Saturday, February 28, 2009


Today, cameras are so commonly found that we may tend to take them for granted. The cameras that used to cost a bomb, cost nearly a fraction of its cost now, because digital cameras are in vogue. Almost everyone has a camera. In fact, I had one too many when Starhub also gave me a Sony digital camera as a gift during their promotion. Hence, I decided to bless my second brother with the camera.

Now, it is so wonderful to download photos in the computer. They will never become old and jaded.

I love to look at photos of babies, and when I come across some cute babies and children, I will ask for permission to take their photos. As we were quite poor, I only started having photos taken of myself when I was eight years old. Hence, I never quite know what I must have looked like when I was a baby. I remember having asked papa if I looked like some babies we met along the way.

Perhaps, the lucky one is my second sister, Ean Ean, for she had a baby photo. She looked so chubby and lovable. I was told that she was a lucky baby for after she was born, papa struck lottery a couple of times. Mama said I was an unlucky baby, for papa hardly struck lottery .....hence mama callled me a "peh ka tay" - meaning "unlucky one". "Peh ka tay" is also a nickname for the traffic police. Direct translation means, "sole of a white foot". I guess, it is the motorist's bad luck to come into contact with the traffic police. If only mama would know that I am now a very blessed person.....having won more than 200 lucky prizes all these years. ! Maybe it is not luck, but the principal of giving. The more we give and empty our bags and pockets, the more we have room to receive!

I am now past half a century years old, but I still have this habit of taking joy in playing with little babies and children. I would smile with the little ones and start talking to them.

There is this cute little baby boy at my block. The first time I saw him, he immediately burst into a huge smile. His name is Linus and the maid who looks after him loves him very much for he is a happy baby and is always smiling. When I come back after a hard day's work, all my aches and pain will diminish the moment I see the big smile on his cute little face.

If I were a photographer or artist, I guess I will choose babies and children to be my subject.
Children - they are God's gift to the world.!

Gan Chau

Friday, February 27, 2009

Oh! To Be Free and Spontaneous!

Mr. Tan, a retired elderly gentleman, dancing and singing at the Bukit Merah Central

He is quite expressive in his movements

I had just come out from the Polyclinic at Bukit Merah and was pleasantly surprised when I saw an elderly gentleman dancing to his heart's delight. He was singing to the tune of the music coming from the stall selling cds and videos.

As Mr. Tan was singing, he was also dancing, sometimes executing somewhat intricate steps. Some people passing by could not help but smile. I smiled at Mr. Tan for I liked his spontaneity. I go to the polyclinic at Bukit Merah quite regularly for my check up and I had never seen Mr. Tan singing or dancing before. Hence I was really curious and watched him for quite some time.
Later when the music stopped I decided to talk to him, asking him about his love for dancing and singing. I found out that Mr. Tan is a retiree, and he likes singing at karaoke lounges. Since he enjoyed the catchy songs and knew how to sing them by heart, he just could not help but sang to his heart's content! How wonderful to be so free and spontaneous! In fact, Mr. Tan looked quite cute and adorable with his toothlessness! He shared that he had been single all his life, for he did not want to be weighed down by a nagging wife! "If I want to sing, I sing; if I want to eat, I and easy!" he declared. Anyone could see that his freedom means a lot to him.
Mr. Tan reminded me of just another person who would sing and dance without inhibition - a young man called Choon Beng. He would just dance for joy unto the Lord every Sunday morning, and it was so refreshing just to look at the unspoken joy on his face. Sometimes, with an air of seriousness, he would come to me and whisper into my ears, "Aunty Choo, I like one girl, and I'm going to marry her!" Choon Beng suffered from Down Syndrome as a child, but thank God, with the encouragement of his supportive parents and church staff, he could now read and sing quite well. Most of the people who knew him, loved him, for he constantly reminded us of what it means to be childlike.
As we grow older, most of us become inhibited and self-conscious. At a party, it would be great if everyone participates actively. At a dinner cum dance, how wonderful it could be if people could just throw self-consciousness to the wind and just rock....and ......roll. Or just sway or boogie to the rythmn of the music.
I am quite shy by nature, but when I am with people I try to participate. When the Braddell Heights Community Club officer, Mdm. Lim phoned me to say that she had given my contact number to Headquarters for the purpose of a write up on mature students who learn new musical instruments or dance, I decided to cooperate. Being spontaneous can help to bring a spark into people's lives. Jean Heng, the Senior Manager of Community Learning Network, told me she was relieved when I gave her an affirmative answer! However, little did she know that I spent the next few days wondering if I should back out.!
Being courageous does not mean having no fear. It means despite the fear, we move on. Being cooperative and supporting does not mean having no inhibition. It means despite the inhibition and shyness, we move on.
Oh! How wonderful to be free and spontaneous!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Running of Time!

When my manager, Aveline, invited me to attend a chapter meeting at the Dennis Wee Group Toastmasters Club, I was puzzled as to why the members kept timing one another. "Why are they so obsessed with time?", I wondered to myself.

Now after being a toastmaster for 30 months I am becoming obsessed with time myself.!

When I was first made a timer during a meeting, I learnt to use a stop watch for the first time.

It was then that the impact hit me hard. Time runs and is running all the time! When I saw the seconds running so fast, my heart also started to beat very fast. We all know that time waits for no man. But we may sometimes not realise how fast one minute is. Recently at the International Speech and Table Topics contest at Braddell Heights Advanced Toastmasters Club, I needed to go to the washroom quite urgently. I had been reluctant to leave the conference room earlier because I wanted to hear the excellent speakers. Time and tide, and I mean, really high tide, wait for no man!

I rushed to the washroom during the one minute break for the judges to mark their ballots.
I was hoping to go back to the conference before the next speaker's turn. Alas! despite all my rushing , the door had closed on me just by one second!!!

After this incident, I become even more vigilant and organised with my time. This is why, whenever volunteers were needed, I would volunteer to be a timer, and my heart would be beating very fast as the seconds ticked by.

Now I know I can take 10 minutes to 30 minutes to write an article everyday.
Now I know I can whip up a palatable dinner for six in 45 minutes!
Now I know I can walk briskly home from Dhoby Ghaut MRT to my home in Little India in 15 minutes time. However, if I dream and look around absently-mindedly, it might take me 40 to 50 minutes instead.
Now I know I can shop for groceries in 20 to 30 minutes if I list down the things I want to buy, instead of wandering around the supermarket thinking of what I want to buy.!
Now I know that if I use my time well, I would still have time for reading magazines and books, watch my favourite TV programs, have time for entertaining friends for a nice home-cooked meal, play the piano and violin, blogging and writing to friends and relatives, travelling, volunteering, etc. etc.

Pastor Derek had once said in his sermon, "Give a busy man a task, and somehow he will definitely complete it!"

Papa had always reminded his children, "No amount of money or power can buy us a second of time!"

Thanks Toastmasters International for helping me to be very time-conscious and to be a better organiser of my own time management!

Gan Chau

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Favourite Things (2)

My favourite piano that costs only $100
It's often very breezy here!
My favourite lap top

My teacher, Mr. Yan Yin Wing, tuning my favourite
violin, a precious gift from Mr. Phoon Yew Tien

Now the second part of my article, "My Favourite Things".

I just love the piano I had bought for $100 from Piano Masters International at Paya Lebar. The brand is "Kawai". Most visitors think I have paid a lot of money for it and were often surprised when I told them that the piano is cheaper than a set of stainless steel pots! I had given away my ivory upright piano to The Hiding Place when the members were helping me to move my belongings to another apartment. The piano was extremely heavy and I did not want the young members to overstrain themselves with having to move the piano up the stairs again. At that time too, I was extremely busy and the piano was soon becoming a white elephant. Now I have more time to play on this $100 piano and am enjoying every moment of the lovely sound.

Next on my list is my present little cosy apartment. It has two bedrooms and I rent out one room to two tenants from India - Avinesh and Jasmin. They teach me Hindi and some cooking of Indian cuisines. They also help me a lot with my computer. They are both colleagues from the same company. It has always been my practice to take in tenants to stay with me so as to ease my siblings' worries. Most, if not all my tenants stay with me for long periods of time because I am easy going and try to make them feel at home. I want to emulate the wonderful landlords I have met when I was a student in Canada. Hence I allow my tenants to cook and invite their friends and family members to dine and sometimes stay with them. My little home is open to visiting missionaries, friends and relatives from all over the world. When they come a-visiting, I will let them have my room, while I sleep on the sofa/bed in my living room.

I have stayed in so many different places the past 23 years in Singapore, and would say that my current abode is my favourite. It is right in the heart of the city and is only about 45 seconds walk to the Little India MRT. Best of all, it is often so breezy and windy here, so much so that we sometimes do not even turn on the fan. We often have to close the windows in the kitchen or it is almost impossible to cook. I have great neighbours of different nationalities and race. Joy fills my heart whenever I see the flower windmill turning furiously with the wind! I grow plenty of herbs and often tell my friends and neighbours to help themselves to the herbs even if I were not around.

Third on my list is my lap top. From being someone who was terrified of the computer to someone who now has over 1,000 articles in her blog....I have indeed come a long way from being a technophobic to someone who cannot imagine life without her computer!!
How wonderful to communicate with my relatives, friends, clients, associates and fans all over the world! I am so happy that the computer can store all the photos taken so that I do not have to go all the way to the shop to have my photos developed. Printed photos tend to lose their sharpness and lustre as times goes by! Everyday I enjoy reading forwarded emails from friends.

Fourthly, it has to be my lovely violin, an unexpected gift from my best friend's husband, Yew Tien. I was surprised when my best friend, Soh Wah, told me that her husband has over 20 violins which he has collected all these years, and I am touched that he would part with one of his violins to an amateur like me. Although sometimes I feel like giving up on the violin as it is quite a strain on my short, little baby banana fingers, I continue to persevere as I do not wish to disappoint my friends. My teacher has suggested that perhaps I might consider buying a three-quarter-sized violin, but I want to take up the challenge of playing a full-sized violin. Once I tried my niece, Sophia's half-sized violin, and I was very happy, because for once, I felt my fingers were so ooo ooooo l - o - n - g !! Now, as I keep practising my violin, the strain on my fingers is diminishing . The sound of the violin is so beautiful. I am indeed very grateful to Yew Tien and Soh Wah for their generous gift.

What are your favourite things, dear readers? Most important, let us all remember to use our things to bless people, and not use people to get things. Freely we receive, freely we share and give. At the end of the day, it is so much more blessed to give than to receive. For when we give, we receive even more abundantly!

Gan Chau

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Monday, February 23, 2009

One of My Favourite Toastmasters Clubs

Some of the audience in the comfortable meeting room at Safra, Toa Payoh, listening and observing with rapt attention

Jessie Ang, one of the most improved speakers

The president, Cheow Cheng with the Toastmaster of the Evening, Jei
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My company, Dennis Wee Group, has relocated to HDB Hub. Hence, now it is easier for me to commute to one of my favourite clubs, Money Mastery (Singapore) TMC as it is within a stone's throw from my office.

It is such a joy and pleasure to see marked improvement in the members' speaking skills. Jessie is now so much more confident, and Jei now oozes with so much humour and charm! I have observed that ladies look prettier and men look more handsome as they grow in confidence in their speech delivery!!

The table topics master, Jeffery Seah, even donated a book, "Six Thinking Hats" - Edward De Bono, to the winner. How generous of him.!

On my part, I tried to make the Language Evaluation session as interesting and as exciting as I could. It is important to keep members awake, especially after a long day!

Though it is somewhat exhausting after a whole day of running around, and I have to admit that there have been times I have preferred to just go back home, relax and watch my favourite TV program, yet, I am glad that I have always fulfilled my committment as a language or project evaluator. It is amazing when we give, for we receive even more abundantly.! I would go home feeling refreshed, renergised and renewed!

I have visited Money Mastery TMC about four times. One of my ex-students, Brennan Khor, from ACS (Independent) is the current VPE (Education) of the club, and I guess, as his ex-teacher I find it exceedingly difficult to turn him down each time he invites me to help with language evaluation. ACS boys are well known for their gift of the gab, and since becoming a toastmaster, Brennan's eloquence and leadership have become even more distinctive!

Wishing all the members in Money Mastery Toastmasters Club the very best! "Jia yiu!" (Persevere!)

Gan Chau

Happiness Is A Decision!

Every morning when I wake up, I will greet the good Lord, "Good morning, PAPA! This is the day you have made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it!"

Before I play any other pieces or scales on the violin, I will play hymns and praises to our Creator, for He is the miraculous living God who has restored my deafness. He is the One who has made it possible for me to finally realise my childhood dreams. I have learnt to play many hymns and praises on my own...mostly by ear. After the hymns, I will start practising the pieces that my violin teacher, Mr. Yan Yin Wing, had taught me during the previous lessons.

I have decided that whatever the outcome is for the day, I will be HAPPY! I will never allow circumstances or anyone to rob me of my joy! The other day, I waited for two hours for my clients. No problem! While waiting, I enjoyed reading the newspapers and my novel, "The Slumdog Millionaire". My clients were profusely apologetic, and were surprised by my cheerfulness. "Don't worry, I'm enjoying your lovely poolside and my novel", I assured them.

My beloved friend, Amu, phoned me and told me about a funny incident. Two of her friends had phoned to ask her if I was already married. They had seen me with an Indian man a couple of times.

"Huh! Choo is married.? I'm her best come I don't know ah?" asked Amu, trying somewhat hard to conceal her irritation.

I laughed and so did Amu.

"Choo, just because you speak Hindi and Tamil and you live in Little India and love Indian movies and culture, people conclude you've married an Indian."

"Amu, I thought the whole world knows I'm 55 and still blissfully single!" I laughed.

"Amu, if I do marry, I want to marry a man like my beloved papa, but papa is a man in a million! The population in Singapore is only about 4 to 5 million, and when we minus the children and the ladies, my chances of finding my ideal is one in a million!

Having lived on earth for five and a half decades, I am almost immuned to half truths and gossips. The truth will always prevail and we just have to be patient with man's weaknesses and imperfection. Having a sound sleep at night is of paramount importance and this can materialise only when our hearts are free of paranoia, worries, anger and unforgiveness. We realise we are so insignificant and helpless for to be a Christian means, "Christ, I am nothing".

When I just started to teach at River Valley High School, I realised I only had $9.80 in my pocket. I was still cheerful for I could walk to school from the then YWCA Hostel. My room and board had been paid for the month. However, little did I expect my Canadian friend, Dr. Chris Telfer, to turn up at my hostel. I spent $9.00 to buy her lunch and dinner, leaving me with 80 cents. Chris and I were laughing at the good old days in the University of Alberta and how we played tricks on some of our professors. As it was quite late, I walked Chris down the gentle slope of Fort Canning Road to her budget hotel at Bencoolen Street. I picked up a total of $51 along the way!!! Wow! Someone had dropped money for me to pick up! See, when we empty our pockets, there is room for God to fill them up again! Chris only finally realised how "poor" I was when I shared my testimony in a church in Penang. I had invited her to spend a few days in my hometown in Penang. I always feel rich because I have a great heavenly PAPA who even takes care of the wild birds and flowers that bloom for only a day. Have you noticed that the dainty wild flowers, yellow buttercups, are even more smooth, shining and golden than slabs of man-made butter? I have also noticed that most of the ravens are nicely-rounded!

Happiness is a decision! I have decided to be happy everyday, come rain or shine.! How about you?

Gan Chau

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Childhood Dream Comes True !!!


Braddell Heights Community Centre Ensemble, playing "Concourse"

Yours Truly with her young friends playing the 1st Violin

Talented Samuel Tan playing F. Seitz Violin Concert No. 2 (3rd movement)

Our violin teacher, the well-known Mr. Yan Ying Wing, listening and observing with rapt attention.

20th and 21st February 2009 - dates I will never forget! My teacher, My Yan has asked me to join his group of young musicians to play in an ensemble. Initially I was worried because I had started lessons about four months ago and I was not sure if I could catch up with the young ones who are already doing grades 3 to 7. Actually Mr. Yan had invited me in January but I was already committed to helping out as the Language Evaluator at the Marine Parade Toastmasters Club. Hence I told Mr. Yan, I would set aside every third Friday evening to play with his group
of students.

What a wonderful feeling to be playing in an ensemble. Luckily the piece was catchy and easy to follow and soon I was enjoying every moment of the evening. Later I went to observe the boy playing the drum and I realised that it was not difficult to follow the music as every note was written down. I hope Mr. Yan would also give me an opportunity to play the drum or cymbals with the ensemble in the near future.

Hence, it was with greater confidence when I played with the group at the Chamber Concert the following evening. I smiled when a parent asked me if my child was also playing in the concert! "No, I am the one learning and playing", I smiled.

I grew up in a family where I witnessed my older siblings playing in a group. Later when I improved in my piano playing, I accompanied my second sister when she played the violin at Radio Malaysia and on stage at a fund-raising concert. I had secretly yearned to play the violin, but being the obedient child, I did not want papa to have to spend more money on my music. I was already grateful to have the chance to learn the piano. Hence I told myself that when I started working, I would learn to play the violin. Alas! Time passed by. Procrastination and before I knew it, 43 years had passed!

After a meeting at the Braddell Heights Advanced Toastmasters' Club, I saw a banner featuring the Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra. Mm....the conductor, Mr. Yan Yin Wing, looks quite promising and my hunch told me that he would be a very good music teacher. Hence, I went into the office to enquire, and when I heard the Community Centre also conducts gu zheng classes I was very excited.

"So old already.....learn so many things for what?" asked Mdm. Lim

"It has always been my childhood dream to learn the violin and one Chinese instrument", I said, smiling.

I was right. Mr Yan Yin Wing is an excellent and patient teacher, and under his tutelage, my zest and diligence become even more enhanced. Playing with the cute, young musicians also enhances my joy and determination to improve as much as I can, albeit my short, little fingers and aging brain cells.

Initially, I felt like giving up, when my hands became numbed quite easily, but when I thought of Nick Vujicic and Lena Maria, who are born without limbs, and who could do everything that we could do, I pressed on with my determination.

Someone sent me an email and I learnt that if I were to make a concoction of black fungus, red dates and wolfberries it would help in blood circulation. I tried that and strangely, my numbness of hands is greatly reduced and I can practise for hours. Before every practice, I would play hymns to the Lord first, as an offering of thanks and gratitude to Him for He makes everything possible.

Music makes my world go round! Does music make your world go round too?

Gan Chau
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Money No Enough!

I was thrilled to receive one of my toastmasters, Elissa Chan's response to my article, "Little things that make me smile." Below is her feedback:-

"Hi Choo Choo,

We are already "millionaires" in our own way with the blessings that we have received. We are healthy (not blind, handicapped, nor mute). We are employed with friends, family, new acquaintances around us who make our day passable and enjoyable. We have time on or hands to enjoy the little things that we want. In other words, count your blessings.

Gerald Ee (the one who was asked to solve the NKF issue) narrates a story when he was a boy. He says that when he was young, he used to attend church. When the hat was passed around, he noticed the less wealthy are very generous but not the rich ones. He came up with his reasoning : the rich ones have big mortgages to pay as they stay in big houses. Hence that is why they have no money to give. I always say your life is what you make of it. You want to be happy, you can be happy. You want to be sad, people will leave you alone.



The above reminds me of a sharing by a pastor when I was visiting Melbourne. He shared that in his church, there was this particular elderly gentleman from Hong Kong. He is a retired businessman who is quite wealthy. Due to his absentmindedness, his children would not allow him to carry credit cards and too much cash.

Every Sunday, he would go to church, with $50 in one pocket and another $5 in another pocket.

$5 is for the offering bag, while the $50 is for his dim sum breakfast.

One day, he forgot to get his money ready, and when the offering bag came round, he dipped into one of his pockets and put the money into the bag.

After the service ended, he was dismayed when he found out that he had given the wrong note....for in his pocket was left the $5 which would definitely be insufficient for his dim sum breakfast.

Hence he went to the cashier, and told the cashier about his error.

The cashier replied, "It is difficult to ascertain who had given what they had given in cash. Hence it would be difficult for me to make the exchange. I will bring up the matter during our meeting.

Just as he was walking forlornly away, the cashier called him.

"Ah, maybe he has changed his mind and is going to give me the $50 back," he thought to himself, giving the cashier his widest smile.

"Sir, am afraid that although you have given $50, but in the Heavenly Book of Accounts, perhaps it will be recorded only as $5, because you have it in your heart to give only this amount."

I remember in one of his sermons, Pastor Derek had reminded us to give God our best and not to give Him our remnants or tips. So often, we say that maybe after college or university, we will be more active in service or maybe another will say, he will start to serve after he has married and yet another will say, he will serve after his children have completed their tertiary education. Before we realise it, age has caught up, and by the time we retire from work, we are almost too exhausted physically and mentally.

Let us start to give the cream of our crop to the One who deserves it. When we do that, we find that there will be more than enough at the end. Strangely we become rejuvenated with energy, and replenished with supplies! Then we will declare, "Money is more than enough."

Contentment.....blessed contentment.

Gan Chau

Friday, February 20, 2009

When Animals Run Amok......

I was very sad when I read about the celebrity chimpanzee who mauled his owner's friend. Travis, the 15 year old chimpanzee, was finally shot dead by police officers. I could imagine the pain the owner, Ms. Sandra Herold, must have felt when she stabbed her pet with a large butcher knife, in an attempt to save her friend, Charla Nash from the attacks of the chimpanzee.

Unlike human beings, animals are unable to express their emotion. However, they have feelings too like homo sapiens. Animals can be prone to jealousy, stress, anger, frustration, etc. Perhaps Travis was jealous of Charla Nash, because we are told that he lunged at her the moment she got out of her car. Perhaps Ms. Nash had visited his owner too often and the chimpanzee felt insecure and jealous.

I am reminded of a story which my second sister had related to me. At the Melbourne Zoo, visitors were excited when a little baby gorilla was born. The children were creating a din and the mother gorilla was not too happy. She stared at the visitors for a while and my sister noticed that it gradually bent her knees, and put her hands behind, collecting her poo!

"Run!", sister screamed, and her children ran with her and so did a few other visitors. The gorilla threw her poo and some unsuspecting visitors were hit, with one man being hit with poor all over his face! The little impact had even cracked one of his glasses.

After that, the Zoo officials had a sign, "Please do not scream or talk loudly when you are before the gorillas."

If human beings can run amok, why should anyone be surprised when a chimpanzee or any other animals suddenly turn violent and wild.

I am only an animal lover. I am not an authority on animals, but I feel that animals except for domesticated ones like dogs and cats, should be better off in the wild. It is of paramount importance that those in the likes of Ms. Sandra Herold, should fully understand the animals they intend to keep as pets. Animals will not understand the extent of their violence and destruction when they are overwhelmed by feelings of jealousy, frustration and insecurity.

Gan Chau

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Most Peaceful Place on Earth

If we are asked what is the most peaceful place on earth, each of us may come up with different answers. To some, it may be a quiet countryside, free from traffic noise and air pollution. To others it may be up in the Everest Mountain, where everything is white with snow and it is almost deadly quiet, etc.

For me, the most peaceful place must be at a funeral wake. Before you think I am being morbid, let me share my thoughts. Have you ever noticed that no one talks ill of the deceased in the coffin? He could be a rogue, a bad father and husband, etc. when he was alive, but all things came to a halt when the person died, and even the sharpest of tongues would become blunt and the hardest of hearts would become softened.

Once, when I heard that one of my staff was going to attend the funeral of a loan shark, I asked to go along with her. I had never met the loan shark or his family; I just wanted to have the experience of being at a funeral wake and to observe what was being done and said.

Strangely, all was quiet and peaceful. Some of the people who attended the wake looked rough and pugulistic; yet no one uttered a negative word about the man who had charged exorbitant interests for his illegal loans, etc. I overheard someone even praising the deceased loanshark as a "modern day Robin Hood".

"He was a good father who encouraged me to study hard so that I would not end up like him," said the eldest son.

"He was always there when we needed him. He look tough and rough, but beneath that villian's look and personality was a man who had a heart, soft like tofu," shared one of his friends.

"He once cancelled my loan of $2,000/-", said an elderly man, wiping away his tears.

I went back, thinking how wonderful if we all could just say good and uplifting things about one another. Please do not wait till I am six feet underground to give me bouquets, for I would not be able to hear you. A kind word when I am alive is worth heaps of wonderful stories about me when when I am gone. Please do not give me a truckload of flowers because I would not be able to see or smell their fragrance. A single stalk of rose or a bouquet of wild flowers plucked from the fields will give me greater joy.

Let us look for the plus points in one another, and edify one another, fully aware that we are homo sapiens who are imperfect and in need of encouragement. Let us overlook mistakes and carelessnes and not be like the two rich neighbours who are so busy quarrelling with each other that they forget to enjoy the beauty and comfort of their luxurious bungalows.

Let us all live our lives to the fullest, making full use of all our five senses for from dust we are created and to dust we will return.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Little Things That Make Me Smile!

"Choo, you seem to be writing almost everyday in your blog, eh?" asked Professor Saw, knitting his eyebrows. He has this habit, especially when he is puzzled. Professor Saw is one of the volunteers in our Speechcraft at Changi Prison.

"Yes, I do, for it takes only about 15 to 30 minutes to type an article. I thank God for my Pitman's typing skill".

"Of course," conceded Professor Saw.

Hence, when I posted my article, "If I Were a Millionaire", within 15 minutes, little did I expect it to generate so much interest and response. It is one of my most heavily googled articles. I guess, perhaps it is a topic which teachers tend to give to students in schools. But then, many non students seem to be googling the article too. Perhaps it is natural that everyone wants to be a millionaire.!!

Recently I smiled when I received some comments from a student called Kai:-

"12:28 AM
Kai said...
err nice essay im a o level student too and i need a good essay this one of them ,dont get the wrong idea , iwont copy it i just gonna make a similar one need for my exam hehehe....."

I am glad my article could be a blessing to my readers.! For those of you who have not yet read, below is the article. It is little things, like receiving readers' comments that make me happy.....even some nasty ones which means that my readers are really digesting and reflecting over my articles. So far, I have often received positive feedback, except for some readers who seemed to be angry especially when I gave kudos to the PAP. This is why I adopted some defensive approach, especially in my previous article, "A Warm Fuzzy Feeling at MRT Stations". My readers should not be afraid to beg to differ, for after all, it is the unique characteristics in all of us that make our world oh, so interesting and colourful!

Nevertheless it was lovely to receive some comments from my Canadian buddy, James Dunlap when he wrote in response:-

"At the end of the day I'm a lot like you, Choo Choo. Simple things make me happy. And I do like Singapore too. And having all the reactions you list is in your case not overly PAP but just you being you. And we know from other things you've written that you are critical sometimes too when that is called for.

My wife on the other hand is one of those people who is frequently annoyed and irritated by things that to me are not worth getting upset about. My kids just laugh at her as, for example, she drives our car and constantly scolds and curses at other drivers on the road. At least superficially she's that way. On a deeper level she's happy too.

James Dunlap"

What are the little things that make you smile, my dear readers?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

If I were a Millionaire....

If I were a essay topic that was often given when I was a student in Secondary School.

Now 4 decades later, I am still not a millionaire, but now I think I would like to be one so that I can dish out help to the poor and needy. If I were a millionaire
I would reach out to the family of 12 who cramp themselves in a small HDB flat. I would clothe and house the men who slept on the streets of World Class Singapore. I would go the extra mile to set up an emergency request centre, so that deperate people in need of help like Huang Na's mother could be accommodated. Her daughter would not be left to fend for herself while the mother returned to China for a short trip. I would dream of all the great works of benevolence .....

How many millionaires are like me, dreaming of all the great charitable works they would perform when they had the money.? Yet, why are there people still sleeping on the streets, and tons of people on welfare, receiving $290 a month for their monthly needs? More and more Singaporeans are joining the millionaires' row as announced by the Straits Times. Yet when these people achieve their dreams, why are some still as unhappy and dissatisfed as ever? What caused the late Howard Hughs to say, "If only I could turn the clock back, I was happiest as a shoe-shine boy!"?

Talk is cheap. When I really become a millionaire, would I still be as generous as I am now, even though my giving is little, like the widow's mite? For some strange reasons, the more we have, the harder it is to part with our money! We want to save more and more, and to accumulate more and more. Probably this is the reason why Jack Neo came up with the movie, "Money, no enough."

Very few millionaires are like Warren Buffet who lives in an old house, drives himself around without body guards and whose favourite pastime is to munch on popcorns and watch television after work! He does not care for branded items nor socialising with high society. If I become a millionaire, would I end up like Warren Buffet or like the late Nina Wang?

Mm... now I think I am happy to be where I am .... living a simple life, striking a balance between work and play, and doing my little part, to help make life a little better for those in need. I am contented to have time to smell the flowers; hear the birds sing and find joy in simple things. For I come into the world with nothing; and with nothing I will go back to dust.

Posted by The Oriental Express at 7:20 PM

Labels: Melancholy - coptentment

8 comments: Harro! said...
Hi Ganchau, it's never too late to get started.:)

2:33 AM
JerL said...
You are right about the part where richer people find it harder to part with their money. That's because they feel it's their hard earned money.

11:10 AM
JerL said...
And there are some poor people who is expecting the society to help them. Like the family with 4 kids which I wrote about, they expect society to cloth their kids, donate money for them to go to school. They claim to be poor, yet the wife still went ahead and become pregnant with a fifth kid. C'mon that's ridiculous.

11:16 AM
The Oriental Express said...
If the rich feel it is their hard earned $$, how about the poor, especially those construction workers who labour under the sun 12 hours a day. Does it not make their $$$$ appear even earned in a very hard way.

$ makes $, so they say. Initially maybe the rich works hard... but later their $ makes $.... but they become more stingy as their $$$ grows! Catching up with the Joneses.!

7:24 AM
Anonymous said...
omg!! i wuz just browsing thru the net 4 sum info on if i were a millionare coz i am an Olevel student and have my speaking xam nxt week but when i read this i felt so sad it wuz heart softning man i wuz about to cry especially when i read the last line.HATS OF TO THE PERSON WHO EVER WROTE SUCH AN AWESOME ESSAY!! dude ur kewl!

9:35 PM
The Oriental Express said...
I am really glad that you have been blessed by my essay.

This is my prayer. That I would use my gift of writing to inspire and encourage my readers.

All the best to you in your exams.

Gan Chau aka Kam Choo Choo

10:51 PM
The Oriental Express said...
Hi, just want you to know that it was a damn good essay - best I'd read on "Why I want to be a millionaire!"

You're right. $$$ alone does not bring happiness!



Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Warm, Fuzzy Feeling at MRT Stations

I am not sure about you, but I wonder if you feel what I often feel.

Each time I am at an MRT station, it gives me a fuzzy feeling of warmth and security whenever I hear the announcements, "Please do not go beyond the yellow line".

It makes me feel like a seven year old child who is well loved and protected by her parents whenever I hear the announcements, "Please mind the gap".

It makes me feel like a responsible lady and resident on this little island, when I am reminded to dial 999 if I should spot a strange, unattended parcel in the vicinity. The announcement is in the four main languages - English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. So no one can feign ignorance. Most people by now know that "oompedeh, oompedeh, oompedeh" means "999" in Tamil. Once I was thilled when I saw a familiar face on the screen, that of Mr. Aziz Mustajab, who is the Lieutenant Governor (Marketing) of Toastmasters International District 80, as well as one of the volunteers in our Speechcraft at Changi Prison. The first time I forgot myself, "Hi! Aziz!", waving to the pleasant personality on the screen, much to the amusement of some commuters.

It makes me smile when I see on the screen, "Train approaching", and when the train arrives, a cute, cartoon figure will bow and welcome me into the train.

It makes me filled with a desire to want to learn and improve all the time when I read words of wisdom or quotations on the screen.

It makes me appreciative when I hear the annoucements, "Eating or drinking is not allowed in the train". I understand the great necessity for keeping the trains spic and span, and if everyone cooperates, we can enjoy all this cleanliness. I am glad that chewing gum has been banned. It is so irritating when someone just sticks his stinky remnants of chewing gum onto the seats or walls of public buildings, etc. Morever, a person who chews gum somehow does not look smart, no matter how well-dressed he gives him an air of indifference and nonchalance. Self restraint on the part of all commuters will ensure we do not have to wade through a sea of litter.

I feel I am moving forward with progress and hope whenever I am walking on the travelator at Dhoby Ghaut MRT station. I think of the kids in Nepal, India, Thailand and other parts of the world who have to walk miles and miles to school over cowdung-filled paths under the hot blazing sun or with the cold wind beating against their skinny frames.

I smile when I see the Authorities reminding passengers with signs for passengers to vacate their seats for an elderly folk, an expectant mother or someone carrying a child. It reminds me not to fall asleep, especially when I am seated on the priority seat. Being alert means I can be on the lookout throughout the journey. If I were tired I would go for the middle seat so that I can catch my forty winks.

Life is complicated but happiness is really simple, and I would not be surprised if some people wonder why I could be made so happy when waiting for the train.

I am not sure about you; I wonder if you have felt what I have often felt. If any reader thinks that I am pro-PAP, and that I suck and I stink, I guess, as a young senior citizen of 55 going on to 56, I am entitled to my views because I have .....ahem, travelled round the world, visiting some 38 countries and 175 cities. Believe me, the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Hence, do not take things for granted. Enjoy the present, the "now". Let your eyes see; your ears hear and most importantly your heart feels. Let us all count our blessings, and name them one by one, including this warm, fuzzy feeling at MRT Stations.

Gan Chau

Learning by Trial and Error!

I had not attended any commercial computer class. By that I mean the one where you have to pay money to learn. Perhaps it is my phobia of fierce and impatient teachers that inhibit me from signing up for classes in subjects which I know I am very slow and will take a long time to learn.

Memories of my fierce home economics teacher, Mrs. Lian, still remain etched in my brain cells. I had also once registered for a beginner's Japanese class, but hardly had time to study. My teacher was very impatient and often scowled. She was also quite sarcastic. For some strange reasons I find Japanese and Cantonese very difficult, while other languages/dialects hardly pose any problem.

My first exposure to the computer was when I was teaching at River Valley High. Teachers had to learn how to key in marks into the computer. Fortunately our colleague, Mr. Ch'ng Heng Guan, was very patient. I learnt enough of computer for the sake of my school work. Afer that when I ceased teaching, I never touched the computer again, and even the computer bought from my tenant, was left to die a slow death by gathering dust, hairs, and whatever was in the air!

Now I can't do without the computer! If I had to choose between a car and a computer, I would still choose the computer. Many people had taught me the computer. This is also the reason why I take in tenants so that they can teach me and help me when I am stuck with a problem.

I was so happy when I saw that I had arrived at the lovely number of 1005 artciles in my blog, The Oriental Express. My tenants, Jasmin and Avinesh, told me my computer had virus and hence this is why I could not see the posted pictures in my blog or hear music! I was shocked when I saw that there were only 997 articles in my blog instead of the 1005! What had happened? Have the virus "eaten up" my articles? Then I realise that even drafts in my blog had been accounted for so that when I deleted some of the drafts, the number of published articles reduced in number. Pride before the fall!

I sometimes managed to arrive at doing something successfully with my computer, albeit the longer and slower way. There are still so many more things to putting more photos than the usual four in each blog, and making my template look more attractive. I saw the lovely template in my friend's Jeanelle Tan's blog. She even had photos of her unborn baby in her blog and readers could see images of the movement of the baby! Wow!

I am grateful that my client, Mr. K. Foo, had kindly offered to teach me how to go into the URA website to look for caveats lodged. I am meeting him in a few hours' time at Startbucks Cafe.

What a blessing to have helpful friends and associates around us!

Gan Chau

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Day Celeberation at AIA Changi Toastmasters Club


Some of the guests, members and appointment holders enjoying their dinner and fellowship before the start of the meeting.

Lovely slides of couples, young and old shown while music is played. Everyone could feel that love is indeed in the air, enhancing the mood of celebration at this special Valentine's Chapter Meeting at AIA Changi TMC

Guests and members getting ready for the meeting after refreshment. Look at the rose petals strewn everywhere. Goo Yin has even created a lovely big heart with rose petals on the stage. Remind me of some of the spas I had visited.!

Richard Lam, receiving his trophy as best speaker for table topics from Past President, James Keok
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What I like most about toastmasters' meeting - there is always that festive mood in the air. This is especially enhanced on special days like Christmas, Chinese New Year, Deeparaya (Deepavali and Hari Raya) and Valentines' Day!

When Doris Tan from ACE Toastmasters Club expressed her intention to meet up with me, I told her that perhaps we could meet at AIA Changi TMC. I had received the invitation from Fernando Young and hence I decided to kill two birds with one stone. Emulating the style of my ex-president, Vanessa Yong, I only visit clubs when I am committed to helping out as an appointment holder. However, I thought it would be nice to meet Doris at AIA Changi Toastmasters Club, so that as an exco member, she can emulate and share some of the things she has observed at the meeting with her own club, ACE. Hence we were delighted when we saw Andrew Kuan at the meeting. Andrew is another passionate toastmaster from ACE.

As usual, AIA Changi TMC provides a sumptuous buffet for members and guests. As the meeting starts at 7.00p.m. and many have to rush to the meeting from work, the Club wants to ensure that tummies don't rumble when speakers present their speeches. For those who are late, there is still a variety of tasty finger food during refreshments.

We learnt a new word, "gumption" from the Language Evaluator, pretty Patricia Lum. Tan Mah Leng, who won the best speaker prize, entertained us with his humorous speech on "Marriage". The most outstanding guest was Richard Lam, as he won two prizes - both for table topics and evaluation! Kudos!

What I like most is the spontaneity by the club members - humorous repartees that add laughter during the meetings. Somehow the extrovert members often remind me of my ex-students in ACS. When I said one word, my ACS boys would say ten words!

It is easy to provide a table full of food - it is the graciousness of the hosts that enhances the hospitality and warmth. I have noticed that Fernando and the exco members always make it a point to look out for guests. They ensure that even those evaluators who are working hard on their written scripts during the tea breaks would be served with drinks and some food.

At the meeting yesterday, ie. 12th of February, I was happy when the Toastmaster of the Evening, Goo Yin, announced that there would be no changes to the Program. In most of the meetings I have attended in other toastmasters club, there would often be some changes when appointment holders/speakers could not turn up at the last minute. During the past two and half years, I am glad that I have always fullfilled nearly all my committment to speak or to evaluate. Even when clients had chosen an appointment time that clashed with my already-made appointments at clubs, I would ask my clients if I could meet up with them after my toastmasters' meeting or early the following morning at their home or office. My clients are usually very understanding and accommodating.l

Of course, we can always say that everything is done on a voluntary basis. However, if volunteers put their best in their club meetings, shouldn't all guests and members reciprocate by honouring their committment to carry out their speeches and roles? Papa had always said that we owe it to ourselves to do our best in everything - whether our work is being paid or when we are volunteers.

For those toastmasters who have yet to visit AIA Changi Toastmasters Club, try to go for a visit and find out more for yourselves. For my local and international readers who have yet to be a toastmaster, visit one nearest your home in your country and you will have a more tangible understanding of the above points.

Gan Chau

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Say "Yes!" to Valentine's Day !!

During these times of gloom and doom, Valentine's Day need not be a cloudy day too!
Fill your special day with sunshine and what better way than to be extra creative and charming.!

1. Don't spend $150 on 99 red roses. A single stalk of red rose with great love in the heart speaks volumes than 99 red roses that eventually end up in a divorce!

2. If you are good with your hands, make a silk or paper does not fade and will remind your partner of you...... at least for another 365 days !

3. If you are a good cook, cook up a storm! If not, try to learn to cook that special dish from your mother, friends or colleagues or even from the recipe books.
Remember the most important ingredient in cooking is LOVE! Believe me, your food will surely taste good!

4. You need not have to buy an expensive candle stand. Put your tea lights in lovely colored bottles and they will ooze with special soft technicolours throughout the evening.

5. Design your own special card. If your partner likes flowers, paste/draw/stick some dried flowers onto the card. Write interesting lines like, "If I have to choose a whole garden of flowers, I would still choose you, for your are far more beautiful than all the flowers combined!" or "The most sumptuous buffet will be tastless for me without you beside me!"

6. Use some recycled rice bags, (your partner will admire your frugality and civic consciousness to save the earth), bring his/her favourite drinks, fruits, chocolates, etc. and watch the sunset. It is a good thing that the moon is still at about its roundest during Valentine's Day. Chap Goh Meh was just 4 days before Valentine's Day. This will be a more memorable experience than dining in a posh restaurant with hundreds of other couples nearby, doing the same boring thing. Eating and looking into each others' eyes. Somewhat mundane!

7. Give her a done up album of some of the photos you have taken together and write interesting captions that make her/him laugh.

8. For the musical ones, compose a song or put your words in a familiar tune and sing to her/him.

9. Use your hands and creativity. Make your own gifts out of papers, stones, crystals, strings, etc.

10. For those with good memory, learn to say "I Love You" in 100 languages. See reference below. If you don't have a good memory, 5 to 10 will do. For those with short term memories, say "I Love You" everyday in different languages. This way, you will gradually master all the 100.

11. Valentine's Day celebration need not be on 14th February alone. It can be for the whole month of February! Bring your partner to any of the 200 toastmasters' clubs in Singapore, where you can have fun, good fellowship and food! Above all, a great time of learning together! The best present for yourself and your partner - sign yourselves up as members! The couple that speak/learn together stay together!

Frankly, I dislike to celebrate special occasions because we end up at the mercy of commercialisation. I would refuse to buy special plants or flowers on Chinese New Year, Christmas or Valentine's Day. If we were truly in love, everyday would be a Valentine's Day as we see our loved ones with rosy, tinted glasses! However, Valentine's Day is a great reminder for the less romatically inclined to be a little more romantic on 14th Feb. So it is fine with me. Above all, if people do not spend, the economy will not pick up. If you are rich, give a 5 carat diamond ring to your girlfriend/fiancee. Or buy her 500 fresh red roses and another 500 silk roses to remind her of your love for another year at least. If you are not loaded, try one of the above. By golly, it works!

So, let us all help to boost the economy being extra R-O-M-A-N-T-I-C!! All say "Yes" to Valentine's Day!

A final reminder : If you say you love your partner, prove it too by loving your parents and siblings. For it is difficult to convince your partner that you love him/her, someone you have just met or married, and yet you cannot love your parents who have painstakingly brought you up and your siblings with whom you have grown up. Be real.

How to say I Love You=in 100 Languages
(forwarded by Jasmin Patel)

English = I love you
Afrikaans - Ek het jou lief
=Albanian - Te dua
Arabic - Ana behibak (to mal=)
Arabic - Ana behibek (to female)
A=menian - Yes kez sirumem
Bambara - M'bi fe
= Bengali - Ami tomake bhalobashi (pronounced= Amee toe-ma-kee bhalo-bashee)
Belarusia= - Ya tabe kahayu
Bisaya - Nahigugma ako kanimo Bulgarian - Obicham te
Cambodian -=Soro lahn nhee ah
Catalan - T'estimo
- Tsi ge yu i
Cheyenne - Ne mohotatseChichewa - Ndimakukonda
=0A Cantonese - Ngo oiy ney a
Mandarin - Wo ai ni
=0A Comanche - U kamakutu nu
(pronounced oo----ka-ma- koo-too-- ---nu)=-- Thx Tony
=b>Corsican - Ti tengu caru (to male)
Cree - Kisakihitin
Creol - Mi aime jou
=roatian - Volim te
Czech - Miluji te
= Danish - Jeg Elsker Dig
Dutch - Ik hou van jo=
Elvish - Amin mela lle (from The Lo=d of The Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien)
Esper=nto - Mi amas vin
Estonian - Ma armastan sind
=0A Ethiopian - Afgreki'
Faroese - Eg el=ki teg
Farsi - Doset daram
Fil=pino - Mahal kita
Finnish - Mina rakastan sinua French - Je t'aime, Je t'adore<=r> Frisian - Ik hald fan dy
Gaelic -=Ta gra agam ort
Georgian - Mikvarhar
- Ich liebe dich
Greek - S'agapo
= Gujarati - Hoo thunay prem karoo choo
Hiligayn=n - Palangga ko ikaw
Hawaiian - Aloha Au Ia`oeHebrew
To female - "ani ohev otach" (said by male) "ohevet Otach" =said by female)
To male - "ani ohev otcha" (said by male) "Ohevet ot'cha" (sa=d by female)
Hiligaynon - Guina higugma ko ika=
Hindi - Hum Tumhe Pyar Karte hae
Hm=ng - Kuv hlub koj
Hopi - Nu' umi unangwa'ta
=0A Hungarian - Szeretlek
Icelandic - Eg=elska tig
Ilonggo - Palangga ko ikaw
- Saya cinta padamu
Inuit - Negligevap=e
Irish - Taim i' ngra leat
Italian<=b> - Ti amo
Japanese - Aishiteru or Anata ga d=isuki desu
Kannada - Naanu ninna preetisuttene
= Kapampangan - Kaluguran daka
Kiswahili = Nakupenda
Konkani - Tu magel moga cho
=b>Korean - Sarang Heyo or Nanun tangshinul sarang hamnida
=0A Latin - Te amo
Latvian - Es tevi mii=u
Lebanese - Bahibak
Lithuanian = Tave myliu
Luxembourgeois - Ech hun dech gaer
= Macedonian - Te Sakam
Malay - Saya cint=kan mu / Aku cinta padamu
Malayalam - Njan Ninne Prem=kunnu
Maltese - Inhobbok
Marathi=- Me tula prem karto
Mohawk - Kanbhik
<=>Moroccan - Ana moajaba bik
Nahuatl - Ni mits nek=
Navaho - Ayor anosh'ni
Ndebele = Niyakutanda
Bokmaal - Jeg el=ker deg
Nyonrsk - Eg elskar deg
Pandacan Pangasinan - Inaru Taka
= Papiamento - Mi ta stimabo
Persian - Doo-se= daaram
Pig Latin - Iay ovlay ouyay
=olish - Kocham Ciebie
Portuguese - Eu te amo
=0A Romanian - Te iubesc
Russian - Ya te=ya liubliu
Scot Gaelic - Tha gra\dh agam ort
= Serbian - Volim te
Setswana - Ke a go rat=
Sign Language - ,\,,/ (represents position of finger= when signing 'I Love You')
Sindhi - Maa to=he pyar kendo ahyan
Sioux - Techihhila
=b>Slovak - Lu`bim ta
Slovenian - Ljubim te
= Spanish - Te quiero / Te amo
Swahili - =inapenda wewe
Swedish - Jag alskar dig
=b>Swiss-German - Ich lieb Di
Surinam - Mi lobi jo=
Tagalog - Mahal kita
Taiwanese = Wa ga ei li
Tahitian - Ua Here Vau Ia Oe
= Tamil - Nan unnai kathalikaraen
Telugu - Nen= ninnu premistunnanu
To female - P=om rak khun
To male - Chan rak khun
Informal -=Rak te
Tunisian - Ha eh bak
Turkish<=b> - Seni Seviyorum
Ukrainian - Ya tebe kahayu
= Urdu - mai aap say pyaar karta hoo
To female - Anh ye^u em
To male - Em ye^= anh
Welsh - 'Rwy'n dy garu di
= Yiddish - Ikh hob dikh
Yoruba - Mo ni fe Zazi - Ezhele hezdege
Zuni - Tom h=' ichema

Gan Chau



Jasmin posing at James' and Phaik See's lovely condominium in Penang - The Reagents
Note the hills in the background!

The lovely view of the city from my brother's condominium, Vista Ria at Sungei Ara

A popular jogging track for the residents as the trees shade joggers from the sun! But safer to jog in groups, and not alone!

A sea of greenery that we can see from the living room!
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As I live right in the heart of the city in Singapore, I always enjoy going back to Penang to visit my brother Kee Seng. Home for my brother and his family is at Vista Ria, located on the hills at Sungei Ara.

My relatives, Phaik See and her family also live nearby at the Reagents. It is so quiet and windy and I enjoy taking long walks around the vicinity.

However there is one stretch of jogging tracks which I have yet to explore and that is the one doing down the hill at my brother's condominium. My brother and his wife, Saw Kim, warned me not to go down as the area is full of snakes, scorpions and other creepy crawlies. Sometimes I looked down at the tracks below and yearned to walk down the steps, but I am terrified of creepy crawlies! Yucks! Once a snake climbed up the water pipe onto the third floor and entered an apartment, because the owner had grown some hanging plants. After that incident she disposed of her plants.

Hence you can imagine my prayer before I slept every night I was at my brother's home. "Oh! Lord! Please do not let any snake, scorpion or creepy crawlies enter my brother's apartment. In faith, I thank you for your protection." God has always heard my little prayers.

Fortunately for us, our Government has successfully attempted to make Singapore into a lovely garden city. Hence, many trees are grown throughout the island, and for this I am grateful. Due to the trees, it is somehow much cooler in Singapore than in Penang. It is extremely warm in Penang because there are hardly any trees, especially in the city. Hence, you can understand why I am just contented to stay at home, basking in the serenity of the hills whenever I visit my brother in Penang.

Gan Chau

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What Goads Me On!


Si Yuan presenting his excellent speech on the "Potatoes".

Enthusiastic members and guests at Teach Me Toastmasters' Club. The lady in black and white striped T-shirt is bubbly Nur Shahidah, IPP and currently the treasurer of the club.

With charming Maximillian Tan on my left and pretty Stephanie Fam on my right, at the recent Christmas Concert at AWWA

Our foreign nationals having a wonderful weekend, chit chatting with friends under the shady trees
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After having visited over a hundred toastmasters' clubs the past two and a half years, I must confess that there were times when I was extremely lazy. It was thanks to my ex-president of DWG Toastmasters' Club, Vanessa Yong, that I was able to complete all my forty projects within 18 months. I am the quiet type who prefers to bask in the serenity and cosiness of my home. I have always been a "homebody" since young. As a student, I could never work in the library, where the silence in the library would soon serenade me to sleep. I must study with some music in the background. As a property agent I could work from home, and only go to my office when I need to search for information or submit my documents. Or when there are meetings and seminars.

I enjoy my work for it is so comfortable working at home in my pyjamas or shorts and T-shirt! I can always multi-task. I would turn on my cd player while I am typing a letter or cleaning the home or cooking in the kitchen. When watching the television programmes, I can simultaneously do some aerobic exercises. When I am tired, I can take a little break to play the piano, drum or violin. Frankly, I would rather type ten articles on the computer at home than to present a speech at a toastmasters' club.!

To overcome my laziness, I have chosen to live close to an MRT station, and what better location than the centre of the city! It takes me only about 30 to 45 seconds to walk to the Little India MRT station. I had moved to Little India when I was the Area Governor U3, so that it would be easy for me to zip around the island. Even when standing in the train, I would read to pass time.

I have often been asked to help out as a Language Evaluator by various clubs. There were times when I wished I had not promised and committed myself. Nevertheless I always remember that papa had always taught us to give our best in whatever we do. "Anything worth doing, is worth doing well!" he would say. Besides papa, there are also two groups of people that always goad me on!

When I am lazy, I think of the cheerful faces of the members of Teach Me Toastmasters' Club and the quiet fortitude of the smiling foreign nationals I meet on Sundays in my neighbourhood.

Each time I attended a meeting at the Teach Me Toastmasters' Club, I would go home, refreshed and uplifted. The joy and laughter of the members were truly infectious! When we volunteer our time and effort, we actually receive more than we give!

The first time when I visited the club, I was amazed by the tenacity of the members to do well. As I was walking back from the club to the bus stop at the main road, I met Si Yuan. He was struggling with his crutches even as he walked. Beads of perspiration filled his forehead, and I asked if I could help carry his backpack. Seeing him struggling with every step, I wished I was strong enough to carry him piggyback. I told him I would make sure he gets on the bus safely first before I boarded my own bus. As Si Yuan was in a hurry, we hailed a taxi instead.

This chance meeting with Si Yuan always looms before me whenever I am lazy. "Get up and go, Choo!", I would tell myself.

At the previous meeting, I was thrilled when Si Yuan was voted the best speaker. He made us laugh when he shared his research topic on "The Potatoes". He even shared with us what potatoes are called in Hindi, Malay and Chinese. I am nuts about potatoes and was surprised when Si Yuan shared about the danger of eating too much potatoes. The audience roared with laughter when he concluded, "So you see, it is better to be a couch potato than to eat too many potatoes!" During my language evaluation, I thanked Si Yuan for reminding us not to eat too much potatoes. No wonder I look like a potato and must now work my way to become trim like a stick of celery!

Every weekend I am reminded to be thankful for all that I am and have whenever I see our foreign nationals around Little India. They enjoy sitting under the shade of the trees in the fields, or just standing around and chit chatting with one another. Many of them work very hard under the hot scorching sun at construction sites, and even those with white collar jobs often work hard in their offices. I smile when I see them alighting their buses, excited like school children on an expedition. The happiest people need not be people with the most wealth and assets.

Thanks to papa; thanks to members of Teach Me Toastmasters' Club and thanks to our foreign nationals in Singapore - I am a slightly more diligent, grateful and contented person because of you!

Gan Chau

Monday, February 09, 2009

I Will Never Complain Again!



The enthusiastic members and guests at Teach Me Toastmasters' Club
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I love walking. Not only do I get to save transport costs and get some exercise, I also get to see many interesting things along the way. I usually choose to walk, if my distance could be covered within 30 minutes and I were not in a hurry.

The other day, I walked back from Park Mall at Orchard Road after having lunch with my lovely friend, Soh Wah. Soh Wah is a high flyer in her company, and a fantastic manager of her time! She wanted to give me a lunch treat, and I also had to pass her gifts of nutmeg oil from my brother who lives in Penang, as well as my own gifts for Chinese New Year. After having eaten so much good food in Penang, I just wanted a simple lunch.

As I was waiting for the Green Man, I realised that a young man standing in front of me was leaning towards his left leg. As he started to walk, he was wobbly, and looked as if he would fall down anytime. I was worried and decided to walk closely behind him, so that should he fall, I would be of some help. What a precarious situation, and I was worried he would not walk fast enough before the Green Man would make way for the Red Man! Bravo! He made it just in time!

I noticed that his right foot was twisted at an angle of about 50 degrees. Subconsciously I tilted my right foot likewise and attempted to walk like him. Gosh! It was difficult. I changed to my normal position in case people thought I was rude, imitating him. I walked ahead of him so that I could take a look at his face. What a good looking guy! Best of all, he smiled when he realised I was looking at him, and I smiled back. I noticed that there was that aura of serenity and fortitude in him as he was attempting to wipe the beads of perspiration on his forehead.

"Hi! Where're you going?" I asked him with a smile.

"Going to that building to register for some courses", he said.

"Happy New Year and God bless you!" I said.

Throughout the rest of my journey, I tried to walk back home with my right foot at about 50 degrees. It was tough and at times excruciatingly painful!

After an hour I reached home, a journey which would have only taken 15 minutes if I had walked with my normal gait. However, I reached home, a happier and more contented person. Suddenly I thought of all the wonderful toastmasters I had met at Teach Me Toastmasters' Club, some with the same condition as this gentleman. Despite their wheelchairs and crutches, the toastmasters are a cheerful and happy lot with a delightful sense of humour! This is why I always look forward to visiting them whenever there is a little break in between Speechcraft sessions at Changi Prison, because Teach Me Toastmasters' Club also meet on a Saturday morning. The youthful members give their best in the preparation and delivery of their prepared speeches.

I will never ever complain again about my looks or about my build! I will continue to see the beauty and traits in everyone. Most importantly, I will continue to be grateful and always remember to count all my little blessings and name them one by one!!!

Gan Chau

Sunday, February 08, 2009


To all my dear relatives, friends and readers in Singapore and throughout the world,

I received the following email from my buddy, Dr. Stephen Au, from Canada. I know you will enjoy it, and most importantly, be cheered UP!

Let us all continue to look UP to God for His blessings to rain upon us. For God's economy is not the same as the world's economy.

Let us continue not to give UP on our faith for God had said that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can move mountains of doubt, fear, depression, unhappiness, uncertainties, gloom and doom.!

Let us all continue to look UP to one another with love and respect and continue to look for the beauty and good points in everyone.

Even as we climb UP the ladder of success and prosperity, let us not forget to pull Up the hands of our fellowmen who might be struggling along the steps of the ladder. Like geese, let us help to give strength and energy to one another so that we can all keep UP the lovely formation of "V" in life! "V" for victory!

Forever the optimistic one,
Choo Choo aka Ganchau


Lovers of the English language might enjoy this. It is yet another example of why people learning English have trouble with the language. Learning the nuances of English makes it a difficult language. (But then, that's probably true of many other languages.)

There is a two-letter word in English that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is 'UP.' It is listed in the dictionary as being used as an [adv], [prep], [adj], [n] or [v].

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?

At a meeting, why does a topic come UP ? Why do we speak UP, and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report? We call UP our friends and we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.

At other times the little word has a real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.

To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special.

And this up is confusing:

A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.

We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night. We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP !

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP , look the word, UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4 of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions

If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP . When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it wets UP the earth. When it does not rain for a while, the soil dries UP.

One could go on & on, but I'll wrap it UP , for now time is UP , so time to shut UP! more thing:

What is the first thing you do in the morning & the last thing you do at night?


Don't screw up.

Send this on to everyone you look UP to in your address book.

Now I'll shut UP!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A Grateful Heart!

I had woken up at 5.30a.m. even though I had gone to bed at 1.30a.m. As usual, I somehow would wake up earlier than the ringing of my alarm at 6.30a.m. every Saturday morning. Maybe it is because I am afraid of being late for my volunteer activities at our toastmasters' speechcraft at Changi Prison.

As I was walking up the steps of Kembangan MRT station, like Humpty Dumpty, I had a great fall.! I fell flat on my tummy with my head almost hitting the granite floor.! Fortunately, my glasses did not break and I got up again, with some kind people anxiously trying to help me and asking me if I was alright. Of late, due to the ringing in my ears and the constant imbalance of my cochleas, I often had dizziness and nauseau. Yet, God in His Goodness, had somehow protected me from any injury despite the heavy fall! The other time was when I fell flat on my tummy while crossing the road in Chinatown. Fortunately, the pedestrian crossing was showing the green man and all the vehicles had come to a halt. Given my present condition, I no longer dare to jay walk. Too risky!

Fortunately, after the speechcraft I was able to hitch a ride from my club member, Ng Cher Khim, who is also a member of Braddell Heights Advanced Toastmasters' Club. I told Cher Khim perhaps I would withdraw from the Club's Table Topics Contest as I was not in top form, given my nauseu. Cher Khim was quite tenacious in his persuasion that I should give it a try and have more exposure to contests.

I drew my favourite number "7" which was in the middle.....neither too early or late. Somehow I sensed that God would give me the desires of my heart and that was not to win the first and second prize, but the third, so that I would not have to participate in the Area Contest, but still have a little trophy to bring home. My tenants, Avinesh and Jasmin, seem to enjoy counting the trophies I have won for both my activities in toastmasters' competitions as well as sales in Dennis Wee Group. I was overjoyed when Cher Khim won the championship with Kyle Hor as 1st runner up. Ang Chew Hoe was the champion for the International Speech Contest, with Kelvin Thiang as first runner up and Kyle Hor as second runner up.

I am always inspired when I see the great improvement by toastmasters. That's the way we are - always goading each other on!

When I found out that it was Luan Eng's birthday, I gave her a simple dinner treat at a nearby kopi tiam (coffee shop).

As I am typing this article, my heart is full of gratitude to God for always blessing me with my heart's desires. No request is too small for Him to entertain.
And if God cares for the little things that concern us, would He not even take care of important and major things like career, family, health, sufficiency, etc.?

Hence, cheer up my dear readers. Always keep a positive outlook for as a man thinks, so will he be!

Gan Chau

Friday, February 06, 2009

Much Ado About Mandarin Oranges!


Mandarin Oranges of all Sizes!

I have lived on earth for 55 years and 37 days and I have only recently found out something about Mandarin oranges! I was buying some fruits at Tekka Market when I saw some small oranges for sale.

"Are these really sweet?" I asked, somewhat doubtful because of the small size.

"Very sweet! Try one!", coaxed the salesman.

I bought a kilo of the cute oranges. My tenants, Jasmin and Avinesh were also sceptical at first when I offered them the oranges. Now they love puny Mandarin oranges!

"Choo, do you have any extra oranges?", asked my manager, Aveline, as she was driving. She had just picked me up from Raffles Town Club after my exercises at the gym. Frankly I had not wanted to go for New Year celebration at Dr. Wee's house, because I was somewhat lazy, having just returned from Penang. My wonderful manager phoned me and hence I decided to go along with her. Going to Dr. Wee's home also implied bursting my diet plan and I would have to work doubly harder at the gym.

"I have left my presents at home as I thought I was not going for a visit", I said.

"We'll buy from the Esso Petrol Kiosk", Aveline suggested.

However, all the oranges were sold out. Oranges are very important during Chinese New Year for every visitor would at least bring with them two Mandarin oranges. The gold colour of oranges signifies wealth and fortune. In Hokkien, Mandarin oranges are called "kam".

"Actually I have many oranges in my car originally, but I was not satisfied and went back to change for bigger ones. Yet I forgot to bring them!", lamented Aveline.

"Hey, Aveline, tell boss that you have brought the biggest "Kam" with you. My surname is Kam. Tell Dr. Wee that the "kam" you brought is the biggest and the juicest!"

Aveline and Anne, another colleague who was seated in the car, both laughed.

"You're so funny, Choo. You tell Dr. Wee yourself lah", said Aveline.

We tried two more petrol kiosks but all the oranges had been sold out.

"Try Tekka Market!", I suggested.

I bought 8 big oranges and a kilo of small ones. I decided to trick Aveline. I brought out two tiny oranges and said, "Here they are!"

"Xiao (mad) ah. So small. Cannot lah!", Aveline almost fainted.

I brought out the big ones! "So small ah.....they don't have big ones?" continued Aveline.

"Aiyo, so big already, still not big enough meh? Can give a bag of these small ones?", I always enjoy speaking Singlish with my friends.

"Nobody does that. People usually give two big oranges only."

I gave Mrs. Wee two big oranges on arrival, and in return Mrs. Wee gave me two bigger oranges. Big, bigger, biggest!
"Huat!" ah! Prosper!

Having tasted the small oranges, like Avinesh and Jasmin, I will from now onwards buy only the small ones. I am reminded not to judge things by appearances alone, for good things can come in small packages too. Short people can sometimes be cleverer and sharper than tall people. My niece, Tyng, often complains her bust is too small and feels inadequate when she is with tall and big ladies in America. I reminded her that small is dainty and perhaps it is her daintiness and feminine charms that attract her handsome fiance, Jeff, an American, to her.!
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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Don't Offer Duit Kopi (Coffee $$) From Now On!



If you have ever paid or are thinking of paying ' Coffee Money' when stopped for traffic or other offences, DON'T EVER Do This Again.

The traffic department (JPJ) has recently started a campaign to be rid of corruption. Every Officer on duty will be rewarded with RM100.00 if they report each case of bribery to the department.

This is how they do (trick you into) it. They will note down the details of your IC/MyKad, and ask you how you want to settle ( 'Macam mana nak selesai?')

If you indicate yes or even offer to give them any money, they will report the incident by rejecting your 'Kopi Money' and get the RM100.00 instead as an incentive for their integrity and 'Honest' publicity.

This means that You will end up having a summon issued to you and perhaps a charge for bribery.

SO DON'T PAY DUIT KOPI AGAIN, especially if you hope to go free with a lesser amount of money compared to the fine. Even if you want to pay over RM200, the JPJ Officers would rather have a 'good' name than to take your kopi money.

Just beware of their trick because the cops are now accumulating 'cookies' points for their promotion and pay increment - with your help if possible.

They should have done this to stop corruption long time ago... but anyway it's better late than never, right?


I was dismayed to receive the above email from a friend, Elena.

I am sure we all know that if we truly want to solve a problem, we have to dig out the roots of the problem. If we just cut the leaves or branches of the problem, new and more problems will continue to flourish, because the roots are still in the ground.

With this method, is the Government of Malaysia, encouraging their officers to be more honest? Will honesty be flourished with yet a carrot dangling in front of the people we wish to instil good character traits? When the Malaysian Government abolishes this practice, won't the officers be back to square one?

Or is the Malaysian Government trying to increase its coffer, because the fines and penalties for the briber will definitely be more than enough to reward their officers for their "honesty".

If the Malaysian Government truly wish to inculcate honesty and good character traits in its officers, perhaps the salaries of officers should be increased and improved working conditions be given. Some people are just honest because they take pride in their honesty and are God-fearing. They know that even if earthly men cannot see their "dark" ways, the One up there can see, and He will be the Judge. They believe in retribution for what goes around, comes around!

Sigh! I will think twice before I go to Malaysia again. Enough is enough!! I am sure many will be like me, and it will not be surprising if more tourists decide to give Malaysia a miss from their itinerary! After all, there are so many countries in this world where one can visit and truly breath the fresh air of freedom, relaxation, justice and fairness. When we go on a vacation, or on a business trip, we want as little stress as possible.

Gan Chau