I received a parcel that I thought I wasn't expecting.
Scanning carefully through the label on the box, I recalled the conversation with my sister on new year's eve.
My sister had mentioned about my new address and the post code. She tried to copy out from the Christmas card that I'd sent but she was having trouble with my hand writing.
She said she always felt bad not having done anything in response to my letters and cards, that she wanted send me a few bits and she stressed she was missing me terribly.
I could sense the tears in her voice as she spoke, but I didn't think it was anything unusual. I tried to cheer her up and suggested she should come to visit me soon and perhaps we could spend some time together in summer.
I told her I now even have a spare bedroom where I could put her up so she doesn't have to crush on the sofa anymore. She laughed cheerfully and said it didn't matter where she sleeps as long as I'm with her. Her voice shook a bit.
Although she was exceptionally emotional unlike her usual self, I could not have guessed why she sounded how she sounded.
In the box I received from my dear sister, Sara, amongst all the things she had carefully chosen for me to remember our childhood together, was a letter.
A hand written letter in a bright orange envelope that read 'to my dear loving sister Su'.
Every sentence has come as a shock and I could not stop the waves of emotions crushing my heart. My heart beat stopped.
I was so upset to be the last person to find out the truth of what had been going on at home for the last 12 years of my absence. I was so sorry and thankful that my family had wished and worked so hard to protect me and my feelings so badly. I felt so guilty to be the one being so far away and to have lived a different life. I felt so sick and angry that I couldn't do anything to help or change what's happened to my family.
They had lost it all.
I knew my parents business wasn't going too well. But I had assumed that it was just the way things were going in all places. With the downturns of world economy, I presumed maybe times were just very tough back home, but never once imagined that my parents will get to the point of losing it all.
They now have nothing.
Everything they earned, owned and worked hard for was gone and taken away.
My sister added, 'Mum, dad and I are going to have to move out from the house we're in, possibly in matter of few weeks at the most. Our brother will be okay. He's still in university and is going to finish his final year.
The reason why I am writing this to you isn't to worry you or upset you. I just want you to know that things had not been too great over here and that may be the reason why mum was so down.
I thought about moving out of home for a long time when things were too difficult. There were more times that we didn't get on than we were happy.
The situation we are in is a utter mess but no one could have helped or prevented what was ahead of mum and dad. It is just unfortunate. We just need to do what we have to do to keep this family together. You have worked hard for what you achieved and you just need to keep it going. That would be one thing that mum and dad never wish to loose. Love you sis. Maybe I'll see you this summer and hopefully things will be better then.'.
Seeing what is final on paper in black and white, made me realise how much I relied on home.
Although I never wished anything from my parents, my inner strength to carry on life abroad heavily relied on emotional support from my family. Knowing that my backbone was rooted deeply in the other side of world in my home, provided me the foundations of my integrity. Knowing that I can find home and comfort in familiar voices of my family has always got me further.
It saddens me that home I remember with full of loving memories that my family shared together isn't a place for me to go back to anymore.
I cried and cried.
Feeling completely out of control, I could not help myself sobbing. Tears weren't enough to make me feel better but I didn't know what else I could do to make things better.
It still feels raw.
Thinking of all those painstakingly horrible years of trouble my family had gone through, only wishing to put things right, it must have been an awful time for all of them. What has happened is clearly a tragedy and the scar will take long time to heal.
But money comes and goes, and the life is what we make of.
The place I called home is only home because of the people.
I'll find home in people, in people that I love unconditionally. For better or for worse...
150g basmati rice
2 garlic cloves, sliced and shallow fried
3inch long leek, finely sliced
1liter vegetable stock
pinch of salt and white pepper
rice bran oil
1tbsp sesame oil
handful of cooked peas and some raw sugar-snap peas
chopped spring onions
This dish brings all the memories of my childhood. I was often unwell and my mum used to make this to comfort me.
I love the simple flavour and the silky texture of this dish. If you want to make this more meaty, you can swap the vegetable stock to chicken or beef and add some shredded meat.
My dad often made oxtail broth and made very rich rice soup for all of us in cold winter days.
First of all, soak rice in cold water for 10mins to remove some starch. Rinse thoroughly and drain.
Over a medium heat, add a little rice bran oil into your pan and saute the sliced leeks until golden. Add the rice along with 1tbsp sesame oil and a good pinch of cracked white pepper. Give it a good stir for 2mins and add the stock and simmer for 15-20mins. Stir occasionally.
Final dish should still have a fair bit of liquid. You can add more stock to make them more soupy if you prefer.
While rice is cooking, prepare your peas. Finely slice sugar-snap peas as it will be used raw.
Once rice is cooked, make sure to season them with little salt and divide them into four bowls. Garnish them with fired garlic, peas and some spring onions.
All is not lost.
Although it may all seem so unkind, peaceful mind and solidity of our soul will carry us through.