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. :-)