Thursday, April 30, 2009

Green, Green, My Love is Green


Different variety of trees growing abundantly.

The greenery that greets drivers as they drive along the road and highway.

Trees are like pretty laces, adorning an otherwise borong landscape.

Given the chance, some trees can grow so tall! The height of the tree reminds me of Jack and the Beanstalk.
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I remember when I was a pupil in Primary School, papa used to ask me to look at the leaves of the trees or the fields for it would help to improve my eyesight. I was a voracious reader, and would continue reading for long hours. I started wearing glasses in Primary Six! Perhaps this is the reason why I love growing plants and herbs, and also why the Botanical Gardens and Hort Park are my favourtie haunts.

Perhaps this is also the reason why I enjoy living in Singapore where greenery abounds. The city is so well planned that we still have huge pockets of unused lands. I particularly like the trees that can be seen growing in abundance along Clementi Road and Commonwealth Road.

Kudos to the Ministry of Parks and Recreation! The trees have been beautifully planted along the roads and highway. I love the shade from the sunshine provided by the thick canopies of these trees. Without them, the heat in Singapore would be unbearable!

Let there be trees! Green, green, my love is green.

Gan Chau

SIM Students Toastmasters Club


SIM - A lovely institution situation amidst plenty of greenery along Clementi Road

Creative Kean Chan with his interesting table topics. Mike has to demonstrate his selling skills!

The members listening attentively to President Kenneth Lee

The President presenting the ribbons for the best evaluator and table topics to DTM John Sih

It was my second time at the SIM campus at Clementi. A week ago, I had attended the Div. B International Speech and Table Topics Contests. Hence I had a better idea of making my way around the campus. It had been an extremely busy day, and after work, I rushed off for my violin lessons at Braddell Heights Community Centre. I did not have time for lunch and wanted to take some dinner but it would be too rushed as the meeting commenced at 7.00p.m. instead of the usual time of 7.30p.m. in most clubs. Hence, I was happy to see some food served outside the classroom when I arrived at the meeting!

The students were very enthusiastic and made an effort to prepare their speeches. Even Clare who presented her maiden speech had prepared power point in her ice breaker speech. She was so enthusiastic that she went overtime by 5 minutes! Mike, a Vietnamese student was quite impressive with his stage presence and reasonably good English! Perlin, with her attractive looks, would probably impress the judges with her speech should she take part in beauty contests in future. She was composed and confident. Jesmund, who did Project 8, won the best speaker prize. His evaluator, DTM John Sih, complimented him for his impeccable grooming. He was dressed smartly in black pants and black shirt with some discreet stripes and a matching tie. Jesmund was his own best "visual aid"!

Kean Chan came up with interesting ideas for his table topics. Speakers had to chose two pieces of papers attached to the board. They had to sell the items to the name on the paper. Hence, Mike had to sell tissue papers to Mas Selamat, while John Sih had to sell video tape of the Titanic to Elvis Presley! Vickna, the guest evaluator, had to sell a baby's milk bottle to Beethoven! We had a hilarious time of laughter! Wow! As an agent, selling properties to motivated buyers is already a challenging job. Selling Kean's items to the various personalities was indeed mind boggling! However, most of the speakers did a good job.

I helped out with the Language Evaluation, and as time was running out, I asked the timer to show me the red card when my 8 minutes were up. Charming Dr. Stella was the General Evaluator. She congratulated the Club for becoming a vibrant club which was so different from the time when she attended their meeting some time ago.

It was heartening to hear President Kenneth's closing speech where he shared how challenging it had been to bring the SIM Students Toastmasters Club to its current level of participation. The club has more than 40 members and have two meetings twice a week. A good executive committee is very important for the success of the club and I could see the passion and enthusiasm of the exco members.

Kenneth was also a participant at the Div. B contest and I remember he spoke very well, sharing about the toastmasters club and how we should tell more people about the wonderful activities. It was meaningful to me for I had often wished that I had known about the toastmasters club at a younger age, instead of only joining the club 32 months ago! I guess it is better late than never. However, now I have to slow down as my health is not in satisfactory condition. I am glad I had visited many clubs and was very active with language evaluation the past 30 months. After my final language evaluation at Raffles Town Toastmasters Club, I would have to take a long break. I would just focus on the speechcraft at Changi Prison and helping out as mentor in one of the newly established clubs, so that I could complete the final hurdle of DTM. (Distinguished Toastmaster).

Later I learnt from chatting with the President that SIM is a private university and hence the fees are quite high.....Kenneth would have spent about S$50,000/- for his course fees by the time he graduated. No wonder the SIM students are so much more motivated. It is interesting how we tend to take for granted when we receive easily; we become more motivated and thoughtful when we have to pay for what we want in life. I am confident that the toastmasters in the club will always continue to grow and bloom successfully, and I wish them all the very best.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hooray! Lunch Breaks!


My best friend, Soh Wah, smiling radiantly, all ready for a good lunch!

As I was waiting for my friend, Soh Wah on the ground floor of her office, I observed the office workers as many of them came down the lifts. Everyone seemed happy and relaxed. I recalled the time when I was working as a legal secretary in the business district of Penang. Lunch time was the happiest for the staff for it meant an hour's break from the cold airconditioning. It also meant a chance to have some outdoor sunshine and a time to stretch the legs.

I had gone to the May Bank to check for some information on loan application for my clients. As Soh Wah's office is nearby, I thought I'd bring along Siow Lee Chin's CD to pass to Soh Wah. Soh Wah had missed Lee Chin's concert the evening before, and I thought she and her family might like to listen to her CD. It is amazing how Soh Wah can juggle her time so well. Despite being very busy with her career and family, she still finds time to meet up with friends, colleagues and relatives for lunch and sometimes, dinner.

Now that I am a property agent, lunch breaks that office staff take do not affect me any more except when I have lunch with my friends or clients. Otherwise, I often eat simply at home - simple fares like home-made salad, soup or noodles. I enjoy the freedom and flexibility of time. The greatest challenge is for me to manage my time well.

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Wow! What a Spunky Lady !

Wow! What a spunky lady! Though she may not be a potential champion in the contest, she is already a winner by being so courageous to rap and dance on stage.
I love the lady's humour. When Amanda complimented her on her excellent memory, and shared that she would never remember the words at her age, the rapper cooly responded, "I remember them , sweeheart, because I wrote them!" The audience roared with laughter.

Out of the three judges I like Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan. Amanda strikes me as a sincere lady who feels deeply. Piers Morgan is charming and I like his interesting facial expression. Sometimes he looks like a cute, innocent looking puppy with that expression of surprise and enjoyment on his face. Simon looks gorgeous when he smiles, but he frowns more than he smiles! Simon Cowell has forgotten the lessons he has learnt while judging Susan Boyle.! He still had that same look he had when Susan first appeared on stage! While Amannda and Piers were enjoying the performance by the elderly rapper, Simon was somewhat impatient, and pressed the bell ...only 30 seconds more when the performance would be completed. Simon was also somewhat impatient with Hollie's ballet performance and raised his hands and was stunned when Hollie sang just 5 seconds after he showed his impatience. I admire the courage of all the performers in the face of discouragement, especially the elderly rapper who continued her performance despite Simon's pressing his red cross.

Amanda and Piers had enjoyed themselves and so had the audience. I have also enjoyed myself and as a 55 year old going to 70, I would say I have been greatly inspired! The elderly rapper is slim, youthful despite her age, and she even composed her own rap and she danced well. Kudos! As toastmasters, we love her wit and humour as well! I will try and compose a rap in the near future! Lady! You are my inspiration!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hee Ah - the Wonderful Four Finger Pianist

A South Korean woman born with only four fingers is defying the odds by becoming a professional pianist playing concerts worldwide.

A South Korean concert pianist is wowing audiences across the midwest.

The first thing you notice at Hee Ah Lee's concerts is the music. Strikingly beautiful music.

It's then you glance down to see that the pianist has only four fingers, two on each hand.

Hee Ah was born with a condition called phocomelia, which also left her with no legs below her knees. She stands just three feet tall, and must exert considerable effort even when climbing up on a piano bench.

"From when I was very young I never thought I was different from other people," she said before a performance at the Rotary Club of Edina, in Minnesota. "To this date, I thank God for endowing me with such a beautiful talent."

Hee Ah began playing piano at age six, for physical therapy, to give her strength to hold onto a pencil or spoon.

It's fair to say the instrument agreed with her. She now performs for a living at concerts around the world.

This tour is Hee Ah's first visit to Minnesota.

"I want disabled people to feel that they can do as well," she says. "They shouldn't lament what they don't have, but celebrate what they have already."

The above was sent by my toastmaster friend, Prof. Saw. I cried when I heard Hee Ah. I have been complaining about my banana fingers which are somewhat too short for me to play the violin with ease. But here is a young lady with only two fingers on each hands. Hee Ah has truly given me inspiration to press on with my violin practice.

Praise God for endowing Hee Ah with such great talent. Hee Ah's joy, optimism and thankfulness will truly inspire everyone.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Star Awards 2009

I was quite excited about the Star Awards 2009 and purposely stayed at home to watch the program which just ended an hour ago. This was my first experience of watching the Star Awards! Wow! A three hour program from 7.00 p.m. to 10.00p.m. President Nathan and Mrs. Nathan were the Guests-of-Honour, and I salute them for sitting through the whole awards presentation. Mandarin was mainly spoken with a few stars saying some words of thanks in English. How I wish the organisers had put a gentleman to sit next to the President and a lady next to Mrs. Nathan, so that both of them could translate a summary of what was going on whenever the audience clapped. This would enhance their understanding and enjoyment of the Star Awards.

My tenant from India, Jasmine, had watched The Little Nonya, Nanny Daddy, and a few other serials. Hence, I helped to translate into English as we watched the Star Awards 2009 at home. Jasmine was disappointed that his favourite actor, Adrian Pang, the main actor in Nanny Daddy did not win the award for Best Actor. The award went to Chen Han Wei. However, he was glad he had seen Adrian Pang when Adrian was one of the two comperes at the President's Command Performance. I had predicted that Joanne Peh would have a great chance of winning the best actress award as her role of Yuzhu was superbly portrayed! I was also glad that Ng Hui was voted as best supporting actress for her role as the maid, Ah Tao in The Little Nonya. Ng Hui is very natural and expressive. I am also glad that my favourite actor, Qiu Yiwu was also voted as one of the ten popular artistes. He acted excellently in The Little Nonya and the movie 881 and Lotus 12.

Indeed Media Corp has improved greatly in their production of television serials. The actors and actresses have improved tremendously. Kudos! Keep on shining! May Singapore continue to glitter with growing and illuminating stars! May God continue to bless our President and Mrs. Nathan with great health so that they will continue to grace all important functions and ceremonies. May all our talented and versatile artistes continue to bloom and grow in their pursuit of excellence in their chosen fields.

Gan Chau

Kam Ning plays her own rendition of Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace is one of my favourite hymns. For those of you who are not familiar with the hymn, below are the lyrics. When we realise how amazing God's grace is, it puts us in the right perspective of humility and non judgemental atttitude. We are not worthy even to pick up the crumbs from under His table, yet God is so gracious and loving towards us. Hence we want to emulate Him and do likewise. God always reminds us, "My grace is sufficient for you."

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
Oh how precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;’
Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess,
within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, Who called me here below,
Will be forever mine

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise.
Than when we’d first begun.
h the wordings, I have them below for you.

To Be Thin Or Not To Be....

I was so happy when I came across this article in the news. It is about time that someone speaks up about maintaining standards in beauty contests, especially when it pertains to excessive thinness. My previous article on the lady who was a pack of skin and bones was heavily googled and read by readers throughout the world. If organisers of beauty contests allow these anorexic participants to parade on stage, then the implication is thin is beautiful. Far from being beautiful, to be thin is to be courting sicknesses and diseases, and possibly premature death. If we do not want our children and grandchildren to emulate wrong ideas and unhealthy concepts, we must make our voice heard and make our stand. Read on.....

"CANBERRA - Australia's Miss Universe contest was thrown into controversy on Thursday with doctors and dieticians complaining a leading finalist was "skin and bones" and dangerously malnourished.


Sydney model Stephanie Naumoska, 19, was one of 32 contestants from more than 7,000 hopefuls to make the glittering final at an event promoting "healthy, proportioned, bodies."

"Bony or beautiful?" newspaper headlines said over photographs of a gaunt Naumoska posing in a red string bikini.

Health professionals said Naumoska, who is 1.8 m , had a body mass index of just 15.1, well under the official 18 benchmark for malnutrition.

"She would be categorized as underweight and I would certainly want to be doing an assessment of her diet to make sure she doesn't have some type of eating disorder," dietician Melanie McGrice told local newspapers.

"She needs blood tests, diet analysis and an overall assessment."

Pageant director Deborah Miller said brunette Naumoska, who was defeated in the final by 20-year-old television presenter and model Rachael Finch, had Macedonian heritage, which accounted for her extreme thinness.

"They have long, lithe bodies and small bones. It is their body type, just like Asian girls tend to be small," Miller said.

But Australian Medical Association president Rosanna Capolingua, whose organization represents Australian doctors, said the contest should impose a minimum BMI cut-off of 20.

"The most unhealthy part about it, though, is the image it is showing other young women who may view this as normal, when clearly it s not," Capolingua said.

While Naumoska refused to speak to media, nutritionist Susie Burrell told the Herald Sun newspaper there was no such thing as a Macedonian body type.

Eventual winner Finch will compete in the Miss Universe world finals in the Bahamas in August."

Friday, April 24, 2009

I love Singapore!

After my graduation, I thought I would live and work in Canada. Little did I ever dream I would end up in Singapore. Man proposes; God disposes! However, I must say that I have enjoyed living here for the past 26 years!

When I first came to Singapore, I found Singaporeans to be cold even though the country is so warm! In sharp contrast, the people in Canada I met were so warm even though their country is so cold! Hang on a second! Why must I keep comparing Singaporeans to Canadians.? Should I not accept them for what they are? I was certainly not comfortable living in this little island the first few months when I kept comparing Singapore with Canada. It was then that I decided to change my attitude.

Hence, instead of waiting to be smiled at, I smiled first. So far I had never been snubbed at. Even the most shy of homo sapiens would immediately smile back! Instead of waiting to be talked to, I spoke first. Instead of waiting to be helped, I extended my hands first. Instead of waiting to be invited, I invited my church friends first to the YWCA Hostel for meals. (I was then living in this hostel and continued to live for three years.) Instead of waiting to be invited to their homes, I invited my friends to my home in Penang when I went back to my hometown for vacation.

I find that beneath their reticence and aloofness, Singaporeans are actually people with big hearts. When the little girl from China went missing, many Singaporeans spent days helping the police to look for her. At Huang Na's funeral, Singaporeans donated generously. When the little Malay girl, Noni went missing, people took time off from their busy schedules to look for her. When Singaporeans heard of sick and needy patients in hospital, they donated generously. When Singaporeans heard of earthquakes and tsunamis, they queued up at the Red Cross to donate clothes and money. I am so proud of our people!

In the MRT, if I were very tired and not feeling well, all I had to do was to open my mouth and ask a seated passenger, and he would willingly give me his seat. I had done that a few times and I had also given up my seat when the situation called for it. At the lift, kind neighbours would volunteer to help me carry my shopping to the door of my apartment.

I love my neighbours! My Indian neighbour, Shanti, introduced me to Emtech, a machine with tremendous health therapy. Shanti had used the machine and it helped her to regain her health. My immediate neighbour, Irin, would sms me if she did not see me around the block for a few days. I sometimes helped her to walk her dog, Bobby, and Irin gives me some space for my plants since she does not do gardening. A few of the neighbours, knowing that I am an agent, have entrusted me to help rent or sell their apartments. Wendy, who lives on the 10th floor, often gives me herbal plants and would ask me to go for morning stroll along the East Coast with her pet dog, Shufi. Helen, who operates a food stall would often give me some of her specialties!

Though we are not super clean, the surroundings are clean enough for me. Yes, we complain about the rules and regulations, and yet without these rules, I guess we would have even more traffic jams and dirty roads and public places. Yes, we complain about the laws, yet without the harsh punishment meted out to offenders, we might have an even higher crime rate!

For those of us who cannot afford country club memberships, there are many Community Clubs we can join. At S$20 for a three year membership, we have access to so many Community Clubs where we can make use of the gym, play badminton, dance, and learn new courses. For those of us who love outdoor activities, there are the parks and hills as well as the sea for sailing, surfing and canoeing! Now we have an increase in art exhibitions, concerts, plays and musicals. How can anyone be bored?

Daisuke Nakanishi, the roving rider, brands Singaporeans as the most unfriendly people he has met. It is unfortunate that I did not have the opportunity to meet Nakanishi or I would have invited him to stay with me and my tenants for a few days. He would not only enjoy some Penang and Indian delicacies, he would also have enjoyed talking to my friendly and learned Indian tenants. I would also have the opportunity to discuss the famous movies, eg. "Oshin" and "Departures" with him, and to understand more of Japanese culture. Perhaps I have been greatly influenced by my hospitable parents who often invite those who travel on a shoe-string budget to our homes for meals or for a few days of stay. If Nakanishi wants to stay longer in Singapore, I could also have introduced him to my client, Peter, a bachelor who has travelled widely and who enjoys sharing his apartment with a needy missionary, social worker or world traveller.

I have lived here for 9,290 days , and am enjoying myself more with each passing day. There are so many new developments in our little country. I can come home at midnight, without having to keep turning around to see if I were being followed. I can travel cheaply and quickly in buses, trains and taxis.

I have also found that the various government departments are quite fair and reasonable. I have written to government departments on a few occasions, and if my requests are fair, and my appeals are logical, I often get what I have asked for.

In my earlier blog article, I have analogised Singapore to a Jenny Wu Durian. This species of rare and special durian is produced by Uncle Lim in Penang. As the name suggests, there are only five compartments, and in each compartment there is only one fruit. The durian is the most expensive, yet people came from far and wide to buy it. The thorns on the durian make the fruit somewhat unattractive just like some people may not find Singapore attractive at first. However, if people were to take the trouble to open up the fruit, they would find the lovely and tasty fruit in the five compartments. Sure, I have also met some rude and unreasonable people, but why should I let their rudeness and bad attitude rob me of my joy and sanity?

I am fully aware that Singaporeans are reputed to be kiasu (afraid of losing), kiasi (afraid of dying), kiatiah (afraid of pain), kialaukui (afraid of being embarrassed or losing face), kiaboh (afraid of wife - henpecked) and kiachenghu (afraid of government). Please show me a perfect person, race or country.

I have travelled to 38 countries and some 187 cities. Hence, by virtue of my age, and my experiences, I have some credibility when I say, Singapore is still the best country for me to live in.

Before we complain and murmur, let us remember that it always takes two hands to clap and it also takes two to tango. Wherever I go, I try to fit in with the people, customs and lifestyle. I ask not what Singapore and the world can do for me; I ask what I can do for Singapore and the world. Then, I will be happy wherever I go and wherever I am.

My Favourite Piece - Tango Jalousie

Tango Jalousie - Kam Ning playing the violin with the Danish Chambre Players.

I enjoy this all time favourite by Jacob Gade. Ning plays the piece with panache! I am sure my readers will enjoy the performance as much as I do.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Sound of Music!

More than 200 dancers were performing their version of "Do Re Mi", in the Central Station of Antwerp. with just 2 rehearsals they created this amazing stunt! Those 4 fantastic minutes started the 23 of march 2009, 08:00 AM. It is a promotion stunt for a Belgian television program, where they are looking for someone to play the leading role, in the musical of "The Sound of Music".

My nephew-in-law, James Tjiunardi, sent me the above u-tube in the email. Wow! The Sound of Music is my favourite. As a teacher in River Valley High and Anglo Chinese School (Independent) I had shown my students the movie after their final examinations. It was very tempting for me to just concentrate on my marking instead of taking time to show the movie. But I enjoyed the movie so much and wanted the whole world to watch it. I had watched the Sound of Music about 77 times!

How spontaneous! How I wish the group had performed this lovely dance when I was in Antwerp a couple of years ago.

I wish the directors and all the people concerned all the best in their production of this all time favourite!

If any of my readers have not yet watched the Sound of Music, please do watch it! An excellent musical production of a true story of the Von Trapp Family Singers.

Gan Chau

Let's Revive Pitman's Typing Skill

The New Paper has posted a question as to whether youngsters should learn some typing in school.

As more and more school children now have access to the computer, it is definitely a bonus if they could have the chance to learn Pitman's typing skills. After all, the computer keys have the same keys (perhaps) more than the original manual typewriter. If the school children can improve their typing speed, it translates into saving a lot of time over the years.

I learnt Pitman's Shorthand and Typewriting when I was doing a Secretarial Course, I passed with 84 wpm on a manual typewriter, and through the three years of working as a legal secretary my typing speed improved. Now that it is the computer, my speed is even faster - about 130 to 150 wpm.

It only suddenly dawned on me how fast I was typing one day when a group of students surrounded me when I was typing at an internet cafe at Hotel Meridien. "Aiyo, Aunty, so type so fast", one of them remarked. I told the kids that they should take up Pitman's Typing course.

"What's that? one of them asked.

Before I could reply, one of them said, "I know. My mother told me about it. She also learnt to type with Pitman's method."

"There, you have the answer!" I smiled.

It only takes about three to six months to learn Pitman's typing skill. Of course, one's skill will improve more with practice. On hindsight, I am grateful for working in a legal firm where the
work was so demanding. Very often, we had a group of clients waiting for their agreement to be ready, and it was painstaking if we made an error. For it would imply having to erase some four to five times because of the carbon copies. Thank God for computers today!

Let's Have Time to Stand and Stare......

A Violinist in the Metro

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousand of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed the musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced
them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize
the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

The above email was sent to me by my friend, Elissa Chan. Wow! How I wish Joshua Bell had done some street busking in Singapore! I often have the habit of listening to some musicians playing on the five foot way or by some of their favourite spots in town. Some of them are blind eg. Raymond, the gentleman who sings very well. Give him any number and he will be able to sing you the song! Quite a versatile singer, because he can also sing in a few languages.! One of them, Kelvin Tan Wei Lian, a young Chinese man who is also blind, is now a star in his own right, after having won in a singing competition. Then you also have a Mr. Chong who plays the keyboard. It is amazing to watch him play and to wonder how he can strike the keys so accurately!

Then there is also the erhu player, Mr. Liew. He taught himself the instrument. When he first started, I told him in private that he was playing a little out of tune. Now he has improved tremendously, and is drawing a little crowd when he plays in Chinatown. Maybe in Chinatown, there are quite a number of retirees. I notice that when he plays at Orchard Road, very few people bother to stop by to listen, except to throw some money into his collection box. Maybe the crowd in Orchard prefers Western music.

This is why whenever I have an appointment at Orchard Road or Chinatown, I will always try to be early so that should anything of interest catch my attention, I would be able to stop by to listen and to discover. Sometimes during festivals, there are many ourdoor stage performances, and I enjoy watching them for they are often quite good, and best of all, FOC - free of charge! Now my readers can understand why my eldest sister calls me a "kaypo" or busybody! I will always tell my sister that as a writer I have to be a "kaypo" or how else do I get my material for writing?

Gan Chau

The Picture that Makes Me Smile

"Hi! Can you do this trick like me?

I came across this cute photo of a dog with three tennis balls in his mouth! His owner had trained him to pick up the tennis balls one by one and to spread them in a row in his mouth. The cutest part of this picture is that the dog has drooping eyes that make him look somewhat "gong gong" less than bright! He is indeed a lovable "Tua Leng Gong."

The dog's facial expression reminds me of my beloved Chow Chow, Xiaobai. Xiaobai too has drooping eyes that make him look gong gong, yet lovable.

Animals, and especially dogs, make my world go round!

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Ugly Duckling and the Beautiful Swan

Wow! It's so warm and cosy under Mama's wing

Proud Mama! 12 cute little ducklings in a row!

The above pictures of mother duck and ducklings brought back memories of four people who are etched in my memory.

Ever since I was in Primary Five , I was already on the plump side. I was quite chubby and sometimes people wanted to pinch me on my cheeks.

Hence, when I returned home with a trophy for coming in first for the 50 metres sprint at my
school Sports Day, papa was dumbfounded! "Did my little duckling win this trophy?" papa asked.

Once Mama was angry with me and called me her "ugly duckling". Immediately Papa came to my aid and proudly asserted. "Ugly duckling" or not, she is still my lovely daughter and I love this ugly duckling."

Wow! Those words often rang in my ears during my time of discouragement! They were words that made me feel the love of papa. They were words that gave me comfort and confidence and made me stand tall, albeit my short height and less than pretty looks. They were words that made me feel safe, secure and strong.

Later I participated in the 100 metres x 4 and our team came in first.! Our Physical Education teacher had wanted me to train in the school team, but I did not really enjoy sports as much as I was extremely keen on my studies and enjoyed reading story books. I was a voracious reader and never had enough of reading. Hence a scholar I became, but never a sports woman!

I was once travelling in Great Britain and stayed with a good friend, Karen and her husband, David. Karen is a childhood friend from Penang and she married, David, an Irish gentleman. David is a wonderful husband but he has a very quick temper. It was interesting that during my two weeks' stay with the family, he began to show signs of mellowing towards the end of my stay. I had shared with him how papa had mentioned that a great man is one who can control his lust and temper. A wonderful husband and father, his only weakness was his quick temper.

Once David drove his family and I around the beautiful countryside of England. Suddenly I spotted a mother duck with her brood of eight ducklings swimming on the river. What intrigued me was the only black duckling amongst the other seven white ducklings. It reminded me of the story of the ugly duckling. Hence, I shared with the family how mama often called me the ugly duckling.

Suddenly, David said, "Don't worry Choo. Don't forget the ugly duckling later turned into a beautiful swan!

"But the problem is that this ugly duckling still remains plain and has never grown into a beautiful swan", I retorted.

"But to me, she is a beautiful swan, and if I were a bachelor, I would want to marry this beautiful swan!" said David.

Karen nodded her head and said, "Choo, to the world you and I may be ugly ducklings, but to the people who love us, we are both beautiful swans!" What a unique way of looking at things. How true that when we love someone, we minimise his faults, and maximise his traits. Beauty indeed lies in the eyes of the beholder!

Wouldn't it be lovely if you and I try to minimise the faults and maximise the traits of people around us, so that the ugly duckling may be made to feel like a beautiful swan?

A Great Man is Someone With ......

The pain of writing,
Like a mother in labour,
Proud delivery.

This is the haiku I had written to share with my students that I understood the pain they had to go through during every journal or essay writing. At that time, I could only think of the most excruciating pain to be that of a mother's labour in child birth. If my students persevered, they would be like mothers proud of their babies! In this case, it would be their completed script.

Hence, you can imagine my shock when I read of a father throwing his 10month old baby into a gigantic wok of boiling water in Changhua county, Taiwan. The doctor who attended to the baby described the baby's pain as "being slashed by a thousand knives", and almost ten times worse than labour pains!!

How excruciatingly painful, poor baby! I cried when I read the news! An innocent little baby who had to suffer because of her father's hot temper and drunken stupor! A baby's skin is always so soft and delicate and how could it withstand a wok of boiling water! Neighbours said that the baby's parents were often seen fighting, especially after the father had too much to drink. One of them said, "He's really a cold-blooded animal. This kind of father just ought to be shot!" I think being shot is too easy a way out for him. He ought to be thrown into a gigantic wok of boiling water!

In a fit of anger, monster dads and bullying spouses could do almost anything. It is no wonder that my pastor had once mentioned in his sermon, "If a man could control his lust and his hot temper, he is indeed a great man!"

Gan Chau

Monday, April 20, 2009

We Hear With Our Eyes!

During my first year at the Grande Prairie Regional College in Alberta, I had room and board with a medical doctor and his family. Anne Smith, Dr. Michael Smith's wife was a very wonderful and hospitable lady. I like her gentleness and helpfulness.

One evening, Anne said to me, "Choo, I broke my glasses this afternoon. Without my glasses, I realise that I don't hear so well when I watch the television." Being the quiet type, I did not respond or comment on what she had said, but later before I went to bed, I pondered over her statement. What have our eyes got to do with our hearing?

It was only two days ago that the truth dawned upon me after three decades! I have often preferred to watch Chinese, Indian, Malay, Korean, Japanese, Thai, French, Russian and German movies because there would be some English subtitles. It is easier for me to read for I could read quite fast. However, where English movies are concerned, there are only Chinese subtitles. I find it difficult to sometimes catch what the actors/actresses are saying because of their strong accent. I had attributed this difficulty to my ears which are less sharp than others with excellent hearing.

However, just two days ago, my tenant Jasmin showed me the movie, "Taken" and although it is an English movie, there are English subtitles! This was the first time I came across an English movie with English subtitles! I read the English subtitles and to my surprise, I realise that I could hear the words quite well.

Suddenly I realised that was what Anne Smith had meant when she said she could not hear so well without her glasses. She had reiterated that most of us also used other senses or a combination of senses. Being able to see has enhanced our hearing, and being able to hear has also enhanced our comprehension and digestion of what we have seen.

Do my readers agree with me? Please share about your experiences with regard to the use of the senses.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Beautifully Imperfect!

Wow! A contest for the most beautifully imperfect couple! I love the words, "beautifully imperfect!" This pair of words is the best oxymoron to me. An oxymoron is a combination of contradictory or incongruous words. Words like bitter sweet and cruel kindness for example.

I quickly phoned my best friend, Soh Wah and told her about the contest and even encouraged her to join because I think she and her husband are the most beautifully imperfect couple I have known.

Soh Wah is a life wire. She is full of enthusiasm and excitement most of the times. In sharp contrast her husband Yew Tien is cool and calm, and tends to be quiet. He is a man of few words. When Soh Wah went to visit Penang, I gave them my second brother's contact, as I wanted my brother to take them out for a nice meal. There are certain places in Penang which only the locals know of and which are seldom known to tourists. Brother aptly described Soh Wah as a microphone and her husband as a tape recorder. She sings and he records! Well, I won't spoil the fun because I want Soh Wah to write for herself.

Perhaps we can extend this practice of discerning the beauty of imperfection in people around us. Then there would be less judging of books by their covers. Then there would be less cynicism and antagonism when Susan Boyle first entered the stage. My friend Geok Cheng told me that there had been talks that perhaps Susan should have a make-over. Geok Cheng, including myself are severely against it. Susan and her current "gong gong" (less bright) look and simple frankess endear her to those who could see the beautiful imperfection in her. Somehow people who look like "tua leng gong" have a special attractiveness about them and they are lovable. They make people around them feel safe and accepted. I am also one of the fortunate "tua leng gong". Second Sister once told me that I did not look like a graduate from overseas when I was running around with my little nieces and nephews all over Malacca in pants and sneakers and a cap. I began to wonder what a graduate should look like! Should have I walked with an "air of know it all" or should I have looked more business like in suits? She told me that it is only when I speak that people begin to realise that I have substance, but the problem is that I tend to be somewhat reticent with people I just get to know. Ah forget it! The weather is so humid and hot that I have often wished I could wear singlet or go without any tops like my papa and brothers!

I remember when I was younger and perhaps more conscious of my looks, I had wanted to lose weight drastically. However, my best friend, Ching, stopped me and said that if I were to lose a lot of weight, I would no longer be the Choo Choo she knew. It would just not be me. Somehow being slim did not appear congruent with my bubbly personality!

Of course, today if ever I had to lose some weight, it is because of health factors. I remember a good old buddy from Malaysia called Pit. Pit is an attractive lady...fairly tall with a lovely round face and beautiful jet black hair. However, if you were to analyse her features one by one, you would think her nose is somewhat too flat, her eyes a little too small and her lips could be improved on. Yet, when these imperfection of features were put together, she actually looks quite pretty and attractive overall. I believe her inner beauty of kindness and compassion has enhanced and given her that radiance and charm that make others like her almost instantly.

Hence, when our imperfection is blended in with others as well, then things don't seem so imperfect after all. Wed may end up looking good because of the support and encouragement given to us.

I wish the all the beautifully imperfect couples good luck and all the very best.! May your marriage and relationship bloom even more beautifully with each passing year.

Gan Chau


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Nutz About Nuts; Nutz About Life!

Packet of mixed macadamia, hazel, walnuts and hazel nuts

Lotus seeds with and without husks

Ginkgo nuts and soya beans

Red beans, kidney beans and baked beans

It is interesting how our tastes for food can change over time. I used to like meat, but now I do not savour meat dishes. Now I prefer nuts, beans and lentils. In fact, I am nutz about nuts! You name it, I love it! Cashew, macadamia, peanuts, pistachios, pine nuts, candle nuts, red beans, green beans, soy beans, etc. I also enjoy baked beans for breakfast.

Beans, nuts and lentils have a lot of fibre. Some if not all of them are also rich in proteins. We can use the kidney beans when we cook vegetarian pasta in tomato sauce. It is also easy to pack nuts and bring them with us wherever we go. I would usually bring some and eat a few nuts when I am hungry. This is a healthier option for snacks than some fried stuff.
As my two tenants, Avinesh and Jasmin, are also vegetarians, it reinforces my habit and preference for things that grow on trees or are dug from the ground.
I guess everything is a matter of taste and one man's meat is another man's poison. I am nutz about nuts, but it is more important to be nutz about life!
Gan Chau

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Examplary Toastmasters

DTM Gea Ban Peng giving tips on what makes a speaker shine on stage

Kan Kin Fung with his presentation of table topics

Cher Khim always like to spice up his speech with humour!

Sporting Sky Yeo, presenting his speech
I had wanted very much to attend the chapter meeting of our Braddell Heights Advanced Club where DTM Gea Ban Peng was giving a talk as well as to give tips on how to improve our prepared and table topics speeches. However, I suddenly felt dizzy and nauseated after an afternoon of picnic with eldest sister and family. I knew I had to head for bed instead of for the club.
It was only when I took my blood pressure with the Omron Automatic Blood Pressure Monitor given by my best friend, Soh Wah, that I realised my blood pressure was enormously and dangerously high, hovering around 176/104. No wonder of late, I had been having headaches, dizziness, nausea and excessive perspiration. Eldest sister asked me to stop being a toastmaster, but I told her I enjoyed my toastmaster's activities very much and perhaps would reduce some visits to clubs as project or language evaluator.
Hence, in view of my having been unwell for almost a month, I decided to have the 1st runner up to standby. Sky Yeo immediately obliged, and in his eagerness to help, he had forgotten about a meeting he had arranged prior to my request. Sky hopes to do an MBA course and one of the officers will be coming to Singapore to present. The meeting would be on the same day as the Division S Contest. If Sky misses this one, he would have to wait for another three or four months. I am really touched by Sky's selflessness and helpfulness. Hence, when I heard that Braddell Heights Advanced Toastmasters Club was organising another special meeting on Thursday, I quickly informed Sky and requested him to attend.
My sincere thanks and appreciation to DTM Gea Ban Peng, DTM Kan King Fung, Ng Cher Khim and Sky Yeo for their support. I am indeed very grateful for their time and commitment. Amazing how quick they were to respond to a need, and as the saying goes, I hope they will be even more richly blessed by their giving. The evening of sharing had opened new ideas and approach to handling table topics.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

One of my Favourite Buildings

Lovely architecture!

Wall mural of paintings by students

LaSalle, College of the Arts

A building that is unique and outstanding in design

One of the benefits of living in Little India has to be the close proximity of many interesting buildings. One of my favourites is LaSalle, College of the Arts. I guess as the name suggests it, the building has to be very different from others....unique and artistic.

I always enjoy walking to my various destinations if I have the time and if they are near enough. I would walk to Orchard Road, Bugis, City Hall, Lavendar, Newton Circus, etc. I feel that I get to see more things when I walk. Morever, I get the "forced exercise" from my destination walking.

Not being able to draw or design, I can never enrol in any Arts school, but I do appreciate aesthetical things and objects. I guess I must have some flair in appreciation of art because a friend had commented that I have some of my brother's best paintings. I can also tell whether a building or outfit is well designed. That is a comfort to me. I believe that a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

I am glad that our government is now doing more for the arts and is encouraging her people in the pursuit and development of their artistic talent. Let us keep our lives colorful by having time to appreciate sound and colours in the world around us!

Gan Chau
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Little Pockets of Charm in Singapore!

The lovely courtyard of Albert Court Hotel

Lovely architecture!

The Clock Tower! You can't miss the time!

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Once I decided to walk back from my office at Dennis Wee Group which was then located at Park Mall. I was surprised to stumble upon this little pocket of charming Singapore - the Albert Court Hotel. The Orange and yellowish brown are the dominant colours and they remind me of autumn. They also remind me of the buildings that I could see in Spain!

Walking along the busy road of Selegie, it is easy to miss this cosy place. Albert Court Hotel is close to the Little India MRT and it sits quietly by the main road - Serangoon and Rochor Road. Yet it is a quiet and relaxing place to chill out.

I just love to admire buildings. There are still quite a number of historical and interesting buildings in Singapore to visit. In my next article I will show you more pictures of interesting buildings. I hope the Authorities will continue to preserve some of these lovely buildings. Once demolished they are gone forever and only remain etched in the memories of those who care to remember them.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Beloved Sister

Eldest sister with her good friends from Sarawak. Her friends are now
residing in Singapore.

With eldest grand-daughter, Debra at the Christmas concert in her church in Johore

With home-cell members in the home of her son, Samuel and daughter-in-law, Dea and their four lovely and clever daughters, Debra, Sophia, Phoebe and Gloria.

You will never be hungry with sister around. She's a great cook!
Now you know why I am overweight!
I always thank God for having given me the most wonderful sister. Being the last to come out of mama's womb, I have the privilege of being looked after and pampered by all my older siblings.
But mind you, I am not in the least spoilt, as my siblings will confirm. Despite being the youngest, I am quite independent because I dislike the idea of always bothering my older siblings.
Eldest sister Lee Lee is somewhat motherly. I suppose most ladies who are No. 1 in ranking tend to have that extra motherliness in them, for it calls for them to be protective towards their younger siblings. Hence, when I was in Primary School, I remember Sister was always the one to remind me to study hard and to be neat. Once I went to sleep with dirty feet, and sister yanked me out from the bed to wash my feet in the wee hours of the morning! That was how strict she could be.
Another time, I was playing with a rubber band, tying the rubber band around my little finger and then releasing it and repeating the process. Unfortunately I fell asleep with the rubber band still tied around my fingers. I shared a big wooden bed with eldest sister because I was too scared to sleep on my own. Eldest sister felt something cold on her face and when she turned on the light she was shocked to see my finger which had turned purplish black! She untied the rubber band and I cried as it was excruciatingly painful as the blood rushed back. Sister had saved my finger in the nick of time, or else today I will have difficulties in writing, typing or playing the piano and violin! Of course, I was severely scolded but I deserved the scolding.! After this incident, I no longer dared to play with rubber bands again.
Eldest sister always cared for papa. She knew that papa worked very hard, and she too did her part by becoming a school teacher. She helped to monitor papa's health, constantly reminding him to watch out for his diet.
Sister Lee Lee is very versatile. She taught herself so many things. She could sew and even sewed her own wedding gown as well as for her best friend. I was blessed with beautiful frocks and dresses that sister made for me. I remember how sister would lend my pretty clothes to her poor students for their concert performance because sister was also in charge of training and preparing her students for singing competition. Sister taught in a school located in an area known for its gangsters. But beneath my sister's petite frame was a tough lady who was not to be messed around with! The residents respected her and affectionately called her "The Cikgu" (Malay word for teacher). Some of the cheekier residents would tease her, "Cikgu bo cik beh" (Hokkien meaning sit on the cow and not on the horse or teacher does not sit on the horse). Sister would just smile. To her, it was imperative that she taught well, and helped to give her students a new lease of life through good education.
Sister can also dance very well. She is excellent in folk dancing and can even do the Indian classical dance, moving her head and eyes with panache!
It is amazing how well she can cook and she had even won the first prize in a cooking contest. Sister is very hospitable and loves to cook and entertain guests in her home.
Papa has passed his genes to all his children. Sister not only sings well but she also plays the piano very well. This talent comes in handy for her as a schoolteacher where she taught Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese. Sister is also very good in Mathematics, a subject which is just beyond my comprehension.!
A natural speaker, sister is excellent in story telling. As she is a voracious reader, I enjoy listening to her stories as well as new knowledge she has gleaned from her reading. For example, what herbs are good for health, etc. I have been influenced by sister to take an interest in growing lots of herbs along the corridor of my flat.
As sister is so energetic and always eager to learn, she looks much younger than her 68 years of age. She coaches her grandchildren in Chinese and Mathematics whenever she visits them, and still helps in churches when she is invited to speak or to teach some dances.
Being effectively bilingual, sister writes well in both Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese and had published a few articles. She had also written a short novel in Malay.
I am very happy for sister for now she is enjoying the fruits of her labour. After toiling for so many years to provide a good education for her three sons, Samuel, Daniel and Henry and adopted daughter, Esther, Sister is now retired. Well, I would say she is retyred! She is now like having a "second wind", still as active as ever. She is always eager to learn and equally curious about so many things with her inquring mind!
Whenever friends comment on my being active and versatile, I always tell them, "Wait till you meet my eldest sister. I pale in comparison to her!" Praise God for giving me such a great and wonderful sister! This is why I always feel so rich! I want to emulate her fine examples!
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Watch Out for this Exciting Program on Channel 5 this 19th April 2009!

On Cloud 9 with Amazing Grace


I am so glad that the President's Command Performance will be aired on Singapore Television on 19th April at 7.30p.m. Hence, viewers in Singapore and some parts of Johore will be able to watch this wonderful concert which was only viewed by invited guests. The cream of Singapore's talented musicians, singers, artists, poets, photographers and designers will showcase their talent on this program. Hence do not miss it! I am sure you will enjoy the performance as much as we have enjoyed it.

"Singapore violinist Kam Ning played Amazing Grace at the Esplanade Theatre at the inaugural President's Command Performance on Sunday evening.

Local talent such as pianist Abigail Sin, poet Edwin Thumboo, singer Stefanie Sun and pianist Margaret Leng Tan also performed at the event marking the 10th anniversary of the President's Challenge and showcasing Singapore's finest in photography, literature, fashion and music. The President's Challenge is an annual series of community-based activities to raise funds for charities.

President S R Nathan was the guest of honour at the event organised by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and MediaCorp. The show will be aired on Channel 5 on April 19 at 7.30pm."

Yours Truly, Uniquely Singapore Lah!

I received the following email from a toastmaster friend, Affendi. I must thank God that I am now a real estate agent, and not a restaurateur or chef in a food centre. I am thankful that for the eight years that I was running Rialto Italian Cuisine, I did not have any of my customers rushing to the toilets or hospital.

I had written an article on the wonders of Apple Cider Vinegar and how apple cider vinegar helps to ward off potential food poisoning. My article was published in the New Paper, conveying my sympathies for the victims as well as the food operator, but nothing was mentioned about the apple cider vinegar which I wanted to share with readers. Food poisoning is the "happening" latest topic of interest. In view of so much germs and bacteria in the air, and in view of the many incidents of food poisoning, I have been even more vigilant and disciplined in my consumption of apple cider vinegar. Not too much.....for too much of even a good thing is not really advisable, just a glass of apple cider vinegar with honey everyday will give that added peace of mind in

This little island called Fried Rice Paradise,
Where every dish is often very nice,
I think it's nice; you think it's nice, so do the mice!
We just have to sometimes pay a heavy price!

For those of you who do not believe in apple cider vinegar, the safest method is to cook your own food in the comfort of your own kitchen.! You will then be spared being poisoned by contaminated food!

Hi Everyone,

You, your loved ones and friends may find the following guide from the National Environment Agency (NEA) useful in helping you decide on your next hawker food:

Category A - Serious Offences

1. Selling dirty/contaminated/unfit food.

2. Preparing food on the floor/in the toilet.

3. Failing to keep stall/food establishment free of vermin/insects.

4. Discharging sullage water into open drain.

5. Conveying food in a dirty compartment of a vehicle.

6. Containing food in a container or receptacle, which has been used to contain any poison or harmful material.

7. Failing to register assistants who are engaged in the preparation and sale of food.

8. Engaging assistants without valid typhoid inoculation cards.

9. Engaging assistants who have not passed the Food Hygiene Course.

Category B - Major Offences

1. Improper storage of food.

2. Sealing food wrapper with staples, clips or other metal device.

3. Packing food in contact with printed matter or wrapper. Packing food in dirty wrapper or container.

4. Using dirty/chipped/broken/cracked crockery/utensils.

5. Smoking, spitting, coughing, sneezing, expelling mucus or chewing tobacco/betel nuts while preparing food.

6. Using bare hands to handle cooked food.

7. Exposing or conveying cooked food for sale without proper cover.

8. Failing to provide adequate number of proper refuse bins.

9. Placing food for sale into contact with any substance, material or article, which is likely to contaminate such food.

10. Sweeping food scraps onto the floor.

11. Preparing or selling food outside the food establishment and food centre.

12. Setting up unauthorised stall at the premises.

13. Using dirty rag or cloth to wipe tables/food/crockery/utensils/packing materials.

14. Failing to keep toilet clean and sanitary appliances in order and repair.

15. Failing to provide toilet with toilet paper, soap or liquid detergent, litter bin, or clean towel or hand dryer.

16. Failing to keep stall/kitchen/refreshment area clean.

17. Failing to keep clothing and exposed areas of body clean.

18. Keeping animals in stall/food establishment.

19. Selling frozen food, which has been thawed and refrozen for sale.

20. Serving left-over food or re-using wrappers, packages, drinking straw or disposable crockery.

21. Preparing food at a place where noxious, toxic or offensive matter is placed or where work is carried out which is likely to contaminate the food.

22. Failing to wash hands after using toilets or applying fingers to the mouth, eye, ear, nose, scalp or touching dirty articles.

23. Feeding birds and stray animals with food wastes.

24. Failing to cover refuse bins.

Category C - Minor Offences

1. Erecting unauthorised extension to stall/food establishment.

2. Failing to use plastic bag for refuse disposal.

3. Failing to display license in a conspicuous position.

And while researching on land, location and buildings, I came across the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore’s listing of meat/fish/egg processing establishments and slaughter-houses, and their grades i.e. A (Excellent), B (Good), C (Average) and D (Pass):

Let’s do what we can to spread the message of gracious living!

Warm regards,


(No, I don’t work for the NEA but all requests for further references are welcomed)

Monday, April 13, 2009

"Does Singapore Ever Sleep?"

Courageous youngsters getting ready on the Extreme Swing at Clarke Quay.
Not me, I'd rather have my feet firmly on the ground!

Midnight shopping at Clarke Quay. Ning is fascinated with the lovely items on sale!

Oo la la! A lovely lady doing the belly dancing! She reminds me of the superb

belly dancers I had seen in Egypt and Turkey!

Ning with my tenant, Jasmin

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We had originally planned to take a boat ride along Clarke Quay and Boat Quay, but since Soh Wah was so eager to show us the Red Dot after a sumptuous dinner at Long Beach Seafood Restaurant, Ning and I decided to forgo the ride along Singapore waters. We decided we would be content to walk along the river just to enjoy the ambiance.
Even though it was already 11.30p.m. Clarke Quay was still crowded with tourists as well as locals. The bars were packed with the weekend crowds. There were some bands playing in various pubs and we passed by a pub where a lovely lady was performing the belly dancing. Wow! She could really shake and gyrate with panache! I understand from Soh Wah that belly dancing is getting to be quite popular among ladies in Singapore now. I wonder what is the motivating factor - to lose weight or to feel more feminine and every inch a woman! Perhaps it is a combination of both factors. The lady certainly danced very well, and she reminded me of the wonderful belly dancers I had seen while on a tour of Egypt and Turkey .
"Does Singapore ever sleep?" Ning asked suddenly. "This is an amazing country!" I guess the colour and sound in Singapore and the late night shopping and activities are a sharp contrast to many countries like Australia, New Zealand, Europe, USA and Canada, where most shops are closed early on weekdays.
In fact, this was the first time I had been out so late at Clarke Quay, which was the reason why I asked my tenant, Jasmin, to come along to join us. Yes, Singapore hardly sleeps, especially for many of us who are still as active at home watching television, playing computer games, emailing, reading, partying etc. The night always seems young and there are always so many fun things to do. At midnight, there were still many street vendors and Ning was particularly attracted to one vendor who was selling some lovely clothes at very reasonable prices.
Why sleep and dream; why not be awake and make your dreams come true! Just as in the recent Hindi movie, "Himalay Ki God Main" shown on Sunday Zee Channel, the protagonist, Dr. Sunil had said to his beloved Phulwa, "There are two types of dreams. One is in the day, and one is in the night. The one in the day will always come true because it is called "intention". When we are very interested in what we are doing, we no longer need to sleep, because we are so engrossed with our intention. Hence our dreams will almost, always materialise.
Since Singapore hardly sleeps, I hope we will all be always filled with intention. The intention to do well and succeed in whatever we have undertaken. The intention to make this short journey on earth a meaningful and joyous one, regardless of obstacles along the way.
Gan Chau

Not Bitten by Mosquitoes this Time!

"Aunty, what happened to the mosquitoes in Singapore?" asked Ning. "The last time when I was here, I was bitten by some mosquitoes, but this time, not a single bite! Have the mosquitoes been wiped out?"

I was very pleased when I heard that. Ning had stayed with my relatives at Queen's Condominium during her visit last year, and this time, Ning had been staying with me for a week at my little hdb flat in Little India. My neighbours and I have green fingers, and we have many pots of lovely plants and herbs along the corridor of our two apartments.

Ever so often, the Ministry of Environment officers would come to our block to check for mosquitoes. Once there was only a slight collection of water in the plate holding my rose cactus, and the alert officer spotted it and emptied the plate of water into my plants. They are stern yet amiable and I enjoyed sharing with them the inherent qualities of each herbal plant I have grown. I even told them that anytime they need the herbs to help someone, they could help themselves to the plants even if I were not around. I taught them how to cut the stems and store with a wet piece of tissue paper wrapped with a huge piece of newspaper so as to keep the leaves and stems fresh.

Considering that an outbreak of Chikuniyia Fever had taken place at Clive Street area only sometime last year, I was happy when I heard that Ning had been spared of any mosquito bite. I told Ning I am never afraid of mosquitoes; I am more afraid of the high humidity which makes me look like a water tank sometimes with beads of perspiration on my face!

Kudos to everyone. I hope we will all continue to play our part in helping the government officers to wipe out breeding grounds for the blood-thirsty insects.We will not rest on our laurels and will always be on the lookout for water collected in upturned containers, bamboo poles, cracks in the walls , etc. Then Singapore will not only be clean and green, it will be disease-free as well.!

Cheers to better health!

Gan Chau

The Red Dot Brewhouse

Stairway to Heaven? No it's to the Red Dot Brewhouse!
Ning (in white) Soh Wah and Yew Tien

A dog on "guard". Already I felt a bonding with the owners of The Red Dot who must be dog lovers!

Enjoying yummy dessert and drinks in the lovely concourse of The Red Dot Brewhouse

Mr. Earnest Ng, the pioneer and owner of The Red Dot, kindly explaining to us how he brews his beer in the only Microbrewery on Dempsey Road!

Soh Wah had suggested we adjourned to her friends' restaurant/ bar at the Red Dot Brewhouse which is just next to the Long Beach Restaurant.
What a lovely ambiance! It is a beautifully renovated pre-war Colonial house surrounded by so much greenery! The restaurant was crowded with diners of all races and nationalities. Soh Wah mentioned that it is a favourite with the expatriate crowd. Now Dempsey Road is the "happening" place in Singapore! The Red Dot is often crowded with families out for lunch and dinner and during Happy Hours and in the late evenings, it is crowded by customers who want to chill out.

Most interesting feature of the Red Dot....the pioneer and owner, Mr. Earnest Ng, brews his own beer. He has 7 varieties of beer! The beer can be ordered in mugs, jars or towers. Wow! I saw how 4 ladies at a table could just finish off one tower and ordered another tower. Soh Wah, Yew Tian and myself had trouble finishing even one jug. I was the one who drank the most! A live band was playing and during the break, the management encouraged the guests to play "Bingo" with some $50 vouchers given away as prizes. What a novel idea!

Just as we were about to leave, we met the amiable owners of the restaurant. Soh Wah asked Mr. Earnest Ng if we could have a peep at his brewery and he kindly obliged. What a fascinating place.! Not being a technical person, I could not quite understand the complexities of brewing beer. I just knew that the end products are 7 types of beer and that Mr. Ng pays quite a hefty tax for the beer! The beer is carefully crafted out with the best ingredients purchased from around the world.

I was more interested in Mr. Ng's story about how he came to start the Red Dot. He was in Africa, and saw some natives drinking beer which they brewed themselves. Hence, they explained to Mr Ng the procedures. They simply labelled their beer with blue, green and red dots. Intrigued, Mr. Ng became interested in beer brewing and since Singapore is always known as the little red dot, he decided to call his restaurant The Red Dot.

I asked Mr. Ng why he is quite trim without a beer belly, and he said that he seldom drinks and has to be disciplined as a brewer. I understand from Soh Wah that he and his wife used to own a construction company for almost two decades, and only recently turned to the food and beverage industry. What a versatile and creative couple! Somehow Mr. and Mrs. Ng remind me of the maxim, "When the going gets tough, the tough gets going!" Kudos to you! May your business prosper even more and may more young entrepreneurs be inspired by your glowing creativity and success!

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