I’m really looking forward to this week, and I’m really really looking forward to the following week because it’s church camp. Oh, I am so happy that I’m finally looking forward in anticipation and excitement to things & life in general - a change from dreading the exams and whatnot.
The weekend was really hectic because we had to rush to Malacca on Saturday to attend my father’s sister’s funeral. It’s really sad because the family on his side has lost 2 siblings within 3 months… and it’s kind of uncool to meet your cousins only at funerals. So let’s just hope that the next funeral won’t be anytime soon…
Also, I got my hair trimmed again! The thing about short hair is that it demands very constant maintenance. I was so tempted to cut the Berliner hipster hairstyle - I can’t seem to find a photo of it on FB, but basically the top of of the hairstyle is longish to the ears, then from that line downwards the hair is cropped closed to the neck ah whatever - but I didn’t because I decided that I was just going to grow out my hair again. And it will grow out, and be long once more.. in 5 years’ time.
I should sleep now. And I can’t believe I’ve just spent the past 20 mins googling “girls short hair”, “girls cropped hair” and “Agyness hairstyles” ugh
It is good to be home; hello relentless humidity and perpetual heat, hello Asian faces and accents, hello readable street signs, hello bed, hello Meimei, hello I’m back.
I am really grateful to have had the opportunity to spend 3 weeks in Germany/Austria, and I have been so blessed that I was provided with the means to fly up and really enjoy myself. But those twenty or so days gave me the reprieve that I so desperately craved after the awful first quarter of 2012. It felt as if time stood still for those twenty plus days, and I was finally - I guess “free” best describes it. Not in the sense that I was being repressed-suppressed-oppressed-depressed-etcpressed, but rather I felt that I was… away from the responsibilities, expectations, disappointments …just for the while that I needed to be. Of course in Europe, even on holiday, I still remembered and still felt. But I felt as if time stood still, and I finally caught up.
Ironically, when I was away, so many things happened: people I care about going through major changes in life, people graduating, people passing on (We’ll be leaving on Saturday for the funeral. In my opinion, this is one funeral too many in the family). But being away, on holiday, was like being in a bubble and being cushioned from concurrently occurring events. Things just tend to keep piling on before you can sort them out - like laundry - and life is still awesome, but sometimes you need to BREATHE and now I can.
It is good to be home; goodbye chilly winds and lovely weather, goodbye umlauts and ßs, goodbye Euros and multiplying everything by 1.65, goodbye obscenely round Pigeons, goodbye Jon, goodbye love and I’ll see you soon.
You are the bravest person alive, and up till two and a half months ago you were the second bravest person I knew, second only to Papa. I could not have asked for a better childhood, a better upbringing, a better set of parents. I have been blessed, and I hope that the rest of my life will be a blessing to the rest of yours.
Today is Mothers’ Day (“Muttertag”) and so I called mum this morning to wish her, much to her delight. On the day I flew off I actually brought her out for an early Mothers’ Day treat and we had tea time at the Marmalade Pantry at the Bukit Timah Saddle Club.
The weather the past few days has been schizophrenic. For several days we had the average temperature climbing up from 11degC (over last weekend) to 14degC, 20degC, and finally a whopping 27degC on Friday. And then, when Saturday came, we were hit with a 9degC and today it is a ACOSINAOS 6DEGC?!?! In fact, the sun seems to be taking weekends off too. Thank God I bought a coat from the Zara sale before coming over - it was the best $79.90 investment I’ll say. Only thing is that Chucks aren’t exactly the best shoes to be wearing in this weather (or may it’s my Giordano ankle socks that aren’t helping).
Today also marks the mid-point of my trip. I’d like to say “Euro-trip”, but I really ain’t Euro-tripping. I’m the sort of person who likes to stay for prolonged periods in one city and live like a local, somewhat - to shop at their markets, cook in the kitchen, chill at their cafes, walk all around the town. I’m not really into the whole hop-from-city-to-city-in-3-days-eat-expensive-“signature”-food-take-touristy-photos-of-landmarks-x10-that-you-can-find-on-google-anyway kind of Euro-tripping. There sure is a time and place for that but I really don’t think you can say “I love Berlin” or “I love Paris” or “I love Madrid” from just staying there for 2-3 days and hovering around all the major attractions.
Okay, time to put on the armour and venture out to the Sunday flea market yay!
1. We got our hair cut by this Japanese hairstylist who lives in Berlin. His tools were simple - one pair of cutting scissors, one fine-toothed comb, water spray, some clips; no mirror, no shaver, no layering scissors! I wanted to do something like the Berlin hipsters here - short hair for girls is all the rage - but in the end I just got a trim.
2. I think I might have gotten 60 years taken off my life from all the second-hand smoke at the BBC concert. And I might have compromised by long-term eyesight, given the flashing concert lights & strobes. We were right in front of the stage because we are all Singaporean and just had to go early to get prime standing-space.
3. I am amazed at how I have been eating but have not put on weight. I realised that is because we have spent around 14 out of 24 hours walking and walking and walking and walking.
1. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE COLD. So we went on this roadtrip to Dresden & Leipzig, and I figured that my Zara cardi + a scarf + chucks would hold. For 7degC? THEY DID NOT.
2. DO NOT LISTEN TO BOYS. So Hong Xiu & Jon decided that they were only going for the abovementioned roadtrip in their thin jackets/cardis, and I figured that I’d follow their lead & hence I left my coat back in the apartment. Let’s just say we spend the weekend teeth-chattering & stamping around the two cities. Oh yes, and breathing out smoke like put-out dragons.
3. DO NOT HOPE TO SHOP ON A SUNDAY Germany has a religious population of about 2%, but most interestingly there is a prevailing rule in the country that shops are not to be opened on Sundays. Yes, the businesses here actually keep the Sabbath. This means we spent much of yesterday walking through the most amazingly interesting shopping square (Claire’s! Zara! C&A! H&M! Mango! New Yorker! Many more!) looking woefully at all the shuttered retail outlets.
So anyway we are back in Berlin and will probably be here for the next week. Plan for today: shop at the main shopping district Alexanderplatz, meet friends for lunch, traipse around aimlessly & try not to freeze to death, Bombay Bicycle Club concert at night.
In preparation for my SEA module, I am reading an academic article entitled as such, about the Filipino women who leave home to work abroad in order to support their families. I’ve never actually considered the intensity of the emotional strain domestic workers go through, and the difficult decisions that they have to make.
Even more heart-wrenching is what the children, who are left behind, have to go through. When you are young, how do you comprehend the notion of your mother leaving you as an act of love? Below is an excerpt from the paper that brought me to tears & rendered me unable to read on for a moment.
My dear mother:
How are you over there? Us, we’re here wishing you were with us… Mom, I was still very young when you left me with Kuya [older brother], Ate [older sister] and Dad. I still did not know the meaning of sadness…
Do you know that they would cry when they read your letters? Me, I would just look at them. I grew up actually believing that letters are supposed to be read while crying.
Mom, I am older now and I know how to read and write. How many Christmases have passed since I was born? I still have not experienced this day with you with me. I know that you love us very much and that you sacrifice and suffer being away from us so that you could meet our needs. That is why we love you completely and so much.
Mom, I am getting older and I need someone guiding and supporting me and that is you. I don’t want to be rich. Instead I want you with me, Mom. Doesn’t God say that a family should always be together through hardships and happiness? But why are you far away from us?
Mom, Christmas is here again. That’s why you should come home soon. I don’t want anything else but you with me, Mom.
Kuya and Ate read somewhere that Filipino workers in other shores are the heroes of our country. But Mom, come back and you will be the queen that I will be with every day.
My wish is that you come home this coming Christmas.
Your youngest child, Nina Rea
One more excerpt:
Mom, come home. Even if it means that I will no longer receive new toys or chocolates. Even if it means that I won’t get new clothes anymore, just being close to you will make me happy. Dad and I are so lonely here without you.
When I was away from home for 8 months, whilst in Nigeria, I remember the hardest part of the separation from my family & Jon was that so many things happened when I was away. I couldn’t truly rejoice in their happiness - I only got wind of it after it happened, and could only feel happy in its aftermath; I couldn’t go through the difficulties together with them - I only got to know about it after they collected themselves enough to tell me.
I remember the worst period was when my grandmother passed on. I remember just being in this constant state of grief, where I all could think of was flying home to be at the funeral and be with my family. After I got news of her passing, I would spend the next few nights awake, replaying the most recent memories I had of her, wishing that I had not left at all if that could have translated into more time with her. My last memory I had of my gran was her crying over the phone on our last long-distance call, telling me “我不舍得让你走” (I can’t bear to let you go). That phrase, and her voice, haunted me on a regular basis. And in that moment of pain, I lost perspective of what I was supposed to be doing and why I even left home in the first place.
So this article by Parrenas, along with the trip to Nigeria, has really brought me to a new level of empathy with transnational families - particularly those who are separated by circumstances and necessity. If I ever had a maid who has family, I’d ensure that she gets enough correspondence with her husband and children back home. Maybe I’d even pay for her to fly back twice a year.
Five years ago… Abi: Mum, why can’t I grow my hair out? Mum: It’s so messy, unruly & you’ll look so uncouth
Last night… Abi: Mum I’ve decided I’m going to grow my hair out long after this Mum: YAY! Abi: And I’m going to dip-dye it purple Mum: You serious?! Abi: But I’m going to grow it out. Why did you not let me grow it out last time, and now you don’t like my short hair? Mum: You’re going to dye it purple?!