Friday, July 30, 2010

Que Sera Sera- Whatever will be, will be

Birthdays come only once a year. When I was a young girl, my dad would ask me at the end of the school day, “Did your classmates sing for you?” There were essentials to a birthday: cake my mom made (often times, Mocha Maida, her sweet tribute to me), spaghetti or noodles for long life, and hearing the happy birthday song at least once. I internalized the expectation for birthdays to be extra-special. But as an adult, days before my birthday I worry how to make it memorable. Would I have a party? Do I go off somewhere? When you live abroad, away from family and friends, an added pressure escalates of whom you celebrate it with.

This year, a few days leading up to my birthday, I started asking existential questions every expat asks when their friends start leaving. What am I doing here? You and your friends arrived about the same time. If they are leaving, does that mean it is time to go, too? It’s as if you have the same expiry date in one place. So you wonder, if your expiry date is coming up soon, too. My best friend in Singapore left me 11 months ago. He was my accomplice in staging a fun-filled birthday last year.

This year, the birthday blues were undeniable. I did not want to work days before my birthday. Finally, I confided to another crazy writer my feelings. She commiserated with me. She promised we would celebrate my birthday.

Like an efficient Advertising Account Executive, she ran some ideas by me:
Girls night out in Orchard Tower. Me: No! Too sleezy!
A good dimsum place in Aljunied Me: No! This part of town does not really exude happy memories for me. It’s also quite popular with prostitutes.
Is there a theme here? Despite being a tough client, she couldn’t please, Isabel was still game to celebrate with me. She even suggested meeting up the night before, to usher in my birthday together.

I suggested why not dinner in a restaurant I yet have to try in Clarke Quay. This writer and I have had many happy moments sitting by the River. We would have cheap dinner in Lau Pa Sat. Then, we would buy a tub of Panna Cotta for me, and Tiramisu for her from an Italian stall. We sit by the Singapore River, savoring the romance of the evening. With every spoonful, we swallow our fears and woes. We laugh. I then, jokingly tease her to call our chauffer to drive us home. We part. She heads to the bus stop. I head to the MRT station.

Singapore is a serious place. And, its seriousness was starting to eat me up. My zen guru describes me as someone joyfully “ever at play.” “That’s it,” I figured. I need playmates to celebrate this special day with. Thankfully, my dear friend, Shawn was in town. He was packing the last bits of his apartment to complete his move to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was my willing brunch date. He thought we were merely meeting up before he left. He had no inkling it is my birthday today.

He suggested we go to Marina Bay Sands. He wanted to see the Sky Park. The rooftop connecting the three towers of the resort hotel was a definite conversation piece. It looked like a spaceship or a skateboard plopped over the buildings. Living in one place too long, we sometimes lose our sense of wonder. But since he no longer lives here. He had the awe and disposition of a tourist.

Marina Bay Sands is bright, sleek, and airy. A wire sculpture hangs on the towering ceiling in the lobby. Despite many attempts, photos don’t give it justice. Shawn arrived with an old camera in hand. He was shooting in film. I laughed telling him, “It has been years since I had used film.” A string quartet played J.S. Bach’s Cantata, Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring. All was good.

There is a $20 admission fee to the Sky Park. But we were aptly warned that it was drizzling. You can enter only once. But you can stay until 10pm. There were no restaurants open up on the 55th floor at this time.  So the only option was to eat hotdogs up there.

We walked to the casino and saw the mall. A river runs through it. It reminded me of The Venetian in Macau. Instead of a gondola, there was a sampan floating on the shallow 2 ft-high man made river. But tourists seemed to enjoy the ride. All the restaurants were pricey. We opted for a simple breakfast of Quiche Lorraine at Coffee Bean Bistro instead.

Brunch at  Marina bay sands with Sampan in the background

The sky park gave us a 360-degree view of Singapore. They had nifty audio guides telling you of the attractions below and nearby islands.  We didn’t bother to use it, opting to goof around with our cameras instead. The attraction was the sky park itself, with an infinity pool for hotel guests. We jumped around. There was something about being up on the roof that made us happy and giddy. Perhaps, it was the elevation. I parted with Shawn at 1:30 to head to my interview with Corinne Bailey Rae. The famous singer was in town for a one-night concert in Singapore, part of the tour of her second album, “The Sea.”

"I'm on top of the world..."

Shawn's 'tourist' perspective gave me fresh eyes to see Singapore

Corinne was warm and accommodating. We talked as friends would. We giggled and laughed. She told me stories. I listened. But when my time was up, Corinne continued the conversation. She looked at my business card commenting on my name and my book. I realized I had a book in my bag I was supposed to post to a librarian. I grabbed it and gave it to her. She was grateful to have some reading material on her plane ride to Japan.  Learning it was my birthday, the kind folks at Warner organized two tickets for me and a friend to enjoy the show.

Me and Corinne Bailey Rae, a multi-awarded singer, songwriter and guitarist

So my hazy plans for dinner with a handful of friends quickly fizzled out. Instead, I asked my accomplice, Isabel to join me to the concert. She gladly agreed. At this point, I was giddy with excitement from all the surprises coming my way. I threw all my planning and worrying out the window. I realized often times I try to control my life, or obsess about making birthdays special. Instead, someone up there had his own agenda. He had his little bag of tricks to make my birthday just perfect.

We sat on the fifth row from the stage. Corinne and her band were at an intimate distance. We were also positioned with the best view of the very intense and charming keyboardist- good eye candy for two single girls. Corinne sang a selection of songs from her two albums. When she sang “Put your records on” I closed my eyes, felt the words, and danced as she sang:

“Three little birds sat on my window, and they told me I don’t need to worry
summer came like cinnamon, so sweet….
Maybe sometimes
We’ve got it wrong, but it’s alright, the more things seem to change,
The more they stay the same.

Ooo, don’t you hesitate,
Girl put your records on.
Tell me your favorite son.
You go ahead and let your hair down.”

But it was her Encore song that clearly sealed the message of this birthday.  She introduced it as a song originally recorded by Doris Day.  Corinne and her band did their own soulful rendition of the song. It stirs you deeply.  

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

(a clip of Corinne Bailey Rae singing Que Sera Sera I found on You Tube, shot in a different concert. Taking photos and videos were not allowed at this concert in Singapore). 

It then became clear.  There is no need to fret or worry about many details of life: my career, where to live, having an amazing man to journey with in life, having cute adorable children… and the list goes on. You just have to show up for life and give it your best. Someone up there has it all figured out, giving you the best. Leave space in your life to let God surprise you. Trust and know that He will.

After the show, I finally had my noodles for long life at Barossa (also one of my favorite wine regions
in my past home in South Australia). We opted for Aglio Olio Bacon with zucchini. Generously seasoned with black pepper and slivers of red peppers, it blended well with the chunky pieces of bacon. The spaghetti was perfectly cooked al dente. The pizza with rocket, feta and eggplant was equally delicious. Between glasses of wine, Isabel and I both shared honest assessments of our lives here in Singapore. There were some tears. But by the time we tucked into the sticky date pudding, tears had been replaced with smiles. At this point, my friend Francis joined us for a couple bottles of Aussie beers. By 1am, the bars at the Esplanade closed and we took it as cue to head home.

Spaghetti Aglio Olio with my beloved Bacon

Pizza with rocket, feta and eggplant

sticky date pudding

One for the road with Francis and Isabel

I will never again worry about my birthdays becoming extra-special days. I didn’t expect front row seats, a lovely conversation with a world famous singer, goofing around 55 floors above the ground, delicious bacon pasta, and celebrating with such dear friends. But all these surprises abundantly fed my soul. And if my dad asks: did they sing happy birthday to you. I can proudly say one person did this year. Corinne Bailey Rae’s jovial manager sang Happy Birthday to me!

To all the friends and friends who wrote on my wall on Facebook and sent text messages, thanks for all the love.  
Cbeers to Birthdays!

July 29, No portion of this may be published or used without the permission of the writer.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading... drop me a line here. Cheers!