Friday, May 30, 2008

A Distorted View on Beauty!

When I received this email entitled "Dieting" I was not quite ready to be confronted with such blatant mockery of what lovely models should represent! In its stead are pictures of a lady who looks like she has been starved so much that protruding bones seem to dominate. While the skinny pictures of starving children reveal eyes that mirror acute pain and suffering, yet the sunken eyes of this model seem to glow with pride and a smile that says, "Look, thin is beautiful!"

I would not blame the thoughts of the model for we have been told that people who suffer from anorexia nervosa have a distorted view of their actual body size. They perpetually think they are fat, even when their cells are crying out for oxygen and nourishment. I am annoyed with the photographer and all those organisers who seem to endorse that thin is beautiful. Have they not counselled the models that it is dangerous to be too grossly underweight for they might just collapse and die anytime.? Or have their counsel fallen on deaf ears?

I remember a young student was brought to me for counselling by her mother. Her mother had earlier told me that her fourteen year old daughter used to be cute and chubby. I was not quite prepared for what greeted me. The protruding cheek bones of the girl stood out so prominently that they made her cheeks look even more hollow, making her look like a woman in her seventies! My right hand could even clasp her arms. Her skin was dry and scaly. I was speechless. I was filled with compassion for this poor young girl and I burst into tears and just hugged her. Later, I made a glass of milo and fed her spoon by spoon. To my relief she finished the whole glass of milo. I sensed that it was no point talking to her for countless people must have advised her against her excessive dieting. Slowly, she ate some wheat biscuits, all the time staring into space, and sometimes staring into my tearful eyes. Next morning, at breakfast time, she ate some porridge. Gradually, she started eating. Her parents were overjoyed. It was my first confrontation with someone suffering from anorexia nervosa, and it was God who helped her. I was only an instrument to encourage her. My tears of helplessness and compassion must have finally moved her and given her the awakening. Gradually, she put on some weight, and began to learn the healthy way to diet.

I hope that family members and everyone are not overly critical about the physical makeup that they see in themselves and in others. We must always remember that people cannot help looking the way they look. Who does not want to be beautiful and handsome? One of my students was jeered at for being overweight. His classmates poked fun at his chubbiness. One day he decided to lose 30 lbs. in 3 months, and he would come to school with no money or packed lunch. Thankfully, he stopped his intense dieting after he achieved his target loss of 30 lbs. or he could be on the verge of developing anorexia nervosa.

Good looking people must be thankful that they have been endowed with great features and physique, and hence refrain from disdaining those less endowed. Instead of emphasising on external beauty, parents should focus more on nurturing their children with life skills and character building. All of us should also decide what is most important to us than mere looks and beauty for example, great health, happiness, family, friends and work fulfillment.

Gan Chau

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

An Average Lady Am I!

I was looking through my old documents. I came across a printed testimonial given by my Form Five teacher, Mrs. C.H. Lee, from Convent Green Lane Secondary School dated 2nd December 1970. I smiled when I saw that I had a 3 which means average + grading for academic ability, reliability, initiative, courtesy, attitude to work, social adjustment, organising ability and other aspects. 4 is average and 5 is below average. 2 is very good while 1 is outstanding. Hence I am right in between outstanding and below average!

I also came across my Certificate of Participation for the 1987 First Vertical Marathon, running up 1,336 steps to the top of the then tallest hotel in the World, The Westin Stamford. I clocked in 23 minutes. I remember the fastest was a lady who clocked in 9 minutes, while the slowest was a lady who did it in 59 minutes. Again I was in the average position!

I am reminded of Professor Higgins in the movie, "My Fair Lady", when he proudly and confidently asserted, "An average man am I! There is something quite comforting about being average in everything. Not being the competitive type, I am quite contented to be somewhere in the middle, where there are people below my position and there are people above me. I remember throughout primary and secondary school, I had always hovered around the 10th to the 15th position in class.... again an average student in a class of 30 students! It can be quite stressful to be in the top position because a lot of hard work and determination are required to remain at the top. The only time when I desired to be top was when I joined essay writing competitions. Papa was quite poor, and it meant a lot to me to be able win the top three positions for it translated into earning cash prizes for excellent articles!

Being average puts me in a humble position. Perhaps some of you may disagree and like my school principal, Sister Adrian, had always said, "You need to try to be at the top so that should you fall, at least you will not fall so low!" My contention is that if you were to fall from a greater height, the pain would be even more excruciating! Hence, I am still happy and contented to remain in mid position so that should I fall, it would not be so painful for me. From midpoint, I can look up and enjoy the clear blue skies, and I can also have a clearer view of the green, green grass. An average lady am I! And happy and contented will I be!

Gan Chau

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Big Contests! International and Table Topics!


The eloquent participants for District 80 International Speech Contest!

A battle of wits, speed and coherence - Table Topics Contestants - Men of Substance!

Salsa Dancing at Closing Ceremony

Farewell Buffet Lunch. With 2nd Runner-up of Table Topics Contest, Saengchai Lee from Thailand.

I had planned to wake up at 6.00a.m. so that I could reach Suntec City by 7.00a.m. Instead, horror upon horrors, I woke up at 5 mins to 8a.m.! I sprang up, and like lightning, I was all dressed up in 5 mins. I grabbed my bags and dashed down the 5 flights of stairs onto Racecourse Road to hail for a cab. Funny how cabs don't seem to be around when you need them! I managed to reach the Theatre at 8.15a.m. and luckily found a vacant seat on the 5th row. Whew! I would never miss the highlight of the Convention - District 80 International Speech and Table Topics Contest - where the cream of champions from Singapore, Hongkong, Macau and Thailand would meet! As Ed Hearn had said, all the contestants are already winners for they have the courage to try! During the break, we all had a difficult time guessing the winners for all of them are excellent speakers!

The question for Table Topics Contest was "Are You Smart Enough?" I had never heard such excellent and profound answers to such a simple question from one of the contestants whom I thought might garner the first prize! But instead he came in first runner up! I guess there is always that little element of subjectivity in judging. Our hearts went to one contestant from Hongkong who had misheard the word smart to be small. How I wished he had verified with the Contest Chair if he was not sure of the pronunciation! Saengchai Lee from Thailand began with, "At first I thought the question asked me if I was small enough." He must be puzzled by the thunderous applause! Then he continued, "Look at my size and you get the answer!" "Since the question is "Are you smart enough? Yes, I am".
The audience laughed. Thai is his mother tongue and he only picked up some English in High School. It was not enough for he had to study on his own after high school. He was witty and charming...and ended with, "I now have a group of people working for me. Hence, now I am smarter than smart".

Can I imagine myself up there on stage in future? I had only won two champion prizes at Area level during my first year as a club member. It definitely takes a lot of courage and hard work to reach District and International Levels. I take my hat off to all these young contestants on stage! You have so many years before you to work hard and become an international champion. We certainly hope that one day, there will be an International Speech contest winner from District 80! Ed Hearn believes that we can make it if we don't give up!

Cheers to all toastmasters from District 80! Let us all work hard and continue to have the courage to try and try and try!

Thanks to Tay Ying Ping and Michael Rodrigues and their team for putting up a wonderful convention that is really MAD - Memorable, Alluring and Amazing and full of Dynamite!

Gan Chau

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Colour, Music, Dance!


Ed Hearn, Anne Barab with the MAD Kung Fu Dancers

Some members from Division U with Ed Hearn and Anne Barab

With Watanaluck and his lovely and supportive wife

The talented Salsa dancers led by Gea Ban Peng and Hong Cher (in red)

Wow! What a colourful opening! Mr. Abdullah Tarmugi arrived to be greeted by much pomp and splendour! The Speaker of Parliament humorously and humbly told the audience that entering the toastmasters' arena to deliver a speech is like entering a lion's den. He also said that Speakers of Parliament don't speak to much laughter. After the lively opening ceremony there was a plenary session by Ed Hearn, 2006, World Champion of Public Speaking. It was an enlightening session as audience learnt more about the fine art of public speaking, and I am sure all of us are inspired by his speech on "The Courage to Try".

After a sumptuous buffet lunch, there were many workshops to attend. I chose "Personal Branding Starts with Me!" by Dr. Andrew Goh. It was impossible to have a shut eye even after a heavy lunch, for Dr. Goh was really humorous. He made the audience laugh continuously. As I am not proficient in humorous speeches, I chose the workshop on "Humour in Action" by Damrong Watanaluck, the first runner up in 2008 District 80 Humorous Speech Contest. We are full of admiration for despite Thai being his mother tongue, he speaks so well and humorously. Watanaluck asked for volunteers to say something funny for three minutes and since there was a prize for every volunteer, I raised my hand. It is my schoolgirl habit. Suddenly I would become brave just to win a prize!!!

During the last workshop, "Dialogue with Ed Hearn", we were able to ask Ed Hearn many questions on his competition. I was touched when Ed shared a lot about his father. Ed shared how, despite being illiterate, his father had brought up his children with much love and wisdom. I could identify with Ed because I too have a most wonderful father who had taught me so many things in life. After the workshop, some of us stayed back to listen to Ed's sharing. He was generous with his time. It has inspired me for I will definitely work harder to polish up my public speaking skills. Frankly, after completing 58 speech projects, I had thought I was going to retire from public speaking. I guess I will have to keep on speaking to lubricate my wheels of eloquence lest they become rusty!

We had an 8 course gala dinner and were entertained by toastmasters from Hongkong and Macau as well as our Thai counterparts. The local toastmasters put up a beautiful Salsa Dance demonstration, led by Mr. Gea Ban Peng and his partner, Hong Cher. It was such a great and memorable evening of colour, music and dance!

If you regret not joining a toastmasters' club, please fee free to email me or call me on the phone! For my overseas readers, check with the club closest to your home or office. Let us get started! Join the Toastmasters' club and fill your life with words, music and dance!

Gan Chau

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Friday, May 23, 2008

It's a Mad, Mad World!


Division leaders who not only have panache in leading, but are creative....and sexy too! The dancers are Mike Rodrigues, Aziz Mustajab, Poh Kim Siong, Goh Wei Koon, all from Singapore and Neil Sy from Hong Kong.

With some members from Div. U. The buxom lady in the centre is our Division Governor, Kristina Sharmini. With Chooi Ling on extreme left, and Patricia Lum and mystery guest from Thailand and Saro.

Unity in madness.
The mad chef cooking a storm for Her Royal Highness, Empress Dowager Tay Yiang Ping.
the Organising Chair of the Convention.

The world of toastmasters can be really MAD. Before anyone thinks we are heading for Woodbridge Hospital, MAD stands for Make a Difference. The theme for this year's convention is MAD - we are all to make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others. This year, Singapore is hosting the District 80 Toastmasters' Convention at Suntec City.

In the afternoon we had a workshop by Anne Barab, DTM, one of the few accredited lady speakers in the world. Her workshop title, "Listen to Me" helped delegates to learn and improve in their art of listening. When the audience learnt that the dynamic, petite and well groomed lady is 60 years of age, everyone went "Wow! Anne Barab looks 20 years younger! She is truly an inspiration!

The highlight of the evening was the "Mad" Welcome Dinner. Everyone had to dress up as madly as possible. I had not gone to the costume shop to hire some outfits. Frankly, being the frugal type, I would be reluctant to dish out $50/- to hire some costumes. $50/- could buy food for my orphan in Nepal for two months. I am still under medication for my flu, and was quite lethargic. However, when I saw the passion and enthusiasm of the organising committee, I knew I had to do something to show support. I decided to wear my apron made by my eldest sister, Lee Lee, and wrote on a piece of paper, "The Mad Chef", Choosamy. Human Head Curry. Only $10/- a bowl". On my cap, I attached a piece of paper which read, "The Mad Chef". I took along an enormous ladle. I did not have time to put my ladle in a bag and just carried it. Suddenly I realised some commuters were smiling when they saw the huge ladle and cap.

I was pleasantly surprised when I was called up for being one of those who qualified as a mad dresser! We had to perform some catwalk and do the limbo rock. My partner, dressed as a Japanese Samurai, was very tall, and it made me feel even shorter! Nevertheless, we came in as runner up.

What an enjoyable evening! Sometimes, it is just wonderful to let our hair down and be mad for a change. Sometimes, we have to be mad in order to retain our sanity. The sane realisation that life is not just about ourselves, but about making a difference to others around us will definitely goad us on....long after the convention is over.

Gan Chau

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What a Clever Little Parrot!

I laughed when I read the following article in the computer. The little piece of news was reported in the CNA section. In case you miss it, here is the article. What a clever parrot. It really made my day. I shared this story with so many of my friends. They laughed for like me, everyone wondered how the parrot could distinguish a police officer from a vet!

"TOKYO - When Yosuke the parrot flew out of his cage and got lost, he did exactly what he had been taught — recite his name and address to a stranger willing to help.

Police rescued the African grey parrot two weeks ago from a neighbor's roof in the city of Nagareyama, near Tokyo. After spending a night at the station, he was transferred to a nearby veterinary hospital while police searched for clues, local policeman Shinjiro Uemura said.

He kept mum with the cops, but began chatting after a few days with the vet.

"I'm Mr. Yosuke Nakamura," the bird told the veterinarian, according to Uemura. The parrot also provided his full home address, down to the street number, and even entertained the hospital staff by singing songs.

"We checked the address, and what do you know, a Nakamura family really lived there. So we told them we've found Yosuke," Uemura said.

The Nakamura family told police they had been teaching the bird its name and address for about two years.

But Yosuke apparently wasn't keen on opening up to police officials.

"I tried to be friendly and talked to him, but he completely ignored me," Uemura said."

I wish I was there when the parrot introduced himself to the vet! Don't you?

Gan Chau

The Flowers Outside My Apartment


Vanessa's antique pram looks cute!

The cherry blossoms which I made.

The rare bottle given by Vanessa

I had written about the trees and buildings outside of my windows. Now let us look at some of the flowers outside my apartment along the corridors.

I am glad that HDB 3A model flats come with very wide corridors so much so that we can put potted plants as well as some coffee table and chairs for some afternoon tea.

My friend, Vanessa Yong, had given me a huge bottle which was once used to store some acid. I had also bought an antique pram from her. I decided to use the two items for some floral arrangement. In Singapore, our weather is so hot that it is quite difficult to grow flowers unless you go for orchids or bougainvilleas. However orchids are difficult to grow and maintain, and they are quite expensive too. Hence, I have to contend with artificial flowers. Yesterday, I was at the Tanglin Shopping Mall and saw some artificial flowers that looked so real. Of course, the good workmanship comes along with a hefty price. Being the frugal type, I did not buy any. I would have to contend with the cheaper makes.

I still remember my favourite Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada. The owners opened up their lovely home and gardens to the public. How I long to have a small little house with a huge garden of flowers! One can save time doing house cleaning while one can enjoy the fresh air and fragrance of flowers in the garden.

I recall an interesting house that I was sent to clean when I worked as a cleaner with Cinderella Maid Services when I was studying in Canada. When I entered to clean one of the bedrooms, lo and behold, potted plants were hanging from the ceilings! Some 20 pots! Instead of a bed, there was only a mattress on the floor and a small writing desk and wardrobe. Quite spartan, yet beautiful in a way, almost like zen design. I was admiring the plants when suddenly I heard a voice behind me, "You like my plants, don't you." I turned around and saw the owner of the room.....a young gentleman with blue eyes. He introduced himself as Andrew, the owners' youngest son. An architectural student, I thought he was quite original with his ideas. Sometimes I toy with the idea of copying Andrew's ideas, but in humid Singapore, it is not quite feasible.

I'm dreaming of a garden with flowers of every hue!

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Eldest Sister's First Email!

For years I have been encouraging my older siblings to learn the computer. I can understand their fear and apprehension because it also took me a little while to overcome my phobia for things electronic and mechanic.

After a few years of coaxing and sometimes getting some scolding from my siblings for being persistent, my eldest sister and second brother are learning the new technology. Hence I was so thrilled one day when I saw the name of the sender!

Dear Choo choo,

Today is my fourth computer lesson. I enjoy very much learning this new knowledge.

Thank you very much for encouragement.

Take good care & may God bless you.

Sis Lee Lee

Elddest sister is proficient in Chinese and Bahasa Malaysia. With her flair and curiosity, she will improve her English Language in no time with her constant use of the computer. Many of my older clients too are terrified to learn new technology. And as usual, I would encourage them to learn. I would tell them that I used to be terrified of the computer; now I can't live without it.!

Let Us Stamp Out Drink Driving!

Freddy Kang sent me another touching story on the damage caused by senseless drink driving. I hope the touching story will move you to help stamp out this unhealthy habit by careless drinkers and drivers.


I was walking around in a Target store, when I saw a Cashier hand this little boy some money back.

The boy couldn't have been more than 5 or 6 years old.

The Cashier said, 'I'm sorry, but you don't have
enough money to buy this doll.'

Then the little boy turned to the old woman next to him: ''Granny, are you sure I don't have enough money?''

The old lady replied: ''You know that you don't have enough money to buy this doll, my dear.''

Then she asked him to stay there for just 5 minutes while she went to look a round. She left quickly.

The little boy was still holding the doll in his hand.

Finally, I walked toward him and I asked him who he wished to give this doll to.

'It's the doll that my sister loved most and wanted so much for Christmas.

She was sure that Santa Claus would bring it to her.'

I replied to him that maybe Santa Claus would bring it to her after all, and not to worry.

But he replied to me sadly. 'No, Santa Claus can't bring it to her where she is now. I have to give the doll to my mommy so that she can give it to my sister when she goes there.'

His eyes were so sad while saying this. 'My Sister has gone to be with God. Daddy says that Mommy is going to see God very soon too, so I thought that she could take the doll with her to give it to my sister.''

My heart nearly stopped.

The little boy looked up at me and said: 'I told daddy to tell mommy not to go yet. I need her to wait until I come back from the mall.'

Then he showed me a very nice photo of him where he was laughing. He then told me, 'I want mommy to take my picture with her so she won't forget me.'

'I love my mommy and I wish she doesn't have to leave me, but daddy says that she has to go to be with my little sister.'

Then he looked again at the doll with sad eyes, very quietly.

I quickly reached for my wallet and said to the boy. 'Suppose we check again, just in case you do have enough money for the doll?''

'OK' he said, 'I hope I do have enough.' I added some of my money to his without him seeing and we started to count it. There was enough for the doll and even some spare money.

The little boy said: 'Thank you God for giving me enough money!'

Then he looked at me and added, 'I asked last night before I went to sleep for God to make sure I had enough money to buy this doll, so that mommy could give It to my sister. He heard me!''

'I also wanted to have enough money to buy a white rose for my mommy, but I didn't dare to ask God for too much. But He gave me enough to buy the doll and a white rose.''

'My mommy loves white roses.'

A few minutes later, the old lady returned and I left with my basket.

I finished my shopping in a totally different state from when I started.

I couldn't get the little boy out of my mind.

Then I remembered a local news paper article two days ago, which mentioned a drunk man in a truck, who hit a car occupied by a young woman and a little girl.

The little girl died right away, and the mother was left in a critical state. The family had to decide whether to pull the plug on the life-sustaining machine, because the young woman would not be able to recover from the coma.

Was this the family of the little boy?

Two days after this encounter with the little boy, I read in the news paper that the young woman had passed away.

I couldn't stop myself as I bought a bunch of white roses and I went to the funeral home where the body of the young woman was exposed for people to see and make last wishes before her burial.

She was there, in her coffin, holding a beautiful white rose in her hand with the photo of the little boy and the doll placed over her chest.

I left the place, teary-eyed, feeling that my life had been changed for ever. The love that the little boy had for his mother and his sister is still, to this day, hard to imagine.

And in a fraction of a second, a drunk driver had taken all this away from him.

Will you think again before you drink and drive????

And if we have friends who love to drink and drive, let us keep reminding them not to do so. I have two friends who are in the habit of drinking and driving. One of them is a lady who is so confident of her driving skills and the fact that the police will be unlikely to stop her as she is of the fairer sex. I have constantly nagged at her to stop her unhealthy habit even at the risk of losing my friendship. Frankly I'd rather lose a friendship than lose a dead friend or have her taking the lives of innocent ones.

Let us all do our part to help stamp out drink driving. Please share this story via email or by oral narration.

Gan Chau

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Touching Story

My friend, Freddy Kang, sent me this email - a very touching story. Read, and get your tissue papers ready. I hope it has touched you as it has touched me.


Meredith with our dog, Abbey


This is one of the kindest things I've ever experienced. I have no way to know who sent it, but there is a beautiful soul working in the dead letter office of the US Postal Service.

Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month. The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so she dictated these words:

Dear God,

Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.

I hope you will play with her. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her. You will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.

Love, Meredith.

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith, and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, 'To Meredith' an unfamiliar hand writing. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, 'When a Pet Dies'. Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:

Dear Meredith,
Abbey arrived safely in heaven.
Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away.
Abbey isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you.

I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.

By the way, I'm easy to find, I am wherever there is love.

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Much Ado About Prawn Noodles and Laksa

I have been living in Singapore for more than two decades. Yet, I have never been able to find any Prawn Noodles that can surpass those sold in Penang.

The majority of the Prawn Noodles in Singapore taste bland and unappetizing. Some hawkers just use soya sauce and stock for the soup. In Penang, the hawkers will boil the heads of fresh prawns for hours to create the soup. Hence, you can imagine the difference in taste.

The laksa in Singapore is equivalent to the curry noodles in Penang. Most of the laksa here tend to have too much coconut milk, making the soup somewhat too creamy and rich, and of course, bad for the heart. For those of you who have tried the curry noodles in Penang, you will notice that just enough coconut milk is used so that the soup will not be too creamy. The chilli used is also somewhat different. Many hawkers have their own secret recipe for the chilli which is often cooked for hours.

Penangnites are fastidious with their choice of food. If a hawker does not provide palatable fare, he or she will not be able to survive in the competitive world of hawking food which Penang is famous for.

I feel sad when I taste sub-standard hawker food. The least that these hawkers can do is to ensure that their food is pleasing to their customers. When I cook for my guests and family members, I put my heart and soul into my cooking because I want everyone to be happy. When my guests pat their stomachs with satisfaction, it makes me feel happy and rewarded.

I would advise all those who cook for a living. If you do not love your customers, your cooking will miss one very vital your cooking standard can never reach its optimum. Ever wonder why mom's simple fares always taste great....because it is cooked with L O V E!

Gan Chau

Monday, May 19, 2008

My Favourite Singer

When I checked in the "Referral" sectiion of my sitemeter, I found someone had googled, "Theresa Teng" and had found my blog. I had once written about Theresa Teng.

Although Theresa had passed away, like Elvis Presley, she is also one of my favourite singers. I can never get tired of listening to her songs. I specially like her rendition in Hokkien dialect. One of my favourite is "Ti orh orh" - "Sky is very dark". The tune is lovely, almost playful, despite the grim title. It tells about the difference between the taste of grandpa and grandma. Grandma prefers her food to be salty, while grandpa likes it more bland, and the two went on to fight till they broke the wok!

I remember when I was in Kuching, my eldest sister Lee Lee, being the music mistress in her school, had trained her girls to sing the song in a choir. "Ti orh orh" was beautifully sung in four parts, with a multi racial group of Chinese, Indian, Malay and Eurasian students!

Oh! I wish Theresa had lived on. The world has lost a singer who was not only beautiful with her voice and personality, but one who was kindhearted and generous.

For the sake of my overseas readers who have never heard Theresa's voice, I have put the u-tube rendition of her song, "Ti Orh Orh". Enjoy it!

Gan Chau

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cherry Blossoms




Singapore is known as a Garden City. It is comforting to see trees and plants growing everywhere, providing that much needed shade in an otherwise hot country.

It is not easy for us to grow flowers in our hot climate. The flowers that seem to thrive are bougainvilleas, orchids and bunga raya (hibiscus). Even my neighbours who love gardening like me, seem to have more potted plants than flowers.

Brother shared with me excitedly about the cherry blossoms that seem to be growing everywhere in Canada. How I miss the lovely flowers. Well, since I cannot grow cherry blossoms here in Singapore, and since I do not quite like the artificial, plastic ones on sale at florist shops, I decided to make some cherry blossoms. Irin, my neighbour, was about to throw away the long long plant which had dropped all its leaves. I told her to keep the barren plant.

Armed with some Styrofoams, glue and paint, I created some cherry blossoms on the bare branches of the long long plant. My cherry blossoms will never fade, but when they have gathered enough dust, I will have to throw them away.

Our world will only be full of green, if the Creator had not created flowers of diffuse colours! What a wonderful and colorful world we live in. My dear readers, what are your favourite flowers?

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My First Vegetarian Lunch


Food and fellowship always great when we are with people we are comfortable with!
With Pat (in red blouse) and K.C. Lim, (next to Pat) and their 4 handsome sons, Kelvin, Clarence, Steven and Leon, Amu, Sally and Jasmin.

The young people doing a song item.

Some of the lunch crowd hosts and guests

Sharing of joy: Mother's Day Celebrataion. Sharing of pain: Fund raising for the Cyclone victims

I was pleasantly surprised when Patricia Chew, my upline for the Quantum Science Products, invited me to the lunch organised by her Buddhist Fellowship, Singapore. It was a joint Mothers' Day cum Vesak Gratitude Lunch where all the nett proceeds will be used to help the cyclone victims in Myanmar.

Patricia and her husband, K.C. have generously bought 30 tickets and she asked me to bring along some friends too. I invited Amu, Jasmin Patel and Sally Tan along. All of us have never been to the Grand Court Vegetarian Restaurant and hence are quite curious.

The ten course lunch was quite sumptuous. It is amazing how the vegetarian dishes are created to appear and taste almost like meat! What great culinary skills! Sally commented that this is one of the best vegetarian restaurants she has been to.

There was some entertainment during the 2 hour lunch. A Norwegian monk, Ajahn Bramali, gave an interesting talk. He now resides in Mohiyana Monastery, Perth. The President of the Fellowship, Angie Monksfield, a Senior IT Professional, who is also the Vice President of Singapore Computer Society, gave an interesting and challenging address. Throughout lunch, the word "gratitude" seemed to surface many times. Gratitude to one's parents for having brought us up; gratitude to God for His blessings of prosperity and safety. I had mentioned in my earlier articles that when we have gratitude towards God and fellowmen, it will put us in the right perspectives of life.

During the Auction Period, a few items were auctioned and garnered generous support. In no time, over $20,000 was raised from the auction. Donation bags were passed around and the Association hopes to raise some $80,000 for the victims.

In one lunch gathering alone, it has enabled me to perceive and understand my Buddhist friends in clearer light. A picture tells a thousand words. It is by social interaction that we can observe, analyse and empathise with the people around us. It is pointless for any one of us to sit in our ivory tower and think we know......when we can actually know better just by being there amongst the people.

Gan Chau

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Changi Airport Terminal 3





There is even a floral section in the NTUC! Last minute shopping for those who want to get flowers to welcome their loved ones.

My first time in Terminal 3! Wow! What a mammoth building! Everything seems to sparkle and shine...perhaps a little too brightly! Especially the floors! They shine and provide almost mirror like reflection! Good to look at, but not really advantageous for ladies with short skirts! Hence, beware girls and ladies. Wear long pants or bermudas when you go to Terminal 3 lah, or you know where the eyes of the colour wolves will be focusing at!

Brother Kee Yong was full of admiration and praise. During his 5 weeks of stay here, he has been heaping praises on the efficiency and excellent services at the airport, hospitals, hotels and shops. I did not remember him doing that during his last trip five years ago! Kudos to our service personnel! Keep it up!

I am glad that one can also take the MRT directly to Terminal 3! The authorities have planned everything so well. There is also a big food court with an interesting variety of food....from Western to Malay and Taiwanese. For those of us wishing to shed a few kilos, perhaps working at Terminal 3 might just do the trick. With so much walking in the building of megalithic proportion, one is sure to burn some calories!

May God bless our Airport and all the passengers coming in and going out!

Wish everyone a safe journey!

Gan Chau

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Outside My Windows


Tree tops making it unnecessary to put up curtains in my room

A lovely city view... Sim Lim Tower and Rochor Centre in the background

Magnificent buildings. The tallest building is Swissotel The Stamford Hotel

The night scene looks like a picturesque postcard!

I bought my current apartment five minutes after viewing it! I had not looked into the details of facing, direction, surroundings etc. However, everything turned out well. I was thrilled to discover that there were some trees just by my bedroom windows. The thick foliage is like a natural curtain, shielding my room from sight! Yet the foliage is like a big fan, providing the much needed breeze on a hot, sunny day.

I like my apartment to be bright and airy. Hence I have been "curtainless" for years. Curtains are lovely to look at; in fact they give that touch of finesse. However, they are also difficult to wash and being the practical person that I am, I prefer to dispense with curtains. The thick foliage of the trees provide all the privacy that I need!

As the apartment is surrounded by conservation houses, there is no blockage and hence it is usually very windy. I hardly turn on my fan or airconditioners. It makes me very happy to play a small role to help conserve the earth!

Sometimes when I want to relax or write a poem, I will stand by my windows and look at the lovely scenery. I feel so grateful and contented with the breeze blowing on my face. This is such a vast change from my previous abode at Toa Payoh. It is very warm because the morning sun would stream in, and in the afternoon the sun comes right in and the whole unit is heated up. In fact, the apartment is like a sauna, and I had to change my clothes three to four times a day!

At night, the lights look like twinkle twinkle little stars. The night scene looks like a picturesque postcard.

I have lived in ten different places all over Singapore island during the past 2 decades! Strangely, I feel most comfortable here. Although the apartment is right in the heart of the city, it is rather quiet. It is also convenient to go everywhere as the MRT station is just a stone's throw away! The shops and market are also nearby. I hope I do not have to move again.

Gan Chau

Our Prayers for China

Although we are all in different parts of the world, I am sure, all of us are gripped by the sufferings of the victims affected by the recent earthquake in China.

To think that I could have been in Chengdu! For last year, I was offered a teaching post in Chengdu. The three year contract was quite attractive with airfare and accommodation provided. Morever, it would also give me a chance to see the panda bears, and perhaps be a volunteer at the Panda Bear Reserves during my free time. How I long to carry a baby Panda! I think panda bears are God's cutest creation!

I also thought I could share my testimonies with the people in China. The idea was very attractive, and I almost signed on the dotted line. Just then eldest brother informed me that he was coming to Singapore for Kam Ning's concert in April and that he would be staying with me in Singapore for a month. I changed my mind and thought I might look into teaching in China again in the near future

If I had gone to Chengdu, I might have been flattened like a pancake! Or I might be in one of the rubbles, waiting for help to come. Or the rescuers would tell me they had to amputate my leg before I could be freed.! We seldom realise how frail life is until we have a narrow escape!

What could we do except to pray for the earthquake victims and to donate whatever we could in terms of money, clothes, medicine and food. Yet all these could never ease the pain of parents who had lost their only son or daughter.

When I met my neighbour, Hari, he asked me again, "Choo, is the world coming to an end? Before I could reply, Hari continued, "Promise me one thing, Choo. Be happy and grateful, and make the most of everything. Life is short".

"Sound advice, Hari!" I reiterated.

Hari is 4 foot in height. He may be short but he is tall in his wisdom.!

Gan Chau

My Greatest Fear....

My greatest fear is not public speaking, although it is known as the No. 1 fear in the world. Speaking in public was perhaps my greatest fear when I was a student, but after having joined the teaching profession and toastmasters' activities, I have overcome this fear.

My greatest fear is not death....for as a Christian, death has no sting for me.

My greatest fear is not poverty for I have always experienced God's timely supply, for He is Jehovah Jireh, my Provider. I know God will never let me go hungry, for I have yet to see a skinny raven! If He cares for the birds of the air, would He not care for me, the highest of His creation.

My greatest fear is not failure....for failure only brings me a step nearer to success. Hence, I can try again and again.

My greatest fear is not of falling down....for life is not about falling down; it is about whether I pick myself up again. I know God will send people in the likeness of Barnabas to encourage and uplift me.

My greatest fear is ...... W O R M S! Cr ee ee py c r a w l i e s!! They make my hairs stand on ends, my heart miss a beat and legs go soft.! The other evening, I was cutting a chiku when suddenly the head of a big fat worm showed itself! Immediately I threw the knife and fruit away! The worm was really fat...even fatter than worm size! It must have enjoyed the succulence of the fruit! I shared with Vanessa Yong about my fear, and to my horror, she told me that her ex-husband had eaten live worms before! They were at a tour fair, and a New Zealander showed how he ate live worms. Her husband, Seetoh, followed suit! He said the worm was creamy and tasted like caramel! I pleaded with Vanessa to stop because I felt like vomitting! Some people are just so adventurous with food. Why! I would not even take mutton, beef and lamb!

I shared with my manager, Aveline, and she told me that she had eaten roasted cockroach before! Arghh! Not again! Aveline shared that when she was a little girl, she often had tape worms in her stomach. Her mother believed that eating roasted cockroach would help to get rid of the worms. Her mother would catch the cockroaches that invaded the house, and removed the wings and heads before she roasted them. Aveline vaguely remembered the taste to be like roasted cuttlefish!

I know that everything has a purpose and God has created worms as food for the birds. In fact worms have lots of proteins and little cholesterol. This is why birds often look so healthy, with shiny, gleaming feathers! One man's meat is another man's poison!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Unsung Heroes and Heroines


Committed volunteers checking with Ms. Alice Sim

Ms. Alice Sim, a compassionate and dynamic leader

Volunteers giving out food to the needy

A generous donation of 12 edible items

Further to my previous article on "The Art of Receiving" as promised, I had gone to Pek Kio Community Centre to find out more about Ms. Alice Sim and her group of volunteers. Bus 131 brought me right to the doorstep of the Centre. As usual, everything is always well organised in our little country. 6 volunteers were seated at the reception to check on the identity and addresses of the recipients. After the forms had been verified the people were ushered to the collection centre where each received a goodie bag of 12 items. I asked to see Ms. Alice Sim as I wanted to interview her.

An elegant and dynamic lady greeted me. She was armed with a writing pad, and though busy, she granted me some of her precious time. I told her I wanted to write an article in my blog as I want my overseas readers to know what takes place in this little dot on the world map.

As a staunch Buddhist, Alice Sim feels that she would like to emulate the example of Buddha. "Buddha was a prince who gave up his royal comfort to seek enlightenment. Why can't we too forget ourselves - our status, ethnic backgrounds, etc. to come out and do some good for society? This is why, my group of friends and I have been organising such functions for the past 8 years. My friends gave what they could, and my family would top up the difference. Apart from this giving away of food, we also organise annual 10 course Chinese dinners for the elderly and destitute. These people hardly have chance to have sumptuous meals and we want to bless them." I asked for a copy of the menu. Wow! It is indeed sumptuous! The mouth watering menu from Xinhuai Restaurant :-

1. 6 Combination Cold Dish
2. Braised Bowl Shark's Fin Soup
3. Roasted Crispy Quarter Piglet
4. Steamed Fresh Pomfret
5. Boiled Live Prawn with Wine
6. Stir Fried Nai Bai with Scallops
7. Double Boiled Mini Buddha Jump Over the Wall
8. Stewed Pork Sliced with Bun
9. Fried Rice in Lotus Leaf
10. Yam Paste with Pumpkin with Coconut Milk

11. Free Flow of Soft Drinks and Chinese Tea

Wow! 550 elderly folks will be treated to a lovely dinner this coming Saturday evening. I am happy for them!

Alice Sim also revealed that each year, her group spends about $80,000/- for the charity drive. I like the prudence in this business woman. Alice told me that this year, the group has taken rice off the list of items and replaced it with noodles instead. "People are hoarding rice; I do not want to help jack up the price!" I also like the way she handles contingencies. An elderly Malay lady came to the reception. The volunteer staff found out that she lives in a 4 room flat and referred her to Alice. "It's ok. Let her have the bag of goodies. We do not want to turn away people." I agreed with Alice that it is difficult to assume that just because someone stays in a four or five room flat, he is rich. He/she could be desserted by his/her family. Who wants to come a-begging unless he has reasons to do so.? "Hence, I never turned this lady away....she has been coming here for the past 8 years." My family is very supportive of this event too.

I smiled. That's the spirit! I like people who are firm, yet flexible and who do not just go by rules and regulations. I went home, feeling like a lark. I proudly showed brother and his guest, Phoon Yew Tien, the donated food and the photos I had taken. It makes me feel so proud of Alice and her group of volunteers ....the unsung heroes and heroines....who go around playing their part, to make life a little better for their fellowmen! In a country which is well known for her kiasuism (fear of losing out) and kiasism (fear of dying), I find Alice Sim's selfless giving to be refreshing and inspiring. Keep it up, Alice and friends. May God bless you richly even as you give of your money, talent, time and energy.

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A Precious Gift


Brother playing some parts of his composition.

Brother and Phoon Yew Tien discussing their work coordination

A precious gift - a lovely violin from Yew Tien. I must work hard on the violin
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Brother Kee Yong had arranged to meet his friend, Yew Tien, at my apartment to discuss some of his orchestral composition. Phoon Yew Tien is Singapore's well-known composer.

I proudly told Yew Tien to try my Kawai piano which I had purchased at $100/-. He tried a few classical pieces and I thought he played very well for someone whose specialty is the flute and composition. Later I showed him my relatively new violin which I had bought for $280/- from a music shop in Balmoral Plaza. Yew Tien tried it and immediately detected that the sound post and bridge were not in their ideal position. I told him my brother would help me to fix it up.

The next day, when Yew Tien came, he brought with him a lovely violin. "For you", he said. I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat overwhelmed by Yew Tien's generosity. Wow, the sound is beautiful.... so much better than mine. It is more seasoned and the sound is richer. Brother played some parts of his composition on the violin. It made me yearn to be adept at this lovely instrument. With Yew Tien's gift, I now have two violins and I feel so rich! However, I guess it won't be long before I give one of my violins away, probably to my grand nieces when they are more grown up. More importantly I must learn to play the violin well. I must persevere as my fingers are quite short. Since I have been able to play "The Maiden's Prayer" a piece with many octaves on the piano with relative ease, I should be able to overcome my limitation!

I am so blessed to be surrounded by musically talented siblings and relatives as well as friends who have been endowed with the gift of music. "Music has power", as papa has always asserted. Indeed, like animals, music also makes my world go round!
As my good friend, Sally, had said, "Give Choo a dog and some music, and she'll be happy the whole day long".

My dear readers, what makes your world go round?

Gan Chau