Make sure you come back, okay? You come back!

Make sure you come back, okay? You come back! 記得回來喔!

Woke up to the surprisingly chill morning air. Reached for my phone. Oh, 6°C, no wonder. I walked over to the radiator and turned it on. Time for my yoga session.

While exhaling and inhaling, my mind started wandering (That’s why I don’t meditate. Haha ~). How blessed we are to live such an abundant life. I can’t imagine what sleeping rough is like, and my heart goes to those less-fortunate fellow earthlings.

This reminds me of how I’ve been criticised for my seemingly eternally cheerful attitude towards life by some, particularly those whiners — ‘Of course, you can. You have such a good life!’ In short, I’m accused of being a positive thinker. Mm, actually, I’m more of a doer than a thinker, really.

I don’t understand why people are always assuming. Maybe this is one way to comfort themselves for not owning their weaknesses and responsibility? Don’t they think that so-called ‘good-life people’ (such as us *duh*~) actually work hard to earn it? And the truth is, I count my blessings. I choose to count my blessings instead of whining.

Blessings are everywhere, big and small. The question is: Do you see it? Or rather, do you acknowledge it?

Our Black Friday incident serves as one of the best examples.

Mixed feelings 百感交集

Mixed feelings 百感交集

13 September, 2013. By the time we finally came out from the custom, it was 8:40pm. Unusual, because Chris, our reliable chauffeur, didn’t show up!

I looked around but there wasn’t a familiar face in sight. It could be the traffic as there was pissing rain that night. Or maybe he’s gone to the bathroom.

Okay. A text message went out to him, ‘Hi-hiyee are you there?’

A response came promptly, ‘Hi, I’m here. Hmmm and what happens next?????’

I looked around again, baffled. ‘You are? We’re under the meeting point sign in front of the Tourist Services.’

‘Are you at Heathrow — ’cause you’re not due until tomorrow???’

I gasped, ‘Er… Yuh. Today.’

How odd! Chris is the most professional driver I’ve ever known, so this is not supposed to happen at all. But then again, Boey is the one who reconfirmed the booking with him, not me, meaning I don’t really know what’s in their dialogue. So who knows? Maybe it IS our fault.

Right after I pressed ‘Send’, Chris called. He was willing to set off immediately if I’d like. Just that we had to wait. At first, I thought of just hiring a cab directly from the airport. But then, I don’t drive, so I wouldn’t know how to give directions. Furthermore, there aren’t many lampposts here, even on the motorway. The lights are mainly at the exits and roundabouts.

Heck. Just wait loh. It’s safe at the airport and at least I know I can count on Chris who’s actually a friend as well. He’s the one who took Maisie from Spain to England for us.

Just as I hung up, looking at the time & date on my phone screen, something clicked: 13 September, 2013.

For the past five whole weeks in Asia, this number ’13’ had been showing up repeatedly. Sometimes, number 20 came along as well. Usually, it was the table we dined at at a restaurant. Boey and I reckoned that it must be some lucky number and started having all sorts of billionaire fantasies, ‘We’re gonna be rich this year!!’

But the thing is, we don’t know how to buy a lottery ticket, nor do we know how to do horse racing betting. In the end, we just let go of the crazy thought, knowing too well that we’re the type who just have to work hard and save hard.

Now it finally dawned on me that it’s been God’s gentle reminder of our correct arrival time — 8pm (a.k.a.20:00), 13th.

OH ~ MY ~ SWEET ~ GOD ~~~

Around a week before our departure date, I realised I put down the flight details on the 14th in my diary which left me absolutely puzzled. Because all the way, when we talked about the trip, it was the 13th. This realisation alerted me and I thought to myself that I must check with Chris. However, later on when Boey did so with Chris via Viber, he intriguingly used the 14th as well though he was the one who pointed out the mistake in my diary. Moreover, I made the booking according to the details in my diary… So, no, it’s not Chris’ fault at all.

Annoyed with myself. I didn’t pay much attention to the itinerary this time as Boey is the one who made the bookings with his redeemed points. We could’ve avoided this mess if I were a little bit more careful.

Never mind. Now we know!

To kill time, I bought some sandwich and salad from the cafe as I’m forever on a see-food diet; my Kindle was in the check-in luggage so I read news on my mobile phone instead.

Forever on a see-food diet. 就是愛吃。

Forever on a see-food diet. 就是愛吃。

Suddenly, this headline popped into my eyes: Black Friday, Faye Wong to divorce.

Eh? So… it’s Black Friday today???

OH ~ MY ~ SWEET ~ GOD ~~~

What is wrong with me??? I knew it’s the 13th, and I knew it’s a Friday. BUT!!! This combination never came to my mind at all… Dyscalculia? Dyslexia? Early Onset Dementia? Oh well, life goes on.

Beam sighed, ‘I’m beat. I wish I could sprawl out on the floor right now.’

Feeling guilty, ‘Yup. That’d be nice eh? But think about how lucky we are. It’s safe and warm in here. And we have Chris. Do you remember that miserable rainy night in Beijing?’

Beam nodded, with yet another sigh.

That was more than five years ago. We were living in HK for six months then. Before we set off, Boey had been bombarded with information on how cunning Mainlanders would be by his HK colleagues. So, he was determined to choose the airport bus which he found online over a cab.

‘It goes to our hotel! Er… actually, no. But it goes to that road!’, he announced happily.

I frankly was not comfortable with the thought. He had no idea how big Beijing is and how long that road can be. If you ask me, I would say that 2008 is the Olympic Year and they’d been working very hard for it in almost every way. Apart from this, every time I visited Mainland, it astounded me with its rapid development. I’m sure if we get a licensed cab, there’d be no problem. After all, cheaters are everywhere, not just in China. If it’s about money… well, we’ve been very careful with our money every day, so why not indulge ourselves just once? It’s a holiday for God’s sake. Besides, shouldn’t we put Beam, our 4-year-old sweetheart, into consideration when we plan the trip?

Yes, I’m the one who visited different places in Mainland more than once before. But, for a very long time, my opinions were never really appreciated or respected. In short, I have no say because he’s the bread winner. Guess that’s the sad story of many other stay-at-home mums as well. When so many assumed that I must be the one in charge (which he happily played along most of the time) because of my stern look, what they didn’t know is that I was  the submissive one in our marriage.

When we boarded the bus, it started drizzling. Boey was too thrilled to be bothered, staring at all the fancy cars zoomed past us on the motorway.

‘Chinese are damn rich!’ he proclaimed.

I remained silent. I was worried if the drizzle would have become something else by the time we reached our destination. We never like the idea of carrying an umbrella, not even when we travel overseas. Now this might be a problem.

Just our luck — It began pouring as soon as we started walking. A middle-aged lady cycled past us and slipped on a puddle. I went over to help her get back up.

There was no shelter along the way, meaning we literally walked in the rain.

At first, Beam was excited, ‘It’s so fun!’ But very soon, her bubbly chattering stopped. She just tugged her tiny paw in my hand and walked quietly beside me, with her head lowered in case the rain got in her eyes. Every now and then when I checked on her, ‘Are you okay?’ She looked up at me and nodded with her trademark sweet smile, ‘Just a bit cold.’

At the traffic lights, I turned and saw the rain trickling down her hoodie. Her angelic tiny face was soaked. I felt so terrible inside. What a useless mother!!

Boey finally admitted that taking a cab is probably a good idea. Unfortunately, very bad timing. It was the peak hour, plus in the rain. Now that he was aware of the mistake, he tried to avoid any eye contact with me due to the guilty feeling. I ignored him too, because it boiled my blood frankly, for not standing up to him. I cursed and swore as we walked along.

It felt like eternity. Our hands became so numb from the freezing temperature.

All of a sudden, it dawned on me — Why didn’t I pray? Why did I allow the negative emotions to take over?? What kind of a Christian is that?! Bloody hell…

I started praying silently as we walked on. Please, God, guide us to our hotel and give us a happy ending for the night. PLEASE!!!

Finished. I casually looked up and… Lo and behold!! There stands the neon sign of our hotel, gleaming in the rain. We are here!!

Thank you, God!!! Praise my Lord!!!

As we entered the hall, all the eyes fell on these three drenched creatures. I overheard some whispering, ‘Aww… Poor little girl…’ So embarrassing ~~ And the giant thermometer shows that it is 2°C tonight. No wonder…

We ended up walking for almost one whole hour in the rain and the laundry cost us RMB400+, because water got in both of our bags and soaked our clothes. The irony… But luckily, Beam didn’t fall ill. Throughout the 8-day journey, she remained her chirpy, bubbly self.

I digress. Back to Heathrow on 13 September, 2013.

After two-plus hours, Chris finally showed up. Upon his appearance, Beam and I were so exhausted that we suddenly burst out laughing like two mad deflated zombie balloons (filled with laughing gas, must be). So tired, so tired… Hahaha… All your fault, all your fault… Hahaha… I know, I know… Hahaha… Sorry, sorry… Hahaha…

By the time we reached home (in the pissing rain), it was half past two.

Beam looked at me and declared, ‘I’m not taking a shower tonight. I’m going straight to bed.’

In this house, she can do whatever she wants to long as it doesn’t affect others who are involved. For quite a while, she’s been sleeping with me, instead of in her own room, and so a shower before sleep is my requirement. Shower or bath before sleep is like a ritual for myself. My bed is sacred. So, no shower, no Mama bed!

However, the five weeks in Asia has really worn me out frankly. And this Black Friday incident certainly didn’t help at all…… To hell with the ritual!!

In the end, the two zombies didn’t even wash their faces or brush their teeth. They just charged straight upstairs to the room! To lovely Mama bed!

When I woke up again, it was around noon.

As I entered the kitchen, the first things sank into my eyes were a big bouquet of fresh flowers, a ‘Welcome Home’ card, and a fresh loaf of bread. A gentle reminder in the card: ‘There is milk in the fridge.’

It’s Pat and Stephen.

... but its lights are stronger in the contrast. 相比之下,光明更為強烈。

… but its lights are stronger in the contrast.
相比之下,光明更為強烈。

Aww… I almost cried in the fullness of sheer joy. Such a grand gesture of kindness!

Pat actually rang Chris a few days before to confirm our arrival time. And of course, she got the wrong information. She was shocked to see our scattered bags that morning she came in to collect the mail and newspaper.

She had been looking after my house when I was away. I only asked her to come and open the windows to ventilate the house a bit once in a while. But of course, she’s done far more than just that, as usual. My garden is so tidy and ready for the rest of the year, thanks to her.

John, my lovely neighbour on my left (Pat is on the right), has been taking care of my garden as well. He’s the one who mows the lawn and weeds. He has to drag his mower and go around our house (Pat’s and mine are semi-detached, so are connected directly, but not John’s) to enter my garden. Before we set off to Asia, he kept telling me, ‘Remember to share pictures with us. You have a good time and make sure you come back, okay? You come back! And don’t worry about your garden. We’ll take care of it!’

When I told Mum about it on the phone later on, she was almost choked with emotions, just like me. ‘Praise the Lord! You’re so well taken care of by all the beautiful people there. I shall not worry anymore about you and Beam living in the foreign town alone.’

‘There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.’

~ 《The Pickwick Papers》 by Charles Dickens

These beautiful people are certainly the lights.

It’s not always that easy to stay cheerful and keep the faith in such a chaotic world. But I always try my best focusing on the lights and on being one as well, because it’s the only way to live on.

Thank you, God, my faithful God, for the lights!!

Be the change you wish to see in the world!! Be the light!!

Be the change you wish to see in the world!! Be the light!!

昨晚上床遲了,所以今早七點半才醒來。開了手機,顯示溫度為攝氏六度… 無怪乎冷颼颼的!

趕緊把臥室裡的暖氣打開,不一會兒,寒意就被驅除了。這兩天腳底似乎有條筋拐到的感覺,所以沒有依慣例健走或慢跑,只有維持早晨的瑜珈。吐納伸展的當兒,不由得感謝起 神的恩典,讓我們溫飽無虞,有棲身之所,我無法想像如果必須餐風露宿,那會是什麼樣的景況。也因此,為那些未能如我們般幸運的地球同胞們持續代禱,是一定要的。

想起了自己似乎常常被一些只會抱怨卻不思改進的人批評:「是啦,你是個好命人,生活很安逸啊,當然可以這麼樂觀感恩囉!」

其實這種人要怎麼唉聲嘆氣過一輩子,跟我一點關係也沒有。但我不懂的是,難道他們以為,所謂的「好命」,竟是不用努力奮鬥就可以憑空得來的嗎?馬的什麼狗屁邏輯啊?自己愛怎麼過怎麼過,但是有必要這樣抹煞人家的努力嗎?說到底,還不是為自己找藉口?我鄙視這種人。

其實,真的,每天都有大大小小滿滿的恩典。問題是,你看到了嗎?或者說,你願意承認那是恩典嗎?

九月十三日從新加坡回英國的旅程,就是個典型的好例子。

在希斯洛出關已經是夜間八點四十分,很反常地,沒見到克理斯迎上前來的身影。四處張望,眼前拿著名牌等人的烏壓壓站了一大群,但沒有一個熟悉的臉孔。也許上洗手間?也許天雨塞車(當晚傾盆大雨)?

發了簡訊:「嗨嗨~你在嗎?」

倒是馬上有回應:「嗨,在啊。嗯。。。所以呢?」

我困惑地抬頭又張望了一遍:「是喔??我們就站在遊客服務櫃檯前的會面點標誌下。」

「你在希斯洛了嗎???不是明天嗎???」

「欸。。。是啊。是今天 :P」

一頭霧水,克理斯向來專業,怎麼會犯這樣的錯誤?但是因為最後一次再確認動作是由熊貓執行,我並不清楚兩人對話內容,天曉得也許真是我們自己的疏失!

剛送出回覆,克理斯來電,如果我們願意,他可以馬上出發,只是我們要等一等。原本想,那麼晚就不要麻煩人家了,直接從機場叫計程車;但再想想,我自己不開車,所以也不認得路(更別提夜裡黑咪摸什麼都看不到 — 這裡即使是高速公路,也沒有什麼路燈,主要在交流道附近才有,何況我們那兒算是比較鄉下,沒有經驗的人很難開車),要怎麼跟司機說?等就等吧,反正在機場沒有安全顧慮,而且熟悉的司機(我們其實還有朋友關係,逃家貓咪梅喜喜就是他帶給我們的)還是讓人安心。

電話剛掛掉,看著手機螢幕上的日期,我突然像毫無防備被潑了一桶冰水般的清醒過來:13 September, 2013.

過去的五個星期裡,在新加坡,在香港,13這個數字不斷出現,有時還伴隨著20,通常都是去餐廳吃飯時的桌號。我和熊貓還傻哩呱嘰得很,以為是明牌,就在今年!開始大作發財夢!問題是,我們都不知道彩券究竟是怎麼個買法,賭馬又是怎麼個下注法,所以也就不了了之。我們安慰自己,本來就是必須雞啵嘰喀印奮鬥的傢伙,還是老實點。

現在,謎底終於揭曉了:那其實都是 上帝給我們的警示  — 13日夜間八點(20:00)抵達希斯洛。

哭笑不得。。。

大約離境一個星期前,我發現日誌上怎麼寫的是14日抵達希斯洛,我還在納悶,因為我們每次談到回程,說的都是13日,太怪了,那得跟克理斯再確認比較保險。結果,稍後熊貓跟克理斯用 Viber 通訊時,竟然說的也是14日(可是,是熊貓跟我說我日誌寫錯了!),加之我當初預約的時候,就是依著日誌資料,所以錯完全不在克理斯。

真是有點懊惱,這次因為是熊貓用點數換的機票,都由他處理,我並沒有細看行程資料。如果我謹慎點,就可以避免這個錯誤了。

算了。等待當兒,去買了三明治還有沙拉,享受美食真是人生一大享受。吃乾抹淨後,因為 Kindle 丟在寄艙行李箱裡(沒料到有這樣的意外),我不喜歡在公眾場合開箱,就用手機上網看新聞殺時間。

不經意讀到了八卦頭條:黑色星期五王菲離婚。

欸?所以,今天是黑色星期五???真的好怪,明明就知道是13日,也知道是星期五,可就硬是沒把這兩項連在一起。不禁失笑。是有閱讀困難嗎?還是計算困難?也許是早發性老人癡呆?Well,人生總要繼續下去滴。

除了奮力抵抗瞌睡蟲的洶洶來襲,我和祥一邊滑手機,一邊攻擊著手中美食,還有一搭沒一搭閒聊著。祥說累啊,真想四仰八叉躺在地板上。我心虛地回應,是啊是啊,不過我們很幸運,起碼可以遮風避雨,還有克理斯來接我們,對嗎?想像一下,如果必須在淒風苦雨的夜裡拖著四件行李走,好像五年前在北京那樣,不是更慘?祥大大嘆了口氣,是啊。。。

那回出發到北京前,熊貓受到一眾香港同事們好心的「諄諄叮囑」影響,堅決不願意從機場搭計程車到下榻飯店,因為「大陸人都不老實,小心被騙!」其實,2008正是如火如荼為京奧準備的時刻,而且那些年我見到的大陸大城市發展,幾乎可以用一日千里來形容,我直覺應該比往日更上軌道了,只要找有牌照的營業車就比較保險吧?奸詐的人到處有,在台灣和新加坡,我們也沒少經歷過。如果是為了覺得可以省錢,我們平日花錢也夠謹慎的,就偶爾大方一次並不過分啊。而且帶著四歲的孩子,是不是要考慮一下腳程?

但是我親愛的相公的個性是這樣的,尤其那些年還沒開竅,我說的話是沒價值的,即便我才是那個去過大陸旅遊的人。他毫不理會,十分勤勞滴在網上看了一宿,然後喜孜孜地宣布,有機場巴士到我們的台灣飯店喔!喔,不,是到台灣飯店的那條路!

我很是狐疑,你知道北京有多大嗎?那條路很可能比烏節路還長不知道幾倍。。。

他不理我。而儘管我總是被誤認為很強勢的太太,我實際上在親密關係裡是個小女人,所以也就遵從了。

上了巴士,熊貓興奮地像個鄉巴佬:「哇!怎麼高速公路上都是名牌大轎車?!好有錢喔,這些中國人。。。」我只是望著窗外的細雨,靜靜在心裡祈禱著,希望下車的時候,雨就停了。

真的是幸運極了。一下車,當時四歲的祥好開心,牽著我的手,說哇!真好玩耶~趴趴趴走沒幾步,雨勢變大了,一個騎單車經過的大媽滑了一跤,整個人「哎呦!!!」跌個大馬趴,我趕緊過去扶她起身。

我們在新加坡沒習慣帶雨傘的,所以到海外旅遊也從來不帶。那一路都沒什麼走廊,所以我們就一直走在雨中。初始,祥還咭哩呱啦興奮得很,越走,她小人家頭越低、越安靜。只是乖乖地牽著我的手,乖乖地跟著走,毫無怨言。幾次問了她還好嗎?她乖巧滴點點頭,就是冷了而已。等紅綠燈時,我看著雨水從她連身帽的帽沿流淌而下,整個小臉蛋都濕透了,心疼不知從何說起,我就是這麼弱勢沒用的媽媽。

熊貓終於決定搭計程車了,但是一路上都招不到計程車,因為是下班的尖峰時間。大概心有歉疚,他不大敢看我,我也不多去理會他,因為多看多氣,更何況我自己當初就該堅持的,為甚麼總是忍讓?我邊走邊在心裡咒罵著。

走了很久很久,我們的手都凍得沒知覺了。罵著罵著,我突然想到,怎麼不禱告?竟然任著這麼負面的情緒主宰自己,不夠格的基督徒!

於是開始了,我默默祈禱著,請 主耶穌讓我們能順利找著台灣飯店,讓今晚有個美好的結束。

祈禱完畢,無意抬頭看了一下,什麼???!!!台灣飯店亮晶晶的大招牌,在雨中眨巴閃爍著,原來我們已經走到這裡了!感謝 神!!讚美 神!!

一進入鬧哄哄的大廳,所有眼睛都盯著我們三隻落湯雞看,幾個大媽小小聲說著,哎呦,好可憐的小娃娃呀。。。我真是尷尬極了。再一看牆上的超大溫度顯示器,攝氏2度。

我們走了將近一個鐘頭,然後兩個旅行箱因為都進了水,幾乎所有衣物必須送洗,花了我們四百多塊人民幣。諷刺呵~熊貓的初衷就是要省錢的說。幸運的是,小獸沒有生病,那八天裡活跳跳如常。

嚴重跑題。場景拉回2013年9月13日的英國倫敦希斯洛機場。

終於,漫長的兩個多小時後,克理斯到了。原本就累斃了的梅小獸和我,突然像兩顆正在洩氣(想來是笑氣)的氣球殭屍,抱著彼此開始無可抑止地哈哈大笑。好累啊好累。。。哈哈哈。。。都是你啦都是你。。。哈哈哈。。。我知道嘛我知道。。。哈哈哈。。。對不起吼對不起。。。哈哈哈。。。

到家已經是半夜兩點半,祥眼睛鼓溜鼓溜滴看著我,正式宣布她不洗澡,要直接上床。趁火打劫啊這是!(她睡自己的床,我就無所謂,只要記得刷牙;但是目前她都跟我睡,我規定不洗澡就滾回自己房間睡)但是捏,這五個星期以來,我的精神狀態一直都累,又經過這一番折騰,我這個睡前一定要「淨身」的傢伙,也決定放過自己一馬,連刷牙洗臉都免了。於是,丟了行李,氣球殭屍以火箭般的速度衝上樓!

衝進臥室!

直接命中目標睡床!

我連感恩禱告都來不及開始,就陣亡了。

再下樓時,已近中午。進了廚房,首先印入眼簾的是一大把盛開的花朵,一張「歡迎回家」的卡片,還有一條吐司麵包;卡片裡提醒了,冰箱裡有鮮奶喔。

剎那間,無以名狀的感動,在心中如漣漪般漾開。這是鄰居奶奶派蒂夫妻留的。

這次遠行五周,我把家裡鑰匙託給她,請她偶爾來幫我開窗透透氣。熱心善良如派蒂,做的當然不只這些,我們的花園被整理得很好。

還有老約翰(派蒂是右邊鄰居,他在左邊)也很照顧我們的花園,草都是他喀喀喀拖著除草機繞過前門來除的(因為我們兩戶之間不像跟派蒂那樣有通道,他得繞到派蒂家的另一頭拐進來)。臨行前,老約翰諄諄叮囑:不要擔心你的花園,我們會好好照顧的。記得多拍些照片,一定要回來喔!一定要喔!

打電話跟媽媽說這些事,媽媽也是一下感動到說不出話:感謝 神!有那麼好的人在照顧著你,可以放心你們母女獨自在異鄉生活了。

後來派蒂告訴我,她特地在幾天前打電話給克理斯,確認我們的抵達日期。想當然爾,是錯誤的日期。。。所以,她周六早上進來收拾的時候,見到被移位的信件報紙,還直納悶自己眼花了嗎?等看到了丟在玄關的行李箱,嚇了一大跳!

『大地上有黑暗的陰影,但相比而言,光明更為強烈。』

~ 狄更斯 《匹克威克外傳》

這些有著美麗心地的好人們,就是那光明。

在這個價值觀混淆的世界,要一直保持樂觀和信念,有時不是那麼容易。但我讓自己專注在這些光明,也期許自己成為光明,因為,這是這才是生存的王道。

感謝我的信實 上帝,讓我們永不缺光明!