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

Monday, January 01, 2007

My Year-end Thoughts

The sun has just set on the last day of 2006. And I have just penned my year end thoughts. We tend to get pensive at this time of the year. Pastor asked today, if you were given a chance to go back in time, what would you have changed in your life.

Funny, I thought for a while, and even though many times I have sighed, ''I wish I had said or done this...'' I decided, ‘‘Nothing - I have not regretted anything I have done - no matter how stupid it had been’’. I would like to think that it's not just my pride that makes me say this. I say ‘’nothing’’ because the actions or words I wish I have done but did not - would not have been ''me''. If it had been so ‘‘me’’, or if it had felt ''so right'' to do or say certain things then, I would have done it. It was just not the right time, not the right spirit, for me. A colleague said earlier this year - ''don't lose your Janet Loh trademark'' when he commented on how well I had hidden my pains and emotions and carried on as if nothing has fallen apart. At that time, I had told him, ''no - I wish I was more human and expressive’’. Thinking back, I now realise that's just me - and no amount of wishing will erase that. And a friend confirmed it a few days ago - ''you tend to have a real hard exterior''.

Here's to a good 2007, with a final thought on friendship:

Friendship Takes Effort

The Dec 27 earthquake in Taiwan damaged undersea cables and caused severe region-wide internet slowdown and e-commerce disruption. Internet users like me were frustrated and felt a bit lost and inconvenienced. I griped about the slow delivery of emails.

Then I remembered Diane’s four-page handwritten letter – sent together with her Christmas card and photo. Every year around this time I receive long, hand-written letters from her, telling me about her life, her family members, her thoughts, feelings, and her plans.

This year, she seems exceptionally busy, despite having quit her job to look after her two year old boy Archie. She promised, as in every year, to write more often. And as in previous years, she griped about her home PC being frequently cranky or down. And this year, it is completely dead, hence the silence from her. They are going to get a new one in the coming year, and she will send me an email soon.

She was writing this letter ‘’with one hand, with Archie dangling from the other hand’’, she explained.

I wrote back to her, in a typewritten letter. I told her I have forgotten how to ‘’write’’, and that my handwriting has deteriorated, since I am so reliant on emails and the keyboard.

In my one-page letter, I summarized ‘’my year’’, my trips, my activities, and almost felt tongue-tied. I – who am so used to long-winded travel tales - suddenly forgot what I have done in 2006, where I have traveled to, and felt I had to ‘’squeeze out’’ some news for her. Not only have I forgotten how to write using a pen, I have forgotten the art of conversation and correspondence.

I told her how I look forward to her new PC and emails: it would mean hearing from her more often. I told her how I look forward to year end – when I will receive a thick envelope with her imitable handwriting on it. It sure feels good just holding the envelope – I would relish unfolding her pages of foolscap paper containing her news, some photos, and a lovely Christmas card.

I receive another paper card and some scribbling from Tsyrina too, every year. This year, to my horror, she did not write her address on her envelope, and I have lost hers. In my rare fit of spring cleaning early this year, I must have discarded my old address book and her previous letters. But as we have been writing to each other since the 90’s, I managed to remember her address (sans post code though) and sent her a card, hoping that the British postal system would be able to deliver the letter to her. This incident reminded me of something else last month.

Last month as I was filling out a form at the Indian High Commission, to apply for a tourist visa, I was ‘’stuck’’ for a while. I had to provide the addresses of two personal contacts under the ‘’reference’’ section. I managed to rustle up some addresses – of the most unlikely ‘’personal’’ contacts who would not care two hoots about my activities in India.

With emails, no body keeps record of your home addresses anymore.

Before you jump at me to say, ‘’wake up, don’t live in the past, embrace technological conveniences,’’ bla….

That’s not my point – about the convenience of emails and the internet.

The point is, Diane and Tysrina made the effort. True, they may not write so frequently. But when they do, they do not just conveniently use abbreviations, email jargons and send short cryptic comments we so often receive. They do not forward jokes, chain letters and powerpoint attachments at the touch of a button to a string of ‘’undisclosed recipients’’.

Busy like we all are, they went to the store to choose a cute card for me. In Diane’s case, she duplicated photos, and sat down to write to me (ie, not a mass email), to ask about my dad, my work, my health. And to tell me about what she feels about adopting a child, coping with her mum in law’s illness, and the anticipation of her husband’s new book. And then, with an active two year old, and living in a remote village, she walked to the post office, or in certain cases, she would have to make sure she did not miss the bus which is not as frequent as our SBS buses, to the post office, to get a stamp, to mail the letter, in time for Christmas.

The internet services have been restored - kudos to efficient Singaporeans working round the clock over the holiday period. But keep the letters coming, Diane. I promise I won’t enquire about your new PC and email id anymore.


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