My Dear Readers,
I must apologise for the lack of posts in this blog recently – believe me when I say it was not for want of effort, for I tried numerous times to put something up about how my life has been usurped by work and thus left me with little time or interesting activities to blog about. However, it kept turning out that writing about not having much to write about was more difficult than I had thought it would be, and so I continually erased entries in the hopes that something would eventually come up in the course of my first week at work (other than a Victoria’s Secrets lingerie show) that I could bring online to entertain you.
But the week rolled on, and over (rather too slowly, I might add) and before I knew it Chinese New Year was around and I’d still not encountered anything blog-worthy. I’d rather not blog about work – being dooced seems like an awfully close reality in Singapore, given my propensity to inappropriately spout Words-of-Evil about people I know and also that horrible idea that one of my colleagues or even my boss might be a Pokemon-Hentai-addict and foolishly stumble here in search of gratification, only to find nothing but wholesome-non-pornographic-entertainment and end up very upset about being cheated.
And then I’d be forced to draw actual Pokemon Hentai at work to satisfy them.
For those of you who are interested, though, I now work as a graphic designer in a small company in Sentosa, the Island of Fun! But no, I am not one of the Sentosa staff, which means I don’t get to wear those cool flowery shirts to work. My office is only located on Sentosa. Understand? It’s just there, but it’s not affiliated in any way to Sentosa. Yes, it’s legal. You can do that. No, not all companies on Sentosa belong to Sentosa. Yes, it’s amazing. No, it’s not that fun. No, I don’t get to go to the beach every day. Any more questions? Better save them for Small-Talk-With-Alex the next time we meet (when you graduate from understanding-basic-english-sentences school, if I have anything to do with it).
Sorry. It’s just small-talk the past couple of days has tended to fall in that category.
So – the CNY came along, and along with it the traditional reuninon dinner. We did what we do every year, heading off to my uncle’s place where we made the usual small talk about whose children got into which schools and what courses could dear sixth auntie recommend because she’s a teacher and teachers always know best (although sixth auntie teaches primary schoolers and can probably only be reliably trusted for advice on how to teach children to round up to a hundred).
What went differently this year was, strangely, me.
In past years, my siblings and I adopted a guerilla-style strategy for the reuninon dinner – hitting it hard and fast and then getting out as soon as possible, with as few relatives knowing we were there as possible. This was, on my part, so as to minimize the embarrassment of being asked when I was going to get married, whereas my sister simply wanted to avoid comparison with other girls her age, of whom there were many (and who always seemed to score better than her). Brother was just generally anti-social.
However, this year I stayed behind to wait for my parents – the first time since I was twelve, a little boy with a large amount of greed and even larger bermuda pockets. Darling sister mocked me for being a good-little-sucker-up-to-parents-boy, which hurt me intensely because I knew I was accompanying my parents more because no one else was free to be with me than out of any altruistic fillial piety.
We walked the usual route along Chinatown and Marina Bay, a route filled with half-remembered memories. It broke my heart to realize that my parents still remembered clearly my youth, which I’d callously half forgotten.
A chicken zodiac statue along the river helped alleviate some guilt – at least I wasn’t the only one being horribly inconsiderate.
Somehow I agreed to go along with my parents next year to Fujian to look for my (metaphorical) roots.
I’d felt out-of-place and lost about my cultural roots back when I was in Paris, but as Daddy recounted how I still had cousins in China, and a family grave, ancestral hall and a plaque of family names with his name on it, it hit home that I was living as a third-generation immigrant in a country with a (significant) history less than a century old. It turns out that as recently as the previous generation, my relatives were buying male babies as a form of fertility practice, and that Daddy and his siblings’ names had special significance (except for the bought-babies, I suppose) in the ancestral poem.
My name has no significance in any poem, ancestral, symbolic or even dirty.
Daddy tells me there is also an age-old family feud about money, though he refuses to reveal details except that I shouldn’t expect any kind of inheritance.
Mother, on the other hand, tells me that her side of the family lived simple lives without much fanfare and excitement and didn’t have much of a history, though she’s always hinted at some kind of shady family history on Grandmother’s side, who turns out to have been a Dutch citizen from the Riau islands somewhere (how she got there I have no idea).
I’d always associated my grandparents as those dead people (most of them passed away before I was born) who’d contributed little to the universe than to produce my parents and who lived in dull and dirty houses, but all of a sudden I begin to wonder about their histories. How they’d come from their homes in China and Indonesia to start a new life on this tiny little island, how they’d found love (or at least breeding partners), how they’d made their fortunes and survived.
And great-grandparents. How mysterious are they?
If ever my siblings or I ever have children, I wonder what we’ll tell them when they ask us where they’re from. Singapore? Such a simple story.