Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Room to Receive When We Give Out .....


The lovely tower of canisters which I bought for $50

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One of my friends had given me quite a large and pretty dish where I could put the various Chinese New Year goodies on each tray. However, as it was quite big and I often travelled during the lunar New Year, I decided to give the gift away to a friend.

This year, I would be spending the lunar New Year in Singapore, and would be expecting some guests in my home. I wondered if I should buy some little trays to put the new year goodies or just to put them in different small plates which I already have. I dislike buying things which will eventually become white elephants.

Hence I had a pleasant surprise when I found out that our company was having a trade fair for the graduating group of students in our real estate training course. During the fair, various groups would try to market their services/goods and we would be the patrons. We would use the fake money given to us in order to purchase the goods or services. Just as I enetered the training room, someone shouted out,
"Who wants to buy my tower of canisters? Only $50/-". Of course, I bought it without hesitation, much to the disappointment of my colleagues who also wanted to purchase it, but was a tad too slow.

I never cease to be amazed by how God always knows my needs. I guess when we do not hoard and give out to others, there will always be room to recieve. Like the Sea of Galilea which gives out its waters to the lakes on the lower part of the land, the water will always remain fresh and teem with abundance of fishes and marine life.

Gan Cao

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Handling Stress - the Doggy Way


"Handle Every Stressful Situation Like A Dog.
If You Can't Eat It Or Play With It..
Just Pee On It And Walk Away..!"

A friend from the Toastmasters' Club, Pradeep, sent me the above email. I smiled when I read it, because it reminded me of the stray dog, Orbit, which always roamed
around the Killiney Road/River Valley area. When Orbit was tired of roaming around, he would take refuge at the old Mitre Hotel, where Mr. Chiam would sometimes give him some food.

Once I decided to put the remaining uneaten food in a container, hoping to give the food to Orbit. For some strange reasons, the staff food cooked by my chef was not tasty. I guess the chef must have been in an unusually bad mood.

Hence, when Amu and I spotted Orbit, we were very happy and put the container of food under a tree. We moved away because Orbit was a shy dog, and would not go near the food unless we were a distance away.

To our surprise, Orbit sniffed at the food and did not eat it. He lifted one of his hind legs and urinated on it! Then he walked away, cool as cucumber!

Amu and I could not help laughing! Even Orbit could tell that the food was not tasty with just one sniff! He showed his doggy arrogance and nonchalance by urinating on the food! No argument1 No snarling! No showing of doggy fangs!

I guess we should all learn to handle stress like Orbit. No ranting and raving!
Cool and calm!

Gan Cao

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My First Celebration with Relatives in Singapore!


Esther with Samuel's four lovely daughters, getting ready for a swim.

Jacelyn with Daniel and Esther at the beach

A lion dancer ushering in great wishes at the Cafe Terrace

Bowling is great fun!

I have been living in Singapore for the past two and a half decades but hardly spent the lunar New Year here! Most of the times I was back in my hometown in Penang. The only time that my second brother Kee Seng takes his leave - it is the first ten days of Chinese New Year. Hence, it made sense that I should go back around this time, so that I could see more of him.

This year, I decided to stay in Singapore instead for I had spent Christmas with brother and family in Penang. I had actually intended to take eldest sister Lee Lee with me to Korea for a visit as she has yearned to see snow. However, this time, the weather is quite bad and we decided to postpone the trip to end of this year or early January next year.

My nephews and nieces together with their children visited Singapore on the first day. We went to the Raffles Town Club to have high tea. After that everyone went to have a dip at the pool, while I went to the gym. Due to my chronic ear problems, I cannot submerge my head in the pool.

Samuel and his family left Singapore in the evening, while Daniel and his wife and Esther stayed for another day. I decided to take them to the East Coast in the morning before having the Oriental buffet lunch at the Raffles Town Club.
We had a pleasant surprise when a lion dance troupe entered the restaurant and it was fun collecting chocolates wrapped in gold papers which were thrown by the "lion".

We decided to try our hands at bowling at the club. Daniel was the champion, while I came in second for the first two rounds and Esther came in second for the third round. For some strange reasons, I could not throw the ball in the proper way with my palms facing the pins. If I did that, I felt a loss of balance.! Hence, I could only throw the ball
with my palm facing my right leg! Despite that I managed to knock down all ten pins at times! Sheer luck? We wanted to have a fourth game, but had to vacate the bowling area because the whole place had been booked for a birthday party!
I learnt that it cost $31 per head for food and bowling for three hours. Quite a creative idea to have a birthday party with bowling as the main game.

As it was still early, my relatives decided to visit the new mall at City Square so that they could also drop in at Mustapha Shopping Centre. I waited at City Square and read my papers and book while the young ones went shopping. We
decided to try the fruits and ice cream chocolate fondue at the mall. Esther, my energetic niece, took over the wheels as Daniel looked visibly exhausted. It is always a good idea to have more than one person who could drive, when travelling long distance.

Gan Cao
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My First New Year Celebration in Johore!


Chinese New Year gifts all nicely wrapped up for distribution.

Sophia and Phoebe in their new "Hello Kitty" Chinese outfits

Yu Sheng tossing for blessings before the dinner proper!

Together we feast, united we stand!

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Every year, I usually celebrate Chinese New Year either in Penang or other parts of the world. This year, I decided to celebrate the Lunar New Year with my nephews, Samuel and Daniel together with their families in Johore. It was even more wonderful that my niece, Esther, who works in Kuala Lumpur could join us this year.

Instead of buying food stuffs as gifts, I decided to buy clothes for my relatives.
I was glad that I could buy the Chinese outfits with "Hello Kitty" logo at half the price at the Pasar Malam stores. They cost so much more in the departmental stores!
Same brand; same quality! I had a fun time wrapping the gifts in red paper wrappers - felt like a second Christmas!

The food at Bamboo Restaurant at Skudai was excellent. The servings were reasonably huge and the food was tasty. Despite the crowd, the service was prompt and efficient. Best of all, the chefs were still able to retain the quality of food.

After the sumptuous dinner we gathered together at Daniel's apartment and played games. Some families joined us after their reunion dinner. The children especially were most excited with the prospect of winning prizes in the games. Samuel, Daniel and I were the leaders for the various games.

It was certainly a memorable Chinese New Year celebration, especially for my relatives who are living in different parts of the world. Best of all, the jam at the Causeway was not too bad. Things are certainly improving!

Gan Chau

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy New Year!

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Last year was a seemingly tough year, yet we all survived by the grace of God. For some of us, we not only survived, but we enjoyed abundant blessings from the One above. Hence it is with gratitude and appreciation that we say "thank you" to God and to our friends and fellowmen who have been there for us.

For the first time, I am leaving for Johore in a couple of hours' time to spend the New Year Eve with my beloved nephews and their families! So here is Choo wishing all her readers a very happy and blessed lunar New Year. May all our friends of different nationalities in Singapore and throughout the world join us in our celebration as we usher in the New Year! May everyone be richly blessed in 2010!


Keong Hee Huat Chye! Gong xi fa cai!
Ang pao jit pao lai! Hong bao yi bao lai!
Kin ni tua huat chye! Jin nian ta fa cai!
Tarn lui eng eng lai! Chuan chien rong yi lai!

Happy and prosperous new year!
An ang pow for me, my dear!
This year, sure to prosper,
Lots of wealth to garner!

Selamat Hari Raya!
Ang pow, sila beri saya!
Tahun ini lebih banyak kaya,
Cari wang dengan teliti, pun tak payah!

Une bien Heureuse Annee!
Ang pow venez venez!
Une annee ou les affaires
Aisement prosperent prosperent!

सुखी और समृद्ध नए वर्ष!
धन देने, मेरा प्रिय है! इस वर्ष,
निश्चित रूप से सफल होना,
बहुतबडी संख्या में धन

Sukhi aur Samruddh Naya Varsh!
Dhan dena, Mera Priy hai!
Is Varsh, Nischit rup se safal hona,
bahut badi sankhya me dhan ektra karne ke liye !

Gan Cao

Friday, February 12, 2010

Thank You !

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice." -- Meister Eckhart

Meister Eckhart has put in succinctly one sentence that summarizes the importance of gratitude. When a person is grateful, it means he is aware of his need of help from God and fellowmen.

Only two words in "thank you", yet for some people, it is not their habit to utter those words. I once read a letter in the New Paper and the writer complained that some commuters did not even bother to thank him when he got up from his seat in the bus or train.

Mama was one lady for whom the word "thank you" was hardly heard. Where mama was concerned, silence implied consent. My siblings and I grew up, realising that if mama was quiet, it meant approval. On the other hand, papa was most expressive. When I did little favours for him, he would thank me profusely! "Thank you, my precious one," papa would say, and it left his youngest daughter beaming with joy the whole day long! There is so much power in those two words!

Some people enhance their thanks with tangible gifts. Every year during Chinese New Year, I show my thanks to the cleaner and postman with small angpows (red packets) to show my appreciation. They clean our block and deliver our letters, rain or shine, and best of all, perform their duties cheerfully.

My eldest sister Lee Lee shared with me that her best friend, Yeh Yen and her husband often thank each other. Is it any wonder that the couple is so loving and considerate towards each other and have stayed married till today?

Every morning, I thank the Lord for everything around me and to make it more fun and creative, I sing and compose the lyrics. Sometimes I would sing to the tune of some Chinese or English songs; at times I would sing "Thank you, thank you Jesus", in different languages. My spirit becomes uplifted and I know I have the strength to weather any storm or hurricane that may arise suddenly during the day!

Give thanks with a grateful heart,
Give thanks.......

Gan Cao

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's Spring Time !


Chinatown in Singapore

Flowers, flowers, everywhere!

A stall with its colorful paraphernalia!

Chinatown is always packed with shoppers getting ready to usher in the New Year

I asked eldest Sister Lee Lee to go to Chinatown to see all the cheerful pink flowers "in bloom".

"No, I don't like to look at fake flowers!" asserted my eldest sis.

"Aiya Chieh Chieh. Boh hu, heh ah si ho!", I said in Hokkien dialect, meaning in direct translation, "No fish, prawns also good." We make do with what we have and find contentment with an alternative replacement. I love cherry blossoms. The massive bloom of beautiful pink flowers seems to make the whole atmosphere so cheerful and gives an air of hope and optimism! Is this the reason why the lunar
New Year always coincides with the spring season?

I always miss the four seasons which I had enjoyed so much when I was studying in Canada. I am glad that this year, Chinatown is full of cherry blossoms! Mind you, they are not cheap. A stalk of fake cherry blossoms costs about $11.00! Can you imagine how much the whole tree will cost!

Spring, a time of rebirth,
a time of hope!

Gan Cao

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

C'est la vie! That's Life !

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I was pleasantly surprised when I found hundreds of hits on my blog! When I checked my sitemeter, I saw that readers were googling for Ho Yeow Sun! Then I found my blog listed in the sitemeter!

"The Oriental Express: January 2009
I believe that a divorce takes place, often not because either party had been a bad spouse. ... It was my lawyer friend, Yeow Choo, who encouraged me to start ... - 221k - Cached"

I had written over 1,300 articles now and even though I had not written about Ho Yeow Sun, my blog came under the column because of the words, "divorce" and "Yeow".
I was not even referring to Yeow Sun, but to Yeow Choo, a lawyer who is also a very good friend of mine!

Strangely, I was not even interested to read or know more about Sun. I had heard her voice on the cd once and would say that I was not impressed. (Remember, one man's music is another man's noise). I am more fastidious with singers though it is much easier for me to appreciate and admire artistes who play the piano, violin and other instruments.

However, I was attracted to the blog article posted by Sun's husband, Kong Hee. It is entitled "Wholesome Shallowness", and I print out the article below.

"In 2007, my wife Sun released a music video of the hit single, “China Wine,” the result of a creative collaboration with reggae wunderkind, Wyclef Jean. That video garnered a lot of attention on YouTube with more than two million hits over two dozen fan sites. It received rave reviews from industry insiders as well as youths who love dance pop the world over. Not surprisingly, the video also raised quite a few eyebrows within the religious fraternity who felt it was inappropriate for a Christian to be featured in a dance video.

Although Sun is married to me, she herself was never formally ordained as a minister. She never felt gifted with a pulpit ministry. But ever since Sun was a child, she had participated in many singing contests and won quite a few of them. As a preacher’s wife, Sun functioned faithfully from behind-the-scenes as my helpmate, becoming an effective counselor and a singer in the church.

At the turn of the millennium, as I began formulating my doctrine on the Cultural Mandate, challenging my generation to come out of isolation and engage the marketplace, I urged Sun to help me embody that message. In 2002, she launched her new career in Taiwan as a pop singer. Since then, she has done very well with more than four million units sold, five multi-platinum records, and over 30 number one songs in five different countries. Today, she is known in the Far East as a bona fide singer, entertainer and humanitarian.

From her royalties, Sun has built eight schools, two orphanages, two medical centers, one rehabilitation clinic, and two housing projects. Through her connections, she has helped with the establishing and fund-raising of four other orphanages, two hospitals, two community services, and one charity foundation. For all these humanitarian achievements, Sun was awarded the Top Outstanding Young Person of the World in 2003, and became China’s Charity Ambassador of Children since 2004. In 2007, she sang the theme song for the Special Olympics at Shanghai. Last year, she sang the 2008 Olympic Anthem during the pre-game launch at Beijing. The unchurched throughout Asia loves Sun and views her as an exemplary model to the youths of society.

Yet, in spite of all her secular and creative achievements, many conservative pastors find it hard to accept Sun in any role outside of church ministry. But the reality is that she is no longer a church staff or a gospel singer. She doesn’t work for any religious organization.

As a professional artist, Sun has to take on many dramatic stage personas. This is what entertainers do. In the “China Wine” video, she happens to be acting in one such role. Fiction must be separated from fact. I think the struggle many pastors have is the difficulty to separate her association with me (as a pastor’ wife) and her career as a singer. I agree that if she is a “pastor” or “preacher,” perhaps the video would have been inappropriate. But Sun is not a pastor. She is an entertainer. All her music videos were not produced by the church but by her secular music label, the company that she is working for.

“China Wine” is a music video about a girl who has to take up an extra job at a nightclub to make ends meet for her family. Some pastors immediately took offense at the club scene and sexy dancers around her. As for her costumes, she wore gym clothes which was not inappropriate for the set she had to act in. At the end of the music video, she caught her boyfriend cheating on her in the night club and confronted him in Mandarin. If you understand what she said, her words were neither crude nor profane at all. She basically shouted at the guy, “Hey, what are you doing with this mistress?” Unfortunately, the video translator subtitled that as “Hey, what are you doing with this b****?” That final b-word caused a further uproar among pastors, who were quick to condemn her for uttering profanities. A few of them wrote me angry emails calling Sun a “whore,” “hooker,” and other nastier, derogatory terms. Some said she was promoting free sex and immorality. But any intelligent, objective viewer would know that the whole drama is not about sex; if anything, it portrays the reality of a fallen secular world.

All these storms in a tea cup set me thinking of a bigger question: Are Christians living a sanitized life? Why have “Christian” productions been so ineffective in their reach to the unchurched, to the extent that even believers are not interested in their products?

In his book, Eyes Wide Open: Looking For God in Popular Culture, author William D. Romanowski talks about a 1993 survey, which reported that over 80 percent of all churchgoing Christians regularly go to the movies. When they were asked what they thought about Christian films, TV productions and Christian Contemporary Music, this was what they said:

1. Christian popular arts are inferior imitations as compared to mainstream culture. To many, Christian music is substandard guitar pop and happy-clappy lyrics about Jesus. This is not surprising as many Christian artists feel that their main job is to preach the gospel and proclaim the faith. As such, artistic quality or creativity is not so important. But what they forget is that when people go to a movie or buy an album, their first desire is to be entertained. If they want to be preached to, they would have gone to church.

2. Christian popular arts are unrealistic, sanitized versions of the real world. Some reviewers even use the phrase “wholesome shallowness” to describe them. Christian entertainment has come to mean movies and music appropriate for “family-only” audiences. That basically means kids-oriented programs or old-time TV reruns for senior citizens. Are Christians that naive and immature, living in a perpetual time warp of a bygone era, that we can’t handle the realities of the 21st century?
As early as 1916, Hollywood had already discovered that 60 percent of theater owners wanted pictures that portray the real world—even if they contained themes on violence, sex and greed. This is because moviegoers want films that honestly and artistically address the issues of life.

3. Christian popular arts are limited in content and purpose. If you listen to most CCM, you would think that all Christians do is worship and evangelize 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But people in general, Christians and non-Christians alike, don’t want to be preached to 24/7. They want a pop culture that is fun, entertaining, artistic and innovative. They are also concerned with the issues of life—and they enjoy it when those themes are addressed with artistic flair.
Everybody knows the trials and temptations of daily living. We are not immune to problems and tensions. We are all concerned about love and relationship, life and health, career and finances, the global economy and politics, war and peace, and our future. We are all trying to understand why things happen the way they do and how we can live our lives properly. Pop culture helps us to navigate through all that.
People get inspired and moved by U2, the biggest band in the world today. Their music captures a sense of religious longing and the struggle of living in a world torn by war, injustice and poverty. They enjoy movies like The Matrix, which speaks of an invisible world behind our natural world. They are moved by Schindler’s List (rated R) which touches on courage, sacrifice, and overcoming racism. CHC member, Jack Neo, is arguably the best movie director in Southeast Asia. His films, I Not Stupid I and I Not Stupid II, were box office hits because they realistically deal with the pressures of the rat-race in Asian societies.

Listeners and viewers cry buckets over these powerful songs and films. They may be secular, but people get touched by such productions more so than most Christian ones. If Christian pop culture is artistically inferior, unrealistically sanitized, and limited in content and purpose, is there any surprise that surveys regularly show that even churchgoers are not excited about them? No wonder Christian artists have such a difficult time selling their products beyond small book tables in churches.

The beautiful truth is that God is not against pop culture. There is a section of the Old Testament known as “The Writings,” covering books like Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes and Lamentations. Honestly, aren’t they the popular songs, dramas and musicals of biblical times?

Psalms are songs of frustration, regret and anger, yet sung with love to a sometimes hidden God. Aren’t they like most tracks on the Billboard Chart?
Job deals with the sufferings of life, and the desire to find meaning through them. Isn’t it like the Hollywood hit movie, Forest Gump, or the long-running Korean serial drama, Jewel In The Place?

Proverbs deal with the danger of shortcuts, the snares of temptation, and the rewards of honesty. Aren’t they just like the cartoon series, The Simpsons?
The Song of Solomon is about the obsession with love and the sensual. Just turn on any pop radio and we have our modern-day Song of Solomon being broadcasted 24/7.
Ecclesiastes deal with the weariness of daily living in an imperfect world. Isn’t that portrayed in movies like Signs and The Pianist?

Lamentations deal with grief. When one listens to most of Eric Clapton’s songs, aren’t they all about the dealing with grief?

Like the Old Testament writings themselves, pop culture is the collective wisdom of our generation. Popular arts explore social injustice, songs of sorrow, and even tributes to women. Like the Book of Esther, they may not even mention the name of God. Like Ecclesiastes, they suggest that in this life, bad things do happen to good people. Or like the Song of Solomon, they may celebrate romance and sex. These songs and movies may not have a salvational purpose, but nonetheless, they offer us the essential comfort and wisdom for living. As such, pop culture represents a powerful means of communicating to us what the real world is like, and how to live in it.
We are all products of our personal theological persuasions and convictions. Pop culture affects the lifestyles of the masses. Venturing into the realm of secular culture is certainly not for the weak or the fainthearted. What Sun is seeking to do is to show us how to be a modern-day Daniel or Joseph to our contemporary Babylon and Egypt. Daniel took on Babylon’s language, education, fashion, name and persona, and yet he didn’t compromise his own value system. According to the New Bible Commentary, Joseph was thoroughly “Egyptianized,” and yet he lived a great life of purpose. Esther, the super celebrity, was also similar. Sun simply wants to emulate these heroes of faith.

Can you remember John the Baptist questioning the authenticity of Jesus’ ministry when he heard about the latter’s working style? Jesus had become widely known as a friend of sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes and drunkards. He was even seen going to parties and events that the Pharisees themselves wouldn’t set foot in. John the Baptist was concerned that Jesus was becoming worldly, immoral and compromising—a bad example to the disciples. Our Lord’s reply to him was simply this: “Look at My fruits. Look at how the gospel is preached. ‘And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me’” (Matt. 11:6). The Greek word for “offended” is scandalizo, which means “to trip up, stumble, or be enticed to sin.” I would say the same to those religious critics who may be offended by Sun.

The “China Wine” music video was never meant for a church event. Neither was it ever intended to be an evangelism tool or a gospel video. It is simply pop entertainment. People watching the video and regarding it as just that will never get offended or stumbled, which explains the millions of hits and thousands of good reviews on YouTube.

So to the religious and conservatives who have used nasty, derogatory and expletive terms to describe Sun, my parting shot are the words of Jesus Christ from Matthew 21:31, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”

Pastor Kong Hee had gone to great lengths to share his profound insight. I am the contrast of him. I never like to explain or defend myself when confronted with accusations, half truths or derision. Man's condemnation does not send me to hell; neither do their praises send me to heaven. God is the One who judges me, and I want to bask in the peace, the perfect peace He has given me. Hence I believe that my silence sometimes speaks louder than words.

In fact, in a fallen world of turmoil, chaos, pessimism, manipulation, jealousy and strife, there will always be rumours and ill-will. For example, recently I wrote about the funtastic time we had at the Vietnam Toastmasters' Club and was surprised to receive a reply from a toastmaster, Rebecca, "Someone told me that the club had closed down. Anyway, glad that it is alive and kicking!" The club has more than 35 members and is only less than a year old. They have two chapter meetings a month. It is full of exuberant members who are the creme de la creme of Vietnam - young professionals with successful careers in Singapore. This truth can be easily verified; yet whoever spreads the rumours still wants to take the chance! See what I mean, Pastor Kong Hee? Let us have compassion for the people who hurt themselves by being unnecessarily angry, jealous, indiginant and insecure.

God's blessings and peace are all that I would ever need to lead a happy and simple life. Just as water finds its own level, let us live and let live. Let us not cripple ourselves with anger, jealousy, and strife. Let God always sit on His Throne of Judgement. Let us all learn to be happy and comfortable in our own skin, and let no one or circumstances rob us of our joy and beliefs. Let us always give others the benefit of a doubt. When we are not bothered about others' wholesome shallowness, we have more energy to move on and get the most joy, contentment and fulfillment out of life!

Gan Cao

Monday, February 08, 2010

A Funtastic Chapter Meeting !


Heart-shaped gifts lovingly prepared by the Exco for guests and appointment holders

Gurion, with his creativity and exuberance, never fails to surprise us!

Annie and Tanny singing a duet, Jimmy singing with his guitar,
Prolific writer, Abraham, and Gurion's beloved pet, Sasquatch.

President Catherine presenting the ribbon for Best Evaluator to Adela Goh

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Love was definitely in the air at the Vietnamese Toastmasters' Club's latest chapter meeting! This theme on love is to coincide with an early celebration of Valentine's Day! The seminar room at SMU was filled with colorful heart-shaped balloons, and someone immediately gave me a big red heart-shaped balloon when I stepped inside the room. This was why I decided to bring back the balloon together with a smaller purple balloon. At the bus stop, suddenly my red balloon went "Boomz!" The loud noise gave me a scare and I was sure, if Ris Low were there, she would yell, "That's my kind of boomz!" I prayed hard that the purple balloon would not go "boomz" in the bus or mrt, and I was glad it arrived home with me, safe and in one heartfelt shape!

The attractive table topics master, Alicia Yuan, wrapped up her romantic topics in dainty little paper scrolls with red strings and participants had to pick up the paper scroll from an equally dainty pink bag. With her pinkish red floral dress, she looked very pretty with all the heart-shaped gifts in pink and red on the table.

The members were abuzz with anticipation as their beloved Gurion Ang was the language
evaluator as well as the speaker at the mini workshop on "A Figure of Speech. Gurion Proposes, You Dispose". We were thrilled when suddenly Gurion produced his lovely little pet, rabbit, "Sasquatch". He then asked us to write a phrase or description on Sasquatch. There would be five prizes for the best five description. I always appreciate toastmasters who are not only passionate and helpful, but who also dig into their own pockets to sponsor prizes, gifts and food as well.

I decided to pen a poem instead and was happy to receive a prize from Gurion.


A furry beauty to behold,
With great love from Gurion untold;
Bright eyes oozing with joy and contentment,
With security from Gurion's attachment.

Ruby Nguyen did well for her debut speech, "We are Giants". Albert Nguyen
gave some insight with his topic, "Let's Talk About Love". The audience was curious about Abraham's topic in French, "L'mour sans bordue" (Love without borders). Billy Pham spoke about "The Miracle" while A. Syalabi shared with us
on "Gene Cloning: Getting to know how it's done".

Adela mesmerized the members with her dynamic stage presence and made the audience laugh with her table topics and evaluation. Hence, it was not surprising that she clinched the ribbon awards for the two categories. I was happy to see helpful
Frederick Kok as one of the evaluators.

It was indeed a funtastic chapter meeting. We not only had good speakers, we were also greatly entertained by Annie and Tanny who sang a duet, and Jimmy who sang and played the guitar. I hope toastmasters who live in Singapore will visit the Vietnam Toastmasters' Club one day, and for those who have yet to become a toastmaster, I encourage you to sign up for this amazing training program which will enhance your confidence and public speaking skills.! Each time I visit a club, I learn something new.

May love continue to prevail in this little planet of ours!

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians Chap.13 v. 13)

Gan Cao

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The new Eco Mall at City Square !


The lovely main entrace at street level

The interesting maze for shoppers to try figuring out!

Superb line dancers of all ages and races at the Mall
Artistes in ancient costumes giving out free gold coin chocolates to shoppers!

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My second sister Ean Ean from Melbourne had been to the new Eco Mall at City Square when she was in Singapore for a short vacation. And so had my eldest sister Lee Lee, her husband and my eldest sister-in-law, Saw Kim who recently visited me in
Singapore. My nephew, Samuel and his family from Johore, had also been to the Mall.

My relatives were kind of surprised that I had yet to visit City Square Mall, even though it is a stone's throw from my apartment. Hence, yesterday, I decided to visit the Mall once and for all! My bus overshot by one bus-stop, and I decided to walk to the Mall. I passed by interesting buildings and discovered a French restaurant which I had read about in the papers. " time, will bring some friends to try out the French cuisine," I thought to myself.

Wow! First I walked through a maze and heard some music. I was delighted to find a group of people doing line dancing. Some of them could dance really well like professionals. I decided to do some shopping as my relatives would be visiting me from Malaysia this coming celebration. NTUC Supermarket looks impressive with its various display of goods. There were even fake flowers on sale which are not found in other outlets.

I decided to take an early dinner at the Banquet Food Court and tried some Japanese food. The delicious salmon and chicken set is quite reasonably priced at $5.90. The vendors are quite generous in their servings. No wonder Sister Lee Lee had raved about the food!

Since I had brought with me a bag with wheels, I asked the goods to be put in my bag. Hence, NTUC did not have to give me plastic bags. Since I was shopping at an Eco Mall, let me go green too. I decided to take the MRT this time even though Little India station is one stop away. I wanted to find out the exit to the mall.
I also wanted to be back home in time for my favourite weekend Korean serial, "Glory of the Family".

I have chosen to live in Little India so that I could resist the temptation of food. I hardly patronise the Indian restaurants near my apartment. Nevertheless, my friend, Sally, was absolutely right when she said, I could easily hop into the MRT and go to every corner of Singapore to try good food! "Live! Work! Play! has been the tag line of the authorities to make Singapore an attractive place to dwell in. I guess, now the authorities have to add one more,

"Live! Work! Play! Eat!
Remember to always keep fit!"

Bon appetit! Sedap makan! Enjoy your food!

Gan Cao

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Today's Precocious Kids


I was waiting for the train at the Little India MRT. It was my usual time for my weekly violin lessons at the Braddel Heights Community Centre. I saw two little boys who looked alike - obviously a pair of twins. Both were carrying seemingly heavy backpacks which looked somewhat oversized on their small frames. One of the twins was engrossed with his comics and another was carrying a bag as well as a guitar in a case. I guess he would also want to read if his hands were not encumbered. I smiled, and asked him if he was learning the guitar. Both boys had "ACS" badges on.

I was happy to see one of the twins engrossed with his reading even while in the train. With so much competition from computers, games, sports, etc. I am glad to see children reading. One of my friends has complained that her daughter does not enjoy reading. My best friend, Soh Wah, is very fortunate that her two sons enjoy reading. When a child reads, he will improve in his language very effectively. From the way my students write and speak, I can tell whether they enjoy reading. The flow of language and the usage of words can reveal how much a student is reading.

Looking at the little boy in the train made me reminisce my childhood days. Reading was and still is my favourite hobby. I remember how mama would often ask me to run errands everyday, and often I would take my book along with me, as I was so engrossed with my reading. Once I asked the grocer to remember to shake the container of rice, so that more could be packed in, and soon the grocers realised that despite my engrossed reading, I would be sharp enough to watch them from the corner of my eyes. I loved papa so much that I would not allow anyone to deprive him even of one grain of rice!

I guess today's kids are even more precocious for they are exposed to more opportunities for learning. I hope every parent would encourage his child to read, for reading maketh a learned man.

Gan Cao

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Happiness is ......(28)


Little Roxy is camera shy

Got you! You cute little doggie!

I was on my way to my client's unit at Gardenville when I met this lovely Caucasian lady walking her equally lovely, cute and adorable little pug. Roxy has that intense look and her whole expression makes her look very cute. On the one hand,
she was curious to know me, and yet on the other hand, she was shy and afraid. Hence her reaction of coming towards me, and then retreating made her look even more cute and adorable.

I laughed because Roxy reminded me so much of my beloved Toby who had since flown back to Dubai. Till now, Gayatri has been too busy to email me Toby's latest photo. Roxy is thinner than Toby and has jet black fur, which means that she is a very healthy little pug.

After that first meeting, I was not able to meet Roxy. I regretted not having my camera with me then. Yesterday, I asked the security guard if he had seen a Caucasian lady walking a little black pug. The security guard shook his head.
As I was walking out of the condominium towards my bus stop, I prayed, "Oh Lord! Please let me meet little Roxy again!"

Just then, I heard a little barking, and I turned my head, and lo and behold there was little Roxy!

I was so happy and patted little Roxy. "I miss you!", and Roxy as usual, came forward and retreated when she suddenly became shy. Her owner, Jenny and I laughed. Jenny shared that she had flown Roxy over from Australia as her husband is now working in Singapore. Roxy is now three years old. I always respect owners who do not abandon their pets because of inconvenience.

I walked towards the bus stop, smiling at everyone I met on the road! Meeting Roxy had made my day, and the realisation that God loves us so much that He would answer even small, seemingly insignificant prayers!

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Excuse Me, Are You a Property Agent? .....(19)

"Why don't you live in a condominium?", asked a client while we were on the way to view another property. She was driving a lovely BMW and gave me a ride as she was
not sure of the route. My partner, Dickson tailed us in his car.

"I enjoy living in my little HDB flat which is often so breezy that I seldom have to turn on the airconditioning. I don't play squash or tennis and have a phobia for water - hence it does not make sense for me to live in a condominium and end up paying for the facilities which I might not use. Perhaps I could only use the gym and I hardly see ping pong tables or badminton courts in condominiums. The only games I could play reasonably well are ping pong and badminton.

This is probably why I decided to join the Raffles Town Club as a member. The membership was affordable and the monthly maintenance at about $80 is much better than the maintenance for condominium living I would have to pay. Most of the maintenance/singking funds in condominiums are usually above $200 a month. Morever the club is only about 5 bus stops away from my home. There was once when I even walked back home from the Club. A new MRT station near the club would be operational in about 4 to 5 years time. It is only 3 stops away from the Little India MRT.

Moreover at the Town Club, I could also invite friends, relatives and clients to use the gym, pool, dance room and have lunch or dinner at any of the few restaurants in the Club. I can also invite my friends to watch free movies at the Club.

I enjoy marketing my clients' lovely and luxurious properties and I feel happy for them. To each his own lifestyle. The most important question is to ask if we are truly happy. Happiness to me is being frugal so that I have more to share with others. Happiness is being contented and grateful to the One up there, and to be appreciative of people who have helped us in any way, no matter how seemingly insignificant. My beloved papa had always taught us never to take things or people for granted.

Gan Cao

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Excuse Me, Are You a Property Agent?.......(18)

Sometimes, I am amazed that while people could trust a doctor almost completely, they would be distrusting of a property agent. Of course, I do not blame them, maybe because of their bad experiences with rogue agents, but then, we also have some rogue doctors as well.....doctors who are careless and negligent, eg. the doctor who amputated the wrong leg, diagnosed wrongly, etc. There are many more unreported cases, simply because the patients could not afford to sue.

A client had viewed a few of my clients' shophouses in Little India and Race Course Road. I had also briefed him on the various properties that might be of interest to him and which would be within his budget of $1.2M. I showed him Pacific Mansion and a very beautiful unit in Mirage Tower. Pacific Mansion was going for $1.05M then, and the tip top unit at Mirage Tower was then $1.2M. A few weeks later, I was somewhat surprised and perplexed when he called me to say that he had bought a unit at Peace Mansion, and asked what I thought about it and if I could help him to sub-sell the unit! I told him that since the agent had assured him that the unit could be sold again before the exercise of option, then he should ask his agent to help him. I would only help clients to sub-sell what I had recommended them to buy, because I could feel the pulse of the property, and sense whether or not the property could be easily disposed of.

Now the Pacific Mansion is going enbloc again, and the owners have received letters from the Management. My client who bought the Mirage Tower has since sold her unit for a tidy profit and she has upgraded to a bigger unit with an extra bedroom at Horizon Towers.

Recently, I helped a client to buy a unit at Pacific Mansion, and we were doing the paper work at the poolside of his condominium. Just then his partner happened to pass by and my client happily told him about his purchase. The partner told him that Pacific Mansion would not go enbloc for it would be impossible for developers to make money. My heart sank momentarily, and when my colleague phoned me, I passed the phone to the buyer. My colleague argued that if everyone of us knows how to calculate, we could all be developers too! The calculation for enbloc is very complicated, and since Pacific Mansion had tried to enbloc a couple of times before in the past, it means there is potential.

I am glad that the buyer did not waver in his decision and is now blessed. Pacific Mansion is now going through another process of enbloc. Interestingly I suddenly received so many calls from previous viewers who realised they had missed the boat!

I have always prayed that if God wants me to close a deal, then I must be able to trust Him for the right property and buyer. Real estate work is stressful enough, and I do not want to add more stress by being anxious and worried. This is why I still have time for my weekly violin lessons and once a month string ensemble practice, toastmaster activities, writers' workshop, blogging, cooking, watching television serials and movies, and travelling.

I guess when we do not worry unnecessarily, we do not become crippled by unnecessary worries and anxiety. We have lots of energy and faith to move on, because we try our best and leave God to do the rest, basking in the confidence, that whether we succeed or fail, we still give Him thanks and praises, for all things work out for good to those who love and trust in Him.

Gan Cao

Monday, February 01, 2010

Excuse Me, Are You a Property Agent? .....(17)

"Next week hor, I have no more car to drive leh", said the co-broking agent, Garen.
He looked sad enough and I suddenly took the usually exuberant agent more seriously.


"My licence will be suspended for two years for drink driving".

"Aiyo! Why do you drink and drive, you naughty boy", I exclaimed with dismay.

Garen looks younger than his 28 years of age. Though he only has three years experience as an agent, he is diligent and has that child-like enthusiasm that many clients should find attractive.

"Got no car, can still be an agent or not huh?" asked Garen with a distinctive
liking for Singlish.

"Can mah". I replied in Singlish and hit my laps to show that these are the "kah" (in Hokkien dialect, meaning legs).

"Got "kah" can travel and sell properties! With our BMW (Bus, mrt, walking), we are sure to arrive on time. All these years, agents and clients could hardly fault me for being late. I always try to arrive at least 15 to 20 minutes early.

"I don't know whether I can still sell properties. I wonder how you manage to carry your heavy bag around the island," sighed Garen.

"Garen, I am twice your age and I am not complaining. In fact, some of our top producers - Nicole, Gina, Sally and Serene, just to name a few, in our company also do not drive. My new agent recruit Maya, who came in the top 100, also does not drive. Clients do not bother with whether you drive or not. They are more concerned about your product knowledge, integrity and punctuality. It's your determination and perseverance that are going to determine your great success.

I shared with Garen about the petite Nepali ladies toiling with 10 to 20 kilos of rice on their backs or heads, and ascending the lower parts of Mt. Everest. With my backpack which weighed about 3 kilos, I was already near exhaustion. I guess things always become easier with practice and determination.

Go, Garen, go with your kah, not car!

Gan Cao

Cakes, Glorious Cakes!


Here comes the bride! With her groom beside!

Are those sushis? Oh! No! It is Dr. Dennis Wee's birthday cake !

Cakes that are too pretty to be eaten!

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I am not someone who is good with crafts and handiworks. Obviously I lack in talent and patience. Hence, I always admire all works of arts and crafts. I guess I could say that I enjoy window shopping more than actual shopping. Each time I pass by a cake shop, I would stop for a few minutes to admire the beautifully decorated cakes. I never fail to be amazed by the lovely decorations on the cakes. Of course, if I need to buy a birthday cake for someone, then I would be a patron. Otherwise, it is incredible how strong I am to resist temptation.

I suppose after having looked at the cakes for a while, I feel kind of satiated. More often than not, the cakes look too pretty to be eaten, and I am contented with just admiring them.

When I was a student in Canada, I baked many cakes, especially birthday cakes for friends. I could make simple decorations but nothing like the decorations in the above pictures. In Canada, things are more costly, especially when we have to convert Malaysian dollars to Canadian dollars. Hence I was extremely frugal and ended up learning many things - making cakes, pizzas, creating my own recipes, etc.

Since I came back to Malaysia, I had not baked a single cake! It is cheaper and easier to buy cakes and if I were to bake my own cakes, it would be hard for me to
resist temptation, and I would get a chiding from my waistline if it could speak!