I was born in Malaysia in 1974, and when I was 4 years old my parents moved the family to London. We lived in a little red brick apartment off High Street Kensington. The building had one of those antiquated lifts with cast-iron gates you had to use all your strength to clang close before the lift would start. We lived on the top floor and I would race my parents up - them in the juddery lift and me legging it up the stairs. I usually won.
I went to a small chapel school called Allandale where they force-fed us stodgy rice pudding every lunch time. I still live in mortal fear of THE RICE PUDDING *retch* I remember Allandale being huge at the time, but when I went back as a grown-up, it just looked like an after-thought.
The family then moved us to Singapore when I was about 9, and I spent a few years in Tanglin Junior School (now known as Tanglin Trust), a school for expat kids. I was bullied mercilessly for being Chinese in a mostly white school. There were only a few of us at the time, and kids can be MEAN! Many of them lived in the same condominium, and when we were all let off from school, I wasn't allowed to go up in the lift with them. The few times I tried, I'd be violently shoved back out, arms pinwheeling, skidding on my bum, skirt flying up, sounds of laughter.
There are many things I remember from that time, but most of all, I remember always being alone. Playing by myself behind the apartment blocks. Swimming in the pool practising holding my breath underwater. Exploring. Inventing my own games. Seeking refuge in books.
My sister was too young to be good company at the time and besides, we were bitter rivals!
I believe this is where the seeds of my independent nature grew. I developed roots within myself, learnt how to water them and preserve them in times of drought. Now, I'm not afraid of being alone.