3 Years, 364 days in Perth and Still Alive

Today is a very important day for me. It marks the eve of the day I took a leap of faith that changed my life forever.

4 years ago on this date, I could not sleep that night. I had the last opportunity to turn back, to tell everyone it was just a joke and stay in my comfort zone in Singapore. While my wife, 5 months into her pregnancy, was snoring next to me, many thoughts came to my mind.

I would miss my beautiful Jack Russel Terrier, who was curled up in his peaceful sleep at my feet, probably dreaming of human toes flavoured bones. What would happen to my parents without me by their side? Would my sister go berserk given the new responsibility as their guardian? How many years would it take before my friends eventually forget me? That night was the most guilt ridden one I ever had. To me, the hardest part of moving to another country was more about letting go of what I had than to take on the challenges in the new environment. I know I am not alone. Many had balked at the last hurdle because it was much easier to remain status quo than to leap into the unknown. 

Besides, it is easier to find excuses for ourselves. It is a very human thing to do. It was then anything could have become a reason to stay. The economy is better in Singapore. There is better job prospect here. Unemployment is low here. There are no natural disasters. It is one of the safest country in the world. Rather be a first class citizen in my country. Char Kuay Teow is available everywhere. There are people who pick up our litter, cab fares that don't set hearts pounding, familiar faces everywhere and a river that always flow.

If the reasons to stay were not compelling enough, then an exercise to condemn the unknown would do the trick. There is discrimination against my race and nationality there. Being thrown around like a mangy 2nd class citizen. Being stabbed once in a while or thrown an egg or two by aboriginals. The economy is terrible there. There are no jobs for me. My wife will give birth on the street. My children will grow up to be idiots due to the poor education system there. Never mind if I have not experienced the new country myself and relied on hearsay. , Those were the realities people who wanted to stay would convince themselves to believe in.

None of those worked. When I woke at 5am (well technically I didn't wake, since I didn't sleep), I washed up and lugged my stuff to the corridor, and hugged my dog for one last time. That would be the last time I saw him, for he died just a few months after I left, adding to my guilt.  

Why did I go ahead, despite the obvious mental baggage I couldn't leave behind?

Till today, I have not managed to let go of family and friends. However, all the push/full factors messing about in my mind that night is inconsequential anymore. It is clear as a sky when it comes to migrants moving from a so call "3rd world" to a "first world" country. When it comes to a Singaporean moving to another country, it is another thing altogether. After all, Singapore is supposed to be one of the best countries in the world, thus it makes little sense to move. For those who still did it anyway, it makes perfect sense. It takes an ascended level of the understanding of life to do so. Those who don't get it, will never get it.

Albany told me she wants to learn how to drive our car
Perhaps it was all about following my gut feel. I might have already lost my life to cancer should I insisted to stay in Singapore. What a great pity that would be.

Australia has been treating me well. I know many Singaporeans may not share the same sentiments due to their own unique experiences here. However I can't lie about it. I have a normal job, paying me enough to feed my family. I work from 6am to 2.30pm and pick up my 3 year old daugther from the child care by 3pm at alternate days. My daughter and I would tease each other in the car and burst out in laughter. Sometimes she will sing songs and tell me about her day. She speaks well at her age and pronounce her words more accurately than I could. 

We reach home at 3.30pm and little Albany will be contented to watch "Play School" on television while I cook. She will beg for snacks, which I will only give if she learn to spell a new word every now and then. By now she can spell 10 different colours and 5 numbers. Then I will cook dinner. I am grateful for having the time to cook every single meal ourselves, except for occasions or friends invitation. Dinner starts at 5.30pm and finishes at 6pm. Cleaning of dishes end at 6.15pm and Albany will start clinging on me for games, such as her recent favourite of "Hide-and-seek". Other days, she will be playing jigsaw puzzles or doodling with colour pencils. Her laughter cleanses my weariness away without fail. Bath time for Albany starts at 7pm and she will be in bed with the Missues by 7.30pm. She loves reading and will not go to bed without reading or being read to. Lights out at 8pm. The nights are dark, very dark. So dark that Singaporeans fear it while I relished and adore it to the same degree. There is no need to switch on a fan nor an air conditioner. I have peace and quiet. Over here, the night ends young. Just that way I like it. Just the way it should be.

With the constant sight of a clear blue sky, dry and cool weather for 9 months of the year, fresh (come and see what fresh means) air all year round, a smooth running highway to drive home to at 2.30pm and ample time to spend with my child(ren), it is a life worth living. It doesn't matter what I do. I may be a project manager back in Singapore and work in a factory over here. I would even drive a dump truck or sort out thrash if I needed to. By keeping myself open to any option, I am nearly immune to a recession. Who cares about such things really? When you are in your 80s, awaiting death to swing his scythe, will you be reminiscing about great job you used to do that ate into your life and your soul? Maybe you would but I would be reminiscing about how I lived much of my life, with little regrets I bet.

A job is supposed to take up 1/3 of our lives but many of us have allow it to encroach beyond its rightful boundaries. I choose to focus on the other 2/3 of my life, while enjoying my simple job that I wake up happy to report to, everyday. It is my formula of happiness and contentment. I don't think that is asking for the stars. Despite all that glitter and the glories that mocking Singaporeans have been trying to paint Singapore to me, I am unmoved. For back then, I could not even live. 

I merely survived. Existed.


  1. "Dinner starts at 5.30pm and finishes at 6pm"

    What? You don't eat for 10 to 11 hours? Same with Albany? Traditionally many Aussie I know eat around 6 to 7 pm but that will often mean they eat too early and close to meal time at 12 unless lunch is not too heavy.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I m sure Albany will learn lots from u and enjoying parents' involvement in her life.

  3. I just told my mum about my intention to migrate. Immediately, I felt guilt. My mum was in disbelief and denial. Right now,, I am hanging in the air. I know I will be happier in Aust but the thought of leaving my mother behind.... even though she has two other children who could also take care of her....

    1. I suggest you give it a go and try it. Never try , never know. At least experience the life of an immigrant :)