Singapore-shaped Hole

Little can describe those first months in our passport countries after living overseas, We leave strong, vibrant expat communities and return to places where community seems absent or elusive; we think it’s there but how do we find it? We leave places where we have connected with other people from all over the world and created our own global neighborhood and move to places where that global neighborhood feels far away and the local neighborhood too provincial. Most of all we leave places that we have grown to love, where our hearts are marked by holes shaped like those places and filled with those people that we have left. 

Fall is typically a time when these moves happen. And so my niece Amy is guest posting today, taking us on a bit of her journey this fall as she faces a Singapore-shaped hole in her heart. 

Fall has historically been my favorite season. And this week, the DC metro area is experiencing the most gorgeous fall weather a girl could ask for. The trees are starting to change colors and there is a crisp breeze causing all the leaves to rustle joyously. But what really gets me is the smell; the smell of changing seasons is indescribable and intoxicating.

I find that there is a stirring in my heart; a nostalgic joy that has been long-lost is awakening in my soul. It is brought on by crunchy leaves, bright orange pumpkins, delicious apples, and that familiar and comfortable atmosphere of Fall that I know so well.

But every crunch of a leaf, flash of orange from a pumpkin, and juicy bite of an apple reminds me of the season I have left behind.

English: Overview of Singapore's financial dis...

The last two years of my life were spent on the tiny island of Singapore. This island is a bustling city nestled in Southeast Asia between Malaysia and Indonesia; rich in jungle atmosphere, cultural diversity, and the best food known to man. Though 6 weeks have already passed since I moved back to America, a piece of my heart still dwells with that little island. I long for the sticky, hot air and the smell of jungle and city, combined with a hint of durian.

I wonder when I will again feel that tropical atmosphere, eat chicken rice at the local hawker stall, or be the only white face crammed into a train car packed with Asian faces.

As I am experiencing the joy I have always found in changing seasons, my heart is being torn in two as I grieve what I have left behind. Some mornings when I wake up, the Singapore-shaped hole in my heart is almost too much to bear. I tell myself that I would trade the gorgeous Fall weather any day to be back on that tiny island.

But the grief will inevitably fade, and the joy of Fall will once again take over. And I will move forward into my new season, as we are all forced to do at times, but I do so having left a piece of my heart in Singapore and treasuring the piece of Singapore left in my heart.


14 thoughts on “Singapore-shaped Hole

  1. My dearest honey girl–remember two years ago when I picked up several red maple leaves from in front of the condos and put them in a pkge to send to you?? Dad thought I was crazy, but I knew you needed them then and you taped them all over your wall in Singapore:) I wish there was something I could do for your pain now, but just know that we love you and we are SO very proud of you for openly sharing your journey. I have a “Hazara” size hole in my heart–meaning the area we lived in in Pakistan–and every once in awhile it opens up and still hurts. Don’t ever lose the holes that are made in your heart. They will make you who you become.


  2. What a bittersweet post, Amy! I can totally relate to your feeling. I have left Shanghai for almost 3 years now and I still miss that place and the people a lot, I can still remember all the things in that city, the church, the street food, and even the rudeness/enthusiasm of the local people there and strangely enough, I miss it too.


  3. My dear Amy, beautifully written! And so true. Seems we’re living the same dream on opposite sides of the planet, sweet girl! All the best with the transition, and let’s synchronize our future visits back to SG! XO :-)


  4. Oh, Amy, thank you for that post. Your life is so much richer for those two years in Singapore. Being able to grieve for what you miss and simultaneously truly rejoice in where you are is a huge gift – something I’m still learning how to do as we settle in our new place. Love you much!


    1. I love you too Grandma!! I hope that your transition goes smoothly and that you are able to settle in well. And I really hope that I can come visit soon!


  5. Your life will forever be enriched by your time in Singapore. You will get through this grief (you’ve lost much in your move) and eventually adjust to life back here. Transition is a process. You are becoming a well-rounded “global” person through your unique experiences. Hang in there and say a prayer. God is ever with you.


    1. Thank you, Jennifer, for the lovely comment! So many times I think about transitions as if they are mere moments, but you are right that they are indeed a process. Thankfully, they are processes from which we can grow and learn!


  6. I too resonate with your lovely post. Last fall I was weeping through a lovely US fall, entranced but grieving my fall-less Taiwan. At the same time the season reminds me of all the losses we TCKs (or TCAdults) must embrace or repress. And coming losses of family or place as well. Grief is to be acknowledged, not repressed. And it will set us free for other loves & lives we’ll exult in. Blessings in the journey!


    1. Thanks much Anne! Part of me wanted to believe that being a TCA was easier than being a TCK, but it isn’t, and so embrace I will try.


  7. Grieve it Amy! These types of transitions are full of joy and pain, nostalgia and memory, longing and loss. Our only option is grief.


  8. Beautiful post! I know exactly how you feel, Amy. I have an enormous Kuala Lumpur-shaped hole in my heart! With a little space for Singapore too since a year and a half of my 10 years in Asia were there. I can still smell that mixture of wet jungle, busy city and durian and let’s not forget noodle stalls when I close my eyes and imagine. I didn’t move back to the US yet but I’ve left a huge part of my heart in Malaysia and Singapore.


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