Just browsed Channel News Asia’s “Year In Pictures“. So few celebrations, too many tragedies and goodbyes. So here I am, reflecting on my own 2011. It started out with a Happy Now Year wish, and before I could blink properly, I’d enjoyed many “now” moments, but this year had also been peppered with unmet expectations, disappointments, frustration. Fortunately, there have been pleasant surprises, growth and hope, too.
This was my first full year in China. As I had hoped, this market called for lots of travelling. I had been on the plane at least once every month of 2011. A few of them were for trips to Singapore, and two holidays in Tokyo/Japan. If there was one thing I should bitch about, it’s that I had too few holidays this year, either in terms of frequency or destinations!
This year, I could participate more actively on Couchsurfing as a host. Save for the months in summer when I was swamped with business trips, I was enjoying hosting different people from everywhere who didn’t mind sleeping on my couch – from the one who took for granted the food in my fridge to the super neat Japanese surfer who returned my couch to its original form as though he had never been there.
My final surfer this year was an American Jew. I’ve always been intrigued by the Holocaust, along with stories of strength and brevity the Jews displayed during that very difficult decade. I recently bought a book by Holocaust survivor psychologist Viktor Frankl – “Man’s Search for Meaning” – trying to understand how his theory/practice of logotherapy could help create products that can be meaningful for consumers. “The Pianist” also ranks among my favorite films, but one that I swear will never watch again. This film holds some special memories for me because as I watched Adrien Brody collect his Oscar for his role in the film, a call came through to inform me that my grandma had broken her hip in a very bad fall. This was in March, and she passed away in August.
So, being so upclose and personal with a Jew for the first time, hearing from him stories about his faith and visiting the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum made me even more fascinated with the ties that this mega Chinese city had with the minority Jews back in the day. We’ve become fast friends too. He told me he had a blog, but I never remembered to visit it until today, on New Year’s Eve, when my mind’s not entirely on work even though I’m physically here.
The blog is like nothing I expected. Maybe somewhere in our conversations he had mentioned serving in the army, but I don’t remember now, so what I had read on his blog blew my mind. I have so many questions to ask him, I hope summer comes around soon and hopefully, as he had hoped, he’d return to China after finishing his program at Johns Hopkins, and we can talk about all those experiences in the Middle East.
He was a soldier in Israel for more than a year right up to two months ago. The stories were captivating, the writing compelling. I found myself mind travelling through the vast unfamiliar landscapes of Middle Eastern nations through his prose, on this New Year’s Eve, far far away from this crowded megalopolis of Shanghai. Coincidentally, just last night, I chanced upon Green Day’s 21 Guns after not hearing it for ages, and made the opening line my new year resolution, well, sort of:
“Do you know what’s worth fighting for?”