Monday, September 29, 2008

Two Sides of a Coin

AS I was entering the lift with my violin after my lesson at Braddell Heights Community Centre, I noticed an elderly lady frowning at me in the lift. I raised my eyebrows as if in wonderment and to my surprise she spoke to me in Mandarin, "So you are the one ah, making all that noise?"

"You mean music?"

"I can hear you play the piano and violin everyday .....aiyo.....very noisy ah."

I smiled sweetly and kept quiet. What do you say when an elderly neighbour reckoned it was noise she heard and not music. What would she say when I learn to play the gu zheng next year? Maybe playing Chinese songs on the gu zheng might be some music to her.? Luckily she was not our neighbour when my siblings and I were growing up in Penang. My family members played so many different instruments at home - piano, violin, cello, trumpet, clarinet, guitar, saxophone, drums, ukele, accordian, flute, etc. Sometimes you could also hear eldest or second sister singing with piano accompaniment!

On another occasion, I was in the lift rushing for my violin lessons. A gentleman smiled and said, "I like your piano and violin playing. Wow! You play two instruments talented. Hope to let my daughter learn the piano when she is older."

I smiled sweetly and said, "Glad you enjoy music. Good to let your daughter learn
either the piano or violin in the near future."

In life, there are always two sides of a coin. We cannot please everyone.

Gan Chau

My Favourite Building





In Singapore, we have many interesting buildings with unqiue designs. This is also probably why I enjoy my work so much as a property agent as I love artchitectural designs of buildings.

One of my favourite is Parkview Square at North Bridge Road, near Raffles Hospital.
It has a distinctive design which gives it character. When you are in the courtyard, you will find bronze statutes of Sir Winston Chuchill, Abraham Lincoln as well as other famous historical personalities.

I like buildings which have character, charm and style. This is probably why I like England and Europe as the buildings there are stately and unique.

I hope that buildings like St. Andrew's Cathedral, Raffles Hotel, Sha Villa, etc. will never be taken down to make way for more boring blocks of towers.

Gan Chau

Friday, September 26, 2008

My Think-a-Like - Dongfang Billy

I first heard of Dongfang Billy, a singer who is very popular with the elderly folks. I also read how he fought his cancer with good, organic and healthy food.

Recently we heard that his cancer has returned and he is preparing for his own funeral. Billy has even arranged for all the details of the funeral. What songs should be played etc. and he asked his friends and fans not to cry but to celebrate.

When interviewed, he mentioned that he had no regrets about not marrying for he is not "marriage material". I guess Billy meant that without being tied down with a family, he has more liberty and time to bless more people with his music and lifestyle.

At my recent toastmasters' table topics, I was asked to share about the person I admire the most. He is none other than papa. My members laughed when I told them that papa was a man in a million and I want to look for someone like him. Since there are only 4 and a half million people in Singapore, my chances are indeed very, very limited. Hence, this is why I am still single today! The guy that I am looking for does not need to have the five Capital C! Small c's will do ....committment, compassion, charisma, capability, and communication. Joke aside, like Billy, I am also not "marriage material". I treasure my freedom too much.

Like Billy, I am interested in too many, reading, piano, violin, music, languages, writing, travelling, dancing, etc. etc. I have never ever felt lonely in my life. Although I am a good conversationalist, I also enjoy being quiet for a great length of time. This is why my friends find it hard to comprehend how I could enjoy myself so much when I travelled on my own to Taiwan for the first time, or how I could be so bubbly watching a movie on my own in the cinema. I guess this is probably because I am always at peace with myself. Most importantly to laugh at myself. While I take my work very seriously, I don't take myself seriously.! Life is too short for that.

I am grateful to be still healthy and breathing today. I remember when Dr. Dennis Wee's secretary passed me an enlarged photo of myself, I said, " never have such a huge photo of myself. Mm....should come in handy for the casket van at my funeral. "Choi! Choi! Touch wood!" Sally immediately cried out. "You're so morbid, Choo.!" cried Mary. "Hey, don't play, play with such things". But little do my friends realise that given my chronic ear condition, it is a miracle I can live so long. The constant ear infection could have led to tetanus or cancer. However, my surgeon was relieved that the growth in my ear was not malignant. I have been listening to "free music" in my ears the past few years, but I always try to be cheerful and strong. My only regret is that with my ear imbalance, I could not drive, but I have learnt to be contented with taking my "BMW". With all the walking, I have lost some weight and have become even more agile!

"To me, it is not the length of our life but the quality that matters more. I have always prayed that I would be healthy if I were alive; but if God were to take me home, please do so with speed. I saw how papa had a stroke and within 3 days he passed away peacefully, never waking up from his coma. Papa was a very active man, and he would be miserable if he were unable to walk or speak after recovery.

Like Billy, I have asked my friends and relatives not to weep for me but to celebrate at my funeral. I have instructed my executor of my will to purchase the cheapest coffin she can find for whatever quality of wood is buried, it will rot anyway. (The money saved could be used to feed the living poor and hungry). The funeral should be as simple as possible, without any fanfare. For out of dust we are created and to dust we return.

My dear friends, since I hit half a century almost five years ago, I have always been prepared to go at anytime. This is why I live each day as if it were my last!"

Let us all make full use of our time, and let us count our blessings and name them one by one!

Gan Chau

Thursday, September 25, 2008

" Look, Mom, No Bra ! "


As I was passing by This Fashion located at the Little India MRT Walkway, I saw this topless manequin. Gosh, has the sales staff forgotten the underwear or is this the latest topless fashion?

Commuters passing by could not help but smiled. The sales staff were busy inside the store, oblivious to the amusement they had created and to this self-appointed journalist and camera lady!

C'est la vie!
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My Forthcoming Promotion!

My friend, Janice, emailed me and informed me that she had been promoted to GM! Not General Manager, but Grand Mother! Her daughter-in-law had given birth to a bouncy baby.

I told Janice that I would also be promoted to SM! Not Senior Minister, but Senior Member of Singapore! I just cannot wait to be promoted! Just 75 more days to wait and I will be 55 on 12th December 2008.!

Interesting how the more we want to hide our age, the more others are determined to analyse the number! Very often during my speeches, I would openly reveal how old I was, and some people would be very surprised. I remember how proud mama was when she became a grandmother for the first time and proudly declared her age. Hence, I grew up with the idea that aging graciously is a most wonderful part of life. In Chinese, the word "lao" carries the connotation of being venerable. Hence, papa and his friends would often address each other as "Lao Ong, Lao Tan, Lao Kam," etc. Contrast this to the word "old" in the English Language. Old suggests getting on in years, degenerating and falling apart. Is this probably the reason why in the West, most people are loathe to reveal their age?

On 12th December, I will start to enjoy many benefits reserved for citizens in Singapore who have come so far in life. Just to name a few examples. I will only pay $4/- for a movie ticket in any cinema during the week days. On the 7th visit to the cinema, I will be given a free bottle of essence of chicken to ensure that I will have more energy to visit the cinema again and again! However, I would most likely pass the essence of chicken to Aunty Kang, the cleaner in Dennis Wee Group. For the past 25 years, I had only visited the cinema 4 times! The first time was with my students in River Valley High School. The second time was by invitation from my best friend, Soh Wah, on the first day of Chinese New Year. Soh Wah came in her Mercedes to pick me up, bought the tickets at $7/- each, and after the show took me for supper. She really pampered me. I thought the tickets would cost only $4/- each, and I was surprised that the seats were so big. Soh Wah laughed. "When was your last visit to the cinema, Choo?" "Umpteenth years ago when I only paid $3.50 for one ticket", I said.

Somewhere in the middle of the screening, my eyes were threatening to close. Hence I got up and did some exercise. Fortunately we were seated at the last row; hence I did not cause any obstruction. Soh Wah shook her head and said, "Choo, you remind me of Mr. Bean!"

Recently my tenant, Jasmin, insisted on watching "Mummy" at the cinema. I told him I would wait for it to be shown on television. "No, the effect is different in the cinema, "Jasmin coerced.

When I went to the cinema to purchase the tickets, I realised about the benefit for senior citizens. So many senior citizens do not even realise about the special $4/- cinema ticket! On impulse, I bought a ticket to watch "Lotus 12". I enjoyed watching the movie alone, because there was no necessity for me to talk and I enjoyed being silent for the next few hours. "Mm...I'll certainly watch all the good movies in town when I turn 55, and I will choose weekdays as it will be less crowded."

As a venerable member of Singapore, I will also be given 50 per cent discount when I visit the Esplanade! As tickets are so costly, it means a huge saving at half price!
How wonderful it is to be 55!

For having lived and contributed so much to Singapore, the government will also give Senior Citizens a better package when they give out monetary rewards to Singaporeans.

So often, people tell me that I look ten years younger. I guess the shine in my complexion belies my seniority! Once a lady called and when I asked her for the full name of the person, she impatiently said, "Please call your mummy to the phone!"
I guess being active and having a positive attitude will help us to be lively and youthful whatever the age! Truly, growing old is an art!

At 52 I learnt to use the computer, and at 53 I started my blog and tried public speaking at various toastmasters' clubs. At 54, with the coercion and encouragement of Dr. Dennis Wee and Mr. Lionel Ng, I tried my first flying fox!! I have started taking violin lessons from Mr. Yan at Braddell Heights Community Centre. I am now learning Hindi and Tamil from my Indian tenants and friends. Next January, I will start taking lessons in gu zheng and pop and jazz piano. "Huo dao lao, xueh dao lao" - Learning is a life long journey. Keeping physically active and constantly learning new things will reduce our chances of meeting Mr. Parkinson and Mr. Alzheimer!

Cheers! May all my dear readers grow more venerable each day!

Gan Chau

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Let's Be Little Children Again!




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I was around Bugis Junction and chanced upon some kids playing with the water fountain! They were so gleeful and free! It was a very warm day, with the sun blazing mercilessly. All the adults around the fountain looked on with perhaps a secret longing in their hearts. "How wonderful if I could just go and play like the children!" I did not have anyone with me or else, I would have asked my friend to look after my belongings so that I could join the children! I remember how my siblings and I would dash out into the rain to play with the water!

Interesting how we grow more mindful of our behaviour as we grow older! I remember once when we were in Japan for a short mission trip, we had a very stern leader who used to be an army officer. Maryanne was a no-nonsense kind of lady. She hardly smiled and had that poker look on her face that it was kind of hard to read what cards she had!

My two friends, Elizabeth and Christopher, were yearning to visit Disneyland, but they dared not ask the leader. I had been to Disneyland in California, and I did not want my two friends to miss their first visit to this wonderful place of entertainment. Hence I summoned my courage, "Maryanne, it's nice to be like little children again hor. Can we all take a day off and visit Disneyland to have some fun? Come lah....don't miss this chance," I put on my winsome expression.

To our amazement, Maryanne agreed. We had a whale of time in Disneyland.! It made us happy to see Maryanne smiling for the first time. I thought the happy and exciting ambience made her look more relaxed. How refreshing! It is refreshing to let the little child in us surface again. Let us never forget to be spontaneous!

One way ticket

The singer is so beautiful and oozes with charm!

Neil Sedaka with his unique voice.

Neil Sedaka at the piano.

Lyrics - One Way Ticket

One way ticket, one way ticket
One way ticket, one way ticket
One way ticket, one way ticket to the blues.

Choo choo train
Tuckin' down the track
Gotta travel on it
Never comin' back
Ooh, ooh got a one way ticket to the blues.

Bye my love, my babe is leavin' me
Now, only tear drops are all that I could see.

Ooh, ooh
Got a one way ticket to the blues

Gotta take a trip to lonesome town
Gonna stay at heartbreak hotel.
A fool such as I such as I
Will never, I cry my tears away.

One way ticket, one way ticket
One way ticket, one way ticket
One way ticket, one way ticket to the blues.

Choo choo train
Tuckin' down the track
Gotta travel on it
Never comin' back
Ooh, ooh got a one way ticket to the blues.

Gotta go on, gotta truck on
Got a one way ticket to the blues.

I gotta take a trip to lonesome town
Gonna stay at heartbreak hotel
Ooh, a fool such as I, such as I
Will never I cry my tears away.

One way ticket, one way ticket
One way ticket, one way ticket
One way ticket, one way ticket to the blues.

Choo choo train
Tuckin' down the track
Gotta travel on it
Never comin' back
Ooh, ooh got a one way ticket to the blues.
Ooh, ooh got a one way ticket to the blues.

Got my ticket...
One way, one way, one way ticket

The very first time I heard and saw the singer on the screen at a friend's home, I was quite surprised. I did not realise that "karaoke" means people can watch and sing in the comfort of their own home. I had been thinking a lot of my name of late because the title for my humorous speech contest is "What's in a Name?"

When I googled for the song "One Way Ticket" I came across this u-tube. The lovely singer is excellent, and I like the way she sings and dances.

I also like the unique voice of Neil Sedaka. Hence I decide to put the two songs in my blog to share with my readers.

Does anyone need a ride? Toot! Toot! Here comes the Choo Choo Train!

Gan Chau

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Are We a Nation of Copy Cats?

I am sick and tired of the ever prevailing herd instinct! I even have many people telling me that they will not patronise a food outlet if it has few customers. When they see an outlet with a long queue, they will just follow suit even if they have not heard about the stall. There are two shops at Short street. These shops are just next to each other. One shop is always crowded while the other has lesser patrons. Each time I am there, I will go to the shop with lesser customers. For very simple reasons. I can choose the seat I want and I get good service from an appreciative sales personell. The sales staff in the neighbouring unit tend to be impatient and almost rude, as their business is good. Sometimes, I find that they do not wash their crockeries properly, again due to an exuberant business. Frankly, I do not find much difference in taste. The bean curd and the soya drink taste almost alike.

When I first came to Singapore, I had to admit I was not interested in politics. I shared a flat with two other lady teachers from Malaysia. One day in exasperation, one of my flatmates, a young, vocal lady from Raffles Girls' School, declared, "I can't stand Singaporeans. They don't have their own minds. If PM Lee releases German gas, and someone commented that it is fragrant, soon many people will also agree that it is fragrant!" Both my flatmate and I could not resist being amused, because it was somewhat unbecoming for someone so pretty and dainty like her to express herself in such a picturesque manner; nevertheless there was some truth in what she had said.

Recently PM Lee brought up the issue of matchmaking for singles by matchmaking agencies. Suddenly we read that there was a surge of 20 to 30 per cent businesses for these agencies. It seems to me that sometimes our fortune is almost determined by the whims and fancies of the latest trend or issue that had been raised in Parliament. Instead of focusing so much attention on the singles, why don't we address the issue of growing divorce rate in this little dot.? Almost everyone I meet is a divorcee and some have even divorced twice! Perhaps the government should look into retraining and re-teaching the parties involved....the potential bride and groom and the potential parents-in-law. Improving better relationship so as to have more harmony and cooperation within a family are things that might partially help to sustain a marriage. Marriage is like buying a car....easy to buy, but more difficult to maintain. While it is also important to address the issues of singlehood, it it equally important to look into helping to sustain marriages so that when families are strong, the country will also become even stronger.

I applaud Dongfang Billy when he said that he has no regrets in never settling down because he knows he is not "marriage material". He will live a more meaningful and fulfilling life by being single. Yet not many people know themselves. They follow the norm, and even after marriage, they continue to live their self-centred lives, causing their families distress.

When property price has come down, everyone has the mentality that it will come down even more.! Suddenly everyone becomes an economist, declaring loudly that the price will surely come down lower. These investors often miss the boat; some have even missed the Ocean Liner! My friend lamented that her father had never bought a single property in his whole life. They had always been renting their homes!

Yet when property price is sky high, people still want to jump into the bandwagon, afraid that they will lose out. What happens then to the "economic instinct?" Who could feel the pulse of the property market more accurately than a property agent.? It is like the way a doctor feels the pulse of his patient! Yet these people would prefer to trust their banker and insurance agent friends!

Once I advertised my client's shop space of about 320 sq. ft. Whenever someone called me about the shop space, I would immediately ask if he had the intention of doing bubble tea business.

"How do you know", the caller would ask.

"Am afraid you are my 48th caller who wants to do bubble tea business! Don't you guys have better imagaination?"

Just because of the success experienced by the first person who set up the bubble tea business, others in the nation also follow suit. How boring!

Perhaps this is why the government has been trying to encourage us to be more innovative and creative in businesses as well as in our daily lives. Life will certainly be more interesting, colorful and challenging if we try to think through issues on our own, without having to just absorb like a sponge. It is important for us to take time to analyse and rethink.

As I have always said, I am not a philosopher, psychologist, theologian or politician. The above thoughts are just my humble two cents worth.

Gan Chau

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dennis Wee Group Toastmasters' Club Contest


Peter Tay, my favourite - a small guy with tall aspirations and great courage!

Yours Truly as Champion in Humorous Speech and Evaluation Contests

Our supportive judges from other clubs......pretty Jerlynn enjoying herself.

Attractive Tim from Raintree Club - champion in Humorous Speech and Evaluation Contests

I had originally planned not to compete in this year's contests as I feel I have more to learn and improve. However, we did not have enough contestants and hence I was goaded by my club president, Walter Lee, to participate.

We had a joint contest with Raintree Club. Tim won the Humorous Speech contest with her title, "How to Win in a Humorous speech contest." I won in my club's contest. The title of my speech, "Much Ado About Names".

I decide to prepare another speech in our Area Contest....this time my title will be "Aiyo Mama!" I have often been sharing about papa....this time I would share more about my mama.

Frankly, I dislike competition of any kind. I am one of those who are easily contented and happy, and I prefer to compete with other words, my performance today must be better than yesterday.

Life indeed is a long journey of learning! We learn from everyone.

Gan Chau
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Monday, September 15, 2008

Always Grow Good Corn


There was a Nebraska farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each
year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon...

One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something
interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared
his seed corn with his neighbours.

"How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbours when
they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?" the reporter asked.

"Why sir," said the farmer, "didn't you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field.

If my neighbours grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade
the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbours
grow good corn."

He is very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve
unless his neighbours corn also improves.

So it is in other dimensions. Those who choose to be at
peace must help their neighbours to be at peace. Those who choose to live well
must help others to live well, for the value of a life is measured by
the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help other to find happiness for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.

The lesson for each of us is this: if we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbours grow good corn.

The above story was emailed to me by Toastmaster, Albert Lim. It reminds me of what papa often told us, "Water others and you will be watered. Prosper others and you will be prospered."

How true it is that the more we give the more we receive. Although I have been very busy helping out in our weekly Speech Craft program at Changi Prison and other toastmaster clubs in Singapore, I feel I have received more than I have given. After each meeting, I feel rejuvenated and happy. Each time I take away with me something I have learnt. In fact, I have become a better sales person because of what I have learnt from the clubs. Being busy has also helped me to be more organised and productive with my time.

All of us must not be too protective of ourselves. In other words, do not be a kiasu. (afraid to lose out to others). For example, if we want our bodies to be strong, we have to exercise regularly. We cannot protect it by remaining immobile or preserve it by not going out of the home. Our bodies will definitely weaken and become stiff. It is by taking the risk in playing football, tennis, etc. that we become stronger.

Hence let us learn to let go. Do not cling on selfishly to our possessions but bless others with them. There are two types of people - one who uses people to have things; the other who uses things to bless people. Which type do you belong to?

Gan Chau

A Fun Company with a Fun Boss


This year, Dr. Wee's cake is in the shape of a red Ferrari!

Dr. Wee with some of the agents. In the centre is Serene Teng, one of our top producers.

All work and no play will make agents dull and ...... (you can fill in the blanks).

Dr. Wee with his beautiful and supportive wife, Priska.

Every year, Dr. Wee will invite his staff and active agents to his birthday party. As most of the agents enjoy dancing and drinking, he would often hold his celebration in a pub with a buffet dinner. Now readers can understand why it is difficult to lose weight in our Dennis Wee Group.!

This year, the party was held at the Goodwood Park Hotel. For me, all these places are novelties to me as I seldom go to pubs. However, when I do go to one, I also enjoy dancing because I am one of those whose legs will automatically shake when I hear pop or jazz music. Rather than straining my ears to hear conversation in the midst of so much music and noise, I would rather dance. When I dance, I can dance non-stop for hours! I love the music, movement and of course the opportunity to exercise and lose some weight.!

Dr. Wee is always such a fun loving person. Last year he had a birthday cake where the topping is in the shape of sushi of different fillings. This year, the cake is in the shape of a red Ferrari.

Hence whenever I receive invitation from other property agencies to join them, I would always reply that I am happy and contented to be in my present company for I have a good boss and helpful and cooperative colleagues.

Gan Chau
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Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Beloved Piano Teacher


My beloved piano teacher, as dexterous as ever!

Music has power!

What a joy to see my ex-piano teacher, Yuen Lee, when she visited me at Rialto, an Italian restaurant that I used to operate. I still remember the piano lessons I had when I was in Primary 6. My teacher who also had the same surname as me, had only charged me a small fraction of her usual fees as she knew that papa was not well off. I was happy that now, I could pamper her and her husband, William at my restaurant. Being retirees, both husband and wife could spend the whole day with me, savouring our signature dishes at lunch and dinner. During the late afternoon break, we had a great time, reminiscing the past. My teacher is still as pretty and as slim as ever.

As her piano student, I had been talented but lazy! As a student, reading and writing had always been my first love, and I only spent minimal time to practise on the piano. Luckily I had some of papa's musical genes; hence despite my laziness, I had scored distinctions in my piano exams!! However, someone had said that genius is 99 per cent perspiration and 1 per cent inspiration. Hence I could only get as far as my laziness dictates! I still remember the rewards of boxes of pencils and books that my teacher used to give out generously to those who did well. Never one to talk much, nevertheless, I was always very observant. I still remember all the lovely and dainty shoes that my teacher used to wear.

Later my teacher shared with me that it was papa who had encouraged her to take up piano.
Yuen Lee had fond memories of my papa who was loved by everyone. Wherever papa went, he would promote and share his love of music to everyone.

Recently Yuen Lee had requested me to help sell her son's property at East Coast. She had wanted to pass me the brouchure of Tierra Vue. Hence I visited her at her son's home in Marine Parade. I asked if she could play the piano with me on the violin. I had taken 3 beginners' lessons from Mr. Yan Yin Wing, and thought it would be fun if we could play some pieces together. I warned my piano teacher to be patient with me.

Later, I requested Yuen Lee to play some solo pieces on the piano. Wow! She played so beautifully with panache. I love her improvisation of "How Great Thou Art!" I had always wanted to request her to play a piece for me, but as her young student then, I had been too shy and afraid.

Now I love to play the piano and violin so much! How I wished I had been more diligent when I was a student. I have always been a late developer! I hope to progress fast in my violin so that I could play in Mr. Yan's Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra.

What a wonderful feeling we have when we love and treasure someone. What great bonding that music can bring about! Is this the reason why the Yamaha Music School always encourage parents to learn music along with their children?

Gan Chau
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cheap, Cool and Chic !




For the past few years, I have been patronising those saloons that offer $10/- haircut. As a student in Canada, I used to cut my own hair. Now I only limit to trimming my fringe, so that it would take me longer to visit the saloon.

I was proud that I had been thrifty until I met my friend, Fong Wah, who told me about the hair saloon in her estate. The hair saloon, May May. offers haircut for ladies at $6.80 per cut. After the fifth cut, the sixth is complimentary.! May May also offers natural herbal hair dying at $25/- per session. The herbs are specially formulated to help prevent hair loss as well as to promote hair growth.

When I went on my first visit, I was glad to meet the amiable owner/hairdresser, Xiao Hong, who hails from China. For those of you who wish to save money on hairstyling like me, do give May May a try. I am sure you will be as pleased as I am with the owners' service and hairdressing skills. The location of the shop is at Block 153, Mei Ling Street, #01-22. It is only 3 minutes walk from Queenstown MRT, and Bus No. 64 stops in front of Block 153.

My hair grows very fast, and I would not be inclined to visit those saloons that charge some $40 to $80 for a haircut!

A penny saved is always a penny earned.!

Gan Chau
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Lucy, Ho Si, Bo Ho Si, Pak Lu Si.....???

While on the subject of names which is my favourite topic, I wonder why there are so many Peters and Marys in the world. Whenever someone tells me his name is Peter I would have to ask for his surname. When he tells me he is a Peter Tan I will have to ask for his Chinese name. I already have five Peter Tan and three Mary Wong in my address book.

Is this probably the reason why the more creative ones go for more fanciful names so as distinguish themselves from the rest. Names that are hard on the tongue eg,
Phenelope, Philomena, Alexandria, Ellysia, etc. However the danger of having such names is that they risk having their names forgotten or murdered.! My ex-student,
Bartholomew, ended up having his name dissected to become "Mew". Worse, some of his more cruel classmates were quite dramatic when they called him "Mew, Mew", making cat like sounds.

Sometimes even simple names will end up being mispronounced, especially if the person is a non-native speaker. I once heard a Contest Chair of a District Competition pronouncing the name "Barry" as "Bar-rie" when it should have been "Bear-rie."

Hence, I can empathise with the lady in our village whose daughter was looked after by my neighbour. She was illiterate and made cakes which she sold at the market. However, her husband was a civil servant who was effectively trilingual!

"Aiyoh, that educated husband of mine. Call our 5 children, "Ah Hock, Ah Huat,
Ah Mei, Ah Hua and Ah Ping lah." But he must make my life difficult by calling them
what "Pare (Pierre), Tua Mak (Thomas), Macy, Jessie, Lucy, Ho Si, Bo Ho Si, Pak Lu Si!!" (Ho Si, Bo Ho Si, Pak Lu Si in Hokkien means Easy to die, not easy to die, beat you till you die). I was amused and even though the lady was illiterate, I thought she was quite humorous and somewhat poetic to think of words to rhyme with her daughters' names!

Hence, dear readers, I hope you will spend ample time when you are naming your new born baby. Once given, the name will stick to the baby for life.

Gan Chau

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

When Two Chinese Speak in Other Tongues.....

I can still remember this funny incident. It was one of those yearly vacations in Melbourne which I used to take during the December holidays. I was teaching then and with teaching, we enjoyed long vacations.

I took my uncle with me on a tour to the 12 Apostles. While we were admiring the rock formation, I suddenly felt someone tapping me on my shoulder. To my surprise, I did not know the stranger. Just then, he realised that he had tapped on the wrong person. "I'm sorry....I thought you were my wife." Then he pointed to a lady in red. I was also wearing a red T-shirt, and had almost the same build.

"Where are you from?" he asked me.

"Singapore.....and you?"

"Mauritius", he replied.

I then spoke to him in Mandarin but he said, "I only speak French and English...not Chinese".

Hence I started to converse with him in French, much to his delight.

As the bus was speeding along the highway, I smiled when I thought about the funny incident. Strange that when two Chinese from different parts of the world met together, they spoke in French and English but not Chinese!!

Gan Chau

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

When People Do Things Right....

It is amazing how quick we are to criticise, find fault and correct others whenever there is the slightest opportunity!

Yet how many of us are equally quick to render praises and appreciation whenever others do things right.? There is the landlord who insists that if the water, gas and electricity bill exceed a certain amount, the tenants who rent a room must top up the difference. Yet how many would refund the tenants some money if they have been cautious in their usage and keep the bills low?

The room for my tenants is an airconditioned room. When I found out that they never turned on the aircon, I decided to refund them $100/-, much to their surprise.

When my new tenants constantly keep the kitchen clean after cooking, I sent them an sms to thank them. Now the kitchen seems to shine and sparkle even more brilliantly! Praise is like a balm and is soothing on a blistered spirit. Most people thrive better with encouragement. My god-daughter, Carrie, is one such person. The more you praise her, the better she performs.

When I was teaching, I used to tell my students not to compare themselves with others. They are their own best competitor. They should always try to improve themselves, and every step is an improvement over the previous. They will be happier this way, and will be able to focus more on their own goals. Just as water finds its own level, homo sapiens too should find their own comfortable level. For example, even if a person comes from a family of scholars, it does not mean the end of the world if he does not have a degree. Maybe he has motor intelligence and excels in sports. For example, Michael Phelps. I know I can never be good at games like tennis, basketball, netball, hockey etc. If I do play any of them, it is for fun and exercise.

Praises when given lavishly and insincerely will be deemed as flattery and are best kept in the wardrobe. Even someone with a low I.Q. will instinctively distinguish between praises and flattery.

As for me, my skin has thickened over the years. It is now more resilient to weather all types of conditioning. Nevertheless I still prefer criticisms that are given constructively and objectively. I detest people who throw down criticisms from their ivory tower...I'd prefer that they come down and wear my shoes instead.
My greatest respect is for the man who helps me to grow and who criticises with love and concern.

When people do things right, let us be quick to give them a pat on their backs so as to goad them on. The burden and the task will seem lighter when we show appreciation for one another.

Gan Chau

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Leash versus Lease


My friends had sent me an email with some public display of signboards in China. There were some gross yet amusing errors in the spelling and wordings.

In Singapore, we are always so proud of our high standard of English. Hence, I was somewhat appalled at how the error in the above signboard could have gone undetected by the organisers concerned. What had happened to the proof reader/readers?

English is a language that may be easy to learn, but hard to master. An alphabet could alter the whole meaning of a word!

Gan Chau
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Friday, September 05, 2008

When Shoes Fall Apart!


My brand new pair of shoes that fell apart within 2 hours of use!
Fairly pretty to look at, but oh! so fragile!

My favourite pair of shoes! Not so pretty, but oh! so faithful and strong!

Vanity fair. Shoes for parties and social gatherings!

Plastic slippers that are great for a rainy day!

I had bought a lovely pair of shoes from a stall in a pasar malam (night market) at Serangoon some months ago. (See above picture 1) I had delayed wearing them because I still had some shoes. I bought the shoes because they looked attractive and were reasonably priced at $12/- a pair. They could also come in handy as a gift. I am in the habit of buying things when I see something I like. Also with so many siblings, nephews, nieces and friends who may just suddenly visit me in Singapore, it is handy to have some presents on standby, especially if I do not have time to go shopping there and then.

One Saturday afternoon, as I was attending a toastmasters' workshop on humour by Ng Cher Khim, I decided to wear the new pair of shoes. Just as I was walking towards the Braddel Heights Community Centre, I felt that my shoes were becoming somewhat lose. I looked down and was horrified when I realised that the ribbons were coming off, and the centre of the shoes were falling apart! Suddenly my brain cells refused to function as confusion took over! Should I carry on and pretend as if nothing was happening? I might have to end up walking barefooted! Or should I go back and change into another pair of shoes.? I decided to hail a taxi and just before arriving home, I called my tenant, Ashok, to help me bring down a pair of nice black shoes so as to save time.

Horror upon horrors! My somewhat dreamy tenant brought down the least suitable of all the shoes on the shelves! A pair of plastic slippers! (See picture 4) As I was running out of time, I made do with the slippers. As the taxi was heading towards Serangoon, I realised I should have just taken the taxi to a shop nearby to buy a pair of shoes instead. This would save me time and money.

I arrived at the Community Centre just in the nick of time and was relieved to find myself a corner seat in the centre of the auditorium. I was glad I was wearing a pair of long pants. If it had been a skirt, the pair of slippers would be too conspicuous!

When Cher Khim held a lucky draw at the end of the talk, I prayed very hard that I would not win a prize for it would mean going up the stage with the pair of plastic slippers! God answered my prayers.! I was glad that despite my ordeal with a pair of shoes that gave way, I had not missed the wonderful workshop.

In the past, I used to bring an extra pair of shoes with me as I had this fear of shoes breaking apart. However since I had my faithful pair of shoes (See picture 2), my confidence was restored. The shoes may not look dainty or feminine, but by golly, they are very comfortable and strong, and I could even run in them when I was rushing for time. Sometimes I look at ladies wearing shoes with very high heels and thin straps, and wonder when they will give way.

I wonder why some shoe makers do not take pride in their crafts. If only they could be like those elves in fairy tales who take so much pride in making their shoes! I am just so relieved that I had not given the pair of shoes away. What would the receipient of the gift think of me.?

Vanity versus simplicity and practicality? I'd rather opt for the latter.

Gan Chau
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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Guess and Win a Prize!





I love to drive my "BMW No. 11" everywhere! I enjoy destination walking. Rather than taking a bus or train, I would prefer to walk one or two stops to my destination. I get to enjoy the fresh air instead of being squeezed by commuters during peak hours. I also get to walk and see or "look see look see". My ex-Korean Korean colleagues love to say, "Let's go look see look see". They meant to visit or gallivant.

Always armed with my camera, I will click when I find something unique or interesting! What a joy to discover places which I might otherwise have missed had I taken the bus or train!

The above pictures are examples of what I mean....there are still pockets of charming places within the bustling city of Singapore!

Readers are free to make a guess! Please submit your reply via email at Tell me where the pictures were taken and you stand to win an attractive prize! Hurry! The first three readers to submit the right answer will win!


Gan Chau
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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Don't Judge a Lady by Her Voice!

I guess we have heard, "Don't judge a book by its cover! Now we have, "Don't judge a lady by her voice!"

On impulse, I had emailed my previous article, "The Verge versus Tekka Mall" to our tabloid paper, The New Paper. I was pleasantly surprised when the editor called me to say that she enjoyed the article and hence would be publishing it the following day, although she would reduce the length of the article.

I was surprised with the efficiency of people in this country. When I read the published article, I realised that the editor had misinterpreted a portion of my article. I had mentioned that I heard of Tekka Market some 25 years ago. I guess when she spoke to me on the phone, she must have assumed my youthfulness. With a sweet and youthful voice, the editor probably found it incredible that I should be at least in my mid forties, let alone in my mid fifties! She edited my article and mentioned that Shirly's grandpa had heard of Tekka Market some 25 years ago, when it should have been me!

There was also a time when a client asked me how old I was on the phone. I told him I was 48, and he refused to believe me. Finally he said, "I thought which 18 year old lady is trying to sell me a $5M property!" He insisted I must show him my identity card!

Once I decided to play a trick on my student. "Yes, Mark, this is Christine whom you met at your classmate's party." When I finally revealed myself, Mark squealed!
"Madam, I thought you were really one of my sound so young on the phone!"

Once I tried to help my friend look for a job. The Human Resource officer insisted on meeting me for he thought I was pulling his legs when I told him I was 52 years old! He told me that I have one of the sweetest voice he has ever heard for a long time. Love at first hearing? reality, how I wish I were half as pretty as I am endowed with a sweet and evergreen voice!!! Nevertheless, I am contented and happy to receive whatever blessings are in store for me. Please don't judge a lady by her voice.

Gan Chau

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Verge versus Tekka Mall


Oh where and oh where has Tekka Mall gone?

The Verge! The Verge! The Verge!

"They have now changed the name of Tekka Mall to the Verge!" I shared with my friend, Shirly.

"What bird?" asked Shirly's grandfather, a gentleman in his 80's and who is on the verge of deafness. He is proficient in Chinese, and as a lover of life long learning, is picking up English.

"The Verge lah. kong kong (grandpa)!", said Shirly and we both looked at each other with understanding, controlling our urge to burst out in laughter.

"Why can't they just keep the name simple as in Tekka Mall.? Why make it sound so angmoh, (English) ......the Werge." lamented grandpa. "The Verge, kong kong. V as in Victoria Street." Some Chinese find it difficult to pronounce "V". Tekka sounds so original and unique. I remember when I first came to Singapore some two and a half decades ago, I heard of Tekka Market, and thought it was an unusual name. The word "Tekka" in Hokkien means bamboo.

Will the new name of The Verge improve business? Or does the more sophisticated name add glamour, and hence tourist and local dollars to the businesses operating in the mall? Tekka is such a lovely and unique name. It even has a hint of some tribal language in it! Frankly, as a lover of languages, I would prefer the name of Tekka to flowery names like The Renaissance, Villa Chancerita, Alocassia Apartments, Le Chateau (makes you feel as if you were in Paris), Villa Des Flores, Ingolstadt Centre, etc. etc. I pity the elderly taxi drivers, who find it difficult to read, let alone pronounce the names of various buildings.

Frankly, if I had to choose, I would prefer to be called Ah Hua than to be called Melody, Virginia, Cassidy, Honey, Chirstiana, Sincerity, etc. Although Ah Hua may sound less sophisticated, at least I will not risk my name being murdered by some people who find it hard to pronounce it. The names that people can come up with!

When I learnt that Tekka Mall will be called the Verge, I immediately taught of the sentence, "The man was desperate and on the verge of suicide!" Let us hope the Verge will bring new life and luck to its owners, and that none of the tenants will be on the verge of despair with less than expected roaring sales with the new name.


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