Expats in American enclave in Singapore air frustration

With less than three weeks to go before the Nov 8 United States presidential election, the race for the White House is heating up.

But halfway around the world, a tight-knit American community in the serene Woodgrove landed estate in Singapore has labelled this election cycle a "joke" - and the most embarrassing one in US history.

Several residents in the American expatriate enclave, made up of families whose children attend the nearby Singapore American School, are not planning to cast their votes at all.

Others are casting their votes for third-party candidates instead of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or her Republican rival Donald Trump.

A few in the estate in Woodlands even labelled the slugfest between the candidates as a full-on circus act.

Housewife Monica Moritz, who has been living in Singapore since 2002, said: "It is a circus.

"Trump is like an actor performing on stage and Clinton acts like she is a victim who's scared of him when she should not be.

"I'm not sure what both parties are trying to accomplish here."

The 47-year-old said none of the candidates has addressed pressing concerns facing the country, such as the sluggish economy and national security threats.

But Mrs Moritz, who mailed in her vote last week, decided to go with Mrs Clinton, whom she says has the political experience.

Since the mid-1990s, the American expatriate community has flocked to Woodgrove from the longstanding American enclaves of Bukit Timah, Tanglin and Holland Road.

This is largely due to the Singapore American School setting up home at its present campus in Woodlands in 1996.

Woodgrove has a distinctly American flavour, with barbecue grilles and mountain bikes found in many houses, and basketball boards standing in the driveways of some homes.

Property agents estimate that more than 80 per cent of the estate's residents are expatriates, with Chinese, European and Indian residents.

For the upcoming US election, frustration seems to be the common denominator among the American residents there.

In regular coffee mornings and exercise group meet-ups, the election and its candidates - deemed subpar by many residents - are daily conversation topics.

Housewife Laura Zubrod, who has been living here for six years, said both Republican and Democratic nominees are mediocre.

"Everyone is frustrated over the really bad choices that we have," said the 45-year-old, adding that some of her friends in the estate will not be voting in this election.

Other Americans call it a vote for the "lesser of two evils".

Housewife Wendy Jorgensen said it is a difficult decision to make.

"We are worried because we do not like either candidate at all," the 40-year-old added.

"We feel it is a choice between two evils."

The mother of five, who moved to Singapore about two months ago, said the election usually comes up during casual conversations between neighbours.

"We can talk about it all day, but what can we do?" she said.

"Whoever ends up being elected, we hope that somehow God will intervene and help them."

Several residents who spoke to The Sunday Times are leaning towards Mr Trump.

A mother of two, who only wanted to be known as Kelly, said that while she was turned off by some of Mr Trump's demeaning comments about women, she said the businessman can bring change that the US desperately needs.

The 44-year-old, who has been in Singapore since 2012, added: "He is change. I bet he will bring to the table different ideas to be discussed. "He will rattle a bunch of cages, but I think that is what is needed."

Other residents, though, are turning to third-party candidates such as Libertarian Gary Johnson and former Central Intelligence Agency operative Evan McMullin.

Mrs Sarah Lifferth, 39, a stay-at-home mother of six, and her husband Darren Lifferth have both voted for Mr McMullin after months of deliberation. They sent in their ballots last week.

Mrs Lifferth, who has lived in Singapore for about four years, said: "I could not allow myself to vote for either Trump or Clinton.

I don't think that either of them have America's best interests at heart.

"We talked for months about this, trying to figure out who we could vote for and still sleep at night."

A lot of the election talk around the neighbourhood is not about the issues plaguing the US but the candidates themselves, Mrs Lifferth said.

"It is sad because the two candidates are both so awful that you can't quite move into anything more serious."

The neighbours at Woodgrove are a close-knit bunch who look out for, and even babysit for, each other.

Said Mrs Lifferth: "Having so many Americans in the neighbourhood, it feels like home.

"It gives you that feeling of a community that you are familiar with, people who understand where you are coming from and what you are going through."

But being away from home, she has also observed how divided her country seems to be during this election period.

"From here, you get a bird's-eye view of home... and it feels very polarised," she said.

This article was first published on Oct 23, 2016.
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