Tell us a little about yourself,
I’m in my 74th year. I’ve lived in Singapore for the past 7 years; prior to that, I was teaching and developing digital learning materials over a 12 year period in Australia. From 1984 until October 2002, I lived for a large part of the time in Indonesia, so I speak Bahasa Indonesia and make a reasonable attempt at Malay.
I have four children and seven grandchildren, all of whom are in Australia. I haven’t seen any of them since January 2020.
Where do you live now, and how long have you been there?
I live in Singapore on River Valley Road, in a complex called Valley Park. I have lived here for almost two years.
What do you love about where you live now?
I feel very at ease in Singapore. Communications are easy, and the country is very efficient.
Living at Valley Park is undoubtedly the best residential experience I’ve had in Singapore. Some residents have lived here for 20 years. Most of them are Singaporean nationals, some close to my own age group. This is also a favourite location for families with younger children. This is a multicultural setting and very social with numerous opportunities to meet people. I feel as though I live in a small village.
Have you lived anywhere else?
Previously, I lived at The Trillium and Mirage Tower here in Singapore. Back in the 70s, I lived in London.
How it all began
Where are you from originally?
What was your reason for moving abroad in the first place?
My first move abroad was to travel. I left Sydney and travelled to Perth, took a ship to Singapore and then headed up into Malaysia and Thailand before flying to Europe, where I travelled around prior to settling in London for a while.
What brought me here was my wife’s work. She was comfortable about working here, knowing I would easily settle in and would be free to take short trips around the region, particularly Indonesia.
Has 2020 Changed you? If so, how?
Dealing with the Covid19 pandemic, not being able to travel in the region, or see my family face to face, has come with a degree of sadness. At first, I was a little depressed by all of this. Ultimately, I found that regular exercise, in my case, swimming and walking, lifts my mood every time it darkens.
Others have described similar reactions. It seems to be a widespread reaction to the pandemic.
Has 2020 changed the way you work?
Not greatly. Once retired from the education industry, I took up writing and, if anything, the situation has enhanced my preparedness to complete Internet research. Writing takes me into a comfortable internal space where I can plan, research and create.
Also, Zoom has been a wonderful way of communicating globally, and I have quite global connections.
In recent years I’ve done a lot of work on the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, so I have many Greek connections, and in some 18 other countries where there are like-minded people working on this campaign.
How has being an expat changed you?
In the first instance, it has given me the opportunity to look back at my own culture and values from outside. I grew up in Coogee, on the eastern seaboard of Sydney. My father was a merchant mariner. There were numerous artefacts from Asia and the Pacific in our house. Consequently, I looked outwards from an early age.
When I became a long-term expat for the first time in 1984, it was a very steep learning curve. I soon realised that my culture didn’t offer all the answers.
My time in Indonesia gave me the opportunity to consolidate knowledge of the language and the country’s many regional cultures. I’ve travelled the archipelago more than most foreigners and certainly more than most Indonesians.
Singapore has been a very easy place for me to live. It has offered, and still does in a more limited manner, access to so much of the Asian cultures I’ve come to appreciate. It has also given me access to places I know, like Indonesia and Malaysia, but also to the other countries of South-East Asia. At the same time, it offers a safe and predictable home environment.
What are you working on now?
This week I will be posting my newly completed e-Book ‘Beyond Borders: Conversations across boundaries’ to Apple Books. This is 21 short stories. They are really a dialogue between Australia and South East Asia. It will be launched via Zoom on 11 March. I hope it complements my first book, ‘Seen and unseen: A century of stories from Asia and the Pacific.
So, right at the moment, I’m on the cusp. There is a novella with the working title ‘I’m from the forest’, sitting on my computer. It’s finished but not yet edited. This work is set in Sumatra amongst its Indigenous people.
It was prompted by one early visit to the Mentawai Islands of West Sumatra, back in 1992, then two more recent visits following the forest and peatland fires of 2015.
Register for book launch here
Want to contact Russell? You can find him on the following platforms –