goodbye for now, redux

For the past few days, I’ve taken every opportunity to tell people here that I’ve been in their country for close to a year, and that I’m headed home now. I suppose it’s as if I’m secretly begging Singapore to say it will miss me.

But the truth is I’m secretly telling Singapore I will miss it.

When I agreed to travel for this project last October, it was on the condition that it would be for 3-4 months. It became clear relatively early on, however, that we were in over our heads, and that I would have to stay longer.

The client expected us to take their website from its rather ragged, prehistoric (in Internet time) state, and make it the best in the industry. In seven months, with a small team, and a small budget.

I was asked to stay an extra month, then two, then just a bit more – for a big presentation. Then, I went home. Goodbye parties. Re-entry blues. Three weeks later I was asked to come back to Singapore for a month. Which turned into two. Now I’m leaving again, with no plans to return.

And such mixed feelings.

I’ve never worked so hard on anything in my career, and I’ve never been so beat up and exhausted by work. I’ve never had a more demanding and less appreciative client.

I’ve also never worked with a group of people who, through so many unbelievable challenges, were able to produce such consistently great results. There’s nothing like working with people who respond to adversity by laughing (and then, by the way, by overcoming it).

I hate adjectives like amazing, great, wonderful challenging, difficult. So imprecise. But it’s impossible to find any words that do justice to these last nine months.

I will miss Singapore.

The food. I sometimes felt like I’d reached my limit with the food here – fish porridge, chicken rice, wanton mee, laksa – but a big bowl of steaming noodles with some char siew on top sounds like the perfect thing right about now.

The weather. Sometimes I felt I’d had enough of the hot humid weather, but as my last days were waning, I thought about how much I’ll miss the Fraser Suites pool, swimming, spending the whole weekend in sandals.

The people. I’ll really miss the girls of Singapore. In San Francisco, beautiful girls (especially beautiful asian girls) are a hot commodity, and they know it. They always seem to be sizing you up with a sort of I think I can probably do better look.

In Singapore, if I smile at a girl, she’ll usually smile back. Then it’s pretty easy to approach her and strike up a conversation. More often than not, the conversation can lead to an exchange of phone numbers and at least one follow-up date. In San Francisco, if I smile at a girl, she’s thinking, who’s the creepy guy with no friends, and why is he looking at me?. And San Francisco girls always complain about a lack of eligible straight guys in the Bay Area. My advice: Try smiling. It’s more attractive than that scowl you think makes you seem cool. (Also, complaining does not count as conversation.)

But I’m getting off track.

Ah yes, I’ll miss friendly guileless, cynicism-free Singapore, where the cover bands rock, where the taxi drivers are half-mad and where every old man is your uncle. Where you can get almost anywhere in the entire country via the MRT (underground) in less than an hour, where you can spend the weekend experiencing any of dozens of other cultures or lazing on any of dozens of tropical beaches. Where you can party until 3am, then have your choice of thousands of snacks, party some more, always get home safely, then complain about how Singapore is too boring.

Ah yes until we meet again dear Singapore.