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It’s Not You – It’s Me

The time has come to talk about leaving. After nearly two years, my sojourn in Singapore is coming to a close. But, before I talk about where I’m going, I want to say a few things about this city I still call home.

The place of expats and foreigners in Singapore society is the subject of much debate. Some will want me to say this is the reason I’m leaving Singapore, but it isn’t. Yes, Singapore is going through a period of change, which is uncomfortable at times for those of us not born here. I’ve had my share of unpleasant moments. But, that’s not why I’m leaving.

Others might want me to say I’m going because of the lack of freedoms in this nation; the restrictions on artists, or the all pervasive role of government in the creative industries. I have strong opinions about this. But, again, this is not why I’m leaving.

And, I’m not leaving because of the climate, as much as I’m prone to complain about the relentless heat and drenching rain. I adapted to far harsher weather in Delhi and I’m fortunate to enjoy regular visits to Adelaide, where I get to revel in some decent winter weather (and occasionally a little spring and autumn air as well).

I’m leaving because my spouse has been offered an amazing chance to work in a great city, a city I have often dreamed of living in. When I look at her, when I look my daughter, when I look at us as a family and when I think about my artistic journey this far, I simply cannot say no.

I feel very different to the way I felt leaving Hong Kong. After five years in that city I was exhausted. The pollution, the cramped living conditions and the ever increasing influence of China had rubbed the charm off living in Hong Kong. And, I had come to believe, however good the economic opportunites were in Hong Kong, I was always going to struggle to grow creatively.

Singapore has been a very different experience. I’ve had space here to sort out my life and to move in new artistic directions. Regardless of the social and political issues in Singapore, when I’m in my studio (and offline) I feel freer and more able to work than I did in Hong Kong. And, I’ve had a physical environment, including clean air and pleasant urban trails near home, that has given me time to think and space to become physically healthier.

I’m a better person for having had these two years in Singapore.

And, that’s why, despite the hassles, problems and issues, I could imagine living here again in the future. I don’t want to downplay how challenging the next few years will be for everyone in Singapore. But, the hysteria in the mainstream and online media all too often overlooks how peaceful and conducive to creative work this place can be.

On many of my lunch breaks I’ve walked down a clean, tree-lined path to my local hawker centre, where I’ve eaten tasty food in a casual environment. Often, I would marvel at the diversity of this place, representing not just all the ethnic groups that make up Singapore, but also the social groups as well; retirees, young families, construction workers, school and university students. I would then walk home, listening to the wind and the birds while watching the sun flicker through the branches above. I would often use this time to let my imagination run wild, before returning to work the hours I had left till my daughter came home from school.

This space, to think, to dream, to mingle and relax before returning to my tasks will be part of my enduring memory of Singapore. I will cherish it for the weeks I have left here and miss it when I go.

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10 Comments
  • Matt Brandon - 29th April 2013

    What!! You just finished your dream studio? I haven’t even got to see it? I know you have to do what is best for your family but we still will miss you here in SE Asia. Sigh…

    Reply
    • Fernando Gros - 1st May 2013

      Matt – I had expected to be here longer, but, well, sorry. It is certainly frustrating to pack up, since I just built the studio and also had a fantastic lounge space here with loads of filtered natural light for photography.

      Reply
  • Paul Fox - 29th April 2013

    Seems like you only just arrived and now you are off again. Best of luck in your new move. I will look forward to your posts on the experience. Only wish you were coming back to Hong Kong, but I know it’s not a city of choice these days. Best of the best to you and your family and keep on creating.

    Reply
    • Fernando Gros - 1st May 2013

      Paul – there are certainly things I miss about Hong Kong, including the great people I met, like yourself. And, compared to Singapore, the city has a vibe that is perhaps not friendlier, but certainly more congenial to meeting new people. Still, I’ll be moving to a country with an amazing film, music and visual arts scene, so I’m sure we’ll still have lots to chat about online!

      Reply
  • Russ - 29th April 2013

    So where you off to? All the best for your move.

    Reply
  • Juz - 29th April 2013

    Could you expand on the comments in the 2nd paragraph about Singapore being an uncomfortable place for expats right now?
    The list of places I’d move to if I left London is pretty short but Singapore is pretty high on it.
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Fernando Gros - 1st May 2013

      Juz – right now I don’t feel inclined to write too much, but if you Google around the following words -Singapore, Race, Foreign Workers, White Paper and Population – a big stream of articles should come up.

      Reply
  • Randall - 30th April 2013

    I was thinking about you the other day, wondering when it would be time for you to move again. Odd. Sounds like you are in a better place for having been there. Sounds too like Its been a gift to you.
    May there be much grace as you now transition again.

    Reply
    • Fernando Gros - 1st May 2013

      Randall – thank you. I do feel like this time has been a gift. Not the gift I expected. or necessary wished for, but a blessing of sorts nonetheless. And, thank you for your thoughts, I do hope we can move with peace.

      Reply
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In his Tokyo studio Fernando combines his life-long passions for art and technology. On the road, he is always looking to take the next wrong turn, just to see what kind of images and stories might unfold. A photographer and writer, with a background in music, Fernando has lived in Chile, Australia, the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. Read More.

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