…don’t know when I’ll be back again. That’s how the song goes and that’s how we feel. Glad to be finally leaving Singapore but sad to be leaving friends behind. We need to get back home and see and be with family after nearly 3 years of being apart and losing my mum, aunt and uncle in the last year. Border closures due to COVID-19 meant that we couldn’t be with any of them during their last days. Time I will never be able to replace. COVID-19 has devastated many lives as well as taking them.
There are so many things to do and organise when leaving a country and planning starts months in advance. Movers assess our possessions and arrange for an appropriate sized shipping container (triple the price in a pandemic) and a ship, hoping that it doesn’t get stuck in the Suez like the EverGiven. We have to dispose of items that can’t be shipped or carried on board. That means no food or beverage or chemicals in the container. All our herbs, spices, teas, coffees and random cupboard items have to be disposed of or donated to an unsuspecting friend. We’ve eaten down the contents of the freezer and fridge to a remaining few items and bottles of sauces. Alcohol is easy to give away to westerners. Cleaning products are usually thrown away or left behind for the next resident (we left them behind as the new resident moves in a week after we leave). All of these things have to be replaced when we arrive in country – it all adds to the costs and expense of a move. It’s understandable but also incredibly wasteful I think.
The landlord has been informed months ago of course and they check the contract for fees to be paid and break clauses immediately, seeking confirmation of repatriation from the employer. It does amount to a few thousand S$ and we try not to think about the loss too much.
Then there’s showing round potential new tenants whilst we are trying to prepare for a move. Being available as well as trying to make the place look respectable is challenging with so much else going on and to do – but we manage to juggle everything. The new tenants are a lovely family so we’re hoping the handover goes smoothly.
Then of course everyone wants to see us to say goodbye. Normally one big barbecue or party would do that but since that’s been illegal for 18 months now we scuttle around trying to see people in groups of 5 or less, and as there are 3 of us, it’s a bit tricky! I’m not a great one for goodbyes either, I’d rather just leave and believe we’ll eventually see everyone again. Modern technology makes keeping in touch so much easier anyway – video calls are all free across most platforms now. The global community can keep in touch just by accommodating time zones.
It’s not just clothes that go into the suitcases, it’s all the valuables and items the packers won’t touch. So as well as clothes and toiletries for 6 to 8 weeks (until the container arrives) there is all your jewellery to carry on board, laptops, phones, iPads, chargers, cameras, etc. Then there’s things like wedding and birth certificates, vaccine records and other essential documents that need to be carried on board. It all adds to the weight of the suitcases and that weight limit set by the airline seems farcical at this point. Most people struggle to keep the weight down for a two week holiday never mind a 6-8 period and a house move!
Packers and movers
The packers deliver boxes and bubble wrap and tape a few days before they arrive to enable thus to get a head start on things we would like to carefully pack ourselves. Boxes have to be left open for them to check – I assume to ensure they are packed correctly and not trying to ship anything we shouldn’t. Paying damage deposits (S$1000s) and lift padding fees ($20 for our complex).
We remove all the pictures and artwork from the walls in advance. Big and heavy boxes, as well as packers, knock those off straight away – so they come down before they arrive. Bare walls really do indicate a move is imminent for me. We place big bright Orange post it notes on everything we don’t want to go into the shipping container. This makes it easier for the packers – obviously visible rather than having to keep referring to a list. Experience is a wonderful thing!
Then the chaos begins when 3 (not 4 as originally planned) packers arrive, in masks and we have to mask up too. House checks for damage, so the packers don’t get blamed for everything. Sign my life away to agree to every mark on the floor and walls is of our doing. Temperature checks noted and COVID-19 compliance form completed and signed – with the warning that there’s a fine and imprisonment for supplying false information.
The corridor of the complex floor is full of boxes, paper, packing tape, trolleys and other packing essentials. the neighbours can’t move anything in out of the apartments and can just about squeeze past the boxes. I hope they don’t have any deliveries planned over the next few days. The packers are quick and before we know it the first armchair is fully boxed and ready to go and there’s not an available mug left in the house. So much for having a break with a cuppa.
Lots of questions about where things will be going at the destination and lots of time spent running between rooms answering questions and directing boxes and items. Squeezing between boxes as they pile higher, trying to find somewhere to sit and a breather and making sure the beds are the last thing to be packed (and therefore the first thing to be unpacked at the other end).
Boxes are labelled, counted and recorded. They will be counted on to the container when it arrives too. Hoping that all our possessions fit onto a 40 foot shipping container…costing three times the usual price because of the pandemic – supply and demand pricing! Then we sign our lives away, seal the container and hope it arrives safely in the U.K. Praying that there’s no Evergiven scenario or a storm that throws our container into the depths of the deep blue along with 1,381 others every year.*
I realise I have done this so many times now. I also realise that moves cost £££/$$$ – movers, packers, shipping fees are all covered by the company but the additional charges and fees such as landlords break clause charges, complex charges, airline baggage fees, replacing items disposed off as they can’t be shipped and of course moving back into an empty house with no food or cleaning products all adds up to a significant bill and there’s not a holiday at the end of it. How very depressing.
Part two of the move to follow in the next blog. Will everything fit into the container? – and let’s hope it doesn’t rain!
*The World Shipping Council’s 2020 report estimates that an average of 1,382 containers are lost at sea each year. The figure is based on a survey of the WSC members that represent 80% of the global vessel container capacity.