Moving to another country can be an incomparable adventure as it was for Love Letters Live co-founder Tresa Eyres and her family when, because of a career opportunity, they left the United States for Singapore almost 40 years ago. No email, no Facetime, no Skype, no Instagram, no Facebook, so being far away for this expat wife was being severely far-flung, isolated by an 8,500 mile distance from friends and thrown into a world of unfamiliar ways. Phone calls were exorbitant. A letter took a minimum of two weeks.
Luckily, Tresa had met Merrilu, a particularly friendly woman who invited her to call if she had any questions. Did this include the confusion over the rusted-out front-loading clothes washing machine in the kitchen. Did this include whether the python being gutted in the market-place was a menu item?
The kitchen in their apartment was an open-air tiled room meant for the amah, the hired help they did not have. She says, “ Living in the tropics, the day quickly came when we needed clean laundry. Thinking the job would be easy, I loaded the washing machine with clothes and detergent, turned the beast on – and a few minutes later watched in horror as it began disgorging water and suds from the sides and bottom. Fortunately, the kitchen floor was ceramic-tiled with a large drain in the middle, so the mop-up was not too difficult.” She needed a new machine, but meanwhile she had to wash the clothes in the bathtub, carry the saturated mass through the house to the drying porch so she could hang the soggy clothing and sheets on the bamboo poles suspended 12 feet off the floor. She explains that “By standing on a kitchen chair, the small pieces were easy enough.” But of course the heavy sheets were a problem; she kept dropping them, which made the poles swirl and everything else fall off onto the ground. Filthy again. Everything had to be carried back to the bathtub to start the whole process over.
As her husband was on his own learning journey at a new office, and her daughters were three and five years old, she had no help. Not every expat wife made it through the befuddlement, but Tresa Eyres is exceptional in her ability and commitment to paying attention, analyzing and persisting. After several failed attempts she figured out what process worked and conquered the task. Victorious as she ended up, she still craved some sympathy, so she called Merrilu hoping for commiseration. She did not get it.
What Tresa got from Merrilu was better, and it saved her life. Merrilu laughed. She apparently found Tresa’s struggle with the laundry hilarious. This was supposed to be the woman who said she would help if needed, and here she was less than helpful, rude in fact. The more Tresa talked about her suffering, the louder Merrilu laughed until suddenly seeing it from Merrilu’s perspective, Tresa started to laugh. Soon the two of them were joined in the restorative gift of unrestrained laughter.
This was the turning point that made the four years in Singapore some of the best years of Tresa’s life. She began to look at challenges as opportunities for personal growth so much so that she not only embraced them but sought them out. You can read Tresa’s story in her own words and the lessons she learned from being laughed at that still holds her in good stead. As every one of life’s experience has within it the seeds of a love letter, the question here was did Tresa ever write a love letter of gratitude to Merrilu for this. Her answer was an immediate and smiling “yes”.
From me to you with love in the air and thanks to my Love Letters Live other half Tresa,
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