Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wake Up Malaysia! Jangan Tidor Lagi! (Don't sleep any more!)

In last night's episode of The Little Nonya on Channel 8, I was incensed to see how corrupted the two police officers were. They decided to keep the suitcase of birds' nests even after the rightful owner had appeared at the police station to claim her belongings. Instead of commending Yue Niang for her honesty and emulating her example, the two policemen coveted the birds' nests which could be profited for a tidy sum of money.

I suddenly felt overwhelmed as I appreciate how much our government had done to wipe out gangsterism, corruption and bullying in our country. Of course I have always been grateful but somehow the episode on The Little Nonya made me feel proud as I shared with my tenant, Jasmin, how much had been achieved all these years. I guess this gratitude is even more intense for someone like me who was raised in the gangster village of Jelutong in Penang.

My first taste of corruption was when I was seven years old. Eldest sister had just learnt how to ride a bike. To save money, she learnt how to ride the bike from papa. When she was more confident, she took me on a ride on the pillion on papa's scooter. As she was riding around the village, she felt it was quite safe. However, lo and behold, a policeman appeared from nowhere on a bicycle! He asked to see my sister's licence. Of course, it also implied that if sister did not have a licence, she would have to give some "coffee money". Sister did not have a cent in her pocket, but she used her feminine charm to get out from the situation. Putting on her sweetest smile, my pretty sister said, "Aiyoh, mana bolih? Kawan kawan lah!"
(Oh dear, how can? Friend, friend lah!) Sister then continued on a barrage of arguments which I could not quite understand. Fortunately, as a teacher of Bahasa Malaysia, she impressed the officer with her excellent Malay. My sister was let off, and she came home grinning from ear to ear!

21 years later, I graduated from the University of Alberta. When I landed at Penang International Airport, I was taken aback when the officer wanted to tax me
MR100 for my old manual typewriter! I refused to pay and told him he could have my typewriter as a present, but I warned him that he had to pay lots of money to repair it as it often broke down.

"Then why you bring back?" asked the officer.

"Sentimental value, sir. My koko (brother) bought this typewriter for me before I went to Canada, and I will always treasure it no matter how old it is".

"Ok, go!"

I was incensed when I heard that my relative had paid $50 for his used typewriter when he landed at Penang International Airport. He had also just completed his Masters' Degree in Canada. He had bargained it down from $100 to $50!!!

Hence, when I was offered a part time teaching post at the Regional English Language Centre and a one year bursary at the then Institute of Education in Singapore, I grabbed the opportunity, and when the government offered me Singapore citizenship when I started teaching in River Valley High, I accepted without second thoughts.

When I was going back to Penang for my Chinese New Year vacation, I was annoyed when the custom officer at Johore Immigration tried hard to tax me on my belongings.

"These are new clothes!" he declared.

"No, old ones sir. I'm not ashamed to tell you they are 5 years old already", I said

"Why so new"?

"Sir, I wash my clothes by hands....not washing machine. That's why they still look so new!"

"This new luggage?"

"Old one, Sir.....borrow from my brother. You see, I have no money to even buy luggage!"

"Ok. go!", roared the frustrated officer. "By the way, what you doing in Singapore?"

"I just started teaching, poor but happy!"

"No wonder you speak so well!" he said. I thought he tried to stifle a smile.

"Terima kasih! (Thank you) God bless you!" I waved to him.

You can imagine how incensed I was when I found out that the lady passenger sitting next to me had paid $5 tax for two tins of Van Houten Chocolates which cost $5.90 per tin!! I told her she should have lined up next to me for I would surely have protested on her behalf!

Sigh! I have lived in Singapore for the past 25 years, and now even qualify for discounted movie tickets at $4 in every cinema during weekdays, off peak periods. Only citizens who are 55 years and above qualify for such tickets.

Sadly, little improvement has been seen in my land of birth! Papa had said that it was alright to be less intelligent, capable, etc. We need not be filled with envy or jealousy. All of us cannot be evenly endowed. But it would not be alright, if we did not make efforts to try harder to improve and to learn. If we were to see something good that we can emulate, we copy and adapt for our own good. Hence, we can progress as we mature.

Hence, please hear my silent cries. But I have to roar and shout "Wake up, Malaysia! "Jangan tidor lagi!" (Don't sleep any more!) Please let me see more improvement before I go six feet under!

Gan Chau

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Work Not Only Hard, But Smart!!!


Ever heard the story of the giant ship engine that failed? The ship's owners
tried one expert after another, but none of them could figure but how to fix
the engine. Then they brought in an old man who had been fixing ships since
he was a youngster. He carried a large bag of tools with him, and when he
arrived, he immediately went to work. He inspected the engine very
carefully, top to bottom.

Two of the ship's owners were there, watching this man, hoping he would know
what to do. After looking things over, the old man reached into his bag
and pulled out a small hammer. He gently tapped something.

Instantly, the engine lurched into life. He carefully put his hammer away.

The engine was fixed! A week later, the owners received a bill from the old
man for ten thousand dollars.

"What?!" the owners exclaimed. "He hardly did anything!"

So they wrote the old man a note saying, "Please send us an itemized bill."

The man sent a bill that read:

Tapping with a hammer .......... $ 2.00
Knowing where to tap ............... $ 9998.00

Effort is important, but knowing where to make an effort in your life makes
all the difference.

I received the above email from a friend who is also a passionate leader of AIA Changi Toastmasters' Club. He is Fernando Young.

What a wonderful illustration to remind all of us the importance of not only working hard, but smart. For the old man to tap at the exact location with seemingly no effort takes years of hardwork and learning.

It also reminds me of the great importance of working smart, especially in my line of work - real estate. I always tell my friends that I am not selling or renting properties - I am in the business of dealing with human relationship. So many people want to jump into the real estate business, not realising that it is one of the toughest for so much money is at stake, and hence a human body of emotion.! As an agent, I realise I am dealing with clients' hard earned money and hence, I will never recommend any property which I will not want to buy or rent for myself.

In our line, it is uniquely important to go by our gut feelings at times. There are some customers who are not serious.....they waste your time by being wishy washy, or they make use of free consultation and information. Worse, some treat agents like chauffeurs! Once, a young agent brought a couple to view my client's 3 room HDB flat. Later I asked how his clients liked the property and he told me that they liked it very much, but must consult their geomancer. I was shocked when I heard that the agent had brought them to view 60 flats throughout Singapore!!! I called the agent a week later, and found that his client had finally got a brand new unit from HDB. Poor guy! The time, energy and expenses he had wasted! I told him that he must learn how to feel whether a client is genuine or he would be running a wild goose chase. Some of my colleagues work until they fall sick. Advertisements are costly, and so are taxi fares, maintenanace of cars, etc.

Some clients demand for too high a price. It will not be fair to the buyer even if he were ignorant. A sale must be reasonable for both sellers and buyers. Now that the market is quiet, I often receive so many requests through i property.com from unrealistic rquests for properties that even potentially suicidal owners will not want to sell. I will tell these buyers to wait for World War Three.! Sadly, these people often miss the boat, and some have even missed the ocean liners. They often feel regretful for not buying when prices had gone up; yet when prices have come down, they keep wanting to wait and history repeats itself.!

Sometimes I am amused when the general public think that agents must drive or it would be impossible to be an agent. Most of the top agents in my company do not drive. They save time by taking taxis. Although I do not drive, I am usually very punctual and would arrive minutes before the clients or cobroking agents.

It is imperative for me to make good recommendations which will be tested in due course. Some of my regular clients have made millions of dollars when they bought and sold their properties at the right time. Hence, since the day I started real estate fourteen years ago, I have worked mainly on referrals. Each time a client is introduced to me, I would like to understand his needs so that I would know how to advise and serve him accordingly.

This is the reason why I prefer to work on exclusive basis so that I can give my fullest attention and monitor the property closely so as to provide good service. I dislike to work on open listings where agents scramble to get the deal closed regardless of the low price. I prefer to handle only a few cases at a time so that I can give clients my fullest attention.

Hence, like the old man above, agents should know where to tap. Through experience, we will gradually develop an eagle eye for the productive "rubber trees", so that when we cut the bark, latex will flow into the pail!

Gan Chau

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chelsea is back!



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Chelsea's owner, Shahnaz is on vacation with her family in Hong Kong. Hence I am "dog-sitting" Chelsea for a month.

Chelsea is such a wonderful dog and I miss her so much. Now, we go for long walks together and it is such a joy when strangers come up to her and pat her head.

Even my tenants, Jasmin and Avinesh like Chelsea. They marvel at the way she sleeps on the sofa, with her head perched on a pillow, very much like a dainty lady! She always greets me with her favourite ball in her mouth, and she will turn around a few times. Her favourite game is "Fetch the ball".

My neighbour's dog, Bobby, is excited about Chelsea's presence. Bobby will always come around my apartment in the hope of greeting Chelsea.

If any of my readers have a phobia for dogs I would encourage you to overcome your phobia. Dogs are such marvelous animals and they bring healing and joy to those who love them.

Gan Chau

Friday, December 26, 2008

Our Face is Our Fortune!

I never fail to be amazed by the talent of film directors! All of them, regardless of race, language or religion throughout the world have the knack of choosing just the right actors and actresses for the right role!!!

Somehow a person's face can reflect and reveal his character to some extent. Perhaps this is more prevalent in people who are above 25 years old. I wonder if this is why an elderly friend of mine, shared with me the importance of growing old graciously. She asserted that if one has the milk of human kindness, compassion and a forgiving heart, one should become more beautiful or handsome as the wrinkles gradually set in.

Once I told another elderly lady that she looked really good, and mentioned that when she was younger she must have been even more beautiful. "No, Choo, I was a plain Jane...and a really plain one at that! I guess my looks improved with mellowness, inner peace and strength as age sets in," asserted Aunty Siew who is now in her eighties. When my friend showed me her photo taken when she was in her twenties, I was surprised by the transformation.

Hence, I wonder how UK Television Station Channel 4 could have invited anti-wstern president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to deliver a Christmas speech? The Television Station could have chosen someone with a kinder looking face - a face that even kids and puppies will want to run and climb onto his lap and be hugged?

I am not a film director but having watched so many television serials and movies, I would certainly have made a better choice for someone to deliver a Christmas speech... a season of joy, peace and goodwill to all men on earth.

Hence my dear readers...take heart. Do not fret if you are less endowed. Develop the inner beauty in you. Increase and nurture the milk of human kindness, compassion, empathy and generosity in you. Grow old graciously and beautifully by enjoying life to the maximum, and being always ready to forgive, so that the serenity on our face will not be marred by lines of bitterness. Above all, be ready to accept others, and love them as God loves us and has given His Son for us that we may have life and have it more abundantly.

Indeed our face is our fortune. Let us maximise this fortune! Even as we are blessed, others will be blessed by our good fortune too.

Gan Chau

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What is Love?

My good friend, Choon Lian, whom I have known for forty two years, recently sent me this email which I would like to share with my readers.

The email is worth reading. Touching words from the mouths of babes.
What does 'Love' mean? A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, 'What does 'love' mean?' The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think:

"'When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore.

So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.'
Rebecca- age 8

'When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.
You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.'
Billy - age 4

'Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.'
Karl - age 5

'Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.'
Chrissie- age 6

'Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.'
Terri - age 4

'Love is when my mummy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.'
Danny - age 7

'Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.'
Bobby - age 7 (Wow!)

'If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,'

Nikka - age 6
(we need a few million more Nikka's on this planet)

Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.'
Noelle - age 7

'Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.'
Tommy - age 6

'During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling.

He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore.'
Cindy - age 8

'My mummy loves me more than anybody

You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.'
Clare - age 6

'Love is when Mummy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.'
Elaine-age 5

'Love is when Mummy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.'
Chris - age 7

'Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day'
Mary Ann - age 4

'I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.'
Lauren - age 4

'When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.' (what an image)
Karen - age 7

'You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.'
Jessica - age 8

And the final one -- Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge.

The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child.

The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.

Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.

When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbour, the little boy said,
'Nothing, I just helped him cry'

What does love mean to you, my dear readers? For me, the greatest of all love is one demonstrated on the Cross when the Saviour willingly shed His blood for you and me. The searing pain, the excruciating torture from the crown on His head and the nail pierced hands and feet is always etched in my mind. It is this love that gives me the courage to press on; to continue loving and giving; to continue giving my best effort in everything I do and to continue to be be always optimistic and happy because He is the Hope of this world.

Wishing all my readers from Singapore and throughout the world a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Gan Chau

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Brazen Boasting!

I was amused by the front page of the New Paper. There splashed, on the tabloid was the photo of Miss Asia Scandal with her famous 89 cm bustline. Ms. Bonnie Yuen had even dared ATV Chief Executve, Ricky Wong to feel ber breasts to see if they are real. It is amazing how brazen some people can be when it comes to lying and boasting.

Obviously anyone who is not a plastic surgeon will know that the plastic beauty must have undergone silicone implant for there were her breasts, so defiantly round and huge as if two tennis balls had been wrapped by human skin! Despite being so huge, the two mountains did not touch each other, for there was a little gap between them, reminding me of a little river where boats could pass through them.!

I am astounded by the audacity of Bonnie Yuen, for despite everything, she had dared to challenge a man to feel ber breasts to test whether they are real or not. Perhaps it is a tactic of reverse psychology.?

Somehow this incident reminded me of the time when I was renting out my client's private apartment. Two men saw the flat and immediately confirmed the apartment so that they could move in as soon as possible. They confirmed that eight of them would be sharing the flat and told me that they would produce the work permits of all the people concerned. He gave me photo copies of the work permit, but somehow I felt I could not trust them and went to the Ministry of Manpower to double check.

"Mei wen ti! (No problem) You can check with the authorities that our documents are real. I won't blame you for your due diligence," the men assured me.

As I was lining up, the potential tenants phoned me and asked about the progress of my checking. "I tell you ....they are genuine documents....101% guarantee that I am not lying", the voice at the other end resonated with absolute confidence.

You can imagaine my horror when I found out that all the documents were fake, implying that they were illegally staying in Singapore. Yet, they had the audacity to lie through their teeth! What brazen boasting and dramatising!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lovely Paper Swan

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I am never good at handwork. Morever the fleshiness of my short fingers makes me even less dexterous.

Hence, when a member of our Speechcraft at Changi Prison presented this lovely paper swan to me with a thank you card to all our volunteers, I was overwhelmed.! These tough looking, tatooed youngsters could be so adroit in such intricate paper work!!

Most of the members were full of gratitude as they realised that others are interested in them, and want them to turn over a new leaf and to improve themselves. It was quite touching to watch their parents fighting back their tears as they presented their children with the certificate of achievement. When these youths realised their mistakes and decided to really strive harder to improve, it made our effort worthwhile. It is indeed worthwhile to wake up very early every Saturday morning and make our way to Changi Prison. It is worthwhile to spend three hours with the youths and see them gradually gaining confidence and speaking with panache.

One of my colleagues thought it was illogical for me as weekends are the busiest days for property agents. However, the few hours of being with the members refresh me and increase my energy and widen my perspectives. Life is not just about work, work, work. It is in giving that we actually receive! We have been so blessed that we want to give back what we have received ....our time, talent and resources.

Wishing all my readers a Happy and Blessed New 2009!!! My favourite quote from Vince Lombardi......It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get up again.

Gan Chau

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Opportunities in Crisis?

I was so excited when I received an email from a toastmaster friend, asking if any of us would be keen to go to Thailand for a small group vacation. I was particularly attracted to the idea of swimming with a dolphin! Dolphins are my favourite and how I envied the staff at San Diego Seaworld who trained the dolphins and could swim with them and hug them! The lovely spa resort is near Bangkok, and the program and stay will be arranged by our Thai toastmaster friend.

"If you can group of 8 persons, that is the beautiful figure. I will reserve 4 rooms for twin sharing. The first day will be city tour to the Emerald Buddha Temple and the Royal Grand Palace. The second day will be the ancient city one hour away from BKK. This is the world heritage. The third day will depart for the resort and we will enjoy the city tour of Chantraburi. Will visit the Dolphin show and swin in the big sea water pond with dolphins. They are trained to be friend with the swimmers and only 15 swimmers at one time. In this program, you have to let me know first who want to swim because I have to make advance reservation.

The fourth and onward will be recreation and be pampered with the Thai massage and spa treatment. We have tennis court, swimming pool, steam and sauna rooms. You can play cards and enjoy singing karaoke at the Club House terrace. Beside, we can do some other activities according to your choices. On the 1st January will be departure date and we will drive you direct to Airport. Quotation will be quoted according to the number of passengers.

If your group are 6 or 8, the difference of land transportation is something. The price for room is basis of twin sharing with Breakfast. Lunch and dinner can be arranged according to the choices. There are varieties of foods to be recommended on site. I want everybody enjoy your stay and relax after the hard long working days. Air tickets can be arranged but you have to let me know how many passengers and your preferred time. How about the morning flight incoming and the late evening outgoing flight? By the way, you will enjoy the walk in the wood every morning. "

After reading the above, won't you be tempted to go.? Alas! There was this recent outbreak of crisis in Thailand. Thousands were stranded at the airports. Endless...endless problems which plagued the beautiful country. Probably this is why Air Asia is now giving away free tickets to Thailand to let people know that it is now safe to travel to Bangkok. I emailed to my toastmaster friend to ask if we are still going, perhaps not in December but in January since the free tickets are available from January onwards.

Is this what people mean when they say, "opportunities in crisis".? I remember how my two elder sisters told me they had enjoyed the church camp in Thailand recently in October and had a blessed time. However, it was sad that many had cancelled their trip because of their fear. It would be wonderful if we could emulate Queen Esther who declared stoically, "If I perish, I perish!"

I guess there will be many more opportunities in crisis. Let us be on the lookout and above all, be thankful that we have good friends, loving family members, great health, etc. etc. Let us count our blessings and name them one by one. It is better to be brave and living than to be alive and crippled by our own fear. Only yesterday evening, I reminded my potential agent recruit, Maya, that to be courageous does not mean not having fear, but to move on despite the fear!

Gan Chau

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Dog named "Lucky"

I received an email from my wonderful leader and founder of the Changi Prison Speechcraft, DTM Michael Rodrigues. Mike always sends me emails on dogs as he knows I am an animal lover.

Everyday I thank God for all the wonderful animals and beautiful works of nature that He has created. How can anyone be bored to be surrounded by so much beauty? God also probably knows our human weakness, and that is why He has created dogs to be the best friends for His most loved creation.....homo sapiens. This is also why I think God must love dogs the most of all His creatures for a d-o-g is G-O-D spelt backwards! Interestingly, dogs have some, if not all, of God's characteristics - unconditionally loving and loyal, forever faithful, always forgiving and understanding. Please don't ask me for theological proof. I don't have any. As a lover of dogs and languages, I thought this is neat - that's all.

Oh geez …. The original sender forgot to mention that it tugs at your heart
strings too!!

Anyone who has pets will really like this. You'll like it even if you
don't and you may even decide you need one!

Mary and her husband Jim had a dog named 'Lucky.' Lucky was a real
character. Whenever Mary and Jim had company come for a weekend visit they
would warn their friends to not leave their luggage open because Lucky
would help himself to whatever struck his fancy. Inevitably, someone
would forget and something would come up missing.

Mary or Jim would go to Lucky's toy box in the basement and there the
treasure would be, amid all of Lucky's other favorite toys. Lucky always
stashed his finds in his toy box and he was very particular that his toys
stay in the box.

It happened that Mary found out she had breast cancer. Something told
her she was going to die of this disease....in fact ,she was just sure it
was fatal.

She scheduled the double mastectomy, fear riding her shoulders. The
night before she was to go to the hospital she cuddled with Lucky. A
thought struck her...what would happen to Lucky? Although the
three-year-old dog liked Jim, he was Mary's dog through and through. If I
die, Lucky will be abandoned, Mary thought. He won't understand that I
didn't want to leave him. The thought made her sadder than thinking of
her own death.

The double mastectomy was harder on Mary than her doctors had
anticipated and Mary was hospitalized for over two weeks. Jim took Lucky
for his evening walk faithfully, but the little dog just drooped, whining
and miserable.

Finally the day came for Mary to leave the hospital. When she arrived
home, Mary was so exhausted she couldn't even make it up the steps to
her bedroom. Jim made his wife comfortable on the couch and left her to
nap. Lucky stood watching Mary but he didn't come to her when she called.
It made Mary sad but sleep soon overcame her and she dozed.

When Mary woke for a second she couldn't understand what was wrong.
She couldn't move her head and her body felt heavy and hot. But panic
soon gave way to laughter when Mary realized the problem. She was covered,
literally blanketed, with every treasure Lucky owned! While she had
slept, the sorrowing dog had made trip after trip to the basement bringing
his beloved mistress all his favorite things in life. He had covered
her with his love.

Mary forgot about dying. Instead she and Lucky began living again,
walking further and further together every day. It's been 12 years now and
Mary is still cancer-free. Lucky? He still steals treasures and
stashes them in his toy box but Mary remains his greatest treasure.

Remember....live every day to the fullest. Each minute is a blessing
from God. And never forget....the people who make a difference in our
lives are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the
most awards. They are the ones that care for us.

If you see someone without a smile today give them one of yours! Live
simply. Love seriously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to

A small request: All you are asked to do is keep this circulating.

Dear God, I pray for the cure of cancer. Amen

All you are asked to do is keep this circulating, even if it's to one more

In memory of anyone you know that has been struck down by cancer or is still
living with it.

Gan Chau

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Blessing in Disguise!

My client, Edward, had been not his usual wonderful self. He seemed to be unhappy and was delaying his payment of commission.

I decided to write him an email with the title, "Is anything troubling you"? I encouraged him to voice out his feelings so that issues could be clarified. It turned out that he was unhappy that the cobroking agent had not delivered his promise to deliver the flat upon completion of sale. I explained to him what had been agreed upon, and told him that since he had reservations, there would be no necessity for him to pay me commission until he moved into the flat in two weeks' time. I should have already given him our company's invoice on the date of completion, but knowing that he was upset over his father's hospitalisation, I did not want to rush him.

I was surprised when Edward called me up the next morning and asked me to meet him at Bukit Merah, during lunch time, as he wanted to pass me the commission.

As Edward was late, I noticed that there was a Singapore Pool just next to the cafeteria where I was waiting for Edward. On impulse, I decided, to buy my birthdate numbers - 1212 and 2112, paying a total of $4/-.

I told Edward that I was very happy as now I could go to the cinemas during the day time and pay $4/- as I am now definitely 55 and the first show that I would see would be a Hindi show, "Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi".

"Happy Birthday, Choo", said Edward. "Thanks for being so patient and understanding. You're one of my best agents. Thanks too for being a friend."

You can imagine my surprise I when I found out that 2112 had come in first prize. I told my manager, Aveline, about it and she told me I would get $4,000/-!

What a blessing in disguise. If I had not met Edward at the cafeteria I would not have bought the tickets, as it is not my habit to buy numbers.

Sometimes when things do not turn up the way we expect, it could also turn out to be a blessing in disguise.!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What A Sheer Coincidence!

"Choo Choo, this is Jasmin", the voice on the other end of the phone sounded unfamiliar.

"Hai! Why is your voice different today, Jasmin?" I asked.

"Choo Choo, this is Jasmin," the voice repeated.

"You sound so different today," I reiterated, thinking that my tenant, Jasmin was playing a trick on me.

"You wouldn't know me. But I have been asked to call you. This is Jasmin from Dennis Wee Group," she asserted.

"Oh, I see."

An hour, later, the phone rang.

"Choo, this is Jasmin."

"Sorry, Jasmin, I have not been able to contact the client yet about your viewing."

"I am Jasmin from ERA. This is my first time calling you," replied the lady.

Fifteen minutes later, someone from the People's Association called me and asked me for my feedback on my violin teacher, Mr. Yan. I told the lady on the phone that Mr. Yan is an excellent teacher. Later I asked her for her name.


Gosh! What a sheer coincidence. I told my tenant, Jasmin about the phone calls. Perhaps readers would be curious to know why my tenant is called Jasmin. Jasmin has an elder brother and his father longed and hoped for a daughter, and prepared the name of Jasmin for the second child who turned out to be him. Nevertheless, the father still used the name of Jasmin and that was how he got the name which gave me such a confusion! Many of my friends and colleagues have assumed that my tenant Jasmin is a lady.

I suggested to Jasmin that perhaps his papa could have changed the name to Jasmon, which would sound more masculine.

"But what's the meaning?" asked Jasmin.

"Don't know leh. But Jasmon sounds nice. Like my sister, calling her son Darion - a coining of the words of "Daring and Lion."

"Jasmin is a meaningful name - a flower that has herbal qualities," defended my tenant, Jasmin.

"Alright, alright, so be it."

Ah! Names! What's in a name? Plenty!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Favourite Things (1)


My favourite shoes - cheap, comfortable and charming!

My favourite arm chair donated by my best friend, Amu.

My favourite Teddy - prize for being first runner-up in Creative Outfit in the MAD Toastmasters' Convention!
My favourite pounder - helps me to come up with delicious Nonya dishes

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"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with string,
These are a few of my favorite things"

The above first verse sung by Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music! Do you recall that? I guess all of us can identify with the lyrics, because like Maria von Trapp, we all have our favourite things.

My favourite pair of shoes cost me only S$6/-. Whenever friends see my shoes, they would say that the design is unique and cute. When I asked some to guess the price, they often say it would cost around $40/- and someone even thought it cost $120/-! Hence, they were surprised when I mentioned the price of $6/-. The taxi driver who was taking me to Houggang was quite muddle-headed and took the wrong turn, and I decided to get out of the taxi as it would be futile for me to reach my destination on time. Hence I decided to go the following day instead. The driver dropped me off near Farrer Park MRT station which was just one stop from my apartment. I noticed a huge white tent erected on the empty piece of land near Mustaffa Department Store and decided to check it out. I immediately saw a lovely pair of white and black shoes.

"Last pair", said the sales assistant.

I tried the shoes and to my surprise, they fit so well! Since it was only $6/- I bought the shoes within 2 minutes. They proved to be my favourite, and received many compliments. Best of all, the shoes were very well made!

I guess if the taxi driver had not taken the wrong turn, I would not have ended up buying my favourite shoes. Hence, sometimes when things go wrong, we must not be fretful, for blessings could be just round the corner! I remember someone had just bent down to tie his shoe strings even though he was late for work, and by doing so, missed the train. Later he found out that had he been on time, he might be killed in the train that was bombed by terrorists!

My next favourite thing.......drum roll!...... an old arm chair, a gift from my best friend, Amu. Noticing that nobody was sitting on the grey armchair, I tried it and soon fell asleep, oblivious to the music from the television and the loud conversation of the guests in Amu's apartment.

"Amu, why is no one using this comfortable chair?"

"Choo, you can have it if you like it", volunteered my generous friend.

"Really? The chair reminds me of a dentist's chair....so comfortable". I would sometimes take naps on this easy chair.

Not one who is crazy about stuffed toys, nevertheless, I just love this cute teddy in red woolen shirt. It was my prize for coming in as first runner up at the MAD Toastmasters' Convention last year. I had not planned to participate in the contest, but when the organising Chairman, Tay Yiang Ping, casually mentioned over lunch that she would mete out penalties to those not attired in mad outfits, I decided to rush back during the break to get the apron my sister had made for me as well as the huge ladle I used when I was operating Rialto. I was dressed as a MAD Chef, for on my apron were written: "Fish Head Curry - $20/-. Human Head Curry - $40/-.

I guess, it is therapeutic to let our hair down once in a while.

My favourite and faithful pounder has been with me for the past 24 years! Although I have an electric blender, but I still prefer to pound my chillies, onions, ginger and other ingredients when I cook Nonya food. For some strange reasons, curry tastes better when the ingredients are pounded. Like a true-blue Nonya, I am meticulous when I cook. I guess if I were cooking in a restaurant, it would not be practical to pound, but since I am cooking at home, a little extra labour will not kill me....in fact it will help me to lose some weight and avert the chances of getting Parkinson's Disease because I have to squat or sit on a low stool when I pound the ingredients. Like the crackling of fire wood during Winter, the pounding of chillies gives warmth and reassurance that guests will be well fed and taken care of.

I will list more of my favourite things in the following articles. My dear readers, what are your favourite things? Life's pleasures are not dependant on costly items but simple objects that bring us much joy and fun!

Gan Chau



Succulent blueberries!

Isn't the colour of blueberries lovely?

I had to go to Hongkong Street to get some green tea pumpkin seeds. It would be cheaper to get them at the wholesaler. The nearest MRT stop is at Clarke Quay. Having seen some advertisements on the television, I wanted to take a look at the shops in Central Mall.

I suddenly caught sight of some packets of blueberries. Immediately they reminded me of my university days in Canada. My classmate, Jim Wright, had invited me to spend the holiday in his family home at a farm in Grande Prairie, a small town north of Edmonton. Knowing that I was from the tropics, my thoughtful and hospitable classmate thought I would enjoy the experience of staying at a farm.

What a large expanse of land! I enjoyed trying out the tractors and machines which harvested the wheat. It was fun to be wading in the river and running around with Jim's two pet dogs.

I was surprised when Jim suggested that we went blueberry picking. Armed with a basket each, we went to to woods. The blueberries were grown wild on bushes, and Jim told me that bears love blueberries. I almost expected to find one but sadly, no grizzly bears were in sight! Jim and I decided to have a competition - to see who would pick the most number of blueberries. I asked my students to guess who was the winner and most of them guessed it must be me but could not give the answer I was looking for.

I picked more blueberries than Jim, simply because I was closer to the ground than he was. Jim is 1.92 metres tall! I was like a midget beside him. Jim's mum baked delicious blueberry pies with the blueberries we had picked. It was such a nice feeling - to truly enjoy the fruit of our labour!

Well, for those of my readers who complain that they are somewhat short - remember that good things come in short packages too!
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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Wind, Blessed Wind!


The lovely flower windmill spinning furiously outside my apartment.

Yesterday was the coolest day I had ever experienced in Singapore! What a joy to feel the cool breeze on your cheeks and to step on the cold granite tiles in the apartment. How refreshing to splash almost icy cold water when I washed my face!

The unusual weather reminded me of the winter season in Taiwan or spring time in Canada. I casually mentioned to my tenant, Jasmin, that the other time I experienced such weather and perhaps an even better one because there was no drizzle, was on the day of papa's funeral in Penang. Jasmin shared that he had seen such similar weather at funerals of good people. I remember how during papa's funeral, there was no necessity for anyone to carry umbrellas because the sky was cloudy, yet there was no rain. There was only the wind which was blowing at the right pace as if to comfort everyone who loved my papa and mourned for him.

For almost two years I had rented an apartment in Toa Payoh and literally perspired the whole day long, for both the morning and afternoon sunlight would stream right in. I felt as if I was in a sauna the whole day long!! It was evidenced by the constant change of clothes.! I guess God knows my needs so that when I bought this apartment five minutes after viewing, I was delighted when I realised that it is usually so windy here.

Hence, when my manager, Aveline, asked me to move back to Toa Payoh as our company, Dennis Wee Group has relocated from Dhoby Ghaut to Toa Payoh, I decided to stay put.

"Choo, maybe Toa Payoh, has better feng shui, " asserted Aveline.

"The wind is my blessing, Aveline", I replied.

It has always been my practice to live near my work place as I suffer from motion sickness, due to my chronic ear problems, especially when I am in a car. It is better for me to take the huge bus or mrt. Little India is so centrally located, and as it is just 40 seconds walk to the MRT, I can easily zoom around Singapore with my BMW - bus, mrt and a pair of strong legs lah! I am so happy living here. I often see some Indians sleeping on the floor and it is a constant reminder for me to be contented and grateful to God. I am glad for the opportunity to learn Tamil and Hindi and also for the opportunity to show some kindness whenever I can ...giving away clothes, blankets, food, etc. to the needy Indians who may have lost their jobs or have employers who owe them wages.

Recently I helped my neighbour to rent out his flat and viewers were pleasantly surprised by the wind that would come into the apartment. I proudly showed them the flower windmill outside my apartment because it would be spinning furiously.

For the first time I slept without turning on the fan last night. Wow, if this continues, we will help to bring down the cost of electricity and also, help to save the planet.

Gan Chau
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Monday, December 08, 2008

5 Minute Management Course

My friend, Soh Yah, sent me this interesting, yet thought provoking email which will benefit my readers. Hope you enjoy it.


Lesson 1:

A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings.
The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs.
When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbour.
Before she says a word, Bob says, 'I'll give you $800 to drop that towel.'
After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob, after a few seconds, Bob hands her $800 and leaves.
The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs.
When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, 'Who was that?'
'It was Bob the next door neighbour,' she replies.
'Great,' the husband says, 'did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?'

Moral of the story:
If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.

Lesson 2:

A priest offered a Nun a lift.
She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg.!
The priest nearly had an accident.
After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg..
The nun said, 'Father, remember Psalm 129?'
The priest removed his hand. But, changing gears, he let his hand slide up her leg again.
The nun once again said, 'Father, remember Psalm 129?'
The priest apologized, 'Sorry sister but the flesh is weak.'
Arriving at the convent, the nun sighed heavily and went on her way.
On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129. It said, 'Go forth and seek, further up, you will find glory.'

Moral of the story:
If you are not well informed in your job, you might miss a great opportunity.

Lesson! 3:

A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp.
They rub it and a Genie comes out.
The Genie says, 'I'll give each of you just one wish.'
'Me first! Me first!' says the admin clerk. 'I want to be in the Bahamas , driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.'
Puff! She's gone.
'Me next! Me next!' says the sales rep. 'I want to be in Hawaii , relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Colada and the love of my life.'
Puff! He's gone.
'OK, you're up,' ;the Genie says to the manager.
The manager says, 'I want those two back in the office after lunch.'

Moral of the story:
Always let your boss have the first say.

Lesson 4

An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing.
A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, 'Can I also sit like you and do nothing?'
The eagle answered: 'Sure, why not.'
So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Moral of the story:
To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.

Lesson 5

A turkey was chatting with a bull.
'I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree' sighed the turkey, 'but I haven't got the energy.'
'Well, why don't you nibble on some of my droppings?' replied the bull. They're packed with nutrients.'
The turkey pecked at a lump of dung, and found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree.
The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch.
Finally after a fourth night, the turkey was proudly perched at the top of the tree.
He was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree.
Moral of the story:
Bull Shit might get you to the top, but it won't keep you there..

Lesson 6

A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground into a large field..
While he was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on him.
As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realize how warm he was.
The dung was actually thawing him out!
He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy.
A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate.
Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him.

Morals of the story:
(1) Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy.
(2) Not everyone who gets you out of shit is your
(3) And when you're in deep shit, it's best to keep
your mouth shut!


And send this to bright people who have enough sense of humor to take it!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

At Victoria Concert Hall


Before the commencement of the concert....Jasmin, Anu and Avinesh

The grand staircase leading to the concert hall

Posing by the lovely Christmas tree

Outside of the Victoria Concert Hall - Avinesh, Anu and Jasmin

I decided to give my tenants a treat. As they have never been to a musical concert before, I decided to take them to the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra as my violin teacher, Mr. Yan Yin Wing, was conducting the orchestra. The soloist was Md. Rasull Bin Khelid. It was wonderful to hear his rendition of "Flute Concerto in D Major, Op. 283" by Reinecke. The audience was also greatly entertained by the fine performance of the Orchestra. We enjoyed Mr. Yan's orchestral composition of "Symphony No. 1 "Harmony". There are so many talented Singaporeans!

Music is an international language that everyone understands and it is such a joy to see my guests enjoying themselves. After the concert, we decided to walk around the lovely buildings around Victoria Concert Hall.

Although the Esplanade is modern and unique in architecture and design, I still prefer the quaintness of the Victoria Concert Hall. Somehow older buildings seem to have more character.

I hope the government will never ever demolish this grand old lady.

Gan Chau
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The One from whom all blessings flow!

"Why are your eyes red? Crying again?" queried my tenant, Jasmin, who had just come back from an outing. Sad movies always make me cry.

"Just now, the movie was very sad. Little Nonya did not have enough money to buy food and had to eat the bananas she found at a makeshift altar on the road," volunteered Anu, my other tenant who had been watching the serial with me.

"Choo, give your dinner to Little Nonya, " Jasmin suggested.

Yes, I have been giving my lunch to the Erhu busker, Mr. Liew, who often plays the erhu whenever I pass by him on my way to the office at Park Mall. Whenever I saw him, I would pass him my lunch. Since I am well-rounded and Mr. Liew is so skinny, he could do with my lunch, and it would not kill me to have one meal less.

However, strangely, every time I gave my lunch away, somehow when I reached my office, I would receive treats from my colleagues.! Sometimes, the cleaner, Aunty Kang, would buy an extra packet of lunch for me; sometimes someone in the company would be giving a generous treat. Truly, we could never outgive the One from whom all blessings flow! He is the same One who looks after the wild flowers on the mountains and the wild birds of the air!

Gan Chau

Friday, December 05, 2008

Dog Rescues Injured Dog on Freeway!

My good friend, Geok Cheng, who is also a committed toastmaster, sent me this email.

"Hi Choo Choo,

You must watch this youtube clip - a courageous dog with a heart saving another dogIt puts humans to shame - esp the people who stampeded a Walmart employee to death in a post Thanksgiving Sales!!! Seems both dogs survived!!! Some one from above must be looking after these two dogs."

Indeed, we can learn so many wonderful lessons from animals. The Creator has made homo sapiens His highest form of creation.....let us be the people that we are humanly meant to be!!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Little Getaway!


Eldest sis is such a wonderful cook! Now you know why I have always been plump since young!

The electronic ping pong table which serves the ping pong to you! Hence you can play solo!

Eldest sister with her two older grandchildren, watching the television with rapt attention!

The airport bus which brings passengers from Johore Bahru to Senai Airport.!
I was the only passenger!

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Eldest sister had asked me to see her in Senai where she was staying with her son and family.

With so many committments, I could only make it on the eve of her departure. I enjoyed talking and playing with my little grand-nieces as they are very clever and entertaining.

Sister cooked a wonderful dinner as she also wanted to give me an early birthday celebration, and my nephew, Daniel, also came to join us.

I was delighted to find that Sophia, the second eldest daughter is musically inclined, and is learning the piano, violin, drums as well as ballet. The youngest one, Gloria, is extremely intelligent and would often listen to adult conversation. When she hears something funny, she will burst into laughter. Eldest sister shared with me one hilarious incident. She had persuaded the maid, Ati, to let the children help her now and then, such as sweeping, folding clothes, etc. However, the children had reiterated that Ati never wanted them to do anything. Optimistic Sophia comforted herself by saying that when she gets married, Ati will continue to work for her. However, the youngest one, Gloria, stunned everyone when she said,
"When I get married, Ati will be very old already and maybe also die already!" Sister was amused that at the tender age of four, she somehow has the concept of aging and death.

My niece-in-law, Dea, had thoughtfully arranged with the neighbour to give me a ride when he goes to work in Singapore, but unfortunately it did not materialise. Suddenly I thought it might be a better idea for me to send sister off and then I could take the airport bus to the city. Senai Airport is now undergoing expansion and renovation works. It costs only MR8 to take the airport bus which is a bout 45 minutes ride. I was pleasantly surprised that I was the onloy passenger. Wow! I was free to move from seat to seat!

It is always so refreshing to get a little break now and then, from the hustle and bustle of life in Singapore.

Gan Chau

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What is Mathematics without Mental Calculation?

Yesterday, I was rushing for my violin lessons and reached the Braddell Heights Community Centre punctually at 4.00p.m. However, my teacher was still teaching. Hence I decided to run down to the office to pay my fees of $85/-. I gave the administrative officer $100/- and there she was chatting with her colleagues. I told her I had to rush. To my surprise, she took out a calculator and then paid me $15/-.!

Suddenly I remembered a conversation with my tenants, Jasmin and Avinesh. They were both very proud that in India, most people could just calculate very fast without using the calculator. They have noted that people here would often use the calculator for the slightest amount!

I had also observed an elderly store keeper, Mr. Haleem, an Indian Muslim. He could calculate mentally with almost the speed of lightning. I am impressed with the alert mind of this 85 year old man.

I had never passed Maths throughout secondary school. But I am quite adept in calculating mentally. You know why? Let me tell you a secret. My fingers are too fat and when I first started using the calculator, I often could not key in properly because two numbers would appear because my excess fat had exceeded the boundaries of one key.! Hence, I would often end up calculating without the little electronic device. If the figures are too complex, I will calculate on paper.

My ability to calculate mentally also came about because I was fiercely protective of my parents whenever we went marketing. I would not want anyone to cheat papa of his hard earned money. Quite a number of times, I had told the vendors they had short changed my parents. Soon I became quite well known for my eagle eyes and sharp mind. I want to laugh because if only those people had known that I was often confounded by seemingly complex mathematical formulas but which would appear exceedingly simple to my clever classmates.

Now to solve the problems of my fat fingers pressing on two keys simultaneously, I have bought a big calculator with huge keys and big numbering. Alas! The big calculator is too cumbersome to be carried around in my handbag. Hence, I am back to square one!

I am still counting mentally as in olden times. Nevertheless, what is mathematics without mental calculation? If I can add, subtract, multiply and divide accurately, I can still survive when I shop, pay bills and calculate my clients'
rental and purchases of properties. :-)

Gan Chau

Finnegan and Mademoiselle giselle




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Debby Cantlon, who plans
To release Finnegan, the young squirrel,
Back into the wild, bottle-fed the infant
Squirrel after it was brought to her house.

When Cantlon took in the tiny creature and began caring for him,
She found herself with an unlikely nurse's aide: her pregnant
Pap illion, Mademoiselle Giselle .

Finnegan was resting in a nest in a cage just days before Giselle
Was due to deliver her puppies.

Cantlon and her husband watched as the dog dragged the squirrel's
Cage twice to her own bedside before she gave birth.

Cantlon was concerned, yet ultimately decided to allow the
Squirrel out and the inter-species bonding began.

Finnegan rides a puppy mosh pit of sorts, burrowing in for warmth
After feeding, eventually working his way beneath his new litter mates.

Two days after giving birth, mama dog Giselle allowed Finnegan
To nurse; family photos and a videotape show her encouraging
Him to suckle alongside her litter of five pups.

Now, Finnegan mostly uses a bottle, but still snuggles with his
'siblings' in a mosh pit of puppies, rolling atop their bodies
And sinking in deeply for a nap.

Finnegan and his new litter mates, five Papillion puppies,
Get along together as if they were meant to.

Wouldn't it be n ice if we could all get along

Like Finnegan and the gang?

MORAL OF THE STORY : Keep loving everyone . . .

Even the squirrelly Ones!

I received the above email from Michael Rodrigues, the leader of our Changi Prison Speechcraft. What wonderful pictures! Compared to these little creatures, some of us human beings fight like dogs and cats, and these little ones live in harmony like what human beings, with advanced brains, are supposed to do!

Gan Chau

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas!


Ice skating is just fabulously delightful! Even the clumsiest and fattest of persons will feel ever so light and graceful!

My favourite winter sport - downhill skiing!

I guess when God gives us 4 seasons in a year, it is perhaps to break the monotony of the surroundings. For us who are living in the tropics where we have 3 seasons in a year - namely, hot, hotter, hottest, the evergreen trees could spell boredom for us. Wait a minute.....am not so sure, because I often hear Canadians complain of the blistering cold even before it arrives.! Instead of enjoying the golden splendour of Autumn, many would be already worried about the forthcoming winter!

How I love winter! And especially all the winter sports and activities - cross country skiing, downhill skiing, ice skating, skidooing and tobaganning! Hence, I was thrilled when I chanced upon this particular section in Takashima when I went to collect keys from a co-broking agent. Naturally, many shoppers were also glued to the wonderful display of interesting items at this section. All the decorative displays are automated by batteries and electricity. I particularly like the above two and could not resist smiling when I saw the figurines dancing and skating on ice. It was amusing to watch the skiers coming down the slopes! Oh! How I wish I were in Canada skiing down the slopes of Banff Mountain! I am sure, I enjoy window shopping more than actually taking my purchases home, because I do not wish to increase the clutter in my flat. At one time, I spent hours in the bookshops to peruse books on flower arrangement, paintings, craft, cooking, gardening and travel. If I were to continue to buy more books, I would have to turn my home into a library!! Luckily, there are not too many frugal customers like me, or the departmental stores will have to close down!

Wake up! Choo! This is Singapore. I better treasure the glitter and shine along Orchard Road, and enjoy the fellowship of my colleagues, friends and relatives in tropical Singapore than to dream.!

Nevertheless, it is nice to dream once a year around Christmas time. I'm dreaming of a white Christmas.......

Gan Chau
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Monday, December 01, 2008

Surrogate Mother of the Year!



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When two white tiger cubs were born during a hurricane they had to be separated from their mother after their sanctuary flooded. However they have since found an unlikely surrogate mother in chimpanzee Anjana, who has taken on the role of caring for the cubs.

The above adorable images will melt even the most cynical of hearts.

The two-year-old chimp has been helping keeper China York care for the 21-day-old cubs at The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS) in South Carolina.

'Mitra and Shiva, were born during Hurricane Hannah,' said Dr Bhagavan, founder of TIGERS. "During that time everything flooded in the sanctuary and they had to be moved into the house as their mother became stressed.

'It was important for their safety that they were separated.'

Placed into the care of infant animal care giver China and her chimpanzee companion, Anjna, the cubs have become almost inseparable from their new motherly figures.
This has also resulted in Anjana copying China's caring behaviour.

'She has raised leopards, lions, orangutans,' said Dr Bhagavan. 'Monkey see as monkey do, and she has taken on this copycat personality and helps China raise the animals.

'She has just finished raising four lions and they were inseparable. She is a great assistant.'

The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species is a wildlife education organisation, dedicated to promoting global conservation with informative, educational and entertaining interactive programs.

The above email was sent to me by my good friend, Maya. All my friends know that I love animals and would often send me interesting emails on animals. Whenever I am sad or discouraged, I will watch Animal Planet, National Geographic or Discovery channels on television, and I will feel uplifted again by God's amazing and awesome creation.

Gan Chau

Sunday, November 30, 2008

In Hot Soup....

"Let me put away my phone first", I said to my friend who wanted me to check whether the spaghetti in the pot was of the right texture.

I am now extra cautious for a few months ago, I was boiling some soup when the phone rang. I had just brought the pot of soup from the stove and placed it on the marble table. Just then the phone rang. With the phone in my left hand, and a ladle in my right, I scooped up some soup into two bowls. My guest was rushing off for an appointment and I had to serve her the soup first. Suddenly, to my horror, the phone slipped from my left hand and landed into the pot of hot soup!

Gone was the whole mechanism of the phone! My contact numbers had disappeared! And so had all the messages received.

Now, I am extra cautious. I hope I will not land myself in hot soup again....never!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Strange mathematics shown in buses and trains!

I was rushing down the escalator as the train was arriving soon. About 8 people got out of the train. Yet, when I wanted to get in, there was no space for me to get in! Amazing mathematics! If 8 people got out of the train, surely at least 8 people could get in! Even one person could not get in. I had to raise my voice and threw caution to self-consciousness, "Please move in, please move in." Only then was there a little space for me to enter before the doors closed. Deep in my heart, I am grateful to toastmasters' training which has enabled me to be outspoken. Also, I guess the desperation to get into the train has also motivated me to speak out.

Ever so often, during peak hours, I notice how people would just stay put instead of moving to the rear of the bus. The poor bus driver not only has to be attentive when he is driving; he also has the uneviable task of taking care of his passengers. In the past, we always had a driver and a conductor. The conductor would collect money for the tickets as well as to make sure that the bus was not overcrowded or that people would move to the back. Is this the reason why fewer and fewer people are opting to drive buses?

Just not too long ago, I was in bus No. 67. It was around the Hari Raya celebration. The bus was jam packed and at every stop, the driver had to remind the passengers to move to the rear. I decided to give the driver a helping hand, and asked the people to move. I also spoke in Mandarin, Malay and Tamil less there were some passengers who could not understand English.!

I hardly passed my mathematics throughout high school. But I certainly know that when 8 passengers alighted from a bus, surely 8 more could enter. But the innate selfishness of people does not make this logic possible.

When will passengers become more considerate and help make travelling by public transport an easier and more pleasant journey?

Gan Chau

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Story to Live By....

I received this following story from my friend, Melinda. Perhaps some of my readers would have read it already.

Papa had said that we can do nine good deeds for someone; but if we were to fail him in one favour, he could wipe out memories of the nine good deeds and only remember our one failure! Is this probably the reason why some people prefer to have dogs as their friends.? For they can bank on the absolute faithfulness of their four legged pets than on two legged homo sapiens.

A Story to live by

> There was a blind girl who hated herself because she was blind. She
> hated everyone, except her loving boyfriend. He was always
> there for her. She told her boyfriend, 'If I could only see
> the world, I will marry you.' > One day, someone donated a pair of eyes to her.
When the bandages came off, she was able to see everything, including her boyfriend.
> He asked her,'Now that you can see the world, will you marry me?'
The girl looked at her boyfriend and saw that he was blind.
The sight of his closed eyelids shocked her.
She hadn't expected that. The thought of looking at them the rest of her life
led her to refuse to marry him.

> Her boyfriend left in tears and days later wrote a note to her
> saying: 'Take good care of your eyes, my dear,
for before they were yours, they were mine.'
> This is how the human brain often works when our status changes.
> Only a very few remember what life was like before, and who
> was always by their side in the most painful situations.

> Life Is a Gift
> Today
> before you say an unkind word - Think of someone who can't speak.

> Before
> you complain about the taste of your food -
Think of someone who has nothing to eat.
> Before
> you complain about your husband or wife -
Think of someone who's crying out to GOD for a companion.

> Today
> before you complain about life - Think of someone who died
> too early on this earth.

> Before
> you complain about your children - Think of someone who
> desires children but they're barren.
> Before
> you argue about your dirty house someone didn't clean or
> sweep - Think of the people who are living in the streets.
> Before
> whining about the distance you drive Think of someone who
> walks the same distance with their feet.
> And when
> you are tired and complain about your job - Think of the
> unemployed, the disabled, and those who wish they had your job.
> But
> before you think of pointing the finger or condemning
> another - Remember that not one of us is without sin.
> And when
> depressing thoughts seem to get you down - Put a smile on
> your face and think: you're alive and still

An Inspiring Letter......

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Some members of Div. U at the Annual Convention of District 80
From left to right: Chooi Ling, Edward Ma, Ed Hearn, Kristina, Anne Barab, yours truly, David Liem and Bee Bee

One of the most prominent guests in our District 80 Annual Convention is Anne Barab. We were mesmerised by her vivacious personality, her positiveness and her humorous and charming personality. Once in a while, I would send her an email and to my pleasant surprise, despite her hectic schedules, she would reply and promptly too.! My pastor had said that when you give a busy person a task, somehow he/she will always be able to get it done. I guess it all boils down to effective time management.

Here, I share with readers her email. I hope that this article will reach out to toastmasters around the world too. What an inspiring sotry about Lashunda Rundles!
I hope your spirit will be uplifted just as mine.

Dear Kam Choo Choo,

Congratulations on overcoming your fear!!! The personal growth rewards of being a brave Toastmaster are enormous. I’m so glad you chose to grow with courage, rather than to give in to your pre-contest nerves. Contests help us grow like no other Toastmaster’s experience.

Would you please be kind enough to forward this message from me to your District 80 distribution list?

Dear District 80,

How wonderful to see your smiling faces and read your names in Kam Choo Choo’s email! I so treasure the District 80 friendships when we visited in May. And it was even better seeing many of you again in Calgary in August.

Speaking of Calgary , perhaps you remember Lashunda Rundles who won the International Speech Contest this year. Well, she is from District 50 here in Dallas , Texas . In her winning speech she mentioned she has Lupus, a deadly disease where the body’s cells attack each other. She spent 8 months in the hospital last year and had several toes amputated. Although she looked so composed at the contest she was in terrible pain and could not keep food down. When she returned to Dallas we had a celebration honoring her. She gave her winning speech sitting in a chair, then drove directly to the hospital and checked in. She’s been in the intensive care unit (ICU) for weeks. Her colon burst open and filled her body with a terrible infection. After exploratory surgery, the doctors told her she maybe had a month to live if she had surgery every 3 or 4 days. Not a promising prognosis. However, she is an incredibly brave and strong soul who is fighting back. She’s still with us and has been able to sit up in a chair for an hour a couple of times. So many Toastmasters come to see her that the hospital is giving us crowd control instructions. So please keep Lashunda in your prayers.

I’ve had a busy summer and fall speaking all over the country, but now I’m home for the rest of the year. My new website is going live shortly. Here’s a link www.AnneBarab.com/dev2 On a personal note, Stu and I have taken up bicycling and I’ve managed to fall off twice, once to the right on cement and again on the left on grass which is much softer. As a result I have some pretty spectacular bruises. Our other big news is we are expecting our first grandchild, due January 24th. Our daughter and son-in-law are naming her Olivia Anne in honor of me. Wow! What joy.

America will be celebrating a national holiday called Thanksgiving this coming Thursday. Families get together to eat turkey, watch a lot of football on TV, and be thankful for our many blessings. Top on my list of gratitudes are all of you in District 80!! Your hospitality toward us was boundless, but mainly you all (y’all in Texas ) are just so darn much fun! Stu and I reminisce about laughing with you so hard our ribs hurt. I still hear from some of you (you know who you are) but I’d love to find out how more of you are doing so please hit Reply and let me know.

From my country to yours, thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU for the family of Toastmasters!!!!!!!


The Resilience Expert

Balancing Attitude, Reality And Behavior

214-349-2777 voice

214-293-9009 cell


Have violin, will travel safely in crowded places!

Although it could be quite cumbersome to carry my violin with me whenever I have to go for my violin class or practice with my piano teacher, I discovered that the solid rectangular case also has its great use. Sometimes, I have to carry my violin with me to the office so that I could proceed to my class after doing some paper work.

When I am in a crowded train, I would not hold my violin case horizontally as it would be easier to hold it vertically. I then discovered that it is best to clutch it like as if you were holding a baby. The case certainly gives you great security and protection.....against lustful men who pretend to brush against your chest. Some pretended to brush against you and they pretended they were unaware, and gave you that innocent look. As a genteel lady, you did not want to kick up a fuss or unneccessary attention to yourself. Mm..mm....am not so sure.....one of these days, I may end up releasing my clenched fist, and giving someone a kick in the butt.!

I also discover that carrying an over sized handbag would also come in handy for not only making sure that you do not misplace any of your belongings, but also as a weapon against people with lewd intentions.

Hence, this is why I often prefer to walk if I could, rather than to take the crowded train. I can enjoy the fresh air, space and freedom.!

Gan Chau

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mr. Rock's Life Journey


Taking a pose at Artfolio Gallery - from left to right
Jasmin, yours truly, Anu and Avinesh

One of my favourite paintings - Mr. Rock at Mt. Fuji

Would readers like to interpret this painting of Mr. Naoya Oka?

Collection of paintings by the talented Japanese artist, Mr. Naoya Oka

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I received an invitation from Artfolio Gallery to attend the opening ceremony of "Mr. Rock's Life Journey" by a talented artist, Mr. Naoya Oka. I decided to bring my tenants along as they are also quite interested in things artistic and musical.

What colorful and lovely paintings. Mr. Oka's paintings is a blend of the East and the West. His cherry blossoms remind me of oriental art while his figurine paintings remind me of Picasso.

I wish I had money to be an art collector.....but for now I can only be an admirer of great paintings. A thing of beauty is a joy forever!

Gan Chau

Sunday, November 23, 2008

District 80 Humorous Speech and Evaluation Contests


Winners of the Humorous speech contest

Winners of the Evaluation contest


Taking a pose with some members from the Braddell Heights Advanced Toastmasters' Club
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What a great and exciting time.! This time, it was more mind-boggling for me as a first time participant in the contest. Thanks to the generosity of Kin Fung, the Div. U champion for both humorous speech and evaluation contests, I was asked to participate in the evaluation contest so that Kin Fung could concentrate on his humorous speech. Fellow toastmasters like Cher Khim, Ban Peng, Kelvin and Geok Cheng were very encouraging. They gave me useful tips on what a good evaluation is all about. I am very grateful to them.

However, on the eve of the contest, I nearly chickened out. I was nervous and felt that perhaps it would be too stressful for me to take part. I was tempted to phone Dr. Barry Tan to replace me, but felt it would be unfair to give him 11th hour notice. I would also be letting my mentors down by not even having the courage to try. However, I overcame my fear and decided to taste the experience the following day!

I did not end up a winner, but I was happy to get very useful feedback from my friends and members. I realised I was afraid of going overtime and my conclusion was too brief! My friends thought I did well for my analysis and recommendation!

What a wonderful feeling! I am glad I did not chicken out and experienced my first time in a district contest! It was so enlightening to learn from great speakers and leaders.

I felt like as if I had gone through a tsunami experience, so that it strengthened me to face more storms in life. After having experienced the intensity and wonder of a speech contest, it made me feel that the next time, it would be easier for me to overcome my fear. It is like as if having experienced a tornado, all other smaller storms would appear to be like droplets of rain!

Frankly speaking, I thought I was going to resign from my club and to take a break from toastmasters' activities next year. However, when I see so much passion burning in our great leaders like Kim Siong, Wei Khoon, Ban Peng, Michael Rodrigues, Aziz Mustajab, Neil Sy, Dr. V. Chanyasak, Dickson, Panomporn Vajirakachorn, just to name a few, I am motivated once again. Learing is a life long journey, and I should continue to fan the little flame in me so that it will not be extinguished and in burning, I can continue to ignite the candle for others.

The next convention would be held in Hongkong.! I want to emulate our International Director, DTM Poh Kim Siong who had the courage to be the test speaker at the contest, even though English is his second language. Kim Siong was right.....
attending a convention gives us added exposure and enlightenment!

Thanks everyone in District 80!

Gan Chau

The Night the Taps Went Dry.....

I had just finished watching my favourite television program, "Women of Times" at midnight. I was drenched with perspiration, as I had been both exercising and watching the program at the same time. When I went into the bathroom to take my shower, lo and behold!!! There was no water coming out of the tap. I went to the kitchen sink, and there was also no water! Gosh! Did I forget to pay my utilities? I would need to take a powder bath if I could not get a shower.! If I could not get the water back on time, I would have to go to Raffles Town Club to have my shower the following morning.

I decided to go to the nearest 7-11 store to buy some mineral water, as I was somewhat dehydrated with all the perspiration. I met a neighbour and he said, "Water is coming!" Only then did I realise that there had been no water supply for the past two hours.

While waiting for the lift, I met another neighbour who complained to me. "I was having a shower and had just applied soap all over me when the water was cut off! I thought I had forgotten to pay my bills!"

I tried not to laugh. With his scowl and his roly poly figure, he somehow reminded me of the comedian, Moses Lim. At least I was luckier....not caught in the middle of a shower.!

Amazing how we easily take basic things like water and electricity for granted. We always miss something acutely when it is removed from us. This is even more poignant in a relationship because people have feelings, unlike objects. If we lose something material, we can try to replace it. But it is difficult to replace people, especially when they go six feet under. Hence, let us treasure the things and people around us.

Gan Chau

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gross National Happiness


The owner of this lovely motorcycle - bohemian yet free and happy!

The founder of Noah's Ark, Raymund - happy and contented with his great love for animals

Toastmasters - happy people who volunteer their time and talent! Ed Hearn, Anne Barab and organising committee of the District 80 Annual Convention in Singapore
My Indian tenants from India - Jasmin, Anu and Avinesh - happy people who enjoy simple pleasures of life

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I attended the newly formed toastmasters' club at Pico. It was the first time that the club was trying out their first meeting during lunch time instead of in the evenings since it is a corporate club.

The Seargent-at-Arms asked everyone to introduce himself and to share his feelings on the day. Someone said, "It's ok." Another said, "Nothing special", and another one said "I am dying". When it came to my turn, I replied, "I am very happy...everyday." I thought I saw some people frowning, as if I was trying to be fake or funny. Of course, for friends who know me well, they know I have this attitude that happiness is a state of the mind and that it is never dependent on circumstances. For if it were, then people in third world countries would be the most miserable on earth.! Whether is is raining, shining or snowing, I will never let anything depress me.

Hence, you can imagine my attraction to the front page of Life of Straits Times dated 18 November. "Simple, Happy People - In Bhutan, they do not care about Gross Domestic Product figures - it is all about Gross National Happiness." The writer, Tan Dawn Wei, had given an interesting account of her trip to Bhutan and how she was mesmerised by the beauty of the country and people. Despite ranking No. 127 in the gross national income per capita world stakes, the country has one of the happiest people on earth. They score high on Gross National Happiness! Her guide, Dolay Tshering, a cheerful 26 year old speaks nothing of wanting to make lots of money, but of desiring more flexible time to help out on his family's potato farm in Haa. He seeks simple pleasures in life, such as archery, the national sport, or going hiking and fishing with his friends. Indeed, everywhere you go in Bhutan, shy smiles greet you. No one will ask you for money or even try to sell you anything. Everyone readily poses for pictures, and village kids will reach into their bags for a fruit for you. The writer was overwhelmed by the infectious happiness and contentment of the people.

We who are enjoying great amenities and wonderful infrastructure here in Singapore have much to learn. I guess for me, I do not have to travel to Bhutan to experience what Dawn had seen. Right here where I am, living in Little India, I am surrounded by so many happy people. Sunday after Sunday, I see busloads of our foreign workers arriving in Little India, and they remind me of school children, excitedly getting ready for their field trips. Eldest sister had observed how our foreign workers seem to be happy and contented as they stand and chat with each other, or sit down on the open fields sharing some nuts and beer. They enjoy their rest day, catching up with friends, and buying their provision for the week.

In sharp contrast, we have some well-to-do Singaporeans living in luxurious properties, who spend more of their time complaining and worrying about tomorrow that they actually forget to enjoy the present ie. the gift of today - the sheer ability to just being able to breathe without tubes attached to our nostrils, to walk without crutches, to see without walking sticks and to hear without hearing aids or sign language.!

Let us all enjoy the golden splendour of Autumn - that we do not miss the colorful hues of Autumn and let Winter take care of itself. Even when Winter comes, let us also enjoy the crisp, cool air and wonder at the beautiful and unique snow flakes and fluffy snow in Winter. Let us remember that the Creator who clothes the little birds will also look out for His highest form of creation! Life has many seasons, and whatever the season, let us always remain positive and remember that being happy is a decision, and only you and I can make the decision to increase our gross personal happiness.

Gan Chau