Nothing bad or horrid or anything like that. This year has been amazing – at least to me, and here is a list of the 10 awesome things I did this year, in no particular order of importance.
1. Adopting a cat for first time
… for, like, two months before giving it away due to commitments. I named him Mommi and he happened to be an unwanted cat of a colleague (unbeknown to me at first) that ended up wandering to my place and sleeping on my shoe rack.
It was a “love at first sight” kind of thing and I decided to have him two days after letting him come into my house. I was happy having him around until I found myself travelling too much and realised he might not be the best thing for me.
I gave him away just two days before my travel to Vietnam and he was the second pet I had after a tortoise.
2. Trip to the Venice of China
I was supposed to travel with a great former colleague of mine until she decided to work in China several months after tickets were booked. I ended up going solo to meet up with her and another friend of mine Laurence in Suzhou.
In Suzhou, I had had the great opportunity to make friends with Laurence’s colleagues. We definitely had a wonderful time chatting about life and work and exchanging our thoughts. That was also when I learned that there is actually so more to life than just work.
We did like 1233213 things during my short stay there but the craziest thing we did? Cycling unmasked in the dusk around the Suzhou Industrial Park with the temperature falling below negative.
As a consequence, I suffered “windburnt” with super irritated lips and facial skin due to the cold, dry wind that never stopped blowing against my face as I cycled.
Seeing that I come from Kuching, Sarawak, some people have asked if I celebrate Christmas since Christianity is generally presumed by many in the Peninsular to be the main religion of the non-Muslims in Sarawak.
Well, kind of yes, kind of no.
Some have also asked why if I’m a Christian since I have a so-called “Christian” name in the IC. No, I’m not.
The truth is that Christianity plays a very important part in the forming of Sarawak and the religion has a certain degree of influence probably evident since the Brooke era, which I read was favourably looked upon by the people.
Most of us Sarawakians probably don’t realise how great the Christianity influence in Sarawak is until we set foot in the Peninsular and are greeted with the said questions every now and then.
How many times during our childhood years had we stumbled upon our Iban or Bidayuh counterparts humming to the Christmas songs on radio while putting up price tags on goods, or been invited to our (father’s) friends’ houses for eating/gathering/partying on the Christmas day? Plenty.
But so long as we don’t get to see how Christmas is celebrated in Sarawak versus other states in the country, I guess we will remain numb to realise that Christmas for the non-Christians in the state is not just about religion, it is also not really a pop culture, but rather – a folk culture kind of thing.
I like and look forward to every Christmas because of the great memories I have about the festive day ever since I was 7 years old – maybe even younger.
It has to be in the 1990’s, when Christmas decoration in shopping centers and stores became major attractions for shoppers (which in my memories comprised of mostly families than individuals) and also competition among the taukehs.
By “shopping centers” I meant ones with just a few stories’ tall, which were by no means anywhere near the standards of any Jusco today. Just to name any, I have Wisma Hopoh in my top list because it always attracted so many people during festive seasons.
Besides, I remember having to ransack through packs and packs of plastic bags for our small Christmas tree every time Christmas was around the corner because we had to place it at the counter to create more Christmas atmosphere. And below the Christmas tree were boxes of Christmas lights for sale.
Christmas also reminds me a lot of Sugarbun – Sarawak’s first local franchise fast-food chain. The branch in Satok/Haji Taha used to occupy the whole building independently from ground floor up the the second floor.
It had a mini library within the restaurant, a kid’s area that was so important to me and my brother, and most importantly the most Christmassy decoration in the whole of Kuching. Well, at least to me. And I also remember having once persuaded my parents to sit near the giant Christmas tree because I wanted to take home a candy cane I saw on the tree.
I also have Christmas memories of me helping my dad to close the store earlier because a long-time friend of my dad – a Catholic, would do an open-house Christmas party every year where we were invited.
So all of my family members, sometimes my dad’s friends, and some of my relatives, would go over and stay for maybe two hours. They always served good food. And lots of bear.
And this tradition had remained for years and years until the friend died of old age a few years ago.
Having spent a few Christmases of the last couple of years in the hustle and bustle of the Klang Valley, I guess I can now understand better what Christmas really is when it goes beyond religion and the pop culture.
I’m Ken, a passionate traveller from Sarawak on the exotic island of Borneo. Currently a teacher in a rural town in Southern Thailand, from time to time I share on this blog my experiences teaching the kids and living a laid-back lifestyle here. With its focus on all things Thailand, mrdefinite.net also features a handful of stories about my travel adventures in other Asian countries.