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?