|Far from forgetting all about it, Thelma De Souza has
never felt closer to the Singapore flag – literally. She keeps
one on the wall of her room as a constant reminder of home. Being
away from home has made her more patriotic.
“In a way,
I become ‘extra’ Singaporean after I left home,”
she said. “When I was studying in Australia, I suddenly developed
patriotism, where once there was hardly any. Being in the minority
has made me speak up and feel more Singaporean. I appreciate Singapore
food more and try to emulate my Mum’s cooking. I have a Singapore
flag in my room and have taught my husband our national anthem.”
Leaving home to marry American Leo Prescott, 24, was not easy. From
the moment she gave up a marketing communications job, lodged a spouse
visa application to the time she bought winter clothes prior to her
departure, she dreaded the thought of saying goodbye to her family
at the airport.
“I could never forget how I
felt before I left, if I tried like mad. I was crying at the sight
of my mum and how we were going to have to say goodbye soon. I was
totally depressed that I could not see the day-by-day growing up of
my nephews who I love so much,” she said.
the anxiety of coming out to a new place, I was thinking of everything
I was losing. Family was number one, then came friends, country, familiarity,
just everything about Singapore.”
Thelma, 27, met her husband while he was on a working trip to Singapore.
The dates turned into a long distance courtship via email and by phone
after he left. He returned a year later to ask her to marry him. “I
don’t know exactly when it happened, but we fell in love.”
Having now lived in America for two years, Thelma anxiously awaits
her first trip home. “I look forward to catching up with family
and friends this Christmas, doing things Singaporean, like hanging
out at a sarabat stall with friends.”
“When I was studying in Australia,
I suddenly developed patriotism, where once there was hardly any.
Being in the minority has made me speak up and feel more Singaporean
..... I have a Singapore flag in my room and have taught my husband
our national anthem.”
Not that Thelma is not enjoying herself in Sacramento, the capital
of California. She works at the Sacramento County Office of the District
Attorney as a support staff while her husband is completing his training
at the San Jose Police Academy this November.
is huge. I get a somewhat freeing feeling when I make road trips.
We could be at the ocean front in the morning and the mountains at
night. I like my friendly and polite neighbours, taking my dog for
walks in the park and watching kids in the front lawn with the sprinklers
on, on a hot summer’s day, pretending to be at the beach. The
differences here makes it equally special.”
She does regret the loss of the little things about life in Singapore.
She said, “I miss the little nuances that are so ‘Singaporean’,
like apeks (old Chinese men) with white undershirts, people speaking
different languages or burnt hell money in the middle of a sidewalk.”
But she hopes to keep as much of her Singapore
heritage as she can, especially when it comes to their yet-to-be-born
children. She said, ‘We talked and feel we must instill a bond
and affinity to Singapore from a very young age ... I want to give
my kids the option of returning to Singapore more often as adults
if they want to.”
But she hopes to keep as much of her Singapore heritage as she can,
especially when it comes to their yet-to-be-born children. She said,
‘We talked and feel we must instill a bond and affinity to Singapore
from a very young age. This worked with my cousins who were born in
London and they love Singapore. I want to give my kids the option
of returning to Singapore more often as adults if they want to.”
Once they are old enough, Thelma plans for their children to spend
at least half a summer with her family in Singapore. This way they
can understand their roots and be closer to their grandparents. “We’ll
be happy if they decide to work in Singapore, that’s for sure.
And Leo agrees with me.”
To make sure that they would not be uncomfortable with the Singaporean
accent, Thelma says that she will keep her accent even if her kids
think it “uncool” that she sounds different from the parents
of their friends.
And it sounds like it will be more than the accent that she is keeping.
They would most likely be brought up like Singapore kids. She said,
“ I don’t like the way kids grow up here.”
With her husband agreeing and even cooperating with the occasional
‘lah’, she might well succeed in raising Singaporeans
away from Singapore.