I was woken up this morning at 5 a.m. by Yaya, who told me ” Mom, I am hungry, can you please make me the crispy noodles (kon lau mein)”

She came home two days ago and is suffering from severe jet lag. What shocked me the most was when I went to pick her up from the airport, the moment she saw me outside the arrival hall, she started to cry. She then hugged me and told me how much she missed me. I had already made her favourite fish cutlet and took it with me to the airport.. which made her cry again. She missed home cooked food as well. She missed the beautiful blue skies, scraggy(her words) gum trees, dried grass (summer sun) in our lawn, the birds, the quietness outside my house.. In other words, she was really homesick.

10 minutes after I arrived back home from the airport with Yaya, her friends started to drop in. I was hoping to spend some time alone with my child.. instead, I cooked biriyani for everyone. (I learned long ago, if you can’t beat them, might as well join them)

My son arrived yesterday evening from Peru. I dropped a handsome bloke at the airport 6 weeks ago and picked up a sunburnt, scrawny bloke wearing gypsy Peruvian pants, 6 bracelets on the left hand and 4 on the right, silver pinky rings and two chains with unknown charms around the neck. I was a bit shocked to see the transformation.. He looked very happy. Both his sisters came with me to the airport to pick him up. He bought handmade chocolates from Santiago for his sisters and they ate it in the car on the drive back home.

Right now as I type this post, both the girls are singing Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas out of tune¬†while rolling the cookie dough. My dog is looking at them bewildered. My son is trying to distract the girls to steal the cookies.

I was once told by a very dear friend that with age comes confidence and happiness. I don’t know if I can attribute my current state of happiness to my age. Clearly I am happy and contended. I am also getting old ūüôā


One year

one year ago, I was a student attending the intensive summer class. This week, I am presenting the class.

Like time and tides, my life has been changing.

of all the things I thought I would do in my life, teaching was never part of my plan. And yet here I am… Working as a tutor.

busy till the end of this week.


Dividing, dismantling, dismembering, desolating, detaching, dispossessing, destroying, and dominating.

These are the words that I can use to describe my mother.

I called her a few days ago, mostly because I know she has Parkinson’s and partly because I don’t want to call her during Christmas time and spoil my mood. A phone call in the beginning of December therefor can assuage my guilt.

It would have been a normal conversation as to how are you, bla bla . Yet this turned out to be the call I wished I hadn’t made.

As soon as I called, my mother mentioned that my younger sister is with her. I have not seen or spoken to¬†my youngest sister for more than a decade. I didn’t respond to that comment as I didn’t see the need for. Then she passed the phone to my nephew whom I don’t even know his name or his age and she told him, it is your Kochamma. I was not prepared for this and I wasn’t sure how to deal with, so I kept quiet. I don’t feel like a Kochamma…. Fortunately the said nephew had other things to do and gave the phone back to Amma. Then she actually asked me “Do you want to speak to your sister?” I said “No, I don’t” and disconnected the line.

My entire life my mother has done all she can ¬†to ensure that we sisters fight with each other and I hate her need to act as a knight in shining armour to make us all a family again. She makes us fight and then she becomes the mediator with the white flag with the classic dialogue..” your father’s family members were like Karakka kkuru (never seen one, don’t know how they look.. apparently the seeds face opposite side inside the pod) You and your sisters have only each other, remember that always”

I never want to see my sisters or have anything to do with them ever. I have been on my own for so long. I don’t even remember my sisters on their birthday.. which is very unusual because I remember dates. We are sisters because we shared the same womb and that is it. I hate that my mother doesn’t get a simple fact that I have nothing to do with my sisters. I am done with them.

So, no more calls to my mother.


“The” guy

Part of my job while working for WHO was attending the department morning meeting and presenting daily updates.

He attends the meeting too. And every time he had¬†something to discuss, I understood nothing that he said. He used the word “the”¬†after every word.

I wondered how did this guy get a job at WHO?

And one day, I sat next to him during the meeting and I noticed that he was going through his photos.. and one photo caught my attention.

It was a photo of him driving the latest Lamborghini. (I swear)

I was curious. Very curious.

It turns out that he is a really big shot in his home country. He has an MD and a PhD. He had always wanted to work for WHO. So he gave up the work he was doing in his country(very senior level), came as a WHO volunteer and eventually started working as a short term consultant.. He has taken a massive pay cut, but is very happy doing what he always wanted to.

He knows his English sucks big time. But that hasn’t stopped him from getting where he wanted to be.



Her story

She is the 4th child of her parents. Ordinary Vietnamese fisherman’s family. The world around them were drastically changing and her father made the plans to escape. At schools, the teachers have been tasked by the powers that be to find out if anyone is planning to leave.. so they told the students “let us know if your family is planning to escape, we will do everything we can to help you”. The month before they finally escaped, the local dentist’s son told his teacher about their plan to escape and that night the army came, hung the father to death, beat the mother who was 7 months pregnant till she lost the baby and then threw them out of their own home.

When they initially made the plan to escape her mother was 3 months pregnant and when they finally managed to organize everything, she had already gone in to labor and her father had to make the decision to leave without his wife and newborn baby.

Their ship first sailed to Malaysia and her oldest sister fell sick. Malaysia didn’t allow them to dock the boat and they proceeded to Indonesia and her sister died during the journey. When the boat reached the harbour, they told the Indonesian authorities that they have many dead bodies in their boat and others require medical attention. Indonesian authorities asked them to throw a body off the boat as a proof. Inside the boat, the remaining passengers drew the name card of her oldest sister and her body was thrown overboard. They were allowed to dock and get assistance. Her father swam around the harbour for a week in search of his daughter’s body and grieve still that he could never give her a proper burial.

German government gave them visa to come to Germany. It took them five years before they managed to smuggle their mother and the youngest sister out of Vietnam.

Two illiterate parents then raised 5 children in Germany. She said it was tough, being caught in two worlds. Inside home, they were Vietnamese, they ate Vietnamese food, spoke Vietnamese and visited other Vietnamese. But in school she was a German. She spoke German and did everything her German classmates did.

She eventually met another Vietnamese refugee in Germany, married him. He supported her through Uni. Today she is the MD of one of fortune 500 companies.

I had breakfast at her house. There was 4 different types of cheese, rye bread, croissant, butter and jam. She, her kids and her husband spoke German to each other. So I asked her, how come she didn’t teach her kids Vietnamese? She said, her children are Germans and therefore they should learn German.

I admired her for a lot of reasons.

Her genuine affection and concern, her ability to live the life she wanted to live and for ensuring that her kids won’t go through the duality of culture and associated confusion.

Every time I think my life sucks big time, I meet someone who has more right to complain and still don’t.


When I went to Manila, a dear friend had introduced me to one of his colleagues who is working as an expat in Manila. She went to Germany as ¬†Vietnamese refugee in the late 70’s and have very traumatic stories to tell.

My work was really hectic and around the 3rd week of my stay there, I found that I was going to be homeless at the end of the month. My landlord didn’t understand my Canadian/Australian/Indian accent and assumed that I only needed the place for a month and rented it out to someone else. I was working from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. most days and didn’t have time to go and look for a new place. My friend’s colleague was on her way to the airport (going back to Germany for a short visit) when she called me to say bye and ¬†I told her that I will be homeless soon. The next thing I know is that the security guard at work calls me to say that someone had come to drop off¬†a set of keys. She had actually sent her house key through the driver. She has never seem me before and only knew me through a friend. She lives in a penthouse in the most expensive condo in Manila with 360 degree¬†view of the city.

Things like this always affect me more than you can ever imagine.

When Yaya was stuck in London and needed a place to stay, I didn’t even think of contacting my own family. Apparently my sister lives somewhere in England. (I have no idea where and am not keen to find out) I would never call my sister and ask for help, for I will have to hear the rest of my life how they dropped everything to help my child.

I know for a fact that they wouldn’t send their driver to my office to give me their house key, so I will have a place to stay if I ever found myself to be homeless. They would have first accused me of not doing things properly, like making sure that my landlord understood my terms.. or leaving work early and look for a place..(which in my case was not possible as my work involved managing Hazard risks..and Typhoon Lawin had just made landfall)

It is amazing that strangers help with love unconditionally  and we sisters thrive on hatred. Where did we go so wrong?