The friendship pact

The friendship pact is one of those promises that you make with your friends about the future. That wherever you are, whatever time of year it is, you pick up your bags and meet at a designated place for that year.

My Dad has a friendship pact with his University classmates, and every year for 40 years, those who can make it, and those who are still alive, come together, from wherever they are in the world, some in America, some in New Zealand, to honour this pact.

Only one classmate out of the 20 or so classmates will never be able to make it to a reunion. He was shot dead in the head for poisoning his neighbour.

Last year, my entire family got a chance to attend this reunion in China. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. I was more excited to see Shanghai and Hong Kong, the big, modern cities, rather than the local destinations that we would be meeting at.

But as always, low expectations turned into pleasant surprises, and this local destination became the highlight of my trip.

As soon as we arrived in Sanming, China, and my Dad spotted one of his classmates waiting by a post, he transformed from “an ordinary Dad” to an animated, loud schoolboy, exuding life and vibrancy. One by one, as more of his classmates found each other in the crowd, and embraced, there was an excitement in the air that brought this little town to life.

They talked in furious frenzy, from the platform all the way to the train ride to our hotel, until the train staff had to tell them to keep it down.

The intangible happiness that their friendship brought, was something that could not be mirrored on our solo trip to Shanghai or Hong Kong. Bustling and crowded as these modern cities were, there was only a surface-level of enjoyment that washed away after a few nights spent there.

The places that we went to at this local destination was truly magical. For one of our activities, we bamboo rafted across the lake. We were surrounded by boulders taller and bigger than skyscrapers so we had to crane our necks to take in the whole view. One of my Dad’s classmates burst into song, and the melody traveled across the boulders and echoed around to the back and the front of our pack.

Another of my Dad’s classmates caught a fish in his hands and he stared at it in wide-eyed wonder, like a schoolboy who had caught his first catch of the day.

Left and right I caught glimpses of these rare expressions that brought warmth to my heart. Whether bamboo rafting, or squeezing through narrow caves, there was an energy all around that was so special that I wish I could’ve put it inside a treasure box and carried it back home.

Our last night ended with a performance. The room was booked and the stage was set. As the youngest member there, my task was to play the drum roll while everybody else passed a bag around. Whoever it landed it on when the drum roll stopped, would have to go up on stage and perform. This was a case of anxiety for everyone who was nervous about performing, so the bag got thrown around like hot potatoes.

But when the “unlucky ones” got on stage, they performed beautifully. There was Chinese folk dancing, ballroom dancing and singing. Someone else had a go at playing the drum and somehow the bag landed between my sister and me, so we had to go up on stage and perform. Unlike the others, we had not prepared for our act, so we chose to sing Avril Lavigne’s Complicated, a horrible choice because our voices shook while we tried to sing the fast-paced chorus. I was also wearing large bathroom slippers, so they were protruding out from the velvet stage.

Since that day, I have brought back with me the memory of that trip. Those memories were locked in my mind, but now I’ve opened the lock and let them out. Instead of wishing to belong, I have made plans with friends to share experiences together. Instead of planning in my head, we have been planning together. Instead of talking, we have been doing.

My friends and I are going to Japan in November, and then South East Asia next year. And then mid next year, we are hoping that we can all make a permanent move to a new country. We are helping each other save money for these trips, by introducing each other to part-time jobs that we can do outside of our day jobs. We are sharing a common goal and most importantly, we are doing it together.

Our friendship pact is just beginning. But I hope that it will grow old with us, just as my Dad’s did.

A big decision

Last year, I wrote in my diary that I was going to quit my day job on the 25th March. Today is the 25th March. It’s also my birthday.

The funny thing is, when I wrote that little note in my diary, I didn’t know how I was going to be able to quit my job. I’d just bought a house, and taken out a huge mortgage, so I needed the money to pay for the bills.

I didn’t really think my little note was a remotely sensible or possible idea.

All I knew was that I wanted time. Enough time to work on writing a novel.

It wasn’t until the beginning of this year, when I applied for a freelance job, and got it, that I realised that this was my opportunity to buy myself some time.

If I quit my day job now, I will have time, say roughly a year to work on my novel. But if I quit my job a year from now, the freelance job might run out of projects for me to do and I might not get the opportunity of time to finish what I intended to finish.

Writing out my thought process has helped me validate my decision. I’ve actually taken a day off work today, so I won’t be able to quit today. But I could draft a resignation letter and hand it in this week. The thought of doing that makes me so nervous.

By no means am I quitting because I want to relax on the beach or do nothing. That’s a distinction I’ve been trying to be clear with myself about.

It’s a scary decision. I’ve been mulling over it for a while now. So many bad things could happen. The freelance job could run out of projects to do right now. I would’ve just quit a decent job. But on the other hand, good things could happen. So many good things if I promise to put in the time and effort I need to get things done.

I did ask for time. And I have an opportunity. Let’s see what I decide to do this week.

The gutsy girl

Because I’m young, stupid and naive, I thought it would be a no-brainer to follow in the footsteps of some leading ladies and heroines in this book:

The Gutsy girl: Escapades for your life of Epic Adventure

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By saying YES to all the roadtrips I got invited to this Summer, I definitely came out scathed with memories.

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Road trip 1: Tongariro Crossing (Or more like the spilling out of guts)

So here’s what happened:

I was supposed to go on an epic 8 hour hike with my group of girls across the Tongariro Crossing but as soon as we arrived at the backpackers motel I had a severe case of the runs which lasted the entire day and night and the morning after. So I was a no show, and ended up lying in bed the whole day.

I did leave my room once to grab a glass of water and ended up being treated to a few hours of humourous conversations with a cast of international backpackers and a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner with roast chicken, ham, potato gravy… everything. And, to top it off, I made 4 new, amazing friends.

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Roadtrip 2: Cathedral Cove (The drowning incident) 

I must have thought that I was Wonder woman because when the waves were crashing down against the rocks, I recklessly abandoned any notion of my mortality and headed further out to sea and well, got stuck in the waves.

It was the loneliest and scariest moment of my life trying to stay afloat while the waves continuously crashed down over my head. All I could think of to the waves was: ‘Stop! give me a break so I can swim to shore.’ But it was just too strong and I felt so small against this big ocean.

My moment of relief came when someone swimming in the ocean saw me and dragged me in to safety.

But just so that I would get over my trauma, I went right back out to the ocean and had some cautious fun splashing about in the shallower areas.

How gutsy was that?

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To sum it all up

I had some good gutsy and bad gutsy moments, and moments where everything literally spilled out from my guts. Splendid!

Since summer’s almost over, and I’m trying to squeeze every little bit of fun out of the sunshiny weather, I think it’s time to consult my gutsy girls book to see what’s next on the adventure agenda!