Speed Train to 37

This entry is 3 months late. It’s so overdued, my motivation to compose it gets thinner by the day, which is what I can’t say about my waistline. But I do want this to be recorded because it has been a really special time for me.

I’m talking about my 37th birthday. It was celebrated onboard a train! Now, that’s a celebration that doesn’t happen often. In the 37 years of my life, that was the first and perhaps most unusual setting for me to blow the candles.

The surprise celebration happened during my photography trip to Hanoi where we took an overnight sleeper to Sapa Valley. Last year, my birthday was fell on a trip to Kuching and this year, it’s Vietnam.

Maybe I should make it a tradition to go somewhere I’ve never been to on every birthday. Keep moving and don’t let getting older stop me from exploring life right?

Siow Har masterminded the whole thing. To which, I’m very grateful. I can only imagine the trouble she took to coordinate this on a foreign land.

She arranged with our tour guide Melvin of SGTrekker.com to get a cake and got every one in the group to come to her cabin for the train party. Such thoughtfulness and a ‘scheming mind’!

It was a very simple celebration with the birthday song sung and cake divided but it was totally memorable for the fact of the exotic location and that most of the well-wishes were new friends I’ve only met on the tour that day.

One of our travel mates, Ivy also has her birthday in May so we did a doublebill and we received this very personalised gift from Siow Har… a customised cardholder engraved with our names and a camera icon. Very unique!

As I got older, I’m very lazy with celebrating my own birthday or the birthdays of others. But I think, it has to do with how birthdays are usually planned and celebrated.

When we are younger, most parents would hold elaborate birthday parties for the kids. But as we grow older and that ability becomes ours to yield a party, we get complacent… until a friend or parents arrange something for us again.

I think after my mid-20s, I no longer make an effort to mark my birthday because to me, it’s no big deal. I don’t mean anything to me.

But when others remember and make an effort to celebrate for you, even if it’s just a casual dinner and simple get together, it showed you meant something to someone and he/she wants to celebrate your birth.

I’m thankful for all the birthday wishes I received on Facebook, over the phone and in office. It is always very heartwarming to know that someone bothered to remember and celebrate you.

I don’t expect anything, but what we are willing to do for someone else, something as simple as dropping a birthday greeting, shows not what influence we have on the other person, but demonstrates the yolk he/she holds.

But of course, the merits of a person extend beyond whether they remembered to wish us happy birthday or not!

The irony is that I don’t even receive a birthday greeting from long-standing friends whom I’ve done much for but I got well-wished by people I hardly know.

The train celebration was 2 days before my actual birthday and on 21st May itself, we had another ad-hoc gathering to commemorate the day, 37 years ago, that I arrived here.

This year also marked the year that I received the most birthday presents… 4 in total. For a time when I no longer bothered much with birthdays, 4 is a lot. Even if it was just an underwear that I received as a gift, it’s no brief memory of having received it.

Got this very bright and cheery orange-chrome ORIGINAL Adidas jacket and card synchronised to my actual birthday a week before the trip from a very thoughtful person.

They arrived as a registered package to my office housed within a box file meant to hold my resume and portfoliio as I expressed an intention to seek other career opportunities to this friend. The jacket cost S$109 but it’s not so much the value compared to the thoughts behind it to make it a very pleasant surprise.

Even my closest long-time friends don’t spend this amount of money and effort on me so I was naturally cautious about getting such a high-value present. Excessive generosity usually comes with certain expectations, said or unsaid, to fulfill.

Perhaps of me being too careful or the insensitive guy that I usually am, I must’ve screwed up the friendship with this giver. To this day, I don’t know what went wrong but overnight, we turned from being confidantes to something worst than strangers.

But that’s how life is. Just as our age never stays the same, a relationship changes too and it’s up to the people involved how they want to manage it. If it flourishes and lasts a lifetime, fantistic. If not, the memories of the good times keep us warm for having been touched in our lives one way or another.

This birthday also marked the first time I’d ever received a present from a company… the branded name in slippers, Havaianas. Thanks a lot!

When I received it in the office, I immediately tried it on for size. It fitted perfectly and my first thought was how comfortable they felt. So I took a photo and posted it on Facebook to thank Havaianas and share my encounter with it.

Almost immediately, my FB posting drew the ire and criticism from a secondary school classmate who accused me of being a salesman of the brand just because they gave the slippers to me free. He said he could get similar looking slippers for less that S$5.00 in Jatuchak, a weekend market in Bangkok. A pair of Havaianas cost in excess of S$30 per pair.

I frequent Bangkok and its famous weekend market. My shoe cabinet has no lack of slippers bought from it and the countless pairs I threw before atest my belief that cheap slippers can be comfortable too. But when I tried on the Havaianas, it really felt nice compared too all those I’ve been wearing from Jatuchak all along.

It was really for me, just stating a fact. There are quite a few things I have the privilege to receive as gifts because the companies hope I’d blog or talk about them. And I do. If I like them, I’d say I like them. If I don’t, I either don’t post or I’d make it known my humble unfavorable opinion.

It’s funny how that classmate picked up only my ‘salesmanship’ but doesn’t talk about the other things that were given to me but incite a negative review. If he didn’t bother to look through the sum of my postings, then I think it isn’t fair to make an anecdotal judgement.

Gosh… this post about birthday and presents degenerated to so much ‘politics’. LOL. It seems the older we get, the more complicated life becomes.

Next year, I’ll be 38.

I wonder what adventures await.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. DC
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 10:24:33

    Hey, Happy Belated Birthday!

    Friends come and go. I don’t believe in “Friends Forever”.


    • Darren Ng
      Aug 21, 2011 @ 12:13:18

      hey thanks… :o) i couldn’t agree more about the null of everlasting relationships. i observe that for casual hi-bye frens, the friendship can last but the closer pple get, they usually end up being separated.


  2. jassy
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 15:24:30

    very belated happy birthday! never bought havs, only tried them on…it’s okay but ipanema is better…:)


  3. Kelvin Ang
    Aug 23, 2011 @ 00:07:10

    Happy birthday!

    WOAH. Honestly, if I didn’t read this post, I would have not known that you are 37. I thought you were much younger!


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