Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dedicated Toastmasters

From left the lady in orange blouse (clockwise) : Chin Mei Har (SRC Toastmasters)
Ng Cher Khim (Toastmasters Club of Singapore )
Saint Yi Htet (Toastmasters Club of Singapore )
Magdalene Yew (Bedok Toastmasters)
Ong May Yan
Aziz Mustajab (Civil Service Toastmasters)
Cynthia Zhai (Frontier Toastmasters)
Michael Rodrigues (SRC Toastmasters)
Elizabeth Thorarajoo (Ngee Ann Polytechnic Toastmasters)
Linda Lam (Civil Service Toastmasters)
Rosalind Tan
Christopher Yeow (Bedok Toastmasters)
Anne Marie Gutierrez (SRC Toastmasters)
A good morning to you, my dear readers. Here is Choo Choo wishing all my readers a great Sunday morning at Singapore time 8.00.m. This is the last Sunday of the year, being 30th December 2007. In this reminiscent mood, I want to recall the happenings in 2007, and in a short while, I will be going to church service nearby my apartment to give my thanksgiving to the great Almighty God.
I want to thank God for 2007. Frankly, the highlight for 2007 for me is the toastmasters' movement. It was great fun visiting various clubs in Singapore as well as in Kuching. I thank God for the many learning opportunities. I would go back from every meeting, having learnt something precious. It was sheer delight meeting all the interesting and eloquent toastmasters in various clubs.
I am glad I am able to participate as a volunteer in the Speech Crafts at Changi Prison. I am impressed with all the volunteer toastmasters. They are a compassionate and caring group of people. At the last meeting, I was very touched that Cynthia Zhai from the Frontiers Toastmasters' Club went back all the way to her home in Jurong West because she had forgotten to bring her pass.! She rushed back all the way to be in time for the final meeting and celebration. Cynthia had touched the hearts of the inmates by her committment and dedication. She sang "Yeh Liang Tai Piau Wo Terh Xin" (The Moon Represents My Heart) a Mandarin song made popular by the late Teresa Teng.
After the meeting, we had a sumptuous lunch at the neary SIA Club. Rosalind and May Yan are not yet toastmasters, but they are very dedicated volunteers. It will be a matter of time before they too will join a club. Rosalind baked a tangerine cake to share with everyone. It is the best cake I have eaten. Rosalind shared that she had taken half a day to bake this cake! I always love home cooked food, because it is always the tastiest for it is cooked with love.
2007 has been a fruitful year for me because of my time management. Despite being very active in toastmasters' I have managed to do well in my real estate work. I have also managed to spend time with my siblings and relatives in Malaysia. Somehow my multi-tasking has improved tremendously! I cook or clean the apartment and listen to music at the same time; watch television programs and exercise simultaneously. I still find time to cook, do gardening and help to walk my neighbour's two dogs, etc. Indeed it has been a fruitful year for me.
I hope 2007 has been a good year for all, and I pray that God will bless everyone with another great year in 2008! Cheers!

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Depleting the World's Resources

All the current tenants have to move to other premises.

Most of the tenants will move to Tekka Mall

The Concourse , a magnificent building - to be taken down!

I decided to go to Beach Road to book my bus ticket to Penang. It cost me S$61 for a twenty seater bus. However, if I were to book just a day later, ie. 1st February, the ticket would be double in price eg. S$120! Amazing how transport companies try to capitalise on the Chinese New Year Celebration! After purchasing my ticket, I decided to go to the Concourse to buy some gift wrappers. To my surprise, I learnt that all the tenants have to vacate in a few months as the whole building will be taken down! Enbloc!

Enbloc! The word with a double-edged sword. A dreaded word for some but music to the ears for the one who reaps huge profits. For me, where enbloc is concerned I am happy if the building is really old. As an agent, while enbloc implies a higher selling price for my clients, and hence a higher commission for me, yet I still feel sad, especially if the building is still quite new....less than 20 years. Look at my photos. Does not Concourse look quite beautiful and new.? The steel rims and banisters still look bright and shining! The design is quite unique and spectacular, one of its only kind in Singapore!

When I was in Taipeh and Taichung, I was surprised to find many old buildings still intact. Though Taiwan does not have many new buildings, yet the country is quite clean because the people are quite disciplined in their disposal of garbage. Recyling is quite stringently carried out, with everyone happily participating in this drive to conserve and preserve, and by and large, help to save the earth. In Singapore, buildings come down faster than you can sing, "We wish you a merry Christmas!"

Of course, we can understand that Singapore has limited land, and hence buildings must go enbloc to make way for even taller buildings. But surely, some things can be done to preserve some of more unusual architectural designs.

I hope that the demolishers will attempt to recycle the debris of steel, glass, stone, sand, wood, etc.

I am not an authority but somehow, I feel that it is not right to just build and demolish, buy something and make it into a white elephant, and in brief just waste, waste, waste! I remember that in the Bible it was written that after Jesus had fed the crowd, He instructed his 12 disicples to go around to pick up the remnants of food which filled 12 baskets. If Jesus, being the miracle working God who could turn two fish and five loaves to feed a multitude, was so careful about wastage, who are we to think that we could just throw, discard and waste as if there is no tomorrow?

Alas there are many more tomorrows! Let us all do our little part to rethink and recycle and to help save the earth, so that the world will still be beautiful and abundant for our younger generations.

Gan Chau

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas in Johore

With my lovely and lively grand-nieces
Home cell cum Christmas party at Dea's home in Johore
Magic show by a clown in church
Christmas celebration at a church member's home. Dea and
youngest daughter, Gloria and my eldest sis on the extreme

This is my first Christmas celebration in Johore. My nephew is now working in Johore, and his mum is visiting. Hence I have been going back and forth to Johore the past few weeks. Thank God that it is only about one hour's ride from my apartment here. Bus 170 will take me directly to Johore and my niece-in-law would pick me up from Kota Raya Bus Station. I would try to go to Johore during the off peak period, but December is one of the busiest months, as schools in Malaysia and Singapore are closed for the year end holidays. Hence, many holiday makers cross over the Causeway.

I like Johoreans. They are cordial, patient and less-hurried than Singaporeans. Sometimes the people in Johore mistake me to be a Malay. It helps to confirm when I too speak with them in Malay.

Of course the best part is shopping as things are somewhat cheaper, especially given our exchange rate. I try to contain my excitement beneath a veneer of calmness. Singaporeans are recognised when they go around sounding like some canaries when they go "cheap, cheap, cheap!"

Though it is somewhat tedious to travel in and out of the Causeway, I enjoy myself, as my four active grandnieces are very lovable and entertaining. They are very bright and their grandma enjoys coaching them. It is interesting to see the youngest Gloria, switching from one language to another as she speaks in English, Mandarin, Malay and Hokkien. At two, she even teaches the maid how to turn on the computer and VCD! Today's kids are so precocious!
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Dance, Dance, Dance

Practising at home for the "Big Day!"

Phoebe, with her classmates at ballet school

Dancing to the tune of "Rudolph, the red-nose reindeer"

Tambourine dance at Christmas concert

I guess music runs in the genes of all my relatives, including my nieces and nephews and their children.

It was fun to watch Phoebe, my grand niece, at ballet school. Although eldest sister Lee Lee had never been to dancing classes since she was young, she is a natural dancer. She taught dancing and choreagraphed as well. It is only natural that she should teach her grandchildren to dance, now that she has retired as a school teacher.

It is amazing how fast the children learn and pick up the steps. Even the youngest one, Gloria, would imitate her older sisters when they dance.

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Purple Kitchen?

When I wanted to renovate the kitchen which only had a stove and some shelves, I was hoping that I could win a free make over kitchen with the Straits Times/Ikea Kitchen Contest. My contractor told me that the wall and floor tiles had to be changed as well, as they were threatening to pop out. Alas! I was not selected for the makeover, and hence had to come up with my own design and contracting work.

Green, blue, red or black? I later settled for purple. "Purple?" some of my friends exclaimed with eyes wide. "Didn't know you are so trendy and romantic?" "Romantic?" Gosh, I didn't know that purple is a romantic colour. Have always thought that purple is a colour for royalty. Of course, I would not choose a dark or bright purple. I chose a purple that is softer on the eyes.

Most of my guests now tell me they like the idea of a purple kitchen!
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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Facts, Fiction or Flatulence?

"Mildred, the church gossip and self-appointed arbiter of the church's morals, kept sticking her nose in the other members' private lives. Church members were unappreciative of her activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence.

She made a mistake, however, when she accused George, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his pickup truck parked in front of the town's only bar one afternoon.
She commented to George and others that everyone seeing it there would know what he was doing.

George, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just walked away. He didn't explain, defend, or deny; he said nothing.
Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of Mildred's house... and left it there all night!"

The above joke was sent by Send It Out Newsletter. Although it is meant to be a joke, I wonder how many there are out there with a "holier-than-thou" attitude that puts them a nose higher than others.? Sadly, many of us are so quick to jump to hasty conclusions without first establishing the facts. Sometimes facts are not what they appear to be. This will certainly be endorsed by those in the Crimininal Investigation Department or Pathological Department.

A few years ago, I remember I was overly concerned about some of the older folks who were gambling quite heavily on the jackpot machines in a club quite near my place of work. Hence, during my break, I would sometimes drop by at the club to check on some of the folks and to remind them not to gamble too heavily. I did not go there to play but to pray. Knowing how gripping the addiction to gambling could be, all I could do was to pray. I once saw a member from my church there. I just smiled and did not even ask him why he was there or explain my presence. To my horror, soon words went around that I had become an incorrigible gambler who often patronised gambling dens.! I want to laugh, because some of my close friends are horrified that at over half a century years old, I still do not even know how to play mahjong or bet on football, stocks and shares.

Till this day, I have never bothered to deny, defend or declare my purpose of going to the clubs.
I always feel that as long as God knows what is in my heart, it is enough for me. God's grace is sufficient for me. People's derision or condemnation do not send me to hell; neither do their praises earn me a place in heaven.

I do not expect everyone to be "thick-skinned" like me. Gossip is dangerous and can be lethal too. It can kill as it had killed the singer with the golden voice, Zhou Xian.

Hence before we conclude anything, let us first establish the facts and understand why things have happened in a peculiar way. If there is nothing we can do to help improve a situation, let us just keep our lips sealed instead of fanning the flame of susupicion, paranoia, unjust accusation and falsehood. If we have to report, let us report as it is, and not add flatulence or exaggeration to the report. If everyone were to add more spice, the facts would be distorted beyond recognition to the person who knows the truth, and nothing but the truth!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Celebrating December in a Different Way

It was interesting that last Christmas, I spent my Christmas holidays all by myself in Taiwan.
Although my nephew informed me that he was too busy to accommodate me in his home in Taichung, I was undaunted and wanted to travel around Taiwan on my own. It was my first time in Taiwan and also my first time travelling on my own. In the past, I used to travel with organised tour groups. All these 23 years, I have never once celebrated Christmas in Singapore. It will be the first time this Christmas!

In Singapore, the festive spirit is quite evident. Orchard Road is brightly lit and everywhere shops are packed with shoppers. The decoration is so beautiful.

For me, this December is filled with toastmasters' activities as I wanted to complete my ten prepared speeches in two weeks.! Hence I was visiting clubs almost every other day! On 19th of December, I had a great time at the ACCA Singapore Toastmasters' Club where I was the language evaluator. On 20th December, I presented my speech at the NOL Toastmasters' Club. Wekie Tay evaluated my speech and there were also many outstanding toastmasters at the meeting. Christine Lim even had Richard Sng to evaluate the table topics speakers. We had exchange of Christmas gifts. There was so much fun and laughter.

I have also been travelling to Johore a number of times to meet eldest sister and to spend time with Dea and her lovely children. My best friend, Amu, teased me that I am travelling to Johore as if I were travelling around Singapore. I told Amu that the trick is to go to Johore during off peak period so as to avoid the jam.

I look forward to the Christmas eve party at Dr. Dennnis Wee's home and at our church. Amu also has a party on Christmas Day itself.

I am glad to be able to spend Christmas in Singapore for the first time! I hope I will be able to bring my eldest sister with me to Canada next December for a white Christmas since she has been yearning to see snow flakes.

A little reminder to my Canadian friends. Please do not complain about the cold. Over here, we envy you for the beautiful and picturesque scenery of tranquility that is so typical of a white Christmas.

I guess, on a positive note, over here, we will have to make do with cotton on plastic coniferous trees, brightly lit Orchard Road and Santa Claus in a car as he makes his rounds in shopping centres. Most important, it is the spirit of giving that is the hallmark of Christmas!

Wishing all my readers a blessed Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I Want the Real Snow!

Eldest sister Lee Lee has always wanted to see snow. Hence I bought her some winter wear in preparation, for she had originally planned to go to Korea with her husband in January. Alas he cancelled his plan.

Hence I thought I would bring sis to Snow City in Singapore. I checked the website and it looks interesting. I have not been to Snow City myself and decide to bring sis there. To my surprise, she said, "I want the real snow. I will not be able to find snow flakes in artificial snow." How true! Man can make snow, but not snow flakes. Every snow flake is uniquely made, just like man's finger prints. Every snow flake has six sides and inside are numerous and lovely patterns. The snow flakes melt ever so quicky, yet it is amazing how the great Creator has taken the trouble to make individual snowflakes! Is this one of the reasons why the writer has written the great hymnal, "How Great Thou Art!"

For those of you who have not realised the beauty and uniqueness of snow flakes, you can look at the many pictures in the website under "snowflakes". You will be able to find lovely pictures of the snow flakes as seen under the microscope.

What a beautiful world we live in.! If God can take care of tiny snowflakes and little birds of the air, will He not have our interests at heart too? The Psalmist was so overwhelmed that he wrote in Psalm Chapter 8 verses 3 to 5:

"When I consider Your heavens,
the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
For you have made him a little lower
than the angels,
And you have crowned him with glory
and honour."

So rise up, my dear readers. The creator has made us His highest form of creation! Let us enjoy the magnificent creation of God!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Art of Being Good Neighbours

The lovely chilli plant that Irin bought
My birthday present - another potted buah long long.

Irin with her 10 year old Bishon Frise, Kenneth

Irin's latest adoption : Bobby, a Shi Tzu

When second sister, Ean Ean, heard that I have moved to Little India, she frowned, just like many of my other friends who have frowned. However, after having lived here for the past 3 months, I like it here very much. It is in the heart of the city and within walking distance to Orchard Road. I save so much time, as the market is a stone's throw away, the MRT Station is almost at the doorstep, and shops are everywhere. Yet, it is quite quiet here, as the block is not facing any major road. It is also cool and windy as there is no blockage.

Best of all are my neighbours! I have very good neighbours. There is Helen, the lady who operates a food stall nearby. Helen likes to give me packets of her food whenever I meet her. She is very caring and always on the lookout for her neighbours. Wendy is another dog lover, whom I have written about in my earlier blog. My Indian, Malay and Philippino neighbours are also very amiable. I greet them in Tamil, Hindhi, Malay and Tagalog when I meet them.

My immediate neighbour, Irin, is another dog lover. Recently, when she learnt it was my birthday, she gave me two pots of plants and some soil. I was shocked that Irin was able to carry 3 pots of plants and 4 bags of soil all by herself. Beneath her petite and slim frame is a lady of great strength and determination. Although I am bigger than Irin, I could only manage to carry one packet of soil at one time. I am indeed overwhelmed by Irin's thoughtfulness and generosity.

Irin also helps me to collect my letters from the letter box. We have keys to each other's flat so that I can go in and take her dogs out for a walk when she is at work. Irin works in a lounge ; hence her working hours are usually in the evenings. Sometimes when I am at home in the evenings, the two dogs will come over so that they will not feel so lonely. Before I go to bed, I will take the dogs back to Irin's apartment.

Irin also bought a pomelo plant. She believes that she could use a few leaves of the plant and boil them and mix the boiling water with cold water for a shower. The leaves will ward off bad luck when she feels down or depressed. Although I do not believe in superstition, I respect her religion and her beliefs. As a Christian, I do not have to preach Christianity to her. More importantly, I believe is to put one's religion to practice. Instead of saying that God is love, show that love in our action. Then people can feel it. It is more important that we walk our talk.

As I know Irin wakes up late in the day, I try to restrict playing my piano and violin to between the hours of 5p.m. and 9p.m. This is also in consideration of my other neighbours who may want to take a nap in the afternoon or sleep early at night. I have also sealed off the rubbish bin in my kitchen. I collect my rubbish in a plastic bag and bring them down to dispose instead of throwing them into the rubbish chute. I feel that it is quieter and cleaner this way. Irin also follows suit, especially when she realised it could be quite noisy to throw rubbish down the chute after 12 midnight.

Sometimes when I cook nice chicken curry or fried noodles, I pass some to Irin and some of my neighbours for them to try. Irin sometimes buys me breakfast.

Recently we read in the papers about how two neighbours have had feud with each other for the past 8 years. They quarrel and fight over dripping laundry, noisy dogs, and even noisy massages!

8 years! It is a very long time to allow so much anger and irrititation to remain in our nerves! Today, most Singaporeans do not suffer from malnutrition or physical discomfort. Many suffer emotionally because they do not know how to manage their feelings. They also do not know how to express themselves calmly, clearly and concisely. For example, when I first moved in, a neighbour on the lower floor complained to me that Irin was noisy as she would throw rubbish into the chute in the wee hours of the morning. I encouraged him to tell Irin directly but he said, "No, better don't tell her". Since he did not tell Irin, I took it upon myself to explain to Irin. Now Irin no longer throws rubbish down the chute when she comes back from work.

When Irin found out that someone had complained to the authorities about her dogs' barking, she explained to her neighbour about her situation. Now the neighbour also understood where she is coming from and is more accommodating.

Once when Irin did not see me for a few days, she smsed me if I was out of town. She was worried I might be sick without anyone knowing. I replied her that I was in Johore. I had only intended to be in Johore for a day, but ended up staying in my relatives' home for 3 days. Irin's concern touched my heart.

Good, open communication is very important for understanding amongst neighbours. Consideration for others and practice of using one's common sense are also vital. Kindness and helpfulness foster good camaraderie and happiness. Confucius said, "Don't do unto others what you don't like others to do unto you." However, Pastor Derek Hong had once preached, "Do unto others what you like others to do unto you." The difference between the two is our being proactive. Let us be the first to help others, to show kindness and to be generous. It is amazing how people will react likewise, for we are after all, homo sapiens, made in the likeness of the Creator, Himself.

Life is too short. Let us enjoy our neighbourhood. Let us look on the bright side of things. Let us be quick to see the weakness and faults in ourselves before we see the faults and shortcomings of others. Let us learn from one another. Let us never go to bed with anger or unforgiveness. Let us live and let live. And we will live healthily ...physically, emotionally and spiritually. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Toastmasters are fun people!

Seated from left to right: Pat Khoo, Lionel Ng, IPP, Louiis and Jun
Standing from left to right: Me, Vanessa Yong, Alice Olsen (lovely mother
of Eunice Olsen), Serene Teng and Walter Lee.

It was the first time that one of our club members, Shirley Gwee, at Dennis Wee Group got hitched and invited us to her wedding dinner. We occupied one table. I will post a photo of the bridal couple later.

As usual, whenever toastmasters gather around, there is wit, humour and fun. Lionel, our IPP, is a great joker. Louiis, the comedian, also made us laugh with his jokes and mimicries. I always tell Louiis that he is wasting his talent selling properties. He might have made his stardom in movies!

Louiis and Lionel kept reminding Walter, the bachelor boy, to quickly get hitched so that we too could get invited to his wedding dinner. Walter is a tutor of economics and is in his thirties. If any of my readers are interested to get to know Walter better, do drop me an email. :-) After all, what are friends for?
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Friday, December 14, 2007

Monkeys as Pets?

The soulful eyes of the monkeys melt my heart.
These monkeys would be happier swinging
in the forests than in the cage.

During my recent visit to Johore, Dea, my niece-in-law brought me to Giant Mega Store. At the mall,
we saw some monkeys in a cage. I was somewhat taken aback, because in Singapore, monkeys are not
allowed to be kept as pets.

My heart went out to the poor animals with soulful eyes. Their expressive eyes seemed to be saying, "Get us out of this cage and put us back where we belong - the wilds where we can swing from tree to tree."

I think the only animals I would keep as pets would be dogs for they are man's best friends. Although I would love to have a parrot because I can teach it to sing and talk, I feel birds are happier to fly around in the wild. What a wonderful and magnificent world that God has created for us to enjoy! His handiworks are just so unique and marvellous! This is probably why I cannot be sad or depressed for too long, because when I see the immense handiworks of the Creator, my spirt becomes uplifted.
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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Two Celebrations in a Day!

Sister Lee Lee's unique and delicious chicken rice
Pu Tien Restaurant's recipes are basically Ying Hwa.
Pu Tien's famous yam, noodles and prawns.
From left to right:- Me, the fat one in the family with Eldest
Sis Lee Lee, Incy, my niece, brother-in-law Keat Seng and
his wife, Second Sis Ean Ean.

Wow! How important can one feel? Two birthday celebrations in a day.! The first one - a lunch time celebration in Johore and the second one, a dinner celebration in Singapore at eldest sister's favourite restaurant, Pu Tien. Of course, it was eldest sister, with her sisterliness, who looked after the show.
First she cooked a lovely sumputuous lunch of chicken rice, which is out of this world. Her secret recipe would probably give chicken rice stalls here a run for their money. Then she insisted on celebrating again with second sister and family, and gave everyone a treat of an 8 course dinner.

Second Sis Ean Ean is here in Singapore on vacation with her husband and youngest daughter, Incy.
They will be here for a week before heading for Penang to celebrate Aunty Ah Giam's 80th birthday.
My siblings and relatives are now living in different parts of the world - in Malaysia, Taiwan, Australia,
Britain, Canada and America. I am the only sibling in Singapore - hence when we do get together which is not very often, I will take leave from work, so as to give them my time. I am so thankful to be a property agent as I can choose to take leave at any time.

My niece, Kam Ning, will be coming to Singapore to perform with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and her father will also be spending about a month here. So, it looks like I will have to take one whole month of leave again in April.

The preciousness of being together! I am thankful for computers, telephones and courier companies. They are such important means of communication and make the world seem smaller.
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Monday, December 10, 2007

Much Ado About Rain

I love the months of November, December and January. Having lived in Canada for 4 years and having enjoyed the four lovely seasons, I miss autumn and winter. Though Singapore does not have four seasons, many people will tell you that these three months are usually cooler than the rest. Sometimes, it rains so much, and the sun gets hidden behind the clouds, that the weather becomes really nice and cool. Although I have lived here for 23 years, I have still not acclimatized myself to the warm and humid weather.

I observe something quite interesting about the rain yesterday. The sky looked bright and I went to the market. When I reached the market which is just a stone's throw from my apartment, the weather suddenly turned cloudy and the rain came down! A heavy downpour, thus catching some people by surprise. Then the rain stopped and the sky turned bright again.

After a while, it turned dark and cloudy again and there was a heavy downpour! This process seemed to repeat itself almost the whole day! Some people are like this type of rain. They get angry very fast and cool down equally fast. Just when you think that the matter is over, they bring it up again, and get upset one more time. They bring the matter up another time again, and fume over it. Later they get cajoled and cooled down again. We describe these people as temperamental or eccentric.

Then there is another type of rain which comes down like a waterfall!! Overpowering and strong! It stops just as fast as it comes down! I like this type the most. Although the downpour can be overwhelming, yet it leaves sufficient water for the trees and plants, and cleans the air of pollution before it stops. The rain stops almost as fast as it comes. I also like people with this type of characteristics. They get angry very fast; but they also get over their anger very fast and are usually very forgiving themselves. They do not bear grudges or keep things bottled in their hearts. They are usually quick-tempered but happy people who take things in their stride and like to move on. The type of rain that I dislike most is one that keeps coming down for a few days in a row! It may not be as heavy as the earlier one I have mentioned. However, it is annoying because it lasts so long! Some people are just like this type of rain. Their anger lasts for a long time. They may not lash out like the thunderstorm, but their continuous pelting makes them very annoying. They go around with a face that seems to suggest that the world owes them a living.
They have elephant memories and cling on to their past hurts and bad experiences. We describe these people as "kan bu kai" in Mandarin or "kuah bay kooi" in Hokkien (petty and narrow-minded).

I am most terrified when the air is very humid, and it drizzles a little. The humidity makes it very uncomfortable. I would prefer the weather to be either hot or cold, not lukewarm. In my toastmasters' club or in any club or church, most of us are wary of luke-warmers. They are devoid of interest or passion and move around meetings with an air of absent-mindedness. Their bodies are there, but their minds are elsewhere. If it has to rain, let the rain come pouring down and cool the air. Drizzles do not help much except to help someone compose the song, "Raindrops falling on my head".

Whether it rains or shine, my life still goes on. Once I promise someone to attend a function, whether it is a party or a toastmasters' meeting, heavy rain and thunderstorm will not deter me from carrying on with my activities. Let us be like the composer of the song, "Listen to the Rythmn of the Falling Rain".

Once a lady came to view my client's apartment for rent. I was surprised when I found out that her name is "Rain". "You must have a special penchant for rain?" I asked her. "No, not really. Don't like rain. But I can't think of any other name", she replied somewhat sheepishly.

Whether our name is Rain or Shine, let us continue the enjoy the music of the falling rain, and not let it dampen our spirit. Remember, at the end of the thunderstorm, there is a rainbow. There could even be a pot of gold awaiting us! :-)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Online Citizen

Wow! My article, "To Teach Or Not To Teach?!" was published in once again. This would probably be about the 9th time that my article was published in the popular website. I feel happy, yet humbled that my opinions could be shared with readers on a wider scale through the online citizen.

When I was a teacher in both River Valley High School and ACS (Independent) I was busy teaching my students to write creatively and meaningfully. It was such a joy to see students improve in their writing. When one of my very weak students wrote an excellent poem on "Sir Isaac Newton", I was over the moon. I have always believed that everyone can write, given the desire and the motivation. However, I hardly wrote much myself when I was teaching, so passionate was I in wanting to help raise my students' interest to read and write. Students were free to write on any topics that touched them. Some students were so motivated that they sometimes proudced 5 to 7 articles per week! I encouraged them to observe, analyse and ponder what they had seen and heard. I also communicated with them when I went through their writing. If they wrote in prose, I would reply in prose; if they wrote poems, I would make my comments interesting by doing like poems! Hence, this stirred my students' interest and also allowed me to get into the deeper recess of their minds. It helped me to understand them better. Even as I was teaching, I was learning from my students.!

It is interesting that as I get older, the less I like to talk! My happiest moments are when I am by the computer, churning out an article almost everyday as I reflect on past events and observation. Of course, my friends sometimes expressed their surprise when I mentioned I ambecoming quieter as I grow older. I remember a client, a Dr. Wong, once requested me to rent out his recently purchased apartment. "I like your style - serene, cool and calm and no pressure to buy!" I often like the properties that I am marketing to speak for themselves. I also respect the intelligence of my buyers..... some of them are perhaps even more seasoned than me in real estate! I rented out Dr. Wong's aspartment within one week. Often, when I market a property, I would only mention some of the salient points - things that are not so tangible, eg . location of MRT, government rulings that might be coming up, etc.

I hope my readers would be encouraged to write as well. It would be great if readers could also start their own blogs. Writing for fun and mental health. It is important that we do not bottle up our feelings. It is always such a great release when we are able to express ourselves in speaking or in writing.

I am glad that now as a property agent, I have more time for my favourite hobbies - reading and writing.

Writing! An antidote for depression, confusion and mental tiredness. !

Friday, December 07, 2007

To Teach Or Not To Teach?!

I was filled with dismay as I read the headlines in the New Paper, "My Teacher the Shoplifter". A primary school teacher had been caught by the guard with a bag of unpaid groceries at Tampines Mall. His wife and son were crying, and to add to the commotion a young boy in the crowd shouted, "That's my teacher!"

The teacher claimed that when security approached him, he was shocked. He asked the guard, "What unpaid merchandise are you talking about?" The truth hit him only when he opened his bag and saw the items, he claimed.

The man begged the guard to let him off, saying he was in a daze and was reprimanded by the police officer when he said he did it out of stress. He did not even need the items - three boxes of face masks and a bottle of Choya, a Japanese plum liqueur.

The police officer asked him, "What sort of stress does a primary school teacher face?" He said he was upset by the remark and replied, "Please do not assume this, and do not say it in my face."

Alas! How many in the country are like the police officer who thinks the work of a primary school teacher is a bed of roses.? Recently I spent a little vacation in Penang and Johore, and although I dote on my little grandnieces and nephews, wow! their amazing noise and boundless energy can drive an adult up the wall. This is why I have always chosen to teach in adult classes or secondary schools. I really admire my nieces and nephews! I guess when God gives parents children, He has also given them a special gifting to take some stress, a gift which perhaps single ladies like me do not have. I have always enjoyed the freedom of time and peace and quiet in my little home. !

I am not a philosopher, lawyer, politician, psychic or detective. However, I believe God also sometimes gives people, especially ladies, special feelings which defy logic and intelligence. This is the same feeling I had when I began to feel uncomfortable with the lawyer who absconded with $6M! I kept asking my director whether Lawyer Zul could be trusted, and I prayed so hard that my client's $500,000 cash payment for the purchased office space would be safe. Thank God that the sale was safely concluded before he absconded.! I hope the police and the Ministry of Education will give the teacher the benefit of a doubt. If he really had the intention to shoplift, would he have brought his wife and young son in tow? His wife and children were stunned and cried when he was stopped by the security officer.

When asked whether he had considered seeing a counsellor, the teacher felt he could handle his stress, and never thought it would culminate in the alleged crime. If he had to see a counsellor, it would be to patch up his relationship with his wife. He called his action, "a bitter price that's too big to pay". "My career is gone. One stupid mistake".

Not only his career would be gone. If his wife is not supportive, she too would be filing for divorce soon. Who suffers the most? The innocent, little son.! And the vicious circle goes on. Sigh.....

I am glad I left teaching some 13 years ago. I had stayed up to mark essays, comprehension and creative writing till 2 to 3 a.m. almost everyday. Due to the lack of sleep, I was constantly losing my voice. When I lost my voice for 3 consecutive days I decided to quit teaching as I did not want to have to undergo the risk of surgery. One of my friends had such a surgery, and now she speaks more like a man, with deep and low tones! Since becoming a property agent, I have never once lost my voice!

Have you ever been so absent minded that you were searching for your glasses only to have your spouse point out to you that they were in you very own shirt pocket? Have you constantly been forgetting where you put your things.? How come you can remember incidents that had taken place some 2 decades ago, but can't remember what you have eaten the night before? Such is the complexity of the human mind. Hence when the teacher told the security that he was in a daze and had not realised his action, give him the benefit of a doubt.

I once went shopping with a friend during Christmas. She suggested Metro. Metro is not one of my favourite. I prefer OG, John Little, etc. Hence, I only ended up with one big teddy bear in my hands. Just as I was about to continue walking, my friend pulled me back and said, "The store stops here - merchandise must be paid before this point." Thank God I had my friend with me. It was my first time in Metro (Far East Building) and these stores just "run on and on" and one can get lost in them. If it had not been for my friend, I would have suffered the same fate as the teacher. I was still teaching then, and constantly thought of my work and students. Of course, a person intending to shoplift would never carry a big teddy bear, loud and clear, for all to see. However, in a country like Singapore, where we just follow law, this explanation would still fall on deaf ears of the security, police and ministry.

My heart goes out to the teacher, his wife and son as well as the student who witnessed the whole episode. It must be quite traumatic an experience for them. I hope the Ministry and the school and all his colleagues will give him the benefit of a doubt and to give him a second chance.
Who knows.? In stressful Singapore, you and I may one day also need that precious, second chance.

Perhaps Jack Neo should come up with a sequel to his movie, "Just Follow Law". Shoot a movie to touch the very core of compassion in the hearts of Singaporeans and perhaps entitle the movie, "Just Follow Our Compassionate Hearts".

Singapore constantly needs replacement of teachers because of the high resignation rate. Though I have quit teaching, the schools often call me up for relief teaching. Thanks, but no, I am enjoying my work as a real estate agent - the freedom of time and monetary rewards that come along with the job. Yes, I still love teaching, and am a volunteer teacher in my church and a volunteer Languuage Evaluator in toastmasters' clubs.

It is time that we focus on the welfare of the teachers instead of just the distinctions and track records of students and schools. The Ministry of Education must seriously look into improving the work load and problems of teachers before more of them end up "making more stupid mistakes" and no one will say, "Stress made me do it".

Gan Chau

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rainbows After the Storm!

I love rainbows. Yet this colorful phenomenon takes place only after the storm! This is why I have never allowed the storms in my life to affect me too much, because I know at the end, I will see the rainbow. This optimism gives me added courage, strength and joy.

Yesterday, I woke up at 5.00 a.m. and felt nauseated. I threw out but it was only some gastric juice as my stomach had been empty since I did not take any dinner the previous night. I drank some water and went back to sleep, only to wake up again to throw out. The vomitting continued till 12 noon. Nothing could be contained in my stomach and I began to wonder if I should admit myself to hospital in case I became severely dehydrated. I had originally planned to go to the market in the morning to buy some food for I wanted to cook Penang Curry Chicken for the AIA Alexandra Toastmasters' Club. I prayed really hard that God would heal me and make me better as I had to present my speech at the club in the evening. Patrick Chang, the President, would be very disappointed if I did not turn up for my appointment.

God answered my prayers! The vomitting stopped and I phoned up the cleaner, Auntie May, in our Dennis Wee Group, to wish her a happy birthday, and to tell her I wanted to pass her a birthday present later on in the afternoon.

Wow! It rained the whole day. Some buildings could not even be seen, so thick was the rain and mist. However, being the optimist that I am, I think of all the positive things. I need not turn on my fan or electricity. The rain watered my plants water. I went down to collect a big pail of free water from the sky.... will use them to water the plants in the next few days. Etc. etc.

I wore some plastic shoes to the office. As expected there were puddles of water on the road. I began to think of my childhood days. We were always so happy when it rained for we could play in the rain and sail paper boats! We would make the boats using different colored papers or just number them and see which boat would come in first. I could see so many colored umbrellas. Somehow it all seemed so romantic!

I met a colleague at the Dhoby Ghaut mrt station. "Come, let's go," I beckoned her. "This damn rain", she mumbled. "Raining continuously for only one day, and you're complaining!" I smiled.
"It's only one day of rain, not 40 days like in Noah's Ark", I comforted her.

When I took the bus to AIA, Alexandra, it was still raining heavily. It was so lovely to see so many members already enjoying their refreshment. It was a combined meeting with the Singapore Nurses' Toastmasters' Club. The lovely and gracious president, Suzanne Yew, also prepared some tasty delicacies in addition to the lovely sandwiches provided by AIA Alexandra TMC.

I won the award for the best prepared speech. My speech, "Funny, yet Miraculous Moments" tickled the funny bones of the club members. After the meeting, I was glad that the rain had stopped and the air was exceedingly fresh! After Bus No. 14 dropped me at Orchard Road, I walked back all the way home in Little India instead of taking the train. I wanted to enjoy the cool, crisp and very fresh air! Irin, my neighbour, smsed me to help walk her two dogs which I readily obliged.

Fresh, cool air.! Rainbows! Storms or continuous rain are not so bad after all!

Gan Chau

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Beware - Scam Invitation to Conference

I was at first thrilled when I received an email regarding an invitation to a Youth Conference in America. Wait a minute! Something is wrong here! First, at 53 years and 24 days old, I certainly do not belong to the category of "youths". I think this email must have been sent at random to everyone around the globe. I am writing this article in my blog to warn my readers.

An innocent reader might be conned by this attractive offer. I have been to Disneyland three times before, and certainly will not accept the offer even if it were true. I would prefer someone younger to go instead. Since the money has been kindly donated by the public, should they not be stringent in selecting the right young men and women for the conference? People of calbire and leadership?

I googled and found out that indeed it is a scam!! First we have the lottery scam, then the inheritance scam and now the conference scam!! Wouldn't it be easier for the scammers to spend their time to earn a decent yet humble living than to try and fleece their fellowmen?

Faithful dogs who are willing to die for their masters would put such con men to shame! Wake up scammers and put your life to good use in this short journey on earth.

"CONFERENCE/INVITATION...Dear Sir/MadamWe are cordially inviting you to our twin combined conference which will be held.In Anaheim California From the 21st -23rd of January 2008 and Dakar senegal from the 27th -30th of January 2008.If you are interested to participate and want to represent your country,you may contact the secretariat of the organizing committee for details and information. You should also inform them that you were invited toparticipate by a friend of yours (Ella Dover), who is a member of the AmericanYouths 4 Peace and a staff of (WORLD YOUTH ORGANIZATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS).The benevolent donors of the Organizing Committee will provide round trip air tickets and accommodation for the period of participants Stay in the U.S, to all registered participants.You will only be responsible for your own hotel booking in Dakar where the second phase of the conference will be held.If you are a holder of an international passport that may require visa to enter the United States you may inform the conference secretariat at the time of registration, as the organizing committee is responsible for all visa arrangements and travel assistances.Please contact the Conference secretariat with the adress below fordetailed information.Below is the contact address of the conference secretariat:Email: secretariat@worldyouthsorganization.orgBy TEL: +1 (516) 303-0022 ORBy FAX +1 (718)-228-8213You may get back to me with this email address.ella_dover@myway.comSincerely,Ella Dover."

"Be careful, fake conference in Dysneyland (23-25 January 06) and Guenia Bissau (2-4 February 2006). fake, scam
Peace Corps Online: Directory: Special Report: Beware of Internet Scams involving Peace Corps or World Youth Organizations: INVITATION TO A WORLD YOUTH CONFERENCE TO BE HELD IN USA.: Be careful, fake conference in Dysneyland (23-25 January 06) and Guenia Bissau (2-4 February 2006). fake, scam
Fake Conference in World Youth Organization For Human Welfare.USA 09/22 03:46am [3]
Fake Conference in World Youth Organization For Human Welfare.USA 10/18 07:47am [3] "

From Google under "American Youths for Peace"

Gan Chau

Barbie Movies

As I was getting ready to sleep on my nieces' double decker bed, I chanced upon their Barbie Doll collection. It was the first time that I saw the dolls at close range. I realised how daintily the dolls and accessories were made. Eldest sister told me that they have Barbie movies as well. She said since I was not tired, I should stay up to watch at least one movie. I told her I wanted to sleep. All of us had "camped" in the master bedroom. It made me feel as if I was in a school camp again with my students!
Everyone suggested I should delay going back to Singapore so that I could have more time to watch the movies.

I was mesmerised by the cartoons. We watched one movie after another. The Island Princess, The Magic Pegasus, The 12 Dancing Princesses and The Princess and the Pauper, just to name a few. No wonder Barbie Dolls are so popular. Dea told me that when Justco held a sale on Barbie Dolls with 70% discount, all the dolls were snapped up within minutes!

Today's kids are so fortunate. Eldest sister recalled how she yearned to carry a doll. Papa was too poor to pamper us with toys. Being the creative type, she would make her own dolls. At one time, she even carried a baby's bolster, and pretended it was a doll, and enjoyed lullabying it to sleep!

I enjoyed the cartoons very much. They reminded me of the time I loved reading comics in the Indian store in my village. I am glad that Barbie movies are not only well produced, but their plots are quite good and children can learn many useful lessons from the stories. When I visit my relatives again in Johore, I must make sure I watch more cartoons on Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc.

It is certainly wonderful to be able to relive my childhood memories and become a little child again. :-)
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A Little Get-Away

At the poolside
My wonderful eldest sis with her loved ones
Dea - winner of the Mother of the Year award
From left - Phoebe, Gloria, Sophia and Debra

My eldest sister, Lee Lee, is now staying with her daughter-in-law in Johore. My nephew is on a month overseas trip to England on business. Hence, the versatile and doting grandma is tutoring her grand children in piano, dancing, singing, Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Arithmetics.

I went over to Johore during the last weekends, intending to stay for only a day, but ended up staying for three days. My sister cooked delicious meals for us. On the first evening, she took all of us out to the restaurant, East Court, to celebrate my birthday. For years, somehow, friends and relatives would celebrate my birthday and the celebration usually goes on for a month!! There is going to be another celebration in our breakfast meeting for those born in the month of December. All the toastmaster clubs are celebrating Christmas at their meetings as well. Mm....a very "dangerous" month is December. I have to guard my waistline by walking off the extra calories.

I brought with me a disc on cha cha music, and we all danced to the music. The children are very musical and bright, and even the youngest one, Gloria, out danced everyone!!!

I have a total of 12 nieces and nephews, and a total of 12 grand nieces and nephews! How wonderful if papa and mama were here too to enjoy the extension of their lovely and intelligent offsprings! Papa would be proud to know that he had passed on his musical genes to everyone in the family tree.
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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I Fall In Love - Over and Over Again!

From my title, readers may think I am a most romantic lady. However, the subject of my fascination is not any homo sapien, but a beautiful island called Singapore.

Since the past 24 years I have travelled to some 169 cities in 38 countries. Yet each time, I come back to Singapore, I have always been thrilled and happy to be home.

This happens again today, as I set foot in Woodlands after customs clearance. I had gone to Johore on Saturday evening, intending to be back on Sunday evening, but my relatives
coaxed me to stay longer. I dote on my cute, four grand nieces, and hence stayed two days more. It is only a short visit; yet I miss Singapore and suddenly I think of the song, "I'm falling in love over and over again.". Perhaps some readers may find me naive and simple, but I guess it is always the simple people who end up the happiest. I don't need to analyse and to understand the intracies of politics; the complexities of human beings, the cant of religious leaders and the profound philosphy of life - all I know is that I am happy, joyful and relieved to be home every time after a trip across the Causeway or Pacific and Indian Oceans.

I received an sms from my caring neighbour, Irin, who was worried as she had not seen me for a few days. She asked if I was out of town and if I was alright. Concern from friends like these adds to my joy.

Ah! The sheer joy and happiness in living. My unspeakable gratitude to the One up there who allows me to breathe another day! Oh! The simplicity of just counting my blessings and naming them one by one. I fall in love with my homeland - over and over again!

Amazing Computer Technology!

I must thank all my friends who had encouraged me in the use of the computer - a piece of technology I had once been afraid of. Through their encouragement, I have learnt to do email, set up a blog, post photos from my digital camera, etc. Since my relatives are all over the world, I am thinking of putting up a camera where I can see their faces even as I am typing. Even then, I struggle, especially with learning new things.... the hesitation, fear and apprehension.

I enjoy blog writing the most. It is so wonderful to be able to pen my thoughts onto the computer. In the past, I used to think that I could only organise my thoughts and write them with a pen and then retype them onto the typewriter. Now I am able to just type immediately onto the computer, thus saving time and energy. I am truly glad I had once learnt to type with Pitman's method on the manual typewriter for it has helped me achieve a typing speed of about 150 wpm on the computer!

My friend, Dr. Kumaran Raju, who helped me to set up my blog, also set up a sitemeter for me. He taught me to look into the sitemeter to find out how many readers I have and where they come from. Recently I was thrilled to find that my articles have been translated into Spanish when I clicked on a reader's referral and he hailed from Argentina! A local reader, Susan Artan, wrote to me to help find a commercial unit for her uncle who hailed from England!
How wonderful to meet her and relatives! Her husband told me that his wife is an ardent fan of my blog!

I am typing this article in my nephew's home in Johore. Yesterday, I read with my little grand-nieces, Debra and Sophia, my article, "Even animals also have pride". Their mother told me that when she tried to get them to read my articles earlier, they were not interested. I guess children always like it when adults read together with them.

I am so glad that I learnt the computer two years ago. This amazing gadget has added more colours to my life - real technicolours. This is why I want to encourage my older siblings to learn, so that they too can enjoy and discover the use of this amazing technology. I hope my readers too will encourage thier loved ones to use the computer. When we enjoy something wonderful, we want to spread and pass it on.

Gan Chau

Monday, December 03, 2007

Just to Ponder......

As bus No. 2 was plying around, I was reading my book. When I was tired from reading, I rested and looked out of the window. I wondered what would the inside of prison be like? The only time I had been to prison was some 12 years ago, when I drove my client to Changi Prison to visit her husband, whose signature I also needed for the sale of their executive flat.

I told the bus driver to tell me to get off when the bus arrived at Changi Prison. I was almost falling asleep when he hollered to me to get down. I was somewhat surprised that the prison looks more like an industrial building. It was only then that I learnt from Michael that it is a new building! We met the rest of the volunteers for the speechcraft and as we were walking towards our meeting place, we passed by some new buildings that are being constructed. Cher Kim, as usual with his well known humour, suggested I should try and market those units since I am a property agent! When he heard me telling Michael that I have tons of relatives in Penang, he immediately said, "Your relatives are measured not by numbers, but by weight!" I told him I am the lightest of them all. In reality, I am the fattest. How to be slim when I am often in the midst of humorous people who make me laugh so much!!

I am impressed with the display of technology in the new building. Michael said it is harder to get into prison than to get out as visitors, as the whole place is well guarded. So much precaution has been taken by the authorities.

On entering the meeting room, I was pleasantly surprised by the cheerful greeting of the inmates. They looked so happy to see Michael, Cynthia and me. Most of them spoke quite well, and you can see that they try to make the effort to speak. Some had chosen to speak on quite profound subjects such as "Forgiveness and the Power of Words".

One speaker had even effectively used the symbol of a swimmer clinging on to his stone with his left hand. For him, that stone symbolised his drug addiction. Even though people around him had told him to let go of the stone, he was stubborn and clung on to it. As a result, he was gradually drowned by his own addiction.

Some of them would be leaving the prison soon, and are quite excited about the prospects of tasting freedom again.

I encouraged the inmates to make the most use of their time in prison to read for books give knowledge. I jokingly told them that if I were imprisoned, I would most likely spend all my time reading, so that by the time I come out of prison, I might be able to obtain my PH.D in Comparative Literature. !

It was my first visit and experience and certainly it would not be my last. I had always wanted to volunteer as a tutor in prison, but somehow things did not materialise. I am glad that I have this opportunity to help out in language and project evaluation as a toastmaster. Indeed I have learnt from the inmates and my fellow volunteers, Michael and Cynthia as much as they have learnt from me. As Emerson has always said, "Every man I meet is my superior in some way; in that I learn of him."

Cheers to toastmastering! The speech projects give everyone a chance to ponder; to rethink and to be enriched just by the process of speaking. By sharing one's experiences, one becomes enriched as well as enriching others.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Happiness - important for Vitality!

I had just come back from the Changi Prison speech craft meeting. It was my very first experience in Changi Prison as I volunteered to help Michael Rodrigues and Aziz in their toastmastering activities with the inmates. It was indeed an eye-opener for me, and I felt very happy. This is the wonderful aspect of giving. When we give, we receive so much more in return!! I am sure I have learnt a lot from the inmates as much as they have learnt from me as their project and language evaluators.

Michael kindly dropped Cynthia and me at Simei MRT. Although I was tired, having to wake up at 6.00a.m. to be on time at 8.30a.m. at Changi Prison, I felt very happy and fulfilled. I wanted to do a little shopping for presents for my nieces and sister, whom I would be visiting in Johore in the early evening.

When I came back, I looked into my computer. I was stunned to receive an email from a friend who expressed her disgust at receiving a pornographic email from me! This same email had also been sent to some of the toastmasters from other clubs as well as some of my relatives when I was vacationing in Penang. I had brushed off the whole thing as a prank by someone with a perverted and warped sense of humour. Vanessa Yong, my club's president, immediately phoned me and said she had deleted the email without opening it, as she did not believe it could be sent by me. Aveline and Adrien did likewise. I wrote to Hotmail to ask who the imposter is. Confident that all those who had received the email would be as discerning as my three friends, I did not bother to write to all the others to explain. For me, I feel that if one is not guilty, one should not be bothered about explaining. It warmed my heart to know that my friends know me well enough to immediately smell a rat at the unusual email. They also know that my computer knowledge is limited to emailing and writing in my blog. My friends had helped me set up email, blog and advertising accounts. From young, papa had always taught us never to use vulgarity in our speeches or writing!

Suddenly I felt very, very tired. The happiness that I had was momentarily and completely wiped out, leaving me with grief and despair. This friend was an ex-colleague from my school - someone who had known me for years. Yet she did not even ask nor give me the benefit of a doubt. Instead she immediately sat on the throne and pronounced her judgement at how offended she was to receive the filthy material from me, and quoted David Wilkerson (Pastor of Times Square Church) saying that the devil wants to corrupt a person by entering his core through the windows of his soul ie. his eyes. I suddenly felt really exhausted, physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. I just had to take a nap even though it meant I might be late in going to Johor.

When I woke up, I was somewhat rejuvenated. I prayed for the perverted imposter. He could be someome who had been trying to poach me to join his company. Many other real estate agents have tried and are still trying to poach the top agents from our company. Maybe the imposter was angry that I decided to stay put for I am one of those old-fashioned ladies who believe that a rolling stone gathers no moss. I prayed for this ex-colleague of mine. It was not easy. It hurt terribly to be misunderstood. But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It dawned upon me how important happiness is to one's strength and vitality. I want to forgive and move on. Time is short. There are so many things needing my attention - my real estate work, toastmastering activities, volunteer work, writing in my blog, improving in my piano, drum and violin, trying out new recipes, and wanting to visit those countries I have not yet been to.

Earlier at the Changi Prison speech craft meeting, I had told the inmates how important words are in our life. Words have power to heal or to kill. We must always think twice before we hurl hurtful words at others. I have encouraged them to express their feelings in writing, for it is a good release and will help them to feel better. Hence, my writing this article.

Ah! The power of words! The pen or computer print is certainly mightier than the sword. The cuts they leave behind could be more excruciating than the sword - only love, forgiveness and peace within oneself could heal those wounds. Lord, bless the imposter and my ex-colleague!

Gan Chau

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Clean Singapore?

Why no recycling? Let's save the earth!

Stray cats feeding on food remnants thrown around carelessly.

Singapore is well known to be a clean and green city. Yet, I am often saddened by the careless and thoughtless way of disposing rubbish as evidenced by the photos above.

My heart goes out to the cleaners who have to sweep and withstand the terrible odour of stale food, used pampers, etc. Ironically most of them are paid a meagre salary. In sharp contrast, the cleaners in Australia, Canada and America are highly paid for they are doing a job that is shunned by the population.

I remember the time I was in Melbourne. My second sister, Ean Ean, was only able to bundle her rubbish into one huge plastic bag. The cleaners would only collect one bag once a week! My sister would have to dispose any other extra bag or bulky items herself! Yet, in Singapore, everyday, the cleaners are at work! Although we have recycling bins, some people are just too lazy to dispose their cans, newspapers, etc. into these bins.

Perhaps we should emulate the style of the Taiwanese. A recycling truck would follow behind a garbage truck. Every resident would happily bring out recylced items and throw them into the recycling truck and their garbage into the garbage truck. Interestingly loud piano pieces such as Fur Elise, The Maiden's Prayer and Blue Danube could be played on the cd by the recycling truck. It added to the happy atmosphere!

Would the authorities do something to impove the condition and the lot of our cleaners? Must people in this little dot be fined before they do what any civic-minded person would do? Why must people anyhow throw rubbish along the streets, yet would take the trouble to keep their own homes clean? Ever so often, we could find unwanted bulky furniture and mattresses along the corridor of HDB flats when these should have been properly disposed. They are fire hazards! Someone could just carelessly throw a lighted cigarette butt onto the matress and a fire could take place!

Let us all do a part to help keep Singapore clean, really clean! Let us help to make life a little better for our poor cleaners.

Gan Chau

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A Badge of Significance!

I have taken up the role of Area Governor U3 for the term July 2007 to June 2008. My colleague, Vanessa Yong, who was supposed to be the Area Governor, felt I should take on the role first as I would most likely complete my Advanced Communicator Gold earlier and hence go for the Distinguished Toastmaster Award.

I love the badge for it has the logo of Toastmasters' International together with my name and designation. Whenever I have to attend a toastmasters' meeting, I would put on the badge before I step out of my apartment. I would wear it the whole day till I return. Being the clumsy and absent- minded type, I am afraid of losing the badge or damaging it should I put it in my bag. Hence it is more secure on my blouse. !

By wearing the badge, I have aroused quite a lot of interest in people around me. Yesterday, a gentleman in the mrt strained his eyes in an attempt to read the wordings on my badge. Suddenly he stood up and offered me his seat. I thanked him and smiled. He must be thinking I am some kind of Governor - an important person! It only dawned upon me why of late, so many people have stood up for me in the train and buses!!

Yesterday, I attended the NOL Toastmasters' lunchtime meeting to present a speech. After the meeting, I realised that I had not collected my copy of Straits Times and New Paper which I had bought earlier. Since I had to stop by Harbour Front, I decided to go back to the stall. The charming little boy recognised me immediately. He cleverly asked me if I had purposely come back all the way for the newspapers. I told him I dropped by as I was on my way back. I also told him about my toastmasters' meeting, and encouraged him to join a club when he completes his secondary school. What a good boy.! He is using his vacation to help his parents run the stall. I decided to give him the book of crossword puzzles which I had won as best speaker in the meeting at the NOL toastmasters' club.

I passed by a road show featuring some Ogawa massage chairs. Instead of going to massages which could be time consuming and costly, I decided to explore the idea of getting a massage chair instead. I tried some of the chairs and the sales staff were very curious about my badge.
Hence I had the opportunity to tell them about toastmasters' program. Later, the supervisor, Myron, decided he would like to join our club.!

If only, if only, if only.........someone had told me about toastmasters' program earlier!!! I only discovered the wonderful activities of Toastmasters' International in July 2006 at the age of 52 when I joined Dennis Wee Group as a property agent! My manager, Aveline Tan, invited me to the first Toastmasters' meeting at Park Mall. I could not believe that TI has thousands of clubs all over the world! I have lived in Malaysia, Canada and now Singapore, and have travelled to some 38 countries! How could I have missed learning about the club?!

Nevertheless it is not too late.! One of my friends comforted me by saying that it is better to join late and be filled with so much zeal and passion than to start early and be lukewarm about the activities! This is why whenever people ask me why I am trying to complete 60 prepared speech projects in one and a half years, I always reply, "If I had more youth and more time, my procrastination would not be a crime!"

I met the youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Cheng, and told her how lucky she is to have a family of zealous toastmasters. She is only in Primary School and often accompanies her family members to toastmasters' meetings!

I would urge all my young toastmasters to make the most of the training and opportunities that toastmasters' clubs have to offer. Now I can speak confidently off the cuff. This confidence has enhanced my sales as a property agent as well. I have also improved my time management for I am able to be quite involved in toastmasters' activities and still emerge as one of my company's top producers. I also learn to become a better leader when I organise contests, meetings, etc. At every meeting I learn something new! I enjoy the fellowship, great speeches and good food! For those of you who have yet to join a toastmasters' club, I would urge you to join one nearest your home or office. You will be glad that you have learnt about toastmasters from my blog!

Cheers to better leadership and speaking skills!

Gan Chau

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Joyful Reunion and Celebration!

My sister-in-law, Saw Kim, is a fantastic cook!
My koko Kee Seng, his wife and grandchildren.
Being surrounded by loved ones - the best birthday present!
Koko trying on his expensive Crocodile shoes, bought by
his children.

I decided to give my second brother, Kee Seng, whom I affectionately call Koko, a birthday surprise.
I flew back on the day of his birthday. My niece-in-law picked me up from the airport.

Koko is still doing his own aliuminium business. When he returned from work, he was surprised to find the home full of people, all ready to celebrate his birthday. He had not known that his elder daughter, Yann, was also coming back from Kuala Lumpur with her two lovely children, Zen and Ning.
Koko was taken aback to see me when I removed the magazine from my face to give him a resounding "Happy Birthday!" I would usually go back to Penang for Christmas or Chinese New Year, but decide to do something different this year. This is the brother I love the most and I want to give him a joyful surprise.

What a spread! Koko's wife had chosen to celebrate at home instead of at the restaurant. It is so much better and more relaxing to eat at home for we could talk and laugh as loudly as we wanted! It would also be more conducive for the children to run around at home than in a public place.

My sister-in-law's Nonya dishes were fantastic! There were steamed crab, Babi Pong Tay, Hokkien Fried Noodles, etc. We had local Penang dishes at a food court the third evening. I wished I had more stomachs to tuck in all the Penang delicacies. I remember I had invited Sy Rogers together with the staff in our church for my home cooked food, and he said, "I wish I had 5 stomachs!". I guess that was how I felt when I saw all the sumptuous Penang food. We had nasi lemak the next day. My sister-in-law's nasi lemak is out of this world! On the fourth evening, I decided to be the chef and whipped up Italian servings of garlic bread, bruschetta, spaghetti bolognese and spaghetti marinara bianco. (Spaghetti sea food in white wine sauce). Tyng, my niece, made us her special Salad which was unique and tasty.

I am sure my readers must be salivating now whenever food in Penang is mentioned.! Simple! Book your tickets to Penang and savour all those dishes in the hawker centres.!! To burn off all the extra calories, hike up some of the hills in Penang! Tyng and Yann, my lovely nieces, could be your guide!
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The Caged Virgin

I am glad that I have acquired the habit of reading since I started learning English in Primary School. Even when papa took me on his motorbike, I would try to read the names and words written on the signboards as we passed by. It helped that papa was a cautious motorist whom the police officers could never fine for speeding!

I loved "Schoolgirl" comics and bulldozed my way into the heart of the shopkeeper to allow me to read his comics in his shop without having to buy any book. Papa was struggling to earn a living, and I did not want to add on to his burden. Hence, I would spend hours in the shop devouring pages upon pages like a hungry little worm. As my hearing condition gradually deteriorated, I sank deeper into the abyss of silence and despair, and found solace in my own little world of printed matter.

Reading has stayed with me since then. I would read at every opportunity. Now I would prefer to miss my breakfast than to miss reading the daily newspapers.

When I went back to Penang, I was surprised to find a book which my niece, Tyng, had bought from the States. "The Caged Virgin" written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a captivating book. It is defintely an emancipation proclamation for women and Islam. The author has urged Muslim ladies to rexamine and rethink some of the practices that have been handed down for generations, instead of just submitting without fully understanding the logic and rationale.

It is a very touching book written with simplicity and style, and has helped me to understand why Muslim women have to wear the veil and why certain things are being practised.

Reading! The benefits are so enormous. We can teach ourselves so many things just by reading. For those of you who have not yet acquired the habit of reading, it is not too late. Start reading now. Cultivate the habit of reading, and you will find your life more colorful and enriched!

Gan Chau

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Living in Penang versus Living in Singapore

Beautiful Reagents' Height on a hill at Sungei Ara Vicinity
Homes in Penang are comparatively cheaper!
My office at Park Mall, next to the Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station
My apartment in Little India, just 18 minutes walk from
my office at Park Mall

After having spent 5 days in Penang, I am back! I had such a great time of rest in Penang that I am now rejuvenated, ready for challenges ahead of me!

I visited my relative's new home in Reagents' Height. It is a 3 plus 1 bedroom condominium and is so wonderfully priced at about MR260,000!/-! A condominium like this in Singapore would cost almost S$1.3 million and if it were located in Orchard Road, it would be about $2.1 million! My relative has bought an additional car park lot for M$13,000/- which is located just near the ground floor entrance, while his entitled lot is in the basement carpark. It is so windy and airy. They hardly have to turn on the fan or airconditioners!

Nevertheless, though I love Penang, I still prefer to live in Singapore where everything is compact, convenient and cosy! I can hop onto the train and bus easily or if I were in a hurry, I could just be a little more extravagant and take a taxi. The market and shops are a stone's throw away and my office is wtihin walking distance. The transport system in Penang is still somewhat backward, and if I were to live in Penang, I would be less mobile.

When I arrived at Changi Airport, I was very happy when I saw our armed personnel with their protective guns or whatever you call them. Even after my hand carriers were scanned, the airport officer, still opened up my handbag and told me that I could not carry in my homemade herbal tea inside the plane. I requested to drink all the tea before I entered the lounge!

Many Singaporeans complain that Singapore is too small. I feel that for purpose of work, it is easier for me to move around. If I want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city living, I can always travel to Malaysia and other parts of the world. When my knees are weak and wobbly, I will want the convenience and safety of moving around. I guess God knows my heart's desires when He put me in Singapore to work as a teacher when I had originally planned to work in Canada after graduation! He knows that with my lively personality, I would probably enjoy living in this cosmopolitan country where life is as colorful and as vibrant as the united colours of Benneton!
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