Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Convenience (2)

It is amazing how people in this little island love the word "convenience" so much. Convenience to themselves at the expense of inconveniencing or giving others undue stress and anxiety.

I used to teach in the Regional English Language Centre. My students were so inspired when I shared with them about the great hospitality I used to receive in Canada. After the class ended, one of the students volunteered to host the class party at his house. 22 students were supposed to turn up for the party. However, on the day of the party, my heart sank when there were only 5 students at about 7.30 p.m.! The party was supposed to have commenced at 7.00p.m. As
Jason's maid and his mother prepared to barbeque the satay, I heard her asking, "Any more coming, son?" Jason looked so disheartened.

Only a total of 18 students, only 7 had turned up for the party. The remaining 11 had conveniently forgotten and did not even bother to phone up! At another class end party organised by one student, it was the same scenario! There was a lot of left over food because only 4 out of 12 students had turned up for the dinner. When I saw the hostess wanting to throw away the food, I decided to take the food home to give away to my neighbours and friends. I hate wastage of food.

It would be nice if people remember to be committed to what they have promised, even if it is to attend a dinner or barbeque. Just bear in mind the amount of inconvenience the host/hostess has to go through in order to make life easier and more pleasant for his guests. Due to my bad experiences, unless it snows in Singapore, I now make it a point to always fulfil my promise to turn up for a gathering, seminar etc. Otherwise, do not give an empty promise. I hope that as our nation progresses, we do not become a nation of "conveniencers".


I was at a condominium showing a client a rental apartment. When I entered the lobby, I was surprised to find two cages of hamsters on the floor by the trash bin. I thought somone had just left the lovely hamsters at the lobby for a while. After the viewing of the flat, I found that the two cages had disappeared and asked the cleaner if the owner had taken them back. "No! No! Throw!"

All my adrenalin surfaced as I turned beetroot with excitement. "Throw away! Where?"

The cleaner went to the big rubbish bin and retrieved the cages! Gosh! How could anyone have the heart to just discard these helpless, innocent little creatures! The two cages must have cost the owners some money for they have been fitted with a number of gadgets to make it fun for the hamsters to run around. I can imagine how much love must have been poured on the new pets at the beginning, but as the novelty wore off, the owners conveniently decided to just throw away the two cages, 9 hamsters in all! Why can't they just bring it to the SPCA or pet shops or advertise to give the hamsters away? If the owners had been young teens or children, what have the parents done to educate their children on responsible pet ownership?

I took the two cages home. I am quite an expert on dogs but am not too famliar with hamsters. I quickly looked into the web to read up on hamsters. I went to a pet shop to buy some food and informed the sales staff about the hamsters. She was willing to help me accept the hamsters and put them up for adoption.

In the meanwhile, I thought I would put up some notices at Cold Storage, CentrePoint, for the hamsters to be adopted. A lady and a young boy answered my advertisement. I found that she and her two daughters would make good owners and gave them the two cages of baby hamsters. The young boy, Jay, took home the parents, as he would like to breed more hamsters. He is quite an authority on hamsters! A new lease or life.... a new beginning for a new year! Instead of being crushed to death by the incinerator, the hamsters have a new chance to live.... their right to live and be treated with love and care.

A new hope.....

Monday, December 26, 2005

Blessed Christmas!

Wishing all my dear friends and readers a happy and blessed Christmas. Have not been writing the past few days because my computer is being 'hospitalised'. The technician said he had to do an overhaul, to give the computer new body parts to get it functioning again. Since I will be moving to another apartment after Christmas, I had instructed him to instal the computer in the new home. Hence I am now typing from an internet cafe.

Hope you have have a great celebration during this festive season. Because He lives, we can face tomorrow! Because He lives all fear is gone! God indeed holds the future for us. In Him we can always trust for a better new year! Cheers!

Gan Chau

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Blessings of Blissful Sleep (2)

Insomnia! I have never experienced insomnia since breathing 27,361,449 minutes of my 52 years and 10 days on earth. Let me narrate some examples in chronological order about my sheer ability to sleep soundly in any given situation.

When I found out that my two elder sisters were going for a party, I decided I would sleep on the mother of pearl bench in the living room, as I was afraid of sleeping alone without my two sisters. It was a happy and comfortable arrangement for an 8 year old child, because papa was also in the living room, writing his music scores. When papa got out of his chair he was surprised to find me sleeping on the floor! Apparently I had fallen down from the bench but had continued sleeping blissfully! Papa was so engrossed in his writing that he did not hear the thud that must have accompanied my fall.

Mama had always warned me not to lock my room because it is very hard for me to be awakened! On my way to Canada for my tertiary education, I had to stop over in Tokyo and stay at the New Tokyo Hotel. I was surprised to find out that the Hotel caught fire just a week after my stay.!

Once I went shopping with my two elder sisters. They took very long to choose a pair of shoes. I was so bored that I just put my haversack on the displayed shoes and fell asleep! In the background, Yao Su Rong, the famous singer of "Jin tian Bu Huei Jia" (Today, not going Home) was screaming loudly from the record player. The shopkeeper was amused I could sleep so soundly for almost 30 minutes until my two sisters found their favourite pair of shoes!

In Edmonton, I shared an apartment with 3 other flatmates. Once the fire alarm rang throughout the hostel. Everyone woke up, except me! I never heard the alarm much to my flatmates' consternation.! During Winter, at dawn, the snow machine operator would come by and make loud noises as he tried to shovel the ice on the road. My flatmates would be pulling their hairs in frustration, but I was never awakened by the noise.

When we flew to Kathmandu for our short mission trip, I was the only one who slept soundly during the flight! At Nanglay village, we had to sleep on the mud floor on the first storey of a building. The villagers had kept some cows on the ground floor. Except for the very pungent smell, which I tried to lessen by tying a scarf around the lower part of my face, nothing else prevented me from having a sound sleep. Going back to Penang by bus is also a breeze for me. After the passports are checked at the Immigration in Johore Bahru, I would sleep throughout the whole journey until we reach Penang Island.

Indeed to be able to sleep soundly is one of life's blessings. Worries and anxiety will cause insomnia. All of us have our own problems and set of worries, but Luke 12:25 challenged if any of us could add one more hour to our life by worrying. The more we worry, the better we get at it. Since my adolescence I had been making do with an average of about 5 hours sleep a day. But whenever I get bored while taking the MRT or bus, I would just doze off! To me, the quality of sleep is more important than the quantity. Why force yourself to sleep if you cannot sleep; why not be awake and make your dream a reality! It might be a good idea for some to read books so as to cool down and then, sleep will come more easily. Try it if you are suffering from insomnia. For me, it is also important to be at peace with myself and with others. Whatever anger I might have for the day should be gone by the time I settle for sleep, peaceful sleep.

The Blessings of Blissful Sleep

My best friend, Amudah, loves to tell everyone this story.

Once, I invited her to a Chinese Orchestra at the Esplanade. After all, my eldest brother was given three complimentary tickets, and brother could not attend the concert as he had to fly off to Taiwan. I brought my second sis along as well and told Amu to take leave from work at Rialto.

Amu has never been to the Esplanade Concert Hall. Worried that she might fall asleep as she would not understand all that is happening in a Chinese Orchestral concert, she hesitated. "Oh Amu, come on, try and see. Don't waste a $68/- ticket!" I coaxed.

Amu was spellbound by the grandeur of the concert hall and the interesting display of huge instruments like the gongs, cymbals, harp, doublebass, etc. At one stage, someone began to recite a poem from the Tang Dynasty. Although Amu could not understand a word of the reading, she found the whole atmosphere intriguing. Just then, she heard a faint little snore beside her. Upon closer observation, Amu realised I had fallen into a deep sleep and I slept right through the end of the concert!

After the concert, second sis told Amu she was not surprised. At my niece Christmin's graduation ceremony in Melbourne, just shortly after the speech by the University Chancellor, I fell asleep right through the whole ceremony! This is the reason why I did not attend my own graduation ceremony at the University of Alberta as well as at the Institute of Education. I found it easier for both Institutes to post me my degrees.

Gan Chau

Monday, December 19, 2005

The World is a Stage (3)

My friends from Kuching, Sarawak, came to Singapore and stayed with me for a few days. Singapore, as everyone knows, is a shopping paradise. Since my friends wanted to buy some electronical goods, I took them to Peninsular Plaza which is well known for such items.

When we were in one of the stores, I spoke Tamil with the Indian staff. Suddenly my friend, Magdalene, pulled me aside, and admonished, "Choo, you musn't fool around with tongues!" "What tongues? I'm speaking Tamil with the sales staff" I said. Magdalene was surprised and looked at the Indian man. "Really, my friend is speaking Tamil with you?" The man shook his head in affirmation. (When Indians shake their heads, they mean "yes").

"I've known you for so many years and I don't even know you can speak Tamil, Choo," Magdalene apologised.

Picking up Tamil is not too difficult for me, because we had many Indian neighbours in Jelutong village where I spent two decades of my life. Since operating Rialto restaurant, I also picked up Hindi from my regular Indian customers. I also enjoy Hindi and Tamil movies which are extremely popular with Penangnites. A good Indian movie could run for one whole year in the cinema! The plots are usually excellent, and for those who love the arts, they will find the songs and dances to be colourful and interesting. I now have two Mongolian sisters staying with me and they too have become Indian movie fans. Almost every Sunday evenings, we watch our favourite Hindi movies on Central Channel. Baaska and Chimdee also agree that the Indian actors and actresses are very good looking. I always tell my Indian friends that God must have been in His best mood when He created Indians for they have been most beautifully made!

I suddenly recall the choruses I used to sing in Sunday School in Penang.
"Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the World!"

How comforting to know that the Creator loves everyone, regardless of his looks and colour of his skin. What a unique and colourful world we live in!

Gan Chau


Sunday, December 18, 2005

True Love - Precious Christmas Gift

Dear Friends,

Wishing you all a Merry and Blessed Christmas. Hope you enjoy my little gift to you... a true story.... True Love. Hope it will make you cry and laugh.

But the greatest true love is the unconditional love of our Lord Jesus.! Amazing how He lay his life for you and me! "John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."

This is the greatest gift you and I can ever receive as a Christmas present!



All of a sudden, I felt this hunch that I must make a trip back to Penang. It had been quite some time since I went back and I felt this urgency to prioritise my visit. I love my second brother and aunt very much, and of late, aunt has not been very well. I am one of those who prefer to give bouquets to people when they are still alive, rather than at their funeral, for then it will be too late for people to appreciate my flowers!

At the same time, I thought I might as well take the opportunity to accept the church invitation for their 50th anniversary celebration. This is the church where I attended Sunday School and where I first learnt of the miracles peformed by Jesus.

At the anniversary service, while we were singing hymns, I happened to turn around, and lo and behold, was the most glorious and joyful facial expression I had ever seen.! The smile was so radiant that momentarily I was mesmerised! The person smiling was seated in a wheel chair... a man of about 30 years of age who was also quite hunched, so that with his bent posture, he appeared even smaller. He noticed my look of surprise, and smiled even more. I smiled back, wondering who he was.

Later, at the church dinner, I noticed the same person again. This time, there was a lovely lady beside him. I asked my brother who the person was. Brother told me that Teddy was one of the counsellors in a christian organisation that helped the handicapped in Penang. The lovely lady beside him was his wife, Tracy.

Brother continued his story. Tracy, a university graduate, helped out as a volunteer at the Centre, and gradually fell in love with Teddy, a polio victim. A lovely lady, with winsome personality, she was wooed by many suitors, but she found Teddy to be the most attractive of them all. Her family, angered by her poor choice of a husband, decided to disown her, but she stood up for Teddy. Brother also told me that at their wedding, a reporter of a local tabloid cruelly made a joke, and insensitively commented that the incident reminded him of a beautiful flower thrown onto a mound of cow dung!

My kind brother commented that if he were Teddy, he would not have married Tracy, because the burden for her would be just too great! Brother was surprised when I told him that if I were Tracy, I would do the same if I were to meet someone of noble character, regardless of his handicap! It would have to be God's will for only God would be the one to give special strength and blessings. for such a union.

I walked over to greet the lovely couple. I introduced myself and told them that in the near future, I would visit them to write their full story. Tears filled my eyes, as I saw how Tracy pushed Teddy on the wheelchair and how, petite as she was, she managed to lift him from the wheelchair and load him onto the front passenger seat of her van. What a memorable sight! What great demonstration of true love! Such a capable and beautiful lady! I marvelled at how such a small lady could drive such a big van, with not only her disabled husband in the passenger seat, but with four other disabled friends in tow!

I shared the above story with my French customer, Frederic at Rialto. "Ah cowdung! That reminds me. I've a story to share with you Choo," Frederic suddenly beamed.

"A lovely, succulent apple and a mound of cowdung were resting near to each other. The rosy, red apple was radiant and beaming. But when the apple noticed that the smelly, ugly mound of cowdung was trying to be a little too friendly, she pouted and sulked.

"Come on, pretty Apple. Life is short. Be happy and cheerful! Give me your sweetest smile. I know I'm ugly and smelly, but I'm of good character and I can be your trusworthy friend." The apple sulked even more. Her disdain was obvious for all to see.

Just then, a cow came along, and picked up the juicy apple in his mouth.
The cowdung shouted, "A bientot! Mon chere!" (Goodbye, see you soon, my dear!)

Gan Chau

Saturday, December 17, 2005

It only takes a spark.....

Amudah and her family gave me a sumptuous birthday treat at the Zion Road Coffeeshop where her sister, Maya, operated her popular Indian roti prata stall. The family is not rich, and I am touched by their generosity and thoughtfulness. Maya's five children are such sheer delight - they sing like angels! I learn how to speak and sing in Tamil from Amudah and her relatives.

After the dinner party, as I was walking back to my apartment, I was thanking God for our lovely nation. I had just come out of Great World City and had gone into the most interesting toilets in Singapore. It was the same toilet with the Dutch theme that I had written about in my earlier article. I kept thinking of the toilets in Nepal and I feel so grateful for all that Singapore has to offer. It was 10.30p.m. yet I could walk home without having to keep turning around to see if someone was following me.

Just then, eldest sister phoned me from Kuching to wish me a Happy Birthday, I told her excitedly that I have started a blog. "What block? As in block head?" sister asked. "No Sis... a blog is like a newspaper... a kind of diary... you write in the computer and people with computers can read...." I tried to explain. "How much do you get paid?" asked my pragmatic sister.

This is my beloved eldest sis. She is vey down to earth and is someone with a terrific sense of humour. Once I brought her to Sentosa Island. I left her at a table in the food court and went to order some food from the vendors. When I returned to the table, I was surprised to find a couple sitting with us and sister was giggling with schoolgirl charm. She told me that the couple had asked her if she was on vacation, and she replied, "No, I'm on holiday". Sister always laughed at her own mistakes and learnt from them. She always adovcates that in order to master a language, we must venture to speak and write as well. Sis is very determined to improve her English Language all the time.

Eldest sister is proficient in Chinese and Bahasa Malaysia and she taught these two languages in the high school before her retirement. I urged her to start a blog too as she is a very good and prolific writer. Blog writers do not get paid... their joy and pleasure is to share their writing with those interested enough to read. If my friends can be encouraged by my writing, it is enough reward for me. Hence if you feel uplifted, do pass on the blog address to your friends. It only takes a spark.....

I have been persuading and almost pleading with my older siblings to be a little more computer literate so that we can write to each other via email instead of phoning which is more costly. But my siblings still have to overcome their phobia for things mechanical and electronical. If not for my nieces and nephews who kept encouraging me, I would not be able to write this blog today. Hence I can understand it would really take some effort for my siblings to start using the computer. My arty farty siblings have no problem learning to play many different musical instruments. Yet they find it difficult to learn how to sms. Their mobile phones are often in the "off" mode, much to their children's annoyance!

Eldest sis is very versatile and daring. She has never taken up sewing lessons, and yet she sewed her own bridal gown and one for her best friend. I was very fortunate because Sis would often sew lovely clothes for me to wear. She had never taken formal dancing lessons; yet she choreographed folk dances for her students to perform in the school concert. She had never attended cookery classes, yet won the first prize in a cooking contest. A natural singer, she clinched the first prize in a singing competition! I am extremely proud of her. Sister always believes that everyone has a lot of hidden potential. She always encourages me to give my potential a chance to surface. Likewise, I have always encouraged my students to do the same. Indeed it only takes a spark of encouragement to get the talent moving!

I will continue to persuade eldest sis to learn the computer so that she can also set up her own blog and bless many with her poignant and thought -provoking articles and stories. Likewise with all my friends as well. You never know you can write until you try it! It only takes a spark to get a blog going.....

Gan chau

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Art of Growing Old

REMEMBER to be kind to old folks, for they are worth a fortune. They have silver in their hair,
gold in their teeth, stones in their kidneys, lead in their feet and gas in their stomachs.

I have become a little older since I saw you last and a few changes have come into my life.
Frankly, I have become a frivolous old girl.

I am seeing five gentlemen every day. As soon as I wake up Will Power helps me out of bed, then I go to see John. Next it's time for Uncle Toby, who's always followed by Billy Tea. Soon after, Mr. Knapp keeps me company.

When they've left, Arthur Ritis shows up and stays with me for the rest of the day. He doesn't like to stay in one place for a very long time, so he takes me from joint to joint.

After such a busy day, I'm really tired and glad to get to bed with Johnny Walker. What a life! Oh yes, I almost forgot - I'm also flirting with Al Zymer.

The Vicar called the other day. He said at my age I should be thinking about hereafter. I told him I do that all the time.

No matter where I am, in the garden, in the kitchen, in the bedroom or in the sitting room, I ask myself, "Now what am I here after?"


Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Sound of Silence

When my niece, Kam Ning, came back to Singapore to perform with the Malaysian Philharmonic Ochestra at the Esplanade, I was full of joy. At her interview with the Business Times, she said that if there is is one thing she would like to achieve, she would like the audience to see God when the violin Concerto in D Minor (Op. 47) by Sibelius is being performed.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I heard Ning's wonderful performance. I was absolutely sure Ning had her heart's desire when some of the more senstive audience could feel God's sweet presence in the lovely concert hall which was permeated with such beautiful interpretation of Sibelius' works. For me, perhaps, it was seeing God twice, for without His mercy and grace, I would not have been able to hear the orchestra at all!

When I was six years of age, I had an accident which caused me to gradually become hearing impared. It was painful to be laughed at by classmates who did not understand my constantly having to fight ringing in the ears and dizziness caused by the imbalance of the cochleas. Gradually I learnt to lip read and managed to follow lessons in class so well that most of the teachers did not realise my hearing problem. If a teacher were to call my name from behind, I would be in deep trouble because I would not be able to lip read. Hence I was often punished by some teachers who thought I was just being naughty and stubborn. As my hearing deteriorated, I became more reclusive and found great comfort in books. My siblings often had to put their finger on their lips to indicate to me to speak more softly, because I could not hear my own speech and never realised how loud my voice could be sometimes!

When I was nine years old, eldest sister took me to Sunday School. I was spellbound when I learnt that Jesus had healed the blind, the deaf and the lame. He even raised Lazarus from the dead! Everyday, I would argue with God that if He had given me ears, then I should not have ears that were all messed up inside. I prayed for healing... for my hearing to be restored. I argued that if god could make the lame walk, surely he could reinstate my hearing!

One evening my second sister came back from work and told me she had seen a huge banner with the words "Mircale Healing" and asked if I wanted to check it out. An Indian pastor prayed for me and instantly I could hear! The world suddenly became noisy again when I could hear the bus engine roaring, the dogs barking and the frogs croaking as we made our way home!

Next morning it was such sheer delight to hear the birds singing on the trees! Mama who was then a Buddhist, was so overjoyed by my miracle that she went around telling all the neighbours that the god who died on the Cross had healed her youngest daughter!

Very few people would be able to identify with the pain and loneliness of living in a silent world. At least I was fortunate that I was not born deaf... that I had the chance to learn to read and write and play the piano before my world became silent. But others like Donald Goh (The New Paper, 14/12/2005, pg. 4) who was born deaf could not speak because he had not heard. It was sad that some unkind people had to write graffiti on the wall outside his apartment, ""Monkey Noise, woo woo, shut up". Poor little Donald had tried to speak, but could only muster such sounds. Whoever had written down the graffiti should thank the Creator that he had been born normal, and should therefore have more compassion and acceptance towards others who were born with physical defects.

Perhaps on looking back, I am thankful that I had gone through some years of silence. As I gradually lost my hearing, I learnt to become more imaginative when I read books or played the piano. Like Beethoven who became stone deaf in his last years, I had to "hear" the music in my world of silence! It was increasingly tiring to strain my eyes to constantly focus on the lips of others. I began to spend most of my waking hours reading books which I enjoyed thoroughly. How true when people say that reading maketh a full man. I began to feel more confident and understanding of people and the world around me. Reading matured me beyond my years.

Every morning when I hear the birds singing, gratitude fills my heart. I see God in the chirping of the little creatures. Their chirping is like music to my once deaf ears!

Gan Chau

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The most interesting toilets in Singapore

I remember when I first came back from Canada, I had a culture shock again. This time, I was not accustomed to the less than satisfactory public toilets found in Penang and most parts of Malaysia. The only toilets that were really clean were those found in the hotels.

In Singapore, the public toilets are much better. They are getting better and better all the time. The toilets in the hotels of course are clean and pleasant enough for customers, and the public toilets in shopping centres and public buildings are also quite satisfactory.

Perhaps the most interesting toilets are the ones found in the Great World City. They have different themes for the toilets. The one I like most is the "Holland" toilets. Tulips, windmills and cows grazing on the meadows had been painted on the walls, and even Dutch wooden shoes are displayed on the doors of the toilet cubicles. ! The moment you enter the toilet, you feel as if you were in Amsterdam!

I guess, no matter how filthy sometimes a public toilet can be, I have learnt not to complain, for indeed we are so much more blessed than many others in other parts of the world.

I remember when I was touring China in 1987, many of us dared not use the public toilets in the rural areas because they had no doors. Unless, it was urgent, then we had to seek the help of friends to guard the door, and the one guarding had to use an open umbrella! Now China has progressed by leaps and bounds!

When we went mountain climbing in Nepal, I had to fast. Armed with only a bottle of water, I only sipped a little water when I was thirsty. I did not want to drink too much because I knew it would be dfficult for me to use the toilets found along the villages. For those who could not control their bladder, the world was their "open air" toilet!

We reached Nanglay Village after 5 hours of continuous climbing. The following morning, one of our group members decided to use the toilet. Unfortunately he had to bid his camera goodbye when it fell into the pot hole of shit.! During the two days we were up in the mountain, I went on a fast again, so as to avoid going to the toilets!

Whenever I think of China and Nepal, I learn not to complain, but to count my blessngs and name them one by one! Most of our buildings are user-friendly to the disabled, and there are special toilets for them. Let us who are not disabled be contented with the toilets allocated to us, and be considerate to those who need bigger cubicles for their wheelchairs to enter as well.

Someone said, "I complain I have no shoes, until I saw someone with no feet!"

Gan Chau

Where Babies come from - the IT Age

Child: "Daddy, how was I born?"Dad answered: "Ah, my son, I guess one day you will need to find out anyway! Well, you see your Mom and I first got together in a chat roomon MSN. Then I set up a date via e-mail with your Mom and we met at a cyber-cafe. We sneaked into a secluded room, where your mother agreed to a download from my hard drive. As soon as I was ready to upload, we discovered that neither one of us had used a firewall, and since it was too late to hit the delete button, nine months later a blessed littlePopup appeared and said -----You've Got Male……

Ps. The above aricle was emailed to Gan Chau by her best friend of 38 years... Lee Choon Lian.
Choon Lian is the daughter of Gan Chau's mother's best friend! She is the first Singaporean
lady that Gan Chau has met.... a wonderful lady of principles.

Monday, December 12, 2005

3 Score Minus 8!

I am 52 years old today! Gosh! It means I have lived on earth for 18,993 days or 455,832 hours since I was born! It looks like a frigthteningly long time, yet why do most of us say, "Time flies!" In a wink, you realise your hairs have turned grey and so many things have died and degenerated.... your beloved parents and friends, your pets, your plants, your vehicle, your household gadgets, etc. Probably this is the reason why we are told to rejoice and be glad for this is the day that the Lord has made! God has given us so many things to make our lives interesting, so that we seldom realise the passing of time.

The line between life and death is so thin! When I attended the Bodyworks Exhibition at the Expo two years ago, I marvelled at the handiworks of our Creator! The body looks like the most complicated piece of machinery.... even more complicated than the world's most advanced computer! Just a slight disorder, and there will be a malfunctioning.!

I can't help but recall an interesting incident when I was teaching at ACS. My Secondary 2 students were writing their essays and I was marking their creative writing. I was amused when one of the boys wrote an article on "My English Teacher", He continued, "Although my English teacher is old, she looks younger and is actually quite charming".

"Kong Long, how old do you think I am?" I asked the student.

"50!" came the reply.

Before I could speak, another boy shot across, "You're stupid lah.
How can Madam be so old. She's 28!"

I told the boys they were both wrong.... I was 38.

"Madam, I thought ladies usually don't like to reveal their age!" another boy, Kelvin
volunteered. "Yesterday, I asked grandma about her age and she scolded me."

I told the students I am not afraid of revealing my age, as I take pleasure in growing old. Morever, as a Christian, death has no sting for me.... if we Christians believe that heaven is such a wonderful place, why be afraid to go? Hence, growing older implies I can see Jesus faster!

Kong Long explained his reason for guessing my age. "Madam, my mum is 45 years old, but she does not have so many experiences as you do; therefore I deduce that you must be older than my mom".

"Good try, Kong Long. A person can lead a long, quiet and uninvolved life... hence his experiences will be limited by his lifestyle. Exposure is not dependant on age." I had just taught the class how to make sentences with the words "Induction and deduction"!

Two weeks later, Kong Long looked troubled and said, "M'aam. I have put you in a situation now. Yesterday, my mom was setting the dinner table and heaved a big sigh, "Lao liaoh ah!" (Getting old already!) To comfort her, I said, "Mom, don't worry. You can see Jesus faster!" When she found out that I had quoted you, she was angry and wanted to phone the school principal to complain. I smiled and told Kong Long not to worry and I would speak to his mother myself. I called Kong Long's mom and explained to her the meaning of the ressurection, for we Christians believe in the ressurected power of our Saviour. Hence for us death has no sting.

Let us count our blessings and name them one by one. Let us look at the positive side of life and find joy in simple things. If we had been too busy rushing here and there, let us pause and take time to smell the flowers and enjoy the handiworks of our Creator.

As we have many trees near our apartment building, there are many ravens and sparrows flying around. Some of them would come into my apartment in search of food. I notice that all the birds look nicely rounded. I have yet to see an underweight or anorexic bird.! In Luke 12:24 it is written: "Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!"

Indeed, by God's mercy, I have been breathing 27,349,920 minutes on earth! He has protected me from so many dangerous moments. Without His grace, I would not be writing this blog today!

Gan Chau

Unforgettable Steven

When I visited my eldest sister, Lee Lee, in Kuching, Sarawak, she brought me to the Cheshire Boys' Home, which was then run by some Catholic nuns from the Convent. My big-hearted sister often volunteered to cook for the poor boys because many of them were abandoned or abused, or were left in the Home because their parents could not afford to raise them up. How Sister managed her time was most admirable, because she was a school teacher with 4 children, and often had to help my brother-in-law who was then pastoring a church in the capital of Sarawak. Yet, she still managed to volunteer her time at the Boys' Home. "If there's a will, there's a way", was her favourite maxim.

Upon arrival at the Home, the one little boy that caught my attention was Steven. Unlike the other boys who were normal, Steven was born with no hands and feet. What he had for arms and legs, were merely stumps without even the elbows and the knees! He had artifical limbs fitted onto his short stumps. Apparently, Steven hated the extra addition to his legs, for he felt more free without them. When he removed the stumps, he showed me how fast he could actually walk and even run on his stumps! Steven even won the first prize in the Home's swimming competition. His competitors were non-handicapaped swimmers.! Somehow, Steven reminds me of Lena Maria, who outswam even the Mayor of Taiwan! However, Lena Maria, is a little more fortunate than Steven because she has legs, albeit imperfect ones, but Lena uses her imperfect legs to perform all tasks that normal people do, and she performs her tasks almost perfectly!

It was heart-warming to see how Steven made the most use of whatever he had to get the most out of life. His teacher, Sister Maria, asked him to show us how he put on his T-shirt.
Steven picked his T-shirt from the table with his mouth, and before you could say "Mamma Mia" he had already put on his shirt! Sister Maria also proudly told us that Steven participated in most of the school games and sports. His normal classmates had learnt to accept him and treat him like one of them. Sister Maria showed us photos of Steven taking part in his first race when he was in Primary One. He had to move quickly and balance a ping pong on a spoon held in his mouth. He came in first! He was an extremely cheerful boy and laughed easily. He gleefully thanked my sister for her delicious cakes and curry puffs. "Aunty, I love you; but I love your pastry even more!" he teased.

Kuching is famous for her colourful beaded necklaces. These necklaces are stringed together with a fine elastric string that is used for fishing. The students in the Home were taught this craft. The necklaces were sold to raise money for the Home. I tried to string the tiny beads and it was not an easy task even for someone like me with ten fingers! Yet, Steven could string the beads by using his mouth to hold the elastic string and picking up the tiny beads from the table. The most difficult task was when Steven had to put all four strings into one bead so as to form a floral pattern. It was heart-wrenching to see him struggling, yet as usual Steven was very determined to complete his task. The normal students took about 4 hours to make a necklace. It would take Steven 5 times longer. The Home allowed Steven to join the other boys in this craft so as to give him a sense of achievement and belonging. I bought a necklace from Steven and gave him 5 times more the amount since he had to put in 5 times more effort.

I often shared with my students and friends about Steven. The necklace is still in my possession. Whenever I feel discouraged or feel like quitting, I will remember Steven's necklace which represents a little cheerful, disabled boy's grit and determination to get the most out of life.

Gan Chau

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Embarrassing Incident (2)

The evening dinner crowd was increasing as we quickly went around serving customers
at our Rialto Italian Cuisine in Amara Hotel Shopping Centre Foodcourt. One customer was exceedingly warm and cordial, and seemed to be relishing his pasta seafood and Diego pizza. I noticed that although he had finished his meal, he sat at his table, observing the customers and at the same time looking at our operations. He seemed to be interested in his surroundings and momentarily, I suspected he might even be an officer in plain clothes or a private investigator!

He must have sat down for some two hours and showed no sign of leaving. Later, he walked towards the counter and said to me, "My compliments to your chef". He smiled and left, promising to be back another time. I was pleasantly surprised and told him he must come back.

"Massimo, that gentleman said your cooking is very nice! He asked me to give you his compliments" , I cheerfully told my Italian chef.

"Choo, which world do you come from?"

"I come from Penang".

"The customer doesn't mean my cooking is nice... he means I'm handsome and he likes me!
Didn't you see him making eyes at me for the past two hours? He's a gay."

Gan Chau

To Lily With Fond Memories

After a preliminary check up by the nurse, I gathered my handbag and the neatly wrapped Christmas present for my friend, Lily. Outside, the snow, which always reminds me of cake icing, was coming down steadily, as if in anticipation of Christmas Day. The Royal Alexandra Hospital was beautifully decorated with trees and cards, and the air permeated with Christmas carols. There is something so pure and magical about a white Christmas. The fact that I was going to have ear surgery on the following day did not dampen my spirit. I was rather excited, because I was going to see Lily who was also hospitalised in the same building. After bidding the nurses goodbye and promising that I would be back in a short time, I made my way to the reception desk on the main floor.

"The lady in question is not here", said the receptionist.

"Yes, she is. Can you please check again?" I persisted.

"No, not here. Sorry. You'd better check at the nursing home."

I left with disappointment and a sense of impending trouble. I had been so sure that Lily was at the hospital. I headed for the public phone and nervously dialled Lily's number.

A voice answered. "..... Nursing Home."

"Hello! Can speak to Mrs. Lily Smith?"

"I'm afraid she passed away last night."

I was stupefied. Tears rolled down my cheeks. " Why last night? " Childishly I asked,
"Why not tomorrow?" Then I could have seen Lily for the last time today. As I made my way back to the ward, crying unabashedly, some people stopped to ask, "Are you alright?" I could not answer. The fact that I would not be able to see Lily again was all that mattered to me.

The nurses tried to comfort me. "Your friend had suffered a lot. It's probably better that she's now resting in peace." Back at the hospital bed, I could not help thinking and recalling the past.

I first met Lily two summers ago when I volunteered to look after her twice a week during the later part of the day. She was a petite, Scottish widow of seventy years. She had suffered from arthritis for thirty years, and was constantly in pain. However, she was very cheerful and courageous. Despite the great difference in age and temperament, we were in tune with each other, like the harmonious chords of a guitar. She was the grandmother I never had. I cannot help wishing that I were the eldest in the family, so tht I could have had a chance to see all my grandparents. I was a tomboy, but with Lily, I learned to be gentle, as when I helped her to do her hair or massage her frail shoulders. Under Lily's patient instructions, I baked her birthday cake. It was the first birthday cake I had ever baked in my life, but Lily encouraged me. With Lily I was able to do all the little things that I had never done before. I enjoyed pushing her around in her wheel chair. Often I would push her to the lounge where I would entertain her and some of the other elderly people with piano playing. Some of them would sing hymns, old hits and folk songs. The more energetic ones would waltz along with the music. Their joy and humour were infectious.

At times we would chat and have coffee together, and Lily would tell me stories of the Canadian pioneer days. In return, I would share with her my experiences in Malaysia and all those countries that I had visited.

We were always looking forward to meeting each other. I realised how lonely these elderly people could be, and was glad to do a little to cheer them up. Although I had been to Canada for two and a half years, I was still not accustomed to the idea of nursing homes, because in Malaysia, most people looked after their own parents. My older siblings were all living in different countries, leaving me to look after my parents. It was only after they passed away, that I decided to pursue my tertiary education in Canada.

For the past year, I had been able to take some time off occasionally to visit Lily and her friends. We always had our little musical session. Music is an international language that everyone unerstands. Being with these lovely people had taught me to value time and to revel in youth. How often I had heard them say, "If I had the strength again, I would do this and that." Lily wished she had learned to play the piano or violin before arthritis struck her. Lily liked writing, and I can still remember the huge amount of correspondence that she handled. Despite her partially twisted hands which shook most of the time, she still wrote her personal letters whenever she could. It is for this reason that I especially treasure the birthday, Christmas and thank you cards tha Lily sent me. Only when her hands were very weak and stiff would she ask me to help her with writing. I will always remember Lily's advice to me, "When you are young, try to live life to its fullest and accomplish as much as you can because this is when you have the most energy, mobility and spirit."

My last visit to Lily's nursing home had been a week before I received a call from her niece, informing me that Lily was in the hospital. At that time I was recuperating from a severe bout of flu. I requested the niece to tell Lily that I would visit her in about five days' time. I had hoped that I would recover by then. Alas! I was a day too late!

Despite having suffered three bereavements, I found Lily's sudden death a hard blow to take. I wish I could be like the nurses who viewed death and suffering in a more detached and somewhat philosophical manner. Probably their daily contact with sickness and death had enabled them to become less vulnerable .

I thought of Lily lying in the mortuary, cold and oblivious to any further arthritic pain. Her two sons still did not know of her death as they lived a thousand miles away from Edmonton. For some reason, Lily had not filled in her children's address and phone number on the form, so it would take the hospital some time to get in touch with them. Even Lily's niece who phoned me five days ago had not yet learned of her aunt's death. My only consolation was that Lily was a Christian and therefore had hopes of salvation. Now I dare not go back to the nursing home to play the piano, because I could not bear to see the empty chair which was once occupied by Lily. The memory would be too painful. But then.... life must go on. It is better to give our best to people while they are still living, than to lament when they have passed away. The very uncertainty of life enhnces its value, because we never know when we will be called to rest. I recalled Lily's advice again and suddenly asked myself what accomplisments I had achieved so far. I recalled the promise that I had made to my beloved father that I would work diligently and learn whateverI could. Dad had always cautioned, "There is only so much that you can learn from books The rest comes from your personal participation and experiences. Learn from your mistakes and strive to enrich your life spiritually, socially and intellectually."

Like every other student who is working for his university degree, I am often faced with the same challenge of finding enough time to accomplish everything that I would like. Through influence from dad and Lily, I cannot be content just to graduate with a degree. I want to learn from a wealth of personal experiences so as to increase my social awareness and understanding. For us foreign students in Canada, time is even more precious, since we have a targeted time to complete our studies. We want to acquire as much knowledge as we possibly can so tht we could share with our people back home. Alberta, being a melting pot, gives us immense opportunities to meet people of diverse races. Having had many opportunities for travelling and interaction, I have learned a great deal from people who come from all over the world. How wise of Emerson to say, "Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that I learn of him." Life's journey is often a rough terrain, but the rewards are sweet and tremendous.

Gan Chau

P.S. To Lily with Fond Memories was published in the True Life Story section of New Thrill,
Sarawak's Tabloid on 11th August, 1982.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Korea! Oh! My Korea!

"Your bor! Your bor! Your telephone call!" I shouted across the general office of Keang
Nam Enterprises which was then building the Penang International Airport. Suddenly all eyes
turned towards me in shock and amusement, and I could catch Your Bor grinning from ear to ear as he lifted the phone. One of the Korean engineers walked towards me and almost pleaded, "Miss Kam, if you can also call me Your Bor, I"ll be the happiest man on earth!"

"But, that's not your name - you're Mr. Lee", I protested. The staff laughed. It was only when Chief Architect Kim explained to me that I realised I had been tricked. Just imagine! I had been innocently calling Mr. Han "Darling" for the past few days since I started work with the company. "Just you wait! I'll try to learn your language and then you won't trick me anymore!" I declared. Hence began an interest in Korea and her people. Gosh! I discovered that the Korean Language is not easy to learn. Goodnight in French is "bonne nuit", in Mandarin "wan ahn", in German "Gute nacht" but in Korean it is "Ahn nyong hee ju mu sip si yo"! No wonder the Koreans have to rush when they speak, because they use so many words to say the same thing.

Our Korean staff was a diligent lot. Starting work at 7.00 am. they only stopped twelve hours later. They courageously braved the hot and humid weather of Penang. Communication with the locals was hindered by limited English and Malay, but somehow the Koreans mnaged to
get their message across. Beneath their tough and somewhat aggressive exterior, they are
atually a gentle, sensitive and discerning race. Unfortunately, after two years of service, I had to futher my studies in Canada. It was a difficult decision as I had grown to be fond of my Korean colleagues. They are such fun-loving people. I can reminisce that one of my colleagues had asked me to teach him how to say "I love you!" in the various local dialects and languages. One morning, he came to the office with panda eyes! He had taken a fancy to one lady and declared that he loved her in Mandarin! Before he knew it, the lady's boyfriend had punched him severely on the face, blackeneing his eyes! Like a gentleman he did not retaliate and apologised to the man and woman. Indeed many of the Korean men are true romantics at heart. On the whole, Koreans are a people full of emotion. No wonder they are so artistically-inclined. Reluctant as my Korean boss was to let me go, he was very understanding and even invited me to stop over at Seoul for a week's stay at the Company's expense. I was touched by his thoughtfulness and generosity. One of the staff also offered his home to me. He argued that since I was travelling alone, it would be more conducive for me to stay with his mother and sister. I accepted his offer with much gratitude.

At Seoul International Airport, I found the gentle and patient porter a refreshing change from the brisk and somewhat aggressive porters in Hong Kong. He helped me to dial the telephone and even looked after my luggage as I had to visit the restroom. He even firmly refused to accept the extra tip I offered him. He told me that US2.00 was sufficient as I had only two bags. I was impressed with his honesty. I was delighted to meet my colleague's sister, Chung Sil, who rushed all the way to the airport by taxi afer receiving my phone call. The porter only left after he had seen that I was safely with my friend.

Chung Sil had just completed her university education and she spent every minute of her free time with me. She is an accomplised pianist and entertained me with her skilful and beautiful playing. Her mother was gracious and hospitable. I relished her sumptous Korean food. Relief showed on her face when she saw me enjoying my meal. She had worried that I could not get used to Korean food. It also warmed my heart to find Chung Sil such a filial daughter to her widowed mother. Indeed both Chung Sil and her mother are the epitome of the feminine and charming Korean women. Despite my limited knowledge of Korean, we were able to somehow understand each other. I suppose love and respect for one another is like an international language that breaks down all racial barriers. Chung Sil's neighbours were very friendly and curious about her Malaysian friend. One of the neighbours invited me over for tea and I could perceive the closeness of the family.

Even when shopping in the many modern departmental stores in the heart of Seoul, I found the sales personnel to be very polite and gentle. I could see the pleasure on their warm and friendly faces when I greeted them "Ahn Nyong Har Seh Yeo". (Good morning). Some of them presented me with little Korean souvenirs - embroidered handkerchieves and purses, Korean flags and dainty dolls in Korean national costumes. They complimented me on my Malaysian outfit - the kebaya and made me feel like a celebrity! There were so many things to look at but I was particularly interested in their local products. Chung Sil gave me a beautiful traditional Korean dress. It was bright and colourful and I proudly wore it when I was in Canada.

At Keang Nam's Head Office, I was pleasantly surprised when the President of the company generously offered his chauffeur and limousine so that I could be driven around the city. Wow! What a VIP treatment for an insignificant secretary from their Penang office. I fought back my tears and silently thanked God for this blessing. My colleagues brought me to the fascinating Korean Fok Village and I could discern the pride of the Koreans for their rich cultural heritage. The farmers' band, in colourful attiture, seemed to be enjoying themselves as they produced strident beats in bid to drive out evil spirits. As we were sipping tea in the open air markets, I marveled at the creativity of the people. The potter proudly displayed his skill using traditional methods. The barber mischieviously asked me if I could honour him by getting a hair-cut!

After the Korean Folk Village, my friends took me to visit Kyongbok Palace. My Korean friends proudly told me some of the historial aspects surrounding the awesome buildings and the royal family of the Yi Dynasty. Seoul is indeed a city of contrast between the past and present. On the one hand, one can see modern skyscrapers and on the other are still remnants of imposing city gates, old palaces and serene temples. Indeed the Koreans have the best of both worlds, having modern technology and yet maintaining the essence of the ancient Orient. On returning to the Head Office in the evening, the President was amused when he heard that my somewhat cheeky collegues had ordered very hot and spciy food but they did not realise I was used to spciy food. I therefore had the pleasure of seeing my Korean friends sniffing and putting out their tongues to cool, gulping down glasses of ice-water and beer! Their joke had backfired!

The following day, I was taken to Mt. Soraksan What a breath-taking view! I was filled with envy of the Koreans for having been endowed with such natural landscapes. The flawless beautfy of Mr. Soraksan is further enhanced by the golden splendour of Autumn. I was inspired to write a poem on my return, with the sound of the rushing waterfall still fresh in my memory.

My colleague's friend, Mr. Park, invited me to the Holiday Inn for a dinner cum cultural show I was mesmerised by the excellent performances by Korea's top artistes. When I learned that my colleagues had phoned him from Penang to specially request this favour for me, I was overwhelmed. How thoughtful of him! Even though he wa not with me in Seoul, he was with me in spirit. Such is the intensity and sincerity of my Korean friends. Night life in Seoul is no less vibrant than the ones in many bustling cities of the world. I realise that the Koreans work hard and also play hard.

It had been twenty eight years since my visit to Korea. Yet this beautiful holiday has been deeply etched in my memory. In the very near future, I hope to visit Korea again and see the many changes that have taken place. But there are some things I am very certain the Koreans will never change - their diligence, artistic creativity, generosity, hospitality, sincerity, acute sense of humour and zest for life. Korea! Korea! Oh! My Korea!


Golden splendour,
leaves drop,
snow falls,
young leaves
peeping shyly.
Dark green coat,
whatever the season,
Mount Soraksan
looks like a well-dressed lady.

Sonorously she sings
as her waters rush
down the falls,
softly beckoning,
"Come, play with me,
bask in my glorious beauty!"

Gan Chau

Here is a tale about putting things in perspective.

A rich man wanted to show off his new car, so he parked it oustide his office.

As he got out, a truck came along and completely tore off the driver's door. He
called the police and five minutes later, an officer arrived. Before he had a chance
to ask any questions, the man started ranting hysterically.

"My car is ruined! It'll never be the same again!"

When he finally stopped, the officer shook his head in disgust and disbelief.

"I can't believe how materialistic you are," he said.

"You are so focused on your possessions that you neglect the most
important things in life."

"How can you say such a thing?" screamed the rich man.

The offficer replied: "Don't you even realise that your left arm is missing?
It got ripped off when the truck hit you!"

"My god!" the rich man exclaimed in horror

"Where's my Rolex?"
Spotted by Yeoh Wee Teck
(Extract from the New Paper)

Biblical Jokes

Q. What do they call pastors in Germany?
A. German Shepherds.
Q. Who was the greatest financier in the Bible?
A. Noah. He was floating his stock while everyone else was in
Q. Who was the greatest female financier in the Bible?
A. Pharaoh's daughter. She went down to the bank of the Nileand drew
out a
little prophet.
Q. What kind of motor vehicles are in the Bible?
A. Jehovah drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden in a Fury. David's
was heard throughout the land. Also, it's probably a Honda, because the
apostles were all in one Accord.
Q. Who was the greatest comedian in the Bible?
A. Samson. He brought the house down.
Q. What excuse did Adam give to his children as to why he no longer
in Eden?
A. Your mother ate us out of house and home.
Q. Which servant of God was the most flagrant lawbreaker in the Bible?
A. Moses, because he broke all Ten Commandments at one time.
Q. Which area of Palestinewas especially wealthy?
A. The area around Jordan. The banks were always overflowing.
Q. Who is the greatest baby sitter mentioned in the Bible?
A. David. He rocked Goliath to a very deep sleep.
Q. Which Bible character had no parents?
A. Joshua, son of Nun.
Q. Why didn't they play cards on the Ark?
A. Because Noah was always standing on the deck.
P.S. - Did you know it's a sin for a woman to make coffee?
Yup, it's in the Bible. It says "Hebrews."
How the Jews got the Ten Commandments?
God went to the Arabs and said, "I have Commandments for you that will
your lives better."
And the Arabs asked, "What are Commandments?". "Can you give us an
"Thou shalt not kill."
"Not kill?? No way! We're not interested."
So He went to the Blacks and said, "I have Commandments."
And the Blacks wanted an example,
and the Lord said, "Honor thy Father and Mother."
"Father.? Yo maan, can't tell who our fathers are, maan!"
So He went to the Mexicans and said, "I have Commandments."
And the Mexicans wanted an example, and the Lord said, "Thou shalt not
"No steal? No steal.??? Hey Senor, we no steal then how we live,huh??
Gracias, but no!"
He went to the French and said, "I have Commandments."
The French wanted an example and the Lord said, "Thou shalt not commit
"Not commit ze adultery..?? Non, non, monsieur, we French, we must have
He went to the Jews and said, "I have Commandments."
"Commandments?" they asked, "how much do they cost?"
"They're free."
"We'll take 10."

Ps. The above biblical jokes were sent to me via
email by my best friend, Loh Soh Wah.

The green, green grass

My elder sister, Ean Ean, used to teach in the St. Nicholas School for the Blind. She taught the cute kindergarten kids as well as helped the older students in piano, violin and voice.

Under the capable and dedicated leadership of her remarkable school princiapl, Mr. Brohier,
my sister's love for the school became enhanced. Everyday, she would narrate the interesting happenings in the school and I became even more curious about her students.

After my school examination, I volunteered to visit the students. Upon entering the gate of the school, I was surprised when a youth on bicycle hollered, "Hello! Who's there?" Upon closer observation, I was surprised to find that the youth was blind, and yet he cycled around the compound as if he were normal sighted! I was fascinated! I was even more impressed when I saw the girls cooking during their Cookery lessons!

The kindergarten kids were so adorable, especially little Somin and Barnabas. They sang like angels. Little Somin proudly put on her new little shoes and asked me what the colour was. "Red, my dear". Somin smiled and told me gleefully, "I like red! I like red! Little Red riding Hood!" I was affected by her joy.

It was great fun to help my sister with her school year end concert and prize giving ceremony. We were at the backstage, and I was helping the teenage girls to put on makeup. Suddenly one of the boys, Ahmad, asked me, "Choo, please tell me. Is Sophia beautiful?" I was momentarily taken aback, and I was about to say, "No... not really", when I hesitated. I suddenly realised that both Ahmad and Sophia must have affection for each other, for I had
often seen them talking together. Although Sophia might not look pretty to me, I am sure in the eyes and heart of Ahmad, she must be the most beautiful girl in the world. After all, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. "Sophia cantek, Ahmad, sangat cantek". (Sophia is beautiful, Ahamd, very beautiful). My heart was filled with joy when I saw Ahmad's face glowing with happiness as he kept saying, "Puji Tuhan! Puji Tuhan!" (Praise God, Praise God). Ahmad and another student, Kassim, played the duet on the piano beautifully, and I noticed Ahmad playing with great gusto as love for Sophia had inspired him.

Ahmad continued his studies in University Science Malaysia. Later he became a lecturer and married Sophia. They both had a beautiful daughter who was born normally. My sister and I visited them. I fought my tears as Ahmad proudly declared, "One day when our daughter grows up, she will be our eyes and describe to us the beauty of the green, green grass.....

Gan Chau

The World is a Stage (2)

When we arrived at Sungei Nibong Bus Terminal, my friend cleared her things and went down first. I stayed awhile to double check that all belongings had been removed. Just then, I saw a 20 cents Singapore coin and picked it up, and realised a black wallet was just beside. I picked it up and saw some credit cards and red notes. Immediately I asked the passenger who was sitting in front if the wallet belonged to him. He thanked me profusely. He was a monk who spoke excellent English.

When I was trying to make a call to my brother at a public phone booth, the monk approached me and to my shock said in Penang Hokkien, "All the money in my wallet is missing! Did you take them? Now I have no money to take transport home". I looked at him eyeball to eyeball and asserted, "I did not take a single cent. Jesus is my witness!" He walked off immediately. My friend did not understand Hokkien and thought he came to thank me again and when she found out the actual accusation, she was indignant.

The monk had obviously lied because earlier on in the bus, I had approached the driver to ask him what he had been singing throughout the journey because I had not recognised them as songs. I asked him if he was singing some Buddhist chants, and took the opportunity to share the gospel, in the hope that the two monks sitting on the first row would also be able to hear my sharing. The monk who claimed the wallet to be his had whipped out his handphone upon arrival and I heard him saying, "Aye. I'm here already. What time are you coming to fetch me?"

Yet, there he was telling me that he had no money to go home as all the cash had been removed! It was a blatant lie! I could only pray for him because as Christians we realise we are not fighting against man but against the dark principalities of this earth. Through this experience, I remember what my late papa had always taught me that to be truly successful and happy in life, we must always have gratitutde... gratittude towards God and man... for gratitutde puts us in the right and humble perspective that we always need man's help and God's grace and blessings.

Gan Chau

Morning Splendour

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Good morning !

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A Narrow Escape! (1)

After having lunch with my best friend at Amara Food Court, I was making my way back to the Tg. Pagar Mrt. Station. A huge tent for the purpose of the hungry ghosts celebration had been pitched right across the field, so that pedestrians had to go through the tent on their way to the Station.

As I was walking through the tent, I saw the intricate paper works of the idols, and offerings like helicopters, boats, houses, etc. and suddenly a heaviness filled my heart. I know many of the poor elderly folks had parted with their hard earned money to buy some of the paraphernalia and offerings on the altar. John 10:10 came to mind, "I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly" Mr. S.A. Tan is like a roaring lion, and has robbed people... such a contrast from the love of God who gave us His only begotten Son, Jesus to die on the Cross for us. I was praying for God's protection and mercy. Suddenly there was a loud bang. I looked back and was stunned to see that a long steel ladder had fallen and had just missed me by an inch! Can't imagine what dire consequences there would be, had the ladder hit me on the head! I might not live to write this article.! The organisers were shocked and rushed towards me to see if I was alright. I was very composed and thankful and in a loud and clear voice, proudly asserted, "My Lord Jesus protected me". They nodded their heads furiously, in agreement and perhaps more in relief!

Our world is in so much chaos and uncertainties today. True peace is not found in positive thinking, in absence of conflict, or in good deeds. Thank God for His protection or I might not writing this blog now.

Gan Chau

Laughter - the Best Tonic (1)

Mortal: "What is a million years like to you?"
God: "Like one second"
Mortal: "What is a million dollars like to you?"
God: "Like one penny".
Mortal: "Can I have a penny?"
God: "Just a second....."

Mr. Johnson, a businessman, went on a business trip to Kuala Lumpur. Upon
arrival, he immediately sent an email back home to his wife, Jean.
Unfortunately, he mis-typed one character and the email ended up going to a
Mrs. Joan Johnson, the wife of a minister who had just passed away that
morning. The vicar's wife took one look at the email and promptly fainted.

When she was finally revived, she nervously pointed to the message, which
read: "Arrived safely, but it sure is hot down here."

The man gets out of the car, walks all the way out to the farmer and asks him,
"Ah excuse me mister, but what are you doing?
The farmer replis, "I' m trying to win a Nobel Prize."
"How?" asks the man, puzzled.
"Well, I heard they give the Nobel Prize to people who are out standing in their field."
The above jokes are taken from Adult Joke Book

Poignancy of the Written Word

The landlord of the premises where I used to run my restaurant was a tough, less refined looking elderly man. If any of his tenants were to be tardy in their payment of rental, he would seek them out and bark in the loudest of voice for his rental. It did not bother him whether any of the customers were within earshot or his tenants would feel embarrassed.

Hence I was surprised my landlord would take so oo oooo long to refund me my deposit! I always thought that people would not do unto others what they don't like others to do unto them. After two weeks when there was no sign of return, I wrote him a letter. My Xiao Bai was a Chow Chow that hardly barked; likewise he has an owner who also hardly, if ever, barks at anyone. I wrote my landlord another letter... still no response. Finally I decided to sms him with the following words, "Dear Mr. Landlord, when are you returning me my deposit? You are
a millionaire; I am a $0-aire! The Landlord gave me the deposit a few days after the sms!

Many years ago, mama asked me to write to eldest brother to send her extra money because
she wanted to celebrate her birthday. It was not easy for me to write because eldest brother
was a very, very busy man. Every month he would remit some cash to mama for her pocket money as expected of most children in Asian families. Hence I wrote: "Dearest brother, Mama is going to celebrate her birthday......once in half a century... her very first celebration!" What a wonderful surprise when we received brother's gift for mama very soon after this letter.

Oh! The power and poignancy of the written word!

Gan Chau

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Taming of the Tomboy

I detested Domestic Science in school! Our cookery teacher was a tigress and I remember I would always try to "fall sick" on days we had cookery classes. So fearful was I of the teacher that I would get even more confused. It was with much humiliation when the teacher often announced at the end of the class that my prepared dish was the most unpresentable and unpalatable!

Sewing was absolutely boring for me. I would prefer to sneak to the library to read story books than to remain in the class to sew my skirt! The class would alternate with half doing sewing while the other half would go to the library, so that twice a week the teacher would have the opportunity to monitor every child's progress in sewing. You can imagine my teacher's horror when she discovered my incomplete skirt when every one else had completed theirs!

Mom, being a Peranakan, was an excellent and fastidious cook. I was also blessed with a sister in law and siblings who are excellent cooks. When my sister asked me to help her fry some coconut, I was impatient with the small fire and decided to turn the stove full blast. To my horror, the coconut turned brown, and finally burnt before I could yell, "Sis, help!" Sister worried how I could survive on my own when I went to Canada for my tertiary education. "Don't worry, Sis, I can just eat bread with jam and peanut butter", I comforted her.

I was fortuntate that during my first year at Grande Prairie, the College introduced me to a lovely family to have room and board. Anne was a great cook, and I learnt to appreciate Western food like fish and chips. Once Ann gave me a cup of yoghurt for dessert, and I asked politely if I could finish my dessert in my bedroom. I flushed the youghurt down the toilet, wondering why Anne gave us something that had turned bad and sour!

After a year, I was going to continue my studies at the University of Alberta. I wanted to thank my landlord and his wife for taking good care of me. I decided to give them a farewell treat by cooking dinner. I prepared 7 dishes, racking my brain in an attempt to remember what Mom had cooked. I started cooking at 9 in the morning and did not complete till 6.00p.m. just in time for the dinner. My legs were aching from having to stand the whole day long! Perhaps the food did not taste too bad, because everyone managed to finish off the food.

When I moved to Edmonton, I was glad to find a landlady who wanted me to babysit
her children in exchange for room and board. After a term, I decided to move to the University Hostel as her home was too far away. During the summer months, I decided to apply for a housekeeper's job. The lady came to my apartment to interview me and was horrified when she discovered I had put whole coffee beans into the coffee pot! "Do you Malaysians make coffee like that", she asked, flabbergasted. I did not realise I had to grind the beans into powder first in the supermarket! "There goes my job! She will not hire me!" I was wrong. She hired me to look after her four children while she went to Sweden for vacation.

The children were very sweet. For the first week, they survived on instant noodles and bread. I knew I had to learn and learn fast as I poured over recipe books in a bid to come up with something new. I did not like the huge wooden chopping board, and was delighed when I found a small round wooden chopping board. The lady was horified when she came back, "What are you doing with my waist-trimming board!" The children were often fighting and I was confused when they referred to their fathers. "Don't you have the same father?", I asked, perplexed. I later found out that the mother had remarried four times and her current boyfriend, Tom, was her fiance. She had gone to Sweden to meet her potential in-laws.

The family had two female labradors, Lyla and Polar. Llya had been taught to smile by the children. She would give her biggest smile after she had done something wrong, and she looked unnatural because dogs are not meant to smile with so much teeth showing! I drove the children to the farm to buy rabbits and hamsters. To my surprise the rabbits and hamsters multiplied very quickly and Polar and Lyla soon gave birth to 7 puppies each! It was fascinating to see the two dogs giving birth to cute little puppies. When the children's mother returned from Sweden, she was shocked to find the house had turned into a mini zoo. Unknown to me, the children had tricked me into allowing them to buy the rabbits and hamsters.!

Although it was only a 3 months summer job, I grew quite close to the family. The mother often asked me to babysit the children on periodical basis whenever she needed help. Perhaps this was an eyeopener for me. The family taught me so many things and gave me so many enriching experiences! Ahem! It was my first step towards becoming a little more feminine and domesticated!

Gan Chau

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


You might like this. This is hilarious... even an Englishman could not construct sentences using numeric, which is exclusive only to Malaysians and Singaporeans.
Ah Lek was asked to make a sentence using 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 and 10. Not only did he do it 1 to 10, he did it again from 10 back to 1. This is what he came up with...
1 day I go 2 climb up a 3 outside a house to peep. But the couple saw me,so I panic and 4 down. The man rush out and wanted to 5 with me. I run until I fall 6 and throw up. So I go into 7 eleven and grab some 8 to throw at him. Then I took a 9 and try to stab him. 10 God he run away.
So, I put the 9 back and pay for the 8 and left 7 eleven. Next day, I call my boss and say I am 6. He said 5, tomorrow also no need to come back 4 work.He also asks me to climb a 3 and jump down. I don't understand,I so nice 2 him but I don't know what he 1.

(Note from Gan Chau)

The above article is sent by one of Rialto customers, Chin Shan. I always love to receive her email..... if I ever put on weight, it is Chin Shan's fault. She makes me laugh so much... I literally get bloated with air! Thanks Chin Shan.... keep your males, oops, I mean mails, coming in!

All Things Great and Small .....

As a child, I would often follow my mother to the wet market. I was often curious about the sea-cucumber. As the name suggests, I have thought that the sea-cucumber is some kind of vegetable. It was only when I chanced to read an article and realised that the sea-cucumber is actually a sea creature!

I was even more fascinated when I learnt that when the sea cucumber is attacked, an extraordinary thing will happen; a stream of fine sticky threads will come shooting out of the end of the sea-cucumber. The potential predator will have a tough time trying to disentangle itself from the sticky mess as the sea cucumber crawls away.

"What would the sea-cucumber do if it is further pursued by its enemy?" I asked my students.
I posed this question to all my students during the past ten years when I was a teacher. Each student was given ten chances to guess at the answers. "It buries itself in the sand", a student volunteered. "It camouflages itself", someone suggested. "Ah, I know! The sea cucumber did a kung-fu stunt, shocking its predator!" volunteered the class clown.

During all those ten years of teaching, and after almost 24,000 guesses, there was not one correct answer. When the sea cucumber finds no way of escape, it will do something very drastic - it will throw up its entire digestive system.! While the predator focuses on the yummy bits thrown up with the stomach, the sea cucumber will take the opportunity to crawl away.
Meanwhile its entire digestive tract will regrow over the next couple of months!

Wow How brilliant is the Creator! Wouldn't it be wonderful if that could happen to us human beings? No one would need to go for expensive heart, lung or stomach surgery. We could just eject all the diseased organs and grow new one! (Surgeons would definitely go out of business then!) Ah! Wiat a minute! Probably the sea cucmber is endowed with such a unique feature of survival instinct, because it can only crawl and not swim swiftly like a dolphin! If God could take care of small little creatures like sparrows and sea cucumbers, how much more would He take care of us! Are we not His highest form of creation? Haven't many of us been miraculously healed of terminal diseases, blindness, etc. Hasn't the Lord healed me of my stone deafness? All we have to do is to have complete faith in Him for has God not reminded us that we are to seek His Kingdom first and He will grant us our hearts' desires?

How assuring when we read Psalms Chap 8 vs. 3-6:

When I look at the sky, which you have made,
at the moon and the stars, which you have
set in their places -
what is man, that you think of him;
mere man, that you care for him?

Yet, you made him inferior only to yourself;
you crowned him with glory and honour.
You appointed him ruler over everything you made.

Whenever I try to share about Creation, many non-Christians often challenged me with this
question, "Have you seen God personall y?" "Yes, I have; in my simplicity I find it easier to
believe that this beautiful world with all its contents, have been created by one great, omnipotent God, and I see Him in the perfect handiworkds He has generously created for us
to enjoy.

Gan Chau

We Cannot Outigve God (3) (The End)

My god-daughter and I decided to participate in the Westin Hotel Vertical Marathon. We had to climb 1,336 steps to the highest floor. Since I only decided to join a week prior to the event, I had little time to get sponsorship. However, my students rallied around me and within 4 days collected $780/-.! I asked them how they did it. "Easy, Ms. Kam. We practised what you had taught us..... the art of persuasion. We told all the sponsors our English teacher is oooo fat.... and yet she is participating, so you MUST support her and they did!" My principal was worried when she heard about my participation and tried to dissuade me. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me", I assured her. I completed my climb in 19 minutes. The fastest lady was 9 minutes! The slowest was 69 minutes. Best of all, in the lucky draw, I won two air tickets to Penang , just what I would need to visit my relatives.

I saw an advertisement about an aerobics marathon contest. I had never been to any aerobics classes nor did I own any aerobic suit. Even if I had I would be too bashful to wear one in public for the contest was held in Marina Square and shoppers could see all the contestants from the balconies on different floors. I decided I would just make do with my shorts and t-shirt.

My god-daughter, Carrie and I, summoned our courage on that fateful Deepavali. I was hoping to hide myself in a corner so that I would be less conspicuous. After one hour, the contestants were reduced from 400 to about 250 as some did not have the energy to carry on. It was tiring, but Carrie and I were determined to complete the 4 hours marathon. I signaled to Carrie that maybe we should slow down a little and make it like tai-chi style to conserve our energy. But the judges were strict and kept asking us to dance more vigorously or else they would disqualify us! Carrie and I managed to complete the marathon and qualify to join the lucky draw contest. I won the consolation prize - 3 pairs of Nike sports shoes. They were of every size except my size! The organisers wanted to change the size for me, but I told them it was alright for I would be giving them away

Our missionaries from Nepal returned to Singaapore for a holiday as well as for the church conference. Realising that their new born baby would need some wet tissues, I bought her a box. I was given an instant draw and won a $100/- gift voucher!

When I received a wedding invitation from one of the church staff, I planned to give a $100/- as hong bao (red packet). I was surprised to receive a letter from the DBS that I had won a consolation prize of $100/- cash. Later when a friend heard about my lucky prize, he lamented, "My mom and I have $800,000/- savings with the bank and we did not even win one consolation prize. I told him frankly that I only had $1,200/- in the bank.

Later, when I found out that my cell member had damaged her watch, I decided to get her a water proof watch. It would be more suitable for her as she worked with handicapped children and had to take them swimming almost every day. I was surprised the following morning I received a call from a staff of Singapore Press Holdings, congratulating me for having won a gold plated watch as a consolation prize in the South East Asian Games contest. I had not watched a single game and had just merely guessed the answers. The staff laughed and told me I was very lucky for there were altogther 1.5 million entries. It was certainly the Lord's work.

Once I asked the Lord why He had blessed me so much and apart from Luke 6:38 I found another answer during a Sunday service. Like the little boy with two fishes and five loaves of bread, I had given away whatever little I had and the Lord was able to multiply them.

I encourage all of you to give - whatever material things, talent or time and you will be the richer and more blessed. As someone said, "I prefer to let Heavenly Father put His big hands into my small pockets while I put my small hands in to His big pockets."

All these years I have discovered that when I provided an umbrella for others during
their rainy days, somehow the Lord would always provide me with an even bigger and sronger umbrella during my rainy days. Truly we cannot outgive Him! Our eternal thanks and gratitude to Him who makes all things possible.

Gan Chau

We Cannot Outgive God (2)

My students from RVHS mostly came from humble homes. RVHS is one of the top schools and the students are just so wonderful and disciplined. I would often buy chocolates and stationery from the supermarket to give away as prizes for outstanding pieces of creative writing or rewards for students who showed effort and improvement. I won a $50/- voucher from the Van Houten Chocolate makers, and another $100/- voucher from the Supermarket for its Aniversary Lucky Draw.

In late 1989, I decided to visit England and Scotland when I was teaching in ACS. My well-travelled and knowledgeable students advised me to buy a wind breaker for the trip. When I found out the price of the windbreaker, I decided to do without it. Perhaps to keep warm, I would just wear extra layers of clothes. My flatmate's mother from Penang visited us and I took her shopping at Chinatown. I bought two packets of Digestive Biscuits and was given two lucky coupons to scratch! To my surprise, I won a windbreaker! God knew my needs, because the wind in England and Scotland was stronger than I had anticipated.

In December 1992, I wanted to go to Nepal for a short term mission trip with some friends. I knew the people were very poor and wanted to bless them with gifts of toothbrushes, toothpastes, towels, socks, writing pads, stationery, candies and cookies. There were so many draws for the goods purchased and I won 7 prizes. One of them was a hamper of multi-vitamins and another a hamper of toiletries ..... just what the missionaries would need!

When I returned from Nepal , I was surprised to find 5 letters in my mailbox informing me of my lucky prizes! I had won an air ticket to Bangkok and when my friend's sister heard of my win, she gave me another lucky prize given to her by her customer - a four day package at the Bangkok Palace Hotel! I felt as if the Lord was saying: "Now that you have roughed it out in the mountain village, you can live like a princess for four days!" I invited a friend to join me for the tour as I wanted to share my blessings. I felt grateful and overwhelmed as the Hotel chauffeur came to pick us up from the airport in a limousine. The Thais are very gentle people with great service. My friend and I really felt like princesses during our 4 days stay at the Bangkok Palace Hotel!

Soon after I gave $500 to a local missionary who was going to Bible School. And the Lord blessed me with $500/-cash (3rd prize) from the toothbrush company!

My god-daughter, Carrie persuaded me to buy a beautiful Carven watch when she found out it was on sale at $480/- instead of the usual $560/-. "You are so stingy, Choo. You have always been wearing cheap watches... come, pamper yourself for once! There's also a lucky draw. You may win a prize, you know, " coaxed Carrie. Two months later, I was surprised that I had won the first prize given by the Carven watch company It was an air ticket to Rome! Since I had already been to Rome, I did not fancy going there again, and decided to sell the ticket and used the money to pay for my brother's hotel stay in singapore. Eldest brother was back in Singapore for a month for his art exhibition. Knowing that the drinks in the fridge were costly, I decided to stock up bottle fruit drinks and youghurt drinks for my brother. A month later, I was tickled pink to find that I had won a 12 speed mountain bike from the fruit drink company. It was just what I would need when I moved to my new flat in clementi. I had just given away my fairly good bicycle to our apartment janitor as I noticed his bicycle was falling apart and it would be quite dangerous for the old man to cycle on the road.

Thank God for His timely provison.

Gan Chau

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Two Tomatoes

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If you have not yet read this article which was published in the Family Tree, a now defunct
magazine, please proceed to read about Kamlette.

One day, as I was coming out of the staffroom, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw three of the upper secondary boys carrying a puppy each. "Madam, we found these puppies by the swamp in Pasir Ris. Will you adopt one puppy?" persuaded the boys. Apparently, they had gone for a geographical expedition and the discovery of six abandoned puppies so moved them that they momentarily forgot the purpose for which they had come.

I was about to protest. I hardly have enough time to sleep, let alone adopt a puppy. However, when I saw the cute little brown bundle of fur shivering with cold, my heart went to the poor animal Just then, my form class boys were jogging around the Quadrangle. One of them, Jerel, a lover of dogs and a would-be vet when he grows up encouraged, "Take it, Madam. Good dog. Don't worry! I'll bring it to the vet and have it vaccinated and dewormed. I'll nurse it back to health, and after one week, you'll have nice and healthy pet." No wonder my friends have told me that the boys in my school have the gift of the gab.

After one week, Jerel brought back the puppy and with it a whole paraphernalia of feeding bottle, syringe, medication, food container and a recipe of how to prepare food for the forever sleepy puppy.

At first I thought the puppy was a male and I called it "King". Later I found that it was a female, so I changed her name to "Queen". One day, I detected some mischievious grins in my class. "Madam, we give you two names to choose for your dog. You may call her "Kamster" or "Kamlet", suggested Darryl and Kenneth. I thought Kamster sounded like gangster, and Kamlet reminded me of Hamlet. Hmm.... very intellectual! Since the dog is a female, I decided to spell her name as 'Kamlette".

The vet confirmed that Kamlette is a cross between a Golden Retreiver and a Collie. As a first time pet owner, I was not aware that when you train a dog, you should use only one or two words. I used complete sentences! When Kamlette sometimes became too playful, I would say, "That is enough!" She would quickly lie down and put her front legs together in submission. She soon learnt to understand some instructions in Mandarin as well. Like a typical Golden Retriever, Kamlette is affectionate and loves to greet my guests with a kiss! WheneverI asked her to kiss me, she would give me a peck on the cheek. She loves to play tug-of-war, catching and hide- and- seek.

Kamlette likes to eat everything except dog food. She loves to eat chicken curry, Penang char kuay teow and chappati. She acquired the taste for spicy food through my Indian tenant, who shared his Chappati dinner with her when I was away for a week's camp. Perhaps she might be a good advertisement for KFC for Colonel Sanders would be thrilled with the way she smacks her lips with her tongue after a treat of fried chicken. Somehow, Kamlette instinctively knows that whatever humans eat, they must be good!

Kamlette is now two years old. She is indeed a blessed doggy because she has won a total of fourteen lucky prizes for the food I had bought for her.

What is the purpose of writing this article? I hope that more Singaporean parents will encourage their children to keep pets, or even allow pets to be kept when their children ask for additional 4-legged friends to be added to the home.

Whenever I take my dog for a walk, I notice that many local parents would tell their children to keep away from the dog. No wonder some children grow up with a phobia for dogs. In sharp contrast, the Caucasians would encourage their children to pet and stroke my dog.

One of my friends, Rita, told me that her mother used to dislike dogs because of a bad childhood experience. However, when her sister had a lovely poodle, Pepe, her mother began to get very fond of the dog, and soon overcame her phobia. In my friend's own words, "Pepe turned the world around for the whole family." Some parents are afraid of pets messing up the house, but what is a little mess compared to the tremendous joy and benefits that a family can have?

I have benefitted a lot from my dog. I found that I have actually become healthier and more
relaxed. No matter how busy I am, I will ensure that I take a few minutes to walk or run my dog. Needless to say, as my dog exercises, so do I. It is indeed therapeutic. In America, volunteers have often brought in their pet dogs to cheer up the residents in retirement homes. Pets are certainly good medicine. I have also developed a greater sense of responsibility. I owe it to my pet to look after her well.

Once I counted the variety of fur that Kamlette has. I was amazed by the different textures and variety. Her fur on the face gives a velvety touch. When she gets excited during a catching game, her central mane will stand on end. As she is a mixed retriever, some of her fur look like golden threads.

I have since become more philosophical, after adopting Kamlette as my pet. A dog lives about eight to sixteen years, yet it is made uniquely and so beautifully. Dogs are reputed to be extremely faithful to their masters. Yet, how faithful are we? Some of us let down our friends and all those who trust us.

How I wish I had a pet dog much earlier, for when Kamlette came into my life, I was already 37!
In giving the poor, abandoned puppy a new lease of life, I realise that I have also given myself a new lease of life - of awarenes, of excitement and appreciation of the things around me. Kamlette has enhanced my love for the Creator and His beautiful handiwork. Whenever I feel sad or disappointed, I would look at my pet and bounce back to joy and optimism.

As parents, you can be the giver of life, of joy, of character-building and responsibility to your child. Do not worry about messy homes. Help your child to grow up more appreciative of the world around him, and you will soon find that he will learn to clean up the mess in the home as well as in his own life.

Gan Chau

What's in a Name?

Names! Names! Names! Names are so important and it is incredible how careless some parents could be in naming their children. The importance and interpretation of names were especially very crucial during biblical times from the Old Testament to the New Testament.

In my village in Penang where I was born and raised, it was interesting to note the names given to the children. These names would often make me think of the book, Animal Farm. The girls were called "Ah Zhuah" (snake), "Ah Phang" (Bee), "Ah Thor " (rabbit) "Ah Niau (cat) etc. while the boys could be called, "Ah Too" (pig), "Ah Kow" (dog) "Ah Gau" (monkey), "Ah Beh" (horse)., etc.

Of course, poor me was not spared either. I grew up, conscious that my name, " Choo Choo" often stirred up a lot of teasing and laughter from my classmates, especially during Malay lesons. For the sound alike word for grandchild is "chuchu". I remember once asking papa why he called me this "cute" name and he explained that I was his blessed mistake, his youngest daughter who was born six years after the supposedly last child, my sister. This explains the huge 16 year age gap between my eldest brother and me. Many of the Malay folks who dropped by our home would often be surprised to see the new addition, and would ask grandma, "Chuchu awak" (Your grandchild?) Hence since my two older sisters are called "Lee Lee" and "Ean Ean" papa called me "Choo Choo". Many of my friends would write my name as Choo to the power of 2 - Choo2. Hence you could understand why I turned down a suitor with the surname of Choo. I did not wish to end up as Mrs. Choo Choo Choo! Choo3!

There was a lady food vendor who was married to a civil servant. The husband was somewhat westernised, making his illiterate wife appear like a gross mismatch. Her youngest daughter was looked after by my neighbour, and one day, I heard her cry out in desperation, "Aiyoh, this husband of mine ah....Chinese don't want to give Chinese name, must call all the daughters what lah Jessy...... Patsy..... Lucy....Wahsy ...... boh ho see! She even rhymed the names with boh ho see, meaning not easy to die!

I was often at the mercy of new teachers who found my name so easy to remember. Hence during the first few weeks of term, I would be extrra vigilant, for my teachers would surely call upon me to answer questions in class!

Of course, with the advent of TV and videos, the song "Choo Choo Train" bcame widely heard. Hence when I went to Canada, I decided to adopt the more sophisticated name of "Lena" but the moment the Canadians knew my Chinese name, they gleefully called me "Choo Choo". "Suits you better dear ..... so cute, and you are like a train .... constantly on the move"!

During my four years in Alberta, I would go downhill skiing without fail. During these four years, not once was my name ever spelt correctly on my ski passes. The names came out as "Chor Chor Kam, Choa Choa Kam, Chom Chom Kam, Chow Chow Kam". The Canadians found it to too coincidental that papa could really give me a name that reminds them of a train.

Welcome on board the train, anyone?
Gan Chau