Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Blast from the past

Out of the blue a former classmate emailed to say my year group at secondary school has started an online group, please join. So I dutifully did.

First I read the posts and was tickled pink by several posts. Us 'old girls' have a great sense of humour indeed. Nostalgia struck as some of us recalled happy and less-than-happy events, but boy! it makes me feel old.

But the good thing about the year group is, of course, everyone knows exactly how old you are, and there is no need to pretend to be anything else.

It was the Singlish that surprised me. We were in the 'premier school' in Singapore. We were taught to speak 'proper'. And now this bunch of old girls -- 'housewives', teachers, doctors, accountants, etc. -- are speaking/writing a language that we were not allowed to speak.

I'm sure these old girls don't speak to their children and business associates like this either. How interesting is that?

So I have already been chastised for writing too 'proper'. Having lived outside Singapore since 1991, I only hear Singlish for the two weeks or so that I get to spend in Singapore every two years. Not enough, I'm afraid.

I am also further handicapped by not having learned to speak 'Hokkien', another Chinese language (but designated a 'dialect' by the Singapore authorities), on which grammar Singlish is supposedly based.

So I learn from my more learned friends.

What is this thing about growing older and feeling the urge to reconnect with our past, and taking the opportunity to rebel, do something we were not allowed to do when we were at school, etc?

All this makes me a bit homesick actually. People -- including husband -- sometimes forget that I remain a foreigner in this country ( I have the passport to prove it).

While I feel truly at home with my family in the physical home that we live, my inner-most, deepest, most profound feeling of home is when I touch down at Changi Airport. That is the gateway to my home, the place of my birth.

Or as the older Chinese would say, my xiang xia (Mandarin) or heong har (Cantonese).

Which reminds me how it only makes it more painful for those children of immigrant parents in UK who have never known another homeland and yet get asked so often by total strangers -- because of their colour of skin -- 'And where are you from?'.

My immigrant father always thought of that little village in China as his heong har, and for me, Singapore will always be my xiang xia, whether or not I am able to speak Singlish as Singlish should be spoken,

Back to Organic-Ally.

No comments: