Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Happiness in Little Things ...even in Temporary Make-Belief!

This morning, as I was waiting for the lift, I looked at my reflection in the mirror which was on the door of the lift. I have been doing that for the past 4 months since I joined Dennis Wee Properties Pte. Ltd. at their head office at Park Mall. Perhaps I took the opportunity to check that my clothes were not creased, etc. I only realise now I do not even have a long mirror at home.!

Suddenly it dawned upon me that I actually enjoyed looking at the reflection in the mirror because lo and behold! the person looking back at me was actually someone taller and slimmer!! What a nice reflection and it made me happy. Although it was a temporary make-belief it brought me joy and smiles.

Friends and family members will tell you that I am the least vain of ladies they have met. I grew up with my mom and sisters constantly reminding me to put powder on my face! Now at age 52, I often received compact powder and lip sticks as presents from my nieces, but I "recyled" them as gifts for my friends and associates.! With this hot, humid weather, it is difficult for any powder or eye shadow to remain plastered on my face! Hence my face is devoid of make up unless it is for a photo shoot. Once I had to do a cooking program with Devagi Sanmugam at Rialto, and the TV crew had my face made up. Wow! What a transformation! Made me think I actually looked quite pretty after all.!!

The mirror incident made me recall the time when I first came to Singapore some 23 years ago. I stayed at the lovely YWCA Hostel as a hostelite for 3 years. It was great fun staying at the Y, as we affectionately called our hostel. We felt as if we were in the United Nations as we could meet people from so many different countries.

I met Roxanne, a student from Bombay who was doing a short term computer course. Roxanne and I got along very well. She taught me Hindi, and we had fun discussing some of the older and popular Hindi movies namely Haathi Mere Saathi (Elephants, my friends), Waqt (Time) and Bobby. I guess we were both alike in many ways and had the same interests. Only that Roxanne was much taller and bigger. It was difficult for the two of us to really lose weight because both of us were chocoholics! One day, while shopping at the Paragon, Roxanne suddenly waved to me excitedly. "Look! Look!", said Roxanne, pointing excitedly to one of the shining pillars. "Look, I'm so tall and slim", Roxanne asserted cheerfully. "Wow, you look like Miss India, Roxanne! Quick, lose some weight! Let's go running around Fort Canning tomorrow!" I coaxed. I smiled and I thought Roxanne was cute.

This morning, I thought I was also cute.... looking longingly at the slimmer Choo in the mirror! Mm, quite inspiring.... must start jogging tomorrow to shed off an extra 15 kg!! :-)

Gan Chau

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Man Who Never Celebrated Father's Day

I had invited my clients, Mr. & Mrs. Tan for a Father's Day lunch, but at the 11th hour, they cancelled the appointment. Hence I decided to continue with the lunch since I had invited my ex-staff, Amu, along.

I was so engrossed with my writing that I did not notice the passing of time. As I was running late, I decided to take a taxi. "Uncle, happy father's day", I greeted the taxi man cheerfully.

"Where got such thing", he replied grumpily.

"It's your day, uncle. Happy Father's Day", I greeted him again.

"All these years, my children never greet me or buy me present. If I had good children.... I won't be driving a taxi at my age. Many of my lucky friends have already retired." He paused for quite a while. "Aiya.... commercial only".

I felt kind of sorry for the taxi driver. He cut a pathetic figure, with his weather-beaten face. As I looked at him I wondered at his relationship with his children. I dared not probe further, preferring to give his children the benefit of a doubt. After all the Bible had reminded children to honour their parents, and vice versa, for parents not to provoke their children to anger.

Suddenly, I thought I'd try to cheer up the taxi driver. I shared with him some stories about papa. I had some new red packets in my handbag, and I quickly put some money into a red packet. When I arrived at my destination, I gave the taxi driver a small red packet together with my fares. I told him to treat the red packet as a Father's Day gift.

The taxi driver smiled and thanked me. I felt extremely happy the whole day long.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Let's Preserve Our Earth!

I asked Jason who operates Jason's Penang Cuisine at Amoy Street Food Centre for his recipe to cook shark's fin soup. He confimed what I have been suspecting all along. Shark's fin on its own is actually quite tasteless. It is the way it is cooked that makes it so tasty. The bulk of the taste comes from simmering the soup which is made with dried cuttle fish and in some cases, an addition of scallops.

Hence, my question now is, if shark's fin is tasteless, then why do we need to kill so many thousands of sharks for this delicacy? I am not against people eating what they want to eat. I am against the way the sharks are cruelly killed for their fins! Why can't people just eat up or use the whole shark, instead of just throwing it back into the ocean after its fins have been cut off? Can you imagine the excruciating pain of the poor creature? Try giving a small cut on your finger and then immersing it in a pot of very salty water! How much more acute is the pain of a shark mercilessly stripped of its fins, and then thrown into the vast sea of salty water!

I suggested to Jason that perhaps manufacturers can come up with some kind of imitation shark's fin. Make them from green bean powder like the way tang hoon is being made. Except that the manufacturers have to shape it like shark's fin, and to make it less permeable, so that it will not soak up the soup too much.

We Chinese are well known to be creative in cooking. As my Canadian friends had said, "You Chinese eat everything, almost everything under the sun!" Perhaps it was due to the extreme poverty in days of yore, that caused our ancestors to look out for edible things. However, now that we are more progressive and wealthy, let us perhaps revise our menu. Let us fight against the eating of monkeys' brains, dogs, cats, snakes, frogs and frog's legs, etc. Eating monkeys' brains does not make you more intelligent than you really are. Wisdom comes from above and from real life experiences. When you order a plate of frogs' legs, have you every wondered what happens to the rest of the frogs' bodies? Made into soup or discarded away?

At least for those who cannot resist including all these exoitic creatures in their diet, they should practise a more humane way of killing the poor creatures. I can never forget the program I saw on National Geographic. A Thai man gleefully slit the lower part of a huge snake, that was still alive. He then flexed his arms with a show of bravado. His partner, a beautiful lady, just smiled sweetly. The man should just go for viagra to improve his libido instead of drinking the blood of the snake. He caught the blood in his glass and drank it, with his tongue licking good! Makes me wonder who was the real devil.... the Thai man or the snake!!! How could anyone still savour a bowl of monkey's brain after having seen it killed in a very cruel way right on the dinner table? Jeanell, my friend laughed when I told her I lost weight each time I went to China. The reason? I avoid eating meat, just in case, I unknowingly eat dog's meat! Dogs are my favourite animals and I would rather die from starvation than to touch any dog's meat.

Let us all play our part in perserving the environment, because by destroying the earth, we are also gradually killing ourselves!

Gan Chau

Friday, June 23, 2006

A - Z of the Choo Choo Train

Having posted an A - Z of himself, Thanh, a fellow blogger from Australia asked me to do like wise. So here goes :-

A - Active. I cannot sit still for too long, especially if it is not an interesting activity. How many times have I sat and slept right through boring convocations and concerts for hours! This is why most of my friends prefer to call me Choo Choo rather than Lynn, because I am like a train, constantly on the move.

B - Benevolent. Like papa, would say I am quite benevolent like him. Don't like to
hold grudges and prefer to forgive, just as I hope others will forgive me too. When we don't forgive or hold grudges, it is suffocating. Can't breathe with a nose clogged up with unhealthy emotion of phlegm.

C - Cooking. I love cooking. It is so therapeutic. Taught myself cooking and was the chef of my own restaurant. Can also cook Chinese, Western, Nonya, Indonesian and Thai food. My favourite CCC - Choo Can Cook. Maybe one day, in future, I will hold cooking classes in the likes of Yan Can Cook. My program might be called "If Choo can cook, so can you!"

D - Dogs. My favourite breed of animals. Would like to think that God must love dogs the most because a D - o - g is G - O - D spelt backwards!!

E - Elephants. Also my favourite animal. Intelligent animals with long memoreis.
My favourite Hindi movie on elephants - Haathi Meere Sathi - Elephants my friends.
Great movie! Narrated the story to an Indian client.... he was so surprised I could still remember the details of a movie I watched 39 years ago! I guess my memory is as long as an elephant's!!

F - Friends. Friends are precious to me. No man is an island, and papa always reminded us to be grateful to God and friends.

G - Goldfish! My favourite in the tank. They shine and the way the goldfish shakes its body and tail.....puts me to shame. In my attempt to learn belly dancing, I can't even move my hips as gracefully and as seductively as the fish!!

H - Hell. Often wonder what hell is really like though the Bible says it is a terrible place where there is a lot of screaming and the gnashing of teeth. Hence it is not nice for people to say, "Go to hell lah". All of us will want to avoid going there, and the Christians say that Christ is the answer to the alternative place of hell - He offers heaven and eternal life.

I - Indians. I like Indian movies. I like their beautiful dances and songs as well as their lovely costumes and colorful clothes. The only thing that I do not quite like is Indian food. Guess the food is too spicy and pungent for me.

J - Jokes. I enjoy reading joke books and telling jokes. Life is short ... why be so serious all the time?

K - Kam Family. I love my family, which also includes my 3 pet dogs.... Kamlette, Kambobo and Kam Xiao Bai. We are a happy and fun loving family. We are also a very musical and blessed family.

L - Laughter. I like to laugh ... my pastor said that laughing is good for the internal organs because they get massaged each time we laugh.

M - Mongolia. It is one country I must make an effort to visit. I used to have two Mongolian sisters staying with me while they were studying in Singapore. A fascinating country with a fascinating culture.

N - Now. If I can do something now, I will do it. Hate to keep postponing what I can do today. Better to do it now and get done with it than to procrastinate.

O - Original. I like to be original and creative. I still remember the teacher's day card which my students gave me. On the card were the words, "In a world of carbon copies, you're an original".

P - Papa - the person I love the most!! He is my hero and my role model.

Q - quaint. I like quaint things and places. This is probably why I travel so much.

R - Roses - my favourite flowers.

S - Singapore! This old Choo Choo train had gone a-chugging round the world. Had lived in some countries from a few days to a few years. Still love staying in
Singapore the most.

T - Time- Precious time. "An ounce of gold cannot buy you 5 minutes of time" papa always liked to remind us. This is why I live everday like as if it were my last. "Do it tomorrow lah," some people would say. "Tomorrow, I may not be around", I would reply.

U - Understanding. It is so important to understand. So many problems can arise because of misunderstanding. Especially, now when life is so fast and people are so busy that the art of listening is becoming non-existent!

V - Voice. People tell me I have a good singing voice.!! I enjoy singing when I am showering, walking to my destination and when I am cooking.

W - Warm. Like papa, I have a warm personality. In this otherwise cold world, a little warmth will go a long way to bring a smile on someone's lips, cheer up a broken heart and bring joy to everyone.

X - Xmas! The most colorful month in Singapore when Orchard Road is lighted up!
A season of joy and forgiveness. A seson to remember the One who had died on the Cross for us.

Y - Youthfulness. People often tell me that my glowing complexion belies my age!
I guess it is because I am still so excited about so many things in life. Hence it makes me appear young.

Z - Zoo. As an animal lover, this is my favourite haunt and whenever I travel overseas, I must try to make it a point to visit the zoo. Once my elder sister took me to the zoo in Melbourne and left me there the whole day, because she knew I would spend hours in the zoo!!

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Beauty of Plain English

Funny Love Letter

Study this love letter..... Very interesting

A guy was deeply in love with a pretty girl, whom he wanted to marry. But he did not have the courage to talk to her in person. So he decided to go alone and with the help of a dictionary, he wrote a letter of proposal to her.

........ mmmhmmm MORE interesting is here

------- HE WROTE :

Most worthy of your estimation after a long consideration and much mediation. I have a strong indication to become your relation. As to my educational qualification,it is no exaggeration or fabrication that I have passed my matriculation examination; no doubt without any hesitation and very little preparation.
What do you say to the solemnisation of our marriage celebration according to the glorification of modern civilisation and with a view to the expansion of the population of present generation. On your approbation of the application, I shall make preparation to improve my situation, and if such obligation is worthy of consideration it will be our augmentation of the joy and exaltation of our joint dissimilation.
Thanking you in anticipation and with devotion, To remain victim of your fascination.

------- SHE REPLIED :

Dear Mr. Victim of my fascination, Congratulation for your lengthy narration of course full of affection aimed at an affiliation for a combination which on examination.
I find is a fine presentation of your ambition. You have passed your matriculation with little preparation, what about my graduation after a long botheration, so improve situation in education and make an application by acquisition of post graduation and minimum qualification for the convocation and before taking your photo for circulation undergo beautification.
Further strict observation of the following conditions is the regulation for the determination of> our relation.
1. Consultation of my parents before approaching for my connection.
2. Communication of your confirmation that you are not a victim of any other fascination and, 3. Procreation must not be your recreation. In anticipation of a solid action instead of continuation of paper conversation. I Remain, Unaffected by your affection

Now we can understand why our PM Lee has advocated speaking and writing plain English.

My Primary School students can read and understand the articles in this blog. I am sure readers will agree they enjoy my simple and plain style of writing? :-)


Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Man in A Million

Photo of papa, Kam Beng Soo, taken when he was 62 years old.

I am very grateful to the Creator for having given me the most wonderful papa. Indeed to me, he is a man in a million.

Although papa did not have the opportunity to study music, he taught himself to play over twenty musical instruments. His specialty was the saxophone and clarinet. He was also able to arrange music for his bands in the Nightingale Melodians which often performed in concerts that helped to raise funds for charities. Papa also worked part time in the nightclub where he was the bandmaster. Despite his busy schedules, he still found time to give free music lessons to the poor children in our Jelutong village. Papa liked to spread joy through music. His favourite words, "Music has power!" It is this power that had moved the hearts of street urchins who gradually became disciplined. Papa's passion as a teacher had imbued them with a new purpose and direction. Some of papa's students later became professional musicians. Papa shared how exasperated he was with my eldest brother, Kee Yong, who was constantly playing and fighting with the village children. He was afraid eldest brother would be a bad example to his younger siblings. Papa bought him a violin, and brother loved the violin so much that he became disciplined and practised his violin several hours a day!

I remember once we were heading back to Penang from Singapore. In the train, we met a group of 40 boy scouts with their Scoutsmaster from Brunei. They were heading for one week of Jambouree in Penang. Seeing that the boys were playing their guitars, papa also took out his clarinet and played with them. My parents invited them to our humble attap house for lunch. Mom was a good cook, and I was pleasantly surprised when one of the boys apologised, "We thought your papa must be a very rich man to invite 40 hungry boys for lunch in his big bungalow! I live in a three storey bungalow in Brunei, but I would certainly like to trade places with you. Dad earns a lot but I hardly see him.... he's always away on business trips." I felt ten feet tall that moment!

Papa never believed in corporal punishment. He preferred to reason with his children and students. He detested sending errant students to the principal for caning; he preferred to counsel them.

Our humble home always had many visitors as people loved to visit our family. Though we were not rich, my parents were always very hospitable. Papa was very entertaining and made everyone roar with laughter with his jokes and mimicry. Once we were having a picnic at Tanjung Bungah Beach. We met a French lady who was travelling on a shoe string budget. My parents just invited her to stay with us for a few days.

Although papa was very busy, yet he found time to sometimes cook us special meals. He always encouraged me to read and write. He never pressurised us in our studies or performance. He always advised us to try our best for whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well.

Even though, papa taught Chinese in a primary school, he was quite Westernised and modern in his thinking. Mama always said that primary school education would be sufficient for her three daughters; but papa argued that if education was important frr his sons, it would be even more important for his daughters, for should they end up with lousy husbands, they could still help to work and provide for the family!

I can write very long essays and perhaps even a book on papa, but due to blog constraint, I will conclude with the most memorable and wise words that papa had given us. He said, "I will not be able to leave my children with lots of money and properties, but I will give them the best love a father can give, so that they will grow up confident and secure. As an earthly father, I can only do so much, and if I love my children, the Heavely Father loves them even more, and He will be the one to bless my precious offsprings". People say that a good man will have his 3 generations greatly blessed. Indeed we have been blessed. If papa knew that all his 12 grandchildren are doing very well, and that his grand-daughter, Kam Ning, has now become a world class violinist, he would be very proud.

It has been 34 years since papa passed away, but the scene at the funeral wake is still vivid. People from all walks of life came to pay their respects from trishaw men to millionaires and ministers. It was quite moving to see burly gangsters weeping unabashedly and I was told that the late Mr. G.K. Tan, the Commissioner of Police, was one of the pall-bearers. Papa always advised us, "There's no need to look down or look up to a man. We are all equally loved by God". Truly, papa was the pillar of our family and his love and compassion remain etched in our hearts and in the memory of all those who know him.

Wishing all my friends, associates, colleagues and clients a "Happy and Blessed Father's Day".


Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Conditioning of Our Minds!

Husband: Oh, come on.
Wife: Leave me alone!
Husband: It won't take long.
Wife: I won't be able to sleep afterwards.
Husband: I can't sleep without it.
Wife: Why do you think of things like this in the middle of the night?
Husband: Because I'm Hot.
Wife: You get hot at the darndest times.
Husband: If you love me I wouldn't have to beg you.
Wife: If you love me you'd be more considerate.
Husband: You don't love me anymore.
Wife: Yes I do, but let's forget it for tonight.
Husband: Please...come on
Wife: Alright, I'll do it.
Husband: What's the matter? Need a flashlight?
Wife: I can't find it.
Husband: Oh, for heaven's sake, feel for it!
Wife: There! Are you satisfied?
Husband: Oh, yes.
Wife: Is it up far enough?
Husband: Oh, that's good.
Wife: Now go to bed and from now on when you want the window open, do it yourself.

What was I thinking? Dirty mind? And blushed red-hot. This joke should be x-rated!

The above was sent to me via email by one of my buddies, Richard. Together with James and Moshin, we have called ourselves the "Gang of Four". It is great that after so many years since our graduation from the University of Alberta, we are now still in contact with one another via email. Thank God for computers! Richard's email made me recall this singer at the Mezzanine in Mandarin Hotel at Orchard Road. It is one of my favourite haunts where sometimes I meet friends for a drink. I always enjoy the various bands that perform at the Mandarin Hotel. One of the singers, with long hair, sang "Shanghai Bund" in English and the wordings were something like this.

Long one, short one,
Long one, short one,
which one do you want?
I want long,
You want short,
Together, we both shall have our fun!

After singing the above to the tune of Shanghai Bund, the singer addressed the audience, "Hey! What are you guys thinking ah? I am referring to my long hair and his short hair! Ah, you dirty-minded fellows!" The crowd roared.

It is interesting how our minds are often conditioned by knowledge and past experiences.

I guess, in jokes and situations like this, it is alright. However, it would not be so advantageous to us if we become clouded in our viewpoints because of past hurts, past unhapy events and past traumatic experiences. Sad is the man who says, "I will never ever get married again, because my first girlfriend has broken my heart!" It would be great if his experience has made him more appreciative of the good points of the next girlfriend he has fallen in love with. Or consider one of my uncles.
His parents did not support him and left him to struggle when he was growing up. Despite that, my uncle still succeeded to rise through rank and file to become a Chief Clerk with Shell. Despite his wealth, he refused to be more supportive of his six children who literally had to beg him for pocket money and school fees. Most of them did not complete their education and were left running wild. It would be better if my uncle had said to himself, "Mm... I have gone through so much hell. I will not allow my children to go through what I went through. Education is important and I must at least give them basic secondary school education". Towards the end of his life, Uncle became a lonely and broken man, as all his wealth was squandered by his mistress; my aunty became insane because of stress and my cousins detested their father, refusing to support him as he had never supported the family.
If only uncle could turn back the clock... sigh.

Our somewhat fragile minds are also conditioned by what we hear and see sometimes. We are sometimes easily influenced by the gossips we hear without bothering to establish the truth or reality. Papa often reminded us, "If you have no time to find out the truth, shut up! Don't help to add more fuel to the fire". Let us continue to keep our minds supple - to be able to discard, to re-assess and to discern fresh horizons. Let us laugh at ourselves when we sometimes become absently mindedly silly and not be too defensive of our mistakes. After all, it is human to err, and to forgive ourselves divine. This is important because some people cannot forgive themselves even when others have forgiven them. We can then set ourselves free to learn and to experience new things every day. Like the Chinese saying. "Huo dao lau; xue dao lau." We learn till we go six feet under.

Gan Chau

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Second Chance that made a Thief a Doctor

The recent arrest of Adrian Yeo, a houseman, made me reminisce about my beloved papa again. For my overseas readers, please log in for more details of the case.

Papa was teaching Chinese and Music in a primary school in Penang. One day, he caught a Standard 6 pupil stealing a classmate's gold Cross pen. Instead of sending the thief to the principal for caning during school assembly, papa chose to counsel the boy quietly. He told the student, that he was a brilliant boy and hence should use his intelligent mind to bless others, instead of plotting to put others at a disadvantage. The boy cried, and vowed to turn over a new leaf. My papa's gentleness and compassion broke him. He resolved not to let papa and his own family down. He later became a prominent Specialist in Malaysia as well as an active volunteer doctor in the Home for the Aged. At papa's funeral, I am sure you can guess, who among his students, wept the most.

I am not implying that we should molly cuddle the likes of Adrian Yeo. I am sure Adrian's family must feel they have failed him too; failed for not recognising his problems earlier, so that they could have sent him for professional counselling. As a nation, we feel a sense of failure too when our young people are caught shoplifting, molesting and subjecting themselves to the danger of drugs and Aids. So much emphasis is on excellence that our people are getting more stressed, confused and depressed. There should be more openness and a conducive environment so that our youths can be encouraged to admit, "I have a problem.... can you please help me?"

As a teacher, I would also blame myself partially if I had failed to help my students other than teaching them to speak and write proper English. This is why I had asked my students to write their journals. In one of the journals one of my boys had written that he often secretly wore his sister's clothes and make up. He also had a deep crush on one of the boys in his class. With professional help from church counsellors, he is now doing well and is happily married with two kids.

Adrian has spent years working hard to achieve his dream of becoming a doctor. His family must have great faith that he will do well. Now the heart-broken father has to sell his only roof to pay off the debts incurred because of his studies. Probably the father was too busy driving longer and longer hours to help bring in more earnings for the family. What an ironical twist!

Someone commented that because Adrian is a doctor, society will expect high standards from him. Please do not put people on a pedestal. Whether a person is a doctor, lawyer, engineer, civil servant, or church pastor ... .... everyone is a human being with his strengths and weaknesses. To err is human; to give a second chance divine. Therefore please give Adrian a second chance to continue his housemanship and medical career. Let him have a chance to contribute back to society in a more meaningful way than to label him for life.

I hope our hardworking police force will go around internet chat rooms and hook up the likes of Adrian Yeo, so that they can receive proper counselling and professional help. This would be better than throwing them behind bars and spending taxpayers' money. Two packets of rice with meat and vegetables a day times 245 days cost a lot, you know.

Gan Chau :-)

Monday, June 12, 2006

I can never understand

Thank you, dear readers, for your positive feedback. However, I am not really as smart or as wise as some of you have made me out to be. Even at three score minus 8, I am still learning everyday, and am still as fascinated with the mysteries of the universe as I was 45 years ago. Unless, God sends His angel down to explain to me, and with his wand, open up the blockages in my mind, I can never understand the following :-

1) Science, especially Physics and Chemistry are beyond my comprehension! Never
passed a single test in these two subjects in secondary school.!

2) Maths - can never stand numbers. Till today, this dream keeps coming back to me.
I dreamt that the following day I had a maths test, and horror upon horrors I
still could not remember a single maths formula!!

3) Modern gadgets. Customers want new handphones - for me I am
content with old ones. The less functions, the better! I know how to phone
call, sms, add new contact number, set the time and alarm. The rest of the
functions remain untouched. When I buy a fan for eg. I will always ask the
sales personnel to assemble the fan for me, because I cannot, just cannot
follow the manual instructions! Mental block!

4) How can some husbands and wives hate each
other so much till they end up killing one
another? The marriage vows seem so
archaic and distant.

I assisted my boss who was a divorce specialist. The horrendous stories make
actual cat fights seem mild in comparison! Perhaps this is why cynical me has
never walked down the aisle! I think I have more faith in my pet dogs! Thank you
very much.

5) Marriage is already such a headache or what the Nepalese like to say, "Tauko
dukil" or the Hokkien people say, "Tau tiah". As if married life is not
"tau tiah" enough, some people must add more complications by being emotionally
involved with another. The recent case of Liu Hong Mei's tyrsts with Leong Siew
Chor, the "perfect family man" is a classic example. Leong had cut up his
mistress into 7 parts. He claimed it was a suicide pact that went wrong.
Justice Tay in his judgement, effectively summarized the feelings of the masses
by his poem:-


This truly is a sad riddle,
How could anyone savagely strangle
And so unfeelingly mangle
the woman one had just cuddled?

- Justice Tay Yong Kwang

6) Why would people abuse poor innocent animals and little children? I once saw
a stray cat with a badly scalded upper body which was starting to heal. I
"meowed" to the cat, and thought it might run away; yet the poor creature still
walked towards me in a pathetic and trusting manner. I cried. People say that a
cat has nine lives and whoever ill treats a cat will have his just punishment.
Once I rescued a kitten from being drowned by a group of boys and gave them a
stern warning. My friend told me she was so worried the boys would beat me up.
I would have felt worse if I did nothing to help the cat... and the boys as well!

Why must people catch sharks only to slice off their fins and then throw the
wounded sharks into the ocean without a second thought? Ever cut your finger
and dip the tiny wound in salt water? Imagine the excruciating pain of the
sharks before they die! Why must restaurants be proud of their sharks fin soup?
To me, it seems alright if sharks are caught and eaten whole like other fish.
Do we have to sacrifice a whole shark just for its fins? Once I saw skinless
frogs jumping around in a tray in a wet market in Chinatown. I could not take
my meals the whole day, thinking of the poor frogs. I am not against people
eating what they crave. I am against the cruel ways in which these helpless
creatures are being killed. Isn't this the very reason why human beings are
afraid to die.? Haven't you heard people say, "It's ok to die immediately in
an accident! The worst is when you are neither dead nor alive and feel the pain
of the injury!" If the sharks and frogs could talk, would they not utter the
same words as human beings?"

7) Why is friendship and relationship even more fragile than a lovely china
procelain? You can do nine good things for a friend, but when you fail a friend
in one area, whoosh!..... your years of friendship just go down the drain!
Now I realise papa's wisdom when he constantly reminded us to be always grateful
to God and people, for gratitude puts us in the right perspective. Papa also
reminded us to be forgiving just as God has forgiven us. He coaxed us not to
bear grudges for they are like cancerous cells, slowly eating up our good cells,
crippling us from moving forward to do good.

8) Computers! Fascinating but complicated machines! I can understand why my
siblings have such great phobia of acquiring computer knowledge. My first
computer died a premature death, after it was left choking itself with dust,
human hairs and dog furs. Being the youngest aunty and closest in age with
my nephews and nieces, I tried to be groovy and allowed myself to be coaxed
into learning the computer for the sake of emailing my beloved relatives.
I have progressed from emailing to blogging! Not bad eh, for an old aunty of
52 years! I must thank so many people for helping me post pictures, set up,
etc. Namely Richard, Thanh, James, Chris, Dr. Raju, Win Nie, Alfred, Tyng, Thet
and my young students, Kang Jie and Ming Jie.

Now, I am smiling again because if this old aunty can learn to type on the computer, anyone also can. So take heart, my peers. You can do it too! Quick. Open yourself
to the fascinating world of internet! Anything you want to know can be found in the computer... even better than a dictionary or encyclopaedia!

I realise that even when I go six feet under, I can still not understand or learn about everything. Is this the reason why someone said, "Ignorance is bliss"? or
in Mandarin, "Sha ren yiu sha fu?" (The stupid people have stupid luck - direction translation.) Perhaps the more we know, the more we worry ?

It would be great if my readers can also share what perplexes them, and what answers they have found for themselves to combat the perplexities of life. Being uniquely made, we all have different peeves and outlook on life.

In conclusion, perhaps I should change my title to "I cannot understand" because maybe one day I will understand. For now I have decided not to try to understand everything! Just remain a simple, happy and optimistic person, counting our blesings and naming them one by one! We just have to do our best, and leave God to do the rest.

Gan Chau :-)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Singapore's Economy is Growing, and so is Her Average Girth!

In her letter to the Forum, Dr. Sara Oh, a doctor now residing in Perth, but who returns once a year for vacation to Singapore, sounded her alarm. She was shocked to see Singaporeans growing sideways!

Dr. Oh felt that there seems to have been an almost-overnight increase in the number of Singaporeans who are overweight in the last couple of years. She was also struck by the food portions served by hawkers, which she felt are almost equivalent to those served in Australia. Dr. Oh's eagle eyes observed that half of the people between the age of 30 to 60 are overweight.! Hence, Dr. Oh's conclusion is that we are eating more than we need and are not burning the calories fast enough.

I have to agree with Dr. Oh. Even when I was teaching 12 years ago, I noticed that quite a number of my students were heavier than they should be. Pass by any fast food joints and you will see that the majority of the customers are children and youths. Sadly, some parents are compelled to join their kids to tuck in the hamburgers and fried fish and chickens. While it is easier for the young ones to burn the fat, it is harder for the parents to do so. How often have we said, "Oh, just once; just a little". And that little multiplied many times become quite risky to the health, especially if we are not exercising enough.

Of course there are some very lucky people who just don't seem to put on weight. My best friend, Mrs. Phoon Yew Tien, eats six to seven meals a day, and she is always so slim. And so is my boss, Mr. Dennis Wee, who eats a lot and remains reasonably trim. He attributes it to his fast metabolic rate that burns off food easily. He has three teaspoons of sugar in his coffee and his daily cup of milo is a must before bedtime. Gosh! If I were to eat like him, I would most likely put on 2 kgs every month!

I have always been plump and blame it partially on my genes as I am the only sibling in the family who takes after papa 99.9 per cent! I like most of the food that papa liked, except that unlike papa, I am not fond of meat. I am most fond of fruits and vegetables. However, horror upon horrors! My weakness is nuts and chocolates! I am nuts about nuts - you name it, I love it. Macadamia, walnut, pistachio, cashew, pine, Brazil, almonds, peanuts, etc., etc. In the past, when I was younger, I could finish a tin of chocolates with nuts within 30 minutes! And I love noodles - any type of noddles. I can go without bread or rice for a year, but noodles is a must everyday! And boy! I cook excellent noodles and have a hundred and one delicious ways to cook the long strands of wheat dough! However, an incident that took place in Edmonton changed my habit.

While studying at the university, I worked part time with a cleaning company called Cinderella Maid Services. I was sent to help a lady, Mrs. Myer, to clean her apartment. When I first met Mrs. Myer, I was somewhat stunned by her obesity. When I told her I had put on 5 kg since I came to Canada, she suddenly gripped me by the shoulders and coerced, "Take it off, girl, take it off! Don't end up fat like me. I used to eat and comfort myself, "Only a little." She showed me her wedding photo. I was shocked to see a lovely lady one third the size of Mrs. Myer's build!

Mr. Myer, on the other hand was trim and robust looking. He exercised every morning and had salad for lunch every day. He loved his wife very much, and for her sake, the refrigerator was almost bare of food that had carboydrates and fat. I could only find plain water, vegetables, fruits and fish in the fridge. Mrs. Myer was so overweight that she could not do any housework which would leave her breathless. She was so fond of me that I became her regular cleaner until I graduated and left Canada.

It has been 27 years since I last met Mrs. Myer. Till today, I still keep the special diary which had metallic cover with floral prints. On the first page, Mrs. Myer had written, "Dearest Choo, please keep trim and healthy for my sake. Love you, Mrs. Myer." Sometimes when I became greedy I looked at Mrs. Myer's diary, and I would be able to overcome my temptation. No longer am I eating chocolates and nuts like I used to and I avoid desserts and buffets as much as I can. My friends love my Penang Char Koay Teow and Hokkien Mee which I fry with vegetable oil instead of lard. When I watch TV I try to exercise at the same time, thus killing two birds with one stone. I try to walk especially if the destination is only two bus stops or one MRT stop away. I still am overweight for my liking, but at least I make a conscious effort not to add more kgs! At more than half a century years old, it is not easy to lose weight, but I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Thanks, Dr. Sara Oh, on behalf of all Singaporeans, I thank you for your timely reminder and advice that we will "strive towards health and wealth, refusing to slide down the path to obesity, which brings disease, pain and poverty." As the Singapore economy expands, Singaporeans must be careful to guard that their waistlines also do not expand! It takes a lot of determination to resist all the temptation in this food paradise of an island, but if there is a will, there is a way!

Gan Chau :-)

PS: I don't have any evidence, but I would also like to attribute my plumpness to constant laughter! :p I grew up laughing a lot because my beloved papa and siblings are all great jokers. Once I was at a dog show at World Trade Centre and laughed so hard that I no longer felt hungry! Any enlightenment on this, Dr. Oh?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Against All Odds

A friend had asked me to help market her inter-terrace house at Bukit Timah area.
The house is lovely and cosy, and despite being built 30 years ago, is well maintained. However, the only disadvantage is that it is located at a T-junction. Buyers usually avoid T-junction properties because of geomancy and the worry that cars will shine their headlights into the house when they turn.

12 buyers phoned me. I told them the number of the house so that they could drive around to have an idea of the location. For my first open house, only 3 buyers turned up. One purchaser was polite enough to call me to cancel her appointment as she did not like houses at T-junctions. It was love at first sight for the first couple, the Wees. They had been house hunting for a year but could not find any to their taste. They asked to view a second time the following day, as they would like to show their mother and siblings.

My client told the buyers that when he first saw the house 20 years ago, he liked it so much that he put a deposit on the spot and even gave the agent a $2,000/- commission to help him clinch the deal. I told Mr. Wee he did not have to give me any commission; he would just have to offer a reasonable price for the house. Mr. Wee asked if I had any offer yet, and I told him that as I had just started to market the property, no one had made any offer to buy. He told us he had studied the movement of cars for one hour, and noticed that as my clients' property was located more to the left, the turning cars did not really affect the house. Morever the roads are quite wide. He offered to buy the house at valuation price the following day.! This is the fastest deal I have transacted for a property at a T-junction!

My clients told me that they noticed I did not talk much when showing the property.
I told them that the properties should speak for themselves. Morever, most of my clients are learned and experienced buyers ..... they know what they want... and no amount of coercion from my excellent sales talk will influence them to buy if they are not keen on the property. When I market a property, I will only mention the salient points, and point out issues that are not so obvious.

Another purchaser, Mr. Ong, who wanted to move to a smaller apartment as his children had all married, bought a two room unit from my client. When I went to see them to sign the documents, they told me they would like to sell their apartment as well. I saw a piano in their apartment and could not resist trying it out. "My piano sounds so nice when you play it. Somehow when my wife and daughter play the piano, they sound more like pounding chillis! I only realise today my piano actually sounds nice," said Mr. Ong cheerfully. I told the lovely couple that when playing the piano, one must be expressive so as to help bring out the rich tone of the instrument. I encouraged Mrs. Ong to continue practising the piano. My beloved papa was right. Music has power to bring joy to people!

The Ongs were worried it would take some time to sell their apartment as it is on the 14th floor. Their relatives have told them that units with "4" would take longer and buyers would try to press down the price. Despite all odds, the apartment was sold at $13,800/- above valuation within 2 weeks. The Ongs also commented that I did not talk much when I marketed their unit. I appreciate that they were frank enough to comment that I do not dress as well as other agents! Throughout my life, I have never bought a branded outfit. I have not been able to bring myself to spend $300/- on a brand name. I am contented with a $20/- outfit. Some of my clothes are tailored by my eldest sister. Mr. Ong also observed that although I do not drive, I am always very punctual for my appointments.

News report say that June, December and the month of the hungry ghosts are quiet months for property transactions. In June and December, most families go on holidays and it is unlucky to buy properties during the month of the hungry ghosts. Yet, I seem to be busiest during these three months! I just know that as an agent, I can only work hard and smart and try my best, leaving God to do the rest.!

Gan Chau :-)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Children are So Pure

A little kid walks to and from school each day. One morning the weather was bad, with threatening clouds forming as he made his daily trek to primary school.

In the afternoon, a gale was brewing as was the coming thunder and lightning.

The kid's Mother was very concerned that her son would be fearful as he walked home, and god forbid anything should happen to him on the way home with such an electrical storm...

Following the roar of thunder, lightning would cut through the sky like a flaming sword.

Full of concern, the Mother quickly decided to drive along the route her kid goes to school from.

As she did so, she saw her little boy walking along, but at each flash of lightning, he would stop, look up and smile.

With each crash of thunder and then lightning, the little boy would look at the streak of light and smile.

When the mother's car drew up beside the child, she lowered the window and called to him, "What are you doing? Why do you keep stopping?"

The child answered, "I am trying to look nice. God keeps taking my picture."

Adapted from "Send It Out Newsletter"

The above article makes me realise why God loves children so much. In Matthew 10:14-15, He said to His disciples, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.

We grow older and are more conscious of all the troubles, stress and problems in the world. We know that certain things are just beyond our control, no matter how hard we have tried. We know that certain things are just beyond our comprehension. Nevertheless, let us retain our childlikeness, knowing that despite the thunderstorm, God cares enough to want to take our lovely photos! Let us retain our childlikeness, knowing that since the Creator has bothered to make us so uniquely beautiful, He will take us in His arms and bless us.

Gan Chau :-)