"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Travel
August 13, 2011

Singapore, So Far

Earlier this week I flew back to Singapore to begin this new chapter. Naturally I’m being asked “how are you finding it” and, as you would expect, I’m in a bit of a funk. It always happens, the early enthusiasm about being in a new place gives way to the reality of building a life […]

Singapore Blur

Earlier this week I flew back to Singapore to begin this new chapter. Naturally I’m being asked “how are you finding it” and, as you would expect, I’m in a bit of a funk.

It always happens, the early enthusiasm about being in a new place gives way to the reality of building a life in a strange (read different) environment. What seemed novel, exotic and stimulating has become demanding, difficult and time-consuming.

Of course, the place itself hasn’t changed; it’s my perception and patience that has changed.

For example, earlier this year I fell in love with TOTT (Tool Of The Trade), a magnificent kitchenwares store. I still think it’s a great place, but the list of things I’m looking for that they don’t stock has grown to include a Tortilla Press, Pasta Extruder, Apple Peeling Knife, Mineral Oil (for treating wooden cutting boards) and flat cast iron Griddle.

Of course, it’s kind of irrational to expect one store to meet all my (crazy and unfocussed) needs. But, that’s the kind of irrationality that can trap you upon moving to a new city (or country).

So, to answer the question, I’m a little tired and frustrated, but more than hopeful these frustrations will be relatively short lived. Come September the house will feel more like a home, the studio will be set up and working and I’ll have started to know my way around a little better. My to-do lists will be shorter and the packing boxes will finally be gone.

Then my mood will be different again as the challenges of working in a new city kick in. For now, it’s a time to be patient and focussed; or so I keep reminding myself.

TomEats 13 years ago

I remember once going to something like 15 shops to find mineral oil in London. It is my nemesis. And then I spilt it.

If I remember correctly there is a commonly used hardware shop alternative?

Fernando Gros 13 years ago

Yes, Tung Oil. In fact I bought some from Feast Watson, when I was in Adelaide recently. They’ve relaunched it as kitchen bench and cutting board product. No details on their website yet, but some info here. In Australia (and I think the UK as well), Tung Oil was called China Wood Oil. I’ve used it on furniture in the past.

Adrienne 13 years ago

Hi Fernando,

I can relate! I also just moved to Singapore, and like you, it’s not my first time in a new country (I’m on move #5 now.) But it never ceases to amaze me how I find myself fixated on the tiniest things when I move — inconsequential, but seemingly “rightnow necessary” things. For you it sounds like it was all the little things you can’t get at a specialty chef’s shop. For me, it tends to be little organizational bits… paperclips and pen holders, a cutlery tray in the kitchen, a towel rack in the bathroom. Of course, I know I can (and will) survive without these things — they are, after all, luxuries for most people in the world, and I have survived without them before! But there is something about being in a new place that seems to make us want everything and to want it now. I suppose it’s because moving and settling in is so… well, unsettling. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

Fernando Gros 13 years ago

Adrienne – thanks for your comment. I suspect it’s because those small things are what make us feel at home in a place and when we can’t take them for granted, it reminds us that we are not yet “settled.” And, having stuff in boxes doesn’t help either.

For me cooking is connected to feeling “settled.” Once I’ve cooked a few good meals in a place it suddenly transforms for me and starts to feel like home. That even happens when I’ve rented places while on holiday. Of course, since I now have a bit bigger space to cook in (comapred to the apartment in Hong Kong), I’ve put added pressure on myself by wanted to get extra stuff in.

Adrienne 13 years ago

I feel exactly the same way regarding how cooking is connected to feeling settled. My kitchen is always the first room to be set up. At the moment, it’s the only room in my new apartment that is 100% functional — and like you, I’ve just upgraded my space (I was in a very tiny apartment in Manhattan prior to moving here), so I can relate to the added pressure. Good luck as you get it all going! I keep thinking of the film What About Bob and the baby steps philosophy — are you familiar with that film?

Reiko Hashimoto 13 years ago

Hello Fernando,
How lovely to read your blog. You just came up on my tweeter, so I thought to stoop by your blog. Then I ended up reading all your posts. As I’m in food business, all I read from publicity – tweet, blog post, etc… is about food. Where to go for the best Pork belly, which supper club is naff… Not much so inspiring any more. I can’t sympathies enough about the sadness of technology. Having said that of course I am totally relying on them now. I lived in HK in almost an entire 80’s when I first used a giant mobile phone! That was fun. Having moved around myself, I can see your frustration for creating your new place to your comfort zone with such simple things like the oil or the peeler peels potatoes as you want. I believe in being particular for certain things. So I wish you finding the exact the right oil that you are looking for! Sorry rambling on… couldn’t help. Reiko.

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