Friday, December 29, 2006

Hostel vs. Hotel

I am moving over to Baguio Hotel on Bade Road Sec. 2. this morning. Frankly I have settled down at the Happy Family Hostel 2 and have enjoyed staying here, as I could meet tourists from so many countries. There is a free internet access and we could also wash clothes in the washing machine without charge. My travel agent had booked three days hotel stay at Baguio. I was glad I ventured into the internet and found the Happy Family Hostel in case of contingency! All my plans went awry but I am glad eventually everything worked out well.

I am not fussy about great comfort. After all, I am out most of the day, and need only to use the hotel room to sleep at night. Hence I would rather stinge on hotels and have extra cash to go shopping and sightseeing, so that I can bless my friends/relatives with some gifts from Taiwan. I am also one of those who sleep very soundly, whether I sleep on a luxurious mattress in a hotel or on a mud floor in the mountains of Kathmandu!

With the popularity of budget airfares, next time I will just take the budget airplane and stay at the Happy Family Hostel. This way I can enjoy more breaks at more economical budgets. Now I am quite a pro on how to make my way around Taiwan!
Travel tips, anyone?

Love is a Many Splendoured Thing

On my way to Taichung by the U Bus, I received a call from eldest brother in Canada.
He was worried about me as I had not yet contacted my nephew in Taichung, and he did not know if I was in the earthquake affected area of Taiwan! He had called earlier but for some reason he could not connect to my mobile.

A little later, my second sister called me from Singapore, as my nephew, Francis, had called her from Taichung. Again my mobile was not able to receive all their calls.
Suddenly my phone was abuzz with all the sms from my friends in Singapore. Everyone of them was worried about the earthquake and wanted to know if I was safe. For two days, my mobile was not operational!

I am touched by the love and concern of my relatives and friends. Now that we are on the subject of disasters and death, my friends who know me well, know me as a daredevil. My attitude is always, "If I perish, I perish", and a gentle reminder to all my friends to give me bouquets when I am alive and not at my funeral. I would also like my friends to dance and sing at my funeral, for death has no sting for those of us who call ourselves the children of God.

The earthquake at Pingtung is another reminder to all of us to always treasure our loved ones and to make full use of time while we have it. Let us all live our life to the fullest and to always count our blessings and name them one by one.

Gan Chau

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

LIfe is a Many Splendoured Thing

I had bought too many things and now would need an extra luggage. Hence I trotted off early this morning to the Main Railway Station Mall. I thought I would try a different route. To my surprise all the shops were still closed around 9.30a.m. I wanted to go out of an exit so that I would be more clear of my direction, but I saw a lady with a walking stick a little distance in front of me. I thought I'd better go along with her so as to be her body guard if the need arose. (The only time I needed to use my kung-fu was in Paris, when a French lady tried to rob me).

The lady rested on a bench and on passing by , I smiled and she smiled in return.
I told her I was from Singapore and she in return told me she was on her way to catch a bus to Taichung. We chatted and she told me that there was an earthquake the previous night. I suddenly burst out laughing when I realised why my computer and my chair shook around 8.26p.m. The earthquake at Pingtung had affected many parts of Taiwan, including Taipei which also felt the tremors. At first I thought it was my imagination. Perhaps the hostel could be haunted. I remembered saying my prayers and asking for God's protection. The friendly lady told me her name is Kimiko as she likes Japanese culture. I walked her to the bus stop so that I could learn how to take a bus to Taichung in future. I was surprised that the service is 24 hours with buses leaving every one hour! The fares are quite cheap - only NT150 (S$7.30) for a two and a half hours journey.

Hence I decided I would travel to Taichung by the 7.00a.m. bus and return to Taipei by the 8.00p.m. bus. Would drop by to visit my nephew and his wife at Taichung. Kimiko would be waiting for me at the Bus Terminal. Best of all, I shared with her my testimonies and she is quite open. I am sure this meeting is by divine arrangement.
God knows my heart.... how I very much want to see my nephew and his wife..... even though they are too busy for me. I immediately connect to Kimiko .... through talking with her, found out that we have many things in common.

Life is such a many splendoured thing!

Gan Chau

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What We Can Learn From the Taiwanese

I was at this shop situated along Chung San Bei Lu Sec. One when I suddenly heard music from "The Maiden's Prayer". To my surprise, the shopkeepers along the stretch of road ran towards the garbage truck with their bags of garbage neatly put in different baggages. The ones already on the road were automatically carried by the garbage collectors. Behind the garbage truck was another truck which collected recylced items.! Wow! I was impressed! Papers, bottles, plastics were put in different bags. With the music playing and the people cheerfully throwing in their garbage, it looked more like a celebration.

I also observed that there was hardly any stench from the garbage trucks. The Taiwanese tied up their rubbish neatly. In contrast, our garbage trucks in Singapore often give out a pungent odour. Worse, every rubbish is jumbled up .... obviously no sign of recycling.

On the first night of my arrival at Taipei, I went to the 24 hour OK convenient store, and was surprised that the store keeper did not give me a plastic bag. If I wanted one, I had to pay NT10 for it. The Taiwanese believe in recyling and customers are encouraged to bring their own bags.

My second sister had complained that Taiwan is quite a dirty country. Now having visited Taiwan myself, I beg to differ. Perhaps things look dirty because most of the buildings are quite old. Yet, I notice that the streets hardly have litter, even though I hardly see rubbish bins around! The Taiwanese constantly remember to recycle.... they do not just dump everything into the rubbish bin. There are rubbish bins everywhere in Singapore, that people just conveniently throw rubbish into the bins.
The students would bring back their empty coca cola cans back to their homes or schools for recyling! A good example which we Singaporeans should emulate!

With our world's resources fast depleting, perhaps it is a good idea to rethink issues.
Let us be more conscious of our recyling efforts so as to help make this world a better place to live in. When we just want to throw away the newspapers together with our fish bones and prawn shells, let us think of how long it takes for a tree to grow!

Gan Chau

Monday, December 25, 2006

Interesting Things I Discovered About Taiwan

My second sister, Ean Ean, had just gone to Taiwan for about ten days, and came back complaining so much, until I wondered why I had planned to visit Taiwan after her.

My original plan was to bring some of my brother's paintings to my nephew in Taichung. However, just after I had confirmed the flight and hotel stay, he wrote to ask me not to come as December is a very busy month for him.

I had been to 37 countries, and most of the times, I was kind of pampered. Either these visits were organised tours and visits to my relatives. My siblings often pampered me with cooking good food and driving me around. I had been to Melbourne 12 times, and today, I am just as ignorant about roads and directions in the lovely city! I had written to the Eden Handicapped Centre, but till the day I left the airport, the centre had not replied my email. Phone calls to them were always answered by an answering machine. Not deterred I thought I would call them when I arrived at Taipei. Fortunately for me, I had looked into the internet and checked on the availability of a hostel. After taking the airport bus, I arrived in the heart of the city. I managed to walk 30 minutes and found the hostel!! Fortunately there were still vacant rooms and the owner, Mr. John Lee, showed me the single room which he charged me NT400 for the first night and subsequently NT300 for the rest of the time of my stay. Indeed the atmosphere is as warm and as friendly as the name suggests "Happy Family 2". The location is superb, just across the Taipei Main Station and I could walk to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall as well the Museum for Fine Arts.

For areas that are not so accessible, I joined the Edision Travel Tour Group. For NT900, I was taken to Yehlieu. Met 3 Koreans who were also in the same tour with me. Of course, I took the opportunity to show off my Korean language. The tour guide told us that it rains in Yehlieu about 250 days a year! Yet, the weather was just great with so much sunshine!!! I told him I had brought the sunshine from Singapore!

Today's tour to Wulai Aboriginal Village was an eye opener. The aborigines are such good looking and artistic people. They wove their cloths and made beautiful clothes out of them. We were treated to a dance performance, after which we were asked to dance with them at the finale. They took individual photos for us and just after the dance ended, we were given our photo beautifully framed! What can you do, but buy the framed photo from them at NT500. Quite an ingenuous way of doing business! But the people are gentle and charming, and it is difficult to say no to them.

What a lovely walk along the mountain side. The push cart which ran on rails was out of order, but we did not mind taking a leisurely walk and admiring the beauty of the mountains, river and waterfall of Wulai.

I like the Taiwanese for they are gentle and polite. At the hotels, good service is given, even though I do not patronise the hotel except to book my tour.

The sales staff are polite and not pushy. Even if you don't buy from them, they would still thank you, and some even bowed their heads!

I was amused this morning when I saw a "karang guni" (junk collector) man on his motor bike which was attached to a pull cart. He played the recording advertising his presence. In the evening I was thrilled when I heard "Fur Elise" coming out from ..........a garbage truck!!! I guess with such lovely music, the workers would enjoy their mundane and less than pleasant job.

I also discovered that the Taiwanese are quite fashionable and many have good dress sense. Perhaps the greatest discovery is that Christmas is not a public holiday in this lovely country. I had wanted to go to a church this morning, only to realise that the streets were crowded with people on motorbikes, all rushing to work. Hence this means that the main religion in Taiwan is Buddhism or Taoism.

The tour guide told me that the original name of Taiwan is Formosa, which was given by the Portuguese during their short presence here. Indeed Taiwan is beautiful with varied landscapes, interesting cultures and rich history.

Gan Chau

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Great Benefits of Joining a Toastmasters' Club

So often, many have asked why I managed to get my Advanced Communicator (Bronze) and Competent Leadership within five months. My answer is, "If I had more youth and more time, my procrastination would not be a crime!"

How I wish I could have learnt of the toastmaster's movement at a younger age. When I first joined our Dennis Wee Toastmasters' Club, I was already 52 years and 7 months and I told myself that before I reached my 53rd birthday, I must achieve my ACB and CL. When I was first introduced to the toastmasters' activities, I was enthralled with the program and the benefits that come along with it. This is one healthy activity for everybody. Although people often compliment me for being a natural speaker, yet I find I have so much more to learn.

I began my basic manual at a slower pace and even participated in the Humorous Speech Contest at Area level, and to my pleasant surprise, won the Championship Award! I realised that the more I practised, the easier it became for me to prepare my speeches. I began my first advanced project on 9th November and completed the 10th project on 9th December on our Achievers' Day. Best of all, I realise that by joining the toastmasters' program it has enabled me to become more stringent and organised with my time management.

Just as an example, a client wanted to see a unit at 6.00p.m. but I told him I had a meeting at the Sony Ericcson Toastmasters' Club. He told me he would send me to the club after the viewing, but I knew we would be late and I hate to be lacking in punctuality. I asked if he could view the following day, but to my surprise he asked whether he could pick me up after the meeting at 10.30p.m. I acceded to his request and we closed the deal at 12.00 midnight. Once I am committed to a speaking slot or role as project or language evaluator, I will not cancel at the last minute, for it would cause a little upheaval for the Vice-President (Education) of the club.

I have managed to keep writing my blog with a minimum of two to three articles a week. I also noticed that this time, for my trip to Taiwan, I managed to pack my luggage earlier. On the day of departure, I managed to guide my newly recruited agent, Jerlynnm, on her first showing of our client's apartment at Clementi Park. After that we had some breakfast and I went to the airport, arriving 3 hours before departure time. With the extra time, I did some writing on the blog in the airport.

It is a very satisfying year for me as I managed to set goals for myself, and best of all, despite being so committed with my toastmasters' activities, I manged to be in the top 30 position in my company 4 times in 2006. It is interesting to note that for the first three months when I joined Dennis Wee Group as an agent, my sales were quite slack. It was only in July when I joined the Toastmaster's Club that my sales actually picked up. Suddenly there was more life in me, and I spoke to clients with more enthusiasm and conviction. It was a great encouragement for me to be in the top 30 for the first time in July!!

I was quite tickled when a new agent asked me why I would bother to attend our Company's breakfast networking and talks by top producers! I told her that I still had much to learn for papa had always reminded us to be like a willow tree....the higher we go, the more we should bend down. Or as Emerson had said, "Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that I learn of him."

I am glad that despite my busy schedules, I still manged to indulge in my passion for cooking. Somehow, I was able to whip up some dishes for some of the breakfast meetings as well as for our Toastmasters' meetings. Cooking is therapeutic for me, and I always love to sing when I am cooking!!

My papa had often advised us to be stringent with time management for an ounce of gold cannot even buy us a minute of time! Everyone of us has 24 hours each, yet so often, we sometimes carelessly waste our time! Papa also reminded us that if we do not know how to organise our time, others will organise it for us. It is even more fulfilling that I did not neglect my overseas friends when they visited me and stayed with me. I even brought them to my property viewing and some toastmasters' meetings.! As a result, one of them, Candice, told me she would join a toastmasters' club when she returned to America!!

Gan Chau

Friday, December 22, 2006

We Wee Chu a Melly Chlistmas

We Wee Chu a Melly Chlistmas,
We Wee Chu a Melly Chlistmas,
We Wee Chu a Melly Chlistmas,
And a Happy Nu Ear!

This is what happened when an Ah Beng tried to sing with a distinctive Chinese accent. Though the pronunciation may not be sharp, it is the thought that counts.
It is also the spirit that goes along during this festive period.

On this note, I also wish all my dear readers a Merry Christmas and a great year ahead.

I am typing this article at the Macdonald's outlet at Terminal 2. Since Jerlynn ( of so kindly drove me to the airport after our viewing of our clients' apartment, I arrived early. I always enjoy walking around wonderful Changi Airport.

Since a friend gave me her lucky prize of an air ticket to Taipei, I thought I would go and help out at the Eden Handicapped Centre for a week. I thought this year I would do something different during Christmas. Instead of the usual partying, I thought I would just go and volunteer my help in cooking and teaching English at the Centre. I would also be going out to sight see with the members and staff.

I only had 3 hours of sleep last night. Hence I should be able to sleep very soundly during the 5 hours flight to Taipei. (I always do that so that flights don't seem so long when I can sleep in the plane).

I wee chu a melly Chlistmas. ....I wish you a merry Christmas.! May all my dear readers have a blessed New Year.

Gan Chau

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Words and Only Words I Know ....

I decided to chose the "Humourously Speaking" manual for my Advanced Communicator Silver projects. Many toastmasters shy away from this manual because they believe it is one of the toughest. They believe it may be difficult to "squeeze" laughter out from an audience. I am one of those who love challenges. Hence I decided to opt for this manual.

To my surprise, the manual encourages us to repeat our speeches so as to improve on them. Hence, this is my prepared speech for our Dennis Wee Group Toastmaster's meeting on 18th December. I am doing AP2 Leave Them With a Smile. I have repeated some of the incidents and have also added new anecdotes. I hope that after reading it, you too will be left with a smile :-).

When I was studying in Primary Five, I asked my teacher why the son was jailed for laughing. "Jailed for laughing?" my teacher looked surprised. Whereupon I produced a newspaper cutting with the heading, "Son jailed for manslaughter". Hence, began my interest and obsession with words, and only words I know......

Good evening, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. This evening, I hope that after my speech, you will be convinced that learning languages is not difficult and is actually quite easy and interesting. Though some languages may appear to be complicated at first, they become more meaningful to understand after a while. Languages add colours to our life, and help to break the ice in communication with someone from another country.

English is a language that is so rich with words. It is a complex language because ever so often the rules or structures are made only to be broken. How do you explain to a child that the person who teaches is a teacher but the person who cooks is not a cooker. Or why do we have counsellor with counsellee but not professor with profesee?

A few years ago, I was operating an Italian outlet at the Amara Hotel Food Court. A gentleman came and ordered quite a lot of food for someone who had a small frame. After some two hours, he came to me and after paying his bills, he said, "My compliments to your chef." I thanked him and said to my chef, "Massimo, that gentleman enjoyed your food! Keep up your good menu!" To my surprise, my chef frowned and asked, "Which world do you come from Choo? He has been making eyes with me the past two hours. He's a gay!"

I advertised for a tenant and to my surprise, a Polytechnic student called me and asked if I would mind his coming back late at night. I asked him if he was working as a part time waiter or cook. "No, I'm a pretty boy." You mean you are a handsome boy. "I'm a pretty boy, he insisted. "Wrong use of adjective... you say handsome boy and pretty girl. "I'm a pretty boy", he repeated. "Look, I'm a teacher, and I'm correcting your English", I coaxed. "Which world do you come from?
"From Penang", I answered. "I'm a duck", said the student. I became more bewildered.
"I have heard of chickens but I have not mean you're" "I'm a gigolo", the student said.

I had the opportunity to learn Korean when I started working as a secretary just after high school. The Koreans were building the Penang International Arport. On the first day, I was a little unnerved when I found that there were only 3 lady staff in a company of 200. The Korean names were not easy to remember as there were 4 Mr. Han, 5 Mr. Koon, 12 Mr. Kim, 14 Mr. Park and 19 Mr. Lee!! Hence I had to use mnemonics to help me remember. One of the youngest engineers was called Mr. Han Your Bo. "What a funny name.... your bo... sounds like your wife!" I thought to myself. One day I hollered to Mr. Han, "Your Bo, phone call for you."
Suddenly all the engineers looked up and laughed. Later, the Project manager came to me and said, "Poor Choo. You had been tricked. Your Bo is our Korean word for my darling!" For one month I had been calling Mr. Han "my darling" without realising it. No wonder each time, I called him Your Bo, he would respond in a very soft and emotional way!

Hence I told myself I would learn the Korean Language. Little did I realise the Koreans must make their life so difficult by using so many words to describe the same thing. We say, "Good night, bon nuit (in French), Wan Aun (in Mandarain, but the Koreans must say, "Ahn nyong hi ju mu sip si yo". Ten words! By the time we finish our sentence, the other person would have fallen asleep. We say,"I love you, or Je t'adore (in French), Wo ai ni (in Mandarin), but the Koreans say "Na nun sarang ham ni da mi chi ge" (ten words)!

When I first entered university in Canada, I was surprised to meet so many Chinese scholars from China. Two of them were my flat mates. One day, Chen Tai and I went into the lift and we saw a couple kissing each other in tight embrace. I pretended I saw nothing. But poor Chen Tai had a culture shock... she could not sleep for 3 nights, always asking me, "Why like that?" I told her that the winter was very cold... hence the need for the tight embrace.

When summer arrived, Chen Tai was surprised to see ladies in bikinis lying around in the garden of their houses and parks. She asked me what they were up to. I was trying to tell her that they were sun bathing but I did not have the exact vocabulary, so I translated directly what I knew, "Ta men tai yang chong liang".

When I returned to Malaysia, people were quite charmed by my Beijing accent. This accent came in useful when I went to China for a tour in 1987.
I realised that one of our group members had been charged excessively for the lychees he bought. Hence I decided to put on my Beijing accent. "I jing duo sao chien ah? (How much is 1 kati?) San yuan (3 yuan) "Hao! Ching ni gei wo we jin bah (Good, please give me 5 katis). Later, he frowned and scratched his head, "Ku niang ah, ni bu shih ben di ren ah. Ni chong nar li lai ah?" (ou are not a local. Where are you from?) I smiled and sang the first two lines of the Olive Tree (Kan Lan Shu) Bu yao wen wo chong nar li lai. Wa terh ku siang chai yuan fang (Please do not ask me where I come from; My hometown is very far away). The fruit vendor laughed and I also went away happily. It was fun.

Once a Black lady came to my food outlet and when I heard her say that she was from Kenya, I immediately greeted her in Swahili, "Habariya muolimo wango!" (How are you my teacher/friend?) She smiled and said, "You make my day! this is the first time, a Singaporean greeted me in my mother tongue". She bought a lot of food. I wonder if it was her real appetite or she bought a lot to please me.

On another occasion, a customer came to Rialto and told me he was from Nepal. I greeted him, "Namaste! Promeisualeh arsis dinuhuncha!" (Greetings. God bless you). Now I have learnt that when you make customers happy, they will eat more!

One day, I brought some Malaysian friends shopping at Peninsular Plaza. I greeted the Indian man and spoke to him. Just then, my friend, Madeline, pulled me away and said in a stern voice, "Choo, you must not play the fool with tongues!" "What tongues? I'm speaking Tamil." "Really" asked my friend. The Indian vendor shooked his head in agreement.

President Lionel, "Tar di ya irindalum, ni alarga irikire".
(You are nicely rounded, but very handsome". Toastmaster of the Evening!

Gan Chau

Friday, December 15, 2006

Much Ado about Creation

Yesterday, I was wondering whether I should go back and cook a simple meal, but I was extremely hungry. Hence I decided to just take a simple dinner of mee siam at a newly opened eatery near my office. At the first mouthful, I felt the food tasted strange and I could smell that the food had gone bad. My acute sense of smell and taste had enabled me to discern the freshness of the food. It was very subtle as it was just turning bad.

I quietly went over to the cashier to let him know. He apologised profusely and offered to change the mee siam to laksa for me. I guessed he was grateful that I did not speak in a loud voice and did not show my displeasure. (Having been in the food business before, I can understand the people running eateries.)

Since I was five years old, I had a severe accident with my right ear and soon developed chronic problems with both ears. I gradually learnt to lip read on my own, and somehow managed to do well in school!! None of my teachers realised I could hardly hear! If the teachers called my name from my back, I did not respond because I could not hear as I could not lip read them!! Hence, there were numerous times when I was punished by being made to stand in a corner with both hands up! It could be tiring putting your hands up for 40 whole minutes!!! Now I want to laugh because almost everyday, I was made to "surrender" with my hands up, as if there was a terrorist right in front of me with his machine gun!!! In fact, I enjoyed it, because I had a bird's eye view of the classroom and could "hear" better as I could lip read better. Morever in a standing position, it was impossible to fall asleep in class!

However, thanks to my poor hearing, I spent most of my time reading books and magazines. In my silent world, I enjoyed myself, immersed in my stories and articles. Reading helps me to improve my command of English. Hence I often produced the best essays in class!!!

Gradually, my world became more and more silent! I could not even hear the ringing of the telephone or the bell of the postman!!! My eldest sister took me to Sunday School when I was nine and I learnt about the miracles of Jesus! I prayed that one day, the Lord would also heal me! I argued with God that it was pointless to give me pretty ear lobes on the outside but diseased organs in the inside!! Everyday I prayed without fail, that the God who performed miracles thousands of years ago, would in His time, restore my hearing!

One day, my sister, Ean Ean, came back from her teaching at the St. Nicholas School for the Blind. She had seen a huge banner outside a building, and saw the words,
"Miracle Healing!" She asked me excitedly if I wanted to go. I nodded my head profusely. The Indian pastor prayed for me, and the world became noisy once again!
What a joy to hear the dogs barking, the frogs croaking, the neighbours talking as we made our way home!!! My mother was so stunned that she could not stop telling everybody that her youngest daughter could finally hear again!!

I would not say that my hearing is as good as most people, but it is enough for me to get by, and I am very contented. My ear specialist could not understand my hearing ability, because biologically speaking, I should be stone deaf because all the diseased internal organs in my ears had been removed! God had also protected me because the disease could have affected my brains!

Perhaps this is the reason why I have such an acute sense of smell and taste! When God removes something, He makes up for it in another. In the case of Lena Maria, she deftly made use of her left leg to write, type, sew, cook, paint and drive!

This is why I encouraged my niece-in-law, Esther, not to be grieved over her youngest daughter who was born with only one complete right hand. The youngest turned out to be the brightest of her four daughters!!

God is fair.... only He knows of the best plans He has for His creation. We give Him thanks in all circumstances, knowing that He is the loving Heavenly Father who cares so deeply for the things that He has created!

Gan Chau

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Much Ado About Ignorance

I Know Nothing - Socrates
"I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing" by Socrates.

Socrates was a very wise man indeed, for he knew very early on that the only thing he knew was that he knew nothing. This is a contradiction of sorts because how can you know that you know nothing when you must know something to know that, right? :-) Seriously though, this world is so vast and full of so much information that what each of us does know is so insignificant. Yet, when combined together, that knowledge can be used to achieve so much.

The above paragraphs are taken from written by my fellow blogger, Thanh, from Australia. Thanh's article reminded me of an incident which took place when I first came to Singapore.

I advertised to tutor some students and a family in Siglap responded. I had a tough time finding their house. I asked a passer by and he directed me, making me walk for almost 30 minutes towards the wrong direction!! In all I wasted one whole hour, just because someone pretended to know when he actually did not know!!! What a sharp contrast to Socrates!!

On another occasion a client wanted to view a condominium I advertised near Orchard Road. I told her I would show her the following day, as I only had one hour to catch my breath as I had meetings after meetings to attend. She insisted she must view at 4.30p.m. as she was going to Indonesia. I told her it would be pointless because by the time she came back, my client's property would have been sold. She proudly told me that as she was the sole decision maker, being a single mother, she could make an offer on the spot!! Hence, I decided to sacrifice my only break of 60 minutes and rushed down to show her the unit. She did not make the offer and though she had no husband to consult with, she had 100 friends to seek advice from!!! One of the friends was a so called, wise and experienced investor who advised her not to buy as the property was overpriced at $2.26 million!!! Three days after she came back from Indonesia she was relieved that my client's property was still available and this time, she increased her offer to $2.2 million. I told her my client would not accept anything less than $2.26 million. She went to Melbourne for a week, and when she came back, she was upset that my client's property was sold at $2.28 million. She chided me for not waiting for her! I told her she did not believe my words and advice, but chose to believe her so called smart investor friend. Investors, no matter how smart or experienced, cannot feel the same intensity of the pulse of the market as veteran agents do!! Just after my client sold the unit at $2.28 million, another unit of the same size and same condominium, was offered $2.4 million.!!!

Though I am a property agent for the past 12 years, I feel I still have so much more to learn. Though I specialise in English and Literature at the University of Alberta, I feel I still have so much more to learn. This is why I recently joined our company's toastmasters' club so that I can improve more in my English and Public Speaking.

When Armstrong was on the moon, he looked at earth, and he realised how small the world really is!!! He was suddenly overwhelmed with the realisation of how little we human beings know, and yet we are so proud, petty and bloated with a false sense of as if we were immortal!!! The line between life and death is so thin, just as the line between knowledge and ignorance is so thin. We either know or don't know, and when we don't know, it is more sane and more human to admit we don't know! :-)

Gan Chau

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Most Challenging Period of 2006!

I did it! I delivered my tenth prepared speech for my Advance Communicator (Bronze) at our Division U Achievers' Day yesterday at the Whampoa Community Toastmasters'Club and won the Best Speaker Award. My Vice President (Education), Vanessa Yong, had challenged me to start my Advanced Communicator project on 9th November so that I could deliver my tenth project on our Achievers' Day on 9th December. If I could get my Advanced Communicator Award, it would mean getting an additional goal for our club to achieve the Toamstmaster's Distinguished club status.

I thank God too that it is during this tough period that I manged to close three big condominiums, thus achieving my best sales for the months of November and December. I managed to recruit a new agent for my company and spent one day teaching her the ropes. My niece, Ning, suddenly visited me in Singapore, and we packed her father's paintings for her to bring back to London.

I am grateful to Aveline Tan, for recruiting me to join Dennis Wee Group and to become a member of our company's toastmasters' club in late July. I have learnt so much from the meetings in our club and in other clubs as well. I am glad that I still manage to walk my pet dog, Chelsea, a minimum of twice a day - once before I go to work in the morning and once before I sleep! Sometimes if I work from home, I would take Chelsea out for an additional walk in the day.

On the 18th of December, I will be getting my Competent Leadership award at our
Dennis Wee Group Toastmasters' meeting. On 22nd of December, I will be flying off to Taiwan for a short mission trip and start life and the new year afresh on 1st January 2007!!

All thanks and glory to God! I hope the new year of 2007 will be an even more challenging, exciting and successful year for me and for my friends and relatives as well.

Wishing all my readers in Singapore and all over the world, a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New 2007! It's a small world after all! :-)

Gan Chau

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Much Ado About Names!!

When I decided to take up French in Canada, little did I realise it would be such a difficult language. I was almost in tears during the first few lessons as I could not make out the language. All I could hear was beautiful rythmn that sounded like music to my ears. Such is the beauty of language! There is so much music in languages especially Mandarin, French and Swahili. Hence you can understand why I am extra sensitive to words and names.

When I received the program sheet from the Vice-President of Buona Vista Club where I was the General Evaluator, I was excited when I saw the name, "Lim Da Jie". "Wow! What a sisterly club, as Da Jie means big sister in Mandarin and immediately I knew I would feel very comfortable at the Buona Vista Club. I was surprised when I found out that Lim Da Jie is a gentleman! Nevertheless, the Buona Vista Club turned out to be fraternal as the male members of the club were very brotherly and caring... they came early to help set up the meeting and showed good leadership.

I just received an email from my ex-customer at Rialto and she sent me an article about a town called "Fucking" in Austria.! I had visited Salzburg when I visited Europe during the summer holidays while I was studying in Canada. Like the Americans and the Germans, I was more excited about being on the grounds where the Sound of Music was filmed. I was also excited about visiting the house in which my favourite composer, Mozart, had lived. I did not know about a town called Fucking and hence was quite amused when I received the email. Gosh! What a name for such a beautiful town which has beautiful and magnificent lakes, mountains and forests!

As someone who loves the English Language, I am very particular about names of people, roads and places. I remember when I was shown two flats on Dover Road and Telok Blangah Heights, I chose the one on Dover Road, as the name Dover sounds nicer!
I don't like some of our road names like Ah Hood Road (Hood is Hokkien dialect for testes) and Lim Tua Tow Road (Tua Tow is big head in Hokkien). Yet, these road names pale in comparison to Fucking Town. Can you imagine if someone asks you, "Which town do you live in Austria?" "Fucking". The person may be taken aback, thinking you are scolding him in vulgar language!

Again, I guess, Fucking Town pales in comparison with this name. My eldest sister told me that one Malay lady had a very difficult childbirth. She was so angry for having such a painful time during her delivery that she named her offspring, "Cheebai"! (Cheebai is the Hokkien word for vagina). The poor little girl grew up, and was the butt of everybody's jokes! One day, someone snatched her gold necklace. She made a police report, and when the policeman asked her for her name, she looked down and took a long time to answer. She gave the policeman her identity card. Only then did the policeman understand her embarrassment. Can you imagaine if someone were to ask her for her name and she replied, "Cheebai", the person will wonder why she uses vulgar language in response!!!
Fortunately, the kind policeman, who understands the law, advised her to change her name. I wonder why none of her school teachers advised her to do the same. It would have spared her so many years of unecessary embarrassment.!

Parents, please take time to think of beautiful names for your babies. Names are very important. I take my hats off to this gentleman in my village. He was a government officer while his wife was a simple, illiterate lady who baked cakes for a living. They had five daughters and they would leave their youngest daughter with my neighbour to look after during the day. I remember hearing the lady complaining,
"This crazy husband of mine. Five daughers...Chinese mah.... just call them Ah Lian, Ah Hua, Ah Bee, can already.... but must yaya papaya call them Lucy, Daisy, Jessy, Ho si boh ho sih!" (Ho si boh ho sih is Hokkien meaning easy to die, and not easy to die - she said it just to rhyme with Lucy, Daisy and Jessy).!

I also remember this sad incident when someone brought a friend to our cell group.
When we asked her for her name, she just smiled somewhat uncomfortably, and mumbled her name. Later we realised the reason for her discomfort. Her name was "Eow Gwai". (Hokkien dialect for ghost, monster). Later, we advised her to change her name in her identity card. She is now called Grace Tan Xin Ming.

Once again, a reminder to parents. Your children are God-given and beautifully made. Please don't make monsters out of them. Give them beautiful names they would be proud of. This is why we often read in the Bible, how names were carefully chosen and given.

As usual, my siblings and close friends tell me I should move from my current apartment to live on Kay Poh Road (Kay Poh is Hokkien for busybody). Kay Poh Road, here comes Kaypoh Choo...... but hang on.... Kaypo Choo cannot afford to live on Kay Poh Road lah.... all the million dollar apartments on Kay Poh Road near Orchard Road!!! Is Kay Poh Road named after someone called Kay Poh? I must do my research later on. Meanwhile I will continue to live happily as a kaypo, to observe, analyse and write on issues that stir my kaypo heart. :-)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Working Hard and Smart

"Oh! Is it ok if I change the viewing time to 1.00p.m. on Thursday.?" asked the co-broking agent on the other line."

"Hi, this is the 5th time you have changed the appointment time. It is alright if I have the keys to the apartment, but because official handing of keys has not been done, my clients whom I have known for 12 years, have to collect the keys from the developers to open the doors for us. They are very busy lawyers." I told the agent.

"You see, my Mercedes is in the workshop, and I have to borrow my colleague's Mercedes to drive my client."

Even though I did not drive, I was punctual and in fact earlier by 30 minutes. The agent called to say that she would be delayed by 15 minutes. Since I had 45 minutes, I thought I might as well exercise in the gymn while waiting. I had actually wanted to go to the Raffles Town club to exercise, but since I had 45 minutes I might as well exercise in the gymn in my client's condo.

After viewing my client's apartment, the agent's client did not even make an offer.
She complained it was noisy as there was a flyover behind the unit. I had already warned the co-broking agent that if the client liked absolute quiet, then this was not the place for her. "No problem.... my client will definitely make an offer!"
I had often shared with my company agents that as property work is very demanding, physically, emotionally and mentally, it is imperative that agents learn not only to work hard, but to work smart as well, by qualifying buyers and tenants. Otherwise, we could be going around like a chicken without a head.

After the veiwing, my clients and I walked to the basement as they wanted to give me a ride. I had invited them to have lunch with me. I was surprised to see their lovely and sleek sports car, parked just beside the agent's Mercedes. I wonder why agents must drive their clients around. Even when my ear balance was better and I was driving a little Fiat Uno, I seldom drove my clients around. My duty as an agent is to recommend them a good property and to acquaint them with the curent market price. I am not a chauffeur, and the public transport in Singapore is excellent. One agent showed his client some 65 apartments, and they still did not purchase any unit from him, as in the end they decided to buy a brand new apartment direct from the Housing Development Board.!!!

In fact most of the top agents in our Dennis Wee Group do not drive. I guess, like me, they work not only hard but smart too. I need not have to impress my clients with my Mercedes; I prefer to impress them with my spontaneity, sincerity, loyalty, intergrity and knowledge of the market. Interestingly and with deep appreciation, my clients are the ones who often give me rides in their lovely and luxury cars!!
After viewing of a property, they would often drop me at an MRT station. :-)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fun in Learning English, Mandarin, and French

Being the youngest in the family meant that while every one of my siblings and cousins were in school, I would be the only one left to stay at home. How I envied my older relatives when they packed their bags to school, and I longed to be able to go to school. Papa was not rich enough to send me to the kindergarten. I love stories and since I could not yet read, I spent a lot of my time listening to dialect stories from the radio.

I had a cousin who was five years older than me. His name was Ah Pong. He was quite a bully because if I beat him once, he would beat me back ten times. He really got on my nerves. My second sister knew I detested him. One day she said to me, "Choo, you want to know of a way to defeat Ah Pong?" I nodded my head furiously. "Just learn to say this sentence in English and when Ah Pong comes back this evening, say it loudly and bravely and he will run for his life!" assured my sister. "Wow! Why didn't my sis teach me this sentence earlier.... then I would not have to suffer so much under the bullying of Ah Pong." The whole day, I memorised the sentence so that I could remember word for word.

As the evening drew nearer, I eagerly looked towards the gate for Ah Pong's return.
On seeing him, I hollered to him, "Ah Pong, please come here!" Somewhat surprised, my pugilistic cousin sneered as he moved towards me, "What? What? What?"

"Ah Pong, I want to tell you today that I love you very very much!" I declared in my loudest voice. Ah Pong stared at me, his eyes growing bigger and bigger and he fled for his life, just as second sis said he would! I flexed my right arm muscles. For once, I felt so ooooo victorious! Suddenly I realised my second sister was giggling and patting her chest like a chimpanzee. "You've been tricked!
You've been tricked!" All my relatives laughed. I felt so ooooo embarrassed that I hid behind the chicken coop and only came out when the mosquitoes attacked me.
That night, I vowed I would master the English tongue! Perhaps this incident has sparked off my interest in learning other languages as well.

In Canada,I met many students from mainland China. As Malay is my second language, I did not study Chinese in school. Two of these Chinese scholars shared an apartment with me. One of them was Chen Tai a lady who was studying Russian language. She often spoke to me in Mandarin as she was quite limited in her English. One day, I went with her into the lift and we found a couple in hot embrace, kissing each other. I pretended I did not see anything but Chen Tai was so shocked that she could not sleep for three days! I told her not to worry as the winter was very cold, and the couple needed to hug one another for warmth.

When summer came, Chen Tai was surprised when she saw many ladies in their garden wearing just their bikinis. She asked me what they were doing. I was trying to tell her that they were sun tanning, but I did not know the Mandarin word for sun tanning. Hence I replied, "Ta men tai yang chong liang!" (Direct translation - they are sun bathing). Chen Tai laughed. "Oh you mean, ri kuang yi". Hence, I started my journey in learning to speak Mandarin. When I returned to Malaysia, many people were charmed by my spoken Mandarin, for I had a distinctive Beijing accent.!

This Beijing accent became quite useful when I visited Beijing some 20 years ago. One of my group members had overpaid for lychees. I told him I would go back to the same store but this time I would put on a Beijing accent. "I jing duo hsao chien ah?" I asked. (How much is one kati?)

"San yuan". (Three yuan).

"Hao. Ching ne gei wo wu jin bah". (Pease give me 5 katis).

Later, he looked at me in puzzlement, and scratching his head, he asked, "Ni bu shi pen ti ren ah?" ("You are not a local?")

I smiled.

"Ni chong nar li lai ah?" (Where are you from?)

I started singing, "Bu yao wen wo chong nar li lai, wo terh ku xiang tsai yuan fang, Wei shih moh liu lang? Liu lang yan fang, liu lang." "Please don't ask me where I come from. My hometown is far away. Why travel and travel so far away?" The fruit vendor laughed. I could hear this song playing in the shops and restaurants since I arrived in China. I guessed it must be the latest hit for the Chinese even though it was quite an old song in Malaysia. What an unforgettable experience! I not only bought the fruits at a reasonable price, but I made a new friend.

When I received a bursary to study in Canada, I decided I would take up French in the university as a second major subject. Little did I realise French is such a difficult language. I was almost in tears during the first week in class, for I could not make out the words at all. French sounded more like music to my ears. I could hear the beautiful rythmn of the spoken language. Gradually I began to pick up the language. If you think English grammar is difficult, try French. The language is made even more difficult with the addition of gender to objects! For example, a gift is masculine (un cadeau) while a library is feminine (une bibliotheque). Yet French is such a beautiful language. It would be good to have either a French for a son or daughter-in-law, because you will forever be the beautful or handsome mother or father-in-law. In French the word for mother-in-law is ma belle mere (my beautiful mother) and mon beau pere (my handsome father).

Every year, the University of Alberta organised a French Immersion Program. I applied for it again, even though I was rejected the first time in Grande Prairie Regional College where I did my first year university program as the program was only reserved for Canadian students. I was surprised that this time I was accepted. I kept asking the lecturer in charge, Professor Monod,and he said, "Le Gouvernment ne demandez pas question; moi aussi". The government does not ask questions, me neither. Professor Monod closed one eye, and he actually wanted a foreigner to join in as it would be an eye opener for the majority of Canadian students. My French was the weakest in the group, but I was determined to make the most of the one month immersion program in Quebec. One day Professor Monod asked us to write a one page article, but I had mistaken the word, "Une" to mean "dix" (ten) Hence, I spent the whole night writing a ten page story. Professor Monod laughed when he told the class my story was the longest but he enjoyed the story very much!

Learning languages is fun. Though we may not be as proficient in the language as our own mother tongue, nevertheles it helps to break the ice almost immediately when we greet someone in his mother tongue.

I will share about the fun I had when learning Korean, Hindhi and Tamil in my next article. :-)

Gan Chau

Friday, November 24, 2006

No Hands! No Legs! No Worries!

Under the "Touching Story" in my Story Telling Manual, I decided to share about Nick Vujicic at the Istavin Toastmasters' Club.

I was very surprised when my second brother asked me, "Sis! Are you happy?" the moment he saw me at the Bus Terminal in Penang. I had just arrived from Singapore.
"Of course, I am very happy, koko (brother)! Can't you see I am oozing with so much joy, and healthy fragrance of "oil" is also oozing from my excessive fat?" I laughed.

"I just read that Singaporeans are the unhappiest people in South East Asia", volunteered brother.

"There are so many things to be thankful about.... koko... I don't need to elaborate.... you know the answers. I am one of those who are easily contented and who finds joy in simple things..... nature, good friends and pets, simple, healthy food, etc. Yes, everyone of us will have problems.... but as papa has said, problems will always have a way of solving themselves." I am grateful that I inherit most of papa's characteristics, namely his optimism and sense of humour.

I hope that by sharing Nick Vujicic's story, it will encourage readers to be inspired and to realise that whatever problems they have may pale in comparison with Nick's situation. For those of us who are always in our comofort zone, let us not murmur or complain when things become uncomfortable, but to take everything in our stride.

I must take my hats off to Nick Vujicic's parents. When Nick came into the world with no hands and legs on Dec. 4, 1982, doctors and nursers were shocked. The first two words on Nick's parents lips were "Praise God!" The doctors said that Nick might not live long, but his parents never gave up hope on him. Some people even sneered that if God is a loving God, why would He give such a monster of a baby to someone, his faithful servant, a Pastor of a church in Melbourne! Nick has a sister and a brother who are normal. Yet, Nick's parents consider their pain, anguish, sorrow to be pure joy, and it is God who gives them this strength.

The laws of Australia did not allow Nick to be intergrated into the main stream schools. However, his parents fought for him. They argued that he only does not have hands and legs, but his mind is acute and very normal. Being admitted into a mainstream school means that Nick was subjected to being stared at and ostracised
by the students. He cried and wished he were dead. He even thought of committing suicide so that his family's burden could be lessened. But his parents encouraged him to make just a few good friends. Eventually, his classmates accepted him, and soon Nick became loved by everyone for he was always so cheerful and happy.

Nick graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce and specialised in Finance. He hopes to be financially independent by the age of 25 through real estate investments.

Nick wishes to be normal like everyone. He would love to have a miracle where his legs and hands could just grow right before his eyes, but he knows that God has a purpose for everything. Nothing is created by chance. Nick has travelled widely to many countries and shared his message of hope, peace and joy. His sharing has touched hearts, especially young adults who are going through their turbulent years of finding themselves. Lots of testimonies from his audience have been received.
Families were reconciled; drug addicts began to make that determination to begin life anew when they realised they have been blessed with legs and arms; young students became encouraged to make the most of their education and become somone useful to society.

Nick can swim. He hopes to be able to drive one day with a car specially made for him. He hopes to continue travelling around the world as a motivational speaker in churches and companies. He was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in her show on TV. Nick hopes to appear on more TV interviews so that he can reach out to more people. He hopes to be able to write his book, "No Hands! No Legs! No Worries! by the end of this year. Indeed, if the heart can be used to measure a man's capacity, then Nick is a giant of a man, with his tenacity to overcome his problems and to shine in all that he does. Nick also hopes that God will bless him with a woman who loves and accepts him for what he is. He demonstrates his sense of humour when he said that he will always be a bolster for his future life partner to hug; but he will always "hug" her with his heart.

In conclusion, someone said, "I complain I have no shoes until I saw a man with no feet!" Note that Nick never said "No Hands! No Legs! No Problems!" He will always have problems with being limbless, but he is not going to be unnecessarily worried by his problems. Nick knows that with his determination, he can overcome all obstacles in life.

Hence, let us all count our blessings and name them one by one.

Gan Chau

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


My brother had requested me to ship his paintings to Taipeh. I found out that it would cost about $3,500/- to $4,000/- to ship the paintings. I reckon it would be cheaper to remove the paintings from their glassed frames and pack them. I would fly to Taipei and bring the paintings there myself. I have also never been to Taipei and could also get the chance to see my nephew and his wife. I have not seen them since their marriage in January 2000.

There is no direct flight from Singapore to Taichung. I could only go via Hong Kong.
However, I have already been to Hong Kong, and would like to explore Taipei this time. To have a connecting flight, it would mean I have to catch a flight the next morning at another smaller airport. My brother told me that they have coaches in the Taipei International Airport, and perhaps I could take a coach directly to Taichung.
When I asked the Travel Agency, the staff told me that they do not make such arrangements.

I was somewhat amused and bewildered when the staff told me that the hotel had confirmed my room reservation but I would have to pay a surcharge of $60/-! I asked her why there was a surcharge and she said that it was the last available room they had! "What kind of reasoning is that?" I asked somewhat flabbergasted! I told the staff I would not book the hotel room if the hotel insists on a surcharge. In the end, the hotel cancelled the surcharge!

Looks like I have to be extra alert when I travel to Taiwan. I would feel quite comfortable in Taiwan because I can speak Hokkien and can handle Mandarin with reasonable fluency although I would not be able to read Chinese characters. My nephew and his wife are worried they would be too busy with the school to take me around. I am an independent traveller and would be able to make my way around Taichung and Taipei. I hope to take some time to learn how to play the drums as my nephew teaches drum in his school.

I thank God for His blessings. On reflection, I have spent Christmas in many different countries! This time I will spend Christmas in Taipei! Oh! I hope there will be no earthquake! In my next blog, I will write about my nephew's "Earthquake proposal" to Julia, a lovely girl he met in Taichung. She is now his beloved wife.

Gan Chau

Spring Cleaning!

Gosh! I have been so busy of late. I feel that the dust has rested too long in my apartment. I decide to take half a day off from work, so that I can spring clean my apartment.

It is not easy to keep the apartment spic and span when you have a little cocker spaniel running all over the place! My pet has a free run of the apartment for I am one of those who feel that if I have a pet, my home is also a home to the four legged creature. I have seen how some owners lock their dogs in cages even though there is so much room around! To me, it is somewhat cruel to keep dogs caged up. Even little children hate to be grounded even for a few hours? How about dogs? Only they cannot speak or complain! Despite my busy schedules, I always make it a point to take Chelsea, my pet, for her usual morning run at the park nearby and to walk her in the evenings. Chelsea runs so swiftly like a greyhound! She will chase the birds and the cats! I am sure the cats are now having a meeting on how to get rid of their neighbourhood terror.... the irritating dog with long ears!

I enjoy house cleaning, because when I spring clean, I will sometimes come across things that I have forgotten about e.g. a lovely birthday card, a gift from someone, etc.

I must say I am one of those who will start to spring clean the moment I can no longer stand my messiness! Are you like me too? :-)

Gan Chau

Sunday, November 19, 2006

My most productive week!

Last week was the most productive week for me. My good friend, Leela, whom I met while on a mission trip to Nepal, some years back visited me and stayed with me for five days. It was her first time in Singapore, and she was on her way to further her medical studies in the States.

I took off one day from work and showed Leela some of the interesting sights in Singapore. I took off half a day the next three days. The Vice President for Education of our Dennis Wee Toastmasters' Club, Vanessa Yong, had already arranged for me to do my Advanced Projects 3, 4 and 5 in different clubs on three consecutive days. I took Leela to one of the meetings. It was her first experience and she enjoyed herself very much. When I had to bring my clients to view some properties, I also brought Leela along. Leela likes the buildings in Singapore as they are well designed and maintained.

I was happy to have a joyful reunion with an old friend and to have the opportunity to show her hospitality; satisfaction and fulfilment in clinching the best speaker award for all my three advanced projects as well as contentment in co-broking with an agent to purchase a big condominium for my client. I also managed to find time to attend our NUC meeting and Top Producers' Talk. These meetings are very important to me as I learn so much from my colleagues.

I must thank Aveline Tan, my manager, who encouraged me to join our company's Toastmasters' Club. Since I joined the Club in July, I have become more alert, observant and better at time management. I have enjoyed our club meetings as well as learning from other club members. This is indeed a happy and healthy activity and I have encouraged all those I meet to participate too. In fact, this is the most fun and economcal way of learning and improving. Members will not only improve in their language and public speaking but also in their time management! I am also a lot happier, and have no time to murmur or complain, but to always look for the silver lining in every situation.

What a productive week and I hope I can have many more productive weeks! C'est la vie!

Gan Chau

Friday, November 17, 2006

My Thunderous Voice!

The newspapers had been gradually piling up like a mountain! I had been very busy and often left my home in the morning. Hence, I never had the opportunity to ask the karang guni man (newspaper vendor) to cart away the papers.

Hence, when I heard his bell ringing, I was very excited, but realised that he was not outside my door, but in the open air car park of my HDB flat. I acted in the most unlady like manner. I hollered to him from the kitchen window of my 7th floor apartment! "Karang Guni Man!" I wondered if he could hear me. What would my neighbours say? Suddenly to my surprise, he looked up and I waved to him.

He came up in a jiffy, and he smiled, saying that my voice was so loud! I was already speaking loudly as a teacher, but when I joined toastmasters' activities, I guess, I learnt to project my voice even more!

Now, I am a natural loud speaker!!!

Gan Chau

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations!

A note of thanks to all those who warmed my heart by their congratulations on my first anniversary of blog writing. Yes, I will press on with my writing. Now I am always on the alert for ideas. I have become more observant and analytical since I started writing my blog. Below are some of the messages left in my blog.
Thank you once again.

Congratulations, the fast moving Oriental Express !
260 articles in one year, all are well written, many of them are very moving. I wish my project team can be as productive as you are.

Mo Shin (My university buddy, Ta Kerh (Eldest brother) aka Ducky)
New Jersey

Congrats are in order! Gosh! Time certainly whooshes by! 260 articles? That's prolific! You must be having fun this past year! Happy Anniversary and here's to another productive year! More ruminations, commentaries on life, and gossip! Yay!

Richard Tam (My university buddy, Er Kerh (2nd brother) aka Itchy

Yes! A staggering 260 articles! Congratulations!

James Dunlap (My university buddy, San Kerh (3rd brother) aka Lappy
Hong Kong

scotscribe said...
Nice blog. If you are interested in being paid to write, let me know at We have multiple projects ready to go.

8:08 AM

thanh7580 said...
Congratulations on one year of blogging. It's been great to meet you as well, an honour and a pleasure on my part. I hope I can meet you in real life at the end of the year when I go to Singapore. You will be the first blogger friend that I will meet in real life.

4:31 PM

JerL said...
How can you do so many prepared speeches in such a short time? We never have enough speaking slots for everyone.

10:35 PM

The Oriental Express said...
Jerlyn, out of my 14 prepared speeches, I only presented 3 in DW Group TMC. I did the rest of the 11 speeches in others clubs, eg. Walton's, Singhealth, UBS, AIA Alexandra,Sony Ericcson, Geylang Serai, Bukit Merah, Achievers, Braddel Heights, Spans_Jom, Cangkat Tampinese, Tg. Pagar, Raintree, to name a few. You can liase with other external clubs for speaking slots and appt. holders. It is more fun like this, observing and learning from other clubs.

Some of my members are shy and prefer to speak only in DW Group TMC. That is fine too. To each his own.

12:20 AM

Ed*** said...
Congrats on your anniversary. By the way, thanks for the tip on my blog, you are officially under my blogroll now.


4:44 AM

The Oriental Express said...
You signed yourself as annonnymous, and I have read many comments under "Annonymous" in You must be one of them!

I love Canada very much! Lucky you staying there!

Keep up your interseting blog!

6:46 AM

Wow! Congratulations! Choo, you got noticed. Be careful to check out the offer.
May be a scam, ha! ha!

Keep on blogging and see you tonight at Spans_Jom Toastmaster's Club this evening.


11.23 AM

Gan Chau

Yes! A staggering 260 articles!

James dunlap (My university buddy, San Kerh (3nd brother) aka Lappy

scotscribe said...
Nice blog. If you are interested in being paid to write, let me know at We have multiple projects ready to go.

8:08 AM

thanh7580 said...
Congratulations on one year of blogging. It's been great to meet you as well, an honour and a pleasure on my part. I hope I can meet you in real life at the end of the year when I go to Singapore. You will be the first blogger friend that I will meet in real life.

4:31 PM

JerL said...
How can you do so many prepared speeches in such a short time? We never have enough speaking slots for everyone.

10:35 PM

The Oriental Express said...
Jerlyn, out of my 14 prepared speeches, I only presented 3 in DW Group TMC. I did the rest of the 11 speeches in others clubs, eg. Walton's, Singhealth, UBS, AIA Alexandra,Sony Ericcson, Geylang Serai, Bukit Merah, Achievers, Braddel Heights, Spans_Jom, Cangkat Tampinese, Tg. Pagar, Raintree, to name a few. You can liase with other external clubs for speaking slots and appt. holders. It is more fun like this, observing and learning from other clubs.

Some of my members are shy and prefer to speak only in DW Group TMC. That is fine too. To each his own.

12:20 AM

Ed*** said...
Congrats on your anniversary. By the way, thanks for the tip on my blog, you are officially under my blogroll now.


4:44 AM

The Oriental Express said...
You signed yourself as annonnymous, and I have read many comments under "Annonymous" in You must be one of them!

I love Canada very much! Lucky you staying there!

Keep up your interseting blog!

6:46 AM

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

First Anniversary!

Gosh! Today is 15th November 2006! Exactly a year after I first started my blog, The Oriental Express! Ideally I would have liked to be able to post an article a day, thus giving me 365 articles, but I only have 260 articles.

I guess some of my time has been devoted to my new activity - public speaking. My colleague, Aveline Tan brought me to a meeting one evening and I did not expect to become a member of our Dennis Wee Group Toastmasters' Club on 22nd July. I enjoy the activities in Toastmasters so much that I manage to complete 13 prepared speeches and hope to do my 20th speech on 9th December on our Div. U Achievers' Day cum Christmas Party Celebration. I managed to clinch eight best speaker's award, four best table topics award and two best evluator's award. I was asked by my Executive Committee to participate in the Humorous Speech Contest. I participated without realising that I was competing with great veteran speakers. Like Forrest Gump, it must be by God's grace that I managed to clinch the Champion Award in the Division U Contest!

Along this writing journey, I also meet fellow bloggers from all over the world. The most prominent one is Thanh, a fellow blogger from Melbourne, who is always so helpful. I also met Ed Wong, the son of my sister's best friend. Both Thanh and Ed teach me how to post pictures in my blog, etc. He is also the one to come up with a joint-blog on food with fellow bloggers, James and Stan and a few others from Perth and the United Kingdom. Check it out if you have not yet done so. The lovely pictures will make you salivate. Cheers to writing and reading. Please feel free to give me your comments so that I can improve further as a blogger.

Thanks to all my readers for their support. Don't forget to check out our food blog at One of the ways to a friend's heart is through his stomach. Don't you agree?

Business $ense or the Lack of it!

We had phoned the bus operator that we would like to book a ticket to Singapore. My cousin recommended the operator because its location is not as congested as Pudu Raya. When we arrived, we were surprised that the ticket cost MR80/-. Meals are provided, but the officer said that since I only got my ticket they did not prepapre my meal! The cut off time for meal preparation is 3.00p.m. My sister argued that we had called to book at about 1.00p.m. and it would be ridiculous for me to go all the way to pick up the ticket and to go back and come back to board the bus in an hour's time. The officer arrogantly told me they could serve me with Maggi Instant Noodles.

I told my sister that perhaps I could take the bus back the next morning from Pudu Raya. As it was raining very heavily, we decided to have our dinner at a shopping complex. We had lovely Thai food which cost only MR26.00.

I took a bus at Pudu Raya and paid MR30.10 for the ticket in time for the 10.30a.m. departure time. We pondered over the comparison of the two bus operators. Would it cost the first operator much to prepare an extra meal or two for a last minute booking? Which would be more feasible? To lose a customer who could have paid MR80/- or to take the risk of losing MR5.00 for an extra meal?

Even after buying my bus ticket at MR30.10, and paying MR26.00, I still have a balance of MR23.90 for a lovely meal at one of the food courts along the Highway!
However, I do not like to eat and drink when I am travelling. Hence I decided to put all my remaining cash of M$25.00 in a red packet for my nephew. Wow! MR80.00 could go such a long way in Malaysia!

Gan Chau

Monday, November 13, 2006

My Aunt's Flair in Telling Stories!

Samples of story books narrated by my Aunt during the 1930's!

My cousin, Suan, told me that her mother was gifted in the art of telling stories. She would narrate stories she had read in Malay. Suan and her son, Chee Boon, still kept some of the books which were printed in 1931!

Suan told me how the neighbours would gather around their house after tucking in their dinner. The sun would have set, and the evening air a little cooler. There, her mother would hold the audience spellbound with her story telling. Aunty just had the flair for story telling! Wow! If Aunty had been a toastmaster, she would have won the Championship Award! Her vocal variety and body language were excellent. The audience was often mesmerised by her tales.

I note that the spelling was a little different from present day Malay. Words have been shortened, so that the vowel "e" is missing. Eg. Chrita, (story) when it should be cherita in modern Malay.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Pleasant Surprise!

What a pleasant surprise when I found someone leaving comments in my blog. I was intriqued when the person said that he was there when my nephew had the nasty accident of knocking his head against the bed and fell into a coma. He was also there when my eldest sister bought her first Volkswagon Beetle No. KA8944!

I put two and two together and realised he could be the son of my sister's best friend, Alice. I looked into his blog and was warmed by the interesting contents.

It is heartening when young people have their own blogs and spend a good time writing interesting and thought provoking articles. Writing is an excellent therapy and compels us to sit back and reflect on the day's activities and to ponder about what life has to offer us. So often we are so busy running here and there, that we just zoom through life. Are we really living life to the fullest or just merely existing?

I believe that when we write, we take time to take stock of things. So often we hear people say, "Ya hor? How come I didn't think of that!?"

As a teacher of English and Literature, I have always encouraged my students to write... writing for mental health! I encourage them to work hard at these two subjects not just to get good grades for their "O" Levels. Learning English and Literature is a life long process. The world is a stage and we are all but actors and actresses!

Life provides the greatest material for literature everyday! Observe it! Reflect on it! Write about it!

Gan Chau

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Discovering My Ancestral Roots!

Gosh! All these five decades of my life, I have always thought I am a pure Chinese.
Since papa's surname is Kam, and mama's surname is Ooi, I thought my grandparents hailed from China!

During my recent trip to Kuala Lumpur, I only discovered that my paternal grandparents were part Javanese who hailed from Indonesia! No wonder, my uncles and aunties had very dark complexion. Even I myself had sometimes been mistaken to be a Malay or a Thai!

My cousin, Suan, is a fantastic lady who loves to keep things. Together with her youngest son, Chee Boon, they still keep some antique books left by their maternal grandmother! Chee Boon showed my sister and I the books they had kept all these years. The books were printed in 1931 long before I was born!! I teased both mother and son that if I had the authority, I would appoint them to be the curators of our National Museum! What an exciting and amazing discovery!

My paternal grandmother, Lim Liang Nio, with my tua pek (eldest uncle's) two wives.
The little girl is my cousin, Nya Chi.

A one page passport of my tua pek (eldest uncle), Kam Beng Jiang. Note the written words in Dutch.

A one page passport of my paternal grandmother, Lim Liang Nio. Grandmother passed away when I was a baby. Note that the Authorities did not take finger prints. They took whole prints of the fingers!!

All That Jazz

In Kuala Lumpur, my sister proudly told Daniel to play a few pieces on his saxophone. Daniel told her that I had bought him the saxophone when he was staying with me in Singapore. I asked Daniel how he ended up buying the saxophone. Pastor Samuel Xia had wanted to dispose of his saxophone as his daughter wanted to buy him one which was of better quality. He sold it to us at $1,200/-. Not knowing much about brass instruments, I just trusted the words of a godly man.

When Daniel first tried blowing his saxophone, even my three pet dogs could not stand the sound. They would always run away whenever he started to blow. I would smile because it showed that my three dogs were somewhat musical! One of my friend's dog would always bark whenever he started playing the piano. However when my sister and I played the piano, the dog would be quiet. My friend had the peculiar habit of striking a little too hard at the keys, somewhat akin to pounding chillies on a mortar container.

All these five years, Daniel had been learning to play the beautiful brass instrument on his own. He had also picked up playing the drum and is now even teaching some of the church members to play the drum! When I heard him play this time, he had improved tremendously. When Daniel played "Sweet Bye and Bye" with a somewhat jazzy style, it made me cry. I remember papa with his saxophone. The band at the funeral procession had played the same piece. In fact it took me a year to be able to listen to jazz music again after papa's demise.

Daniel would soon be starting proper saxophone classes. Eldest sis commented how lovely it would be if papa were still alive. Then he could teach Daniel the brass instrument. Daniel is musically inclined like everyone in our family. It is most important that Daniel would be able to play the saxophone in his church, for the glory of God.

Ah! The power of music!

Gan Chau

Friday, November 10, 2006

Appreciative of Singapore!

Each time I travel, I am always so eager to come home. Each time I come home, I am more appreciative of having the opportunity to live in Singapore.

I do not think I would like to be a property agent in Kuala Lumpur. The roads are often jammed with vehicles and the rail stations are not easily accessible. My niece, Esther, drives and parks her car near the rail station, and she takes the train to work. For the first time, I realised that Kuala Lumpur is such a massive city, and the population is spread out.

I stayed with my cousin and her children in their lovely terrace house at Serdang. We had a great time together, recalling our younger days when we played pranks, etc. on each other. Cousin Suan taught us to recite a few Hokkien poems which we had almost forgotten.

It would be nice to go to Kuala Lumpur for short little breaks, but I would not want to live in the city.

Gan Chau

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Break

Am going to Kuala Lumpur tonight to attend my nephew's convocation at Bible School.
Daniel is the second eldest son of my sister. When he was eight years old, he had a bad knock aginst the edge of the bed when his playmate, a neighbour's daughter, jumped off from the bed and banged his head. He had a concussion and fell into a coma for six months. When he woke up, he had to learn to speak all over again. Hence, he is indeed a living miracle.

Daniel loves to cook and was apprenticed as a cook. He worked in Kuching and Singapore for a while and decided to go to Kuala Lumpur for his Bible Studies. I bought him a trumpet which he taught himself to play. Now he sometimes plays with the church band during service.

Should be back probably on the 7th or 8th of November. Until then cheers to all my readers!

Gan Chau

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Keep the World Ablaze ...

My Jewish client was dynamic and had an inclination towards verbal diarrhoea. He was also entertaining, knowledgeable and engaging. People say that when a Jew meets a Chinese, he meets his match! Somehow he reminds me of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, and while talking to him, I thought of Portia. Perhaps I reminded my Jewish client of Portia, for he commented that I talked like a lawyer!! Not bad eh, for a humble property agent. Hence, our conversation carried on till 40 minutes until I realised I had to rush home to watch my favourite TV program, "Jewel in the Palace".

To my dismay, I found that it was pouring quite heavily when I came out of the MRT station at Braddel. I was already late by 15 minutes, and did not want the rain to deter me from reaching home to watch my TV serial. Hence, I decided to brave the rain and ran back. Just as I was running, I heard someone honking and a black station wagon pulled up beside me. I peered into the window and saw a Punjabi couple. The lady smiled and whipped out an umbrella for me.!

I was momentarialy surprised and thanked them in Hindi, "Shukria, dhanyanbad."
The couple smiled and I put on my glasses quickly as they drove off and I saw that their number plate was 709U although I could not see the first 3 alphabets.

Suddenly, I felt warm even though it was quite cold with the pouring rain! When I reached home, I saw that it was a beautiful, almost brand new red umbrella with the logo of OCBC (Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation) and a printed picture of a Visa Gold Card.

I guess it will be quite impossible for me to return the umbrella to the couple.
In the meanwhile, I will pass on the umbrella to someone in need when the opportunity arises. Suddenly, I remember my favourite song, "It only takes a spark, to get a fire want to pass it on."

Yes, let us all help to light the candle for the person next to us. Let us help to keep the world ablaze with thoughtfulness, love, compassion, charity and selflessness. Always remember that when we give an umbrella to someone in need, God will provide us with a bigger umbrella on our rainy days.

Gan Chau

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Film Director's Dream.....

How wonderful if I could be a director of a movie!

It is amazing how talented and brilliant directors are. Take the popular TV series, Jewel in the Palace (Ta Chang Ching.) The director has chosen just the right people with the right looks and personality for the right role. It is incredible that the various characters acted out their respective roles so convincingly!

Sigh.... I can only dream of becoming a film director as I cannot act or direct. I can only enjoy watching TV dramas and movies. At very most I can be a good film critique.

But wait a minute? Am I not having great fun as a property agent? The interesting characters I meet when marketing a property? It is so fascinating to meet people from all walks of life, and to observe their facial expression, mannersim, etc. Indeed the world is a huge stage and we are all but actors and actresses! When I retire, I would like to write a book entitled, "Excuse Me, Are You A Property Agent?"

Hence, we are all directors of our own lives....what movies do we want to create?


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Gambling or INVESTMENT ??

I used to have a staff who worked for me in the restaurant I operated. I asked her why when it came to communicating with customers about the menu, she would remain quiet. However, she would suffer from verbal diarrhoea when it came to complaining about her youngest sister for taking so long to return her the $170K loan. Once a few of my friends came and to my surprise, she complained to them as well even though they had just met her for the first time.

We were later quite annoyed to find out that she had only put up the $170K in the bank as a fixed deposit so that her sister could take an overdraft for which she paid about 8% interest. In the meanwhile my staff would get about 1 to 2% interest from the bank for her fixed deposit.!

One day, we were overjoyed when we heard that the sister struck $160K in the 4D lottery. To our shock, my staff disdainfully labelled her sister as a gambling Christian! Her sister's buying of 4D is called gambling, whereas her dabbling with shares, forex and commodities is called INVESTMENT.

We rejoiced with the sister for her winning. Although she had her financial problems, she was always generous to buy litle snacks for us whenever she came to the restaurant. Although she had so many personal and business problems, she was always smiling and cheerful.

Now we understand why Jesus reminded us to remove the speck in our eyes before we see the speck in others. In the handling of the immoral woman, He reminded us to be slow to anger and to judge, and to be compassionate and forgiving.

Gambling or investment? What is your interpretation or definition?


Monday, October 30, 2006

Papa's Blessed Generations

It was understandable that papa was most anxious for me, his youngest daughter. He was worried that by the time I could enter university, he would not be around for me.
By the time mom had me, she was already in her mid forties.

Being the youngest had both its pros and cons. It makes you grow up quickly for you learn a lot from your older siblings. You can constantly pump them with endless questions. However, you mature so fast mentally that you find your classmates somewhat too childish for your liking. Hence, in school, I often had one or two good friends, preferring to spend most of my time reading to playing. Being the youngest, you also always end up getting special treats and favours. No wonder people say that the youngest in the family usually ends up well rounded or well upholstered.

Ironically it was because of my parents that I did not want to go to university. I had just completed my Secretarial Course, and was about to look for a job. Papa passed away suddenly. I remember mom lamenting that papa had always helped people get jobs, but now that his youngest daughter needed one, he was not around. In those days, employers hardly advertised for staff.... word of mouth recommendation seemed to be the order of the day. I told mom not to worry. I applied for the post of a typist in a legal firm and got the job at a starting salary of $120/- a month. I worked extremely hard, pounding away on the manual typewriter at a speed of about 70 words per minute. Staff took advantage of my quick typing speed to throw in their own work for me to type. I never complained. In fact I enjoyed myself, reading petitions, agreements, etc. My boss also made me take dictation in Pitman's shorthand. I was always eager to learn and due to constant typing, my speed increased to 85 words per minute. My papa had always taught us that if we had to do anything, we should do it well. I was soon promoted to be secretary after three months.

When both my parents passed away, I was pleasantly surprised when my boss' father, the benevolent Lim Cheng Ean, offered me a bursary to study in Canada.!! Papa was right.... God indeed has blessed the "durian" of his eyes. Though he was not around for me, I received the chance to study in Canada!

Someone has said that a good man's generation will be blessed .... indeed up to three generations!

Gan Chau

Sunday, October 29, 2006

My Parents' "Most Blessed Mistake"!

After having had six children, my parents thought six would be enough. However, six years later, I came into the world!! My parents considered me their mistake, but papa considered me his "most blessed mistake"! You see, I am the "durian" of his eyes! In Britain, they would call it "apple."

No wonder when I went out with my parents, people would often wonder who I was, and when told I am the youngest, many would comment "Oh! So cute!" Once, mother was annoyed with me, and told me half in anger and half in jest, that I was picked up from the rubbish dump. Naive as I was, I believed her.! Papa hugged me and assured me that I am his most precious daughter and God's gift to him and mama. How comforting to a child!

That was my papa. Though educated in Chinese, and steeped in Chinese Literature and History, he was quite westernised in his approach. The older generation of Chinese fathers are usually not vocal or demonstrative in their affection for their children. They would work hard and provide well for their families and many of my friends told me that they had never heard words of affection from their fathers.
Without a shadow of doubt, these fathers love their children in their hearts, but they often hide their affection beneath a wall of stern expression!

Papa was unique.... a man in a million. When he came back from school on his motor bike, he would holler out to me, "Where is my precious daughter? There, you are!" He would then hug me and stretch out his hand with his palm closed. "Guess, what is in papa's hand?" "Play or eat one, papa?" I would ask in excitement. "Play"

"Is it an eraser? A little toy? A marble? A small rubber ball? A hair clip?" Papa shook his head, and opened up his palm. It was the smallest dictionary in the world.... a two inch by one inch dictionary! I just loved the little book. Papa enjoyed surprising his children. Even though we were not rich, we were extremely happy and contented.

Mama always lamented that she could not understand the need for her daughters to receive so much education. After all they would end up getting married and be housewives one day. But papa was of a different mind. He reasoned that it would be just as important for girls to be well educated, so that in the event, if their husbands turn out to be irresponsible fathers, they could help to provide for their families.

I could never forget the words of wisdom that papa shared when I grew up and could understand what he said. I was in Secondary One.

"My precious child. Papa loves you and worries about you the most...for you are so much younger than your siblings. You are most like me in character, for you are generous and overly soft hearted. However, one day, God chided me and reminded me that if I, an ordinary man and father, could love his children so much, how much more would He, as the Heavenly Father and creator of everything in this world. If He could take care of the wild flowers and the birds of the air, would He not take care of everything! I repented and began to commit all my children to God's wonderful hands. I will do my best as an earthly father, but the great Heavenly Father could do so much more for my chidlren. Papa will give you and your siblings the best love a father can give.... I give you all the best education I can afford, but papa will not be able to leave you all with properties and lots of money for inheritance. You will all grow up to be confident adults and God will bless my children richly."

Yes, Papa did not leave us much with material things. When he passed away, he only had $5,000/-. But he had left his children with a great legacy of love by his fine examples of concern and compassion, hospitality and charity. From the huge turn out at his funeral wake and procession, he had touched lives from all walks - from the poorest to the richest and from the illiterates to highly educated. Big burly gangsters from our village and ex-criminals came to his wake, weeping unabashedly.
Papa was as comfortable with hooligans as he was with high ranking government officials!

I would encourage all parents to emulate my papa. Sometimes parents love their children to the extent that they idolise their offsprings without even realising it. If you, as ordinary parents, could give good things to your children, how much more would God the Heavenly Father who loves each and every of His creation.

Papa was absolutely right! God indeed has not only blessed papa's children, but He has blessed them abundantly.

Gan Chau