Friday, October 31, 2008

Sleep - still the best antidote!

I just felt slightly better today and took my clients for two viewing of the neighbouring flats. Walked all the way to Tessensohn Road from my apartment to show Edward and his father the unit, and later adjourned to Gloucester Road to view another unit. I came back exhausted, with a fever and headaches! Pride before the fall! I thought I was well enough to run around. Now I have to admit defeat and to tell Michael Rodrigues, our leader that I would have to miss the speechcraft at Changi Prison the next morning.

I am impatient with having to sleep so much. I thought hibernating for two and a half days would be more than sufficient to revive me but I was wrong. This strain of flu is very stubborn and persistent. I did all that the doctor had advised - rested, drank lots of water, eaten lots of fruits and now my client, Edward, suggested that I should see the doctor for a jab for faster recovery.

In this state of inertia and lethargy, even my usual favourite television programs do not tempt me.

After a small dinner, would take my medication and head for bed. Hopefully, I would recover to participate in the Big Walk. Do not want to disappoint my friend, Anne from Vietnam. She has been looking forward to the Big Walk. In the evening, my nephew Samuel and his wife, Dea, are driving over from Johore Bahru to take me to the Esplanade to watch the musical, "Avenue Q". I am looking forward to the musical as well as to see Sam and Dea for I have not seen them for quite some time.

Sleep, sleep, I wish I could sleep for a hundred years! Wish me a speedy recovery!

Gan Chau

My Heavily Googled Article

I was surprised that my article "A Distorted View on Beauty recently had so many hits from the States and other parts of the world. I guess the article must have been featured somewhere. Nevertheless I am glad that it had been featured because I wish to help those with anorexic problems.

A friend, Kum Seng, had suggested that the photos of the anorexic lady could be doctored for how could any one with so skinny a body live and even flex her arms? I told Kum Seng it was a genuine photo because the model died shortly after those pictures were taken. Also, the young girl whom I counselled was so thin that even my small palms could clasp her upper arms! Later, Kum Seng googlged and saw some u-tubes on anorexic ladies. I had posted one in this article.

Anorexic people can be helped, but help must come quickly or their bodies would be wasted away. I hope that all modelling agencies will quickly send their models for counselling, especially for those who are too thin. Some of the models actually look like parading skeletons! Once a friend of mine who had quit the modelling scene shared with me how terrified they were to eat.....they were afraid to put on even an ounce. Once four models shared one hamburger, cut into four pieces. How miserable! Most of the models look like they could afford to put on a kilo or two.

Many teenagers are confused and are trapped by what they see on the media....that thin is beautiful and hence detest their seemingly plump figures. A good percentage of teenagers have tried dieting at one time or another. Once, one of my nieces, started rejecting all the food given to her, and soon lost quite a bit of weight. Thank God that she soon resumed eating normally. Another niece started to lose weight soon after she fell in love. She wanted to look good for her partner. At her wedding, many of the guys in church wondered how they could have missed my niece. She looked absolutely gorgeous! If only they had courted her when she was still somewhat plump. I wonder if these guys ever learn their lessons? They should take a look at their own mothers with their rotundness. However, weren't their mothers almost pencil slim when they first got married?

This is why when I was a teacher in the secondary school, I told my form class not to poke fun at their friends who were less than slim. Often teenagers became anorexic because they had been laughed and jeered at, and their desire to lose weight and to lose weight fast was wanting acceptance by their peers.

Parents should always try to be good support and advisors to their children, for everyday, we are bombarded with so many advertisements of looking good and slim by slimming centres, products that help to lose weight, etc. etc. When a child feels loved, there is little necessity to look for extra acceptance.

I remember once mama called me her ugly duckling and papa quickly chipped in, "But I love this ugly duckling. She's my most precious child!" It was always papa's great love and assurance that made me grow up to be what I am today, an overweight but confident and happy adult. If I desire to lose weight it would be for health reasons.

Remember, let us all be gentle with our words and refrain from making jokes on the physique of others. Let us always speak words of encouragement and acceptance.

Gan Chau

I should have known better, but as they say, it is difficult to teach an old dog new tricks. Since the onset of my flu, some four weeks ago, I had not rested. Instead, I still went around my usual activities. Some days when I was tired, I literally dragged my feet along.

Just 3 days ago, my throat was painfully sore and I knew I had to see my doctor. The doctor at the Polyclinic gave me a chiding for not seeing him earlier. He gave me a dose of antibiotics and so much medication that I jokingly told the pharmacist I could start a pharmacy.

The medication made me sleepy and I literally hibernated like a polar bear. I woke up just to take a little food so that I could take my medication. Last Saturday evening, I met a pastor at the wedding dinner of Sharon Singam. He told me that he had been down with flu for the past two weeks. "The flu virus is now very stubborn. It used to take me three days to get well", the pastor asserted.

How true. If only I had rested and not persisted on going for my volunteer work in Prison and later, to participate in the Humorous Speech and Evaluation contest. If only I had rested and not gallivanted at Vivocity the following day. If only I had not insisted on cooking and having fun during Deepavali. If only......regrets, regrets!

Now on the brighter side. Thank God that I can rest at home and not end up in hospital.....(cannot stand the smell of medication) and that I was sick during the weekdays. My weekends are always so hectic. I should recover in time for the Big Walk on Sunday morning.

Now.....going back to hibernate. I am on my road to recovery! I have learnt my lesson and will be less stubborn in future. Who says an old dog cannot learn new tricks?

Gan Chau

Keep Your Joy Intact!

My friend, Soh Yah, sent me this article by email. Thought I would share with my readers.


One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his breaks, skidded and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started Yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean he was really friendly.

So I asked, "Why did you just do that? That guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!"

That is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, "The Law of the Garbage Truck."

He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they will dump it on you. Don't take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, So......"Love the people who treat you right. Wish well for the ones who don't."

Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it!

Very often, quarrels and fights take place because the other party could not accept the insults, rudeness, etc. inflicted on them.

Papa used to say that thieves can rob us of money, and material possessions, but they can never rob us of our joy because it is contained right inside of us. From the above illustraion, we realise that we should never allow anyone to dump his garbage on us. We must never allow circumstances or nasty people to rob us of our joy for life is too short even to be miserable for a few moments!

Gan Chau

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Adding Sweetness to Life .....


Lovely, tasty and colorful sweets by Ananda Bhavan Restaurant

Photo taken by Avinesh's computer camera.

I grew up in Jelutong Village in Penang and had some Indian and Malay neighbours. Hence it was natural for my siblings to pick up some spoken Tamil and Malay. We were more fluent in Malay as we also studied the language in school as it was a compulsory language.

Every Deepavali, my neighbours would come round to give us some sweets which were usually home made. But for some reason, some of the sweets were rock hard; hence we were only able to eat the softer ones. However, we would play with the sweets which were hard like stone, treating them like marbles!

Hence, I had such a warm feeling when my neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Pandiyan, gave me a lovely box of sweets during Deepavali. The sweets were nicely packed in a see through box and were made by Ananda Bhavan. I had taken my tenants to Ananda Bhavan a few times for lunch and dinner, but had never tried their desserts. Ananda Bhavan serves delicious and reasonably priced vegetarian cuisine.

I have gradually learnt to appreciate Indian food. Yet for one year, after I moved to Little India, I had never stepped into any eatery in Little India! My tenant from China, Yiwei, would sometimes buy back some Indian delicacies and would offer me some and I would turn him down. After Yiwei left, I had Ashok and Jasmin as tenants, and they often offered me some home cooked vegetarian food which I gradually learnt to enjoy. This is quite an achievement, as by nature, I am not an adventurous person where food is concerned. Now I have even learnt to cook some Indian vegetarian dishes from my current tenants, Avinesh and his wife, Anul. Though not a vegetarian, I take little meat, and prefer fruits and vegetables.

It is interesting to note that some of the sweets are very colorful and remind me of beautiful saris. Amazing Indian culture! The Indians have such a rich culture. My second sister, Ean Ean used to say that the Indians must be people with great minds and artistic flair for everything about their culture is so complex - their intricate dances, colorful clothes and equally colorful food with so many different spices, their languages and dialects! She liked to joke that luckily she never married an Indian or she would have so much to learn!

I look at the box of sweets again and at the left hand bottom of the box was the phrase, "Adding sweetness to life..." What a catchy slogan! How wonderful if all of us could help to add honey and sugar to help sweeten life a little. This sweetening does not cost much .....a radiant smile, a warm hug, a finger to dial 999 when we see a fight, a little generosity to share our home and food, a thoughtful gesture to help make things a little easier for others and a ready heart to volunteer without being asked. For some, life can be really bitter at times; let's all help to add a dash of sweetness.

Gan Chau

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Memorable Gathering!



A gathering of different peoples - we are one in God's love

The birthday boy and girl - Avinesh and his gentle wife, Anul

The musical family - Peter with his clarinet, Jin with her guitar, Joel with his drums and Jaren with his vocal chords

Jasmin and Avinesh - virtual boxers!
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My friends, Jin Lu and her family have just moved into their lovely home at Legenda, and since Jin found out that the previous owners had left behind their beautiful oven, she decided to give away her recently purchased oven. I was at her home when she shared about giving away her oven and since I did not have one, Jin gave me her oven. What a blessing! I decided to invite her and family for some pizzas since Jin was delivering the oven to my home. Instead, she suggested that perhaps we should go to her home and also invited my tenants, Anul, Avinesh and Jasmin, since it is a public holiday - celebrating Deepavali!

I had cooked some chicken curry at home, and hence we were also able to have both pizzas and chicken curry, Jin also bought a lovely cake for dessert and I shared with her that Anul and Avinesh's birthday fall in the month of October. Hence we decided to sing them "Happy Birthday". The cake is shaped like a half-cut orange - creatively designed and deliciously baked! Avinesh shared that he normally does not like cakes but this cake really tasted quite different - a cut from the rest!

Jin and Peter with their two boys performed a song item. What a musical family!
We also went around the condo and enjoyed trying out the various gadgets for play and exercise. Just to prove that I am a "heavyweight champion", I sat on the see saw with Jasmin on the other end. Hee! Hee! Jasmin was high up in the air! Jin's lovely pet, Whitney, also enjoyed the walk as she went around sniffing!

The residents of Legenda are very friendly and a couple with two lovely puppies - a Shi Tzu and a long-haired Daschund invited Whitney to go into his yard to play with his dogs.

Later in the evening, we played some virtual boxing games, tennis and bowling. I tried the boxing with Jasmin and lost. Gosh! Just a few continuous punches and it was tiring. Now I realise how much stamina those boxers in the ring must have! Peter had bought the games from Taiwan. What a wonderful home entertainment!

We arrived home almost at midnight, exhausted but happy. It was a memorable and enjoyable day for my Indian friends in Singapore!

The As, Bs, Cs and Ks in my Life

Modern day living is all about As, Bs, and Cs.
It is not as easy as one thinks! is something to link the 5cs to the newer 5bs !

I don't need a CAR, but I want a BMW
I don't need a CONDO, but I want a BUNGALOW
I don't need CASH but I want to own a BANK
I don't need to have a CAREER but I want to be a BOSS

It's interesting for you to read!
Most of you would have heard of the Singapore 5C's! :
Car, Condo, Credit Card(Gold), Cash and Career

Heard of the 5B's?
B - Body
B - Brain
B - Billionaire
B - Bungalow

And, and addition with the 5K's ...........
Kiasu (scared of losing)
Kiasee (scared of dying)
Kiabor (scared of wife)
Kiaboh (scared of having nothing)
Kiachenghu (scared of government)

We've been reading about the 5C's! and 5K's for Singaporeans,
now comes the 5 Numerals and Malaysia's equivalent...

Singapore's 'practice' for Simple Living :
1 - One Wife
2 - Two Children
3 - Three Bedroom Condo
4 - Four Wheels
5 - Five Figure Salary

Malaysia's Malays 'practice' to Simple Living:
5 - Five Children
4 - Four Wives
3 - Three Figure Salary
2 - Two Wheel
1 - One-Storey Link House

My manager, Aveline Tan, sent me the above interesting email and after reflecting, I would like to come up with the As, Bs, and Cs in my own life.

The 5cs are:

Charisma - charm that endears me to others despite my overweight body and plain looks.

Committment - to carry out my committment in my volunteer work as well as real estate work.

Compassion - to always retain that soft spot in my heart for others and not to become a hard boiled egg.

Communication - to always express myself clearly and sincerely whether in speech or in writing.

Christlikeness - to emulate the Lord's wonderful examples of love and generosity.

The 5bs are :

Boldness - the courage to conquer and overcome all obstacles in life

Beacon - to help show the way as a beacon of light, and be an encourager to the discouraged, depressed and desperate.

Benevolence - to be generous and giving, for no one is too poor to can be in so many forms - cash and kind, time, talent.

Beauty - even if one has no external beauty, one can work on his inner beauty that shines and defies aging and wrinkles.

Bubbliness - to bubble with life and excitement and not let the fizz go off. Life is too short to be sad and depressed for even a moment. Happiness is an attitude and is never dependent on circumstances. If we have to wait on happenings to take place, we will be inclined to be miserable because the world is often full of disappointments, disasters, and disillusionment. I want to bubble with joy and hopefully, to infect others with my bubbliness.

My five K's:

Kia Lau Kooi (Making a fool of myself and not delivering what I have promised).

Kia Bo Seng Li (Scared of having little or no business)

Kia Puah peh (Scared of sickness)

Kia Bo Cheng Kor (Scared of not wearing my pants due to dementia, forgetfulness and senility)

Kia Huan (Scared of war)

My practice for simple living:

One dog

Two bedroom HDB flat

Three most treasured items: Piano, violin and computer

Four figure income.

Five significant others : God, Relatives, friends, colleagues, and Acquaintances

May God bless me with my heart's desires! Above all, let me always be grateful and contented and not to forget to count my blessings and name them one by one.

Gan Chau

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Man Proposes; God Disposes!

Have you ever experienced how you have painstakingly planned and planned but 75% of your plans went awry!? You wondered how things could have gone wrong with such excellent planning?

On the other hand, have you wondered how sometimes things just worked out so beautifully, and you were able to play by ear. Or how sometimes one thing led to another and you turned back and reflected, "How on earth did everything happen and went so smoothly?"

I learnt the pain of planning and how I had proposed to take papa on a trip to Korea or Japan when I was in my teens. How I longed to quickly start working as a secretary so that I could save up money to take papa on his well-deserved holidays. However, sadly, papa passed away even before I could complete my secretarial course!
It taught me the urgency of time, and how if we could do something there and then, we should just do it. The only consolation I had was that I had shown papa my love while he was still alive. Hence, when I had saved up enough money when I started teaching, I quickly took my wonderful eldest sister Lee Lee with me on a tour of New Zealand, and we dropped by in Melbourne to visit second sister Ean Ean. It did not bother me that my bank account was left with $30 after the trip. I could start saving again, but if anything should happen to eldest sister, I would not be able to realise my plan to bless her with a vacation. For I always remember, "Man proposes, but God disposes."

I wonder if it is because of so many things happening unexpectedly - the September 11th happening in the U.S., the tsunami that killed so many in Thailand, India, and other parts of Asia, the sub-prime problems, the collapse of financial institutions, etc. etc. that many people have now become resigned and have come up with the philosophy, "Save by all means, but enjoy life now to the fullest that we can, for we know not what tomorrow may bring!" Sometimes my clients or friends said to me, "Aiya, Choo, no hurry lah", and my reply is always, "Let me do what I can today, let tomorrow take care of itself".

I was surprised one evening when my best friend, Soh Wah, spontaneously asked me to join her for dinner, one of her rare evenings when she did not have to rush home after work. Soh Wah invited me to the Crystal Jade Restaurant at Ngee Ann City Building in Orchard Road. I was surprised to see how packed the restaurant was and so were the other neighbouring restaurants! I wondered if we were really having a recession, judging by the way that the shops and restaurants were doing a roaring business. "Choo, the more expensive the restaurant, and the finer the food they serve, the more popular. Sometimes you have to book a few days or even weeks in advance!", Soh Wah said. By now, Soh Wah is used to my being a "country bumpkin where restaurants are concerned". Being a good and creative cook, I tend to cook at home. "I guess people are now "kuah puah liao", I said to Soh Wah "Kuah puah" in Hokkien dialect means, "resigning oneself to fate and almost preparing for the end of the world!"

Hence, it sometimes irks me when our government plans and prepares a little too much for the future. A friend of mine is very poor because he is jobless but has quite a lot of money in his CPF. But the rule says he can't touch any of it until 18 years later when he reaches 55. Neither can he buy a flat now because he has no job and hardly any cash even to put down a deposit.

Recently we learnt that Power Supply made over a billion dollars nett profit last year. Yet now there is an increase of 21% in the most essential of all things - water and electricity. Power Supply claims that it needs to be prudent so that it can build more infra structure in the future. I remember how once the computer system went haywire and many expatriates were able to leave Singapore with thousands of dollars in unpaid utility bills. Yet some of us unfortunate and trusting Singaporeans were left to pay the bills of our tenants because we had been gullible enough to allow the utilities to be billed in our names. There was not a word of apology from Power Supply but the attitude is, "The bills are in your name; pay up!"
Power Supply was blind and chose not to understand the evidence especially when the same person had two bills for different addresses! How could a person be living at two places at any one time unless he had a mistress in a second home. !!

I can avoid going to restaurants but I cannot avoid the use of water, electricity and gas when I want to cook a simple meal of maggi mee with some vegetables. Utilities are not luxuries and the least Power Supply can do is to try to keep utilities affordable for the citizens and people Power Supply had claimed to love and care for. Please forget about the great infra strucutre....right now we are quite contented with the current infra structure. Do not tax us to the limit; let us enjoy life a little for now, for we know not what the morrow will bring! Do not be like the father who promised his hungry children, "We save now, please bear with your hunger that next year, papa will bring you all to Tung Lok Restaurant for a great and wonderful buffet."

It is better to stay alive to enjoy simple meals than to wait for that great buffet which may not materialise because sometimes man proposes, but God disposes!

Gan Chau

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fun Ways to Exercise!

One evening, I played some music on the tape recorder as my beloved cousin, Gaik Sim, was with me. Sim was an introverted lady, and although much older than me, we got along very well. Though younger, I was always the leader because my cousin was almost afraid to try new things.

"Come on, let's dance", I coaxed Sim.

"Don't know how to dance lah", Sim said.

"Just anyhow shake your hips and move your legs to the rhythm of music. See, so easy," I encouraged my cousin.

Sim got the idea and soon we were both enjoying ourselves thoroughly. Later I showed her how to do the offbeat steps and the rock and roll, which I had learnt from a friend.

Just then, my elder sister Ean Ean arrived home and when the door opened, she burst out into laughter!

"Ha, I never knew my little piggy sister could dance so well! I had been watching you for the past 20 minutes. Since when did you learn to dance, sis?"

"Dancing is not hard lah....just shake and boogie to the music, sis."

40 years later, things have still remained the same. Whenever I hear some catchy music, my legs will automatically start to move and shake. Once I got chided by eldest sister, because I started dancing.... and at a bus stop because a commuter was playing his radio quite loudly!

Once some friends invited me to a pub. I danced non stop for three hours! Some of the youngsters were quite curious about me, someone who had 450 days to becoming a senior citizen.! I hardly go to pubs or dances, but when I do, I will dance to my heart's content!

At the University of Alberta, we had a dinner and dance held by the International Students' Association. I danced for five hours! As ladies were greatly outnumbered, I felt bad to turn down the guys. I realised that constantly walking and moving the legs helped when I took up downhill skiing!

My favourite exercise is to play some favourite songs and music on the cd and dance! It makes exercising less tiring this way. Sometimes, my tenant, Anul, will join me in the exercise, and she loves dancing to music too.

My all time favourite is destination walking. As I have a destination to reach, I have no choice but to persevere in my walking. Sometimes, I could come across interesting sights! I enjoy the fresh air which is much better than being squeezed by the crowd in the bus or train.

Ladies are known to be multitaskers....and I will watch the TV, while simultaneously doing some aerobics exercise. If I were to just sit down and watch TV, I would have the tendency to doze off.

Hence, couch potatoes! Get up and kill two birds with one stone. Exercise! Let us all be known as dancing carrots.....trim, elegant and colorful!

Gan Chau

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sheer Synergy!


The Bonari Band from Japan, busking at the concourse outside of OG Departmental Store in Bugis

I had to collect some keys from my client at her office in Tampinese, and my manager, Aveline Tan, was supposed to pick the keys from me later on in the day so that she could show her clients the property for rental.

I phoned Aveline to check with her as to where she would like to meet up with me. She said we would play by ear. I decided to alight at Bugis MRT station so that I could buy some fruits and then walk back. I saw a band of musicians busking and was attracted by the lovely singing. An amiable lady was singing and playing the melodian simultaneously while one gentleman was playing what looked like a small drum or bongo and the other gentleman was playing some percussion.

The crowd of spectators were quite mesmerised and were quite generous in their donation. The group which called themselves the Bonari Band hailed from Japan. They aslo had their own cds for sale at $10 each. I was pleased to see many people buying the cds from them.

Just then I received a call from Aveline asking me where I was. "At Rochor", I said.

"I am also at Rochor", Aveline replied.

"I'm near OG watching a band."

"I'm also at OG, also watching a band....but where are you? Oh! I'm just behind you!"

Aveline and I laughed. What synergy and sheer coincidence! Aveline told me she had come to Rochor to do her hair. Later, she gave me a ride back on her way to Balestier. I was pleasantly surprised by Aveline's new car which had the stylish colour of a yellow banana! I mumbled a prayer of thanks to God for the ride because I was really exhausted for I was still fighting my flu.

For me, little incidents like the above would fill me with great joy! Little incidents like these reveal God's love and care for even very small matters.

Gan Chau

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Our final meeting at Park Mall


Charming Cherlene from Buona Vista Toastmasters' Club, conducting a mini workshop on "Evaluation". The lady in black is our guest, Joan Tjoa.

Winsome Natasha from NUSS Toastmasters' Club as our honourable Toastmaster of the Evening! She is also the best table topics speaker.

With the Birthday Girl, Aveline Tan, who is also Senior Group Director at Dennis Wee Properties. Accompanying the group singing "Happy Birthday" to Aveline

Small, but exuberant group of toastmasters!

Yesterday was our final chapter meeting at Park Mall. At the end of this month, Dennis Wee Group will move to Toa Payoh, just opposite the HDB Hub. We had originally planned to have a big party, but when our President, Walter Lee realised we could only use the small conference room, we had to limit the number of participants to below 12 people.
Although it was a small group gathering, it was a fun and lively meeting.

Charming Cherlene brightened the room with her ready smile and vivacious personality. Her talk on evaluation and hands-on kept everyone excited and alert.

Though a novice, Natasha was an excellent toastmaster of the evening. She connected well with the audience, and her table topic presentation was touching and convincing. She talked about food and how it was her dream to open a restaurant that will provide delicious, yet affordable food to the public. She was voted the best table topic speaker!

I brought along a guest, Joan Tjoa, an attractive lady whom I recently met at the Seminar held by the IEA at NTUC Building. Though her first time at a toastmasters' meeting, Joan spoke quite well on the topic, "Money, Money, Money."

Since we had a small group, Walter and I had the same idea to give the table topics master, Paulin from Rivervale Toastmasters' Club, a topic to present. My topic, "What do you look for in an ideal life partner?" was chosen for her to present.

Tim from Raintree Toastmasters' Club evaluated Aveline's Project 8 speech on "Art is Life." It is always very interesting to watch Tim for she is one of the most expressive toastmasters I have ever met. Cherlene cleverly got everyone to be involved in evaluation of Aveline's and Michael's speech.

We also took the opportunity to celebrate Aveline's birthday. Aveline Tan was the amiable and soft-spoken lady who recruited me to join her team at Dennis Wee Group. Subsequently she also introduced me to the toastmasters' movement for which I am eternally grateful. Since I went to the office after my violin class, I had my violin with me, and played when the group sang her a happy birthday song. I must say I played terribly....ha ha! practising in the quiet of my room and playing in a room of vibrant and vivacious toastmasters are two very different things!!! Moreover, I dared not play the violin too loudly as nobody had ever played an instrument in our office before, and there were 2 seminars held concurrently in the nearby rooms. Nevertheless, I am sure Aveline knew that what I had lost in skillful playing was made up for by the sincerity in my heart.

I had intended to cook curry chicken but have been lethargic these few days as I am still having a cold. Since I was going to Toa Payoh to pick up my glasses, I volunteered to buy some food for the club from Toa Payoh. Just in case, more guests turned up than expected, I bought some extra food.

Aveline kindly cooked her famous "Cheng Tng" and we had many helpings.
As there was more than sufficient food, some of us were able to pack some food home and I was most happy when Cherlene packed some char siew bao for her precious, beloved mom. (Cherlene had presented many speeches on her mom, and we all felt like as if we already knew her mom!)

That is the spirit of toastmasters! We always make use of whatever comes out at every meeting so that we can be creative and ready to learn from one another.

Gan Chau
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Complexities of the English Language!

It is interesting how words or the popular use of words seem to be often changing.

Years ago, we said that someone had won the 2nd or 3rd prize, but now we call it the first runner-up and the second runner-up to denote the same positions. The words "first runner-up" give the feeling that the contestant has done his best and has run up to the 2nd position, almost achieving the 1st. Hence if the champion could not compete, the 1st runner-up will have to take over his position.

Years ago, we used to call someone who did paper work a clerk. But today it is replaced with administrative assistant.

Years ago, we used to call someone who managed or ran the operations of a company a
manager, but today he is known by different names, depending on his responsibilities and seniority, eg. General Manager and Chief Exective Officer.

So many toastmasters like to use the word "impactful" when it should be full of impact. I do not blame toastmasters for coining this word because if a person is full of gratitude he is grateful. Hence, if something is full of impact, why can't it be impactful? Well, may be one day in future, the word "impactful" will be shown in the dictionary due to popular usage?

And can I blame a young child if he said, "My mom is a good cooker." Linguistically, he is sound, for if a person who teaches is a teacher, and a person who writes is a writer, why can't the person who cooks be called a cooker?

Years ago, I remember the word, "Malaysianisation" was coined to imply the making of modern Malaysia. I became even more thrilled with the English Language when I realised we could form new words.! "Malaysianisation" as in civilisation. Hence the making of ultra modern Singapore can be known as Singaporeanisation?

I remember one of my classmates in the University of Alberta was indignant when she declared, "Why can't people use better words to describe us who are from Hong Kong?
Some call us Hong Kongese, just because there is the word Chinese. Makes us sound like some kind of geese! Just because there is Russian, Malaysian, some call us Hong Kongan! Since there are words like farmer and teller, some people call us Hong Konger! Or some will call us Hong Kongian as in Hungarian!

"Mary, what would you like to be called then?" After a long pause, Mary said,
"Maybe a resident of Hong Kong!"

"Perhaps we should have a contest to coin a word or words to describe the people of Hong Kong?"

People often say that the older a man grows, the more he likes to talk so that friends and relatives find him too long winded or what in Hokkien is called "Tng kui" or in Mandarin, "Chang chi". (Long breath). But for me, as I grow older, I like to talk less but write and reflect more. Nothing makes me happier than to pen my thoughts on the computer. The only time I like to talk is when I present my speeches or conduct a workshop in toastmasters' clubs or when I have to talk to clients who are keen to rent or buy properties. This is probably why our CEO, Dr. Dennis Wee, was very surprised when he heard I had won the championship for my first humorous speech contest at Area U3.

But whether I speak or write, I was thrilled, and am thrilled and will still be thrilled with the most widely spoken language in the world!

Gan Chau

Monday, October 20, 2008

Counting God's Blessings


Div. U contestants together with the Guest of Honour, Mr. Heng Chee How and leaders from District 80

The Toastmaster of the Day, Zafar and Organising Chair, Gerald Ong

Gerald with Jerlyn Ang, Area U1 Governor

Our mischievous and creative Divisional Governor, David Liem with our Guest-of-Honour

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I had been having body aches throughout the week. Realising the side effects of panadol, I had tried to abstain from popping pills whenever I had pain and aches. I would prefer to use tiger balm ointment or massage. I had already completed the medication given by my doctor in the Polyclinic and was too lethargic to go back to see him again.

At the Division Z contest, I told my club president, Walter Lee, that perhaps I should not participate in the Division U contest and let the 2nd runner up, Wei Jian from Dover Toastmasters' Club to take part. However, since Wei Jian could not make it, and neither could Gerald Ong as he was the Contest Chair, I had no alternative. Morever, I did not want to let my Area U3 down. My good friend, Area Governor, Geok Cheng encouraged me to press on.

I did not want to miss my volunteer work at Changi Prison just because I had a contest in the afternoon. To aggravate my physical condition, I woke up at 5a.m., and despite having 4 hours of sleep, I dared not go back to sleep for fear of not being able to wake up on time to be at Tanah MRT where Elaine would pick me up on her way to the Prison's Speechcraft workshop. During my evaluation of Project 1 at the Prison, I felt I did not do a good job as my head was reeling. However, I tried to write in more details on the evaluation sheet for the speaker. During the 5 minutes break, I reminded the Officer to give us some water as my throat was very dry. My T-shirt was drenched with perspiration.

After the speechcraft, as we were walking to the main gate of the prison, I asked Ng Cher Khim if we would be penalised if we referred to notes. He told me that it was alright to refer to notes for evaluation contests. He also asked me how I had prepared myself for the contest, and I told him I did not know how to prepare, and that I had done an evaluation at the chapter meeting of the Singapore Polytechnic and ran out of time! I had written to the president , Frederick Kok and Div. Governor, Winson Lim, over the time given which is the same for all speeches. My advanced speaker had spoken for 12 minutes, almost double the time. How could I do justice to his speech? I would not shorten my evaluation just so that I could be in time to qualify for voting! Perhaps Toastmasters' International should revise the time allowed for evaluation of longer speeches of 12 to 25 minutes. Cher Khim had been very helpful in giving me tips on how to improve in my humorous speech and evaluation. His last minute pointers were very important to me, and I am grateful for his help.

I was blessed to be able to catch a ride from one of our committed volunteers, Ruby Lai, who was also on her way to the Division U contest. Ruby prefers absolute quiet when she drives, and I dared not fall asleep in the car as I had to direct the way to Whampoa Community Club. I struggled to keep my eyes open, and I prayed that the test speaker would be an interesting one or I would fall into the danger of dozing off!

I treated Ruby to a simple lunch and we were both glad to be able to get a little rest before the commencement of the contest. I sms-ed my best friend, Soh Wah and my tenants, Anul, Avinesh and Jasmin, requesting them to pray for me as I was utterly exhausted. Their replies came back, fast and furious and Soh Wah said, "May God bless you with the gift of the gab". Jasmin assured me, "I'll pray for you." Anul and Avinesh were philosophical, "Where there's a will, there's a way. Rise towards your victory, don't lose your patience. Be a fighter; keep your spirit. You'll be a winner in the real sense. Wishing you all the best!" I prayed that I would not utter rubbish during the evaluation. I would be contented if I did not make a fool of myself and that I would be at least coherent and organised in my speech. During the refreshment break, I went to the washroom to put a wet towel on my forehead as I was running a fever. My colleague, Grace Tan, took time off from her busy real estate work, and came to give a lot of support and encouragement.

I was happy to be the fourth speaker because it meant that I had a chance to listen to the other three contestants and learn from them. Horror upon horrors, the Guest-of-Honour, Mr. Heng Chee How, Minister of State for Health, had remained to watch the evaluation contest! "Oh God, please help. I'll do my best; Please do the rest!"

Strangely, I did not feel the need to take my notes on stage! Gone was the fear and nervousness. Instead peace filled my heart. The words came to me quite smoothly and I managed to elicit some laughter from the audience. I went back to my seat, relieved that I had made a coherent presentation. "All glory and thanks to you, Lord", I mumbled to myself.

Hence, you can imagine my great surprise for clinching the 2nd prize in the contest!
To me, it was indeed a miracle! God always seems to have a softer spot for the weak and inadequate. I think I am now beginning to have an idea of what is needed in a good evaluation and will try to do more project evaluation when I visit clubs in the near future.

Gan Chau

Posted by The Oriental Express at 8:45 AM 0 comments

Dogs Love Music Too!

Anul's beloved American Spitz, Taffy. He dances when he hears music.

In the lovely home of the Loh Family in Melbourne. From left to right. Jean with her lovely cat, yours truly with Robbie and my sister, Ean Ean


Bobby, Irin's beloved Shi Tzu.

I love dogs but that does not make me an authority or walking encylcopaedia on everything that pertains to dogs. Nevertheless, I realise that perhaps dogs are able to enjoy music too. I hope these four little stories will convince my readers to some extent.

My friends in Melbourne used to have a dog called Robbie, a shetland sheep dog. Robbie was greatly loved by the Loh family because he was docile, affectionate and gentle. He enjoyed music and disliked it when someone did not play the piano beautifully. One of his owners, Mei, would sometimes tinkle on the grand piano and Robbie would bark at her, displaying his displeasure at such awful and harsh sounds. However, when my sister Ean Ean visited the family and played the piano, he would listen quietly and contentedly. He would also listen happily when Mei's brother, Kong, played some catchy songs on the piano.

When my nephew, Daniel, shared his interest to buy a second hand saxophone from Pastor Samuel Sia, I encouraged him in his zeal to learn a wind instrument. I could still remember the first time when Daniel blew his saxophone, all my three dogs, Kamlette, Kambobo and Kam Xiaobai fled for their lives. They would always move away whenever Daniel started to blow his saxophone. Recently when I visited Daniel in Kuala Lumpur, I was moved when I saw how much he had improved in his saxophone. Daniel played, "Sweet Bye and Bye" - a hymn that is popularly played at funeral wakes. Daniel shared that when he played the hymn at one funeral, his touching rendition caused the mourners to weep even more! I am very sure that if my dogs were still alive and had the chance to hear Daniel play his saxophone, they would not run away this time.

Just a few days ago, I brought my neighbour's dog, Bobby, a Shi Tzu, to my flat while his mistress, Irin, went out for dinner. I played my violin, and noticed that Bobby kept looking up at me and hardly moved from his position. He seemed to be enjoying the music!

My tenant, Anul shared with me how Taffy, her beloved American spitz would dance whenever he heard fast, catchy music. Once when Anul and her friends were dancing at her home, Taffy also joined them, much to the amusement of her friends. I have not seen Taffy yet. I am sure when I see Taffy, I will give him a big hug for he is just like me.....someone who can't keep still when there is music in the air!

If my readers have any anecdote to share with me about dogs that love music, I would be glad to hear from you. Wow! Dogs would make great musicians as they have such acute hearing!

Life is certainly more colorful with music and dogs around!

Gan Chau

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why Chinese Should Not Have Christian or Western Names!

Confusing Chinese NamesCaller : Hello, can I speak to Annie Wan (anyone)?

Operator : Yes, you can speak to me.

Caller : No, I want to speak to Annie Wan (anyone)!

Operator : You are talking to someone! Who is this?

Caller : I'm Sam Wan (Someone). And I need to talk to Annie Wan (anyone)! It's urgent.

Operator : I know you are someone and you want to talk to anyone! But what's this urgent matter about?

Caller : Well... just tell my sister Annie Wan (anyone) that our brother Noel Wan (no one)has involved in an accident. Noel Wan (no one)got injured and now Noel Wan (no one) is being sent to the hospital. Right now, Avery Wan (everyone) is on his way to the hospital.

Operator : Look if no one was injured and no one was sent to the hospital, then the accident isn't an urgen t matter! You may find this hilarious but I don't have time for this!

Caller : You are so rude! Who are you?

Operator : I'm Saw Lee (Sorry).

Caller : Yes! You should be sorry. Now give me your name!!!
This is hilarious ...

Why Chinese shouldn't have Christian names:

Anne Chang => Dirty (Mandarin)
Anne Chin => Keep Quiet (Mandarin)
Faye Chen => Dusty (Mandarin)
Carl Cheng => Buttock (Hokkien)
Monica Cheng => Touching your buttocks (Hokkien)
Lucy Leow => You are dead (Hokkien)
Jane Tan => Frying eggs (Mandarin)
Suzie Leow => Lose till death (Hokkien)
Henry Mah => Hate your mum (Mandarin)
Corrine Tai => Poor fellow (Hokkien)
Paul Chan => Bankrupt (Mandarin)
Nelson Tan => Bird laying eggs (Mandarin)
Leslie Tong => Rubbish Bin (Mandarin)
Carmen Teng => Leg hair long (Hokkien)
Connie Mah => Call your mother (Cantonese)
Danny See => Squeeze you to death (Hokkien)
Rosie Teng => Screws and nails (Hokkien)
Pete Tsai => Nose droppings (Hokkien)
Macy Koh => Never die before (Cantonese)

Pass around for some laughter*

The above was sent by my Malaysian friend, Lynn Lee from Kuching, Sarawak.

I have also added some unique names in Chinese.

Lucy Ho - you die, good (Hokkien) Tanya Khoo - wait for a while (Hokkien) Bartholomew See - cat has fallen and died (Hokkien)

Aiyoyo! Better call ourselves simple Chinese names like Ah Lian, Ah Hua, Ah Mei,Ah Tyng, Ah Yinn, Ah See, Ah Yann, Ah Choo, Ah Gaik, lah. Make life less complicated mah. !!

Gan Chau


It was one of those rare Sunday mornings when I did not have to go to church because I had gone on Saturday. Not wanting to disturb my tenants, I went to the Tekka Market/cum food centre to take my breakfast, where I could also read my papers and enjoy a cup of kopi-o. I shared a table with a lady and a younger girl.

I was drawn to the intense conversation that was being carried on. Like busybody writer Catherine Lim, I eavesdropped! I noticed that the young lady was rattling off like a bullet train and thought she would certainly make a good toastmaster! She would be able to learn to speak slower and listen more attentively to the older lady who had to now and then remind her to listen to her. Both sometimes switched to Mandarin and Hokkien. I was amused by the older lady's somewhat philosophical advice whenever the young lady made a complaint. I concluded she could be the aunt.

While the older lady realised that I was listening on to their animated conversation, the younger lady was totally oblivious as she had her back partially turned to me. She was also so intense in what she was saying.

Later on, I took the opportunity to ask the younger girl if she was a boy or girl as I really could not distinguish, given her boyish hairstyle and yet even more boyish mannerism. However, I knew she must be a girl, as her voice was quite sweet. She suddenly turned around and slightly raised her eyebrows, while the older lady laughed as she proudly declared, "I'm her mom, not her aunty!"

"Wow, you both are so close and that's wonderful. Chatting away like friends....I like that!"

Later I asked the younger lady for her name and found out that she is a student at the SMU (Singapore Management University) and I quickly took the opportunity to tell her about the wonderful students I had met at the SMU Toastmasters' Club. I encouraged her to join the Toastmasters' Club.

I always love to leave words of encouragement to everyone I meet. I assured her mom that her daughter, Adeline Tan, is fine for she struck me like a sensible and clever girl. I shared that Adeline will gradually transform as she grows older. In fact, the first student from my class in Convent Green Lane, to get hitched was a tomboy called Junie Tan. Junie gradually discarded her tomboyish mannerism and became a loving and protective wife and mother! Hence Adeline's mother does not have to worry about her!

I regretted for not having my digital camera with me and hence did not take any photo. Hence I was delighted when I saw Adeline's blog when she looked into my website. If you would like to see what Adeline looks like, please log into her interesting blog, and you will discover her vivaciousness.
Adeline's blog will also give readers an insight into life at her university.

All the best to the lovely youngsters in our small but great nation! Do your best for you are the leaders of tomorrow!

Gan Chau

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fines! Fines! Fines!

Twenty five years ago, Mr. Gideon Khoo from the Penang Hiding Place jokingly said, "Singapore is really a fine country". Looks like now we are even finer than before, and perhaps can be ranked as the finest country, if not in the world, at least in Asia!

I am all for fines, especially if they are reasonable and help to bring about better habits in throwing things into rubbish bins and refraining from speeding and drink driving.

However, recently most of us were appalled by the report of a Mr. Kassim who was fined $200 for sleeping on a bench in the park. The National Parks Board had claimed that Mr. Kassim had misused the bench by having a siesta.

I can empathise with Mr. Kassim for I am also one of those who simply have to doze off when overpowered by the great necessity to rest. I had even dozed off while standing in the mrt with my hands holding on to the hoops of the railings! I had dozed off while practising my piano or violin. I had also dozed off while I was waiting for the red lights to turn green one early morning at 3.00a.m. after second sister who was visiting Singapore insisted that I should drive back home since their hosts had turned a bedroom into a library cum office. Luckily the policemen who woke me up were kind enough not to fine me. Despite that, it set me thinking and realising that I should stop driving. If I were to meet my maker, it is fine....but if my car should cause a fatal accident to another pedestrian or motorist, I would never be able to forgive myself.

So often my heart went out to the poor taxi drivers who had to park their taxi and snooze, taking a break from exhaustive driving. I only phoned the police officers to wake them up lest they perish from carbon monoxide poisoning, as some of them had slept with air con and engine on!

In fact, if the Authorities had realised, they should actually have applauded Mr. Kassim for choosing to take a nap than to be sleepy eyed when he is at the wheels. A tired bus driver is certainly a danger to the many passengers in his bus and to others on the road.

As many readers have shared, many of us are not aware that it will amount to a fine if we are caught sleeping on a bench. As one reader has commented, "Put hand bars in between the bench so that people will not be tempted to lie down and sleep. $200 fine is exorbitant for a poor bus driver. Wow! With $200, Mr. Kassim can get a good night's rest in one of the 5 star hotels when there is a promotion. $200 can also feed my orphan in Nepal for 5 months!

I appeal to the Authorities, "If you wish to fine, fine in the right and reasonable way and don't anyhow fine or what in Hokkien people would say, "Ai fine hor......fine tioh lor lah. Mang luan chu fine hor." Life is already so stressful in Singapore; let the people relax a little. Please do not be overly possessive about things....please don't be like those possessive people whose houses look like hotels because they are so spic and span. I'd rather go to homes where the owners are warm and hospitable, and I am allowed to lie down on the floor, play the piano, run around with the kids and dog, open the fridge door, or eat with my fingers.

For once, please let us be humble without having to win the No. 1 position......let us just be fine; there's no necessity for Singapore to be the finer or finest country in the world.!

Gan Chau

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Music Makes My World Go Round!


Fine tuning before lessons start!

Mr. Yan playing a new piece for his student


I love it when Mr. Yan accompanies me on the piano sometimes during lessons.

After a toastmasters' meeting at Braddell Heights I was attracted to a poster which shows all types of courses offered by the community centre. I was particularly attracted to the advertisement on violin lessons, and the teacher, Mr. Yan Yin Wing, looks quite impressive as he also conducts the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra.

I was both excited and fearful, and it didn't help when Madam Lim, the staff at the office asked, "So old already, why learn so many things?". After living on earth for almost 55 years, my skin is now thick enough to weather all tsunamis and storms of life. "Hua dao lao, xueh dao lao - Learn as long as we live". I guess Madam Lim was perplexed because with the same breath of excitement, I had also asked her about gu zheng classes which I had in mind to take up once I am more settled with my violin classes. To convince Madam Lim how much I enjoy learning, I shared with her that I only joined toastmasters' activities 2 years ago, and had won quite a number of prizes! "Old is gold!", as one toastmaster in the recent Division Z contest had proclaimed.

Mr. Yan is an excellent and gentle teacher. Once he demonstrated for me to put my two fingers closer to each other to produce a more accurate sound. I laughed when I realised the need to do so as my fingers are quite fat! I love it most when Mr. Yan accompanies me on the piano sometimes. I always enjoy my weekly 30 minutes of violin lessons with him. Mr. Yan is quite versatile as he also composes and conducts the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra. If you wish to read more about Mr. Yan Yin Wing, you can google for more information, and see more photos of Mr. Yan's orchestra and activities.

Probably one of the reasons why I have delayed taking up violin lessons is the time factor. Although my wonderful ex-piano teacher, Kam Yuen Lee, was very patient with me, I felt guilty for putting so little time and effort into my piano practice, and although I managed to get distinctions in my exams, I also realised that genuis is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Hence, I often dreamt that I did not practise on the piano, and could not play at all during lessons! I certainly do not want history to repeat itself with my violin lessons.

Now that I am working part time as a property agent, I have a little more time for practice. Perhaps it is my deeper love for the violin that it has enabled me to be more diligent and I can practise for hours as long as time permits. I was thrilled when Mr. Yan mentioned that I had progressed quite fast despite my short fingers and arms. I was very much tempted to use a three quarter size violin, but not wanting to disappoint my best friend, Soh Wah, I will take up the challenge of playing a full size violin, and with God's blessings, to play it really, really well - at least well enough to join Mr. Yan's orchestra!

Gan Chau

My Beloved Niece (2)


Yann's T-Shirt Creation

Another style

Putting creativity to use

Having lunch with Yann, Chin Hoe and daughter, Zen during their last visit
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"Mama, why is aunty all green today and yesterday was all red? Why everyday different colour?" asked Yann, when she was all of six years old. She had just come back to Penang with her parents after having resided in Sabah for a few years. At this time, I was suffering from very severe skin rashes, and my mom was desperate to try different doctors who prescribed different lotion and cream. Amazing how colorful the lotion was. Hence after applying all over my neck and body, I looked like a colorful monster!

It is interesting how time flies and now Yann is a mother of two girls, Zen and Ning.
Zen takes after her mother with her fair complexion and fine facial features. She is often mistaken to be a Korean or Japanese. Her younger sister Ning is ever ready to smile and wins the heart of everyone with her sweet personality and friendliness.

Yann and I share almost the same outlook. When we passed by some shops selling branded bags and shoes, I told her that I would never be able to buy branded goods. These branded goods are of fine quality and it would be boring to have to use them for years. We would rather buy cheaper items and have more fun with variety.

Yann and her sister, Tyng used to sell some ethnic clothings which they bought from Vietnam, Myammar, Thailand, China and India. Sometimes Yann designs her own clothing and T-shirts which she sells under the name of Little Jaipur. She only operates Little Jaipur on weekends in Kuala Lumpur. As Tyng has gone to America to further her studies, Yann has now reduced her time at her outlet. She also feels that it is important for her to devote more time to her family. Yann shared how recently, two French ladies had bought quite a number of her T-shirts as souvenirs to take back to France. Four of my friends bought the T-shirts priced at between $25 to $35. (See photos above).

Looking at her long legs and slim frame, you can easily guess that Yann is a runner. She used to participate in running and has represented Malaysia in track and field in some of the Asean games.

I hope to be able to meet up with Yann more. Everyday is so precious because we do not know what the morrow may bring.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Beloved Niece


Shoes! Shoes! Today's kids are spoilt for choice!

Yann's choice of a lovely pair of pink design for her little princess, Zen


Kids' shoes are even more costly than mine at $7.50 per pair


Bon voyage! Yann's favourite mode of transport to and from Singapore! The Aeroline!

I was very tempted to watch the Hindi movie which had all my favourite actors and actresses. However, Anul told me that the movie on Zee channel would only start at 11.30p.m. As I was not feeling well, I decided to go to bed earlier so that I would be in better health to receive my niece, Yann when she visited me the following morning. Yann would often come to Singapore for a day or two.

My generous niece brought me some lovely t-shirts which she designed herself. (I will post these on my blog a little later). She also bought me an advanced birthday present - a herbal aromatherapy pack to put a stop to all the pain and suffering I may have. Yann surely remembers I will be a senior citizen this coming December! Oh by the way, I have just found out that on every Tuesday, NTUC supermarkets will give extra 5% to senior citizens. Hence, if you can't find me, try me at the NTUC outlet at Rochor Centre, ok? I am not one of those who bothers about birthday celebration, but this December, I might do so with a small bang, oui, yahoo!

Frankly, the aches in my body (a sign of oncoming flu....must have picked it up from Jasmin who said he was not well) made me lethargic and I almost wanted to tell Yann I would rest and sleep, but I did not want her to gallivant on her own before she took the bus back. I also wanted her to check with the bank whether I could put my name as a Singapore resident in support of her application to open a savings account here. Yann's husband, Yap Chin Hoe has some art paintings with Art Folio, and it would be easier for them to have an account here.

Later, Yann shared with me that the UOB bank officer had a poor sense of humour. Realising that foreigners are still not allowed to open savings accounts in Singapore, she said, "So your bank does not want my money?". The serious looking officer looked even more serious and tried to explain. I told Yann that the officer is definitely not a toastmaster for if he were one, he might probably say, "So, how about marrying me? or I have a very eligible brother whom I would like you to meet."

Since we were running out of time, and it was still drizzling, we decided to shop at Vivocity which is next to Harbour Front where Yann had to catch her bus to Kuala Lumpur. It was only then that I realised kid's shoes are so costly.! Most of the shoes cost over $25.

I always look forward to my niece's visits as I am lazy to travel to Kuala Lumpur.

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Service that is Good and Informative


Who is that creature from outer space?

With my tenant, Anul at the Optics 88 at Toa Payoh

I was attracted to the big banner which showed a huge discount on progressive lenses. I was quite pleased with the warmth and friendliness of the oculist, May. She patiently fed me with information in addition to her answers to my endless questions. I was pleased when she told me about the monthly-wear contact lenses which are of course, much cheaper than the daily-wear lenses. I like these better because it will cost me only $80 for one year supply. Reason? I am a mono lens user, meaning that I only wear the lens in my left eye. Hence, it gives me both far and near vision. If I were to wear lenses in both eyes, it means I have to wear reading glasses again. Half the time, I can't remember where my glasses are!

I would also prefer to wear glasses when I play the violin so that I could see the notes more clearly. Hence, progressive lenses would be just ideal. In the past I did not make any as they were so costly. Now, Optics 88 has a promotion at $170/- per pair, down from $270/-. When I shared with my best friend, Soh Wah, she told me that the pair of progressive glasses she is wearing had cost her over $1,500/-! She made them about five years ago. Hence, mine at $270/- per pair is quite cheap. May informed me that she is an oculist who checks for use of glasses only. Her other two colleagues are optometrists who will check for users of contact lens.

Anul shared with her husband, Avinesh, and now we are taking him as well as Jasmin, to check their eyes for possible use of contact lens.

It does not matter whatever business we do....we must always provide service with a heart. We must also practise integrity because happy customers will always become loyal and will take the initiative to recommend their friends and relatives. This is why all these years, as a property agent, I have never cold call or print fliers to advertise my service. I receive endless referrals from clients.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Playing by Ear - Wooden Heart

Can't you see
I love you
Please don't break my heart in two
That's not hard to do
'Cause I don't have a wooden heart
And if you say goodbye
Then I know that I would cry
Maybe I would die
'Cause I don't have a wooden heart
There's no strings upon this love of mine
It was always you from the start
Treat me nice
Treat me good
Treat me like you really should
'Cause I'm not made of wood
And I don't have a wooden heart

Muss i denn, muss i denn
Zum Stadtele hinaus
Stadtele hinaus
Und du, mein schat, bleibst hier?

There's no strings upon this love of mine
It was always you from the start
Sei mir gut
Sei mir gut
Sei mir wie du wirklich sollst
Wie du wirklich sollst
'Cause I don't have a wooden heart

I am gradually learning more about the computer. How wonderful that we can hear songs and even have the lyrics on the computer. One of my favourite songs by the late Elvis Presley is Wooden Heart.

Hence, I decided to see whether I could play it on the violin. After a few practices I am glad I am able to play it quite nicely.

I hope my younger readers will also find the tune pleasing and soothing. The wordings of the song are quite meaningful too.

I hope I will gradually be able to play more pop songs by ear on the violin.

Gan Chau

Sometimes It Pays to Be Fat and Bulky!

In my haste, I had slipped down on the granite floor of my living room. There was a slight sprain on my right leg. Undaunted, I proceeded to rush as I had to be at the HDB Hub by 8.30a.m. for my clients' first appointment.

As the mrt arrived, the passengers slowly moved in. The usual self-centredness of commuters.! If so many had come out of the train, why would it be so crowded at the entrance? I was the last to enter just as the doors were about to close. I refused to be left out and made my way in and just as the doors closed on me. Some lady passengers opened their mouths in shocked dismay, but I was cool and calm. Now you understand why some of my mischievous students in ACS (Independent) used to call me Miss Ka(l)m?

The doors retreated and remained in the same position for quite some time. Then they closed again. Realising how stressed people are in this country, I thought I would help them relax and laugh a little.

In my toastmasters' loud voice I said, "No worries. Sometimes it pays to be fat and bulky! Even mrt doors are terrified of me!" I could hear some laughter and saw some commuters grinning from ear to ear.!

I shared with my Indian tenants. Avinesh's wife, Anul, is quite petite and slim, and I said to her, "If it had been you Anul, why, the mrt doors might have squeezed you into a lovely papadam!" (Indian crackers made from flour which could be plain or added with spice and herbs).

Gan Chau

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Broken by Papa's Gentleness!

"She slaps son for getting 92 marks".

The headline in the New Paper (9 Oct. 2008) gripped my heart. For it immediately made me think of my beloved papa and that fateful day when I brought back my first report card in Secondary One. I had all red marks except for English and Art. Half fearful and embarrassed, I showed papa my report card. Instead of the scolding that I had expected, papa said softly, "Wo de bao bei - my precious child, you have done very well in primary school with all marks in blue. Something must have happened. Think about it and papa knows you can do much better than this". I burst into tears. Papa's gentleness and understanding had broken me more than the loudness of voice or welts from a cane! I told papa that I knew all the answers, but since the instructions in the exam papers had said, "Write short notes on the following...." I really wrote short notes....only 2 or 3 lines."
Thinking back I had been so silly. I guess my classmates were also all in the same boat. Most of them had reports like mine...for they also wrote short notes.!

The following term, we all went back with our report cards.....this time....all the marks were in blue! We had become wiser!

Papa had throughout his life spanked my sister Ean Ean and I.....only once. We had been inconsiderate during play time and our screaming had woken him up from his much needed nap. Later in the evening, he sat me on his lap and asked gently, "Was my spanking painful?" I cried even harder because I saw tears in his eyes for the first time. That evening, I decided I would always try to make papa happy for he was one of the most wonderful father any child could wish for. It pained him even more - he, the giver of the spanking, and the guardian who wished his children the best in life.

Just as water finds its own level, papa had also allowed all his 5 children to find their own level in life. He had never pressurised me to study hard or to practise harder on the piano. Knowing how much I loved to read, he would sometimes buy me story books and magazines. To help save money for papa, I befriended the owner of a little store, and just by buying some sweets from him, I could sit down for hours and read all the comics and magazines in his store!

I am very glad that Madam Iris Sim's attitude changes after she begins volunteering in her son's school. From a demanding mother, a nagger and a tyrant, she has transformed to an understanding mother who could communicate better with her son and others. By volunteering in the school's outdoor adventure club, she has also become physically and mentally healthier. Now she advises all parents, "Don't be too kiasu. Leave your children to grow on their own. They may have their limits."

Indeed, Papa had left his 5 children to grow on their own..... and they have grown up very well... thriving on his love and support, and of course on the blessings of the Mighty One up there.

Gan Chau

Friday, October 10, 2008

Realising My Childhood Dream


A mini concert with Yuen Lee at the piano and Ean Ean at the violin

For some reason papa had let my elder sister Ean Ean to learn the violin, while I learn the piano. However, I have always been attracted to the violin. A piece well played on the violin can bring tears to my eyes. Not one to argue or demand, I always tried to make papa happy and did not like to ask for more than papa could give us. He had already sacrificed so much for the family.

Papa was always happy when I accompanied Sister Ean Ean on the piano during Charity concerts organised by papa and his musical group, The Nightingale Melodians in Penang. Once, we also played on air. I could remember papa grinning from ear to ear the whole day long.!

However, I told myself that I would take serious lessons on the violin one day and play until I could cry. Time passed so quickly and before I realise it, 40 years have gone by when I finally decided to approach the lady at the Braddell Heights Community Centre to enquire about violin lessons that are being taught by an impressive looking teacher, Mr. Yan Yin Wing. Mr. Yan also conducts the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra. I also asked about Gu Zheng classes.

"You so old already, want to learn so many things?" asked Madam Lim, with a smile.

"Huo dao lao, hsueh dao lao! Learn till we go six feet under!" I replied.

"By the way, I just joined the toastmasters' club 2 years ago, and I had already completed 78 projects and have won quite a number of prizes," I said. As toastmasters, we have always been taught to be persuasive, convincing and inspiring!

I also told Madam Lim that I was touched by Mr. Phoon Yew Tien's unexpected gift of a violin to me. I had bought a cheap violin and when Mr. Phoon learnt of my interest to play the violin, he spontaneously decided to give me one of his collection. I understand that Mr. Phoon's hobby is to buy up old violins and improve them. Wow! My violin has the Master's touch! Mr. Phoon will sell these violins at very reasonable prices.

Madam Lim should know, because Braddell Heights Advanced Toastmasters' Club is one of the best in Singapore. To convince her further, I shared with her about papa's passion for music. Papa was a self taught musician who could play many musical instruments, and he could also rearrange music, compose and conduct.

When Sister Ean Ean wanted to visit me, I suggested that we meet at my ex-piano teacher's apartment and we could all play the violin and piano together. "What? You can play the violin?" my sister was surprised.

"Yes, Ean, I have taken 2 months of violin lessons from Mr. Yan, and I can also play many pieces by ear now....Pop songs and hymns."

We had a great time together as you can see from the photo above. I had learnt to record the music via digital camera and maybe in my next article, will post on u-tube, the piece played by my sister, accompanied by Yuen Lee. I am sure my local readers will know this popular tune by the late Theresa Teng , "Yeh liang tai piao wo terh xin." - the Moon represents my heart."

This is my brother-in-law, Keat Seng's favourite piece. I learnt from my client, Edward, who is with Mindef that it was also the favourite tune of our late President, Ong Teng Cheong and his lovely wife. Our romantic president and his wife would often sing the song together.

Like papa, sister Ean Ean is also very musical. She taught herself to play the piano and she can also sing very well, play the drum, guitar, accordian and ukelele.

I hope to improve in my violin playing, and despite my short fingers, small hands and short neck, I am determined to master the instrument! If I were still breathing, I hope I could join Mr. Yan's Orchestra in four to five years' time.

Gan Chau
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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Going Ga Ga Over Dogs!


A lovely golden retriever, Rex, I met while listening to the orchestral rehearsal at the Botanic Gardens with Jasmin, Anul and Avinesh.

Pappi, the lovely little and lively dog adopted by Prof. Clive

Moh Moh, one of Dr. Dennis Wee's three beloved dogs

Spiky, the lovely white chow chow in Aveline Tan's neighbourhood

Dogs and music! They make my world go round. Wherever I go, and whenever I see a dog, whatever the size and breed, I will go ga ga and will definitely ask the owner or maid walking the dog whether I can pat the dog on its head.

Most of the dogs are friendly and it gives me such great joy to be able to befriend dogs I meet along my way. Since the Botanic Gardens is quite near where I live, I will try to make it a point to go for a jog there twice a month. Apart from enjoying the greenery I also hope to be able to pat dogs that I meet.

Once I was in Melbourne and Sister Ean Ean, my sister-in-law Kim and I went for an early morning walk. There were so many dogs out in the park with their owners. I was so mesmerised with meeting all these dogs that I was left behind. Later my sister asked me if I was really going for a walk or for a talk. She could barely tolerate my craziness in greeting the dogs and talking to them!

I was very amused one morning when my colleague, Serene Teng, asked me if I had closed a $58 million dollar deal! "Why and where did you get the news?" I asked, amazed by the news. Nevertheless, I smiled and was temporarily happy with the potential possibility of closing a $50 million dollar deal in the future! It is strange that I hardly go to my office as I work from home....yet such rumours could even circulate!

"Some of our colleagues said you are the top agent this month and I saw you dancing so happily last night at Dr. Wee's birthday party which kind of confirmed it!"

"Oh Serene, you know what I'm like? Whenever I hear music, especially fast music, my legs will start to tap and shake! I love dancing to great music!"

I hardly go to pubs or parties, but when I do, I will dance to my heart's content. It is better than sitting down and piling all the calories! Why not enjoy myself and yet, at the same time, burning up all the food lying idle in my intestines?

So the next time you see me dancing happily away, it is not because I have closed a huge deal.! If I have to wait for closing of big deals to be happy, my life would be very miserable! Even if I were to close a small property, I am very happy and grateful to my clients for giving me the opportunity to serve them. Little things like meeting dogs, watching and listening to a street busker or getai singers will bring me much joy and contentment.

Let's all enjoy the simple things in life!

Amazing Creativity! Music from Vegetables!

My tenant, Avinesh, was helping me to post a u-tube in my blog and I found some interesting u-tubes which I have posted one here for my readers! For those of you who want to hear more, you can go into the u tube on entertainment, featuring the Japanese and their creativity with vegetable instruments.

Enjoy! Music makes my world go round! Hope it is the same for you!

Gan Chau

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Taking time to view the greenery


Some of the magnificently tall trees in the rain forest!

My tenants from India...Jasmin, Anul and her husband, Avinesh

Visitors enjoying the lovely orchestral pieces.

A pair of lovely husky dogs, taking a stroll with their caring owner.
Who says nothing is free in life? Free abundance of oxygen, greenery and music! Free interaction with dogs of all breeds and sizes!
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It was one of those weekends when I finally could relax, especially now that our Area U3 Humorous Speech and Evaluation Contests were over. I decided to take my tenants from India to visit the Botanical Gardens. It has been a long time since I have not been for a walk. How times flies! It must have been 5 years ago, since I took my two dogs, Kamlette and Kam Xiao Bai for a morning walk at the Botanic Gardens. My lovely white Chow Chow, Xiaobai, attracted so much attention from the visitors at the Gardens. Since the demise of my beloved pets, I had not gone to the Botanic Gardens.

Jasmin, Anul and her husband, Avinesh, enjoyed themselves very much! I am glad I had taken some time to show my foreign friends around.! Amazing how when we give joy to others, we also feel happy and contented.

I feel so proud of our clean and green garden city.

Gan Chau

Monday, October 06, 2008

Little Ironies

Life is certainly full of ironies. We have to learn to take ironies with a pinch of salt and perhaps even season it with a little pinch of sugar so that the taste is really soothing and pleasant.

I had not intended to be a contestant in the current humorous speech and evaluation contests in our club. However, as we did not have enough contestants, I felt obliged to participate so as to encourage Michael Chu and Peter Tay, our new and enthusiastic members.

Since I won in our club contests, I had to represent Dennis Wee Group Toastmasters' Club in the Area U3 contest. Ironically, I felt I might have a chance to win at least the 1st runner up in the humorous speech, but instead I was the champion in the Evaluation Contest! Evaluation is not my forte, as most of the time when I visit clubs, I am the language evaluator. Hence, I have very little practice. Morever the topic the test speaker had chosesn was a sombre one....Opportunities in Crisis where he touched a lot on the economic turmoil! I was so tired during the 5 minutes of writing that I simply scribbled my points. I decided I would go by the acronym "GHO". What is good, how it can be improved and the opprtunities the test speaker should have given himself in his speech." To my surprise, there was some laughter. How ironical! When I expected people to laugh more during my humorous speech, few laughed; and when I did not expect anyone to laugh, almost all did!

There were two very outstanding evaluators in the contest whom I expected to clinch the championship title! I was desperate and made a beeline for the Div. Z contest which was to be held at 2p.m. at Queenstown Community Centre. I hope to observe and learn more from the contestants.

I would be contented to be a second runner up in the Division Contest. better scour all the articles on evaluation!

Gan Chau

Friday, October 03, 2008

It Melts in Your Mouth and Not In Your Hands!

"It melts in your mouth and not in your hands!" This was the familiar advertisiement that went along a once popular peanut coated chocolate - Treets!
Soon it was taken over by M & M Chocolates.

M & M Chocolates were my favourite. Once I opened a packet, I would not be able to rest in peace until all the colourful peanut coated goodies ended up in my tummy.! Once I bought some packets and were given some lucky draw forms by the sales staff. I told her, "No point filling in forms....all bluff....". She coaxed me and finally convinced me that in Singapore lucky draws are for real. I reluctantly filled in the three forms and to my surprise, two months later, I was informed that I had won a consolation price - a carton of M & M chocolates. That was the first lucky draw that I ever won in Singapore, and like they say, the rest is history. Since I was new to Singapore, I hadn't the foggiest idea where M & M's warehouse in Jurong was located. I decided to give my prize to Joseph Krishnan so that he could collect the chocolates from M and M's warehouse, and give them to his 5 children. Soon the children called me "Chocolate Aunty".

One day, I looked at the colorful treats of M & M chocolates and suddenly I felt it must be terrible eating all those brightly colored chocolates. I decided there and then that I would stop eating M & M chocolates, and opted for others like Kit Kat, and Van Houten chocolates.

I used to be quite fond of Vitasoy, a soya bean drink produced in Hong Kong. It was economical and came in good packaging. It was not too sweat and did not turn bad easily. However, soon my preference for our locally produced soya drinks like Mr. Bean and Nutri Soy took over.

I had never taken to Rabbit brand sweets from China. I tried once and spat it out as I found the taste too milky for my liking. I am averse to drinking milk as milk gives me diarhhoea.

I was relieved to learn recently that all of the above foodstuff were recalled from supermarkets!

What a blessing in disguise!

Gan Chau