Imagine walking into your garden and finding a seven-metre-long snake slithering its way into your pool – not the nicest way to start the day. But now imagine it’s only your fourth day in Singapore and it’s your teenage daughter who first discovers the python. That’s what happened to Mary Conklin when she moved to Singapore two years ago with her husband, Pat and three children, Patrick, Elizabeth and Matt.
“My daughter came rushing into the house, saying there was a snake outside. I had only been out there 15 minutes earlier, so I expected something small. It was massive, about 25 feet long. I told everyone to stay inside and keep hold of the dog while I found the number for the police; they told me to call pest control. Then I called my husband, who didn’t believe me, so I emailed him the picture I had taken on my phone and five minutes later he was calling me from a cab on his way home!”
The first pest control team to arrive didn’t have the right equipment to handle the snake, and because it was so big they had to call for back up! Fortunately, the next team didn’t take long to get there. However, by the time they’d unloaded their golf club-like tools the snake had died; it may have eaten something in the Conklin garden that didn’t agree with it. Still, it required three men to transfer the body into the van. And that was only the family’s fourth day in Singapore!
For some, that might have been enough reason to pack up the family and make a beeline back to their house in the States. Instead, Mary held her nerve and quickly got stuck into making Singapore home. The fact that this was the family’s eighth move in 17 years might have something to do with her resilience.
“I wasn’t too nervous about moving here from Boston, because I knew Singapore would be easier than China or Korea. Moving to China from Cincinnati nearly 20 years ago was a bit of a culture shock. But because we were in a compound with other expat families, we had immediate friends so we found it delightful. That was quite some time ago, when it was a little bit harder living in China as an expat. We had to bring diapers from home for our babies, and we had to search to find food we could eat, but we loved it there.”
The move from Bejing to Seoul three years later “was a little harder, because we lived in a Korean neighbourhood and there was a language barrier.” But three years after that they were back in the US, where they called Seattle home for six years before moving to Boston.
“The hardest move was to Boston because of the age of the kids. When you have teenagers it becomes harder and harder to move them, because they have their sports and their friends.”
So when Pat’s company gave the family a week to move to Singapore, the couple’s biggest concern was that the teenagers could continue their schooling and their favourite sports. “I feel I can make any house comfortable and homey, as long as it has a good school nearby,” Says Mary.
It’s obvious that the Conklin’s devotion to family life has helped soften the effects of moving. “It’s never about the place,” she muses. “It’s about the people. For instance, both the boys would probably say Boston is their favourite city because they have really good friends there. But my daughter will say Singapore is, because she has her closest friends here. Her friends are now spread out at different universities across the States, but they stay in touch via Facebook and see each other in the holidays.”
Home at last
After two years, the landlord of the house they rented in Cornwall Gardens, near Holland Village, sold the house. The new owners increased the rent by 175 percent, so the family needed to find their ninth home.
Mary wanted something that would hold the furniture they had brought with them from the States, so they wouldn’t have to put anything into storage. Fortunately, they found this house in Cluny Park, near the Botanic Gardens, and removal company Asian Tiger was able to meet their dates.
“We only had one week in which to move, and it was awesome that they could accommodate us. When we moved internationally with them, it was our first experience of a removal company being on time, everything being accounted for and nothing broken.” This is particularly important to a family who have collected their furniture from different parts of the globe.
“Everything in the house has come from the places we’ve lived. We also try to pick up pieces during our travels.” In fact, very little of their furniture has been bought in Singapore. Take a wander about the house and you’ll find gorgeous blue Chinese porcelain, Oriental rugs, Korean storage steps, a stunning dining room table from the States and, in pride of place, a grand piano that was bought in Korea and converted into a player piano (like a pianola only with a programmable electric box). “I love to fill the house with piano music while I’m at home; it’s one of my favourite things.”
And you’ll be glad to hear that after two weeks of living in the new house Mary has yet to see a snake!