Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A Tale of a Christmas Card

My wife and I are in her village in Cebu, in the Philippines. I ask my mom to send me my barong tagalog, so I can wear it for our blessing ceremony in my wife's village. A couple days later, I call her up to make sure she sent it, as it is the Christmas season, and time is of the essence. She says she sent it, and that a letter or something just arrived for me. Too bad it didn't arrive the day before, she says, otherwise I could have sent it with the barong tagalog. She asks me where to send it to, and I say I don't know. I have to ask my wife.

My wife says to send it to her cousin at her job, because it would get there quicker, and be more reliable. So OK, I have to wait another day while my wife gets the full address. Then I take a jeepney into town and go to an internet cafe, and e-mail the address to my sister. Then my sister calls up my Mom, and spells out the address line by line to her.

My Mom puts the letter in another envelope, and then sends it by airmail to the Philippines.

By the time it gets to my wife's cousin at her job, I am back in Malaysia.

My wife's cousin calls my wife on her cellphone. My wife is in Manila getting ready to leave the next day to join me. She tells her cousin to hold on to the letter, because she doesn't know where I want it sent to.

My wife leaves the Philippines, and I meet her at the KL Sentral train station. After we kiss, hug, and greet each other, she tells me her cousin has a letter for me at work.

So I tell her to send it to me at my job.

My wife goes to the internet cafe once a week to check her email. On her next visit, she goes there, and emails her cousin to mail it to me at my job.

It takes a few days before her cousin can do that. She spends 40 pesos on postage.

Yesterday, there's a letter on my desk from my wife's cousin. My first thought was- why am I getting a letter from her? Then I remember my Mom saying I got a letter from someone.

I don't open it. I leave it at work, because I have business to do in town, and don't want to carry a bunch of stuff with me. AT 5pm I come back with Mr. Wong to act as a judge for the 100 meter dash contest for the form 3, 4, and 5 boys and girls. Then I grab it and my other stuff.

Finally, I take the letter home. After a nice refreshing shower, I open up the first envelope, from her cousin in Cebu.

I open up the second envelope, from my Mom in New Jersey.

I take a look at the original envelope. On it is a name and address I don't recognize at all.

I open it up, and it is just a generic Christmas card. The handwritten message inside is written in a nearly indecipherable scrawl. It seems to be wishing me and my daughter a Merry Christmas.

I don't have a daughter.

I check the envelope again. Sure enough, it is addressed to me at my Mom's address, but I still have no idea who it is that sent it, and how they know me. I'm sure no one else does either.

So after all that effort, trouble, and expense, I am left with a card I can't read from someone I don't know from I don't know where.

Sometimes my life is nothing more than an existential object lesson.