Monday, March 30, 2009

The Beauty of Music!

I recently bought a poster which shows Cupid playing a cello. And the wordings on the poster:

Bach gave us God's word,
Beethoven gave us God's fire,
Mozart gave us God's laughter,
God gave us music, so that we may pray without words.

Wow! What wonderful and appropriate words. I am eternally grateful to be blessed with a father who loved music and who encouraged all his children to pick up an instrument. Papa not only permeated his home with music; he literally permeated the whole village with his love for music when he gave free music lessons to some of the poor children. Ever so often, we had some kind of a little informal concert where my siblings and their friends would sing or play an instrument. I still remember how we would try to sing to the big round moon on the 15th day of the Chinese calendar.

Now that I am learning to play the violin, I could practise for hours! I enjoyed the works of different composers! Sometimes I worry that my constant practice would be hard on the ears of my tenants and neighbours; hence, I would close the windows and door and turn on the air conditioning in an attempt to make my room kind of sound proof. My tenant, Jasmin, once asked me why I keep playing the same piece over and over again, and I reminded him that genius is 99% perspiration, and only 1% inspiration. I am usually not a perfectionist, but when it comes to certain things like writing, cooking and playing the violin, I am quite demanding on myself.

I hope there will be a day, when music and its various components, will be introduced to every child in primary school. Make music an essential subject like English and Science, because it helps children to relax and to be creative. Every child will be exposed to the rudiments of music such as rhythm, tempo, etc. so that the child will grow up sensitive to the songs and music he hears.

Indeed music adds colour to our life. It soothes and it strengthens the mind. When students are writing in the examination hall, some soft music could be played to relax the students. When people hear catchy tunes, they would be spontaneous to tap their toes or dance to the rhythm.
When I was studying at the University of Alberta, I noticed that many of the students from Africa were very spontaneous. Whenever they heard music they would spontaneously shake their legs or sway their bodies.

My second sister already showed signs of her sensitivity to music. Even as a toddler, whenever she heard music, she would crawl and gradually stand up to support herself by holding onto a chair and she would start shaking her bumps to the amusement of family members.

How nice it would be if music could permeate the whole nation. Let there be music in the mrt, buses, hospitals, clinics, factories, offices, airport and all over the country so long as there are ears to hear! Let there be music even in the prison cells , for didn't someone say that music has power to soothe even a savage heart? Let there be some soft music even in the library for the deadly quiet in libraries could be sometimes be quite eerie! Who said that there must be deadly silence, before readers could truly concentrate on their reading and writing.? I believe some soft music can brighten up the austere note of seriousness oozing out from the rows and yet more rows of books and encyclopedias.

Music makes my world go round! Does it also go round for you, dear readers?

Gan Chau

Little Pots of Cactus

Easiest to grow of all plants!

Interesting shapes of cacti
A friend shared how when he first started growing plants, all the plants died.
Thinking that he had no green fingers, he decided not to kill more plants. After a year, a friend encouraged him to grow some cacti. Anyone can grow a pot of cactus......easiest plant to grow.
Cacti are hardy plants, and as they store water in their stem, the plants need to be watered only once a week.
How nice, if we could be like the cactus......have the ability to store water. Hence, there would be hardly any necessity to drink and perspire so much!
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The Sheer Freedom of Singledom!

I decided to call my ex-student Esther to provide her feedback on the property that she had seen. Esther asked if I was going to bed early as she wanted to have time to prepare her two children for bed and she would call me after they had fallen asleep.

I practised my violin and enjoyed playing the various pieces by Bach,, Schuman, Handel, Brahms, Weber and Paganini when Esther called me. I told her that it suddenly occurred to me how joyous it was for me to be able to indulge in one and a half hours of classical music while she was lullabying her children to sleep. The sheer freedom of a singleton ! I told Esther that it was difficult for me to understand how some singles could feel depressed and lonely when 24 hours a day was not quite enough for me to enjoy all that I was doing.

Esther laughed and said it was good that I could find so much fulfilment. Of course, I concede with her that motherhood brings its own joy and rewards. The points that we both agree - that in whatever state we are in, we are to be contented and make the most of the situation.

I guess my feelings must be the culmination of what had happened on just one Sunday. I was counselling another student, Carrie, a young widow who just broke up with her boyfriend and was feeling heartbroken. Although her boyfriend is a very nice and caring person, but he has too many baggages in the form of a revengeful ex-wife, two teenage kids who told Carrie they would not be nice to any step sibling, and another possessive niece fighting for her uncle's attention.

Later in the day, eldest sister called me to say that she and her husband would be visiting Singapore because she had to help her son supervise and teach the maid some cooking and housework. Sister had never even seen the photos of her grandchild because my nephew's wife had purposely barred her from looking at the photos! Some misunderstanding occurred when sister was at the States to give them a helping hand, and the anger was still buried in the daughter-in-law so much so that she refused to allow my sister to look at the baby's photos.! My nephew's company had rented an apartment for him which is in the same block as his in-laws. I cannot understand why there would be no room for my sister and her husband to stay. Sister has to share a room with the maid, and my brother -in-law would be my guest. ! Every morning, he would have to take a 40 minute bus journey to their apartment in Bukit Timah area. The complexities of in-law relationship!

Shortly later, the cleaning lady in my company phoned me that she is no longer staying with her son, but in a rented room because her daughter-in-law had quarreled with her and asked her to leave. Sometime last year, Aunty Kang, as we affectionately call her, had asked me to market her 3 room HDB flat. It is my practice to understand my client's situation and needs and I asked her why she needed to sell and she told me she wanted to help settle her son's $30k debt. I advised her that as she is already almost 70 years old, it would be difficult for her to buy a unit again, and once she had cash in hand, somehow the money would disappear fast. It would be better for her to rent out the unit so that she could collect monthly rentals and use some of the money to help her son. In the event that there was any bad blood, she could always live in her apartment and rent out one room. Now Aunty Kang realises my sound advice to her. She is sharing a room with a friend at $300 a month and enjoys collecting $1600 from the rental of her flat.

Ah! The complexities of in-law relationship. I had written my nephew and his wife a letter reminding them to be filial towards my sister, and because of this letter I was ostracised! I had also never seen them or the baby since they returned to Singapore.! Now that he is holding a good job, my nephew had conveniently forgotten the hands that helped to feed him when he was a student in America! It is easier to handle the laws of Singapore than to handle the laws of relationship. The easiest way for me to avoid such complexities is to enjoy the sheer freedom of singledom!!

Understanding my sister's strong character and her daughter-in-law's idiosyncrasies, I am preparing a "huge tent" of casualties! I can bet my three beloved doggies, Kamlette, Kambobo and Kam Xiao Bai, that sister will come crying her heart out, with emotional bruises that are even more difficult to heal than physical injuries.

People often tell me that I look much younger than my 55 years of age. I guess the youthfulness comes from the sheer freedom of singledom !!!

Gan Chau

Sunday, March 29, 2009

When Less is Better.....

In a world where people often believe that more is always better, there are instances when less is better. I know of two instances when less is better.

I used to take panadols the moment I had a headache. However, when I read of the ill effects of panadol, I decided to reduce the intake. Whenever I had a headache, I would try to massage my head with tiger balm oil, and use acu-pressure. Taking a glass of coke with half a teaspoon of salt would also help to reduce the pain. However, this is not advisable for people with high blood pressure due to the salt intake.

Now I try to take more herbal drinks. I grow a plant with leaves that can be used to make tea. Once the leaves are dry, tea can be made. Only one tea leaf is sufficient for one big pot. This tea helps to reduce cholesterol and headaches.

Where less is better also applies to the use of cosmetics. I do not understand why some ladies like to smear so much cream and powder onto their face. They forget that the skin also needs to breathe. Hence, if we constantly clog the pores with cream and powder, the skin cannot breathe.
I like to wash the face and after rinsing it, to occasionally leave the face without applying any cream or moisturiser. Twice a week, I like to leave the face free of cosmetics. In the mornings, it is sufficient for me to just rinse the face with water. There is no necessity to use facial foam or cleanser. Cleanser is important when I come back from work.

One of the ladies I know is a grandmother of 15 grandchildren. Yet Aunty Siew still has a lovely and smooth complexion which she attributes to the use of Hazeline Snow! All she does is to wash her face once a day with facial cleanser and then apply her favourite Hazeline Snow. "Cheap and good! No need to buy so many types of expensive cosmetics!", declared Aunty Siew.

Always remember there are times when less is better......and this also includes less talk where words would not be necessary at all, and the less said, the better.!

Gan Chau

Much Ado About Weather Changes!

I have been down with flu for the past one ten days. Lots of mucous and aches in the body. I have been to the polyclinic twice. I lost my voice and hence could not be a demo speaker for my friend's speech workshop. I still helped out with table topics as it did not require too much usage of my vocal chords. As I am someone who likes to run about, I get impatient for being sick. My best friend, Soh Wah, would often call me now and then and she told me that a few of her colleagues in the bank were also on medical leave.

Early one morning I woke up and decided to water the plants. Wow! The weather was absolutely, almost like natural air conditioning at 19 degrees! I basked in the coolness and was extremely happy to be showered by the soft, gentle breeze. If my eldest sister were with me, she would probably need a jacket. Yet in the day, the weather was extremely hot! Sometimes I am reminded of the weather in the desert.....extremely hot in the day; and very cold in the night. No wonder, many of our people in Singapore are falling sick.....not being used to the drastic change in weather. Hence the best weather would be one that is neither hot nor cold, that is lukewarm weather.

Perhaps I could analogise the weather with relationship. However, in relationship it is better to be either hot or cold rather than to be lukewarm. It is easy to deal with hot and cold relationship. We are at our greatest ease with our best of friends for we know they love and care for us. We are also on our guard when we know someone does not take to us kindly or is cold towards us. Most difficult are relationships which are lukewarm. We do not quite know where we stand with people who blow between hot and cold. There are husbands and wives who merely tolerate each other for years. They may live in the same house but barely talk to each other. Or we know of people who try so hard to smile when they meet us and we wonder what has gone wrong with them or with us.

I am reminded of God's words in Rev. Chap.3 vs. 15 to 16, "I know your deeds that you are neither cold nor hot.I wish you were either one or the other. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth".

Gan Chau

Friday, March 27, 2009

My Joy As A Property Agent !

Part of the bridal saloon where photos are taken. A room in a lovely three storey conservation shop
house at Race Course Road.

The spacious and lovely living room of a 2,100 sq. ft. unit in Clementi Park
belonging to Shahnaz, Chelsea, the Cocker Spaniel's owner.

What a lovely view from the window of an eight storey warehouse at Kallang Vicinity!

From the windows of a two bedroom apartment on the 49th storey of The Sail !
Photo was taken on a rainy day!

Sometimes I wonder if I should have bothered to do a degree in English and French, if I had known that one day, I would end up as a property agent, for after all, a property agent would only need to have an "O" level and a CEHA certificate.

I guess, there is always a purpose in all that have taken place in our lives. I would never have dreamt that I would end up as a property agent! For I have always loved to teach, and teaching is still my first love. Sales? Yucks! I hate selling and persuading people to buy! Hence, you can understand the anxiety and worries of my colleagues when they heard that I resigned from teaching, due to my constant problems with my throat, and that I was going to try my hands at selling properties! "Anyone looking at you would definitely think you are a matron or a school teacher! " said Jessie, one of my colleagues.

Looks aside, at the end of the day, sincerity, integrity and knowledge are very important traits. Integrity towards your clients and knowledge to advise them about the market and the purchases they are interested in.

I just love my job. Which job in the world will allow you to work from the comforts of your home. Since I am working at home, I could be dressed in my housecoat or in a pair of shorts with T-shirts or loose outfits! I only dress up when I have to go out of the home to meet clients. As I am someone who is in the habit of multi-tasking, I find it easier to do so at home. eg. I could be talking on the phone and stirring the pot; or I could be typing and listening to music at the same time. Sometimes I want to help prepare some food for a toastmasters meeting and when I am watching the television program, I would also be peeling the onions or ginkgo nuts at the same time.

Best of all, I love the aesthetics of my job which enables me to see so many beautiful designs of buildings. I have always loved architecture, but am not clever enough to pass my Mathematics examinations. Hence, the arty-farty side of me finds joy in being able to analyse buildings and designs. Once I helped a client to design the interior of her flat, and was joyous when her family and her were pleased with the outcome.

Once I was showing a client an eight storey warehouse, a lone and forlorn building in Kallang vicinity. After the viewing, I explored the area and was joyous to find so much beauty - there are lovely jogging tracks, white sandy beaches, coconut and palm trees and when you sit down, you could see wind surfers and motor boats and .......seagulls! This is now one of my favourite haunts. Best of all, I can even jog there from my apartment in Little India. If I had not been an agent, I guess I might not have discovered the sheer beauty of the place.

One of my clients used to live in a huge, conservation house in Tanglin vicinity. It was such a joy and pleasure to have a meal with my client and her family and to be served by her three maids. Best of all, I rejoice with my clients for their blessings and prosperity with never an envy in my heart. I feel like a bank teller counting all the huge stacks of money that do not belong to her, or it is like a construction worker building beautiful condominiums which would be beyond his reach to own. Nevertheless there is that quiet contentment and peace of accepting and knowing one's place in this world. Once my client commented, "Choo, your pearl earrings are beautiful!" "Oh, they cost me only 90 cents, Aunty Irene", I declared as a matter of fact. "Oh! You don't have to tell the price", Aunty Irene laughed. My clients often tell me they find my joy infectious. I guess my spontaneity speaks louder than whatever branded clothes or cosmetics that I could ever wear. Aunty Irene knows I often purchase clothes from the night market (pasar malam) and I only use cleansers and moisturisers! No lipstick or powder because they disappear as fast as they are being applied, for nothing seems to stick onto my shiny face in this hot, humid weather.

Everyday is an adventure to me for I do not know who I will meet. My clients come from all walks of life - from a High Court judge to a prisoner at Changi Prison, serving 14 years in jail and an actress from Media Corp to a food vendor. It is interesting to meet people and to understand where they are coming from, and to accord them the same sincerity, integrity and respect. I once reminded my somewhat arrogant millionaire client that my 3-room HDB owner is as important as her.
As we are commission-based, I can prioritise my work and take off anytime I wish to. When my relatives come a-visiting in Singapore, they take top priority over my time. Sometimes I take time off for volunteer work overseas. How wonderful not to have to worry that your leave application will not be approved!

So many agents want to use objects like luxurious cars, branded clothes and accessories to extend their personalities, but at the end of the day, if they do not have sincerity, integrity and knowledge, these accessories and outward show would just be like masks and would not sustain them in the market. In fact, most of the top agents in our company do not even drive. They are driven by their innate desire to serve, to advise and to be successful, and best of all, to truly enjoy their work.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Departures - A Movie Not to Be Missed!

"Have you seen the movie, Departures?", my violin teacher, Mr. Yan asked me.

"Yes, and I laughed and cried so much!", I said. "Great movie!"

Both my tenants, Avinesh and Jasmin, were full of praise after watching the movie and Jasmin thought it was even better than Slum Dog Millionaire! "A movie that everyone must watch!", Jasmin declared.

Departures, a 2008 Japanese film by Yojiro Takita, had won rave reviews, and had clinched the Academy Award for best foreign language film at the 2009 Oscars and has already earned $53,582,846 in Japan alone as of 22nd March 2009.

Daigo Kobayashi, a cellist in an orchestra, soon lost his job after the orchestra dissolved. Saddled with a debt of 18 million yen for his cello, he decided to dispose it and to go back to his hometown, Sakata, Yamagata. His wife supported his idea, for at least they could stay in the house left behind by Daigo's mother. Daigo was attracted to an advertisement and applied for the job, thinking it was related to tourism. He only found out that NK Agency meant encoffinment. He was hired immediately on the spot by the boss who immediately took a liking to him. As he was cash strapped, he accepted the job but dared not tell his wife the truth. It was tough for him as his first assignment was handling a deceased old lady who had died two weeks without being discovered. Daigo threw out at the grisly sight and smell. However, as he handled more and more cases, he found meaning and fulfillment in his job which others despised.

When his wife saw the video in which Daigo acted as a deceased, she was incensed and gave him the ultimatum. Daigo refused to quit and his wife returned to her home. However, a few weeks later she returned with the announcement that she was carrying his child, and asked him to quit his job. At this juncture, Daigo received news that Tsuyako, who operated the public bath had died suddenly. In front of his wife and Tsuyako's son and family, Daigo performed the encoffinment ceremony with skill and dignity. His wife gradually realised the importance and meaning of her husband's job. It was indeed fulfilling when the deceased's families thanked her husband for a great job of encoffinment.

Daigo had carried a grudge against his father who left him and his mother many years ago, and when he received news about his father's death, he refused to have anything to do with him. Encouraged by his wife and colleagues, he decided to take a last look at his father. He found his father still clinging onto the smooth, white pebble which Daigo had given to him as a child. Only then did Daigo realise the truth - that his father had loved and remembered him till his death. The final part was the most could hear sniffing throughout the cinema, as Daigo performed the encoffinment ceremony for his father, with love and forgiveness in his heart.

I would highly recommend everyone to watch this movie. I remember once my pastor had mentioned that it is better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of merriment, for only at departures of the deceased, are we confronted with the harsh reality of life. We are reminded at the temporal state of things and that at the end of the day what matters more is love, fogiveness, acceptance, happiness and contentment in life.

Just as a winning speech in a toastmasters contest is one that makes the audience laugh, cry and ponder over the message, it is the same with a winning movie. Departures convey a very strong message and after laughing and crying, movie goers would never be able to forget this superb movie!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Law of Nature - Give and Be Blessed!

My plants for cure of diabetes constantly in bloom! The more you cut, the faster the plants grow!

The leaves of rose cactus have a brilliant shine!

Found the name of my plants which help in the cure of cancer.
Ladies and Gentlemen.....presenting Pereskia Bleo or in
simple English, Rose Cactus!

Eldest sis called me up from Kuching, Sarawak, and spoke to me in excitement. "Choo, you know how wonderfully easy it is to grow "koo chye" or chives. The more I cut to give away, the faster the plants grow. You can pluck them and fry them with eggs....very delicious! It's amazing.....I have been harvesting them and giving them away, and they bloom just as fast and as abundantly. Really it is the law of nature - the more one gives; the more one receives!

How true! I have been giving away many of my plants but they still thrive and bloom. In fact I even tell my friends, neighbours and even the Ministry of Environment officer, to just help themselves to my plants even if I were not around. Once I experimented with my plants for diabetes. I put them in two big pots. For one pot, I always cut and give away the plants, but for the other, I just looked after it and watered it everyday. I did not cut the stems or give any of the leaves away. The plants gradually withered and died a premature death! On the other hand, the pot of plants which I used to cut and give away, continued to bloom so beautifully. I had to transfer the plants in a huge styro foam box. (See picture above).

How amazing! The more we give the more we receive for when we give away, we create more room in our pockets and in our lives to receive even more abundantly. We will not end up like the Dead Sea where nothing can grow or thrive, but we will end up like the Sea of Galilea which continues to remain fresh and abundant with fishes, for it gives out its water continuously.
Gan Chau

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Thank God for Little "Banana" Fingers!

A bunch of my favourite bananas which cost only 50 cents

"Oh! No! These small bananas are even slightly longer than my fingers!"

"Mirror, mirror on the wall!"

Mama Mia! My little finger is even shorter than the shortest banana in the bunch!

I was overwhelmed when my eldest brother's friend, Phoon Yew Tien brought one of his violin collections and gave it to me as a present. As a new learner I felt I did not deserve such a good violin. Yew Tien's belief in me goaded me on to try to learn the new instrument. It is amazing how belief in a person has so much power and motivation.

When I tried to play with my little fingers I began to realise the disadvantage I was experiencing great difficulties due to the shortness. In fact, I often think my fingers resemble a bunch of small, little bananas. Hence, when I bought a bunch of bananas for 50 cents from the fruit vendor in Little India, I decided to measure my fingers against the fruit. I always have the inclination to buy cheap things. The same bunch of bananas would probably cost $1.20 in the supermarket.

To my surprise, my fingers are even shorter than the bananas! My teacher, Mr. Yan, had suggested that I could try playing with a three-quarter size violin since my fingers are short, but I want to do justice to the lovely gift to me. Moreover a three quarter size violin will not produce the same richness of sound as a full size violin.

I am constantly reminded of people born without limbs or stunted limbs - eg. Nick Vujicic and Lena Maria, just to name a few. Yet, they are never daunted by difficulties or obstacles in life. Hence, I am filled with a dogged determination to improve in my violin playing, and to play as well as those with long fingers. I love the violin, and when I hear a beautifully played piece, I will be moved to tears.

Thank God for little "banana" fingers anyway! Let me make the most of them.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Beloved Students

Carrie Chuah, Amudah, Alyssa

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I received a response to one of my articles. It is from Elissa Chan, one of my friends from Hongkah North Toastmasters Club. It reads as follows :-

"One of the greatest rewards in being a school teacher is, even after many, many years, the students still remember you.

My identical twin is a primary school teacher. Yet, many a time some teenagers would approach me and asked " Miss Tan, can you still remember me? I am so and so". Politely I have to smile and say, "oh, you must be referring to my twin sister".

Jane, my identical twin sister (we were borne 30 minutes apart) has been a school teacher all her life - from day one when she started working. This is her first job and likely to remain till her retirement. Although I also aspired to be a school teacher at that time (it was the most respected job in the 1960s), I could not get a teaching job as I did not have a credit in English. When I resat the following year and qualified (I got Div One ) the education system has changed. You see, sometimes things are not meant to be and I have to content to be a Jill of All Trades till I find my calling. I realised that I enjoy meeting people and it was a challenge especially you have sales targets to meet. Today,I believe my skin is probably 2 inches thick. I can strike up a conversation easily (thanks to toastmasters) with any strangers."

How true! Sometimes I would be having a meal in a cafe, and someone would come up to me and say, "Hi! Ms. Kam! Remember me? I'm one of your students!"

What a joy to see your "kids" growing up! And often, what a transformation! A transformation beyond my recognition! Many have become more good looking with an air of confidence and sophistication. It is generally easier for the students to recognise the teachers.

Recently, it was a happy get-to-gether with two of my ex-students from River Valley High School , Choon Mui aka Carrie and Yue Hua aka Alyssa, when we were invited by Carrie to celebrate hers and her boyfriend, Simon's birthday. Choon Mui is now doing her own business with Simon and she is also a property agent. She is still as bubbly and cheerful as ever, her trade mark.

Yue Hua is now practising law. She has her own legal firm. She has an aura of gentleness and coyness, but beneath all that, she is a lady of tenacity and courage! She studied law even as she was a full time nurse. I always take my hat off to those who are able to study and work and the same time. Ah! Ah! Pas moi! (Not me!) After completing her bar exams and internship and working in four reputable law firms, Yue Hua decided to set up her own firm. Yue Hua shared with me some of her tough cases, and gave glory to God for her success. Her motto is to stand firmly on the truth, and nothing but the truth. She will always do her best and leave God to do the rest.

Amudah is an avid learner. Though illiterate, she is able to speak excellent English and now I am encouraging her to learn to read. When she was working with me in my restaurant, I taught her to prepare many dishes eg. Caesar Salad, Tiramisu, Pasta and Pizza. Amu committed everything to memory, and sometimes tried to recognise some of the words in the menu. At present, although she is no longer working with me, I am teaching her to read as we meet quite often. She in turn teaches me spoken Tamil.

As a teacher, I have always realised that there is only that much that I could do, and always pray for my students' safety, success and happiness in life.
Gan Chau

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Business $ense, Common $ense, No Cent$ !!!

I was quite early when I arrived at the Kallang MRT station. Hence I decided to look around the station as the roadside stallowner who used to sell newspapers and confectionaries had closed down his business. In the past, I would usually rush to board the train after buying the Straits Times from him. Hence, I was surprised to find that there was a 7-11, Old Chang Kee and a bakery store at the station. I thought I might buy some pieces of bread for Elaine Tan, my toastmaster friend who is also a volunteer at the Changi Prison speechcraft. Elaine always picks me up at the Tanah Merah MRT on her way to Changi Prison. Every Saturday morning, I would enjoy three modes of transport - bus, mrt, car. How wonderful! I just love the efficient transport system in Singapore. In all, it takes me only about 20 to 25 minutes to take the bus and mrt to Tanah MRT station from Little India.

To my pleasant surprise, all the pieces of bread and cakes were going for a dollar each. It was a special promotion. However, I noticed that the quantity of pork floss on the bread had been somewhat reduced, and to make my gifts look good, I would prefer to have them packaged in a nice box. I asked the salesgirl how many pieces I would need to buy in order to have a box.

To my surprise, she was quite rude, and almost barked, "So cheap already! What box you want?" I understood that as the bread was on offer, it would be unreasonable for me to demand for a box if the bakery was not prepared to provide one. Hence, I was prepared to pay for the box, thinking that it would probably cost about 30 to 50 cents. To my surprise, the salesgirl said, "$2/ for a box!"

I heaved a sigh, and decided to put back the 6 pieces of bread I had already selected on my tray. As I was walking out I heard the salesgirl grumbling loudly. I wonder why the lady who spoke with an accent that is typical of someone from Beijing, had to be so uncouth and rude. Her aggressive and rude attitude were really uncalled for. I had heard of Mr. and Mrs. Goh Chok Tong praising the people in China for their wonderful service when they were in China for a visitl Yet, why are so many of them behaving so differently when they work in Singapore? Stress? Double standard?

I wonder why it would be necessary to reduce the price of the bread from $1.40 to $1.00? Why don't bakeries just reduce their prices somewhat, say maybe to $1.20 and hence attract more customers. There would be no necessity for promotion or price slashing for a period of time. After the sales, then what?

I was told by my friend about the terrible service of a particular beauty saloon in Chinatown. The saloon was unethical and greedy. Is it any wonder why customers would never want to renew packages with them. Every time I pass by Chinatown, I would see beauticians standing along the passageway to promote their services.

Compare the above with Bee Choo Herbal Hair Treatment. The centre charges very reasonable fees for their treatment. Best of all, with the good and honest services, happy customers automatically refer their friends and relatives to the centre. Bee Choo Herbal Hair Treatment never had to advertise and hence costs saved are passed on to to their customers.

I guess everyone is different. Even entrepreneurs.! Some have more business $ense than others; some have less common $ense which of course, would often be instrumental in making them end up with no cent$ !!!

Gan Chau

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Boredom in Singapore? Impossible!

The Braddell Heights Community Centre Ensemble, lead by Mr. Yan Yin Wing

Mr. Yu Shuhuai conducting a ballet class for adults at the Bukit
Timah Community Centre

Dancing their hearts away during the Lunar Chinese New Year Celebration at the Braddel Heights Community Centre

Toastmaster Saint presenting her project evaluation at the Bedok Toastmasters Club at Bedok Community Centre
Looking on is Michael Rodrigues, our pioneer for Changi Prison Speechcraft.

It is amazing how often I hear people complaining that it is really boring living in Singapore! I have lived in Singapore since 1983, and I have never felt a day of boredom!

How does anyone get bored with so many activities around us. ? Just take the activities at the many community centres in this little island. There are activities for people of all age groups to participate. I appreciate the government's foresight in building community clubs throughout the island, so that it is within walking and travelling distances for everyone. There are so many interesting and beneficial activities that we are spoilt for choice. Moreover, the membership, at $20/- for 3 years is very affordable, and the fees for the various courses reasonable, so that no one should complain or envy those who are able to afford private club memberships. Morever, the passion card, as the membership card is called, gives special discounts and privileges to some concerts and events. Flash the card, and members will also get special discounts at a number of selected food outlets and stores.

For those who like to upgrade and improve their skills and learning, there are language classes and toastmasters clubs to attend.
Music and dance lessons are also made affordable with qualified teachers at hand. I was thrilled when I saw adults dancing the evening away during the Lunar New Year celebration, and mind you, these mature folks can really dance.! For the sporty ones, there are the gymnasiums, basket ball and badminton courts!

It is also interesting to find many activities in the multi purpose halls. During the day, they are used as badminton courts and gatherings; in the evenings they are sometimes used for concerts and weddings. It truly promotes better relationship and understanding among the multi-ethnic groups in Singapore.

Some people have the notion that unless the country is big with huge land, the smallness of the size will make the country boring. Yet in Australia and Canada, for example, I have also heard people complaining that it is so boring during night time and winter, for all is quiet. During winter, people can downhill ski, skate, cross country ski, skidoo or ice skate. Yet some people would not venture out of their homes because it is too cold!
In conclusion, the government has made full use of this small and compact island. It is for all of us to avail ourselves of opportunities presented so that we can get the most out of what we have, and not what we don't have.

Gan Chau
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Friday, March 20, 2009

The "Intelligent Doors" of the MRT

The sign that shows you where the doors are being opened in the mrt
Once I read about special doors being installed in the mrt. Doors that show commuters which side of the train is being utilised for them to get out of the train. Hence, you can imagine my excitement when I came across the above sign in the train, and hence took a photo of it. Some of you may wonder why I seem to be excited over small things such as mrt doors!
You see, sometimes, I am quite absent minded. A few times, I had waited for the doors to open, only to realise that the one I was facing, was not going to say, "Open Sesame!" Hence, it was sometimes quite a feat to "wade" through the congested train to get out in time, because the doors were on the opposite side!
The above installation would definitely alert me to the right opening doors. I often like to read or dream. Sometimes I am so engrossed in my reading or dreaming that I miss my stops! Once I fell into a deep slumber and reached the end of the line at Pasir Ris, missing my destination at Paya Lebar!
However, since the day I took the photo of the above sign, I have not yet seen another one! What happened? Is the MRT authority waiting for the current trains to get older before new ones with the above sign are being replaced. I would not mind at all, as it would mean good stewardship.
At the end of the day, whether we have "intelligent doors or not", I should be intelligent enough not to end up reading, dreaming or sleeping in the train! I should in fact, be like the lady and man in the video clip, who are ever so alert to help make the MRT safe and sound. Remember? They are the ones who spot a terrorist behaving suspiciously and leaving his black bag under his seat.
May God bless every commuter in the mrt and buses with safe and blessed rides.
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Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Great Afternoon of Learning!

Flamboyant Wekie Tay with his entertaining and exuberant style of speaking!

Our "sifu", Kan Kin Fung and S.S. Cheng, each with his own style and personality

After enriching the mind, now it's time to strengthen the body!

Our panel of dynamic speakers!

This is the season of international speeches and table topics contests. Braddel Heights Advanced and Hong Kah North Toastmasters Clubs have paintstakingly arranged for a workshop that will shed even more enlightenment to participants on 15th March 2009.

As I do not have much experience in contests, it is imperative for me to attend so that I can learn from the masters of public speaking. We had the opportunity to watch the 2008 International Speech contestants from America via video clips. After that, the panel of speakers were invited to give their analysis and opinions on six of the contestants.

There was much laughter as the panel of speakers were mostly humorous and witty. Even austere looking DTM Richard Sng!
There was a slight hiccup when the rolling thunder also shocked the electrical wires into making the speakers on the screen "go dumb!" Despite the heavy downpour, participants were engrossed with the enlightening analysis of the panel of speakers.

Yati graciously cooked a generous spread of delicious food. During the break, there was much networking and participants continued the workshop, refreshed by the hot drinks and food.

Our International Director DTM Poh Kim Siong was truly inspiring when he shared with us for a few minutes about his desire and dream to see a champion speaker from our lovely island of Singapore clinching a trophy in America. DTM Gea Ban Peng and DTM Richard Sng also endorsed the same dream. Nothing is impossible under the sun!

Although we ended at about 6.30p.m., everyone felt it was time truly well spent. It was indeed magnanimous of the panel of speakers to sacrifice their Sunday afternoon to share their expertise and viewpoints. Thanks a million to everyone of the speakers and organisers for making this event a successful and memorable session of learning.

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If Life Were Like a Travelator......

I love travelators! I first experienced the use of travelators in airports in Singapore and many parts of the world. However, I get to use travelators only when I travel.

Hence, you can imagine my joy when I found the travelator at Dhoby Ghaut MRT.! It means I can use if quite often. I guess, the One up there must have known my heart's desire, for I ended up living 130 metres away from the Little India MRT which is also known as the purple line (my favourite colour!) The purple line also known as the North East Line, has Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station as an interchange which means I have to use the travelator to connect to the red or green lines.

It is so wonderful to be on a travelator. You will hardly find me standing still, for I love to walk for it gives me such a good feeling. My walking speed is being accelerated by the travelator. It just gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling, as if someone is giving me the added push!

How wonderful if life were like a travelator. I can stand still when I am really exhausted or when I have to carry many things. The travelator will move and carry me to my destination. At times like these, I would just relax and read and observe the many lovely advertisements on the walls. At times, I would observe the interesting expression on the faces of commuters on the next travelator.

When I walk on the travelator, it is almost effortless as if the One up there is giving me that little, gentle push. In life, I realise that I will and can do so much, but when I get that little extra push and help from God, I do not have to strive so hard to the point of being burnt out!

If life were like a travelator.....

Gan Chau

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Beloved Choon

My friendship with Choon extends for 42 years!

Choon, one of the most hospitable Singaporean ladies!

Choon's guests enjoying the lovely buffet spread of Nonya dishes

The proud grandmother with her son, Andrew, and grandson, Forrester
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Choon Lian (or Choon as she is affectionately called) has always been camera shy and it is not easy for me to take photos of her. However, when she invited me to her grandson's one month birthday gathering, I took the opportunity to snap some shots of her.
Choon is the daughter of my mother's friend. I met her some 42 years ago, when my parents and I visited my eldest brother in Singapore. That was the first time I learnt of a place called Bukit Ho Swee or what is called Or Kio Tau in Hokkien. We stayed with Choon and her relatives. Since then we have remained in constant contact.
Choon used to work as an administrative officer. As far as I remember, she never had a maid, and I always marvelled at the way she juggled between her administrative work and housework. Her apartment is always spotlessly clean, and weekends will find her scrubbing and cleaning every part of the apartment. ! Despite being busy, she still managed to find time for her family and friends.
Right now, she helps a relative part time in her clothings store. Sometimes when the sales are poor, Choon herself would buy some clothes from the store so as to help generate some business for her relative.! A soft hearted and generous person, it is difficult for Choon to be a business lady as she gives more than she makes! Probably this is why she is such a blessed lady with a lovely family. Her children dote on her.
Choon is one of my best friends in Singapore and someone I treasure very much. It is people like Choon that adds colour and meaning to mere existence.

I Love Penguins

I love penguins! They look like gentlemen in waistcoats!

Don't the penguins look cute and adorable?

A tough survivor !
My favourite programmes on television - Animal Planet, National Geographic and Discovery Channel. As I watch the television, I would also be doing some aerobic exercises at the same time.
One of my favourite creatures has to be the penguins. They look like gentlemen in waistcoats. In fact their black feather juxtaposed against their white, make them look like concert pianists getting ready to sit on the piano stool to perform on the piano!
I remember seeing some cute fairy penguins on Philip Island, near Melbourne. We had to wait for quite a while before the little creatures came out of the ocean. The timing had to be right....the day must not be too bright for easy visibility and it must be just the right timing for the penguins to come out of the sea and walk back to their abodes. There were many little "holes" all over the slightly hilly landscape and I was filled with awe as to how the penguins could remember their own little homes. It was amazing how the penguins would walk in an almost straight line, one behind each other. The moment the leader felt a fluttering in the air, all would quickly dash back into the ocean to seek coverage and protection!

When I learnt that penguins burn twice as much weight when they walk, I was so ooooooo envious! If this were true for homo sapiens, why, you would definitely see a slimmer Choo lah!
Nevertheless, thank God for His wonderful creation! Penguins always make me smile! It is alright that I have to walk twice their speed and distance to lose the same amount of weight!
Gan Chau

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Monday, March 16, 2009

When the Sun Sets .....

"Is that a ball? Oh No! It's the Sun!

Goodbye! I'm going to sleep soon!

The Asians believe that when the sunset is fiery red, the fishermen will have plenty of catch!

God's masterpeice! What an absolutely beautiful world we live in!

I love it when the sun sets! Every sunset is so unique, intriguing and awesome! They are like God's masterpieces, each lovingly painted by the Master Creator!

I remember when my Canadian friends, Norman and Nicky Suvan took me to stay with their family in Maui, one of the beautiful islands of Hawaii, it was my great joy to watch the sun setting every evening! The Suvan's lovely holiday home was just by the beach, and every evening, I would take their son, Normi, for a walk along the beach. Every sunset was slightly different, and I could almost imagine the Creator signing off His Name at the bottom of the awesome scenery! I have taken some lovely photos from Derek's Gallery to share with my readers.
I usually wake up around 4.30 to 5.00a.m and by evening time, I would start to slow down, especially if I were at home. However, if I had some evening activities like Toastmasters meetings, house viewing, etc. I would try to catch some 40 winks in the day so that I could sustain my energy till 11.00pm.
Each evening before I sleep, I like to reflect over the day's activities. Sometimes I wish I have not said or done some of the things which I have done, and sometimes I regret for I could have done a better job in my speeches or cooking.
Whenever I hear people saying that they are lonely or are afraid of loneliness, I feel like a freak, for I have never felt lonely! How can I feel lonely with so much beauty surrounding me? How can I feel depressed when I am constantly reminded of God's handwork in His sunrise, sunset, birds of the air and flowers in the fields? How can I feel lonely when I am confronted everyday with God's unique homo sapiens, each as individual as the finger prints he carries? How can I feel lonely when there are so many wonderful activities to enjoy - reading, writing, cooking, playing the piano, violin and drums, listening to great composers, gardening, blogging, travelling, watching television programs and movies, walking the dogs, etc. etc.
Most importantly, when the sun sets, so must my anger and unforgiveness so that I can look forward to the sunrise the following morning. Each day is a brand new day, and it is up to me to paint the day with bright technicolours or with dull, gloomy grey and black. If God takes the trouble to paint His lovely sunset everyday, won't He add colours to my life when I constantly walk closely with Him?
Gan Chau

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spontaneity at its best

The gentleman in blue and the lady danced spontaneously with the street busker(holding the ball)
Shall we dance?
As I was walking along Orchard Road with my students from Himeji Dokkyo University, we saw a Japanese juggler doing some tricks. Just then a group of 4 Indians came along, and one of them was holding a CD player. Catchy tunes could be heard and suddenly, they asked the juggler to dance with them. What great spontaneity.! The lady danced quite well and seemed to be enjoying herself tremendously. Onlookers smiled at their spontaneity.
"Encore! Dance again", we shouted earnestly.
"No! No! Enough. If we dance more, you will have to pay money", the lady responded, tongue in cheek. The group walked briskly and disappeared as fast as they had appeared!
As I have said in my earlier articles, I always enjoy it when people are uninhibited and spontaneous. They are like chili powder which adds even more spice and flavour to my life.
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Healthy Dessert

(Clockwise) Barley, Ginkgo Nuts, Raw Sugar, Lotus Seeds, Barley (Big grains), Beancurd Sheets and Pandan Leaves.

A bowl of healthy dessert. Could be substituted for a meal at breakfast or lunch

It is interesting how our tastes change as we grow older. Now I am becoming more like a vegetarian as I could go for days and months without taking meat and seafood without missing them.

Now, I prefer nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables. My favourite dessert is the Beancurd Barley with Ginkgo and Lotus Seeds. It is healthy and easy to cook. As the ginkgo takes time to peel, I often do it while watching television programs. This saves time.


1. Pre-soak the lotus seeds for at least 2 to three hours. This will help speed up the cooking.

2) Peel the skin of the ginkgo nuts and remove both the hearts of the lotus seeds after they have softened as well as the hearts of the ginkgo.

3) Wash the two types of pearl barley and put into a pot of water.

4) Add the pandan leaves, tied up in a knot.

5) Add in ginkgo nuts and lotus seeds.

6) Add in the beancurd sheets, crushing them into smaller pieces. Buy the type what will not completely melt when cooked for a long time.

7) Boil and when the water is boiled, add the beancurd sheets and lower the heat to simmer for about 2 hours.

8) Add sugar to taste before serving. Any types of sweetening can be added, including honey. However, I like brown raw sugar the most, as it is quite fragrant.

Ginkgo nuts are good for helping the memory. Lotus nuts and beancurd sheets promote good complexion. Barley is an excellent agent for reducing body heat.

Try the dessert. It is healthy and delicious!

Gan Chau

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