Tuesday, February 27, 2007

DWG Toastmasters' Club Contests

I could not believe I could win in our Dennis Wee Group Toastmasters' Club contests for both international speech and table topics. I had just returned from an 8 days' vacation in Penang. Though I had plenty of time, I was too lazy to write out my speech by pen as my sibling did not have a computer at home. Hence, I waited till I reached Singapore to write my speech. It was somewhat stressful because I also had work to catch up after being "laid off" for 8 days. After printing out my speech in our company, I read it a number of times and tried to remember the key points.

As for table topics, I realised I had little practice. Most of the times when I visited clubs I was either a prepared speech speaker or an evaluator. Hence I seldom participated in table topics as I felt that everyone in the meeting should participate and be given a chance to do so.

I felt that Shirley Gwee was better in her prepared speech than me and expected her to win the contest. I also felt that Lionel Ng was better than me at the table topic contest. It is really a humbling experience. Now I have to represent my club and compete with other winners at division level on 24th March.

I will fine tune my prepared speech and practise on my own at various table topics at home. So long as I have tried my best for my club, I know I have given my best even if I do not win both contests at divisional level. It is most important that I enjoy myself and keep improving all the time.

Gan Chau

Monday, February 26, 2007

Jelutong Village


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Whenever I am asked by Penangnites where I used to live, I would tell them "Jelutong Village". There was always this momentary look of surprise. I remember how my boss would not even dare to drop me at my village when she gave me rides home. She would stop a few hundred metres away!! You see, Jelutong was notorious for its gangsters.
The above pictures are shots of our house which I recently took when I visited Penang. This is the house where mother gave birth to a bouncy baby girl called Choo Choo. Her arrival into this world was unexpected because she was much younger than all her four siblings. However, Choo Choo's papa considered her arrival his "most blessed mistake". The wooden house stands on about 5,000 sq. ft. of land. Singaporeans would be envious of the spaciousness for they could build a bungalow on 5,000 sq. ft. of land.! Now the house is being rented out, as second brother and family have moved to their own condominium and all of us are now living in different parts of the world.

I love Jelutong Village. Although our home was humble, I guess I was the happiest kid in the village for I had the most wonderful family. Being the youngest, I was pampered by almost every relative and friend. I had never seen my grandparents and often wondered why all my friends had grandparents and I had none. But being sweet-tongued and suave, I also followed suit in addressing all the elderly folks, "Ah Ma and Ah Kong (Grandmother and Grandfather). You can imagine the amount of red packets I received during the Lunar New Year!

Papa gave us lots of freedom to run around. We played rough games like police and robber and hole in the sand where if a player got hit by a ball, he would have his face drawn with black ink with a Chinese brush! Soon there would not be enough room on his face and he would have his arms and legs painted with ink!!!

There were so many coconut trees that we could climb. In our compound alone, we had guava, rambutan and chiku trees. Second Sis was the most agile of all. Sometimes we teased her that she must have been a monkey in her previous life! Since I had short legs, I could not manage to climb very high. I could only manage the lowest rung of the coconut tree and of course when I looked up, what did I see!??

My students loved my stories about Jelutong Village. I often reminded them that they could not play tricks on me, for I knew all the possible tricks of teenagers. I guess I have proven my point because during the ten years of teaching, I was the one who tricked the students on April Fool's Day!!!

In my next article, I will tell you more about some of the interesting and unique characters in my village.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Home Again!

After spending 8 days in my hometown to celebrate the Chinese New Year with my relatives, I am back home in good, old Singapore. I brought my good friend, Amudah, with me to Penang... it was incredible the crowd of people rushing home to Malaysia. We arrived Penang 4 hours behind schedule. Hence, I was relieved when there was no traffic jam when I came back this morning, probably because it is already the 8th day of New Year and it is a Sunday today.

This time, I have my new digital camera... hence I have taken lots of photos and for the next few articles, you can guess, they will be all on Penang. I did not mind at all that I received many calls and sms from clients and agents while I was on holiday in Penang, and a co-broking agent even succeeded in getting my client's apartment rented out. Holidays are always great because they allow us to reflect, re-analyse and re-examine our thoughts and actions and help us to recharge ourselves for greater challenges ahead!

For now, I have to clear my hundred and one mails, clean the apartment, phone up clients, view a property and get ready my international speech rehearsed for a contest tomorrow at our Dennis Wee Group Toastmaster's Club.

At times like this, don't you also wish like me to have 48 hours a day instead of the normal 24!


Gan Chau

Friday, February 16, 2007

Lunar New Year of the Pig

Here is Choo Choo wishing all her beloved friends and fans in Singapore and different parts of the world a Happy and Prosperous New Year. I hope you will enjoy the new year greetings in Hokkien, Mandarin, English, Bahasa Malaysia and French.

Keong Hee Huat Chye!
Gong xi fa cai!
Ang pao jit pao lai!
Hong bao yi bao lai!
Kin ni tua huat chye!
Jin nian ta fa cai!
Tarn lui eng eng lai!
Chuan chien rong yi lai!

Happy and prosperous new year!
An ang pow for me, my dear!
This year, sure to prosper,
Lots of wealth to garner!

Selamat Hari Raya!
Ang pow, sila beri saya!
Tahun ini lebih banyak kaya,
Cari wang dengan teliti, pun tak payah!

Une bien Heureuse Annee!
Ang pow venez venez!
Une annee ou les affaires
Aisement prosperent prosperent!

Gan Chau

When Commuters Vacate Their Seats....

Yesterday, I was in the Mrt on the way to my office. Usually when I am out, I will plan my whole day itinerary, so that I do not have to come back to my apartment as this will save time. Hence, it means I often have to lug with me many things..... books, files, home prepared herbal tea, etc. On the way, I will also pick up some newspapers and this adds on to my load.

It was quite crowded in the MRT. I was standing and holding on to the railing when a gentleman stood up to give me his seat. I thanked him profusely. Suddenly it dawned upon me that of late, quite a number of commuters had actually vacated their seats for me in the bus and MRT. I was smiling as I sent short messages to my friends on my mobile. It read, "When people keep vacating their seats for me in the bus and mrt, it's a sure sign I'm growing old." One of my fellow toastmasters, Yong Ee Chuan replied, "Ha! Ha! It's a privilege of maturity! Ha! Ha!" Another ex-student, Mark Lee wrote, "It's because you're so regal looking and now you have more observation to write about!" Another toastmaster, Div. U2, Area Governor, Barry Tan responded, "Hey Aunty Choo, tat means you're getting wiser!" Yet another friend, Adrien Johns, who is always suave and witty replied, "Remain rooted in the belief that you are young and beautiful, and that these people who give up their seats are trying to woo you and get your attention!" Towards the evening my good friend, lawyer Ching Ching, called me about the completion of sale of my client's apartment and told me she laughed so hard when she received my sms.

What an interesting response! Mm.... maybe the next time, I will attempt to ask the commuters the reasons for their action. For now... let me guess at the possibilities:-

1) I look pathetic, with so many bags and things to lug around.

2) It is somewhat dangerous to do a balancing act, trying to read the New Paper and with so many bags to carry.

3) My gaze at the seated commuters look quite formidable as if I was saying, "Shame on you,
young man/lady..... you should play a part in your country by being kind to an elderly person .

4) I speak with my eyes as if saying, "Hey, you able bodied young fellows....stand up, stand up
for Singapore!"

5) Our government's Courtesy Campaign has been very successful. People are now so much more polite and considerate.

6) I am obviously elderly and in need of tender loving care at 53 years, 2 months and 4 days!!!

When I reached my office, I was beaming and smiling. When I shared with my colleague,
Sally, she laughed, "Choo, the other day I dashed across the road with you when we were trying to beat the traffic lights. I was panting like crazy and I noticed that you did not even pant. You're fitter than me even though you are 14 years older! The commuters should vacate their seats for me, not you!!

Gan Chau :-)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Wishing all my dear readers, friends, associates and relatives a Happy Valentine's Day.

Last night I was at a client's home to prepare the Option to Purchase for an office space. As the cheque is to be exchanged this morning, the option is dated 14th February. "Ah! Valentine's Day! How exciting to close a deal on this romantic day!!" I asked my client, Mr. Goh if he has bought this property as a gift to his lovely and charming wife. Jokingly he replied that she was the one who had bought the gift for him!! Both are in their late fifties and they seem such a loving couple. I remember a pastor once preached that the strongest marriage can be perceived like an isosceles triangle with both husband and wife on the base and with God in the centre of their lives.

Another very busy day today. This evening, I will be presenting my Advanced Project 7 at the Spans-Jom Toast Masters' Club as well as evaluate Barry for his advanced project 6 for Gold.
Barry only called me up last night to request me to be his evaluator as he decided to speak at the club as well. Hence we are celebrating Valentine's Day cum Chinese New Year as well.

Wouldn't it be nice if we were to treat everyday as if it were Valentine's Day? We will demonstrate little actions of concern and love so that we will always keep the flame of love burning in our hearts? The world will be a much beter place to live in, and there will be less quarrels, divorces and seperations to contend with. My friends said that I am too idealistic. I would still like to believe that nothing is impossible with God's blessings.

Wishing everyone a Happy and Blessed Lunar New Year.

Gong Xi Fa Cai,
Hung Bao Yi Bao Lai. :-)

Gan Chau

Monday, February 12, 2007

Walking by Faith and not by Sight

"Walk by Faith and not by Sight" is the motto of the St. Nicholas School for the Blind. My elder sister taught in the school for a few years and until today, I still remember the huge banner with the motto in the school.

I guess, I was able to understand the full impact of what the motto meant just two days ago. When I went to the Hyatt Hotel to see my client, Mr. Komala, I felt great discomfort in my left eye. After the meeting, I decided to remove the contact lens. I have only been wearing contact lens in my left eye as I discover it is the best way for it helps me to see both far and near. If I were to wear lens in both eyes, I would need my reading glass. I use the daily wear contact lens. It is also more economical to wear only on the left eye.

Without my lens, I could only see objects close to me, and even then my vision was quite weak. I could do without my lens because I could hear the announcement in the MRT. It was also interesting that everybody looked good to me for I could not see details like pimples and pock marks. Everybody had such nice complexion!

I also observed that being temporarily "blind" my ears suddenly seemed to be sharper, for I could hear better!! Suddenly I heard someone calling my name. It was an old classmate from the Institute of Education! Eunice said, "Wah! Now! So proud ah! Never even acknowledge me!"I told her I could not see well without my lens and Eunice laughed when I told her about my lens problem.

It was actually quite fun to be temporarily blind. Perhaps it is sometimes wise to be "blind". Blind to the faults and weakness of others and be slow to anger. By being "blind", we learn to "see" the beauty in people and the world. By being "blind", we learn to be less complaining and appreciatve of this lovely world filled with God's wonderful creation. Some of us have eyes and ears yet we neither see nor hear!

Let us all emulate Helen Keller who is so acutely sensitve to the world around her despite being blind and deaf!

Gan Chau

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Low Crime, No Crime?

Not the most ideal of places and time to chit chat on the mobile!

Chelsea, taking a breather after her speedy run in the park. Posted by Picasa

I often take Chelsea to her favourite haunt, a small park near my apartment. Sometimes she would run two or three times a day. Depending on my schedules, her last run is usually between 9.00p.m. and 1.00a.m. Chelsea is very agile and runs like a horse. However, she will run back to me when she hears me clapping. A clever and obedient cocker spaniel.

One night, I took Chelsea to the park. I noticed an attractive lady, walking and talking on her mobile. On the pretext of taking photos of Chelsea, I took a snapshot of her. She was so engrossed in her conversation that she would not have noticed if anyone had stalked her.

Thanks to our efficient police force, Singapore is a relatively safe country to live in. However, the government often reminds us that low crime does not mean no crime! So Singaporeans, especially ladies, be extra vigilant!! Let us all help to make the job of the police force a little easier lah.... can or not?

Gan Chau

Saturday, February 10, 2007


It is amazing how God brings people into our lives. I first met Amudah (pictured above) when she came to work at Rialto which I was operating some six years ago.

Although Amu, as she likes to be called, is illiterate, she proves herself to be an excellent staff. Although initially employed as a dishwasher, she demonstrated creativity and initiative. Amu cannot read, but speaks excellent English. She works as a production staff at an electronics factory in the mornings and after taking a short rest after her factory job, she would proceed to work part time in the evenings. I never cease to be amazed by her great energy. She is a tireless worker, and does her work with pride and diligence.

Gradually I trained Amu to make pizzas, desserts like tiramisu and panacotta, and appetisers like bruschetta and Caesar's Salad. Amu committed everything to memory. She contributed many good ideas on how to save costs and improve the business.

Even at her factory, her bosses were surprised she could not read as she is a top producer. Amu shared with me an amusing incident. They were tested and asked to write their answers but Amu had to do her test orally since she could not write. Her superiors were dumbfounded, refusing to believe that she is really illiterate!!

Amu loves her family members very much and is a good aunt to all her nephews and nieces. She is always encouraging them to study hard so that they will have a bright future. She spoils them by taking them for short holidays and celebrating their birthdays.

Amu always regrets she never studied hard when she was a little girl. While all her siblings were busy doing homework, she would be hiding under the table, playing or sleeping! Despite her lack of education, Amu is loved and respected by all those who know her for she is a lady of principles and compassion.

Although Amu is no longer working with me, we remain the best of friends. I often like to take Amu to experience new things for in the past she had slogged so hard. I had taken her to visit my hometown in Penang, and my relatives immediately took a liking to her. Once eldest brother was given 3 tickets to the Chinese Orchestral concert at the Esplanade. I brought my sister and Amu along. Intially, Amu was worried she might not be able to enjoy the concert as she is not able to understand Mandarin, but I told her not to waste the S$88.00 ticket. Amu was mesmerised by all that she saw ... the grandeur of the concert hall, the awesomeness of the huge gongs and cymbals, etc. Ironically, I was the one who fell asleep and snored right through almost the whole concert!! Amu loves to share this anecdote with her friends!

I always enjoy talking to Amu. She has the same sense of humour and great capacity to forgive others. No wonder we get along so well. She taught me how to speak and sing in Tamil. I am teaching Amu to read. Indeed I have learnt many things from Amu all these years of our friendship. As we both love nature very much, chilling out for us means sitting by the river in Boat Quay or beach at Marina Bay, cracking pumpkin seeds, drinking Chinese tea and chatting till the last MRT train which we are in time to catch. Simple joy ...... great friendship!

Gan Chau

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

To Buy or Not to Buy (2)

I passed by the shop which sold me the two pots of bamboo plants last new year. I saw new pots of plants which are auspicious for the Chinese New Year - bamboo plants twisted or bundled together with red ribbons, etc. I only like the ones that are grown naturally.

Should I buy or should I not buy? Am afraid that my bamboo plants will wither on me like they did last year and that would mean another S$29.90 down the drain. This $29.90 could feed my Nepali orphan for one whole month.

I like pussy willows and always like to feel the velvet-like bulbs on the stalks. However they are quite expensive. One can buy the pussy willows at fifty per cent discount on Chinese New Year eve, but it is always so crowded at China Town that I decide to stay home to watch television programs instead. Hence the next best thing I did (if I could take on the confidence of my readers) is to pick up pussy willows discarded by some neighbours after the Chinese New Year. ! I thought these flowering plants could last at least 5 months to a year; yet why are people discarding them?

Some people say it does not bring a person good luck to pick up pussy willows after the Chinese New Year. For my concerned friends, I would say that the pussy willows have not affected my luck or lack of it. Someone said that a superstitious person is bound by his superstition. Since I am not, I am free of it. Mom used to believe that we could not sweep our floors on the first day of Chinese New Year. However, with the huge number of visitors, mom could not stand the messiness that at the end of the day, she had to sweep the floors anyway. Her children still all grew up healthy and successful! I would prefer to believe that all blessings come from the Creator above.

I remember when mom was still alive, she would make cherry blossoms and my sisters would help her. They gathered the stalks of guava trees and placed lumps of styro foams onto the stalks and later painted them randomly with cheerful splashes of pink. My artistic sisters would help mom to do some floral arrangment with some fresh flowers as well so that the end result was lovely and natural. One need not be rich to make the home look more cosy and artistic.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Green or Blue Fingers

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In mid July of last year, my clients, Mr. & Mrs. Ong decided not to bring their plants to their new condominium but decided to give them away to friends and associates.

They also gave me some potted plants as well as those grown in coconut husks. I told them I was worried the plants would wither just like the way my bamboo plants had withered for I really do not have green fingers.

"No such thing as green or blue fingers!" retorted Mr. Ong. "All you have to do is to take care of the plants, put water and fertiliser, ensuring they have enough sunlight, etc. If you can, talk to the plants and they will grow very well."

Frankly, I would prefer to talk to Chelsea, my cocker spaniel. I placed the plants outside my main entrance to the apartment. It is almost seven and a half months since the plants were given to me by my clients. I think I have improved a little. At least my plants are still blooming green and have not withered. I love greenery and gardens. I always dream of having a small house with a spacious garden where I can grow roses, carnations, birds of paradise, orchids, etc. For now, I am content with having a few potted plants in my apartment.

Gan Chau

The Bamboo Plant

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We are now approaching the Chinese Lunar New Year. It brings to mind my first bamboo plant which I bought last year. I was attracted to the two little pandas on the rock. I have always loved pandas and I think the arragement of the bamboo plant looks just great.

I bought two sets, and gave my best friend, Amu one set. To my horror, my bamboo plants withered within one week!! Probably I had placed them on the console in the living room, away from the sunlight. In contrast, Amu's bamboo plants thrived so well. Amu always has green fingers. She has a whole garden of green and flowering plants outside her HDB flat.

I decided not to throw away the lovely rectangular pot with the two pandas and decided to display the bamboo plants. However, I think it looks artistic even in its withered form. Don't you agree?

Gan Chau

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Pain of Growing Up

A very exhausted student in deep slumber in the bus.

I caught bus 174 at Farrer just after I had shown my client's condominium.
The bus was quite crowded and I was relieved to find a seat next to a lady. I also could not help noticing a young Indian girl in school uniform slumbering away in the bus as it made its way along Holland Road towards Orchard Road.

Throughout the journey the young student did not stir even for a second. Poor girl! She must be utterly exhausted.

My heart goes out to today's students. Today, life is so different for youngsters.
Parents who are scared to lose out to other parents make sure that their children take up music lessons, tuition in not one but three subjects, taekwando, dancing classes, etc. I think these extra lessons are alright if the children enjoy them or even excel in them. However, it is no laughing matter if they have all these shoved down their throats. Childhood and adolescence should be periods of fun, play, learning and discovering. Let the youngsters find out things for themselves instead of making them learn things by rote. This is why for my English lessons, I tried to make them fun and interesting for the students. I encouraged my students to read, analyse and contemplate for themsleves by giving them projects and creative writing.

This is such a far cry from the time when I was in my teens. Papa never forced us to learn what we did not fancy. Even though he was a self taught musician, he did what he could to give us music education, but he never compelled us to excel in music. Papa recognised my interest in books and writing, and he encouraged me by buying me story books, and participating in essay competitions, etc. Papa knew that the one who could carve a music career would be my eldest brother, Kee Yong, and he encouraged him to excel. Papa was happy enough, that as a family, we could make music together when my siblings and I played the piano, violin, cello, clarinet, guitar and saxophone when we gave "little concerts" at our home in Penang. Neighbours would sometimes come over to listen to our performance.

I feel so sorry when I see young children lugging huge and heavy bags to school. Due to the heavy schedules that many of these children have, many have little time to read. This is made worse with the advent of computers. However, I am glad to note that some children manage to learn a lot from websites. They can get a lot of information from the internet.

I hope that all parents will let their children grow up naturally. Do not rush the kids to mature beyond their years so that they will enjoy and discover new things for themsleves. The pain of growing up is great; let us help to alleviate the pain by our understanding and acceptance, Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

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Front row seated are from left to right: William Tan, Vanessa Yong, and Ee Chuan
Standing: Aveline Tan (my manager), me, Mr. Gea Ban Peng, Ms. Abigail Chay

It is interesting how God brings people into our life. We begin each year by not knowing whom we will meet. I am glad that in my Toastmasters' activites I have met great people who are worth emulating.

My father had always taught us that we are not to take people or God for granted.
He always reminded us to show appreciation for what others had done for us.

Hence, I wanted to give a small group of friends a dinner treat. However, it was not easy to get everyone together as some had to go overseas on business and holiday trips. Finally, a date was set on Monday, 28th November. I decided that it would be easier to have a buffet at Penang Place.

The food at Penang Place is excellent. The chef and cooks are from Penang, and even the owner, Paul Ooi also hails from Penang. My Singaporean friends enjoy the food. Ee Chuan was surprised by the excellent spread and wants to bring his parents to the buffet in the near future. The price is also reasonable at $19.90++ per head. Vanessa intends to organise a lunch or dinner for the exco committee of our company's toastmaster club to meet.

Abigail, the TV comedienne also enjoyed the food and wants to tell her friends in the entertainment circle about Penang Place.

Mr. Gea Ban Peng is as usual the life wire of the party. He is a Distinguished Toastmaster and is a veteran in toastmasters' activities in Singapore. He has won many championship awards for prepared and table topics. It is always interesting to listen to him.

Try the food at Penang Place. It is worth the journey up to Jurong East at the International Business Park. The restaurant ambience is lovely with a pond and garden view and the service is excellent.

Great Salesmanship !!

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The patient salesman at Merdeka, Lawrence, (on the left) with his colleague.

I decided to take a photo of the salesman, Lawrence, at Merdeka Electronics in Sim Lim Square partly to test out the digital camera and also to partly write about him in my blog.

He has tremendeous patience teaching me how to operate the camera. He does not capitalise on my ignorance and knows that in order to alleviate my fear and mistrust, he must arm me with knowledge. Hence he patiently explained the various functions and even showed me the promotional prices offered by the manufacturer.

Lawrence told me that it was fortunate I visited his shop on a week day. If it had been a weekend, he might not have so much time to explain as the shops on weekends are usually quite crowded.

I commented him on his good salesmanship. Patience and intergrity are very crucial in the art of selling whether one is selling ice-cream, sushi, cameras or properties.

Gan Chau

I Was Stomped!!!

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This Urban Jungle
Posted on 29 Jan, 2007
"Red Man. Green Man. Which one's correct?"

Kam Choo Choo, 53, who works at Park Mall, noticed on 29 Jan that the new traffic lights, installed due to the relocation of a bus stop nearby, does not synchronize with another traffic light across the road.

In her email to STOMP, she wrote, "One of my colleagues nearly got run down by a car when she crossed the road. She didn't see the red man flashing at the other end!"

She hopes to alert everyone of the problem and urges the authorities to rectify the problem quickly so that the traffic man will light simultaneously green or red. This is to prevent a fatal accident from taking place.
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Now, before my readers' imagination goes wild, let me explain what is "stomped" in the title. Stomp is the online newspaper created by Straits Times so that more readers can contribute photos, ideas, opinions, etc. through the computer. With the advent of the computer age, the authorities were wise to come up with this means of communication so as to encourage Singaporeans to air their views, share their discoveries, etc.

I have been wanting to buy a digital camera but was afraid it would be too difficult for me to learn how to operate it. I hate to buy anything that would eventually become a white elephant. Jerlynn, my friend, lent me her digital camera when I was making a trip to Taiwan. To my surprise, I managed to use the camera and even "accidentally" took some videos! When Jerlynn showed me the video, I wanted to laugh when I saw myself shaking and dancing with the aborigines at Wulai!!

Hence, I finally decided to buy a digital camera. As I am now serving some clients from overseas, it would be a good idea for me to snap photos of properties and email to them. It is also essential for us to email photos to our company so as to advertise them for our own agents to cobroke. The salesman, Lawrence at Sim Lim Square, was very patient as he taught me how to use the camera. I also called Vanessa Yong, my colleague, to check, and Vanessa advised me to wait a little later to buy the camera. She told me to shop around but my instinct told me that the model, Casio EX-Z700 is quite a good model and is reasonably priced. I knew that if I left the shop without buying, it might take me a few more months to come back!

I told my university buddies that now that I have a digital camera, I will be a self-appointed reporter. I would always carry my camera in my bag and shoot interesting and unusual things or happenings and write about them in my blog. The first one was on the traffic lights near my office. I snapped the photo and sent it to Stomp and it was published in the "Urban Jungle" section of Stomp.

I would advise all my readers in Singapore to be alert when crossing the roads. One tourist was obviously confused by the lights, and he wanted to cross the road, only to be pulled back in time by some pedestrians!

Gan Chau