Around autumn 2020 the chance to go overseas to Singapore with Mark’s work came up. We thought about it for roughly 0.4 seconds, then decided–sure, why not? With the kids then in eighth and ninth grades, it was the last chance to move them before finishing high school. So Mark threw his name out there, and in February 2021 we got the word: we were slated to arrive in summer 2021. We settled on June 20 as our moving date.
So you may recall this little inconvenience known as a global pandemic that continues to taunt all of us in so many ways. Singapore in particular locked down early, and very slowly started allowing new arrivals in after months of closed borders. We read up on Singapore’s strict arrival procedures, steeling ourselves for the mandatory two-week hotel quarantine.
About that quarantine. Singapore’s cheerful euphemism for it is Stay Home Notice, or SHN. The exact terms of each traveler’s SHN vary by country of origin and travel history, ranging from no quarantine at all for vaccinated travelers from certain countries (Germany and Brunei), to seven days at your home or a serviced apartment, to fourteen days at a hotel not of your choosing, vaccinated or not. Of course the U.S. falls into this worst category, because….well you all see the same news that I do.
Singapore doesn’t give U.S. government arrivals final clearance until two weeks before, but moving a family halfway around the world takes a little more planning than that. So in March we started scheduling movers, home repairs, and property managers and such, assuming that we would get that approval as other U.S. government arrivals before us had. In mid-June we left our house for a DC hotel while on government per diem, assuming we would leave six days later.
I think you know where this is going.
Singapore’s near-zero covid cases starting climbing just a bit by global standards, but catastrophically by Singapore’s zero-case benchmark. In late May 2020 Singapore once again stopped all new arrivals; our days-long stretch in the DC hotel turned into weeks, and then months. The first day of school at Singapore American School came and went in August, with the kids stuck yet again with asynchronous learning while everyone else they knew returned to the classroom. We were told that getting families with school-aged kids into Singapore was the highest priority. Then a week later we were told that we were the lowest priority.
It wasn’t a great time for any of us, and our mental health took a hit. I even bought an electric guitar for myself to pass the time, deciding that Mark’s Fender that we had with us didn’t quite fit me. Frankly I can’t think of a greater sign of depression than a drummer buying a guitar. OK, I’m joking. But only a little.
On the plus side, three months in the hotel earned us Titanium Elite status with Marriott. So at least there’s that.
Finally in September we got the news: departing DC September 15, arriving in Singapore September 17.
The flights. Oh man, the flights. DC and Singapore are about as far apart on the globe as you can get. Two possible itineraries send the traveler in opposite directions: DC-Boston-Doha-Singapore to the east, and DC-Boston-Tokyo-Singapore to the west. We got DC-Boston-Tokyo-Singapore, spanning 26 hours and 20 minutes of travel. Yes. And the U.S. government never pays for business class anymore, despite having done so for long flights in the past. Again: 26 hours and 20 minutes in economy, on three different flights of one and a half, fourteen, and eight hours. Thankfully the long-haul flights were at about 10% capacity, with 30 passengers for 300 seats, which allowed each of us our own row of four seats.
So that’s the story of how we got here. Next up: arriving in Singapore, and finding out how we did in the quarantine hotel lottery.