Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Cruising To A New Sunrise

A Vacation With The Extended Family

When Mom broached the subject of an extended family vacation on the Royal Caribbean – Mariner of the Seas for 5 days, I spent 2 weeks mulling about spending my precious leave days from work stuck in a cruise ship.  My thoughts on the first week was focused on the possibility and ease at which I could jump overboard and swim back to shore should the need arise.  The second week was dedicated to research about the facilities and activities on the ship which could allow me to have adequate me time away from the claustrophobia I might feel from being restricted to the space within the ship as well as  the disdain I felt about being immersed in a crowd of tourists queuing at the dining room entrance an hour before meal times, reserving deck chairs with their towels at 5am in the morning,  and stacking their plates with dessert, appetizer and main course all at once.

It did not help Mom’s case about this vacation when she sold it in this manner, “I booked you and I on a cruise with the family because if you come along, I get 50% discount on the price as I am a ‘senior citizen’.  So you must come ah!”

Obediently, I applied for leave from work and assured my men at home that the only reason I was leaving them behind was that they were not senior citizens.


Determined To Enjoy The Cruise

I was determined to enjoy my first experience on the cruise.  The friendly crew from the State Room attendant right through to the waiting staff at the restaurants went above and beyond to delight the guests, so it was not difficult to relax into a daily routine of enjoying the copious amount of food served 24 hours a day, and the professionally produced staged shows each night.  Several bars were dotted conveniently at each deck of the ship, in case I was driven to drink while managing conversations as civilly as possible with an uncle who had an EQ of 0. 

I was also cognizant of the fact that with an 86 year old grandmother in tow, I had the responsibility of ensuring that she enjoyed every minute of that vacation time with the family.  Mom often whispered to me as she kept me in check when I felt annoyed enough to want to hit that 0-EQ Uncle on the head with my shoe, “How much more time does Granny have with us? Please think twice before you say anything stupid.”


Family Time

 As we sailed across the Malacca Straits into the Andaman Sea, I woke up each morning at 5am to capture the Sunrise, and left our dinner table abruptly each evening at 6pm to capture the Sunset. I spent most of the mornings perfecting a selfie against the backdrop of the emerald-green waters of the ocean.  I wheeled Granny into the Casino to watch her operate the jackpot machine like a rabid Pilot on the computer dashboard of the Starship Enterprise.  I strolled with Mom along the jogging path on the deck whilst listening to a lengthy lecture on sun-damaged skin and ageing. I shared jokes with my other 2 favorite uncles who were gifted with higher EQ than the eldest one.

I did not have a chance to embark on my daily gym routine although the ship had a huge gym filled with state-of-the-art equipment because I did not fancy spending an hour working out, only to spend another 3 hours trying to hunt down the rest of the family throughout the ship after. I was all kitted up and ready for my sunset rock-wall-climbing experience but Mom was more interested in lining up for a chicken roll and a slice of pizza at the 24-hour cafĂ©.  So I decided that spending time with Mom having a good chat over a cup of tea while she polished several chicken rolls and slices of pizza was more important.   I registered for yoga classes early in the morning but decided  that sitting out on our balcony with Mom to discuss the important topic of what shapes the clouds made, was more fun.  I was prepared to spend my day enjoying a half-empty ship as the rest of the guests disembark for their shore excursion in Phuket one day. As my son aptly put it across Facebook one day, “For Mom, a HAPPY CRUISE IS AN EMPTY CRUISE.”  However, I decided to disembark the ship in the afternoon to take my Mom out for a little shopping trip in Patong Beach, Phuket, and we enjoyed the ubiquitous Thai fare of Pad Thai and Boat Noodles before returning to the ship.

Throughout the cruise, I hardly had any Me Time as I tried to “stick with the program” to spend more quality time with my extended family. So when I returned from the cruise, a friend said in surprise, “What? You packed for a vacation with the intention to spend more time in the gym each day to get fitter, do your sprints around the track, attend yoga and pilates classes and get in some massage time but you did none of these! What exactly were you doing for 5 days?”


Chasing A New Sunrise

I reflected on my experience during the cruise and realized that the reason I had initial doubts and skepticism about this vacation was because I had been chasing my sunrise and sunsets in a wrong way. 

I was focused on the superficial aspects of special moments that I was expecting to enjoy, like waking up at 5am to wait for the sunrise. However, I forgot about the miracle behind a sunrise and the fact that the sunrise each day, actually looked very different from each other, beckoning me to see each day as a gift and an opportunity to start anew.

This vacation was not about spending more time with an 86 year old Granny who might have so little time left with us.  It was about reconnecting with the grand dame of the family who had planted the roots of piety, familial love, and resilience in the ground for my mother’s generation, my generation and the generation after.  That was an invaluable lesson in committing to celebrate our family’s past, present and future.

It was not about having to manage verbal altercations with my eldest Uncle who had very little social aptitude.  It was about the fun and jokes my other uncles and I shared across the dinner table, having a hearty laugh at my eldest uncle’s callous retorts that he had often dished out irrationally.  That was an invaluable lesson in diffusing tension and managing the dynamics of interpersonal relationships.

It was not about how much time I spent with Mom throughout the vacation.  It was all about the quality time spent having meaningful conversations with her during the cruise, sharing our thoughts, fears and memories.  This was an invaluable lesson in the need for me to make the effort to continue having more meaningful conversations with her even after the vacation.  Acknowledging that I spent little time with her every week, I was committed to ensure that each moment I spent with her would be one where I was fully present.


Coming Home To New Perspectives

On the last day of the cruise, as my ship pulled into Singapore waters and the skyline of the central business district came into full view, adorned with a spectacular sunrise, I began to see this wonderfully quirky extended family in a new light. We all came together, whatever differences we had as a family, and whatever expectations we had about the cruise.  What pulled us together was the fact that we celebrated a priceless moment together as a family.  We might sometimes fight, and we might sometimes not speak to each other, or we might each hold stubbornly strong to our respective opinions.  However, nothing could change the fact that we were a closely-knitted family. 

How could I ask for anyone within the family to change, including my uncle with 0 EQ? I will always love them for who they are.  Every day, I celebrate a new sunrise, and like a new sunrise, I am grateful for the opportunity to feel the warmth and love within this family.

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from 
www.singaporemaven.com.  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.