Monday, January 29, 2007


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As I was rushing for my open house at Clementi Park, I saw a lovely lady with her cute cocker spaniel. The Indian lady, Shanaz, told me her dog's name is Chelsea and asked if I lived around the area. I told her that I was marketing a unit at Clementi Park and she told me she was also looking to buy an apartment. I patted Chelsea on her head, and found her fur to be smooth, with a healthy golden glow. It is always my habit to pat every dog I meet, regardless of breed and size.

Shanaz did not find my client's unit suitable as the living and dining rooms were too small. I understand most of the Indians often prefer large living and dining areas as they take pride in entertaining guests. The Indians are very hospitalable people. I found a bigger unit for Shanaz. She jokingly told me that Chelsea brought her blessings for 8 months later, Clementi Park is going enbloc.

One day Shanaz called me to ask if I could help find a home for Chelsea as she was starting on her new job and could not provide the time for Chlesea. I felt sorry as Chelsea is a very good and obedient dog, and it would be quite traumatising for her to be given away. After the death of my Chow Chow, Xiaobai, I did not want to adopt any more dogs, and had turned down many requests to take in dogs. However, Chelsea melted my heart. I decided to take Chelsea on the understanding that when I am on vacation, Shanaz will look after Chelsea. I hate to put dogs in hotels, and it is quite troubleseome to bother friends to help look after my dog.

Chelsea soon became accustomed to her new home. I take her out for her walks two to three times a day. She runs like a horse, and I will unleash her so that she can give full rein to her energy in the park. When I clap my hands, she will run back to me. Chelsea is also good with other dogs. She does not like birds and cats, and will chase after them with her might. She is the neighbourhood terror! Can anyone tell me why dogs and cats usually cannot get along?

Chelsea is very affectionate and likes to be hugged. She loves wagging her little tail. She will follow me everywhere around the flat. When I type at the computer, she will seat herself beside my chair. When I am cooking, she will plonk herself a distance away from the stove and watch my movements. Whatever I eat, she must have a little share. Of course, I will only give her food that is suitable for her... absolutely no chocolates which are harmful for dogs. Chelsea's favourite fruits are pears, mangoes and rambutans.

Chelsea loves to welcome you home with a tennis ball in her mouth and with her little tail wagging furiously. Sometimes I look at her expressive eyes and wonder what she is thinking. How lovely if only dogs could talk.!


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Jerlynn, an animal lover

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Jerlynn, with my pet, Chelsea.

The world is really small. I often like to click on my site meter to find out who are the readers of my blog. I came across a blog reader who has her own blog address of and was thrilled when I found out that she is also a toastmaster at Buona Vista Toastmasters' Club. Her name is Jerlynn, a petite, and somewhat charming young lady. She is versatile as well, being in the insurance industry and is also a free lance make up artist cum beautician. During her free time, she does make up of brides and actors and actresses.

Jerlynn is an active toastmaster and is quite a good public speaker and evaluator.
Despite her busy schedules, she manages to play an active role in toastmasters' activities. It is interesting to note that when you give a busy man a job, somehow he always gets it done. Hence it all boils down to time management. Jerlynn finds time to write in her blog as well as time to keep some hamsters as pets. She is now taking care of her friends' car while they are away in the States. Jerlynn is quite generous in giving rides to her friends and family members. Once we both went to the Leng Kee Toastmasters' Club and met a visitor who is handicapped. We were touched that he came all the way to the meeting even though it was raining cats and dogs. Without hestitation, Jerlynn volunteered the drive him home in the heavy rain after the meeting.

Although a financial specialist, Jerlynn is quite competent with the computer and has taught me how to download pictures into the computer. Not technically inclined, I always admire those who are adept at mechanical and electronic gadgets. Jerlynn had mentioned that if she had not chosen accounting, she might have tried engineering.!! It is easy to understand where she gets her genes from...her father is also an engineer.

It is encouraging for me to find youngsters who are mature beyond their years. When I look at Jerlynn, I feel there is hope for our nation. I always tell my students, "Let no one despise you of your youth. Show the world, and hear the lions roar!"

Gan Chau

Friday, January 26, 2007


Wulai singers and dancers

Weaving demonstration. The lady in brown jacket is Sally.

"Harvest Time" - dance by Wulai beauties.

Wedding Ceremony (See the wedding couple on the left hand corner).

I have heard so much of the Alishan beauties in Taiwan, but when I realised that it would take at least two days to go up to the mountains, I decided to give this trip a miss. Maybe I will plan it for my next visit to Taiwan.

Hence, I was interested to visit the aborigines at Wulai. It is a little town on the hill, about 45 minutes drive from Taipei.

The Wulai ladies are stunning and beautifully attired in their colourful costumes.
What struck me was their gentle, warm and charming personalities. They are very artistic and creative people as can be seen from the many handicrafts displayed in the shop. Their costumes are mostly handwoven, and considering the amount of handwork, they are not expensively priced. I bought two vests and two handbags from the persuasive Wulai sales lady. Her name is Sally, a name given to her by her Singaporean admirer. She openly shared with me that some thirty years ago, a Singaporean couple visited her shop and they liked her so much that they introduced her to their younger brother. However, Sally could not get used to the hot, humid weather and lifestyle in Singapore. She prefers the cool, serene, mountains of Wulai. To my surprise, she had remained single all these years. She told me that marriage is a hassle, and it is so much more peaceful to be alone. At 54, she still looks gorgeous, with porcelain like complexion and big eyes. Sally told me that some of her friends chided her for letting go of a wonderful opportunity to be married to a rich Singaporean. However, I told Sally I admired her confidence and steadfastness. She really knows what she wants from life. She is truly a liberated lady.!!

We were treated to a 30 minutes performance of dance and music. The Wulai aborogines invited us to dance with them. There was a demonstration of a Wulai wedding ceremony, and one of the guests, a petite Korean lady, was asked to be the "bride". She was later lifted off in a chair which was strung to the back of the groom. I jokingly told the tour guide that I could then understand why I was not chosen to be the "bride". With my weight, the "groom" would have trouble lifting me off!! To my surprise, the tour guide gave me a witty reply. "When a man is in love, he will somehow always have the strength to lift off his bride on the chair, no matter how heavy she is. Love is powerful!"

The Wulai aborigines were quite entrepreneurial. After taking our photos with their polaroid camera, they framed the photos in their own handmade frames and sold each photo at NT500. They were so charming and persuasive that anyone would feel bad to reject them.

Indeed the air up on the hill is cool and refreshing. The little "Choo Choo Train" that was supposed to take us on a ride was out of order. Hence we took a walk along the mountain side and saw the lovely Wulai waterfall. The sound of splashing water somehow appeared to be assuring and somewhat musical. Just then, we saw Sally on her motor bike, waving to us. She stopped her bike and bade us good bye, promising to give me a call should she visit Singapore again in the near future. I can understand why Sally prefers her lovely and peaceful hometown.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Being Top and Topless

"Next month, I will be in top what position ah?" I asked my senior vice president, Lionel. Sometimes, I like to relax and speak in Singlish.

"Topless" came the witty reply from Lionel. It is amazing how he has the gift of the gab. His wit and humour often lightens up the stress that agents could sometimes face. Although he has only studied up to Sec. 4 level, his spoken command of the English Language is admirable. He shows great leadership and is one of Dr. Wee's right hand man.

"Wow!" I told my manager. "The month of December has garnered many sales. At $50,100 commission, I am not even in the top ten position." I had just seen the photos of the top ten producers on the wall of our Dennis Wee Group office.

It was only at the divisional meeting that I realised that something was amiss. I checked with Aveline, my manager, as to how the top three positions in our division only garnered commisions of about $28,000/- for the month of December. It was only then that I realised as I had not filled in the sales transaction form, the deal was not computerised. I had closed the subsale on the same day and received payment on the same day as well. Hence, I thought we were to only fill in the amount received form. Since everything had been computerised and the positions of top producers finalised, there was nothing the company could do.

Sigh! In retrospect, our senior vice president was right! I was supposed to be in the top ten but at the end because of my own administrative error, I really became topless! What an unusual and funny incident!! Like Lu Hsun's Ah Q, I want to laugh and say, "C'est la vie!!!"

Gan Chau

The Herd Instinct

As an agent, I have seen such an acute demonstration of herd instinct in this country. Once I was renting out my client's shop space. It was small, about 400 sq. ft. I received some 45 calls.... all asking about the suitability of the place for bubble tea business.! After the 8th call, I answered all the callers, "You need it for bubble tea business?" "How do you know", asked the person on the other line.
"So boring.... can't you people think of other better business to do?" I told the potential tenants that my client's unit was not suitable as I did not want their business to collapse. Finally, the unit was rented out to a dentist who set up his second branch of practice. His practice is still in operation.

Indeed the bubble tea business did burst after a while. The pioneers of the bubble tea business did very well, and in their tracks were hosts of other copy cats who collapsed like a pack of cards! Next came Papa Roti where queues of people formed to have a go at the tasty and fragrant bread. Soon copy cats sprouted everywhere.... with names like Roti Boy, Mama Roti, etc. Again, the novelty soon wore off. What is next?

When property price was very low, I advised many of my friends and clients to invest. "Now is the time to buy, if you have the cash", but my advice fell on deaf ears. "What if the price went down?" echoed most of their anxious pleas. I remember my pastor had once mentioned that when price is low, we can go for it, because no one knows what is rock bottom. When price is high, and we can make reasonable profit, sell and be contented with the profit... because no one knows what is the peak. Now that price has gone up, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. It is difficult to understand why people are willing to pay $2,000 to $3,200 per sq. ft. for a 99 year leashold property when good, solid freehold properties at Orchard Road are only going at about $1,200 to $1,500 per sq. ft. (I am not referring to new developments). My clients bought a unit at Grange Heights at $2.28M and now the same unit is calling for $2.8M after 2 months!!

Now, agents are having a stalemate with some of their sales. On the one hand are sellers who think their roofs are suddenly made of gold. On the other hand are buyers who have missed the boat when the price was low, and who regret and will keep regretting as the price is climbing up steadily. For this group of buyers, they will have to wait for the next downturn of properties. However, I will not be surprised if they still repeat the same procedure and forget the lessons they have learnt.

Sigh! When will we ever try to be more creative and analytical instead of always following what others are doing? Is this a reflection of our educational system in the past which had produced rote learners? I am glad the government has realised this and this is why now the government is emphasising more on creativity, business entrepreneurship, etc. Well, at least, better late than never.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Depleting Our Resources

As the taxi was ploughing through the light drizzle along Napier Road, I pointed out to my Indonesian clients, Mr. Komala and Mr. Budiman, that Marco Polo Hotel used to stand at the junction of Napier and Tanglin Road. Now in its place is a luxurious condomium. Mr. Komala jokingly mentioned that he then understood why he found it so difficult to book a room at the Fullerton Hotel during the December period. If I am not mistaken, I remember at that time, the economy was quite bad and the hotel business suffered. Hence, it was demolished and a condominium was rebuilt.

Parrot Restaurant at Marco Polo used to be my favourite haunt. They served quite an excellent buffet spread for high tea. A few of my friends and I would have our monthly high tea gathering there and we could eat and talk for hours.

It saddens me to think that buildings just come and go. It is understandable that due to shortage of land, all those old buildings with four storeys and less and over thirty years of age, would be enblocked and demolished, so that maximum use of the land could be utilised. However, I cannot understand why Marco Polo Hotel, which was still quite new, had to be taken down. Now we do not have enough hotel rooms to cater to the ever growing number of tourists and business people visiting our little country.

As an agent, I had witnessed how lovely apartments had been re-renovated, because the clients did not like the original layout and colour. It did not matter whether the condominium was still in a very good condition as the previous owner had just renovated about a year ago. People with money have no qualms about tearing and rebuilding, for after all, they can afford to feed their whims and fancy.

Hence, this is why I often tell my clients not to renovate their properties if they have the intention to hold them for a fairly short term. For the new buyer may not like what have been renovated, and may have to do up the whole apartment again!!

I only wish that every one would think about our world resources. The rubbish collector in my estate complained that ever so often he found large chunks of newspapers thrown into the rubbish chute. Can't these people just bring down the papers and leave them by the bins so that they can be recycled by the karang guni man (trash vendor)? Think of the poor trees that take so long to grow to provide papers for us. Think also of the unkind weather or natural phenomenom that sometimes have these trees burnt up in forest fires or destroyed by floods.

I was recently quite thrilled when I found out that at a 7-11 store which I patronised in Taipei, the staff would not give me a plastic bag for my goods. If I wanted one, I would have to pay NT10 for it. (About S0.20). It was interesting to note that customers brought their own bags so as to save the NT10. Perhaps in Singapore, we should start emulating the Taiwanese.

The above made me think about the time we had Scripture Studies in school. I was often fascinated with the miracle performed by Jesus. After feeding the crowd of about 5,000, Jesus asked His disciples to pick up the remnants of food which filled 12 baskets. I often wonder why there was this need to pick up the leftover broken pieces of food. Was Jesus teaching His disciples the importance of keeping the country clean. ? (Am sure our government would love Him for that - a role model in our cleanliness campaign.) Or was Jesus teaching His disciples the importance of conserving world resources and the need to be frugal? The remnants of food could be recycled and fed to the animals.? After all Jesus had already performed the miracle of feeding the crowd with 5 loaves and 2 fishes. He could perform any miracle He wanted - but why bother with painfully collecting the remnants of food till they filled 12 baskets?

For religious leaders who want to impress the world with their magnificent churches oozing with so much pomp and luxury, let us remember the simplicty of Jesus during his life on earth. He reminded us that while foxes and birds have their holes and nests, the Son of Man has no place to lay His head. I am sure Jesus would be more concerned with the spiritual welfare of the members than on what brands of glass and tiles have been used for the church buildings.

I am not a theologian, and I doubt Jesus would approve of unnecessary demonstration of luxury or wastage in this world. We can use stainless steel instead of platinum, we can use good, ordinary architects instead of those with renown, and of course, charge a bomb. Our clothes can be beautiful without being branded. Before we order our food, let us ensure that we order just enough, so that there is no left over on the table. If the weather is cool, switch off the airconditioning and make do with a fan instead. For every dollar saved, it could go a long way to feeding a starving child in Africa. For every dollar saved, there would be more bricks and sand for our future generation.

Gan Chau

Monday, January 22, 2007

Great Soil in Taiwan

A scene from ancient town of Chuifen (Note the narrow walkway)

It has been almost three weeks since I came back from Taiwan, and I miss the food there, especially the fruits, peanuts and vegetables!

I love the peanuts from Taiwan. I stumbled upon a push cart lady selling some steamed peanuts, and I was hooked. Almost everyday, I would buy NT50 of steamed peanuts. At Chuifen Village, I also bought some packets of roasted ones. I was thrilled when I found that my second sister also loves them.

At the Happy Family Hostel, the owner, John, gave me two red guavas. They were so succulent and sweet, so much better than those grown in Malaysia and Singapore.
The yam that I tasted in a shop specialising in desserts was just heavenly!! The yam is soft and of the right texture and constituency, making our local yams and even those from Thailand pale in comparison.

I was pleasantly surprised that grapes thrive so well on Taiwanese soil. The people are now quite adept at producing their own wine. At the Aborigines Shop located at the Main Taipei Station, I bought some bottles of red wine and a bottle of peach wine which I would let my guests try during my Thanksgiving Dinner - a dinner to thank my Vice President, Vanessa, and Mr. Gea Ban Peng, DTM, for their encouragement in my toastmastaters' activities and to thank my directors, Aveline and Lionel, for their help and support in my real estate work. It is also to thank Comedienne, Abigail Chay, and Ee Chuan, for having helped us unconditionally at our Dennis Wee Toastmasters' Club meetings.

Now I understand why the Taiwanese add little salt, oil and sugar in their food.
The vegetables and fruits are already very tasty. I can only deduce that the soil in Taiwan is very fertile.

The next time when I visit Taiwan again, I will buy tons of peanuts for my relatives and friends to try. I would also lug home some yams so that I can make my steamed yam cake. My yam cake is already very delicious, and with such quality yams from Taiwan, the steamed yam cake will be out of this world!! Anyone wants to try? :-)

Gan Chau

Friday, January 19, 2007

Goal Setting at Dennis Wee Group

Start of the year! What a better way to kick off the first breakfast meeting with goal setting. Almost once a week, a group of agents will meet every Tuesday morning for breakfast and networking meeting in our Dennis Wee Group.

We were asked to bring magazines, and were given glue, scissors and papers, so that we could cut out pictures and paste them to illustrate our goals.

The above is my little artwork. No, I do not need to have a bungalow or a big car. Just a small two room condo is good enough for me. I dislike the idea of hiring maids and am not too much in favour of spending hours cleaning up the home either. Hence, a bedroom with an additioal guest room cum study is just right for me. I do not want possessions to possess me.

I really hope I will be able to find time to learn to play the violin this year. To me, it is such a lovely instrument, and when I hear my niece, Kam Ning, playing so beautifully on her violin, it brings me almost to tears. I know it is not going to be easy for me to play the violin since I have short little fingers that look like little bananas. However, so far, my short fingers have not deterred me from playing "Maiden's Prayer" beautifully on the piano. This piece has many octaves throughout. My friend, Corine, commented that despite her long fingers, I played the piano piece more beautifully than she did. What a gracious encouragement. If I ever get discouraged with my violin lessons, I will think of my beloved papa who played more than twenty instruments, self taught.

I am actually quite contented with having travelled to 38 countries. Being an animal lover, I would like to visit the Safaris in Africa, and hopefully, in future, to find time to volunteer at the Panda Centre in Chengdu.

It would be nice to be rich like Mr. Sim Wong Hoo of Creative Technology, but even if I were not rich like him, it would be comforting enough to give presents and donations in small ways to help bring joy to others.

It would be great if I could have enough to help set up an animal sanctuary. Meanwhile, let me do the little I can help with SPCA.

Perhaps the most difficult of all, would be to live on 371 calories a day until I shed off the extra 20 kilos I had piled up all these years! Perhaps it is easier for me to sell 20 properties than to shed 20 kilos.! One of my colleagues laughed and said I would never be able to achieve this goal. I am one of those who like challenges. When someone said I cannot do something, I will try my utmost to do it!! 371 calories per day is just too little. I cut out the picture because it was the only one I could find in the magazine to illustrate my point. I will go on a sensible diet to lose weight gradually and healthily. Anorexia is not my favourite word in the English Language.

2 - 0 - 0 7!!! Here comes Choo Choo charging on!! May the good Lord charge me up with renewed determination and energy to bring the above goals to pass!

Gan Chau

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Goal Setting

I have never set goals in my life. I am one of those who believe in jumping out of my bed every morning with thanksgiving in my heart and a spring in my step. Papa had always taught us that if anything is worth doing, it is worth doing well. I prefer to make the most of what life has in store for me day by day, week by week and month by month. For example, little did I expect to join Dennis Wee Group as a property agent or to become a Toastmaster. My agent friend, Aveline Tan, invited me to her company's annual dinner and dance. She knew I was a fun loving person and definitely I would be attracted to her equally fun company! I guess it was timely, because CHR Realty gradually closed down. Fortunately for me, I did not have any commission due from CHR Realty or I would also have to bid my hard earned money goodbye like some of my less fortunate colleagues.

At Dennis Wee Group, I worked as best as I could. However, it is important that I not only work hard, but also work smart. It is important to understand my clients' needs so that I can help them in the best possible way. I am grateful to God for blessing my sales as I am one of my company's top agents. Toastmaster's activities have indeed helped me to be more organised and stringent with time management. It has also sharpened my wit and humour. When clients laugh, they are in a better mood to purchase properties! :-)

I had also not planned to visit Kuching, Sarawak, until my eldest sister booked my tickets to visit her!! I had not been to Kuching for quite some time, and many of my friends in Malaysia missed me!

Thinking that my nephew needed his father's paintings urgently, I volunteered to fly over to Taiwan, only to have all plans turned topsy turvy, when he suddenly emailed me not to come as he was very busy!! As usual, I am one of those who don't easily get upset or flustered; since I have already got my tickets, I might as well go to Taiwan and bump around on my own. What an interesting adventure! In all, 2006 was a great year.

Please do not misunderstand me. Goal setting is important. However, it is pointless to make so many resolutions just for the sake of making them. It is more important to always make the most of the daily 24 hours we are given. Do not waste any minute giving in to negative thoughts or wishful thinking. Do not be easily upset or angered. If things don't work out the way we expect them to, take it as an opportunity to reconsider. Somebody says that when God closes one door, He opens another! I am glad that my nephew had changed his plans for me. If not, I would never realise my dream of ever travelling on my very own, and to discover that it is not so difficult after all to read maps and find my way around Taiwan.!

Somebody asked how I managed to do so much in my 53 years. The secret is the extra time I get for not indulging in too much sleep. All these years I have managed to thrive on 4 to 5 hours of deep slumber. I have never suffered from insomnia. I am one of those lucky people who can sleep soundly anywhere and everywhere - in the bus, plane, on the mudfloor in Nepal, or at the beach while camping with my students, etc. The reason is simple.... don't sleep if you can't sleep. Get up and read a book or watch the TV. I prefer to follow my body clockwork, instead of following the clock on the wall. On some days when I am tired, I sleep as early as 9p.m. and on some days I may go to bed at 3.00a.m. Whenever I am in the bus, mrt, or having my hair done or waiting for my dentist, etc. I will definitely take a cat nap.

Perhaps some of you may say that different people need different hours to rejuvenate. It is true. However, I would like to think that perhaps it is more in the mind. Ever since I learnt to read, I discovered that it was more fun to wake up early to read my story books than to dream on the bed! Why sleep and dream? Why not stay awake and make your dream a reality?

Gan Chau

Monday, January 15, 2007

Life Begins at 50!

In today's Straits Times, we read that Dr. Chiang Hai Ding is starting a new job at the age of 68. He is helping to set up the new Centre for Seniors. Dr. Chiang's key interest lies in those aged 50 and older, who are heading towards retirement.

"My gosh!" At 53, I fall under the cateogry of people Dr. Chiang is interested in! So many things had happened of late that I almost forget I am more than half a century years old! I started learning the computer at 50 years old and started blog writing at 52 years. Now I have an active blog with more than 300 articles and a small fan of local and overseas readers! At 52, I joined my company's Dennis Wee Group Toastmasters' Club and it was the first time I heard of toastmasters! Within 5 months I completed 24 prepared speeches and even won our Division U Championship Award for Humorous Speech! Gosh! Life begins at 50!

Perhaps I am a late developer. At the age of 35, I had my first pet dog, when my ACS students rescued 6 puppies from the Mangrove Swamp and brought them back to school for adoption. Now I love animals, especially dogs, and am ahem! quite a walking encyclopaedia on dogs! My dream is to go to Chengdu one day, and be a volunteer at the Panda Centre. How I long to hug a panda cub! My gosh! Life begins at 50!

I enjoy my work as a real estate agent and am one of my company's top agents. The Ministry of Education still called me up to do relief teaching which I had to decline so as to stay focused on my real estate work. Many students have approached me for private English tuition. I have also been asked to help set up and train cooks for an Italian restaurant! Since I am able to speak a number of languages and am a seasoned traveller, I have been offered a job as a tour guide by a travel agency! Now I have more job offers than I can handle! Gosh! Life begins at 50!

All these 50 years I have travelled to 37 countries. Most of these were by organised package tours, or they were visits to my relatives in Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Canada, and USA. Or they were mission trips organised by some churches and hence we were looked after by our missionaries in Nepal, Japan, China and Thailand. I had never travelled on my own. I had often admired people who travel on their own with a shoe string budget. I admire their courage to bump around on their own in a new country.

I never dreamed that at the age of 53 years and 10 days, I would do just that. My nephew in Taichung had requested me not to visit him in Taiwan last December because he was really busy, and he hoped I could visit at some later time. However I had already bought the air tickets and booked three days' hotel stay in Taipei. Hence I told him not to worry, as I would try and travel around on my own. I looked into the internet and found the Happy Family Hostel. On 22nd December 2006, I took the plane, not knowing if Happy Family Hostel really existed in Taipei! Thank God, it did. I had such a great time in Taipei, staying at the Hostel for a week, and meeting tourists from all over the world. I also met the hostel owner's girlfriend, Athena Lien, who is also an accomplished toastmaster. I enjoyed finding my way around Taiwan and sampling different types of food. What great liberty I enjoyed as an independent traveller as I could plan my own itinerary! My gosh! Life begins at 50!

While I was typing on the computer at the Happy Family Hostel, my chair and computer table shook, like the way furniture shook in the film, "Poltergeist"! I thought perhaps the hostel could be haunted. It was only the following day that I realised there was a severe earthquake at the southern part of Taiwan in Pingtung. It was my first experience of earthquake tremors. My gosh! Life begins at 50!

My Indonesian client, Mr. Komala said I am too frugal on myself when he heard of my hostel stay in Taiwan. Why spend so much on hotels when I am hardly in. Finally he understood me when I told him I went to Taiwan with one luggage but came back with four luggages! I could use the money I saved on expensive hotels to buy presents for my family and friends. I had a great time shopping in Taiwan for the things there are really interesting and cheap! The beautiful polka dot pumps I bought cost only S$5 but over here, they are sold at $23.90 per pair! Somehow, despite the excess baggage weight, I still managed to go through with all my four bags. It was such a joy to see the delight of my family and friends when they received their gifts from Taiwan. My gosh! Life begins at 50!

Since time immemorial, I have never been afraid to reveal my age, for I enjoy growing older, as I am always eager to meet my Creator. If Heaven is indeed such a wonderful place, why be afraid to go there? While I have life, let me live life to the fullest until the Creator takes me home. :-)

Gan Chau

An Embarrassing Incident

Many of us have memorable incidents which can never be erased from our minds because of their humorous, poignant or embarrassing threads.

As usual, with my well-fed look, I was put in charge of the high tea which would be served on our Sports Day. The event was to be held in the Stadium of Singapore Polytechnic, a stone's throw away from our school, ACS. I decided that after school, instead of driving, I would force myself to walk to the Polytechnic, to study the layout and availability of chairs and tables. On my way, I met a lovely English lady walking her Great Dane. After patting the handsome Great Dane, I asked her if she was going to the vet at Goodwood Road. She nodded her head. Finding her so amiable, I was emboldened to suggest that she should visit the second veterinary down Goodwood Road, as the first one charged a much higher fee. She suddenly burst out laughing, and said, "I am a vet, working at the first Veterinary."

My face turned beetroot! I wished the earth would open up and swallow me in.
I wonder if the lady veterinarian had gone around telling her friends about this incident ? My second sister chided me for being a kaypo (busybody) and warned that one of these days I would get into hot soup.

The Importance of Being a Little Cook

I wonder if it was my well-fed appearance that often landed me in charge of food for most of my school functions. At the Discovery Camp for our lower secondary school sudents I was put in charge of all meals. On the final day of the Camp, the chef was extremely worried when two of her staff fell sick, and they had to cater food for 600 pax as parents were all invited for a dinner cum concert put up by their sons. The chef requested the teachers for help to cut the fruits and vegetables and to my surprise (euphemism for shock) one of the teachers proudly asserted, "I have never cooked in my whole life.... my maid, mum and fiance cooked for me!"

That was some fifteen years ago. Sadly, things have really not changed much. Some ladies can even proudly declare they do not even know how to cook rice!

In our food paradise, we can always get our meals from coffee shops, food court and restaurants. However, everyone also knows it is not really a good idea to eat out too much as the food, though tasty, usually tend to be too salty, oily or sweet.
I realised how overly oily, salty and sweet our food is when compared to the food served in Taiwan. Though somewhat more bland, yet sufficiently tasty, food served in Taiwan is a healthier choice.

For those readers who can't cook, let me encourage you that cooking is really easy.... much easier than learning a foreign language. The more you practise, the better and faster you get. A simple meal can be whipped up in a matter of minutes.
Despite my busy schedules, I always try to take at least one home-cooked meal.
You can learn from the recipe books or cooking programs on the television. Community Centres also offer affordable cooking lessons. You can be as creative as you want, and you can bless your friends with a cooked dish for some pot-luck parties.

Do not just depend on your maid or your mom to cook for you. I believe everyone can cook if some kind of effort is made. Hence we can understand why some men proudly announce that their wives are great cooks. The old adage still applies, "The way to a man's heart is through his taste buds. :-)

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing......

"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing", you have heard ever so often. Worse, is when the person with the little knowledge chooses to open his mouth! The world soon knows he is blatantly ignorant! My papa always reminded us that it is best we keep our mouth shut if we are unsure of some things. "If you keep quiet, people will wonder and even think you are quite smart; blabber and the world will know how ignorant you are!"

The above phenomenom is particularly irksome to us property agents. How often has a buyer hesitated from closing a property deal of his heart's desire, because some relatives or friends chose to demonstrate their "knowledge". I had told a potential buyer that it would be futile for her to view my advertised unit since she was going to be away for a few days. "No problem, she assured me. I can make my own decision very fast; I don't have a husband to consult". Unfortunately she has 101 friends to consult. The most prominent one being a so-called smart investor friend who had made a killing in the market. "My investor friend said the unit is very expensive at $2.26M." Another buyer bought my client's unit at $2.28M, and today, two months later, units in the project are calling for $2.9M!

If only buyers would realise that property agents are the ones who could really understand and feel the pulse of the market. Yet, they would chose to trust the opinions of their friends, etc. It is always so easy to make comments without having to put money where the mouth is!

Hence, if a friend or a relative were to ask you about a particular property, it is best to advise him to consult a good friend or associates/colleagues who are sesoned property agents.

Gan Chau

Monday, January 08, 2007

For the Love of Dogs - Taiwanese Style

I was surprised to find a proud owner with her dog while shopping in Sogo at Zhongxiao Fuxing. I was even more surprised to find dogs being allowed in the MRT, restaurants, airport, hotels, etc.! Wow! Our dogs would be surely jealous of their Taiwan counterparts! Here, in Singapore, for the name of cleanliness, pets are barred almost everywhere in public except the roads and parks!

At one stall which was selling socks, and some daily necessities, I heard a dog barking. The bark came from a little Chihuahua which was perched on a chair a meter away. The proud owner told me that her dog would always bark to warn her of customers at her stall. What a clever little dog! Amazing that so much intelligence could be found in such a little dog!

The cute and clever Chinhuahua, Ting Ting, who fiercely guards her owner's stall.

At a hotel at Chang Chun Road, I was attracted to a black mother dog with a puppy. With them was also a black dog which I was told by Mr. Lee, was the father of the puppy. He had recently adopted the two dogs and the female dog gave birth to 5 puppies, 4 of which had been given away. He kept only one puppy.

The kind owner, Mr. Lee and the adorable puppy of his adopted strays.

The responsible and meticulous mother dog, Chu Chu.

Mr. Lee stationed himself as a shoe polisher outside the hotel, and created a cosy little corner for the mother dog and puppy at a parking lot just beside the hotel.

The little corner, home to the dogs. Around are all the parked cars.

Mr. Lee's strays stay close to his work area.

I was a little nervous when I saw rows of cars parked with the dogs running around wildly! The streets in Taiwan are very congested and it is fascinating that these dogs are so street wise! They have been crossing all these streets without any injury all these years!

Mr. Lee is very neat and dignified. I asked him how much he charges to polish a pair of man's shoes and to my surprise, he replied , "NT200! Gosh! I had just bought a pair of very nice pumps for NT100/-. In Taiwan, it really depends on where you spend your money. My elder sister was deterred from shopping because she found that most of the things in Taiwan are so expensive ...... of course, she had looked at the price tags in Sogo and huge departmental stores.

I shopped in smaller shops and stalls along MRT lines. I also bought things from the night markets. I bought a leather wallet for only NT390 when it used to cost NT3,500/-!! I guess, it is the convenience that tourists enjoy to leave their shoes with Mr. Lee for polishing while they stay at the hotel. His business seems to be quite brisk, although at times it would be slower.

Mr. Lee keeps the dogs really clean. I respect his committment to his dogs. I bought some canned dog food from nearby Seven 11, and gave him the cans of food.

Even up in the mountain of Wulai, dogs could be seen moving around freely. I guess, in general, the Taiwanese are more tolerant of dogs. I notice that the fur of dogs tend to be thicker, as the weather in Taiwan is so much cooler than in Singapore. For those dogs with less thick furs, they are often dressed up in stylish doggie clothings to keep them warm. Really cute!

I was also quite amused when I realised that Taiwanese like to call their female pets, "Chu Chu". In all, I came across 5 female dogs by this name. One of the staff at the hotel also brought his parrot to the hotel one day. He told me the name of the parrot is Chu Chu!

I dream of the day when dogs in Singapore can move around freely on leash with their owners at the airport, mrt, shopping centres, etc. "Fat hope", said Jerlynn, my blogger friend of

Gan Chau

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Miss! Aren't You Feeling Cold?

Double insulation!! Oh! No! I am not referring to the double insulation that is being put in nearly all houses and buildings in Canada. I am referring to the natural double insulation that God has blessed me with ...... my extra layer of F - A - T !!!

I was blessed with great weather during my ten days in Taiwan. It was mostly bright and sunny with a few cloudy days but no heavy rain!! Only little showers! I sang "Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain" as I walked along the quaint streets with joy in my heart and spring in my steps. I was told by the hostel owner that the week before my arrival saw heavy rainfall for almost a week!

I could go everywhere with just my long pants and T-shirt on. I never had to wear my jacket. As a result, I often received curious and sometimes amused looks from the local people. In the MRT on my way to Dansui, a lady touched me on my left arm and asked me if I felt cold? She was surprised that my arm and my palm were warm. An old man playing the er hu also stopped his playing to ask where I came from when I dropped some cash into his donation box. He asked if I did not feel cold and suggested I am very strong and healthy!

Seriously when I saw the locals clad in so many layers of clothes, I felt very warm. Most Taiwanese wear coats which are as thick as the ones worn by the people in Canada! However, on the positive side, the winter wear in Taiwan is very beautiful and in vogue. It was lovely to see ladies wearing fashionable boots together with elegant jackets! The Taiwanese dress really well!

Now that I am back, I perspire profusely in our hot and humid climate! My new year resolution - you can easily guess it..... to shed off my extra layer of insulation!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Gracious Society

I have not blogged because in the Baguio Hotel where I stayed for the last three days, there is no internet. Here I am back in my own home in lovely Singapore. No matter how interesting and great another country is, home is still always the sweetest place!

When I came back, I told everyone how gentle and gracious Taiwanese are. Most people are surprised, because the television programs on Taiwanese politicians have presented a different picture. These politicians have often appeared to be somewhat aggressive and pugilistic. I was also very surprised myself when I personally saw how lovely and polite the Taiwanese were. We Singaporeans can learn from them..... they excel in service. From the shops to the hotels, from the restaurants to the tour groups...... their service is really excellent. My buddy from the States, Mo Shin who is from Taiwan, was quite pleased with my report. I had also read in an article how the Taiwanese are shifting from being mercenary people to people who are more cultured and spiritual in their pursuit of successful living! This is shown in the way they carry out their daily living.

Rubbish bins are few along the streets and buildings; yet there is hadly any litter. It is so wonderful to know that the people can be so civic minded that they are proud enough to keep their country clean even though there is no fine hanging over their heads! The street hawkers would collect the styro foam and paper plates and cups and recycle them when the rubbish trucks come along.

The hotel staff at Baguio is so wonderful. They go to great lengths to explain to me how to get around the city. I like one particular dish that was served at breakfast, and asked the waitress for the name. She in turn verified with the manager, and gave me the name. Not satisfied, she even went to ask the chef. To my pleasant surprise, the chef even brought out the box containing the stuff with the Chinese characters! To make sure that I bought the right stuff, the waitress wrote on a piece of paper for me! The hotel staff helped me to put all my four bags on a trolley and even pushed them across two roads to the bus stop so that I could catch the airport bus!

It was 6a.m. on 1st January and as I was at the bus stand waiting for the airport bus, a taxi pulled up. To my surprise, the taxi driver said he would drive me to the airport for NT300 since he already had two passengers at the back. I told him I did not have enough Taiwanese currency and asked if I could pay him ten Singapore dollars. To my surprise he acceeded with my request. The two ladies are Taiwanese who are now living in Calcutta! The amiable taxi driver was very chatty. He was obviously enjoying his work. In his taxi there was also a floral display of fresh white lilies which also gave off a fragrant smell. I found out later that the two ladies paid the taxi driver the full fare..... they were the ones requesting the taxi driver to pick me up for an extra small fee to the driver! How generous and gracious. I gave them my name card, telling them to read my blog if they have the time. They speak good English, having been in Calcutta for some years. They were tickled pink when I spoke to them in Tamil and was impressed when I spoke Hindi. What an amusing picture. Here were three Chinese from Singapore and Taiwan, speaking to one another in Tamil! The two ladies and the taxi driver told me that they had heard how multi-lingual Singaporeans are, in general. I told them to contact me in Singapore should they come here for a visit so that I could also extend my hospitality to them.

Yes, I will definitely be back again to Taiwan. This time, I would like to visit Kaoshiung and Hualien. Now that I understand the Taiwanese people more, perhaps I would like to think of their politicians in more euphemistic terms - they are passionate and convicted in their views and beliefs just as the mass of the people are in making their lives more cultured, refined and spiritual.