Les Petits Contes

About life's little observations, which matter. About hilarious situations, which illuminate. About stories which offer immense possibilities, open endings, different interpretations and perspectives.

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Location: Singapore

A nature lover; sun-worshipper, manic book-collector, dessert-devourer and a magnet for hazards

Friday, December 31, 2004

Finding the Energy to Wave Goodbye

Six thirty-seven in the evening, on 30 Dec 04 – two days before the New Year begins. I received a call from a colleague in France. She explained that she was one of the few ‘’rare’’ people at work in the office today, and enquired about the well being of our Asian colleagues, expressing concern over the recent tsunami disaster.

I am also one of the few rare people still in the office at this hour at this time of the year, finishing up preparation for tomorrow’s interview - the last for this year.

The year is coming to an end, and the quietness of the office makes it perfect for reflection and recollection. Random, memorable images fly past my mind…

January – a super short trip to Myanmar… awesome pagodas, gentle people, extreme poverty, pensive mood…

March – vivid images of a crying husband hovering over his dead wife who jumped to her death with their two daughters. Funny, suicides are not uncommon and neither is mourning… surely I have been numbed by worse disasters, deaths and bad news to be touched by this scene? But the images haunted me. Perhaps it was because the husband was man enough to cry heartily… perhaps it was because of a sudden thought that inexplicably came to my mind – ‘’will anyone cry so much for me when I die?’’

May, post Gemplus University in France – I re-loved Marseilles. The arresting sunset scene with the arched doorway as my colleague led me to an‘’untouristy’’ dinner venue. The exhilarating runs along the breath-taking beach in the morning. The majestic mountain climbs at Iles du Frioul. I also rediscovered Paris. I re-appreciated it, after my fourth visit, the last being in 1992. The much yearned for Sorbonne in Latin Quarter. The beautiful early morning runs at Jardin du Luxemburg, just opposite my hotel. The enthusiastic recommendations (some daily emails from friends back in Singapore and Manila!) – from expensive breakfast venues, to other renowned parks and gardens. The 8-hour walk of the entire city….

May still - the pain of an impossible relationship…but very short-lived though – phew!

June – utter madness. Trying to squeeze in more Gemplus University training, CommunicAsia preparation/ attendance, playing host to colleagues from France, and customer event and press conference in Thailand, at the same time battling newly installed (but not working) VPN connection at the hopeless hotel. Never felt so ‘’foreign’’ in an Asian country in Thailand – I went to the supermarket there and felt so lost…. I think I am more at home in Spain or France!

August – a major commitment of time – taking up Italian and rushing from yoga to pilates to 3-hour Italian class – all back to back on a Saturday. But as always, taking up a new language gives me great joy and opens up my horizon, my eyes, my heart, my mind….

September – walking and walking the whole day to see the entire city of San Francisco, taking its glorious sun, the friendliness and the sights. And then, paddling and paddling in the never-ending lake in Algonquin Park during my camping and canoeing trip to Toronto….nodding off sleepily while roasting marshmallow over a fire outside our tent (oh the warmth of the fire lulls me to comfy sleep)…midnight walks by the beach and forest while star gazing… suddenly opening up to each other and exchanging notes about relationships, friendship, disappointments, gay-friends, boyfriends, first-loves, first sex encounters, aspirations, dreams….it must have been the magic of the stars under that vast dark skies and the intoxication of the lovely wine…

October – the pain of yet another impossible relationship….

Still October – frenzied, frantic preparations and hurried trips for two events in Manila….by the second trip my head was spinning and splitting and the whole Glorietta Mall swirled around me as I stepped in there to do some errands. But I survived the press event and industry conference, with lozenges, aspirins and a box of tissue in tow, everywhere I went.

November – sheer madness again. Working round the clock – early morning conference calls, intense typing at the laptop, people-hounding, back-to-back events, late night conference calls. Madness begets madness, in order to maintain sanity: I was mesmerised by a leaf on a window, and got a colleague to record it in his digital camera, while others gave curious stares.

But sweet November – I truly was convinced of the power of encouragement and care at a team building session in Pulau Ubin. ‘’It’s all in the mind’’ – one likes to say. But for me, courage comes from both within and without. If not for the calming voice of the coach, or his positive vote of confidence, if not for the concern and care shown by fellow colleagues, I would not have managed to climb a three-story vertical pole and jump off to grab the trapeze, climb a wall, walk on ropes and beams without support, or jump off from one unstable platform to another atop a seven-story tower.

November again – friends’ letters, cards and photos herald the arrival of Christmas. It reminded me to do something I always look forward to: go through my travel photos and select some to make Christmas cards – to share a part of me with friends.

Still November – regaining my senses with the magic of Galle…

December – Galle re-visited, and the fragility of life, the preciousness of little things came crashing through my mind, as violent as the tsunami.

Still December – I witness deaths, and I witness birth. A close friend of mine – whose milestones I have been with through since her return from her studies, to her departure to work overseas, to welcoming her back at the airport a few years later, to seeing through her slimming effort for her wedding, to her issues with conceiving…. She finally got what she wanted badly – a baby – yesterday. ‘’It’s so surreal, I can’t believe she came out of me,’’ was the first few words she uttered when I visited.

I had not intended this to be a month by month account of what happened this year – too much has happened. For many, the dates are not important, though for some friends, they like milestones…. One of them is anxious about her son’s commencement of Primary school – ‘’it’s a childhood milestone – my little boy has grown up, ‘’ she seemed to say wistfully.

Another commented about her new born son as her ‘’happily ever after’’. My former coach also had a milestone – ‘’I am now a father’’ he wrote to me proudly.

I celebrated some kinda milestone too with my ‘’gang’’ from Secondary school – our 25th anniversary of friendship. We booked a chalet, spent a day at the beach, ate ourselves silly and played games like we used to.

Some things never change
Like being teased ‘’JLo’’. But the highest compliment I received recently – from a handsome French guy to boot, when I commented that I didn’t have her fab butts, was - ‘’while I can’t comment on your butts and abs, I certainly can say that you have a lot more brains than her…’’

Like being reminded to act the bimbo and to ‘’be nicer’’ to guys, because, ‘’Janet, you intimidate men’’.

Like bringing the wrong clothes for the wrong weather for the wrong country when I travel (eg, inadequate jogging gear for runs in France, turtleneck long-sleeved knits for Galle)

Like friends who worry for me – they worry that I overwork, that I forget to eat, that I forget to rest, that I demand too much of myself, that I go to work despite fever, flu, etc… that I keep falling…Then there are those who worry not so constantly – but enough to touch you – like if I was OK in Singapore given the tsunami disaster or if I was ‘’taking it alright over the destruction of Galle…’’

Then there are those things that I had promised myself never to do/rush but still do:
• Rushing into the supermarket 5 minutes before closing, sprinting from aisle to aisle and grabbing wilted vegetables and stale groceries… all because I had forgotten the time while still at the office…
• On rare occasions that I am not rushing, refusing to take a basket to hold my purchases at the supermarket and letting my stuff pile up on my hands and drop off one by one…
• Jumping into the cab and realising I did not have cash nor the time to withdraw from the ATM…(or taking cabs in Manila and hoping to pay using USD – and having my PR consultant give me cash to take another cab back after our meeting)
• Spending half an hour waiting for a cab after work, rushing to see a friend in transit at the airport (who had been waiting for hours) for a mere 45 minutes – and I have not seen her in years…
• Going for super short trips and not (according to Singapore standard) maximising the value of my air ticket…
• Meeting up a friend in Toronto for less than two hours for a quick dinner and super-hurried tea, even though I’ve flown all these miles and we have not seen each other for years
• Wearing flare mini skirts and having them flare up in the wind… and having the French chef laugh (during pastry class) – ‘’ha Marilyn Monroe’’!
• Forgetting to take my medication or losing track of how many times I have taken for the day
• Forgetting to apply sun block when I go out in the sun
• Getting into awkward/ dangerous/ hilarious situations (like banging on the hotel connecting door of a guest watching loud porno films and having him try to force the door open)
• For the umpteenth time, getting my departure and arrival dates/ time zones all wrong and have friends and family worry about my ‘’non-arrival’’ …
• Arriving late again for church service at Christmas (this is my 3rd consecutive year, and each time I had to frantically sms my friend to let him know where I was sitting….)
• Having my friends say, ‘’it can only happen to Janet Loh’’

Despite all the rush, I must find the energy to wave 2004 goodbye and turn my eyes to the future… and as always, leave a little window open, for the sun to shine through, the rain to pour in, and for life’s immense miracles to happen....


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