Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Are You A Good Cook? Ask My Dogs!

Once my chef in Rialto came up with a new dish for the staff meal. "Nice?" he asked.

"Good. But let me take back some and let Kamlette try. If she likes it, 100 marks for you", I smiled.

You see, Kamlette, my mixed Golden Retriever, is quite a connoiseur of food! Her acute sense of taste and smell is excellent. Dogs always have great sensitivity in taste and smell. I am sure my readers will endorse that, but Kamlette is very special. Of course, I try to restrict her to her healthy, appropriate, doggy food but once in a while, I would give her little treats. I began to realise she was picky. She would only eat the tasty ones. She had turned down food that was tasteless and "not up to her standard, doggy style." Kamlette loved durians, but not those of inferior quality. She once spat out a piece of not so ripe durian!
"Won't she get heaty and have sore throat?" my friends asked. "After the durian, I give her some honey water to drink to balance the heat effect of durians", I replied to the amusement of my friends.

My rough collie, Kambobo, was another connoiseur. However, unlike Kamlette, he was a British snob .....he would curl his nose and twist his jaws when you let him smell some durians. His favourite was Sobe Soya Milk. Once I gave him another brand of soya milk, and he refused to drink! Just to test him, I put two bowls of different soya milk.....he licked dry the bowl of Sobe Soya Milk! I wrote to the Manufacturer and asked if Sobe Soya Milk would like to use Bobo for their advdertisement! Would surely sell like hot milk!!!

When I was living around Killiney Road, I became very fond of the stray dog adopted by Mr. Chiam of Mitre Hotel. His name was Orbit. Every now and then, I would give Orbit some food from the restaurant....his favourite being lamb shank bones, etc.
However, Orbit was very shy, perhaps overly cautious as would be the normal approach of most strays in their instinct for survival. However, he would respond when I called out to him, but I must move away from the food before he would eat them. Once my staff, Amu and I gave him some food staff food cooked by the chef. To our shock and amusement, Orbit sniffed at the food. He did not eat the food, and instead lifted his hind leg and urinated on the food!! That day, the chef must have been in his less than good mood. There was a lot of left over because the food was not tasty. Without a shadow of a doubt, Orbit had confirmed the standard of the cooking!

Ah! Dogs! If only we could use them as food tasters and not only drug detectors! Would Dr. Tay or some Food Writers from the Straits Times and New Paper bring my dogs along for their food tasting? :-)

Bon Appetit!!

Gan Chau

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Once Upon a Time ......

A reader wrote to me and commented that it was easy for me to write about being a maid because I was born with a silver spoon! I beg to differ.

If the reader has read my earlier blogs, she would probably know that I come from a poor family. However, being the youngest and having siblings who dote on me, I was still unable to cook rice till I left school.! It was only in Canada that I picked up domestic skills like baby sitting, cleaning, housekeeping, etc.

It was my boss' father, the late Mr. Lim Cheng Ean, who encouraged me to pursue tertiary education overseas, and who gave me a bursary. Not wanting to be a burden to my siblings, I decided to be independent and earn some income to supplement my studies. In fact, I worked part time as a cleaner in a company with the beautiful and most appropriate name of Cinderella Maid.! However, I did not lose any glass slipper, and neither have I found my Prince Charming thus far. Hence, I am now an old maid, but a happy and contented old maid!

I enjoyed my work and whatever that I did not know, I learnt very quickly so much so that my Canadian boss, Mrs. Palmer, doted on me. Now I can still recall some of the interesting experiences as a Cinderella Maid.

Once I was sent to clean the house of four bachelors! Gosh! It was really filthy. The ash trays were filled with layers of ash until they no longer looked like ash trays. I loved challenges and sprang to my feet. After 8 hours of cleaning, the house began to look more like a home. When the gentlemen returned home, they were so pleased that they requested me to clean their home again, this time on a more regular, monthly basis.

On another occasion, I was asked to help to clean the home of a bride-to-be. It was already 2.30p.m. when I arrived. The bride's mother was very angry as my colleague had let them down by not turning up. I reminded them to smile for it was not my fault. I was requested by my boss to help them out. I obliged even though I had a test for my French Paper the following morning. Towards evening, the mother was so happy with the result that she gave me Can$80/- as tips. It was the biggest tip I had ever received. She even invited me to attend her daughter's wedding. I gave the bride and groom a set of Chinese wok together with some chopsticks as a wedding present.

While most of my cleaning assignments were on an ad hoc basis, sometimes, I would be given a regular permanent place to work on. One of them was to clean a church once a week. I had the keys and could go anytime I liked. Hence, I would usually make my way very early in the morning, so that I could be back for my lectures in the afternoon. Once, I was in the sanctuary, and realised that there were many wreaths to be thrown away. There was a church funeral the day before. I must confess it felt kind of eerie after a while, and I remembered leaving the place earlier than usual.

I had mentioned in my earlier blog about my regular baby sitting for the Suvan family. The Suvans lived in a huge mansion. At that time, I was really brave. Now that I reflect on it, it is actually quite eerie to be all alone with a baby in a huge house. My imagination got the worse of me, especially after watching some horror films that usually have very big homes as their setting. Perhaps it is this very reason why I prefer to live in a small apartment where I do not feel so isolated, and where it is easy for me to clean up the place.

Ah! The joy of being a Cinderella maid. The greater joy of being an old maid! :-)

Gan Chau

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Maid versus Contruction Worker

If I have to choose to be either a maid or a construction worker, I would defintely prefer to be a maid.

At least I know I will have a room to my own. Even though it may be a tiny room, with just a bed and some storage space for my clothes, at least I know I would not have to squeeze with 19 others in a room, or fight with 59 others for the use of the only toilet in my living quarters.

I will also be able to enjoy the lovely home of my boss. Though it may appear quite tiring and even formidable to clean up such a huge bungalow, I can enjoy the beauty and cleanliness of the building. This is much better than working under the hot blazing sun or in the pelting rain at the construction site. Though we may still have to be alert with home safety measures, the danger lurking at construction sites is even greater.

For many bosses who are professionals, they would end up with only having to look after the welfare of one maid. This is much better than many companies who have to look after the welfare of hundreds of workers. Hence, my boss would be more likely to treat me better, and if I were a good and faithful maid, the family would soon treat me like their own members.

Food costs have gone up quite a lot recently. Hence, with the meagre salary, a construction worker would have very little left after deducting his food costs. As a maid, I am entitled to all meals in the home and it means I can save most, if not all of the $300/- monthly salary paid to me.

I know I would at least have Sunday mornings off to attend church. Most of the construction workers have Sundays off but they are not paid when they do not work. Some fair bosses give their maids one day off a week; others may just give once every month or fortnight.

In all, as a maid, I will be in a better position than a construction worker to save more. I will also try and make use of my off days to learn something useful... improve my English, learn how to sew and dabble with arts and crafts, etc. I will be defintely thankful to the Creator, that I was born a female. Even if I were born a male, there is still hope. I would try to become a valet or a butler. :-)

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Importance of Being a Good Boss

It was only after helping out in the Tamil Ministry of my church that I realised many things. Yes, I have vaguely heard about things but for the first time, I saw with my own eyes, the deplorable living and working conditions of many of our foreign workers. The impact hit me hard and made me think.

Every now and then, we hear of pay rise for our civil servants and white collar job workers in general. The reasons given are our improved economic conditions, etc. If that is the case why are our cleaners, I mean, born and bred Singapore cleaners' pay still as low as ever. I found out from a friend that she earns $500 a month for 8 hours of cleaning. Once her employer even cheated her of one month pay when he suddenly disappeared. When she does not feel so well, she works part time. She is paid $3.00 an hour. For 4 hours, she is paid $12.00 and after deducting MRT fares, she is left with $10.80!

I learnt from the Indian workers that some of them are paid $12 to $15 a day. The more fortunate ones get $18 to $20 a day. They don't get paid if they don't work which means that they don't get paid on Sundays, supposedly to be public and off days for the mass of working people. One of the workers shared with me that should it rain, their pay would also be reduced and pro rated. Gosh! How could employers be so mean and cruel? Their workers wake up early in the morning to get ready for work, perhaps spending time to travel to their work place. Their fate and luck have to be dependent on the weather!!!

Yes, it seems very nice to hear that employers provide living quarters for their workers. However, for many, it means putting 20 workers in a room and 60 workers in a three room unit. Everyday, the staff have to queue up to use the toilets and bathrooms. The living quarters are usually filthy and infested with insects and rodents.

When I saw the living quarters of the workers, somehow I was suddenly reminded of the Industrial Revolution in England and Europe that I read about during my history
lessons in Secondary One 4 decades ago!! It looks like history always repeats itself and is certainly repeating itself in beautiful, great, and wonderful island of Singapore. Yes, it is doubtless that the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi workers are earning much more than they ever could in their own countries, but does that mean nothing much could be done to improve their plight? While we bask in the glorious sun shine of improved wealth and higher standard of living, why are our foreign workers subjected to such great disparity of wages, living and working conditions?

Now, I understand why our Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepali and Pakistani workers always hang out around Little India every Sunday as they find comfort and joy in each other's company. No big meal to celebrate with, but simple joy in each other's comradeship. Very often, I see them sitting around, sharing some soft drinks, peanuts and sometimes beer, when they get their pay. Sometimes they share some jokes and laugh. Never mind their deplorable living conditions. Never mind the low wages which they would still have to send back to their loved ones in their homelands. Never mind the dangers at work. Never mind that in December when it rains almost everyday, their already low wages would be greatly reduced. They seem happy, at least happier than many of us well paid, spoilt, dissatisfied and forever complaining Singaporeans.

I once worked as a secretary in a legal firm in Penang. The late Mr. Lim Cheng Ean said to his son, Kean Siew, "A good worker's pay is worth 10 lousy workers' pay. If your secretary is excellent, pay her double so that she won't be poached by other companies. Son, always remember to pay and treat your workers well, and you will be richly blessed by God." I remember these words so vividly because I wrote them down in my "Little Book of Life" 34 years ago.

Gan Chau

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Importance of Being Gay!

I came to Singapore in 1970 to do a one year Private Secretarial Course at Stamford College. I remember, one evening, my brother's good friend, Mr. Yeoh, came to fetch us for dinner and later we went to Bugis Street for a drink.

At that time, there were rows of shop houses which have now been replaced by a tall building where we can find Seiyu Departmental Store. I remember the place was very crowded with many tourists. While sipping my coca cola, I became bored as we had been sitting there for quite some time. I realised people were just looking and staring. I asked my brother's friend what was so interesting about Bugis Street. He then whispered to me, "See those ladies. They are men!"

"Really, I opened my eyes in surprise! Are you sure? I thought they are women!"
I was really ignorant and naive then as I had just left my village in Penang to come to a big city like Singapore to study.

I began to look around me with new interest. "Is that one also an Ah Qua (transvesite) ?" I whispered into Mr. Yeoh's ears.

"You silly girl....that one is a real lady lah. Aiyo! You must look out for their adam apples lah!"

In 1983, I came to Singapore again, this time shortly after my graduation in Canada. I ended up teaching in Singapore. I remembered Bugis Street. When I went there, I was surprised to find the transformation. Now tall buildings loom everywhere with lots of eateries. Now, we even have a new MRT station. People are now more stylishly attired and the branded goods department seem to have many interested customers. Bugis Street is no longer well known for the Ah Quas (transvesites). I understand that now all the Ah Quas (transvesites) are scattered all over the island in Changi, Rowell Road, Jalan Besar, etc.

Alas! Despite all the progress, prosperity and improvement, the people on this little dot are no longer gay! The researchers have established that Singaporeans are one of the unhappiest people in South East Asia.

Come on people! Let us remind ourselves that as we progress and live longer on earth, let us look on the bright side of things. We only have one life. Let us always be positive and find joy in simple things. Let us be grateful that we are able to breathe another day. Let us enjoy the sights around us - the lovely trees, the orchids, the wild flowers and birds and above all, let us be thankful to the creator for His blessings of protection from earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. It is important to be simple and gay for then we will enjoy good health, because laughter massages our internal organs and lift our spirit.

No matter how successful and prosperous we are, we must always remember to be joyful and gay.

Ah! The importance of being gay!

Gan Chau

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Let Us Be Gay!

Recently I received some emails from friends to sign the petition to keep Penal code 377A before Parliament debate.

I am afraid I do not understand the law enough or understand gays well enough to take a stand. Whatever I know or understand about gays are from the little experiences and observation that I have made.

Perhaps my very first exposure to a man who was more like a woman was the singer in papa's band. Han Long made no bones about his preference for men. Most of the lady folks in our village in Penang would declare, "Don't go near Han Long.....he only likes men". I was very young then, about 8 years old, and could not understand why Han Long would sway his hips and talk with active hand gestures. His shirts always had floral and colorful prints. Despite his quirkiness, everyone in the village liked Han Long, for he could sing very well and was a natural joker. Somehow, our famous Singaporean Kumar reminds me of Han Long.

When I was teaching in one of the prominent schools, I was somewhat taken aback by a student's article when he wrote that he enjoyed stealthily wearing his sisters' clothings when they were not around. He even applied lipstick and eye shadow, and revelled in being "a woman" just for a few hours. This student was one of the top boys in his class as well as the whole school. His scores were almost perfect. He later confessed that he liked one of the boys in his class, and was jealous because he had a girlfriend. But he admired him, his masculinity, etc. The students teased him for being sissy. Some of us teachers counselled him. Today, he is a successful doctor, and is happily married with two children. Perhaps it was a passing fancy or behaviour that came about because he was lonely, and the only son amongst 6 siblings.?

Of course, there are special people like the well known Sy Rogers, who was greatly transformed by the power of God. Perhaps we could say that God allowed him to go through his experiences in order that he could help others. Sy Rogers has set up a special ministry to help gays which is called, "Choices". For some, the breakthrough could only come with the help and power of God. But of course, it began with a choice. A choice to change and a burning desire to be transformed.

I must confess I am ignorant about Penal Code 377A. Although I have lived on earth for 53 years, ten months and eleven days I am not aware that such a code exists! People who steal or murder should be punished because from young, we had been taught the ten commandements. If Penal Code 377 should be in force, then the onus should be on the schools and government bodies to instil this moral sense of sexual purity amongst the citizens. Yet, all this while, things have been hushed, hushed. And suddenly this issue became the talk of the town. And we have people barking everywhere....some for and against. I have nothing against gay people. In fact, I feel sorry for them for they are actually (with the exception of a few black sheep) one of the kindest people on earth. The gays that I have met have been compassionate, helpful, harmless and like the rest of the people in Singapore, they carry out their work for the benefit of the country, eg. the RI teacher who taught excellently and was well loved and respected by his students. I read that Michelengelo was rumoured to be a gay. I also read that this great artist had received vision and inspiration from God.

It is amazing that we homo sapiens like to judge others. Who does not want to be "normal". Which man or woman does not want to be happily married with children and be accepted by society.? Unless a gay commits a crime, then he should be punished by the law. When we are open, some people with homosexual tendencies would be more encouraged to come out of their closets, and to declare, "I am a gay; I need help; I want to be straight".

Frankly, I would prefer gays to men who are "normal" but who stare at women from head to toe, imagining what they would look like without their clothes!!! Yet, these men could get off scot free with lust burning in their hearts and minds!

Ah! The irony of Life! Let us all be gay....I mean, happy! Life is too short. Let us enjoy the people we meet and learn from one another. Let us make the most of what life has to offer, and count our blessings and name them one by one!

Gan Chau

Monday, October 22, 2007

When Bosses Give, They Receive!

Recently I rented out a penthouse to a lady who owns a group of companies. She had to move out of her current office as the owner had rented out the whole two and a half storey conservation shophouse for use as as restaurant. When I went to pass her some documents, I was surprised at the lovely renovation that she had put in even though the lease was only for 2 years. She shared with me that she had pumped in about $50K for the renovation! "Staff comfort and benefits are very crucial to me. I always believe that when staff are happy and well provided for, they will give of their best to the company!" The lady, Cassidy, has obtained approval to use the penthouse as a home cum office. My client's unit is already quite good, but it is still not good enough for Cassidy. She is putting in about $35k for the renovation. Hence she has asked for a three year lease.

Compare Cassidy with many of the bosses out there with a different mindset. Some of these bosses own construction, cleaning and shipping companies. I recently went to check on the sleeping arrangements of one of our church members, an Indian national working with a cleaning company. Some 20 people are being accommodated in one room! About 60 people are living in a unit with 3 bedrooms. Everyday, the staff have to queue up to cook and to use the washrooms, etc.

Bosses think they save money when they save on rentals. Do they not realise that if their workers sleep well and live in more decent conditions, they will be able to be more productive? Have we not seen how rats when put together in a cage can go crazy and tear each other apart? I beg your pardon....but these are two legged homo sapiens. When homo sapiens lose their sanity, it can be even more frightening.

Once I was very annoyed with a man who asked me if my client's three storey apartments could be used as workers' quarters. "How many workers are you looking at?" I asked. "200 workers?" "Sir, if I were you, I would not do that. It is cruel of you to do so....please don't just think of your profits....think of your workers' welfare and sanity and you will be richly blessed." "You help me lah....I give you commission".

"The rent is $8,000/-. As a tenant, you do not have to pay me commission. Please save your commission and use it to get better living quarters for your staff!" I said and hung up.

"Those who give, always end up receiving more". Unfortunately, it is only a beautiful and incredible phrase for some bosses.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Compulsory Babysitting in Singapore

I feel very sad whenever I read of how some children perished in fires or fell from their apartments in Malaysia and Singapore. We heard of how mothers would just leave their children for just a few minutes to go to the grocery store to pick up a few things. Yet, unfortunately, those few minutes could end up in disaster.

When I was studying in Canada, I was surprised by the constant requests by families for babysitters. It was then that I learnt that the Canadian law does not permit parents to leave their children, aged 12 and below, to remain alone at home. At that time, (in the 1980's) I was paid one Canadian dollar an hour. I would usually be required to babysit for about 4 to 5 hours.

Being the youngest in the family, I never had the chance to care for someone younger than me. Hence, babysitting provided me with all the opportunities to love the children under my charge. I was always very careful and responsible in my work. Though I was allowed to study and read while the children were asleep, I was always alert and checked on the children now and then.

Perhaps it is time that the laws in Singapore and Malaysia are changed, to help parents to be more alert. We should be like our Canadian counterparts, making it compulsory for parents not to leave their children aged 12 and below to be unattended. Neighbours can also help one another...if a mother has to go out for just a few minutes, she can request the neighbour to keep an eye on her children. Or she could bring the children over to the neighbour's house for a while. If they have to be away for a few hours they could arrange with a babysitter. If the mother cannot find help, it is more advsible to take the children along with her. It is better to be inconvenienced than to regret later.

Gan Chau

Saturday, October 20, 2007

My Furry Visitors



My neighbour's cute dogs, Bobby, the Shi Tzu and Kenneth, the Bishon

Since Chelsea is now staying with me temporarily, Irin, my neighbour is very understanding. We have both managed to fight for Bobby to remain with her. The HDB officer was somewhat astounded by my vehemence in arguing the case for Bobby. I told him that dogs cannot speak and hence need dog lovers to be their mouthpiece. After all, Bobby's happiness is greatly at stake. It is amazing. It is as if he and Irin are destined to be together. Bobby takes to Irin naturally. He knows I am only his sitter when his mistress goes to work at night.

Yet, dogs are always grateful creatures. Even though Bobby has now gone back to Irin, he still remembers me. Every time Irin takes him and Kenneth for a walk, he would run to my door to see whether I am in! Of course, Kenneth would follow suit. Each time I see Bobby I want to laugh for he has the cutest face....he looks "gong gong" (somewhat innocently stupid) and it is this innocence that charms dog lovers around him. Bobby is a mix - a Shi Tzu and a Pekingnese....his face has some resemblance to a Pekingnese while his body is defintely that of a Shi Tzu. However, he is slightly taller and longer than most Shi Tzus.

Dogs give so much joy and dog lovers are one of the happiest people on earth. I know I am.

Gan Chau
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Friday, October 19, 2007

Another Bosom Friend


Loh Soh Wah, my bosom friend

The first time I met Loh Soh Wah was when she and her husband, Phoon Yew Tien, took my eldest brother, Kee Yong, out for dinner. Brother had just come back from Canada, and his good friend, who is also a well known musician, showered him with his hospitality. I did not say much to Soh Wah the first time I met her. It usually takes me a while to warm up. Interestingly, she is now one of my bosom friends!

I admire Soh Wah for her capability. She is always so efficient and energetic. Apart from coping with the demands of her work in the bank, she also has to see to the family as well as help her husband by way of moral support. She finds time to sometimes travel with him overseas for one of his concerts. Even in Singapore, she would still be able to find time to entertain his friends. She is full of zest and loves life!

A devoted mother, Soh Wah spends her weekends ferrying her two sons for meetings and tuition. She is not your typical "kiasu" mum for she lets her boys enjoy what they delight in. She encourages them in their musical endeavours and to develop their EQ, not just IQ alone. The result? She ends up with two charming children who are well brought up. Even my little niece, Zen, took to Soh Wah's younger son immediately, for she described him as "gentle and kind".

It is amazing how the demands of time can bring out the best in a person. Despite her tight schedules, Soh Wah still manages to find time to help others. She has been helpful to my relatives especially when they are in Singapore for violin or art exhibitions. Soh Wah always tries to arrange with the Press for interviews.

As you can see from the photo above, Soh Wah is well groomed. Recently she took me out for lunch at Peach Garden Restaurant and I told her I would like to introduce her to my readers.

Friends are precious and they are God's gifts to let us treasure these gems.

Gan Chau
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Boring Copycats!

Since young, I have been wondering why there seems to be rows of the same types of shops or businesses in the same vicinity.

In Penang, my hometown, for example, rows of shops trading in dried goods would be set up around a market. I notice that in Singapore, the same thing still happens today. At Tekka Market, there would be two chicken rice stalls side by side or two prawn noodles stalls next to each other.

Along Short Street, there are two shops offering bean curd drinks and an assortment of other delicacies eg. fried you tiao, crystal dumplings, etc. The corner stall is usually more packed than the neighbouring unit. Once, some of my colleagues and I wanted to have some bean curd drinks after our toastmasters' meeting. I thought it would be sheer common sense to patronise the shop with lesser people so that we could be served immediately and enjoy the empty chairs and tables. I wonder why patrons bother to queue, and I would not be surprised at all if some join the queue because a long queue must mean that the food is good!! Copy cats! I had tried the bean curd drinks from the two stalls, and they taste about the same!

Of course, it makes life easier for patrons when they are spoilt for choice along the same stretch of roads. How would people feel when they see their neighbours doing a roaring business while their own has so few patrons? Wouldn't it be more interesting and creative to sell something different so that patrons will have more variety.?

Once I was marketing a client's small shop space in Balestier. I received about 20 calls and by then I was so exasperated that before the caller could ask, I asked if he was wanting the unit for a bubble tea business. "How do you know?", the caller would ask, surprised. "Yours is the 21st enquiry!" I told the callers the unit was not suitable for them as it was on the third floor. Just because someone had set up a successful bubble tea business, everyone wanted to jump in the bandwagon! Of course, the bubble burst as quickly as it had been blown.

I guess the worst and most boring copycats must be the con men on the internet. They all had almost the same story....and worst, they all had the same lofty titles of Sir, Dr. or with credentials of PH.D, LLB, etc. I wonder if their PH.D. stands for Permanent Head Damage and their LLB stands for Lousy, Lying Bastard.! Despite having such lofty titles and credentials, their letters are full of grammatical errors! Also, if someone is so highly educated, shouldn't that someone be helping the less fortunate, instead of trying to earn an easy life by conning others? How true when some wise men say, "A penny conned is a penny cursed."

I wish there are less copycats in this world. Let us try to be more like original dogs and be more interesting and creative. :-)

Gan Chau

For the Love of the English Tongue!

My colleague, Vanessa Yong, sent me this email which I feel is too interesting not to share. I guess lunatics like me love the English Lanauge. The perplexity and complexity of the language can drive a sane person insane; yet it is this insanity that makes the language so unique and beautiful.

Can you read these right the first time?

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row .

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

PS. - Why doesn't "Buick" rhyme with "quick"

You lovers of the English language might enjoy this:

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is "UP."

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?

We call UP our friends. And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, we warm UP the leftovers and clean UPthe kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car . At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special.

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP. We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP ! To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP , you may wind UP with a hundred or more. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP.

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.

When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry UP .

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP , for now my time is UP, so... time to shut UP...! more thing:

What is the first thing you do in the morning & the last thing you do at night?
U-P !!

Monday, October 15, 2007

My Favourite MRT Station





You have guessed it right from the photos. My favourtie MRT Station is Dhoby Ghaut. Almost everyday, I take the train from Little India Station to my office at Park Mall. It is just one stop away. It takes me only ten to fifteen minutes to reach the office.

Dhoby Ghaut Station is spacious and it is the only one now that has a travellator.
Each time I go up the escalator, I feel very happy. Somehow, the whole design and set up reminds me of our spanking Changi Airport.

Maybe some people take the MRT for granted. For me I find joy in what may appear to be mundane things for some people. Each time I take the train, I am grateful for the ease, comfort and convenience of transport, for I would be reminded of the pot holes and cowdung-filled roads in Nepal.

Ah! The blessings of living in this beautiful little dot on the world map.
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What An Aromatic Walk!!!


Chelsea, getting ready for her morning walk.

One of the restaurants on Race Course Road.

Another yummy place.

I took Chelsea for her walk yesterday morning at about 8.a.m. As we were walking along Race Course Road, I suddenly realised whiffs of aroma were hitting my sensitive nostrils.

The smell was fragrant....curry and a host of other spices! What fantastic aroma.! Since moving into Little India, I had not visited any of the restaurants as I find Indian food too spicy and colorful for my liking.

I remember once telling my second sister, Ean Ean, that each time I went to the Overseas Chinese Bank at Sommerset, I would inhale the lovely coffee aroma oozing from Starbucks, located just at the entrance of the bank. I received a chiding from my sister for being so stingy...I still prefer to spend less than a dollar on my cup of coffee.

How wonderful to smell good food and coffee without having to actually eat or drink. This is one of the surest way to lose weight!
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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Yours Truly, Uniquely Singapore (14)

I had just shown my client's unit at Villa Azura, and it started to drizzle just when I reached the bus stop to catch another bus to Orchard Road, to pass the key to a new client who had just rented a pent house.

The rain became heavier when I reached Scotts Road. As it was still early and I did not have an umbrella with me, I decided to spend the next 30 minutes in a Kentucky Fried Chicken joint for my brunch. I only visit KFC once in a purple moon (sorry, I prefer the colour, purple to blue.)

A young couple was seated next to me. They had the same order as me - a set meal with two pieces of chicken, salad and mashed potato. I noticed the lady slowly peeling off the skin of the chicken, while her partner ate his chicken - skin, meat and bones! He cleared his food with relish. I was amused because the lady was still peeling the skin off the second piece of chicken, which by then must have lost its warmth. She seemed to be peeling slowly, too slow for someone youthful, or did she reluctantly say "yes" to her partner's suggestion to have a meal in a KFC joint? Why visit KFC if one is afraid to consume the crispy skin which the late Colonel Sanders had spent years to perfect?

If the lady is terrified of the excess oil in fried chicken, she could drown it with some tea or take one Xenical tablet!

For me, I seldom visit KFC, but if I do, I would be like the lady's partner, eat the chicken - skin, meat and bones! I would not want Colonel Sanders to turn in his grave!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Matter of Perception?

Chelsea is now back to stay with me for about 5 weeks. Her owner needs to fumigate her apartment and wants Chelsea to be away.

After not having seen Chelsea for the past few months, it was a great pleasure to see her again, neatly groomed with her fur trimmed until she is smooth like a piece of silk! Shanaz, Chelsea's owner, always worries about Chelsea being too warm in this climate. Chelsea does not look like a cocker spaniel anymore....only her long ears give her away.!

Like all faithful dogs, Chelsea was delighted to see me again and wagged her tail furiously. She was puzzled by the new environment in Little India. I took her for her usual morning walk, and was surprised when I soon reached Farrer Park MRT Station. Farrer Park Station is only one stop away from Little India MRT Station. It had not appeared to be so far away when I was walking Chelsea. I had walked to Mustapha and Pu Tien Restaurant at Kitchener Road a few times in the past. Somehow it had seemed so far away. Is it a matter of perception or is it a matter of doing something with someone you love, so that you do not feel the distance or the tiredness.? In my case, it is walking Chelsea, and discovering the various shops, temples and churches nearby. It is also enjoying meeting strangers on the road, who are puzzled by Chelsea's breed, given her new fur style!

If everything is a matter of perception, then I want to always look on the bright side of things. :-)

Gan Chau

Friday, October 12, 2007

Kaypo Choo, the Self-Appointed MP

My neighbour, Irin, smsed me one early morning. Very unusual, for she works till 3 a.m. at a restaurant and usually wakes up at noon. She told me that someone had complained about her new dog, Bobby, a shi tzu. The person had called up the Housing Development Board about her dog's barking. She was so worried that she could not really sleep.

I told Irin, that as her immediate neighbour, I was not at all bothered about Bobby's barking. I would also speak to the HDB officer to explain, and if possible, to be a witness as well.

I smsed her not to worry... and signed off as her newly self appointed Minister of Parliament of Little India.! I would go around the block and speak to the neighbours and explain about the new dog, and seek their cooperation and understanding.

I remember that I met a neighbour on the lower floor during my first few days of moving into my new apartment. The neighbour told me that he did not like Irin, for whenever she came back at night, she would be quite inconsiderate by throwing rubbish down the chute. The sound of falling rubbish would stir him from his sleep. I told him to let Irin know of the problem, but he would rather not. I promised him that one day, I would bring up the subject to Irin, after I get to know her better. I had mentioned this to Irin, and shared with her that I do not use the rubbish chute as I prefer to bring down the rubbish to the bin on the 3rd floor. In fact I have sealed off the chute so as to prevent cockroaches from coming into my apartment.

Now Irin is doing likewise and has refrained from throwing rubbish in the wee hours of the morning. Communication is very important for good neighbourliness. Sometimes people do not realise their actions and it would be better to express our feelings with sincerity and tact. It is pointless to feel "paiseh" (bu hao yi xi - embarrased) when the anger is gradually being heated up in our veins. It is better to let our blood flow freely and cooly, and address problems head-on as they arise.

Mm...I have just received a welcoming letter from the Resident Committee. I am pleasantly surprised that the R.C. even know that I am the new kid on the block, and will accept their invitation to join them day.

Ladies and gentlemen.....presenting you Kaypo Choo (Busybody Choo), the newly self-appointed MP of Little India!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Your Truly, Uniquely Singapore (13)

Whenever I am waiting for the bus, or mrt, I would either read the newspapers or take the opportunity to make phone calls or clear my phone messages. If I were not doing any of these, then I would love to look around me, observing the people and activites.

Ever so often, I would see a couple. The man could be an incredible hunk, but what amuse me most is that this incredible hunk would have his manliness diminished with his carrying a very feminine looking bag, presumably belonging to his partner.

It makes me wonder, why some ladies could go to the extent of shopping for hours and hours, and even paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars for a branded bag, only to have her partner carry the lovely bag for her most of the times! Or is the handbag that really heavy to warrant her partner carrying it for her? Wouldn't she carry the bag herself for the sake of vanity? After all, a handbag is quite an important accessory that forms the complete grooming of a well-dressed lady.

If you think I am somewhat exaggerating, observe when you are in town....and smile, just as I always smile when I think how interestingly and uniquely different people are in this litle dot of really fine country. :-)

Gan Chau

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Happy People on Earth




I once read in the Staits Times that the Indians are the happiest people in Asia. An interesting statistic because we all know that the happiest are not necessarily the richest. Hence, we can conclude that while money plays a part to bring in happiness, it does not bring in ALL the happiness.

Since I moved to Little India, I have begun to observe the Indians more closely so as to learn more about them. Every Sunday, company buses will bring their Indian staff to Little India to do their shopping or just to have dinner with friends, etc. Little India is jam packed every Sunday evening. Once, my nephew came to visit me and dropped my eldest sister and me after dinner. It was almost impossible to drive and the majority of the Indians walked in the middle of the road! It needed skilful manouvering to finally get the car to my apartment without hitting any pedestrian.!

Eldest sister observed that many of them would stand around and just chitchatted. She was touched by their simplicity. Sis commented that most of us would have to make such complicated arrangements of dinner, etc. for our rendezvous. Yet Sunday after Sunday, these Indians would just congregate around Little India, and appear so happy and relaxed. My best friend, Amudah, shared with me how they could actually stand for hours and talk.

I also notice that many of them would enjoy sitting in the open fields under some palm trees in the early evening and drown some peanuts with soft drinks and beers.

Since moving here, I have joined the church nearby and am helping in the Tamil Ministry, so that I have the opporunity to pick up more Tamil. I am teaching some of the Indian members to play the piano and they in turn teach me to play the Indian drum. Playing the Indian drum is not as easy as it appears. You need a certain skill and strengh of the palms and fingers to bring out the music and rhythmn. It is heartwarming to see the Indian members so full of joy, especially when their joy is enhanced by their faith and trust in God. The church would provide packet dinner for the members and it is heartwarming to see them sitting on the floors and enjoying their simple meal and fellowship.

I would say that I enjoy living in this vicinity. Everything is so colourful....the clothes, food, music and street decoration. How wonderful to have a taste of Little India right in the heart of Singapore!

Notice my title? I do not have the statistics, and hence I dare not put my title as the happiest people on earth, but from the little that I have observed, I would say that the Indians are far happier and contented than most of us. Come on Singaporens, let us murmur less and find joy in simple things. Let us all count our blessings and name them one by one! Let us improve our rating as happy, if not the happiest people in Asia!
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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Vanessa Yong - Another Dedicated Toastmaster


Vanessa, delivering her maiden speech as President of the Club


From left to right: Pauline - best evaluator, Sharvan - best table topic speaker,
Deanna - best project speaker

It is amazing how toastmasters' activities can help transform a shy person to one who is confident, poised and articulate. Our President, Vanessa Yong, once shared how without notes, she would be helpless in delivering her speeches. Yet a year later, after having done numerous speech and evaluation projects, Vanessa can now speak confidently off the cuff. She is now able to deliver her opening and closing speeches with wit, poise, humour and encouragement, and best of all - without referring to notes. In her past few speeches, she demonstrated her prowess as a leader.

It is Vanessa who has encouraged and motivated me to complete all my 40 projects within 15 months of joining the club. She has also encouraged me to take part in contests. I am by nature, a shy and quiet person, but toastmasters' activites have also helped to take away my inhibitions.

Vanessa was always ready to help when called upon. She used to joke about being a full time toastmaster and a part time realtor. We feel proud of her when she was nominated for the Award of Toastmaster of the Year in Division U. Well done, Vanessa. You are simply amazing!

Gan Chau
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From the Mouths of the Babes

My university buddy, Dr. Richard Tam sent me this email which made me laugh till my hunger pangs dispersed! By now, I am sure my readers are convinced that I am fat not from over eating, but from over laughing.! Enjoy and get fat like me!































Saturday, October 06, 2007

Contest! Contest! Contest!

There are numerous Humorous and Evaluation contests in the month of October. Apart from helping in our own Division U where I serve as Area Governor U3, I tried to help out in other areas as well either as a judge or a test speaker.

The test speaking experiences have boosted my confidence in speaking more spontaneously before a crowd. I know now that my speed for thinking with wit and humour has been enhanced because of the opportunity to practise.

This year, as Area governor, I am not allowed to contest. It is in helping out in test speaking and judging that I learn even more! October is also a challenging month because I will be presenting my final project for Advance Communicator - Gold.

In my earlier article, I had written that volunteers are successful people. It is in giving that we receive. I feel that I have received as much as I have given in all my toastmasters' activities. They have helped me to think with speed and wit; they have helped me in inter-personal realtionship, especially in my sensitivity with words. Above all, toastmasters' activities have helped me in great time management, so that I still manage to juggle between work, indulging in my hobbies of playing the piano, violin and drum, writing in my blog, cooking for guests and toastmasters' activities, volunteer teaching in my church, and walking my neighbour's dog every evening without fail. There are so many fun and interesting things to do and look foward to...I have no time moan or indulge in self pity.

I would encourage all my readers to join a toastmaster's club in a vicinity close to his home or area of work. Oh! How I wish someone had told me about Toastmasters' two decades ago, instead of 18 months ago!!! I guess it is better late than never!

For those of you who have missed the boats earlier like me, don't worry. You are still on time to catch this great Ocean Liner of fun, learning and self discovery!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Creative Baking





The above pictures show the artistic decoration of cakes. So lovely and creative!
It makes me want to start baking again.

I learnt to make cakes while I was studying in Canada. I baked my first cake which was a cinamon cake with sour cream. My flat mate, Sow Fun, was often furious with herself, because she tried but each time, the cake would turn out to be either too soft or too hard. She was sure she had measured everything accurately, and was exasperated that despite her carefulness, the oven refused to cooperate. On the other hand, I had taken the short cut and did not quite bother to weigh the ingredients. Yet all my cakes turned out to be just right, if not perfect. I gues when one cooks, one must always feel and cook with the heart, not just by recipe alone.

I had just bought a wok which, when fitted with an electrical cover, hey presto, a cake could be baked. This is much cheaper than the conventional oven, which is not only costly, but requires a lot of storage space.

Hope, I can start baking again, and have the pleasure of decorating the cakes as well as I can.
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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Jerlyn Ang - A Dedicated Toastmaster




I recently met up with Jerlyn and was surprised to find that she is quitting her insurance work with Manulife and is starting a new post as a trainer with AIA. She has always wanted to be a trainer and now her dream has materialised.

Jerlyn shared with me that her activities with toastmasters' clubs have helped in a big way to land this new post. Her interviewers knew she has no experience as a trainer, but the moment they heard that she is a toastmaster, they inevitably acknowledge her potential, prowess and pleasant personality as a trainer!

Jerlyn was given 30 minutes to do her presentation before the interviewers. She managed to impress them and make them laugh. Jerlyn attributed her speaking and leadership roles in toastmasters' clubs. She is currently serving as President of her Buona Vista Toastmasters' Club and is also the Asst. Div. Gov. Education and Training (Areas U3/U4). She has often volunteered her time and talent in the areas of language of project evaluation as well. She was the second runner-up as an Evaluator in the most recent Humorous and Evaluation Contest of Areas U1 and U3.

Without a shadow of doubt, Toastmasters' Clubs are gradually getting the recognition they deserve. Employers know that when they hire a dedicated toastmaster, they can expect committment, good initiative, creativity and responsibilities.

I hope this article will encourage all toastmasters to press on with their speeches and leadership roles. Cheers to toastmastering!

Gan Chau

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Practice Makes Better!

My colleague, and brave baby toastmaster, Deanna Tan, smsed to say that as she had been busy, she was not so confident of delivering her speech as a test speaker at our Area U1 and U3 Humorous and Evaluation Contest. I decided to take over as test speaker, and checked with our Division U Governor, Kristina Carvalho, that it was alright for me to switch from the role of chief judge to test speaker. Since I had arranged for 8 judges for the contest, she advised that one of them, Clara Chang, DTM, should take over. Kudos to Juey Ong, our Division Secretary, who altered the program sheet and Certificates of Appreciation, despite the last minute changes! Well done!

I decided to choose the topic "Faith Can Move Mountains" as my speech title. Since it was a humorous contest, I decided to make my audience laugh with the narration of how with faith I could overcome my fear and inadequacy in an area I was not adept at - sports! Not being endowed with the physique of a sports lady makes it even more hilarious.

Hence, I was thrilled when an evaluator described me as "Queen of Humour" and that I was most adequately prepared! Whew! If only she knew it was an 11th hour mental preparation since I did not have enough warning. I would also say that writing almost daily in my blog has helped me to think fast.

Indeed I must thank our President, Vanessa Yong, for being the person instrumental in making my journey in toastmastering a fun and successful one, since I joined Dennis Wee Group Toastmasters' Club in July 2006. At our meeting this month, I will be delivering my final project for Advanced Communicator Gold, and hopefully, by next year in July, I will get my Distinguished Toastmasters' Certificate.

I have seen vast improvement in all the members, especially those who have done their projects diligently and carried out their leadership duties faithfully. Now I am very happy to know that I can speak off the cuff with greater confidence. After having delivered 49 speeches and table topics and being involved in numerous language and project evaluation, it is no longer so frightening to speak before a crowd. Practise! Practise! Practise! I am still eager to learn and practise everyday. As John Sih, the popular Guru of Laughter, has always said, "Practice does not make perfect; practice only makes better!"

Cheers to all the toastmasters in Singapore and throughout the world! Happy toastmastering! To those who have yet to join a Toastmaster's Club, wouldn't you join us too, and discover your hidden potential for speaking and leadership.?

Gan Chau

Monday, October 01, 2007

Today's Precocious Kids (1)

I love children! I especially love to chat with them. We never know what will come out of their mouths!!

Some years back, I met one of my brother's students, Janice Kam. I remember her well, because she also has the same surname as me. There are only a handful of people in Asia with this surname. However, what stood out most in my memory about Janice is her brilliance. Even as a young child, she was mature, way above her tender years of ten. She was already devouring books meant for the secondary school students in her Raffles Girls' School. By age 12, she had completed writing a book!!! She wrote with bombast.....many College students would not even know the meaning of some of the words she used. In the Gifted Program of her school, she still managed to learn to play the violin and piano! I have lost touch with Janice and her lovely and doting parents. I guess, she must have graduated and perhaps is now holding a high flying post in her chosen field of specialisation.

I received an email from a friend, Adrien Jones. It reflects again the precociousness of today's kids. Given the exposure, today's kids are even more mature and knowledgeable as ever.


A stranger was seated next to a little girl on the airplane when the
stranger turned to her and said, 'Let's talk. I've heard that flights
go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.'

The little girl, who had just opened her book, closed it slowly and said to
the stranger, 'What would you like to talk about?'

'Oh, I don't know', said the stranger. 'How about nuclear power?'

'OK,' she said. 'That could be an interesting topic. But let me ask you a
question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat grass, the same stuff.
Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, and
a horse produces clumps of dried grass. Why do you suppose that is?'

The stranger thinks about it and says, 'Hmmm, I have no idea.'

To which the little girl replies, 'Do you really feel we should talk
about nuclear power when you don't know shit?'