Here

The first time I got a student visa, terrorists brought down the World Trade Center five days before I started university.
I immigrated on an IR1 (spouse of a US citizen) visa on Monday and the federal government promptly shut down.
…the way it’s going, if I took up citizenship, probably an asteroid would hit North America or the Yellowstone supervolcano would erupt.

I’m just sitting at home in the middle of a living room floor strewn with unpacked and unkempt personal belongings, empty of furniture, because booting up a house takes longer than booting up a 2000 PC running Windows Vista. I am, uncharacteristically, afraid.

Somehow a lot of things have converged to turn my long-simmering disenchantment with the USA into an acute personal discomfort. Not the least because my sisters, the Monkey and the Mouse, have moved home to Malaysia after both living abroad for a decade or more, in Singapore and Singapore/USA/UK respectively. They’re doing really interesting things with NGOs. Monkey has been good with people virtually from the womb, and has been complaining about being too institutionalised as a social worker in a big hospital in Singapore, but now she’s helping refugees in KL. Mouse’s passion for education policy is going to get some real-world, boots-on-the-ground exposure to teaching. I’m envious.

And a lot of anxiety over my career. Thank God I don’t have to worry about finding a job in this economy, but I keep questioning myself if I’m just being lazy and turning into a “company man” by accepting a position in one of the North America sites of the same organization I’ve been working in since 2009. Four years is pretty damn long for a millenial to be working for the same company. Mr. Potato – of all people, the most neophobic I know – tells me I’m “coasting”. He’s right.

The incentive to stay is that I want to see this thing through. I’ve been keen on vaccines literally since my first year of school. I read too much for a small child, and understood with that drop of sugar on my tongue that it meant I would not suffer like my father’s elderly secretary, crippled by polio. When I joined the Singapore site, my secret personal goal was to see a vaccine project go from pre-clinical through a Phase I trial and I did. The other project we’re working on now is to fight a disease that has made many of my friends miserably ill, and may have helped to disable one friend’s father. Staying means being part of something big.

Also, I just plain like playing with viruses.

Working for this company should have been the culmination of a dream but there’s been so much horrible company politics and stupid decisions and lying and bitching and cruelty that made me feel like vomiting every morning before work, that I’m still gun-shy even though my colleague says people here are nicer than at Singapore site and even though we’ve been bought over by a much bigger pharma that has an excellent reputation for treating employees well.

Mr. Potato got a job in a company that processes tissue grafts a few months ago. I like to tell people that my husband cuts up dead people for a living.

We might have to get separate apartments and only see each other on weekends because his company and mine are too far apart. Five days doesn’t seem so bad after eleven months though.

Whenever people in Singapore or Malaysia would act commiserative and say “Long distance relationships are terrible” I wondered how often they thought about the Indonesian, Filipina, and Burmese domestic workers who left their husbands and children behind, or the Indian, Bangladeshi, Chinese, and Nepali construction workers who left their wives behind, and are stuck in an incredibly hostile and xenophobic country for years and years without the convenience of Google Talk and Skype, and without the ready money to at least see their partners once a year… That’s long distance too. But it doesn’t count if you think of the subjects as subhuman.

We went to an Italian restaurant the day after I arrived. The hostess asked “Celebrating anything special? Birthday, anniversary?”
I said, “Immigration!”

I still have a scab on the side of my right knee from hitting a tree stump along the unofficial footpath between Portsdown Road, across the Green Corridor, to Commonwealth Drive South. There are so many birds in Singapore, the ubiquitous, pestilential Javan Mynahs, the adorable little sunbirds and munias, gorgeously-coloured pink-necked green pigeons and long-tailed parakeets… When I find the courage to go outside, I can use the Colorado bird book I bought yesterday.

We’ve all come to look for America
All come to look for America

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