Thursday, November 29, 2007

Clean Singapore?

Why no recycling? Let's save the earth!

Stray cats feeding on food remnants thrown around carelessly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gan Chau

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A Badge of Significance!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers to better leadership and speaking skills!

Gan Chau

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Joyful Reunion and Celebration!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gan Chau

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Living in Penang versus Living in Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darling, patiently posing for photographs.

The concert by Sylvia Khoo's students had just ended, and I made my way to the bus stop. Instead of turning left, I turned right, and realised the bus stop was further away. However, I discovered a pet shop instead, and decided to go in to buy a bouncing ball for Chelsea to play with.

I was very happy when I saw a beautiful, furry cat. The fur was quite long and soft. The cat appeared to be good natured, and enjoyed being stroked on the head and the back of her body. The owner of the shop told me that the cat was a ragdoll and her name was Darling. Ragdolls are very good natured and have personalities which are quite identical to dogs. No wonder, she was willing to pay over a thousand dollars for Darling!

I am not an expert on cats, and hence was thrilled when I learnt about the breed. I wonder why it is called a ragdoll, for it makes me think of those dolls that children play with. I like cats, but since I always keep dogs, I could only limit myself to enjoying the cats that I found outside of my apartment - strays and those found in pet shops.

God's creation is so marvellous and awesome. I love all His creation, big and small. My pastor once teased me that if I had a huge compound, I would surely be like Noah, taking in aniamals and living creatures of all kinds!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Home Sweet Home!

Suddenly, I have this yearning to celebrate my 2nd brother Kee Seng's birthday with him and family in Penang. I am also eager to see my Aunty Ah Giam, whose 80th birthday celebration I would have to miss because it is in December. It helped that I have cleared all my urgent listings for sale and rent. I only would have to commence my involvement with the Toastmasters' Speech Craft at Changi Prison on 1st December instead of 24th November. I will take a five day break in Penang, coming back in time for our club's chapter meeting at our Dennis Wee Group Head Office. I have promised my club members that I would bring back some famous Penang Lor Bak (Braised Pork Roll) and Penang Tau Sar Pianh (Cookies) and give everyone a treat. If possible, I would prefer to make the pork roll with the help of my sister-in-law, Saw Kim, who is a fantastic cook.

My niece, Tyng, is also flying back from America to spend time with her father. I just called my sister-in-law to let her know of my arrival and to make arrangements to pick me up from the Airport. Up till now, my brother does not know I am coming back to Penang. We want to give him a happy surprise. I usually travel by bus, but as Malaysian Airline has a promotion with 50% discount on the tickets, I decide to fly instead.

How I love my hometown in Penang. One of our toastmasters, Aziz, reminds me not to put on weight. I laughed. My relatives and friends in Penang dote on me. In one breath they will say, "Choo, don't put on any more weight!" In the next breath, they will coax me, "Eat, Eat! How you must miss Penang food!" My solution? Eat first and worry later. When I return to Singapore, I will ensure I walk to my office from my home instead of taking the train.

How I wish I were like my colleague, Vanessa Yong, who eats and eats and remains pencil slim!!! She must be specially favoured by the great Creator. Nevertheless, I am sure God also loves Fatty Bom Boms like me. :-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Talents and Colours

The Angklung Ensemble of National Junior College
The Handbells Ensemble of Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School
Mr. Ezzy Wang with his inspiring speech
Farewell buffet lunch at The Legends, Fort Canning Park

The second day of the convention was action packed from early morning till almost midnight. I rushed down to the YWCA to play the piano to welcome our guests from Thailand, Hong Kong and Macau.

It was sheer delight listening to the sound of music produced by the students from National Junior College and Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School. The Minister of Education, Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam was our guest-of-honour.

It was also a special day of learning with great speakers invited for various workshops. It was my first time listening to Mr. Michael Podolinsky and Mr. Ezzy Wang. I was really inspired.!

I skipped the last workshop as I had to rush back home to check on Chelsea, my client's dog, before I left the home again for our Gala Dinner. Wow! Our toastmasters have proven that they are not only good in public speaking, but also good in doing the cat walk!!! Our members from Thailand performed a dance and song item and we all followed their steps. Soon the stage was filled with members who love to shake and boogie! As usual, Vanessa and I danced till the closing time.

Without a shadow of doubt, I am looking foward to the next convention to be held at Suntec City in May 2008.
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Semi Annual Toastmasters' Convention Highlights

Pretty Alice Quah with charming Chooi Ling

With our team leader, Elissa,Vanessa and Robert.
Some of the Div U toastmasters. The night is still young...
Bollywood presentation by our talented toastmasters.

Wow! What an exciting start to the three day Semi Annual Convention that was held recently in Singapore. At the district meeting, Mr. Gea Ban Peng was worried about the weather forecast as our time at Sentosa would be mainly outdoors.

Later, I told a friend that if it did rain, let us treat the rain as showers of blessings; the thunder as music to our ears and the lightning as disco lights! Jokes aside, it is best that God holds the clouds because we cannot play, play with lightning lah. Singapore has the highest lightning strikes in the world!

Gosh! It only dawned upon me that my last visit to Sentosa was some fifteen years ago! I did not even realise that now, buses, cars and taxis can enter Sentosa via the road that has been connected the island. Vanessa who kindly picked me up from my apartment laughed. She was really amused.

Just as we were lining up for the show at Song of the Sea, huge, dark clouds hovered over us. I began to pray that the Lord would favour us and remove the clouds. Gradually, a small crescent moon could be seen! If you have not been to watch the Song of the Sea, you must not miss it. It is absolutely mesmerising and awe-inspiring!

We had so much excitement during the ice breaker time. It was interesting to see everyone beaming with excitement as everyone tried to win the prizes. The buffet at Club Islander is quite nice and best of all, it is the spread of soft, sand by the beach. Four couples were asked to perform Bollywood dances and drama. It was interesting that the toastmasters were spontaneous. There was also the "Limbo Rock" where dancers had to try to dance their way beneath a pole which was gradually lowered. My bones are stiff like the oak tree; hence I did not venture, except for the dance on the beach. Wow! Not easy to dance on the sand!

What a great time! We are thankful to Patricia Lum and her team for making the evening an enjoyable one. We are also grateful to God for answering our prayers in holding back the dark clouds. For those of you who have yet to attend a convention, get ready for the next one in May and November 2008! You will not regret it!
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Monday, November 19, 2007

Chelsea's Favourite Game

Chelsea would put any security guard to shame the way
she guards her favourite ball.

Chelsea's favourite game. Retrieving her favourite ball!

In the past when I looked after Chelsea for my client, Shanaz, the cocker spaniel was never interested in ball games.

Recently she began to take an interest in the ball which I bought for her from the pet shop. My neighour, Irin, also generously gave her a blue ball.

Chelsea was playing with her ball on the floor. I decided to pick it up and threw it towards my room. To my surprise, she sprang into action and brought back the ball. This went on continuously. I decided to take her a step further and played along the long corridor of my apartment. I would try to throw the ball as far as I possibly could, and Chelsea would dash for the ball and bring it back. This would be repeated a number of times. You should see her joy. She looked so cute when she ran speedily, with her long ears flapping slightly in the wind! I am so glad as this way, she gets to have more exercise.

It is amazing how much energy Chelsea has. She would retrieve the ball a number of times. When she is really exhausted, she would refuse to let go of the ball and insist on entering the apartment.

It is wonderful how animals can communicate in their own special ways. It is only their loving owners who understand their language.!

Gan Chau
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Thursday, November 15, 2007

2nd Anniversary of Blogging!

Today is 15th November. It is two years since I wrote my first article in my blog, The Oriental Express. This is my 564th article! My aim is to write a minimum of 300 articles a year and hopefully, it would be great if I could write an article almost everyday which would make it 365 articles in a year. However, I realise when I travel it is difficult to write an article almost everyday, as my siblings do not have computers at home, and it is not convenient to go to internet cafes. I do not wish to lug my notebook with me during my travels.

When I am at home, most of the times I am able to write everyday. However, I do not wish to write just for the sake of writing. I dislike blogs that are just like diaries, where the writer literally tells you where he goes and what he does. Really boring. It is important and more interesting for writers to help readers or enhance readers' appreciation of his analysis and opinions on his subject matter. I also dislike blogs which are full of vulgarities and profanities in the use of language. These writers literally murder the English tongue, and would make Professor Higgins churn in his grave!

Blog writing has helped me to become more contemplative. At the end of the day, I like to think back over the day's happenings and tell myself how things could have been improved or done in a better way. It has also helped me to be more observant, because there are so many things that one can write about.

Some writers start their blog but stop writing after a while. Frankly, I feel that if people sit down at their computers and think a little harder, they will certainly be able to write. For those who have yet to start a blog, I would encourage you to do so. I am thrilled when I read that the oldest blogger, an old grandma in Europe, has just started writing at the age of 95, and is gaining popularity with her blog. No one is too young or too old to start writing.

I am glad I took the challenge from a friend two years ago to start a blog. Blog writing has also helped me in keeping my fingers nimble, or I may weaken my typing speed of 150 words per minute. It has also helped me in my toastmastering activities, especially in my table topics and evaluation speeches where I have to think very fast and speak off the cuff. There are still many things that I have yet to learn eg. posting videos in U Tube, etc. I am grateful to my friends, especially Yetti, for their help.

My friends have asked me about my intensity in my writing and speaking activities. I always tell them that if I had more youth and more time, my procrastination would not be a crime.
Should I "konk off" (go six feet under) tomorrow, at least I have a legacy of 564 articles for my nephews and nieces to read and ponder. :-)

Gan Chau

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


My ex-English lecturer from the Institute of Education, Dr. Clive S. is a dog lover. After his pet dog, Fifi, passed away, he decided to have another pet after he has settled down in his new flat at Pasir Ris.
With so many parks and greenery around the vicinity, he missed walking his pet dog. Also, Dr. Clive has retired from lecturing, and hence has more time at his disposal.

When I heard that he was looking for a dog, I decided to ask around my friends. Hence, when my neighbour, Irin, informed me that her colleague wanted to give away her pet Pappilion, I informed Dr. Clive. He was overjoyed, because he had tried unsuccessfully to adopt a small dog from the SPCA. After the 9th attempt, he became somewhat despondent. Yet, I often have the impession that there are many dogs at the SPCA awaiting adoption!

Poor dog. The owner gave him the name of "Shadow". Probably the little dog did not even like his name because when Dr. Clive called him "Shadow" he hardly responded. What a name to give to a dog. The name somehow made me think of the musical, "Phantom of the Opera". Dr. Clive decided to call him Pappilon or Pappi for short and the dog responded. Who says dogs don't have an ear for language or music! :-)

Pappi is such a lively little dog. He can jump to almost the height of my shoulder! He is filled with such boundless energy. When I see how Dr. Clive and his flatmate, Patrick, dote on the dog, I am very happy. Pappi is such a little bundle of joy! His eyes are so expressive and his fur smooth and shiny.

People say that dogs give great therapy and those with pets at home tend to have a longer life span!
I wish Dr. Clive and Pappi many happy years together.
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Even Animals Have Pride!

My neighbour, Irin has a very intelligent, ten year old Bishon Frise, Kenneth. When Irin sat herself down on the floor, immediately, Kenneth snuggled up to her. Bobby, the new addition, went up to Kenneth and sniffed on his private parts. This time, Kenneth did not snap like he usually did. Irin told me that finally Kennth has accepted Bobby as a family member!

Irin asked me to watch. She scratched Kenneth and brought her hand to his nose and said, "See, Kenneth. Very dirty and smelly.!" Immediately Kenneth growled and bared his teeth. "Ok! Don't disturb you. Very clean, very clean, ok." Immediately Kenneth returned to his old self. Irin told me that Kenneth hates to be described as dirty and smelly. I laughed. Dogs are so human like! They have their pride just like human beings.

My second sister, Ean Ean, who is living in Melbourne now, once narrated to me about an incident in the Melbourne Zoo. The zoo had just exhibited a new comer, the offspring of the gorilla. Everyone was excited about Alfie, the new kid in the block. My sister also brought her three children to the zoo. There were many other families as well. Some of the children were squealing and giggling with delight. "Big monkey! Big monkey!"

My eagled-eyed sister suddenly realised that the mother gorilla was not too happy about all the noise and giggling. Her eyes were growing more intense with anger. Suddenly she half bent her body, put her right hand behind her buttocks and pooed! My sister warned her children and everyone to run! Too late! The mother gorilla collected her poo and threw it at the crowd! One man who had his daughter on his shoulders could not run fast enough and the poo hit him right on the face! Poor guy! What an unforgettable experience for all those who had witnessed the incident. After this, the zoo keepers put up a signboard, "Please watch the gorillas quietly and respectfully!"

Animals cannot speak and we can never fully fathom what goes on in their minds and hearts. I am not a zoologist. However, from the above two incidents, we can safely conclude that animals have pride, just like human beings. Hence, if animals want to be treated with respect, how about human beings.? All the more as homo sapiens, we should respect one another, regardless of race, language, religion or strata of society.
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Monday, November 12, 2007

5 things ... I must eat before I die.

Following Sesame in her article, "Five Things I Must Eat Before
I Die" our group members thought it should be interesting if we
could do an article likewise. We take things so much for
granted. I guess, food is often on the minds of people.... which
is why even prisoners with death sentences are given their
special request for a last meal. Well, here goes my list...

1) My Mom's Nonya Curry Chicken. Presumably Mom learnt from her
mother and we learnt from her. This signature hand-me-down
secret recipe is a hot favourite with our invited guests. The
curry will set your tongue a-dancing in a gentle
won't have to do a rock-n-roll, maybe just a cha-cha for the
spicyness is just nice. The curry goes well with fresh potatoes
and goes well with rice or French loaves.

2) Fried Hokkien Mee cooked by ....drum roll.... Chef Kam Choo
Choo.!!! It's my own recipe which I modified. As I do not like
the fresh yellow noodles that are sold in the market, I cook it
with spaghetti which is better in texture. The noodle does not
get too soggy. It goes well with my own home-made sambal
belachan. I cooked Fried Hokkien Mee for our missionaries in
Nepal and each helped themselves to 4 plates.! That gives you
the verdict for the taste.

3) My Sister-in-Law's Popular Nasi Lemak is something worth
dying for! Her sambal udang, ikan bilis, and fried fish
marinated with yellow ginger and spice go well with her rice
which has just enough coconut milk. After trying her nasi lemak,
all others pale in comparison.

4) Penang Fried Koay Teow. Penang is famous for her koay teow.
Of course you have the famous ones which you can find out from
the Tourist Promotion Board or from Penangnites themselves. It
is no exaggeration to say that you can safely eat Penang Koay
Teow anywhere, and it tastes good. I make good Penang Koay Teow
myself, but having lived in Singapore, I have modified my
cooking a little to suit the taste of my Singaporean friends.

5) Popiah. I can eat tons of it. It tastes so much better than
salad. Good Chance Popiah is nice, but of course, nothing is
better than home-cooked popiah. Once I was invited by my
client, Mrs. Irene Lim who threw a popiah party. It was
enjoyable to see the guests rolling their own popiah. I wished I
had 5 stomachs to bury all those delicious popiahs!!!

Gan Chau

How To Be An All Rounded Singaporean....

How to be an all rounded Singaporean? This question came to my mind when I read of the retrenchment of WO Hendry Minjoot after 32 years of service with the SAF.

By all rounded, I do not mean fat or overweight lah! It means being someone who is capable of doing different types of work so that he remains employable till he chooses to retire or till he "konks off" (goes six feet under).

I love many things about Singapore. However, the one thing that irks me most is the way sometimes things are being done without much deep thought or debate. Perhaps SAf may argue that the organisation has thought through before delivering the verdict. I am also quite fed up with the unnecessary anxiety that organisations have. Why must Hendry Minjoot be retrenched before the retirement age of 55? Many of us are confused and flabbergasted. With the economy doing so well, it is difficult for us to understand this logic of SAF. Hendry still has two school going children which implies that he must have married late, perhaps in a bid to build up his career? And being the typical good citizen, he has answered the nation's call to help increase the population by having not two, not three, not four, but the more the merrier where offsprings are concerned? Hendry is still enthusiastic, strong and healthy; every inch a soldier and a gentleman.

Perhaps the organisation thinks that it is better for him to leave earlier so that he can have better chances of doing something he likes or is skilful at? What repercussions will Hendry's retrenchment have on the morale of staff? It might make our young ones think twice before joining the SAF full time.

I am glad I became a teacher because I love teaching. I only resigned from teaching due to the constant throat problems and loss of voice I was suffering from. When I started teaching, I chose to opt for CPF scheme over the pension scheme. My intuition told me that somehow, I would not be able to teach till I retire. I am glad I trusted my sixth sense.

Teachers are quite fortunate. Due to the shortage of teachers, retired teachers are asked to do relief teaching in the schools. If not for the shortage, who knows, teachers too may be asked to resign at the age of 50 because MOE will claim they would not have the energy to cope with the lively and restless school children.

After resigning, I tried my hands at real estate. My good friends in the school were horrified. "How could someone as "blur" as me succeed in the art of selling properties?" I have never liked to sell things, and if I had not ventured into real estate, I would not have discovered my flair for selling! Agents are self employed; hence I would not be at the mercy of being retrenched by any organisation. I enjoy being my own boss, and choosing the hours I wish to work.

Again, if I had not studied overseas, I would not have discovered my talent for cooking and housekeeping. I had tried a short stint of eight years in operating an Italian restaurant. My friends keep asking me to set up an outlet selling my signature Nonya dishes! Friends have also asked me to set up cooking classes!

As I have already travelled to some 38 countries, my client who operates a
travel agency has asked me to lead tours on ad hoc basis.

I guess when my knees become wobbly, and my energy starts to wane, I will go back to tutoring or training. My toastmasters' activities have given me added confidence to speak in public. My friends and family members have often teased me that I would never go hungry because of the many skills that I have.!

To be an all rounded Singaporean, it is important tht we discover our potential. This is why I always encourage people to discover their potential. Do not be afraid to try new things, for you may become so good at them that you can use your knowledge and skills at any time. This is especially important when the government has encouraged us to work till we are 85! Frankly, I prefer my life to be short and sweet. However, if I do live to 85, I hope my mind will still be stable enough for me to write books, my fingers nimble enough for me to type at 150 wpm and dexterous enough to play my piano, violin and drum.

I am thankful that papa had always encouraged his children to try new things. I am quite round now as it is in every sense of the word.! :-) But I hope to get rounder still as there are still so many things to explore and to learn. I will be 54 years old next month, but will still be climbing up the hill, slowly but steadily, Not quite over the hill yet! The best is yet to be!

Ah! To be an all rounded Singaporean! For those who are not yet round, begin to get rounder now.! It is still not too late. Roundness - the antidote for retrenchment!

Gan Chau

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Good Neighbours




I bought my current flat 3 minutes after viewing it! I guess God knows my heart's desires and everything has turned out well. The flat does not face the two Indian temples and hence it has a quieter facing. It is very windy so much so that I often do not even have to turn on the fan! I have always wanted to live near a Sheng Siong outlet as the store has one of the most competitive prices for daily provisions. To my surprise, Sheng Siong outlet at Tekka Mall is one of the biggest and is only two minutes walk away from my flat. The MRT station and wet market is only one minute walk! Hence with the time saved for travelling, I am able to indulge in experimenting new recipes.

Perhaps best of all are my wonderful neighbours! There is my immediate neighbour, Irin, who has two dogs, Bobby and Kenneth. Then there is Helen who operates a stall selling some breakfast items like fried noodles, fish and pork porridge etc. Helen is always very generous and likes to give me some of her cooked food. Then there is that friendly Shah, a Malay man with a lovely Filipino wife. I hope to get to know more neighbours as time goes by.

Recently I met a lady who lives on the tenth floor. I had gone up to explore what the view looks like and to see whether there are any available flats for sale. I met her with her mixed Maltese, Sufie. Wendy Wang is very friendly and she invited me to her flat to chit chat. I found out that she has green fingers, judging from her lovely garden. She is a yoga enthusiast who instructs yoga both privately as well as in community centres. I will be joining her class next year so as to improve my breathing techniques. I hope the breathing techniques will help not only to improve my health, but help me speak and sing better!

Wendy shared with me that she found Sufie, some six years ago. The poor little dog had abrasions on its jaw, probably from having been muzzled for too long a period. Wendy nursed Sufie back to health, and now he is one happy, healthy and pampered doggy. I love his round, innocent looking eyes that have so much feelings! Wendy made me some lovely coffee and it is so relaxing and wonderful to share tips on animals and plants.

Wendy gave me some of her plants. Wow! She grows mint, basil and other herbs. She also gave me a plant that helps to prevent cancer. I asked her for the name, and she told me that people call it the plants with 8 thorns. Amazing why good and beautiful things must always come with thorns, eg. roses, durians and this cancer preventing plant! It makes me think that if we are able to accept the thorns in our lives and learn to handle them, we will also get to enjoy the goodness and sweet taste of success that come with trials and tribulations.
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Simple Nonya Salad - Heavenlicious!


When I was in my teens I did not take to vegetables. However, now I love my greens!
I take meat very sparingly. Maybe over the years I have grown to love animals so much that I am almost a vegetarian!

I love basil leaves and mint! I remember how mama had made some dried sambal chilli and eaten them with fresh mint leaves. You take a leave and pinch a little sambal chilli and eat it. Simple! This is also now my favourite. However, now I offer basil leaves on the platter. Basil is slightly sweet and fragrant. I often serve this as an appetiser whenever I invite my guests for a meal. Now they too are beginning to enjoy this simple and heavenlicious nonya salad! Best of all, these two greens are herbs. Mint is extremely good for sore throat and cough. Helps to improve the voice when singing! (Now you know why I sing so well....hee! hee!)

If my readers are game to try, here is the recipe for making the dried sambal chilli.

200 grams of dried prawns
two stalks of lemon grass
eight medium sized fresh red chillis
a handful of chilli padi or small red chillies
about 15 shallots

Salt and sugar to taste


1. Soak the dried prawns for half an hour in water,
so as to get rid of excessive saltiness and to
soften the prawns.

2. Grind the shallots, and lemon grass together. Grind the chillis. Seperate.

3. Heat some oil in the work. Add the shallots and lemon grass first.
Fry till fragrant. Then add the chilli and fry till the fragrance
fills the kitchen.

4. Add the dried prawns and fry till fragrant.

5. Serve with mint and basil leaves. Excess can be stored in a container
and refrigerated.

Bon appetit! Buon appetito! Sedap makan! Enjoy your salad!

Gan Chau
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Friday, November 09, 2007

My Little Harvest





I hardly grew plants in the past. Those that I attempted to grow either died of thirst because I forgot to water them or died from lack of tender loving care. However, I was recently inspired by my eldest sister, Lee Lee. During my last visit to her home in Kuching, I was impressed with the herbs she grew.

Hence, I started growing some plants with special interest in herbs. From the pictures above, you can see that my "ren" plants or "bird nests for the poor" are growing healthily. I also grow some mint which is good for sore throat and flu. I also grow the plant that is specially good for those having diabetes. My ex-neighbour in Eng Tai Mansion, Madam Lim, used to take the herbs and now she is no more suffering from diabetes.

I had my first harvest of "ren" plants which I boiled to make tea. I remember a reader had asked me for some "ren" plants earlier. If she could contact me, I would be more than happy to give her some.

One of my colleagues asked me how I manage to find time to do so many things. Papa had called me "Choo Choo" and hence like the train I must keep on moving, otherwise my engine will get spoilt and rusty! I guess this is why my university buddy, Dr. Richard Tam has described me as the Lady of Perpetual Motion!

Gan Chau
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