It is Christmas Eve here in Singapore, and the long weekend has just started. Unfortunately, the weather is not much to cheer about – so far it has been raining all day – but at least I am looking forward to a few quiet days with no work hanging over me.
Raffles Hotel in Christmas decoration
When I grew up I used to hate Christmas. My father – who was an alcoholic – was always drunk and aggressive, and my mother – completely psyched down by my father’s alcohol abuse and the stress of raising the kids more or less alone and keeping up the appearance – was yelling at us for every little thing we did or didn’t do. We kids tried to stay out of the way as much as possible, and to us Christmas was mostly about watching the Disney Christmas cartoons on TV. I used to hate presents, because my parents gave me girly toys that I didn’t really know what to do with, and I always ended up playing with my brother’s toys and helping him building his Lego helicopters and electric race cars.
As I grew older I started to work as a security guard on the weekends and holidays to finance my studies, and I always preferred to work at Christmas, just to have an excuse to avoid the celebration. While the other guys at work were desperately trying to swap shifts to be home at Christmas, I would happily work double and triple shifts just to stay away. After all, sitting in frozen car in minus 15 degrees Celsius with a macho male colleague talking about guy stuff was much nicer than being home with a broken family.
I did spend the holiday with a boyfriend and his family one year in my mid twenties, but unfortunately his mother hated me and it wasn’t a very nice experience for any of us. Although we stayed together for a few years, I always made up excuses to stay away at Christmas, and mostly my excuses were related to work, as usual. Luckily, my manager supported my scam and told my ex that I had to work since he was short of staff. I think he was relieved to have someone on his team who actually wanted to work, so he was more than happy to support me.
Christmas in Orchard Road
Fortunately, life changes, and things that once were bad can turn into something good. For instance, one of my best friends in Norway used to invite me to his family for Christmas the last couple of years I lived there, and the year I lived in Sydney I was invited to spend the holiday with one of my English colleagues who was visiting for Christmas and New Year. Last year I had a wonderful Christmas in Western Australian with a friend from Sydney and his amazing family, and it was a great holiday to remember. I guess I have been blessed with a huge bunch of kind and generous friends around the world, and although I am restless and adventurous I must admit that I miss my friends every day.
This year I have already used up all my annual leave (there is simply too much to see and do in this region, so it is difficult to save up leave to the end of the year), and I am spending Christmas alone in Singapore. Although I miss having great company, spending the holiday in Southeast Asia is actually not too bad, and the things I like about it are the following:
- There is no snow and ice, and I can spend the entire day outdoors without freezing my fingers and toes off.
- Shops are open pretty much all the time, and if I am bored I can always head out to the zoo or the beach to take some photos.
- The majority of the population is non-Christian, and hence, I won’t feel completely lost even if I am not celebrating.
Singapore's main shopping street, Orchard Road
The year 2009 has been rather eventful and interesting, and I have been visiting many new places in Asia, some of them places that I have wanted to see for many years. Of the highlights I can mention things like visiting the famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia, climbing Mount Kinabalu and seeing the orangutans in Borneo, cuddling with tarsiers in the Philippines, riding elephants in the gorgeous mountains of Laos and paddling down Mekong River in Vietnam.
Life can sometimes be tough, and especially when you are all alone and working in strange places, facing new cultures and dealing with language barriers around the world. However, most of the time life becomes what ever you make of it, and if you are courageous and not afraid of taking chances life has amazing things to offer. I don’t know if we are reincarnated after we die, but just in case we only live once I have decided to live my life to the maximum. This year was definitely a great year for me, and hopefully next year will be just as fantastic, or maybe even better.
When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
Or as we say in this part of the world: Selamat hari natal dan tahun baru!