Saturday, January 30, 2010

Excuse Me, Are You A Property Agent... (16)

After telephoning the bank's lawyer, Ms. Tan, I rushed down to her office at Shenton Way with my client's option. She was coming down to the lawyer's office to sign the Option to Exercise and to pass the cheques for payment of stamp duty as well.

As the day was hot and sultry, I felt somewhat flustered. My cheeks would turn rosy whenever I was feeling warm, and even the blind could see I was exhausted and warm.
Hence, the thoughtful secretary, Linda, asked if I would like a drink. "Yes, please a cold drink, thank you", and I proceeded to read the newspapers while waiting for Linda to get ready her paper work. I had volunteered to deliver the signed Option and lawyers' letter to the vendors' lawyers at Peninsular Plaza. The glass of very cold plain water tasted so heavenly, and I kept thanking the staff at the reception.
"Would you like another glass?". "Oh! No thanks, this is great!"

After collecting the letter, I rushed down to the POSB at Tanjong Pagar, to put in a cheque for my client, Mdm. Jane Tan. I wanted to catch the collection time before 3.30p.m. It was still early and I saw some lovely housecoats on sale and bought two for my sister. I decided to take bus 80 instead of the MRT for I thought it would be untimely should the MRT were to breakdown. At least, if the bus were to break down, I could still hail for a taxi. I had to be at the office of the vendor's lawyer before 4p.m.

Hip! Hip! Hooray! I arrived 15 minutes early! My heart is full of gratitude to Ms. Tan and her secretary, Linda, for their efficiency and helpfulness. Lee Bon Leong law firm acts for many banks, and hence, my client will have more option to choose the bank she is most comfortable with.

I am also amazed with my client, Geok Sim. She is one cool lady, who is serene and efficient. When I see her, I understand why people say that ladies are generally able to take stress better than men. Of course, you have some men who also handle stress very well. For example, my beloved father and brothers Kee Seng and Kee Yong. Generally, ladies may be weaker physically, but stronger mentally and emotionally. Thank you Lord for your special endowment so that we ladies could be there for the men! :-)

Gan Cao

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Excuse me, are you a property agent? (15)

Suddenly I heard the client screaming in the master bedroom. "Oh God! Please help!" I muttered to myself, as I thought that probably her son had climbed the windows and had fallen 25 storeys below.!

The little boy's father and I ran into the room to find that the chest of drawers had fallen down. Thank God that the boy was safe with never a scratch. He was crying and visibly shaken. Though it is a luxurious condominium, thank God that my somewhat frugal owner has only supplied furniture that is not made of hard wood.
I had recently read of how a television had fallen onto a little three year old girl, and she died as the gadget was three times her weight.

The buyers' agent did not have time to show his clients as he had to attend church service, and asked if I could just show them. Though I already had a keen buyer who was coming back for a second viewing, I thought it might be better to show just in case they did not keep their appointment. Thank God for answering my prayers because every morning, I will pray for God's protection for myself, my family members, my friends and relatives. Now that I am an agent, my prayer also includes all my clients whom I would be meeting in the course of the day. There is nothing so beautiful and joyous as a day filled with peace and safety!

From this experience I learnt two things:-

1) As an agent, I must never use the excuse of going to church for not fulfilling my service to my clients. Churches usually have many services on Saturdays and Sundays. I prefer to attend the 8.00a.m. service so that I can be free the rest of the day to show my clients' apartments. Sometimes if I were busy in the morning, then I could always attend the Tamil service in the evenings.

2) I must be extra alert when buyers come with young children in tow. Children, especially little boys, are hyperactive and like to explore. Of course in the above situation, it should have been the agent who should have come personally with his
clients. Then he could have helped to look after the clients' little boy while I
showed his clients around and focused on the salient points on the property.

Frankly, I was extremely exhausted yesterday evening, but I was duty-bound to show
my client's apartment even though, her son could entertain the buyers when they came.
I rushed for the viewing by taxi arriving 5 minutes early, but only to find that the agent would be late by 35 minutes.! I took the opportunity to watch my favourite Korean serial while waiting.

After the viewing, I went to the wake of Amu's elder brother who had just passed away. The agent confirmed his client's offer to purchase the unit, and at midnight we were still talking on the phone! When I returned home, I scanned the option to purchase for another property and emailed it to the bank officer as I had promised to do so earlier.

It is amazing that so many people want to be an agent. If I had not lost my voice when I was a teacher, I would love to remain in the teaching profession. However, since I had entered the real estate market, I told myself I would immerse myself in the job, and be a blessing to my clients. An agent who co-broke with me on a unit recently told me that as agents we work for the money, and for the sake of earning a full one per cent commission as a cobroking agent, he had no qualms to push the price up, even though his clients had fully trusted him for his advice! I told him that if it is just for the money, I would not have lasted 15 years in the market!

To be a really good agent one has to be on his toes. Despite his exhaustion, a good agent must always try to keep his words. He must always remember that he is dealing with his client's hard-earned money, and hence must try his utmost to provide the best possible service. It is also important to keep up-to-date with the latest changes and development, and the trend in the market.

Like doctors, agents feel the pulse and heart-beat of the property market, and agents must always try to understand their clients' needs, so that they can give the
best possible advice to their clients.

When an agent truly works with committment and passion, his earnings will be well taken care of!

Gan Cao

Row, row, row your boat.....


Sis-in-law Saw Kim standing behind the first row.

Sis Lee Lee with her husband, Stephen sitting on the second row.

Can you guess the name of the majestic hotel along the river.? It's the Fullerton! It was once the General Post Office.

Boat Quay, once an old godown, is now bustling with tourists.

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You guess it! My favourite haunts are Clarke Quay and Boat Quay. Whenever I have guests from overseas, I would bring them for a boat ride. It is a half hour ride from Clarke Quay and plies all the way along Boat Quay and then the Marina Bay area,
where the Merlion could be seen.

Happiness is feeling the breeze on your face as the boat moves along. Happiness is
seeing Singapore looking very pretty and glowing with neon lights everywhere. Happiness is seeing the iconic Merlion spouting water as tourists gather around to take photos. Sometimes you could even see a full moon with its golden splendour.

I guess if I were papa's son, I might join the Navy as I enjoy the sea breeze and the open space.

In the meanwhile, I am just contented going on boat rides along Singapore River and never getting tired of it. Row, row, row your boat.....

Gan Cao

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Charm versus Beauty.....

"SINGAPORE — It is relatively painless and gives quick results. But some people in Singapore are getting their Botox fast fix at private parties where the person giving the injections may not be a medically trained professional.

Not that some of them seem to care.

The Health Ministry says only registered medical professionals can prescribe Botox. The Singapore Medical Council, the Academy of Medicine and the College of Family Physicians state that only certified doctors can administer such injections.

At private parties, the person injecting it could be a beautician not authorised to do so.

One such recent party at a house in eastern Singapore was attended by more than 10 women, who looked to be in their 40s. One of them, Nora (not her real name), said she was there for her six—monthly "touch up" and also because "it is more expensive to receive Botox injections in a clinic".

The women paid between S$250 and S$300 each to receive their injections from Alice (not her real name), a beautician from a neighbouring country. Alice had come to Singapore that day to see her "regular clients".

She was armed with vials, syringes and hypodermic needles, but admitted she is not medically trained. On closer inspection, the drugs she used in the procedures, which she claimed were genuine, did not seem to come from a reputable source.

Botox, which is the trade name for the Botulinum toxin, is distributed by Allergan. To date, another company Ipsen has come up with a similar product, Dysport. What Alice used were from neither distributor. Instead, the vials they came in had Japanese characters on them.

Despite this, her clients did not seem to be unduly worried about the unknown source. They also did not appear to care that the beautician could have used fake Botulinum toxin products on them. This, after a woman in the United States died in 2006 after receiving a bogus Botox injection from her hairdresser.

According to the Health Sciences Authority, Botox is a medicinal product that requires official approval before it can be sold, imported or supplied here. Offenders who deal with it without a proper license can be jailed up to two years and fined a maximum of S$5,000.

When informed of this, Alice visibly bristled and gave the assurance that she is "a professional" who has been giving such treatments for "many years".

"I know what I am doing. I use a very small needle and my clients hardly feel any pain," said Alice. Her injections are "safe" as she only injects "harmless bacteria" into her clients’ faces.

She — and her clients — could not be more wrong.

As Dr Liew Kou Chuen from Neuglow aesthetics clinic explained, Botox is a poison produced by a bacteria, the Clostridium botulinum. Doctors inject it into their patients in tiny amounts to paralyse muscles and eliminate wrinkles.

The procedure is not totally risk—free, he said. If injections are incorrectly administered, patients can end up with droopy eyelids and lopsided faces. Bacteria may also enter the skin if injections are improperly done in a non—sterile environment. This could lead to cellulitis, a serious skin problem that has to be treated with antibiotics.

"The area affected with cellulitis will become red and inflamed. It may even be filled with pus," said Dr Liew who charges between S$400 and S$1,000 for Botox injections, depending on the amount of toxin used and the area treated.

Because of these risks, he strongly discourages anyone from getting such injections from non—medically trained professionals.

"Be sure you totally understand the products that go into your body, and the reliability of your practitioner," he cautioned."

I came across the above article in the news report and felt somewhat puzzled that some ladies could go to such extremes at the risk of their lives. I know of one rich lady who has already undergone twenty times under the knife - you name it, she has performed it! Liposuction, breast enlargement, double eye lid surgery, etc. She wants to remain beautiful in the bid to keep her husband from having mistresses. Despite all that, she failed.

Instead of going for all these external measures to help in maintaining beauty, ladies should focus more on character building, for I believe that characteristics such as compassion, kindness, confidence, happiness, exuberance, etc. are traits that help to enhance a lady's overall looks and personality. I had written about my sister's friend whom I met while attending a fun fair. Under the hot blazing sun, I was mesmerised by her charm and confidence. She was petite and did not even have a good complexion, but her exuberance, sincerity and sparkling eyes as she chatted with sister made her extremely charming! I remember after that incident, it dawned upon me that a beautiful lady could lack in charm while a plain Jane could ooze with so much charm that it made her look attractive and beautiful!

Hence, ladies, minimise your botox treatment and plastic surgeries. Focus more on getting the most out of life and look outward and not inward. Then your world will become larger and more interesting.

Truly, at the end of the day, people do not really remember how you look, but they will always remember how you made them feel!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Happiness is .......(27)


An up and coming star who is growing in popularity!

Our artistes have improved tremendously in their acting1

Lead actor and actress in "Together"

Irin, with her beloved puppies - Brian and Brandon
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Brother Kee Seng and I are quite similar in this respect - when we both decide to watch a serial on television, it is serious business for us! We will attempt to turn down invitation for dinners, social gatherings, etc. just so that we do not miss a serial.

Recently I watched "Cruel Temptation" on Channel U which runs at 7.00p.m. to 8.00p.m.
and "Together" which had just completed its showing.

Happiness is when my neighbour, Irin, took the trouble to record the programs from Monday to Friday. She is also a zealous program viewer. Irin starts working at 9p.m. Hence, it is easier for her to record. Hence when I was away in Penang for a week, I was still able to catch up on the episodes I had missed. I do not subscribe to Cable Vision and Irin's package with Starhub also comes with a video recorder! Wow! It is stressful for me to learn how to operate electronic gadgets.

Happiness is watching the missed episodes in Irin's apartment together with her two dogs, papa Bobby, mama Bibi and their two growing puppies, Brian and Brandon.! Happiness is having wonderful neighbours who always look out for one another!
Happiness is appreciating little things that people do for us and vice versa. Happiness is remembering someone's likes and dislikes, and what makes a person tick.
All these little things boil down to good relationship.

Gan Cao

Friday, January 22, 2010

Colorful Little India during the Pongal Festival !


Lights were lit up again because of the Pongal Festival!

Glitter, glitter everywhere!

The Indians (Tamils) expressing their thanks during the Pongal Festival!
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Just as BUS 139 was reaching Tekka Market, I realised that Serangoon Road was brightly lit with decorations! I asked some passengers if the people were celebrating Thaipuism but I was told that it was the Pongal Festival. Gosh! I had been living in Little India for the past four years, and this was the first time I
had noticed the street decoration! On reflection, I realised that I had been away from Singapore usually around this time. Once I was in Taiwan, and the rest of the time was spent in Penang, my hometown.

I am always happy when I see the streets brightly lit and filled with a festive air!
I googled to find out more about Pongal.

"Thai Pongal (Tamil: தைப்பொங்கல்) is a harvest festival widely celebrated by Tamils in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in Sri Lanka. Pongal coincides with the festival Makara Sankranthi celebrated throughout India. Pongal in Tamil means "boiling over or spill over." The boiling over of milk in the clay pot symbolizes material abundance for the household.

Thai Pongal, celebrated at harvest time, is traditionally intended to thank the sun god and farmstead livestock that helped create the material abundance.

The saying "Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum" (தை பிறந்தால் வழி பிறக்கும்) meaning "the commencement of Thai paves the way for new opportunities" is often quoted regarding the Pongal festival[1] . The festival usually occurs from January 13 — 15 (on the Gregorian calendar) i.e. the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi to the third day of Thai.

Pongal is traditionally dedicated to the Sun God Surya. Tamils thank the solar deity for the good harvest and dedicate the first grain to him on this 'Surya Mangalya'.

The holiday marks the start of Tamil month Thai (தை). It marks the day when the Sun purportedly shifts northwards. It signifies the commencement of Uttarayana, which means the northward journey of Sun. The days get longer. Thai Pongal falls on Makara Sankranthi celebrated throughout India. This represents the Indic solstice when the sun purportedly enters the 10th house of the zodiac i.e. Makara or Capricorn."

It is always wonderful to have a heart of gratitude. I once met a Muslim businessman who donated all his takings to an orphanage on the opening of his bakery. As Christians, we are also taught to give the first fruits of our offerings to God. Gratitude to God and man always makes a person happy, peaceful and contented because he works hard without unnecessary strife or scheming, making him confident and comfortable in his own skin.

Gan Cao

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

FooD! GloriouS FooD !


The cold dish platter at Daniel and Jacelyn's wedding dinner is much bigger
than most servings in Singapore!

Delicious steamed fish

The signature dish of Bamboo Restaurant

"Peek-a-boo"! By golly! It's a succulent chicken bathing itself in
hot, herbal, aromatic gravy!

Eating in Johore is simply wonderful - cheap and good! I was surprised that the sumptuous wedding dinner with 8 courses of food cost only about MR430! The food was not only delicious, but the servings were generous. Dinner for weddings in Singapore usually start from at least S$800/- per table! Most are priced above
$1,000/- per table.

We had lunch at Bamboo Restaurant the following day. With so many dishes on the table, I was pleasantly surprised that lunch for fourteen of us cost only MR232!

I told my siblings and relatives about the reunion dinner that costs S$2,000 per head in Singapore! Hence it would cost S$20,000 for a table of ten! Are some of the food plated with gold.? Eldest sister Lee Lee said that it would be hard to stomach such expensive food when half the world is filled with starving people. In comparison, eating out in Malaysia, is so much cheaper than in Singapore! Since I won't be going back to Penang this Chinese New Year, I have already planned to have a reunion dinner in Johore with my relatives, and the restaurant's eight course dinner with sharks' fin cost only MR298!

My relatives suggested that perhaps Singaporeans should host their wedding dinner in Johore. However, if someone were to do that, probably half of his guests might not be able to turn up! Morever, as Singaporeans we have to support our local economy.

At the end of the day, we can conclude that every country has her own strength and plus points. No matter how cheap the food is in Johore, I would not purposely make a trip there to eat. Though Johore is Singapore's nearest neighbour, travelling there takes up too much time. At the end of the day, I am quite happy eating a simple home cooked meal before my favourite television program in the cool comfort of home sweet home.!

Gan Cao

Artistic and musical genes in the family !


Daniel and I playing "Amazing Grace" on the violin and saxophone!

Sister Lee Lee playing "Yue Lai Xiang" on the electric piano

Daniel performing an item with his guitar at his wedding dinner

The lovely handmade "thank you" gift for guests

I first learnt about musical and artistic genes when I first registered for my violin lessons at the Braddel Heights Community Centre. The lady officer was fond of saying, "Ni men de jia ting yiu yin yue de xi bao". (Your family has
musical genes). Madam Lim had at first tried to discourage me from taking gu zheng when I signed up for violin classes because of my age. I guess she was right in a way, but I had only intended to take up gu zheng after I have completed at least grade 6 in violin playing. Madam Lim made the statement after she realised that I had actually managed to do grade 3 after 11 months of lessons.

My heartfelt thanks to the Lord for His grace and blessings. Daniel's wedding dinner had turned into an evening of music and spontaneous entertainment. Almost everyone in the family participated. Samuel, my eldest nephew, sang a lovely solo item with his guitar, and Daniel, the groom, sang and played Amazing Grace at the dinner. Henry delivered a wonderful impromptu speech even though he is not a toastmaster. Esther mesmerized everyone with her great rendition of "Unchained Melody". I sang "Shanghai Bund" in English, and the audience chuckled at the wordings and laughed when they realised they had been tricked! I had heard the singer delivering the popular Cantonese song in English when I was having a drink with a friend at the then Mandarin Hotel at Orchard Road. The catchy wordings had remained in my memory ever since. In case readers are curious here are the lyrics:-

"Long one, short one,
Long one, short one,
Which one do you want?
I want long,
You want short,
Together we both shall have our fun!

I looked at the audience with mock dismay. "Hello! What have you guys been thinking, huh? I am merely referring to my short hair, and the bride's lovely long hair!

Gosh! That was the first time I had ever sung solo on stage.! If I had brought my violin along, I would have preferred to play a piece instead of singing. Believe me! As a trained toastmaster, speaking on stage is less frightening than singing on stage! Well, I guess there is always a first time! I was told by sister-in-law Saw Kim that it was also the first time that my brother Kee Seng sang on stage.! How wonderfully supportive of koko.! Both he and his wife gave a powerful rendition of "Shanghai Bund" - the original version in Cantonese!

Sister Lee Lee sang a solo piece in Malay - Bangawan Solo and another Chinese piece with Aunty Khim, her sister-in-law. If only my sister Ean Ean were at the wedding, she would have turned the house upside down with her comical antics or she would have mesmerised the audience with her singing and guitar playing.!

I also found out that my two neices-in-law are quite artistic. Daniel's bride, Jacelyn, made a lovely box for the gift collection of red packets at the reception and she even made lovely flowers as a thank you gift. Sister Lee Lee suggested attaching a piece of heart-shaped chocolate so that the flowers could remain standing on the table. Samuel's wife, Dea, and their four children and everyone helped to make the gifts so that all the guests could take one home.

We are not the Von Trapp family singers, but we are a family who is always out to have fun and make music whenever we gather together! I thank God for my wonderful papa who had imbued so much love for music in his five children. I thank God for his wonderful gift of music and art to my family and relatives. Indeed music makes the family go round, and I hope it will also go round for everyone.!

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Concert Time!


Three little ballerinas on stage! - Phoebe, Debra and Sophia

"I love you more than I can say", Phoebe holding the microphone with Sohpia,
Yap Ning and Gloria, holding the microphone

Brother Kee Seng with wife, Saw Kim with their powerful rendition of
Shanghai Bund. Little Yap Ning looks up and wonders, "Will I be able to sing
like grandpa and grandma when I grow up?"

Sister Lee Lee's youngest daughter, Esther, singing "Unchained Meloday" - a potential
candidate for "Malaysian Idol"!

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Gan Cao

Much Ado About Daniel


Daniel with his bride, parents, sister Esther, Samuel and Henry with their families

A photo taken with relatives from all over Singapore, Australia, America and Malaysia

Daniel's proudest moment - with his God's given lovely partner, Jacelyn

"I must empty this bowl of delicious soup before I leave", decided Yann's little
daughter, Yap Ning

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What a celebration.! My heart is thankful to the Lord for having provided Daniel with a lovely wife in Jacelyn. He met Jacelyn while both were studying in the Bible College in Kuala Lumpur. Daniel is the second son of my sister Lee Lee. He is now pastoring a church in Johore. He is a living testimony of God's grace. When Daniel was seven his playmate accidentally knocked against him while jumping down from the bed. Daniel was on the floor playing chess with another friend. His friend landed on him causing his head to knock against the bed. Daniel was in coma for a month and when he woke up, he could barely talk and walk. After months of care, he gradually recovered, but lost a year in schooling. Seeing him preach and mesmerising his audience with his sermons in the church fills my heart with joy and gratitude.

Daniel held his wedding in Kuching a week ago. This time, the dinner celebration was held at Johore for friends and relatives living in West Malaysia, Singapore and other parts of the world.

My nieces performed a lovely dance which was choreographed by Sister Lee Lee, and after the dance, Samuel's four daughters sang an oldie, "I love you more than I can say". After that Sister sang "Bangawan Solo" which was followed by my second brother and his wife with their powerful rendition of "Shanghai Bund." etc. I will write more about the concert time in the next blog.

May Daniel and Jacelyn's marital life be filled with joy and purpose, and may the Lord continue to bless them as they serve Him in the church.

Gan Cao

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

One day ..... and some day .........

A friend of mine opened his wife's underwear drawer and picked up a silk paper wrapped package:
"This, - he said - isn't any ordinary package."

He unwrapped the box and stared at both the silk paper and the box.

"She got this the first time we went to New York , 8 or 9 years ago. She has never put it on , was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is it. He got near the bed and placed the gift box next to the other clothings he was taking to the funeral house, his wife had just died. He turned to me and said:

"Never save something for a special occasion. Every day in your life is a special occasion".

I still think those words changed my life..
Now I read more and clean less.

I sit on the porch without worrying about anything.

I spend more time with my family, and less at work.

I understood that life should be a source of experience to be lived up to, not survived through. I no longer keep anything. I use crystal glasses every day.. I'll wear new clothes to go to the supermarket, if i feel like it.

I don't save my special perfume for special occasions, I use it whenever I want to. The words "Someday..." and "One Day..." are fading away from my dictionary. If it's worth seeing, listening or doing, I want to see, listen or do it now. I don't know what my friend's wife would have done if she knew she wouldn't be there the next morning, this nobody can tell. I think she might have called her relatives and closest friends.
She might call old friends to make peace over past quarrels. I'd like to think she would go out for Chinese, her favorite food. It's these small things that I would regret not doing, if I knew my time had come.

I would regret it, because I would no longer see the friends I would meet, letters... that I wanted to write

"One of these days".

I would regret and feel sad, because I didn't say to my brother and sisters, son and daughters, not times enough at least, how much

I love them..

Now, I try not to delay, postpone or keep anything that could bring laughter and joy into our lives..
And, on each morning, I say to myself that this could be a special day..

Each day, each hour, each minute, is special.

If you got this, it's because someone cares for you and because, probably, there's someone you care about.

"One of these days" , remember that "One day" is far away... or might never come... ………

The above was sent to me by a friend, Tan Soo Kiat. It is vital that if we have to do something, we do it as soon as possible. Perhaps, it is not a bad idea to live life like the Nike maxim - "Just do it!"

Gan Cao

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Brother's Interesting and Exciting Website

Eldest brother called me and informed me that now his composition, Huai Ku, is being played by Ning. "Huai Ku" was written in 1976 with brother giving its world premiere in Singapore. Its many colours and characters ranging from coy to fiendish makes this work one of his most popular. Readers can log in brother's lovely and exciting website at You can click under media, and you can hear
his exciting composition. It is a very difficult piece to play, and Ning has played "Huai Ku" beautifully with panache.

Eldest brother has inherited papa's talent for music, and mama's talent for art.
How wonderful for a person to inherit the best of his parents' talents and attributes. Nevertheless, genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Brother works very hard and gives his utmost in all that he does, be it playing the violin, conducting, composing, teaching or painting. Brother's art students have won so many golds in various International Children's Art Competitions.

I am exceedingly proud of brother's talents and achievements. Praise God for His blessings.!

Gan Cao

Monday, January 11, 2010

Double Celebration on New Year's Eve......


Pretty little Gloria feeling a little bashful with papa, Samuel looking on.
Aunty Helen is carrying her adopted puppy.

Front row from left to right - Irin, Phoebe, Sophia, Gloria, Dea.
Back row - Debra, Joanne, Helen and Samuel
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31st December 2009 was one of those very rare days that I was in Singapore! For it seems to me that somehow, on 31st December, I was in other parts of the world, except in Singapore! I rememmber in 1999, I was in Toronto for my nephew, Lei's wedding, and in 2006 I was in Taiwan, bumping around on my own for the very first time! The rest of the other time on new year's eve was spent either in Penang, Kuching or Melbourne.

Hence, I decided to invite my nephew Samuel and his family to come over to celebrate the year end and also to celebrate Gloria, Samuel and Aunty Helen's birthday which fall in the month of December. Aunty Helen's birthday is exactly on 31st December. Also, as Sam's children are dog lovers, I thought it would be great if they could see the puppies in December rather than in February during Chinese New Year, for the puppies are growing bigger and bigger.

I also invited my neighbour Irin, and would have loved to invite Wendy, but she was in India. Since, we are all dog lovers, Irin's dogs, Bobby and Bibi and their four little pups, Brian, Brandon, Angel and Juno must also join in the fun. The other two puppies have been adopted by Irin's god sister who lives in Sengkang.

Aunty Helen cooked her signature dish, glutinous rice with mushrooms, dried prawns, sausage and a host of other ingredients. I cooked some spaghetti bolognaise, sotong balls, porridge, (Penang style) etc.

31st December is always a special day for it marks the end of the old year and the commencement of 365 forthcoming days!

May we all reflect on the past 365 days and cherish our successes and remember our mistakes so that we can all grow wiser and stronger. Always remember that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going! It is also vital to be cheerful and optimistic, for somehow optimism attracts the sun's rays rather than the clouds!

May the remaining 354 days in 2010 be days of great blessings from the One above,
and in Him we trust!

Gan Cao

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Precious Meeting......


On my left is my beloved cousin, Nancy and on my right is my beloved koko Kee Seng.
Next to Kee Seng, is my favourite - Girlie, Nancy's daughter.

Girlie with her sister-in-law and brother, June.

Aren't the children cute? Pretty Grace is flanked by two little adorable

Toasting and serving of tea are important features in a Chinese wedding

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When I arrived at Penang, I was pleasantly surprised to hear of a relative's wedding.
Since my sister-in-law, Saw Kim was unable to attend as my nieces and family were arriving Penang in the evening, I went to the dinner with brother Kee Seng instead.
At the wedding dinner, my intake of food was limited as my tummy was already half-filled with joyful laughter! My cousin Nancy and koko Kee Seng are natural jokers!
Koko is usually quite quiet, but when he is in one of his relaxed state of mind, he thrills his audience with his anecdotes!

I have been away from Malaysia for so many years, and have little contact with other relatives other than my siblings and their families. Hence, I was quite excited to be able to catch up with those I have not seen for a long time. Also as I am the youngest with relatives who are much older than me, it is as if I was meeting them for the first time! I enjoyed the company of my relatives, especially cousin Nancy and her family. Amazing how time flies! As our parents have passed away, it is important to connect with each other and to meet with the younger generation. I am happy to see my relatives doing well.

I was glad to have arrived Penang at a good timing, and had the precious opportunity
to meet up with relatives and old friends! I love the people in Penang for they are friendly, warm and hospitable.

Gan Cao

Thursday, January 07, 2010

When the Voice is Loud .....


One of the dark lanes of Jelutong Village

Home of Aunty Ah Tee, who was mama's good friend

When I became a toastmaster, I learnt that a good speaker has a loud, clear and expressive voice. Certainly, loudness is an asset, for it helps your audience to listen more easily.

Since I was a child, I also realised that having a loud voice was an asset.... to ward off intruders and would-be robbers.

I remember mama had asked me to run to the grocery store to buy some incense sticks and papers. It was about eight at night, and I had just finished listening to my favourite program on the radio. Mama gave me a $50 note....big money in those days.
I wished she could have given me a smaller $5 note instead, but mama was not someone you would argue with.

As I was walking briskly along the dark alley, I thought I saw three Malay boys standing at the alley, lighting some cigarettes. I told myself that I would use an alternative lane to return home, so as to avoid bumping into the boys again, who looked as if they were taking some drugs. Drug taking was rampant in those days.

However, I bumped into a friend, and chit-chatted happily with her. I forgot about my earlier intention to use a different lane. Just as I was walking, I sensed someone following me and just as I turned around, the guy tried to snatch my purse. Just then, mama's stern face loomed in my imgaination, and by golly my fear of losing the money gave me courage to scream at my loudest, "Pencuri! Pencuri!
(Thief! Thief!) My piercing scream caused the dogs to start barking, and suddenly my neighbour, Aunty Ah Tee turned on the external lights of her house. The thief fled for his life while I held on to my purse with tenacity!

"What happened?" asked Aunty Ah Tee.

"No...nothing!" I stammered.

"I was sure I heard someone screaming", reiterated the elderly lady.

When I reached home, I looked into the mirror and gosh I looked so pale. The ordeal had left me quite shaken. Keeping mama's money intact was all that mattered to me, and knowing how nosey and talkative the villagers were, I did not want to appear like a little heroine, warding off a potential robber.

I was the youngest and perhaps the most shy and timid in the family. However, this unforgettable incident has somehow allowed me to think that if I had to stand up for something in the future, I would somehow have the courage to do it. Being courageous does not mean having no fear; it means that despite the fear, we still carry out the task. Perhaps this is why I had the courage to tick off four burly secondary school boys when I caught them trying to drown a kitten.

It is certainly useful when a lady has a little courage, and it helps when the voice is loud ......

Gan Cao

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Jelutong Revisited


The old Post Office is still in existence! I sent my first letter to eldest brother in England when I was eight years old!

Jelutong market, as busy and bustling as ever!

The row of old shop houses are still thriving!

The "mamak" stall which is still in operation. Now it is manned by the previous owner's son.

Whenever I am back in Penang, I would always make it a point to visit the place where I used to live in - Jelutong! I do not know about now, but when I was a teenager, I remember Jelutong was known as a place of pugilistic gangsters. I remember once my boss, Pamela Ong, dropped me off, and she dropped me off at the outskirts of Jelutong. Jelutong - a place where angels feared to tread!

But for us who were born and raised in Jelutong, the place is full of charm. The village was our playground, and my siblings and I would run all over the village with our neighbours' children. We were quite close to the sea, and my elder brothers and their friends often tried to row some boats. Now, the sea has been reclaimed and an expressway has been built.

Whenever I watch the current Channel 8 Serial "Togther", I become quite nostalgic. I could relate to the movie because life was then as portrayed by pushcart stalls,
caring yet sometimes overly inquisitive neighbours. My siblings were good at climbing trees - coconut, rambutan, chiku and guava trees. Due to my short legs, I was always at the lowest rung of the coconut trees, and of course, in those days, pants were wide like skirts! Whenever I looked up, guess what did I see!!???

During weekends we would play from sunrise to sunset, much to the consternation of our parents! My complexion was dark and I was often mistaken to be a Malay, and of course, with the many activities, I was somewhat skinny! We would spin tops, play with marbles and catch spiders. Being a nature lover, I would often try to release the spiders whenever my relatives were out of sight. I detested those spider fights which the children seemed to enjoy watching. We did not have money to buy toys, but we were resourceful enough to create our own games and had so much joy and fun!

Some of the old coffee shops and grocery stores were taken over or demolished. I was therefore surprised that the old mamak store was still in place. Except that this time, the business is done by the owner's son. I talked to the son and found out that his father had passed away. I noticed that the son only sells edible stuff, and there was not a magazine or comics in sight. When the father was alive, I used to visit his shop, and would sit there for hours reading comics, magazines or story books. I thought it was a good investment of 5 cents for some candies which would entitle me to read for hours! Sometimes the vendor did not have new books, and I would reread the ones I had read. Hence, I could still remember in details all the fairy tales that I had read and reread!

My favourite was "Happy Theatre" which had been demolished. I often had free entries to the movies because I befriended the staff of the theatre. If the theatre was jam packed, I would be contented to sit on the floor. Once Sister Ean Ean was annoyed with me for frequenting the theatre and reminded me to study for my exam. "Exam over already!", I screamed with joy. "You never studied!" admonished Sis. But my results were surprisingly satisfactory except for Mathematics and Science, subjects beyond my comprehension!

In the television serial, "Together", the village produced a top scholar in Huimin. I remember there was this boy who scored the highest marks in the HSC (Higher School Certificate) with all distinctions. He was in the newspapers for he topped everyone in the country. I remember neighbours flocking to the attap house to congratulate him and it was such a joy to see his parents beaming with pride. Papa and mama too were proud of my eldest brother, Kee Yong, when he was featured in the newspapers for his musical and artistic talent. Jelutong Village also produced a beauty queen and she even competed in the Miss World competition! If I am not mistaken, she even entered the semi-finals. At that time, that was about the closest to winning the title that Malaysia could get. In the movie, "Together", Jinhao is also a beauty queen.! Gosh! I wonder if there is any slightest chance that the TV producer is from Penang? Maybe not. I guess life in the 1960s would be quite similar in Malaysia and Singapore.

Looking back, my heart is filled with gratitude to the Creator, for He has blessed my family and villagers. Most, if not all of us are doing well now. As children we had such a wild childhood, yet He has protected us from harm and danger. He has protected our house from being burnt down so many times. Once it was when someone had forgotten to switch off the iron which was left on the ironing board the whole night.! We did not have three pin plugs then. There are just too many examples to elucidate.

My readers can perhaps understand now why I am so easily contented and happy. When you have lived in a house filled with holes in the roof, a small hdb flat is a luxury! When you have enjoyed simple, tasty meals with your family, sumptuous food in restaurants is a luxury! When the nights are very dark, the stars seem to shine even more brightly!

Jelutong Village will soon be demolished in a year or two. I just know that the land is owned by one Malay family, and we pay little for the rent of the land. Soon, houses and condominiums will replace all the attap and wooden houses. Although the buildings will be gone, the happy and sweet memories of our wild childhood would be forever etched in my memory.

I will never forget my roots. We were not rich but were extremely happy. I will always count my blessings and name them one by one!

Monday, January 04, 2010

A Cat Called Choo Choo


"Choo Choo was 9 years old when she was adopted by Precious Pets early in 1998. She was suffering from chronic kidney failure and required daily medication and fluids. Over the next few months her condition stabilized and she became the "hospital mascot" here at Petmobile. She had free reign of the place and made the most of it, stopping by to say hello to just about everyone during the day.

Her favorite spot, however, became the reception desk where she presided over all lobby activity with mild, cat-like interest.

Recently, Choo Choo's condition worsened to the point that the kindest thing we could do was to put a stop to the suffering. On January 25th, 1999, our Choo Choo closed her eyes and went to sleep for the last time. We will all miss her terribly."

Sometimes I like to look into my sitemeter to find out how readers discover the existence of my blog. No wonder someone found me because I have the same name as the cat adopted by Precious Pets. What a lovely and friendly cat! The Creator has taken the trouble to make animals to help make our life more interesting, meaningful and colorful. I am saddened by animal abuse when cats and dogs are thrown from high rise buildings or mutilated in any way.

I cannot be like Nam Wha or Raymund Wee who has done so much for animals; I can only contribute a little in financial support. If I come across anyone abusing a poor animal, he will be shown my "dracula fangs"! People who abuse animals are real cowards for they know that the helpless animals cannot fight back.

Let us all live and let live!

Gan Cao

Sunday, January 03, 2010

He ain't heavy; he's my brother!


Wedding photo of koko Kee Seng and sis-in-law Saw Kim. I am on the extreme left.... the shortest and youngest in the group. Next to me is my beautiful sister Ean Ean and beautiful mother in Nonya outfit. Standing behind mom is my lovely sister Lee Lee, and next to her in glasses - my wonderful papa.

Engagement photo of brother and fiancee Saw Kim.

Brother with his beloved daughter Yann showing off her Christmas present of a lovely set of bed sheets given by yours truly.

A welcome nasi lemak dinner for Jeff, Tyng's precious half and brother's future son-in-law.

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Whenever I am at home with my relatives, I love to rummage through old photo albums.
They bring back such wonderful memories!

It is always lovely to see ourselves minus the added kilos which are inevitable with aging.

My second brother Kee Seng is a real bookworm! He has so many dictionaries in various languages - Chinese, English, Malay and Japanese. He is excellent in phonetics and that is how he has taught himself all these years. I am glad that of late, brother has also grown to enjoy some popular television serials like Jewel in the Palace and The Little Nonya. Brother and I have a few similarities. When we watch a program, we are very serious about watching it faithfully and will try our utmost to stay at home in the evenings. We are both good cooks and of course, we also enjoy tasting food lah. Brother is a better connoisseur than me. Apart from dictionaries, he also has a fairly big collection of recipe books.! Brother is frugal with himself but very generous with others.

Brother plays the clarinet and cello. Recently I brought the violin given to me by my best friend's husband, Yew Tien. As it is a full sized violin it causes me unnecessary strain with my short hands and fingers. Hence I decided to give the violin to brother as it will be very easy for him to pick it up since he plays the cello. But brother is adamant that I keep the violin for he believes once I advance in my playing, a full size violin is a better instrument to play on.

During my last visit, brother gave me some lessons on Hanyu pingyin. I hope I can improve my Chinese further and am now learning to read and write in Chinese. It was koko who pointed out that my spelling of Ganchau should be "G-a-n C-a-o" and that it means licorice, a kind of herb. My blog address will still remain the same, but my pen name will have the corrected spelling from now onwards. I hope, my blog, like the herb licorice, will continue to give encouragement and inspiration to my readers.

Happiness for me is seeing koko basking in the din created by his four grandchildren. I know koko is most happy whenever his three children and their families are with him as Tyng now lives in America while Yann is in Kuala Lumpur. Fortunately Keong lives near him and his family often join brother and wife for dinner as my sister-in-law is a great cook. Jeff especially loves her sumptuous nasi lemak - the best he has eaten. It is interesting to see an American enjoying assam fried fish and sambal prawns.

Brother is still running his business. He and his partner have been in business since the past four decades. Brother has excellent E.Q. He gets along with most people as he is generous, easy going yet perceptive. He always goes the extra mile in all that he does - whether as a business partner or friend.

I always thank God for koko for it was he who instilled the love of books and words in me when he bought me the world's smallest dictionary measuring two inches by one inch! I remember I cupped the tiny dictionary and asked my classmates to guess what was inside my palms. Of course no one could ever guess!

Happiness is when I have a brother who loves me and continues to believe in me even when I failed. My cousin, Nancy, is right when she said that koko is so much like my beloved papa in looks and character. Everyday I thank God for having given me a most wonderful brother whom I wish to emulate.

Gan Cao