Monday, May 17, 2010

Our new home

We had the usual weekend, with one exception - we bought a penthouse in Singapore!

Yes, after more than 10 years of living within a stone's throw of Orchard Road, it's time to move on.  We're still sorting out the purchase, it should be completed in August and we'll probably live in two places for a while before finally shifting completely to the new place.  Actually, we were only casually looking at places these past two weeks (each was imperfect).  Prices are on their way up and we decided that this unit would be the last unit we would view and we would wait till next year before continuing our search. It turned out to be a great place at a great price so we snapped it up.

It feels like we've reached the end of a long journey.

When Richard and I moved out from the university hostel after I graduated, Richard was still a student (his course was longer than mine). We, with our two turtles, decided to rent a place near the university, in the west of Singapore.  We found a two-bedroom HDB flat for rent in Bukit Panjang. The owner (a single lady) locked up one room for herself and kept a key to the flat so she could "drop by" whenever she liked. It took me an hour to get to work by bus and I had to stand all the way.  One day I skipped breakfast and I fainted on the bus. Still, it was our tiny slice of heaven - we had our own fridge! our own washing machine! a sofa! We could yell, "Honey, I'm home!"  Our two turtles were let loose in the master ensuite and they laid two perfect white eggs (which didn't hatch, unfortunately). We adopted two cats and felt like a little family.

The landlady wasn't too fond of our cats though so we decided to move. We found another HDB flat for rent in the west, in Choa Chu Kang.  This was a huge place that originally had three bedrooms (two bedrooms were combined into one) and the cats were delighted with all the space.

After a while, the landlord decided to take back the flat so we had to move again. By this time, I'd been working for some time and we had enough money to afford a place in Cairnhill in District 9.  The apartment was small and dark, with poor ventilation.  We had to hang our laundry in the guest toilet and after living there a while, the ceiling in the guest toilet started to leak. Plus, the neighbour had a blind Pekingnese which stank to high heaven. But it was Marvellous. We felt that we never wanted to move again. Orchard Road was a hop, skip and a jump away and commuting to work on public transport took less than half an hour.  Newton Circus hawker centre was our regular supper haunt. We would stroll there and back under the moonlight, hand-in-hand and heart-to-heart. How much better could things be?

Our male turtle died and we buried him, on a moonlit night, in the vast green space between our apartment and the hawker centre.  We gave the other turtle away to a friend who had a turtle pond, to save her from being lonely, but she still passed away, because we couldn't save her from being heartbroken.

We lived the yuppie life - we worked hard, played hard.  Days were long, nights were young. When we were not working, we were either playing pool or playing mahjong. We caught a movie every week and checked out all the malls in Orchard Road.  We started an aquarium.  We got married, after nine years of courtship, and we felt on top of the world.

After several happy years, Singapore caught the en-bloc (collective sale) fever and our apartment, the old lady that she was, was a prime target. We had no choice but to move, again.  Richard found us a walk-up apartment in River Valley, on the other side of Orchard Road.  It was on the fourth floor but the place was large, bright and airy and the balcony looked out to green grass and a huge tree with a wooden swing. Again, heaven. We adopted a dog and named him Max. One cat tolerated him, the other didn't. In 2005, we were overjoyed to discover that I was, unexpectedly, pregnant.  We were devastated when I miscarried in my first trimester.  The timing was just not right, I guess. After recovering both physically and mentally, we doved back into life, trusting that God knew best.  Those were the tough career years, when we still needed to earn our stripes and we worked hard to do so.

After four years, the en-bloc fever struck again and took hold of our apartment. We didn't know if we could afford another place in the same area and if we could it would likely be small and dark like our apartment at Cairnhill (so much for being Marvellous).  But God knows best. While we were walking Max around the neighbourhood one day, we noticed that one of the double-storey terrace houses had been put up for rent. It was just across the road from where we were living.  We called the number on the sign - the agent was actually sitting in his car just outside the house (he had just put up the sign) - and we got to view the house straightaway.  We made an offer right there and then and moved in almost immediately.

The house was empty which was great because we could move in all our furniture and kitchen appliances. Still, there was so much space leftover. I have an entire room for my wardrobe, the study has floor to ceiling bookcases which are filled to overflowing and there is a guest room downstairs. We planted a frangipani tree and did lots of gardening. We cut fresh flowers from our garden and harvested rambutans from the tree in the backyard. We built a lotus pond. We've had barbeques and meals al fresco. One of our beloved cats passed away and we gave up the aquarium. We bought a convertible and parked it in our driveway. In 2008, I fell pregnant again and we bought a bigger car, which we had to park under the big tree outside the house. Ryan was born in January 2009 and, with our careers being relatively stable, we felt that our lives were complete.

We planned to stay only as long as we needed to find a place to buy but we ended up staying for four years, now coming to five.  The huge condominium which came up on the plot where our old walk-up apartment used to be is already almost ready for occupation.  The site on which our old apartment at Cairnhill used to stand now boasts a swanky new condominium as well.

Perhaps it's the fact that we've moved five times since we graduated, that we don't relish the thought of moving again.  Perhaps it's the knowledge that, in Singapore, buying your own freehold doesn't guarantee you'll be able to stay put (we've been through two en-blocs).

The push came when we started looking for pre-schools for Ryan. While the pre-school doesn't determine the location of the new home, the location of the new home will affect the choice of the pre-school. We hope to keep Ryan in the same pre-school for all four years of pre-school but we can't guarantee that we'll stay in this house for that long. Like all leases, there is no security of tenure.  So we needed to lock down our location first. And now we have!

We do feel very sentimental about leaving our present house but we're also looking forward to moving into the new place.  I don't know if Ryan will remember much about this house but, just like Richard and I have wonderful memories of all the places in which we've lived, I know Ryan will build wonderful memories in his new home.


Doofus said...

I must have visited and stayed in all your previous homes!

Unknown said...

congrats on ur new place!

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