Tuesday, November 10, 2009


On my writing desk right now, there are seven big sunflowers grinning at me. Beautifully arranged in different vases, they use up most of my desk. But I am not complaining for they are tangible reminders of a happy occasion.

Three days ago, I launched my second book “Six Degrees of Expatriation: Uncovering lives of Expats in Singapore” at Borders along Orchard Road. For this writer’s life, every success is hard earned. There are no shortcuts. And this book was no different. It entailed: long hours of hard work transcribing interviews and writing each page, all the nitty-gritty production details with my publishers, and all sorts of drama along the way.

Standing before a crowd of friends and acquaintances in Singapore was surreal. It was hard to believe that just two years ago, I only knew one person in that room. Everyone else I had just encountered and connected with in the past two years. Several people I had just met a few weeks ago, yet they came to celebrate this joyous occasion.

They arrived with big smiles on their faces. Their hugs acknowledged how they shared this accomplishment with me. Two friends arrived in identical outfits. They approached me beaming the biggest smile. They gave me the tightest hug, and even a big SLR camera to capture this moment, and even handed me a teddy bear clutching a sunflower. They signed their car lovingly, “From your family” knowing that we have become family for each other in our adopted home.

When I arrived my published handed me a bouquet of three sunflowers. I told her it was perfect for it was my favorite flower. “Funny,” she said, “I kept looking at other flowers but somehow the sunflowers kept calling me.”

As I signed books, a florist delivered a large bouquet of flowers with three sunflowers right at the core of the arrangement. For a moment, I froze wondering who would be sending flowers. Was it a guy? A secret admirer or a lost love perhaps. It opened the card and sighed. It was one of the expats I featured in the book She wasn’t feeling well and could be physically present at my book launch.

Other friends arrived with their bulky SLR cameras, snapping away. My parents flew in from Manila to celebrate this milestone with me. My mother was thrilled to see her daughter sign books in Borders, a prestigious international bookstore. For me, the bookstore has always been my happy place in the three countries I’ve lived in: the US, Australia and Singapore.

The word writer is often prefaced by the adjective: struggling. And indeed, it is my reality. Only three weeks ago, I was going through a rough time. On my way home, I saw sunflowers for sale in a florist. But with limited funds, I settled on a yellow Gerbera instead. I was hoping it would cheer me up as a sunflower usually does.

One sunflower is enough to make me smile. But receiving seven sunflowers that day summed up how happy that I felt deep down. It was warm, sunny, and filled with so much hope. There are good days, blah days, and there are extra-special days like this one.

Here’s to more seven sunflower days in the future!


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