Saturday, February 02, 2008

There are Anniversaries, then there are Anniversaries

Last month has two days of special significance in my most recent move to US, to work. The previous trips, while pleasant, were for academic pursuits and work-related business. First is January 24, the 4th anniversary of our touchdown on US soils, at O'Hara Airport, Chicago, to be exact. Four of us (together with wify, WT and CE) were on an UA flight from Singapore, destined for Tampa.

We still remember we were all fatigued and excited at the same time, fatigued because of the long flight, an almost 24-hr flight (air time only) starting from Kuala Lumpur the day before, and excited at the prospect of fitting in with a new work/living/studying environment, for me/wify/children in that order. We were received by my colleague at the Tampa International Airport, and then driven to the rented apartment that we would put up for the next two weeks.

The next few days were hectic, adjusting to the new work environment, registering the children at the nearest high school (we had actually selected the school for them through Internet while still in Malaysia, complete with its enrollment, student mix, academic performance, and school rating, e.g., blue ribbon panel), opening bank accounts, shopping for a car (we had decided to settle on Toyota since we have had favorable experience with the make back home), and perhaps the most exhaustive of all, hunting for a new apartment (the first two weeks' rental was on my employer). Fortunately, all started well and ended well, and soon everyone settled in to the new routine, thanks largely to the steady hands of wify whose steadfast stewardship and steering took a lot out of the pressure of relocation.

I started work on January 27, 2004, another fourth anniversary that has just passed. I was taken to my room, and introduced to my colleagues. The first few days was spent on getting up to speed with the technical side of my job: the available numerical modeling facility and capability and background information gleaned from previous work reports. Alongside those were the employment related details such as signing up for the various health and retirement benefits offered by my employer.

My humble beginning, my mouth-to-mouth smile, though partly for the benefit of posing for the camera, says it all. I still have the same room today with a great view to the outside world, except the wall is now adorned with pictures and my degrees, a popular method of displaying one's credentials. And the table may be less cluttered, primarily because I'm making better use of the room's space, like under the table for one, for completed projects. Oh yes, I have a new computer last year with improved number crunching capability, complete with a flat screen monitor to boot.

Those periods of initial adjustment may seem like a distant memory now, but on reflection, my family and I do deserve a pat on our backs for making the transition so uneventful as if we had never left home, except for one exception, a huge one: separation from family back home. In this regard, I seem to have emerged the least perturbed, understandably so because both my parents have passed away and I am the youngest in the family, save for a younger sister who already has her own family. Therefore while I still have sibling ties till today, we have grown accustomed to living apart except for some occasional phone calls for updates and the annual Chinese New Year reunion.

In times, the children also made their own friends in schools, the pressure of school works perhaps obviating the luxury of reminiscing. That leaves wify. After all what is left to do after all the household chores are done other than solitude. Mind you on weekdays we left for work/school at 7.00am and the children reached home after 3pm and me, usually 6pm. And in solitude, the mind becomes a fertile ground for emotional attachment, longing for companionship, for the touch of loved ones.

Being the eldest and with both parents still around then, wify has a much stronger tie to loved ones back home, and she has found the adjustment to be the toughest, easing off only on the past year or so. They say time heals. While there may be some truth to that in wify's case, I think a more plausible explanation is her taking to Buddhism, a more complete embrace than ever before. She has taken the Buddha's teachings to heart, realizing more acutely the meaning of impermanence, of non-attachment, while preserving the values that she has long cherished: filial piety, sibling affection, and compassion.

In the past four years, we have made new friends, reached new milestones, and delved deeper into the Buddhist worldview. We still have the same car since day 1, no obvious sign requiring major overhaul after clocking more than 40,000 miles, and we have moved only once. That also because we moved into our newly bought house, our very first non-movable asset acquisition.

The children are now in the next phase of their lives: college. And WT is now staying at home away from home, in a university dorm at UF. CE still lives with us, by design. You know how parents would like to keep their children close by as long as circumstances permit. The location of our home, just across from her college, is also by design. Some things in life just have to be planned, and then executed the best way we can.

WJ in Malaysia and CY in Oregon have been on their own for some time now, and coping well. And in times to come, it would be WT's and CE's turns. We have full confidence that they would handle the transition as ably as they can when the time comes, just like their elder siblings, and their parents before them.

1 comment:

Kitty Girl said...

Hm, an entry of reflection! Such long lives condensed into a few paragraphs-- there is so much more than can be written. Thanks Dad & Mom, for putting up with us and giving us the opportunities we have had. And phenomenal job on Mom, for whom I know this has probably been the hardest and yet has always put us all first.