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Stuck Outside Singapore

Updated: Jul 29, 2021

Personal reflections about being back home

I'm in upstate New York just now. My family and I flew here to attend a memorial service for my father-in-law who died Easter 2020. We'd put off saying goodbye as long as we could. And I'm so glad we came. I wouldn't have missed being with our family during this time. The location and weather were lovely. It was a special day.

We debated going for a long time, but my husband didn't want to miss his father's memorial (can you blame him?) and, when we left, there weren't that many cases. People were getting back in fairly easily. We were only going for three weeks, right? Then Phase 2 hit again and now we can't even apply to return. We genuinely have no idea when we can come home. School starts August 18 and it will be my son's big transition year to senior school. Our 15-year-old dog Digby is waiting for us.

I know. I know. To those of you stuck in your homes in Singapore, this doesn't sound all that bad. And if I'm being truthful, there is something magical about hugging family members again, beautiful weather and a change of scenery after so long. It really is good to be home.

But there's also something really disconcerting about being here. The memorial service had 75 unmasked guests. My 11-year-old son isn't old enough to be vaccinated. Being Singapore-conditioned, I was almost in a tailspin panic when people first starting hugging me to offer their condolences. I was told all were vaccinated, until I found out later at home that wasn't true. All it takes is one, right?

I was even more nervous in New York City's Times Square. Most New Yorkers are vaccinated, but many tourists aren't. There were masses of unmasked people packed in like sardines, just milling about. Target and Walmart? While I tingle from head to toe wandering the wide aisles packed with every kind of food stuff imaginable and new stuff, too (like chocolate-filled marshmallows designed especially for s'mores), I also panic when I see all the unmasked folks. And yes — I'm vaccinated, but I'm still wearing my mask here.

There are other differences, too. In Singapore, almost all of my expat friends wanted a vaccine. Heck, we craved a vaccine. I remember hearing a rumor that they were giving extra vaccines to anybody who showed up at a Singapore vaccination center. My husband and I drove like bats out of hell to get our shots, but by the time we got there, the shots were all given out. There were lots of other expats there who had heard the same thing. We wanted the jab!

Here in the States? Someone I have loved my entire life refuses to vaccinate her teenage daughter. "I don't trust it yet." It's unfathomable to me as I'm on the other end of the spectrum. As my daughter was not yet eligible to get vaccinated in Singapore when we left, we were on a mission for her get it when we arrived in the States. Within 16 hours of arriving in th e US, we walked into a Walgreens and got her her first jab. Here in the US, to get vaccinated or not to get vaccinated is a huge topic of discussion.

It's taken me a couple of weeks to get used to not scanning in and out of buildings. For days, I'd reach my phone when I first walked into a store. I hated the whole ritual when I was in Singapore, but I now realize it does make me feel safer.

On top of everything, since I've been here, cases in the US are fast-rising, up 65% in the past week. Geez. Still, there must be a happy medium between locking everybody up again, striving for zero cases and the attitude here in the US where people seem to not care much. I'll admit it: I'm a bit ticked that I can't go back to Singapore, but also part of me kind of wants to be stuck here for longer. As I said, it's good to be home. My husband and I are both working full time still, albeit weird hours. And my kids will be able to do school work virtually. So maybe it wouldn't be so bad to see the leaves turn. But most of me wants to get back to real life in Singapore. I want my kids to start school. I don't want to be worried every time I walk into a store. And most of all? I want to hug my dog.

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