Tomorrow is the day where a very dear friend of mine close her chapter as an expatriate in Kuala Lumpur and relocate back home to Switzerland. Sad as it is, we all know it is the inevitable ending we must face, sometime in the future.
Five years ago, I left my country (Singapore), full of excitement, anticipating a new journey ahead in a new location (Shanghai) but it was not without a few years here and there. Nothing too dramatic because I know I’ll be back during the major holidays and Singapore will always be my home. At the end of the day, it was understood that once my journey ends and I had my fun, I’ll go home eventually. Then my 2 years stint in Shanghai ended with a brand new chapter of starting a new life as a Mrs in another new location (Kuala Lumpur). I thought the move will be similar, if not easier since I have relocated once. Boy, was I wrong.
With leaving Singapore, it was easier instead. Without guilt or much emotional baggage, consoling myself I’ll be home at least twice a year and I probably will not miss anyone, anything much. However, leaving Shanghai left me crumpled in between fits of wailing and hiccuping sobs. 2 years of accumulated friendships and memories in addition to an accelerated maturity (mostly attribute to living on my own for the first time), create this stronghold that ties my heart to Shanghai. Moreover, I know I don’t have an iron solid reason to come back to Shanghai with exception of visiting my Chinese friends.
The withdrawal symptoms from leaving Shanghai is very real. For the first few weeks, I’ll do whatever it takes to hold on to my memories of Shanghai. Whether it is to hunt for Shanghainese food in Kuala Lumpur / Singapore or to constant update myself with Shanghai news (even the weather forecast), I just want to feel that Shanghai still matters in my life.
2 years later, I am still in Kuala Lumpur but Shanghai, although the memories are still pretty much alive, the detachment is no longer as strong and fierce as the day I boarded my flight. The longing to jump on the next flight out to Shanghai halt to a numbing dull throb. The friendships I made are still there, however the constant need to connect every week has faded to keeping in touch every month. Unfinished structures get built, depilated buildings get tore down, people move on, people change. Once involved in the swirling movement of activities in Shanghai, I am now a bystander looking in the same swirl motions, not able to participate anymore as I am too far away, too detached for too long.
My dear friend’s departure brings back the realization sharply that I will one day, have to go through again the emotional turmoil that I went through during my departure from Shanghai. Kuala Lumpur holds many milestone memories as this place is where I started my two new life chapters: being a wife and a mother. This time will definitely not be any easier than the last time. At the very least, I’ll armed myself boxes and boxes of tissues.
I wonder how anyone cope with repatriation. Any suggestions are welcome in the comments below.
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