandarin, Spanish, Theatre, Drama, and Soccer in our time overseas. He has also taken a crazy passion for Lego and even started Lego robotics, thanks to the inquiry-based learning curriculum in his school in Johannesburg. Arshia who is turning 4, has only ever seen South Africa. In her mind, this is her first home and she is vivacious, loud, happy, and extremely sporty like most South African kids!
We travelled plenty being this far from home, we could only capitalize on the fact that we may never venture this far again, we saw Kruger, Pilanesberg, Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, Pretoria, Bloemfontein, The Garden Route, countless other destinations within this very large country. Had it not been for Covid, we would have done Egypt, Kenya, Namibia and Tanzania, but surely in the future when things go back to normal!
My parents live in Singapore and my in-laws in India. Thanks to technology, we regularly keep in touch with the grandparents via technology. Through this pandemic, we realise how far away we were from everyone and how hard it is going to be to meet them if they need support. Thankfully, the family is keeping safe and well. Before we head to out next adventure in the UK, we are planning to go home to Singapore to meet my parents. After that, we will be in Wimbledon for the next few years, the irony is that I have never followed tennis and have no idea how the sport works so maybe this is a calling.
This National Day, my family will be settling into a new home in the UK. I have been so happy to find a group on Facebook “Singaporeans in the UK”, which I am a member of, and excited to make some new friendships and do some potlucks. There are over 59,000 Singaporeans in the UK. South Africa has around 150.
We will do our yearly thing, eat Singaporean food while watching the National Day Parade online. This is one way I keep my kids’ memories going strong on where their roots are. My main tip to young families who have a chance to experience with a new venture outside of Singapore is to take the leap of faith and do it! It opens your mind and heart to so many experiences, both good and trying ones, but they all build you up like nothing a safe home base would. I have met so many people from different walks of life and made some lifelong friendships as I went through these moves.
Moving around without a doubt makes you cherish home so much. Our Singapore flag always flies in our home during National Day!
To you reading this article – here’s wishing you a bright safe future filled with amazing memories! And, Happy 56th Birthday, dear Singapore!
About Krithika Roy
Krithika is a Singaporean who was born in India, raised in Singapore, and spent the most of her 20’s and 30’s in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Johannesburg and now moved to Wimbledon, London. She has been moving with her family of two young kids and her partner, mostly by choice, to experience and enjoy new countries.
After a hiatus from the workforce, and spending lots of time social outreach programmes, she is planning to pursue further studies in the UK with social services and counselling for youth.