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16 July 2021 » Broadcasting from a new world

I cannot believe this is the first post on this Web site this year. In fact, it has been so long and so many things have changed that I do not know where to start. Perhaps I should start from the end: I am writing this in Singapore. As in, this is where I am based now.

Image: B&W image from rural Russia circa 1989

A road to new destinations
Rural Russia circa 1989, #2

You may know how these things go. Your company has a new development direction and a newly opened position in another country. You put yourself forward for the post, not entirely convinced you would be chosen—in my case, because I believed being thought of as a "China hands" and thus tightly associated with and valued because of the Middle Kingdom. But what do you know? Apparently I viewed my skills too narrowly. The opportunity was bestowed on me.

Being appointed is one things, but relocating with the family to a new country is a totally different matter—particularly during a raging pandemic with so many restrictions and tightened regulations in place. Paperwork was tremendously long and tedious, with fairly high chances that the best–laid plans of yours truly would go awry; essentially, I had to dig out and provide every conceivable document, except perhaps my birth certificate. It took over three months to get everything done, and I am convinced that keeping my fingers crossed helped a great deal.

Preparations to move were equally challenging. Permission to enter Singapore within a three–day window (this is different from and on top of the visa), air tickets to match that window (flights were still highly infrequent), arrangement of PCR tests upon arrival, additional insurance that covered COVID–19 contingencies, temporary accommodation that would actually accept overseas arrivals, research on permanent accommodation, pre–schools, local transportation, you name it. Oh, and do I need to talk about packing? Not to mention, of course, that there was a long list of chores to do in China before leaving the country. The only way to get all this done was through being ruthlessly methodical and persistent.

This was a good opportunity to get rid of the stuff you know is kind of a thing of the past but cannot bring yourself to dispose of. My Bowers & Wilkins 684 floor–standing speakers and accompanying them Rotel CD player, pre–amplifier and amplifier had not exuded any sound ever since our son was born; for all intents and purposes, they were replaced by the B&W PX–7 headphones long time ago. Despite the conceptually infinite significance of physical prints and as much I cherished the Epson P800 printer, I had not used it for much longer than the manufacturer would advise; dragging it through half of the world for it to continue being idle did not make much sense. My old and rusty Epson Perfection 4990 scanner was well past best–by date (I had used it for over 15 years!), so it was time to let it go. Finally, the Nikon Z7 vs. Fujifilm GFX 50R conundrum that bogged me for a while had to be resolved—to cut a long story short, in favour of the former. All of this will have some intricate and multi–dimensional implications down the road, but I will cross that bridge when I get there.

And so we arrived in Singapore on 18 March. Just as I contemplated popping the champagne to celebrate "mission accomplished", it dawned on me there still was much to get done. ID cards, bank accounts, telephone numbers, utilities and Internet, school visits, and so on and so forth—it took another two months to get it all sorted. And even now, although Singapore is known to be "Asia for beginners"—and I am far from a novice in Asia—it remains a new country with myriad things to learn and get used to.

I mentioned previously that any creative activity in general and photography in particular require sufficient time and mind–space to engage in. I once again assert that this is the case—the process of relocating to Singapore sucked out every ounce of artistic air leaving no mental energy to even think photography, let alone doing it. I will not want to move countries again in the coming years.

But things are getting better. During the past month I managed to research photo equipment store scene in Singapore and acquired a few bits and pieces of gear necessary to start digitising my old negatives that go back to late eighties. It is a fascinating project that brings back lots of memories and reminds me how much time has passed and how far I have gone—not so much so in terms of years and kilometers, but rather with regard to mindset milage. There are a few artistic gems and interesting historical records, too (the image above is one example). More on that later.


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