Updated: Jun 30
Coming home has never been so challenging. Yes, the pandemic throws several curve balls at us ever since Jacqueline and I made our decision to return to Singapore.
Our decision to return to Singapore is not an easy one. No, I don't mean it was hard to decide. What I mean is that we decided to return knowing that our time in Singapore may be harder on us compared to staying in Hanoi.
The reason we decided to return to Singapore is because my dad's health is deteriorating. Over the past year, he was making many trips to the hospital. The longest stretch was about a 3-month stay at the hospital. My dad has dementia and Parkinson's disease and a host of other health challenges that accompany old age. He is 88.
"Coming home we are!" Jacqueline asserted. She thinks it is important that we go home to be around my aging parents and to help around the home. My siblings are all pitching in and going the extra mile to make sure that Dad is comfortable and Mum is managing well being the primary caregiver. Mum is 83. Yes, we need to be home. No. To be exact, we want to be home. To be physically around to help out. Or maybe simply to be present because we may not be of much help. We may be too stressed with the transition and new living conditions at my parent's home that we actually may cause trouble than help.
What about the current rental house in Hanoi that we have to keep paying rent? If we terminate the lease contract, where are we going to store our belongings? Furthermore, the thought of packing up the house and our stuff into storage exhaust me. The cost to store them and the transport cost to put the stuff at the storage place will slowly add up.
If these are not enough worries, we were faced with visa and work permit issues. Our visas expired on 20th May. Due to COVID and a host of other reasons, our applications to extend our visas had many bureaucratic hurdles to jump. We submitted our applications in March and by early June we received no reply from the immigration department. My colleague helping with the visas processing was told that it may take another month or so. Then, it may be another 2. Who knows? But we have booked our air tickets to return to Singapore on 27th June. Will we be held back and questioned at the airport customs if we have an expired visa? Some say we may have to pay a hefty fine of US$2000. Others say we may be barred from returning to Hanoi for 5 years. A friend said to just go to the airport and pay a $60 fine. So, whose's advice should I heed? The uncertainties surrounding how to go about resolving the visa issues were weighing on my heart and I was having problems sleeping.
Yes, bring them on. If housing and visa issues are not sufficient, the COVID issues can always bring more drama into everyone's life. It is a global drama that changes its script daily. Just as we decided to return to Singapore, the government of Singapore decided to increase the 14-day Stay-Home Notice to be increased to 21 days at a government-designated facility. In addition, travels to Singapore are required to do a COVID test within 72 hours of their scheduled flight. Only with a negative test result will one be allowed to board the plane. This means that our cost for quarantine suddenly almost doubled. What if we have a positive COVID test result just days before our departure? Coming home has never been so daunting.
Long story short. A good friend of mine and her family will be staying at our rented house in Hanoi. Then we received news that the quarantine has been reduced to 14 days. Many friends who heard about our predicaments chipped in to support us financially. Following lots of headaches and heartaches, we managed to resolve the visa issue. Paid the fine for overstaying and renewed our visas so we can leave Hanoi legally. We got our passports back on Thursday. And did our COVID tests first thing on Friday morning. Collected the results on Friday at 4.30pm. I texted Jacqueline that we had our negative test results. As I typed, "Can go home now.", emotions overwhelmed me. I teared. Going home has never been so difficult. For the first time in 20 years living aboard, I truly miss home!
27th June, Sunday, the day we returned home. I posted the picture "Coming Home" on Facebook. I whispered a prayer. "May I have this view for the government-designated quarantine facility?" And this is what we got!
Families and friends pampered us with yummy goodies. Jacqueline's sister, Janice asked me, "It's nice to be back home, right?" The answer is a resounding YES!
AND I wondered what will it be like to return to OUR heavenly HOME?
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.
2 Corinthians 5:2