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Anuradhapura butterflies
Anuradhapura butterflies

Sometime it takes going away to realise where your home is.

I haven’t felt homesick once since the move to Singapore. Of course, I miss friends and family, and I’m very much looking forward to going home for Christmas, but there hasn’t yet been that overwhelming sadness of the “What have I done? I want to go home!!” variety.

Naturally, I swirled my kopi and attributed this to my imagined status of “citizen of the world”. “The world is my home,” I said to Tippy, who did not even look up from licking her foot. This wankery delusion was further supported by a weekend trip to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. It felt very cosmopolitan and worldly to jet off to Vietnam for the weekend. Because when you’re cosmopolitan and worldly you don’t fly, you “jet”. Even if it’s in economy with screaming kids and snuffling Vietnamese men, it’s still “jetting”. Anyway, it was nice to come home after that, home as in Singapore. Nice to come back to our bed and our couch, to be able to drink tap water again.

Sri Lanka though, still only a short trip, changed that. As we puttered through the country side in a tuk-tuk, going from Anuradhapura, the fabled ancient capital, to Kalpitiya, the deserted windy beaches straight out of kitesurfing fantasies, I caught myself thinking about Australia. Specifically, though I loathe to admit it, Bundaberg. I thought about the smoke plumes from cane fires and catching ash as it fell from the sky. I thought about sitting behind the couch at my Grandma’s house with the cat, squinting at the street through the yellow frosted glass windows. I thought about Arnott’s Assorted Creams and the lolly jar on top of the fridge that became easier to reach as we all got older. How strange it was to be suddenly back in the home town I had joked off for years as “You know, where the rum comes from?”. In the middle of Sri Lanka, of all places. Maybe two months and two weeks is too soon to receive a “Citizen of the World” Passport?

I’ll go back at the end of the year though. There’s no more cane fires, the cat’s long gone. The lolly jar has likely been replaced by bottles of rum: my 21-year-old cousin lives there now. I’ll buy some Assorted Creams though, I’ll eat the Monte Carlos first. I’ll drive through the streets that are the same every time I’m there, a constant cause of outer derision and inner comfort. I suppose they calls them roots for a reason. As far as you go, as wide as you spread your branches, as many different creatures come and build nests on you (maybe not), your roots stay in the same place. You know, where the rum comes from.

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Moving in

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I write this from my couch. Not the couch I’m sitting in at a hotel or an airport or my parents house. My couch. It’s brown and a bit saggy, it’s got a few stains – beer and hydrolyte are two that are immediately identifiable. But it is by far the most comfortable couch in the world. All other couches should kneel at the feet of this majestic specimen. But this isn’t about my couch. It’s more about the fact that my couch is now sitting in my new apartment in Singapore.

Our stuff has arrived and is in the process of being unpacked. It’s very strange to look around and see our wooden giraffes from South Africa, our kava bowl from Fiji and our groaning bookcase from Ikea. Looking to the right though, you’re reminded where you are: you’re sitting about 5 metres away from your neighbour’s lounge room, just across the courtyard. Their maid is hanging washing on their balcony, it’s so close you can say hello to her without raising your voice. You can hear the Chinese family next door either having a heated domestic or a loud conversation, it’s difficult to tell. This is high density living, in Singapore.

My cat embodies the feeling the best: she’s spent the last six hours sprinting from one room to the other with her ears back. She looks manic but then suddenly comes to a stop to jump up and sit on her blanket on the couch, or bite my toes while I’m trying to sleep. It feels as though we’ve been manically rushing around, house hunting, moving and generally getting settled, with a few brief pauses to do normal things like cook dinner and watch TV. Now it’s time for everything to slow down and for us to get on with living, really living, here in Singapore. Home sweet home.

Note: At the time of posting, it has all become too much for Tippy the cat. She is currently wedged behind a wardrobe. She might be stuck.