Capturing our love for art, adventure and learning
家 (home) is a very peculiar mandarin character. The top part represents a roof and the bottom letter represents a pig. I'm inclined to think that the ancient Chinese person's home is where their most treasured roast pork is. There is perhaps much wisdom in this because the English speaking world would agree that home is where your heart is.
I've be raised all my life to think that Singapore is my home. Compulsory education meant that I was taught the right brand of history, learnt the national education objectives and sang the national anthem every single day for 12 years. I was conscripted by law to an elite military unit for 2 years to defend the only "home" I knew. I thought I knew where home was. When I returned to Singapore in 2010 after my stint at Loughborough University, I suffered a severe identity crisis. All that I was taught and ever knew was suddenly questioned and I did not have the answers.
Since then, I've tried explaining why I felt more at home in the UK. I was dismissed as an anglophile and a young man who doesn't know how lucky he was to be Singaporean. I've also been told many times to look at the strikes, the political "mess" and the statistics that condemn Britain as a shameful fallen empire. These people quote Singapore's GDP per capita, multi-million dollar properties, high HDB (public housing flat) ownership and highly ranked efficiency almost like a religious mantra to justify their pride of being Singaporean. The thing is, I am not questioning why you call Singapore home.
The crisis is MINE.
The questions are MINE.
Home should MINE TO DEFINE.
Home is where you thrive.
Thriving is beyond just making money.
Thriving is about growing, learning, being a better person and being emotionally healthy. Thriving is also being kind to others, encouraging others and being wholesome.
Thriving is for those with exceptional abilities that don't fit in a prescribed schedule.
Thriving is also for people with disabilities.
Thriving is for all personalities.
13 years later in spring 2023, I am still trying to answer the questions and define what home is to me and my family. Here is a little portion of my recent thoughts...
HOME IS WHERE WE LEARN AND GROW
It has taken a whole new dimension now that I see my own children thriving in the UK. I see Gwyn getting excited about dance class, loving Sunday school and asking her homeschool parents for more work. She feels heard and understood and therefore She WANTS to learn. We are so grateful that she doesn't have to feel unduly pressured to perform.
She greets me at the door when I get back to ask me, "Papa, what did you do at University today? What did you learn today?". She does it EVERYDAY. It touches my heart that she sees the importance of taking something away every time you go to class. I want our home and country to be one that protects and nurtures this attitude.
The strongest desire to learn must also be met with the opportunity to do so. We are over the moon that Matthias is being mentored by a volunteer to be a radio presenter. He ran his first live show on a community radio station here in Leicester last weekend. The beauty of it all is that there are many others who are passionate about sharing their craft with others in and around the country.
Learning is not about getting a grade or getting up a ranking table. Learning is not an unpleasant rite of passage to a job. We should learn zealously because we are infinitely curious and passionate of a certain craft/field. If it leads to a good vocation, that's a bonus. If it doesn't, the attitude itself will set us on a good path wherever we choose to venture. This is not a predominant belief where I grew up.
HOME IS WHERE THE SPACE AND CLIMATE PROMOTES GOOD HEALTH
I think it is hard to call a place home if the climate brings you an incredible amount of distress and health issues. British people moan about the rain, snow, sleet and gloomy skies all the time but we'd rather have these than being a sweaty mess in extreme humidity all day long. When the sun comes out, many like us are compelled to head out there and make the best of the sunshine. It encourages us to exercise and get outdoors.
And when we do get outdoors, we are always given a huge boost of endorphins. Being able to go trekking without being completely drenched in sweat makes us want to walk more, climb more and play more. There's trees to climb, sticks to pick and rocks to scale. We come home happy and do not have to worry about an eczema flare up.
Seeing the seasons change and flowers bloom must be one of the biggest highlights of our time here. We really don't mind a home where we are surrounded by a lively natural environment that isn't a curated concrete man-made place. In fact, this has grown our desire to learn about and appreciate the nature around us. It is such a wholesome experience!
I've also mentioned in our previous blog posts about how we are more able to find gluten-free grocery and dining options here. Allergies are taken very seriously and they never have to feel left out when snacks are given out. You can't feel at home if food around you is making you feel constantly unwell can you?
HOME IS WHERE THERE'S KINDNESS
Our kids have had crazy amount of fun playing with other children they have met for the first time. I have witnessed groups of kids readily stop their game and give a Gwyn a go at the football/ basketball. Some of them were complete strangers. Our kids don't get strange stares when they initiate play or a conversation here. It just feels so wholesome that children can be children and not grow up with a constant wall of defence against some perceived threat. They way kids play (or don't play) reflects a huge deal about the home and country they live in.
I don't want to paint the UK as some kind of heaven. It isn't.
But if I really have to compare the road cultures, it has been heavenly here.
Most people give way to others. Put on your indicators in Singapore, it is almost likely that the car behind will cut you off. People in the opposite direction use their high beams to say, I'm slowing down for you, you can go ahead and turn. In Singapore, high beam is used to maliciously blind the person in front because they have offended you in some way.
People let their hazard lights blink twice here to say thank you. In Singapore, it is quite often used when you are pretending to stop due to hazards but is fact brake checking someone. The horn is rarely used here unless there's real danger or in a very occasional moment of rage. In Singapore, it's the quintessential way of saying "f*** off" on the roads daily.
Way more patience, way more kindness, way less stressed. That's how a home should be, no?
The idea of home is a very personal one. Considering what are the most important aspects of home can be very beneficial. It could change the culture in your house, it could change the path of your family and it can start a quest like how it did for us. What's your idea of home?
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KWANS LEARN TAMIL