That German-Singapore Lawyer

My Year in Review, at Home, at Work and in Other Places

A lot went down in 2020. I bought and ren­ov­ated an HDB flat. Became a CIArb fel­low and an SMC-accred­ited medi­at­or. Oh, and I mar­ried. A short, per­son­al end-of-year review sor­ted by topic.

Buying a Flat

Imme­di­ately after New Year, HDBae (see also: Wed­ding and Fam­ily Life) and I start look­ing for an HDB flat to buy. One or the oth­er object comes into ques­tion, but there’s a lot of chaff out there, too. We’re look­ing at flats all over the island before gradu­ally focus­ing on a par­tic­u­lar part of town.

I’d nev­er thought of buy­ing an HDB flat. I always thought, if I were to own prop­erty, then why not go the whole hog and go for a con­domin­i­um? But Nura thinks the first flat in Singa­pore should be an HDB flat, any­thing else were fool­ish, what with all the grants for first-time buy­ers. There are oth­er grants, too, if one is eli­gible. She is right, of course.

An HDB Resale Flat

Inter­est­ing first exper­i­ences with the HDB online portal as we try to register our intent to buy. As required, we enter all our par­tic­u­lars. The output:

You are not eligible.

Wait, what? As far as we under­stand, we should be eli­gible. We read everything again and are con­vinced we do tick all the boxes. But com­puter says no.

We vis­it HDB Hub at Toa Pay­oh, but they won’t talk to us unless we rep­lic­ate the prob­lem on the spot using one of their pub­lic ter­min­als. So we enter everything again, not know­ing what we’d say if it were work­ing now. Noth­ing to worry about, we’re still not eli­gible. Now they accept we have a prob­lem and ask us to draw a num­ber. After the wait, we may explain everything to a real per­son. She agrees we are eli­gible indeed; it must be the sys­tem that is not designed for our per­son­al cir­cum­stances. We are so uncon­ven­tion­al. They’d be happy to invest­ig­ate, but would we please sum­mar­ise everything in writ­ing when we get back home?

A few days later, the HDB have repro­grammed their online forms. Now it works. Relief.

A few steps fur­ther down the road we are not eli­gible, again. Again, we go to the HDB and explain ourselves, first verbally, den after dat in writ­ing. They repro­gramme some­thing, again, then it works, again, and we can fin­ish filling out our applic­a­tions. Finally, it’s done, we may offi­cially buy an HDB flat. As it hap­pens, we have found one in the meantime.

We are per­sist­ent and suf­fi­ciently elo­quent people who could explain ourselves to the HDB. This way the prob­lems could be solved. But we ask ourselves: what if we had not suc­ceeded? Are there people who fall through the cracks and give up prematurely?

Everything Also Cannot, or: Renovating an HDB Flat

The place we buy is a run-down accom­mod­a­tion in need of a gen­er­al over­haul. Exactly what we were look­ing for, because we have our own ideas. We stage a beauty con­test with four interi­or design firms we found on the inter­net. We choose one we want to work with, which doesn’t mean there will be no issues. Au con­traire, we have to deal with a fair amount of frustration.

In mid-August, the flat is con­veyed to us, but we allow the sellers to stay on for anoth­er month as their new place isn’t ready yet. Means we can only start renov­at­ing in mid-September.

But we can already pic­ture the place and work out a plan with the interi­or design­er. A lot goes into what the new quar­ters should look like. We buy the first com­pon­ents, the cook­er and oven, lest they will be out of stock or any­thing. We engage a mason and a car­penter. Our ideas are flu­id. Slowly, it’s tak­ing shape on paper, but not yet in real­ity. Walls will have to be knocked down, new ones to be put up. We ask the interi­or design­er to adhere strictly to our budget.

Renovating an HDB flat.
Renov­at­ing an HDB Flat

Dis­il­lu­sion­ment as I learn what’s not doable when renov­at­ing an HDB flat, which is a lot. For example, I nev­er ima­gined it could be man­dat­ory for con­duits to be on top of the plaster. The reg­u­la­tions, you know. And how low the ceil­ings are! But we find solu­tions to our issues. Where we don’t, we come to terms with the givens.

Then the neigh­bours below com­plain about the noise. For a moment this occu­pies our interi­or design­er, the masonry com­pany, an HDB clerk, and us. As it turns out, our people are abid­ing by all the rules, espe­cially those on con­struc­tion noise and quiet hours. It also turns out the neigh­bours com­plain about some­thing that can be proven to have happened over a year ago. Ah, this kind of neigh­bour. Com­plaint unfoun­ded, case closed.

Later, while holes for the blinds are being drilled, the neigh­bours above com­plain about the noise. It’s Tues­day after­noon, the drilling takes no more than half an hour, our people are fol­low­ing the rules, so we ignore the grumbling. We can’t drop everything just because someone’s child is study­ing for his exams. Tough, I know. Here’s to good neighbourliness.

At some point, there’s a han­dover. That doesn’t mean the works have fin­ished. A few cock-ups catch our eye. They must wait till after the move. Mer­ging two house­holds into one. New fur­niture is com­ing too. We’re wrap­ping up our old places. It’s all cul­min­at­ing a bit.

Money

We spend money, an incred­ible amount of money. As the flat is CPF- and loan-fin­anced, one doesn’t feel it in every­day life. The renov­a­tion, how­ever, we are pay­ing in cash. Our ori­gin­al budget has not been adhered to strictly, or at all, seem­ingly. We are unhappy with the interi­or design­er, but also with ourselves because we sus­pect it may be due to our choices.

Yoga

In spring, my yoga stu­dio closes, like almost everything else. No yoga for months, at least not under guid­ance. Even­tu­ally they all open again, except my yoga stu­dio. Its social media com­mu­nic­a­tion could be bet­ter. I don’t hear enough for my lik­ing and decide to change stu­di­os, at least temporarily.

When the change is final­ised, my old yoga stu­dio reopens. I fin­ish my old pack­age but decide to con­tin­ue going to the new stu­dio for the time being (see also: Money). But I know I will review my decision.

CIArb Fellowship

Mid-year brings the con­firm­a­tion that I’ve passed the CIArb fel­low­ship exam some­time in 2019. I apply and pay for the peer inter­view, the only thing left to stand between me and the fel­low­ship. The inter­view takes place via Zoom, fol­low­ing which I am admit­ted as a fel­low. I’m happy, but it all took too long. I remem­ber when they said the exam res­ults would be avail­able with­in two to three months.

Any­way. Hello world, now it makes even more sense to appoint me as an arbit­rat­or.

Mediation

Early this year, I take two courses at the Singa­pore Medi­ation Centre, one in Janu­ary, the oth­er in Feb­ru­ary. They are intense as well, but less than the route to CIArb fel­low­ship. End of August, there’s an assess­ment of my skills, includ­ing con­duct­ing a medi­ation hear­ing. I don’t expect to pass, but I pass and am now an SMC-accred­ited mediator.

Hello world, now you can also hire me as a medi­at­or.

Telly

I watch tons of tele­vi­sion. Let me deal with this sep­ar­ately.

Wedding and Family Life

When I said per­son­al at the begin­ning, I did­n’t mean private, at least not too much. But I sup­pose a per­son­al end-of-year review can­’t leave out the following.

End-of-year review: family portrait 2020.

Our wed­ding in the time of pan­dem­ic, in a cere­mony that is as small as it is beau­ti­ful. A bril­liant idea by Nura to have it at her par­ents’ house. My loved ones from Ger­many dial in via Zoom to see me mar­ry­ing the greatest gift of my life.

And before you know it, you’re the step­fath­er of two teen­agers and move into a freshly ren­ov­ated fam­ily home with kit and caboodle. I admit chan­ging from bach­el­or to fam­ily man – although it’s been in the off­ing for some time – isn’t always easy. I draw strength from the real­isa­tion that my new flat­mates have excel­lent taste in music. Since this is extremely import­ant to me – it epi­tom­ises a few oth­er things as well – I am con­fid­ent about the future.

Right after we move into the new home, they dis­card thirty of my ties in a Mar­ie Kondo oper­a­tion. I get to keep twenty-one.

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2 Comments

  1. The Bibik

    Belated hearti­est con­grats on the fam­ily and home fronts.

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