Photo of my wonderful papa taken with the Nightingale Melodians, a musical group that often held charity concerts in Penang and other towns of Malaysia. Papa arranged most of the music for his group. Papa's favourite words, "Music has power!"
Papa with his clarinet, seated on the first row, 1st from right.
With the love of music inculcated in us by our beloved papa, it is natural that I should have a soft spot for musicians. Every time, I pass by a busker, I would stop to chat with him/her and give a little token of appreciation for the music he/she is contributing to passers-by. These musicians often remind me of my wonderful papa; how he took on another job as a part time band master in a night club to supplement his teaching income; how despite his busy work schedules, he still found time to give free music lessons to the poor children in our village in Penang. All my siblings play two to seven musical instruments, nothing compared to papa, who could play more than 20 musical instruments, self taught.
Hence, Ik See's matter has stirred my heart. I remember how papa would constantly remind us to be less clumsy and avoid injuring our hands. Except for brother Kee Yong, the rest of the other four siblings are only playing musical instruments for enrichment. We are not even gifted like Ik See. I remember how terribly upset papa was when I injured my little finger while playing netball in school. I could not play the piano for 3 months. Here MINDEF is barking the order, "National Service first; Curtis later." I remember an incident when brother Kee Yong got into a legal tussle with the man who provided a piano for his concert. The man insisted that the piano was flawless, definitely not out of tune. When the judge heard that it was Kam Kee Yong who said that the piano was out of tune, by golly it was out of tune! The judge knew that a musician's ears, let alone a prominent violinist, has acute hearing. My concern now is, "Will there be any possible injury to our young Ik See's ears and body.?" Now I understand why the world's great musicians insure their hands for a hefty sum. Sigh.
When we have experienced something good, we want to share. Although Ik See is not related to me and I have yet to hear him play, I wish him well. I wish he will also enjoy all the blessings that my niece, Kam Ning, has enjoyed. Like Kam Ning, I hope Ik See too will be another "cultural ambassador" for our small nation, bringing fame and glory, so that more people will know about the little dot on the world map.
My favourite photo of Kam Ning taken when she was 11 years old.
"Oh God, please let me play my best", prayed Kam Ning, while getting ready for her first recital in singapore.
Gan chau :-)
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Posted by The Oriental Express at 6:37 am
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
When I was studying in Standard Six in Green Lane Convent, Penang, our English teacher read to us poems written by Mrs. Marie Bong's students in Singapore. The late Mrs. Bong believed that every child can write, and is born to write.! As a class, we enjoyed the poems very much and marvelled at the writers' creativity. The poems inspired me immensely. When I became a teacher years later at River Valley High School, Mrs. Bong's words still rang in my ears.
We were asked to chose the schools we preferred to teach, just after graduation from the Institute of Education. I was staying at the YWCA Hostel then, and since I was not too familiar with the schools in Singapore, I asked for a school within walking distance from the Hostel. As I made my way down the slope of the school, I could hear strains of music from the Chinese Orchestra. Suddenly a student nodded his head as he greeted me in Mandarin. I was somewhat taken aback. Pots of purple and red bouganvillas were blooming in the bright sunshine. Suddenly I felt as if I were in Taipeh! Meeting the principal, Madam Leong, for the first time confirmed my feelings. She was wearing Chinese cheongsum!
"Miss Kam, I'm so glad you could join us", said Madam Leong, shaking my hands cordially.
Noticing that I was perspiring profusely, she quickly turned on the fan in her office.
"You must help my students. They are very strong in Chinese, but weak in English,
and I have asked the Ministry to give me a special teacher to help them".
"Oh God! Help! The Ministry must have made a mistake! I specialised in English and English Literature, but not Teaching of English as a Second/Foreign Language. Worse, I can't speak or write in Chinese!" I silently prayed as I made my way home after the meeting.
When asked to write, the students at first protested. But I told them that everyone can write and has the propensity to write, because Mrs. Bong says so. Shared with them how my second sister suddenly became so poetic after falling in love! She wrote tons of poems!! The students had to write an article in their journal everyday. They were free to choose their own topics which could touch on anything they had observed or pondered over. Soon the students were becoming quite prolific and the school magazine editor had an abundance of articles worthy of publication! I will share some hilarious incidents in the writing class in my next blog. For now, I will share with readers a poem from one of my supposedly weak student. Look at what creativity can achieve when inspiration is in bloom.
SIR ISAAC NEWTON
Newton sat under an apple tree,
By Jupiter! Guess what did he see!
He saw an apple falling down,
Gravity was the answer he found.
His laws of motion are dreadful,
And his law of universal gravitation makes me fearful,
Hence, when the teacher began, "Newton's..."
We at once corrected him, "Nuisance.."
How we wish Newton had sat under a durian tree
For when the thorny fruit did fall,
He would surely be hurt by the thorns,
Then he'd say, "Wow! That durian surely
weighs a metrical "New ton!
by Qiu Kewei
River Valley High School
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 8:49 pm
Monday, May 29, 2006
Whenever I go out, I have this morbid fear that a button on my blouse may drop off. Hence, you will always find some safety pins in my handbag. Nowadays, some of the tailoring work for mass-produced clothes is not finely done. Hence there is a likelihood for some pants to burst in their seems, especially when the person wearing them has eaten too mch or put on weight. Hence, I will always have an extra pair of pants or skirt in my carrier bag too. Just in case....
If I am wearing an old pair of shoes, there is also this fear of the shoes turning into a hungry crocodile, with gaping mouths. Once I had to walk barefoot on the rough pavement, because the almost brand new pair of shoes I had recently bought had given way! Incredible! I do not wish to mention the name of the shoe shop, but you can bet I will never patronise the shop again.
My tiger balm is also a precious item. When I was teaching in ACS, it was my "tool" and essential medical aid. When I needed to get the attention of the students especially when they were somewhat noisy, I would just use the bottle of tiger balm and hit on the table, producing a loud sound. The boys immediately knew I needed their attention. Once I forgot to bring my tiger balm, and one concerned student asked me about it.! When my chronic ear problem caused me to be nauseated, the application of the tiger balm on my forehead and nostrils would prove to be soothing.
Now you understand why some ladies carry big bags with them. Inside must be some items that they feel they cannot leave home without! I have now become a handy lady around. If someone in my office needs some safety pins or needle and thread, the staff will say, "Go to Choo.. she'll probably have it!:
If any readers are like me, do drop me a line, so that I will know I am not abnormal.
Do share what you cannot leave your home without!
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 9:22 pm
Sunday, May 28, 2006
So many people aspire to be property agents. Selling properties is one of the most difficult because a lot of emotion and $$$$ is involved. I am also reminded that I am handling sweat and blood money and hence I must do the best for my clients. I find that apart from patience..... you need tons of it, a little humour goes a long way. Just to share an incident.
Potential Buyer: What is the base price of your client's property?
Me: $1.2 million
Potential Buyer: Wah! Crazy ah. So oooo expensive!
Me: Sir, if you don't come and view the property, how do you know the floors could
Potential Buyer: Ha! Ha! Very funny. Maybe...... Ok! I'll come.
The potential buyer came and he bought. Today, he is one of my loyal clients.
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 3:32 am
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Daniel of http://brotherdanielsan.blogspot.com made an interesting comment on my previous article. He said that the French are very proud but if you speak their language they would be more friendly and attempt to communicate with you. It is true that the French are often well known to be somewhat ethnocentric, but I guess they are proud of their beautiful language. I think if I had a son, I would not mind him marrying a lovely French lady, because no matter how old I am, even with my face wrinkling and teeth dropping off, I will still be that beautiful mother, for in French the word for mother-in-law is "belle mere".
I realised how ethnocentric the French were when I was queueing up to pay for my grocery bills in Chinatown when I was studying at the University of Alberta. I was speaking Mandarin to the Chinese cashier when suddenly he looked up and asked the man behind me, "Do you understand what she's saying?" "No way!" I heard a loud voice behind me. "I am French".
"Comment-allez vous, Monsieur?" I turned around to ask the French customer.
Suddenly his face turned beetroot. He mumbled, "Bien, merci".
I guess it would be the same for all other races. We somehow warm up to people who can speak our language. This is why I take the trouble to learn some greeting words in 12 languages. I have found when I greet someone in his language, it immediately breaks the ice! Once a black couple came to my restaurant, and when I heard they were from Tanzania, I immediately greeted them in Swahili. You should see their white teeth glowing in the dim light of the restaurant as they smiled widely. The couple came back three more times for dinner during their one week stay at a nearby restaurant! Swahili is a beautiful language. For eg. you say, "Mi mi mo nyan chi" - I am a citizen. "Habariya mualimo wango?" - How are you, my teacher.? A musical language, isn't it?
I remember I went on a camping tour of Europe during one summer holidays in June. We were in Antibes, a small coastal town in France. Since I did not have the strength and skill to pitch my own tent, I volunteered to be the cook for the group of 24 international tourists as we toured Europe in a double-decker bus. When I realised that the shop keeper could not speak English, I spoke to him in French. You should see how his face lighted up. He hollered to his family members to come out and meet me. The French couple told me I was the first Chinese to communicate with them in their mother tongue! Fortunately I had my little French dictionary which I carried with me during the trip. I tried to emulate my Canadian university buddy's example. James Dunlap carries his Chinese dictionary everywhere he goes.
The French couple gave me a bunch of lovely pink roses which they cut from their garden. I left the grocery store, glad that I had done some French courses.
When I went shopping in Seoul, the shopkeepers gave me so many free souvenirs when I greeted them in Korean, "Ahn nyong ha seh yo!" My eldest brother told me he forgot what I had taught him in Korean but remember it sounded like our Hokkien dialect, "Ah Nya, lu kah seh ho boh? (Miss, have you washed your feet yet?") The Korean shopkeepers also gave him free souvenirs. Probably they thought my brother mispronounced their language but it sounded like some warm greetings anyway!
I guess God's two legged creation throughout the world are all the same. We love it when someone shows he cares by bothering to learn our mother tongue.
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 8:05 am
Thursday, May 25, 2006
What we learn is never wasted later on in life. I realised this when I was on vacation with my eldest brother in Paris four years ago. We had attended my niece, Kam Ning's successful violin recitals in Belgium. Fortis Bank had given Ning some concerts to perform for their corporate clients. She was selected after winning the 2nd prize in the Queen Elisabeth Violin Competition. After her 3rd recital, we decided to visit Amsterdam and Paris. Ning and I wanted to make her father happy because he is an artist as well as a violinist and composer. Mm......now you know where Ning gets her genes from. My papa himself played over 20 musical instruments, self taught.
It was about 2
p.m. when we were trying to catch the underground train in Paris, something like our MRT here in Singapore. I was waylaid by a group of five adolescents prettily dressed in frocks and laces. "Wass de time? Plis"", one girl asked with a strong French accent". I had to dig into my small backpack but as the train was approaching, I thought I would enter the train and then look for my mobile phone which had the local time. However, the girls seemed to be blocking my entry into the train, and suddenly I thought they must be some kind of racists who did not take to Oriental tourists! I became angry and with a booming voice, shouted, "Hey, let me in!" Suddenly, to my horror, one of the girls tried to remove the little handbag which I was gripping with my left arm. "Hey, what are you doing?" I yelled at her and gave her a push out of the door with my right arm. The other four girls also ran out of the train. Just then the doors of the train closed. Gosh, everything happened so fast. If I had not been alert, she would have taken my handbag with cash and passport! Just then two gentlemen who had witnessed the whole episode in the train gave their thumbs up. I asked them in French why they did nothing to help me. They shrugged their shoulders, "C'est la vie!" (That's life).
When we compared notes, my niece told me that she saw one of the girls putting her hand into my backpack just as I was entering the train. Kam Ning pulled the girl's hand out. Looming tall, with arms akimbo, the French girl glared at my petite niece. I told my brother and Ning that at first I panicked because I thought they did not want me to enter the train as they were trying to block me. Some election was going on between Chirac and Le Pen, and I thought these were Le Pen's people for Le Pen was known for his anti-immigration and racist sentiments. I had learnt Chinese kung fu in secondary school, and was glad I could make use of my kung fu when the occasion called for it. Later, my brother realised that his envelope of photos and portable CD player had disappeard from his hand-carry bag. The French girls were quite nimble! They looked so sweet and innocent!
"Wow! Till today, I only realise my youngest sister could speak French and do Chinese Kung Fu", eldest brother declared proudly. We laughed. An unforgettable incident indeed.
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 11:17 pm
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
After writing my article "It's Time" which came about in response to Wong Kim Hoh's "Chagrin and Bare it" I pondered over the contents. It made me recall another case of harassment. Rev. Samuel Sia was finally acquitted, but what happend to the lady accuser? If the law should punish and jail a man if he is found guilty, then why does the law not punish the lady if she loses her case? You can imagine the stress and anguish the accused and his family and friends had to go through all those horrendous months of humiliation and pain.
Recently I helped a client, Mr. Ong, to sell his 5 room HDB flat. He told me that the moment some agents knew he was going to sell his flat, many attempted to get an exclusive from him. A lady agent who happened to pass by insisted on coming in to have a look at his lovely flat, but Mr. Ong, adamantly refused, saying that he was the only one at home as his wife was in church. He proudly declared to me, "You never know, Choo, nowadays it is very dangerous. Women are very bold now. What if the lady shouts molest...even if I were innocent, I would be in deep trouble. It would be her words against mine and she would not go to jail even if I were finally proven innocent!" I commended my client for his wisdom. Until the law changes, it is wiser for the men to be extra cautious, even to the point of being paranoid. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 7:18 am
In the year 2006, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in the United States, and said, "Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see the end of all flesh before me.
Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing along with a few good humans."
He gave Noah the blueprints, saying, "You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights."
Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard - but no Ark.
"Noah!" He roared, "I'm about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?"
"Forgive me, Lord," begged Noah, "but things have changed. I needed a building permit. I've been arguing with the inspector about the need for a sprinkler system. My neighbors claim that I've violated the neighborhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard and exceeding the height limitations. We had to go to the Development Appeal Board for a decision.
Then the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead
obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark's move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.
Getting the wood was another problem. There's a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save
the owls - but no go!
When I started gathering the animals, an animal rights group sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodation was too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.
Then the EPA ruled that I couldn't build the Ark until they'd conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood.
I'm still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I'm supposed to hire for my building crew.
Immigration and Naturalization are checking the green-card status of most of the people who want to work.
The trades unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only Union workers with Ark-building experience.
To make matters worse, the IRS seized all my assets, claiming I'm trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.
So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark."
Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked, "You mean you're not going to destroy the world?"
"No," said the Lord. "The government beat me to it."
Sent to me via email by Dr. Richard Tam
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 3:10 am
Monday, May 22, 2006
Wong Kim Hoh's article, "Chagrin and Bare It" is timely!. It is time that lines be drawn that what is not acceptable for the fairer sex is also not acceptable for the men. I have for quite some time, been wanting to write an article, especially after our wonderful ex-colleague, Mr. Ng Eng Chin of ACS, Independent, was charged with molestation of a student. I suppose the good excuse I could give is that I was not proficient with the computer at that time.
It irks me that it is easy for people to shout molest! The task seems even easier if it is uttered from the lips of a female or from a student. We read of young girls, in need of money, going around dangling that tempting carrot to weak-minded men, and turning around and shouting "molest and rape". The law comes to her rescue and no questions are asked simply because she has that trump card, "Underaged". We know how precocious kids are nowadays.
I guess the ladies who yanked the shirt off Kim Hoh's colleagues obviously knew they would never be charged for sexual harassment. I bet my three beloved doggies, that they would never dare to be that bold if there is a fine and a sentence hanging over their heads. Dear PAPa, please impose new rules to coerce your daughters and students to behave. Like Kim Hoh, I also have the feeling I'll get some mail from outraged readers. Since I have always encouraged my students that writing is for mental health, it is time for me to get this little congestion of emotional phlegm off my chest!
Posted by The Oriental Express at 7:25 am
Friday, May 19, 2006
Just in case, some readers think I am writing another article on small boobs.... no, your guess is wrong. This time I am referring to the small and beautiful island of Singapore.
The late President Ong Teng Cheong once said in his speech that when Singapore first became independent, the world was worried she would not survive because she was so small. Yet this small, premature baby of a nation has grown to be so huge in terms of economic, social and international development that we are no longer a third world nation. "Now, the world said we could succeed because we are so small after all.! Being small it is easier for the government to look after the country!" commented the late Mr. Ong to much laughter from the floor.
Frankly, I like to live in a small country, in terms of land size. Over the two and a half decades of living in Singapore, I have grown to appreciate the wonderful infrastructure. I am not a politician or a statistician, but I would like to think that Singapore has one of the best transport system in the world! I appreciate this even more since I had to give up driving the past 6 years due to my ear problems. I hope it is only temporary, and I could go back to driving again in the near future so that I will not lose my skill.
People often ask me how I get around as a property agent since I do not drive. For this I have the government to thank for. I am now very adept at public transportation and have the bus numbers at my finger tips. When I am in a hurry, I can always take the taxis. I am proud to say that I have sold two apartments at Clementi Park even though I have to take three buses to Clementi Park (about one hour travelling time) and I had never been late for any appoinment with clients. In fact, I find that since I do not drive, I am able to maximise my time very well. I can read while waiting for the bus or train. In between appointments, I can do my work in the food court or fast food restaurants like MacDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken and do not have to worry about parking, summons, overdue limit, etc. Best of all, I find I have actually grown to be more fit due to the extra coverage on my No. 11 transport which needs no gas, taxes, etc.
You have guessed it right.... the excellent walking exercises from the MRT/bus stations
to my clients' properties.
If you live in Australia or America and you say you cannot do well in real estate, it is acceptable. But in this small, lovely island of Singapore, there is no excuse.
Let us all continue to have the drive, determination and perseverance of our forefathers and press on, to help polish this small, beautiful gem of an island into an even more radiant and glorious piece of jewellery!!
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 9:38 am
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Can anyone guess what is the most important ingredient in cooking?
Yes, you are absolutely right! The most important ingredient is "L-O-V-E". Without love, you can still whip up a dish, but your food may be just edible lacking that vital "oomph" that satiates the appetite of the person consuming it.
I love all the food that my siblings cook for me. I know they love me very much and whatever they cook will definitely taste great!
I remember the very first time I cooked dinner for my landlord and his family to thank them for taking good care of me for one year when I was a boarder in their lovely home. For one year, I had not bothered to learn to cook as Anne Smith was a good cook and I learnt to appreciate Western food and desserts. Anne's Yorkshire pudding and trifles were excellent and made a Malaysian student studying in Alberta, happy and contented.
I started preparing the food at eight in the morning, and only completed cooking at 6.00p.m. I tried to recall the dishes that mom had cooked, and guessed at the ingredients and cooking method. Dr. Smith and his wife thought the food was good. I guess what saved me was the love in my heart in wanting to make the lovely couple happy. Whatever I lacked in skill, I made up for it with love! That is why the dishes turned out to be quite tasty after all. My legs ached terribly at night, but I was blissful!
It is interesting that in the Korean TV serial, "Jewel in the Palace", love was also mentioned as a vital ingredient in the art of cooking!
Bon Appetit! Buon appetito! Enjoy your cooking and your food, everyone!
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 11:11 am
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Aveline, my agent friend, invited me to her Dennis Wee Group Toastmasters Club. She coyly told me that it would be her first attempt at public speaking and could I support her. So, as usual, like a heroine, I changed my tuition time to Wednesdays so that I could support Aveline. It was my first experience at a Toastmasters Club! Whenever I hear the word "toastmaster" I think of bread popping out of the toaster! I wonder why the word toastmaster is being used!
I had originally decided to attend a funeral wake after the toastmaster meeting, but not wanting to miss my favourite TV program, "Jewel in the Palace" I decided to go in the afternoon instead. Hence I reached the club meeting just in time to hear Aveline making her speech on "The One and Only". Aveline shared about her childhood, leading to her career path and her current life as a real estate agent and mother with a happy family. It was really interesting to hear different speakers with different topics and a variety of styles. When it came to the table topics, the toast master asked for volunteers from the floor. To my horror, Aveline mentioned my name! I came to support Aveline, and turned out to be sabotaged by her! The topic I drew was "If you could invite a celebrity to have dinner with you, who would you invite?" I mentioned "Fann Wong", my favourite TV star. Though I was quite nervous, I tried to remain calm and speak confidently. I thought I had spoken out of point, and hence was surprised when I was voted best speaker for the table topics!
The members were all very cordial and enthusiastic in their pursuit for excellence and encouraged me to join. I enjoyed the evaluation by the different experts and learnt a lot in that one evening. Frankly, I would rather write because when I am writing my blog, I only face the computer screen; at the toastmasters club, I have to face a sea of audience! I can still remember my first attempt at a debate in school. It was a total disaster as I forgot my words and became tongue-tied!
Since the Toastmasters Club meets only once a month, I guess, I could set aside some time to join Aveline, and together we fine-tune our ability to speak even more confidently and coherently in public. Anyone, care to join us?
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 7:45 am
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Today is Mother's Day! For the past 3 decades, I have always been kept very busy on Mother's Day. I would receive Mother's Day messages through mail, computer and telephone. Somehow people forget I am single and regard me as if I am married with many children!! I guess when you have been a teacher for so many years, you soon develop a motherly heart for the students you teach. Maybe it is also because I am motherly by nature, being such a kaypo (busybody).
I went to bed at 8 p.m. last night so that I could join my god children for today's continental breakfast. But before that for a 10km morning walk. We are not competitive walkers; just walking for fun and a chance of doing some activity together. Tonight, my good friend, Janet Tan, has invited me for a Mother's Day Dinner cum Rally at RELC Building. The speaker is Rev. Oh Beng Kee, a popular evangelist well loved for his tremendous sense of humour. His sermons often send the audience roaring with laughter. Rev. Oh preaches in Hokkien, and Janet wants me to share with her non-Christian friends whom she has invited to the dinner.
I am glad I have just recovered from my bout of flu. I have learnt that when I fall sick, I must be thankful to the Creator, for it is an obvious sign that my body is crying out for rest! My pastor has said that if God cannot get your attention vertically, He has to get your attention horizontally, when you lie flat on the bed! It is moments like this when I am not running around that I become even more contemplative and reflect more deeply. This in turn, helps me to be more prolific in my writing!
Wishing all the wonderful mothers in the world, and every single lady with a motherly heart "A Happy and Blessed Mother's Day!"
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 4:50 am
Saturday, May 13, 2006
My two young students, Kang Jie and Ming Jie, are in Primary Six and Five. Both brothers are very bright, albeit have different personalities. Ming Jie is the lively and talkative younger brother, while Kang Jie is more soft spoken, cautious with his words and exudes an air of brotherly authority over his younger brother.
His parents want to help mould their sons and thought that my "Language for Life" tutorials would be a help to the two children. I do not believe in tutoring a child for more than a year. Tutoring him for 6 to 9 months is enough to show him the ropes of the secret of language mastery, and more importantly to be able to appreciate and enjoy the use of English Language in his daily life. Once a child is motivated, his interest in the Language will carry him beyond examinations. He will be able to sharpen his thoughts and speak off the cuff or give a good repartee when necessary in his working life.
I also realise that today's kids are usually very smart and well informed. As teachers, we have to be on our toes, to learn as much as we can so that we can impart knowldge to our students. However, there is one area I must concede defeat. It is computer knowledge!! My young students are natual computer wizards!!
After reading my blog, Kang Jie and Ming Jie were so inspired that they set up their own blogs! When they realised I hardly have photos in my blog because I do not know how to post photos, they volunteered to teach me. Hence it was agreed we would work together on the computer after they have finished their exams and would spend an extra two hours after tuition to fix up the computer. In appreciation I gave them a treat of homecooked Penang Char Koay Teow.
Thanks to Kang Jie and Ming Jie, my blog now promises to have more colourful photos!
So take heart, Jaffe Boy, your request for more pics on my blog will soon take place!
Though I am doing real estate work now, the teacher heart in me still enjoys working with young students. Hence I make time for tutoring twice a week so that I can keep abreast with education with my students. Frankly, as much as I am teaching these young ones, I am also learning from them. Their enthusiasm and zest for life constantly remind me to keep alive with fresh and more insightful ideas and not become stale curry!! As the French like to say, "Bon vivant!"
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 8:29 am
Friday, May 12, 2006
My agent friend, Aveline Tan, from Dennis Wee Properties, had been co-broking with me on a few properties. Over time, we became good friends. Recently at their staff function, Aveline invited me to join her. (See how much fun and food we had from the table).
On the same afternoon, my new tenant, Thet, was about to move in to stay with me. She called me to say she would like to bring some of her stuffs over, but I told her I was having an open house for a client's unit and would go straight to the Dinner and Dance. I would probably dance till 2.00 a.m.! Later, Thet told her mother that her new landlady is an active, energetic woman who could last from sunrise to sunset and to almost dawn! I am not a party goer, but when I do attend parties, I will make the most of it. I believe in working hard and playing hard as well, and at Dennis Wee Realty, it was fun, fun, fun!
Can you guess where I am? I had not posted my photo in my profile before. If you have been following my blog closely, you would rightly guess that the fattest lady in black is Gan Chau!
Aveline is standing, second from left. Beside her, the tall handsome man in red shirt with Chinese collar is her husband, William.
Posted by The Oriental Express at 9:50 pm
My associate and I had gone to Lornie Road to meet the owner to view his
house and to sign an exclusive to sell his property. As Eddie was going to
be an hour late, my associate had to go off and I went to a nearby bus shelter
to read the papers while waiting.
Suddenly I heard a dog barking. On turning around, lo and behold, at the gate
of House No. 10 , was a cute cream coloured Chow Chow, looking almost every
inch like my beloved Chow Chow, Xiaobai. "Oh, hello, doggy", my heart leapt with joy. "How are you doggy.... you are so cute!" The dog kept looking and barking at me and suddenly I felt as if the Chow Chow was telling me not to feel sad about my Xiaobai and tears filled my eyes. It kept barking at me, and I was momentarily glued to the seat at the bus stop, fighting my tears.
When I walked towards the gate, the Chow Chow ran away!. I looked through
the space in between the walls of the gate but could not find him. Momentarily
I wondered if I was dreaming since I miss my pet so much.
Upon closer observation I realised that there was another gate leading to
House No. 8 House No. 8 is a very huge bungalow and although I called
out to the doggy, I could not see him. I decided to ring the bell at the gate
and when a lady answered, I asked her if she had a cream Chow Chow, and
told her I just saw her dog and found him to be so cute. I went home, feeling
intoxicated with sheer joy!
Cream coloured Chow Chows in Singapore are very rare and and they often
do not bark unnecessarily. There was also no reason for the Chow Chow
to come to House No. 10 and barked at me from a distance. I was not even at
the gate of the house. I was at the bus stop, enjoying the daily news, unaware
of the dog. He was also such a shy dog that when I walked towards him, he ran away. Yet, during those fleeting moments, I felt so joyful and comforted.
I will be sending the lady at House No. 8 a postcard of Xiaobai soon
and befriend her so that I will be able to visit her and her dog.!!
Posted by The Oriental Express at 12:50 pm
Wishing all my dear friends, and my friends' spouses and all the mothers in the world a "Happy and Blessed Mother's Day on Sunday, 14th May, 2006.
The hands that rock the cradle rule the world!
Gan Chau :-)
Hope the cute photo of Xiao Bai will make you smile.
Posted by The Oriental Express at 12:16 pm
Thursday, May 11, 2006
After writing about the lang ding dang man, I am now inspired to write about my favourite opposition leader, Chiam See Tong. Coincidentally, his name in Hokkien means "Chiam see - temporarily, tong - persevere)! Since it is Singapore, I have included words in English, Hokkien, Mandarin, Cantonese, Teochew, Malay and Tamil to make it a poem with a truly Singaporean flavour. For my overseas readers, Chiam See Tong is one of the longest serving opposition leader. He is now 71 years of age and has five more years to serve.
CHIAM SEE TONG
Chiam See Tong,
Tak pai teh gong, (Always pretend)
Pun lai si kiang lang, (Actually a clever person)
ker shi ai cho humble lang, (But wants to be a humble person)
PAP $80 million ang chai tau, (PAP $80 million carrot)
Peh seh sui kah kau. (The people calculate carefully)
Lui bo chai tiao chim (But money cannot kiss)
Ah Chiam gau take lang eh sim. (Ah Chiam wins the heart of the people)
Chiam See Tong kah oon, (Chiam See Tong is more stable)
Koh ee beh si pun. (Depend on him, won't lose out)
Upgrading jit lui pun mian chut, (Upgrading, one cent no need to come out)
PAP, ingin, xiu xiu tiok ai chut! (PAP, definitely, a little, must come out)
Lang kong kiang lang chiak gong lang, (People say clever people eat up stupid people)
Gong lang chiak Ti Kong, (Stupid people eat up God)
Nandrei, Chiam See Tong, (Thank you, Chiam See Tong)
Lu si ko ai tua leng gong. (You are a lovable big fool)
Ah Chiam jin zhi tong (Ah Chiam is understanding and tactful)
PAP pak beh toh, (PAP cannot knock you off)
Ah Chiam chin chia ho, (Ah chiam is very good)
Ah Chiam jin tai hong, (Ah Chiam is very generous)
Gong gong chiak Ti Kong! (Stupid, stupid, but eat up God)*
* In Hokkien , we say stupid people eat up God (in Mandarin it is sha ren yiu sha fu)
it means foolish or less clever people seem to get all the blessings at the end, maybe
because of their purity and faith, or God has a particularly soft spot for the weak and helpless.)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 9:12 pm
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
As a child, I was often full of awe of the lang ding dang man. He would go around the kampong (village) playing his Chinese mandolin. He was an itinerant poet and songster who also carried a hurricane lamp with him to illuminate his performance at night. The musician would have some nicely fashioned wooden tags hanging around the head of the mandolin. He would give these tags a twist and ask his customer to pick one tag. He would then read the words in Hokkien or Mandarin and start singing a song. After that, he would ask the customer to show his/her palms so that he could read his/her fortune. Customers could also request for certain songs and for some extra payment, he would also tell tales from Chinese folk lore. For those of you who live in Europe, the lang ding dang man is like the wandering ministrels from days of yore in Olde England.
Although I could not understand some of the Hokkien/Mandarin the Lang Ding Dang Man used, nevertheless I enjoyed every session whenever I watched him play and sing. He had a powerful and rich voice. One particular song stood out in my memory. It is something like this.
Tong kim eh char boh lang, (Today's ladies)
Beh kian seow, (D'ont feel ashamed)
Tak tak meh, ki disco, (Every night go to disco)
Tiao, tiao, tiao ah. (Dance, dance, dance)
Ai buak bedak sejok pun, (Must put the special cooling, water powder)
Ngo tay mu ji toh, (They don't even know)
Truly I yearn for the good old days ah,
Ki ah ki see lang ah, ki ah ki see lang ah. (It will be the death of me (twice)
(Supposedly sung by an old grandpa, lamenting on the atrocities of modern ladies)
Tong kim eh tar boh lang, (Today's men)
Goh kee chew, (Colour wolves)
Tak tak meh, puak keow, (Every night, gamble)
Tak tak meh, lim chiew. (Every night, drink)
Ai kut lat cho kang pun, (Must work hard)
Ngo tay mu ji toh. (They don't even know)
Truly I yearn for the good old days ah,
Chi ah chi si ren ah, chia ah chi si ren ah! (It will be the death of me (twice)
(Supposedly sung by an old grandma, lamenting on the atrocities of modern young men)
By talking about the lang ding dang man, I have given away my age. But I am never afraid of growing old! Remember my article "3 Score Minus 8" which I had posted in my blog on 12th December 2005? That is my age! Sad to say, I have discovered that today's generation does not quite realise how much a score is.!! One score equals 20.
If any Penangnites or Malaysians happen to read my blog, please drop me a line.
You would probably recognise the above song. The younger generation would not know about the Lang Ding Dang man because he is now obsolete. Let Penangnites in their 40's to 80's get together!!! How we treasure things/memories when they are gradually disappearing!!
Kah kee lang,
Posted by The Oriental Express at 7:18 am
Monday, May 08, 2006
BE CONTENTED, FOR YOU ARE UNIQUE !
Let us begin with my second article on "Much Ado About Boobs".
For Ladies with an A- or A Cup. Think of all the positive points and here are twelve reasons why you should smile. There may be MORE REASONS TO SMILE if readers respond and contribute more ideas.
1) You can go bra-less all the time. Saves a lot of money which some ladies with
E and F cups have to spend on.
2) Going bra-less, especially in humid Singapore and South East Asia means great
comfort, and less chance of getting abrasions on the skin!
3) You will never get excruciating back-aches as those with bigger boobs are prone
to, with the extra wieght they have to carry. A lady with a DD has her boobs
reduced to C, and the fat and tissues removed amounted to 1kg!
4) If you are running in a race, you will be able to run faster than ladies with
bigger boobs. Notice that most of the world's great atheletes have very small
5) You will have less chance of being stared at or molested, as the eyes of the
colour wolves will be more likely to be focused elsewhere!
6) You are contributing more to the eco-system, as less material will be used to
make smaller bras.
7) You will be less prone to breast cancer, as research has established that
ladies with bigger boobs are more prone to breast cancer!
8) When you cook, life is easier when you are cutting the vegetables or meat,
because there will be less to obstruct your view!
9) Writing on the desk, and typing at the computer is easier as your boobs will
not get in the way.
10) During a mammogram, it is excruciatingly more painful for ladies with bigger
boobs for there is more for the ex-ray mchine to compress!
11) Ladies with bigger boobs have to work hard to prevent their boobs from sagging.
12) Most importantly, you will definitely know that your boyfriend/fiance/husband
truly loves you for your character and inner beauty, and not for your physical
So smile! The Creator is good and fair! He has made you unique! The trick in life is not to lament what we don't have, but to make FULL AND BEST USE of what we have. Believe me, at the end of the day, most people only take note of your character; they don't even remember what size you are!!
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 10:18 am
LISTEN MEN, LATEST TECHNOLOGY 1
"A British company is developing computer chips that store music in
women's breast implants.
This is a major breakthrough, since women are always complaining about men staring at their breasts and not listening to them. "
I received the above from my university buddy, Richard Tam, in my email. Curious, I asked him how the computer works and where is the on and off button located?
Flabbergasted, he asked how on earth a technophobe like me would be interested in this latest gadget.
I replied that paranoid that I am, I would never allow any foreign object to be placed in my body. Even if I had heart problems, I would rather die than allow a heart pacer to be inserted in my chest. Even if I were an A-cup, I would never ever go for a silicone implant, and pay thousands of dollars for a silly con! I am already more than contented to be endowed with a D cup when most of my Chinese friends have A, B and C. The rule of the thumb is contentment. It is coincidental that much has debated on boobs recently in the press, so I will begin writing a few series on "Much Ado About Boobs" in my blogs soon. If anyone has any interesting anecdotes to share, please feel free to email me at email@example.com .Your contribution will be appreciated and acknoweldged in the blog.
I replied to Richard. "Let the men stare where they should stare, and listen where they should listen, and let their wives'/girlfriends' nagging be like music to their ears". Is this probably the reason why someone had said that research has noted that men's eyes are the first organs in the body to rot upon death while for women, their mouths and tongues rot first!! Some urban legend or is it true?
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 9:12 am
Subject: Fw: Baby's body used for smuggling drugs - Cruelty
Pray and be prepared for a shock when you read it.
This story is extremely sad and pitiful.
My sister's co-worker has a sister in Texas who, with her husband,
was planning a weekend trip across the Mexican border for a
At the last minute their baby sitter cancelled, so they had to bring
along their two-year-old son with them. They had been across the
border for about an hour when the baby got free and ran around the
corner. The mother went chasing but the boy had disappeared.
The mother found a police officer that told her to go to the gate and
wait. Not really understanding the instructions, she did as she was
About 45 minutes later, a man approached the border carrying the boy.
The mother ran to him, grateful that he had been found. When the man
realized it was the boy's mother, he dropped the boy and ran. The
were waiting and got him.
The boy was dead. In the (less than) 45 minutes he was missing, he
was cut open, ALL of his insides removed and his body cavity stuffed
The man was going to carry him across the border as if he were asleep.
A two-year-old boy, dead, discarded as if he were a piece of trash for
If this story can get out and change one person's mind about what
drugs mean to them, we are helping. Please send this E-mail to as
many people as you can. If you have a home PC, send it out there, too.
Let's hope and pray it changes a lot of minds.
The saddest thing about the whole situation is that those persons who
suffer are innocent and people we love... God Bless you in this united
effort to spread the word. You just might save a life!
The above email was sent by my friend, Freddy Kang aka Attenborough Burns.
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 6:15 am
Friday, May 05, 2006
My bestfriend, Carrie, was in the real estate business after quitting her nursing job. One day, she said to me, "Eeeeh, I don't want this Nokia handphone anymore.
So bulky and ugly. Everybody stared at me at the bus stop So embarrassing lah."
Carrie bequeathed her handphone to me. I was about to quit my teaching job and was also going to start as a real estate agent. As I was not sure whether I could succeed as an agent, I did not mind to have Carrie's handphone.
Once when I was in the MRT, my handphone rang. The ringing was loud and clear and soon all eyes were fixed on the huge object placed next to my ear. A young student sitting next to me was fixated like as if he had never seen such as huge Nokia in his life. Just after I finished my conversation, I turned to the young student, "Boy, what are you looking at? Don't you know our future coffin will be shaped just like this handphone?" He suddenly turned his eyes away, and I caught some passengers trying to stifle their giggles when they heard me.
As the Nokia handphone was quite heavy, it was easier to carry it as if it were a handbag. It would also be a good weapon to knock the daylight out of any potential molester!
I was invited to join Aim Real Estate Agency. I found it attractive to join this company because the company only took $30/- from every commission received regardless of the amount This was certainly much more attractive than some companies that took 30% to 50% cut. However, agents were left to work on their own.
I remember I tried to ask for help but was snubbed. Probably the people concerned must have thought I was an unsuccessful agent because I could not even afford a decent, more contemporary handphone. Soon they realised their misconception as they saw me with a huge stack of yellow papers, signifying closed deals! The agent carrying that ugly, antique handphone was quite successful after all! Suddenly the once cold office seemed to ooze with more friendliness and helpfulness!! It was only after much coercion by Carrie that I decided to upgrade my faithful handphone which continued to function well, despite having been dropped a number a times!!
It has been 12 years now since my first Nokia phone. Till today, I am still using Nokia handphones, albeit different models. I find Nokia user friendly. I am lost when I try other models. How I wish I had kept my "coffin shaped", antique Nokia handphone instead of trading it for a newer model. It would be a good souvenir for me to remember those early days when I first struggled as a real estate agent.
Posted by The Oriental Express at 8:38 pm
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
When I was a teacher, my students were often encouraging me to join politics. I suppose the youngsters did not quite realise that being a good teacher in the classroom is very different from being a good speaker in the political arena.
Anyway, just for fun I wondered what I would say if I were with the opposition party, WP, and make a speech. Probably it would be something like this :-
"Friends, Singaporeans and Countrymen, please lend me your ears for one minute. You have the One Minute Manager. Today, you have the One Minute Political Speaker! I promise you this will be the shortest and sweetest speech you would ever hear.
I agree that the PAP has been a great party all these years. The PAP has achieved much for Singapore. However, humans are imperfect and this is why you must vote for me so that I can be that world class opposition party that SM Lee had been advocating of late. I will be that forceful, essential yet gentle reminder to PAP should the Party go a little overboard. My alert yet diplomatic presence will help keep PAP on the track so that together, we will work to help bring Singapore to even greater heights of success and achievement.
Brevity is the wit of the soul. To me, action speaks louder than words. Please trust me.....I will certainly walk my talk!!
Thank you for your support, I humbly remain."
Gan Chau :-)
Posted by The Oriental Express at 6:18 am
Monday, May 01, 2006
1st of May is a happy day for all of us in Singapore, for it is a public holiday in recognition of our hard work. So here is Ganchau wishing everyone a Happy May Day
I must thank God that all these years, I have enjoyed my work thoroughly. I started work as a typist in Penang, earning MR70/- a month. Later I joined a legal firm with M$120/- a month and within 4 months had 3 promotions. As secretary, I was earning MR220/- a month. Work in the law firm was very tough because it was not easy to serve a very demanding and intelleigent lawyer. I had to work speedily yet could not afford to make mistakes. My typing speed on the manual typewriter soon increased to about 85 wpm!! I was probably the fastest typist in town! I enjoyed talking to clients many of whom came to consult my boss on divorce matters. My three years in the legal firm matured me so much so that when I participated in the writing contests organised by the now defunct Straits Echo, I won eight first prizes and two second prizes!
In Canada, I enjoyed my part time work as a house cleaner cum baby sitter with Cinderella Maid Services. I enjoyed going to different homes to clean. It was lovely talking to the customers as well as admiring their beautiful homes.
After obtaining my Diploma in Education I taught in River Valley High School for 5 years and ACS(Independent) for another 5 years before I quit due to continual loss of voice. Teaching is and will always be my first love. I enjoyed myself tremendously while working with young minds and souls.
When I decided to try my hands at real estate work, many of my well meaning colleagues were very concerned. I had never done sales before but I had faith that God would not let me go hungry; He would at least give me a bowl of simple porridge. If He blesses me with a banquet, I could invite people to my banquet.
When a client wanted to leave for Italy, I took over his Rialto and operated it for 8 years. I want to laugh now for I am not a trained chef but yet received so much more publicity when I was interviewed by both Today and Straits Times. I was also interviewd on Channel News Asia Prime Time Morning News. Now a capable, younger chef Edward Winnings, has taken over the restaurant, leaving me to go back to real estate work and part time tutoring.
I am glad that I could say I enjoy all that I do thoroughly. My late father had always advocated that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Work will never seem like work when we enjoy it; work appears to be like a hobby! I enjoy real estate work because I like architecture and home decor. I am also very much aware that in real estate work, I can only try my best; I have to leave God to do the rest. Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. ..Psalm 127:1
Posted by The Oriental Express at 8:05 am