The year that was 2016 started in a very different way. Along the banks of Melbourne’s central Yarra River, with one of us all on fours searching for a pink iPhone that now rests gently in the mud. It was also different as we don’t always join hordes of people for fireworks at midnight.
We knew 2016 was going to be different. And how!
The biggest notch on the tree was National Service.
We knew it would be a milestone and a coming of age, but what a journey it has been. For all of us. (view the BMT Album here or below)
After the NS haircut, it was the trip to Pulau Tekong. It was an eye-opener and it inducted me into the NS family as now, when others mention kids going or gone into NS, we share notes and a laugh over the best lunch on the island (“and did you like the Green Drink?”).
A rag tag team of boys of varying builds and haircuts, bulging bags of NS essentials and wardrobe’s best for sign-up. Everyone clustered to take photos and videos as if it was they were the latest Boy Band, and not lads of 18 off to get their haircut and basic wear for the next few months of their life.
NS has been a lot of tears. Sometimes of frustration. But for those, it was important that we were there, or at least at the other end of the telephone. We have cried, waving off Mr K at the parade square at the start of NS, and at the wharf at Changi Naval Base on his training mission to India, Phuket and Singapore.
But the missing made us love and appreciate each other more.
It also made the tears at home-coming… seeing the gangly, green mass emerge from the crowd of train commuters at Pasir Ris … the rough hugs and gentle arms … the blue-grey ‘mast’ as the warship sailed home … and the familiar voice that gave the marching orders… all extra special.
The Cadet Officer has learnt valuable lessons in the nine months of National Service, and for every pebble in his marching boots, I still say “thank you” and I hope he will too. As the annoyance and that little pain, showed the minds of officers – some to respect, others to emulate and a few to shelve in the furthest corners – and provided the growing up and personality development that even a parent cannot.
The boy has grown up for sure, he is taller, not just physically but in spirit too. I am glad to see it, and be a part of it. I cannot wait for 2017 to unfold and to see how much more growing will come from this sprout !
The other big notch on the tree trunk, was the doctorate and graduation. Finally.
I loved best the day the thesis arrived and if he could have kissed the courier man who brought the books, Dr K would have! What a smile.
There were no pebbles here, but more like rocks in the head. But Dr K blasted them away, not immediately, but definitely because he is dynamite. Sometimes, it was a smart fuse called Sam, often it was the spark from Dr K himself, rarely was it the short fuse 🙂 .
The funniest was when the robe arrived, and like a prom princess, the package tore open and the gown was donned, with hem fluttering as he twirled on the carpet barefooted.
The most magical however, was when he sat on the podium and amidst all the people in the hall staring up at the many academics staring back down, he looked at me and I looked at him, and we smiled.
Not a big notch, but a notch nonetheless, was for me.
Working with Angels. I never expected it. I was downright nervous about it. I learnt, like Mr K, who to respect and who to put away in the deepest corner of the shelf, and like him, discovered myself. That content creation and production is what gets me humming along. There may be rocks in the head too, but these can be blasted away because when I thought 10 Angels were too much, the project just seemed to fly on angel wings and with unexpected angels everywhere. So I am thankful. Thankful for being so blessed, with (extended) family and life.
And painters of a different sort, who were blind (my description) but yet managed to paint our home where we had installed new fans. But the fans could not get rid of the paint fumes – leading us to discover that the eOasia was a very nice hotel and the Ibis is rather good too!
2016 surprised with President Trump who stumped and trumped us all, and some lights going out. There was the pauper who became president, SR Nathan (video), Prince missed a beat, golf missed its par with Arnold Palmer, and a week after watching Carrie Fisher on the Graham Norton show, we heard that the Force had grown darker when she didn’t recover from a heart attack, followed almost hours later by her mother Debbie Reynolds who proverbially died of a ‘broken heart’. As I’d said on hearing the news, “I won’t want to live too, if my child died”.
It is easy to take life for granted, take education as a right, family as given and NS the wrong way.
While we acutely felt the missing life form in the other room, instead of wallowing, we made the best of things – as one must always do with life. As the corny saying goes “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. We have our lemonade with lots of sweet syrup, thank you very much. The brands include Tiger, Jet Star, Emirates, SIA, Thai Airways, Air Asia, E&O, Jen, Intercontinental, Accord, IHG…
But before that, we had decided that Japan was going to be the Big Family Trip before NS. And what a trip it was!
We discovered that Yokohama was great and an easy commute to Tokyo, and getting a Japanese SIM card in Singapore was essential as is the Japan Rail and the Suica/Pasmo card for travel and even a bottle of warmed coffee from the vending machine (as Mr K had to try). That Nagano was a place we wanted to return to and understood why the Japanese Onsen was so loved by the Japanese, including monkeys.
We will never forget the Snow Monkeys, from those who stomp on your foot while ambling by since you are visiting THEIR park and ones who decide to slap you on your back (or bag, more like it).
There was South Korea (again ??!! didn’t we swear off that place?!) for Mr K as he went on the first of his 3-2 adventures. He did the trip with great friends who have remained great friends (very important point, that one).
He also followed us on an eating spree in Penang.
And later, as part of NS, the was the Indian port of Visak (Visakhapatnam Port) where he discovered how party crowds in a different place can be dangerous and Phuket, where he put into practise his knowledge of local culture (get a good Thai massage) and hanging out with mum (keeping the female cadets company when they shopped and keeping an eye on them), while also discovering great Phuket rum and Coopers Beer (from Australia !?!).
The platinum pair made 3-1 trips to Penang (at least four times in all, for food, art and jewelry, and work somewhere inside as an excuse for fun).
Kuala Lumpur (twice in a fortnight for me), and twice to Bangkok, the last was where work was mixed with relaxation and the joys of great haircuts!
One trip that was unplanned, was when Dr K made a lightning trip to Canberra. Funny how that all started – with a text to me, who thought everyone else already knew. But friends and family proved themselves, and frail flowers showed that they have tough stems!
Australia did in the end have as many passport stamps as Malaysia. The last was the Brisbane-Canberra-Melbourne trip for work (not me 🙂 this time ) where we searched for missing hippies but found a lighthouse;
got trapped in a lift at Melbourne’s Sofitel and discovered the spirit of St Patrick’s. Oh, and we also discovered that alpacas are very special creatures.
We had our share of flying Business Class, which is the best way to arrive from a night flight. My vote for now, goes to Emirates Business Class with great seats and service that is not too shabby. And Emirates’ regular stops in Melbourne gets our tick of approval too – since we love the coffee, beer, atmosphere and food of the city – although not in any order of preference 🙂
It has been an eventful, hectic, emotional, fulfilling and surprising year, marked with much travel for all 3 of us, together as well as separately.
Perhaps it was because the year began with us travelling. What a great 2016, on reflection, and what more exciting things to look ahead to in 2017.