50 for 50

50 for 50 is a project I set out to write 50 funny and profound chapters of my life. I started vying the book of collections, 45 for 45, at 44 years old. Seems like forever, only this far. An extension is inevitable. I am going to do it slowly, 30 more chapters. At a chapter a week, hopefully to be completed by this year end. God Bless!!!
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Thursday, December 18, 2008
I was in my Third Year in USM in Penang, one of the best local varsities then and now. Or is it still?Back then, my faculty was just the HUMANITIES, and we get to choose our majors. I chose Mass Communications (MC) for many obvious reasons. Today, my major has become a sought after faculty by itself and my classmate Din recently was the Dean there.

I Cannot Swim
Period.

No matter how Paik Kim, a MC senior coaches me I was hopelessly unable to float. I just leech on to her and idle most of the evenings away. Watching or just silently enjoyed being watched? Nolah!

But then I really want to learn how to swim. At least just the breast stroke, a style all women should learn. Maybe, I didn’t have bosoms large enough to assist in buoyancy…

Paik Kim has had enough. I was such a parasite…she hated being consumed. She finally surrendered and declared:

I am going to find you a new COACH and a guy…..someone that I would be discouraged or embarrassed to cling and leech upon.
Boy….she was so damned wrong!

SWIMMING CARNIVAL in KL

Paik Kim was the secretary, whereas her boyfriend Chew was the Swimming Captain.

Because I was staying in KL, Kim needed my help to book return tickets to Penang for the USM Swimming Committee. They were down here for some inter-varsity swimming carnival.

It was a mid semester event and we were all travelling together back in the same bus towards Penang.

I wondered many times if Paik Kim had intentionally wanted to play cupid or just sincerely wanted to interest Alex, the then Vice Captain, to accept me as his distinguished swimming student.

We were seated on the 6 hour journey from KL to Penang. Nothing happened there. He probably saw the ugliest of me…………drooling and snoring the way up north!

I passed his interview!

I was such a fast learner too, or he was such a great coach……………I learnt to float within a day and was swimming everyday at the pool that new semester!

Paik Kim, I took your advise not to leech on Alex, ….I practically hooked myself to him for the next 10 years!

Sunday, November 30, 2008
I was and am truly a lucky person.When I returned home from my first job as a receptionist with a tiling company, a telegram changed my entire life.

Having very little ambition, direction and a bundle of creativity, I managed to “sweet-talk” dad to let me explore Paris as a destination to groom me into a fashion designer since the academic was not destined for me.

Was glad that it did not happen that way, or my dad would have to pawn away a house to build my alter ego. Probably come home as a backyard calligrapher instead of a successful fashion creator.

That “telegram” was the best message ever to be de
livered although strictly to denote that ” I was second best/batch”.

It was a second chance as far as I was concerned and plenty of money saved from sending me abroad.

I noticed from this photo that I was still spotting the “thin” eyebrows. Not ultra, though.

I would love Adrienne to know that back then, I treasured the Olivetti Typewriter that dad gave me. I completed plenty of assignments using that “dinosaur”.

We didn’t have mobile phones nor Ipods.

I remember it was torturous having to suffer smelly public phones to call home.

Flying was not an option.

Every semester break saw me sitting on a bus for 8 longs hours before I could reach home.

I am not complaining, entering varsity was one of the best thing that ever happened to me.

Friday, October 10, 2008
This photo is totally not digitised and is 28 years old.Imagine when advertisers used tomatoes or apples to signify aging, gosh this is a photo of beautiful me at the age of 18.
Remember those disco days, John Travolta and Donna Summers…..yes, we swear by a certain dress code and peer pressures were high.
We were all so into the “thin” and “ultra thin” eyebrow look.

Tweezers were a girls best friend! Wouldn’t leave a long trip outstation without it…….will surely die if an unkempt browline hits the society!
Dad was too polite…..I guessed it wouldn’t be nice for a daddy to say to his only girl that, “Ah Lan (yes, that is my pet name back home…..sounds so retarded right?) do you know you look old in those thin eyebrows…..can you like not PLUCK it anymore huh?”
He was bugging my mom to give me a reminder….a hopeful one.
Wow…that would have made me jumped off a 4 storey building…..that was how high my school building was.
I was glad he refrained or I would have died!
I continued keeping those brows right into varsity…..still trying to check into the old photographs to confirm when I was done with them!
Let you know when I figure that out..okay?

Monday, September 1, 2008
Craziest and funkiest period of my life.I was madly in love with my boyfriend, and he was idolised as the John Travolta of my life then.

Yes, he was the guy I got acquainted during floating classes in Form 4.
16..17, and adjusting and growing in a very emotional stage of my life.
I can remember the parties; home parties were very popular then. You would be either a party queen or very popular to be invited to most of these parties.

I was neither.

Sort of tagged along as an item and privileged to be seen partying and discoing the weekends away.

I could not locate few photographs that actually showed me wearing the then popular “seamless” side trousers and baggy at the bottom.
I just loved the Bee Gees, their numbers just hit us very high whether the disco-mania or the sure romantic ones; especially…”How Deep Is Your Love”.

Well, our love wasn’t deep enough but the first cut sure was the deepest……

Yes, that number from Rod Steward. Another hit song of that decade!
He was two timing me all those years and I was so dumbed…..
We tried many times to part but reconciled again after unbearable separations.

He was just too charismatic and charming….
The final chop came when I was offered a place in university and our distance became apparent.

We cried….
We parted…

Hugs 16/50
Friday, August 8, 2008
I remember that Ken, Tee and KC “were” best friends back when we were in Lower Secondary. I bet you no longer need each other as best friends; your wives are your best friends now!They were my best “buddies”.
I was and am still very lucky to have the 3 of you as my friends. Generally, our friendship started as classmates from Form 1 to 3. I was like one of the boys; one of them.

They faithfully took turns or altogether fetched me from Desa Jaya to Kepong Baru for our tuition classes. On the return journey, gleefully stopped at the hawker center for our desserts or ais kacang.

Cannot recall what we talked or communicated. We were probably too shy to have spoken much.

Tee and KC had their regular bicycles. Tee’s was blue and KC’s was red.
Ken, smaller in built was well suited with his elegant purple chopper with little yellow trimmings. (Did I get it all wrong with the colours?)
Vivid descriptions of my Buddies

Tee, our Class Monitor
Hainanese.
Very fair.
I recall him as a very sweet and nice person. Obliging. We were members of the Red Crescent Society and Pengawas Sukan.
Good conversationalist and a very gentle soul. Kind and adorable. He must have been admired by many girls in school. (Phin, you lucky gal)

KC, the Talkative One
He was the life wire. Loved to talk (still loves talking especially after a beer or 2). Argumentative or put pleasantly as philosophical. I can remember how we left the one-lunged Mr. Chin panting even before class was dismissed.

Ken, the Thinker
Quiet and deep. His words are sharp and precise. No nonsense.
We were arch rival when in came to class performance on terms of academic. The top 2 positions were being wrestled over the terms and years. It was so competitive.

Today we are able to hug and love without fear of being misunderstood
Imagine how we had carefully behaved least anyone of us lose each other as a friend.

We spoke of everything but nothing.

Today, we openly embrace our friendship once more in a mature light. Understanding, knowing and accepting our similarities and divergence in thoughts; we hug with no malice and we love with no misinterpretation.
I love being older.

I see us in regenerated spirits. Groomed, mellowed, broken, grown, reduced; and still evolving.

We broke off at Kepong and reunited back at Kepong.
Our fate brought us to many paths….

Today we are journeying toward different ultimate destinations, but flowing down a common memory lane.

I cherish all these…..and thank you.

Friday, August 1, 2008
What would be the natural reaction or response be when someone incessantly display his adoration to you publicly?Walk away?
I could not.
PS, a giant built for a Form 4 student. He is also a prefect and also a captain of the Red House. Dark and tall. Few faintly dormant pimples gently concealed by the tan.
With a rehearsed gesture, he handed me a carnation and a small plastic container. I was very taken aback.
Blushed!
And I just didn’t know the right response to accord.
Least I made a scene at the main entrance of the school, in the morning rush with few other prefects on guard; I accepted it.
Maybe, I shouldn’t have.
In my lack of maturity, I had allowed PS to be hurt.
He continued boldly to brave the morning rush hour to hand me my daily supplies of blossom and sandwiches in a container.
Inside, a little note of affection written beautifully on perfumed papers, folded in a precise triangular shape.
Always!
I wouldn’t dare return a smile or a line.
I was troubled.
After a week, I knew I had to put a stop to this. I was in Lower 6 and my classmates were all disapproving of my little romance and uncalled for attention.
Through a common friend, I was able to arrange to meet and talk to him face to face.
He was elated in anticipation while I was stressed off.
As a young, innocent and fully infatuated boy, he took my non acceptance as an act of denial.
Denying him the love he has characterised.
Denying that I could probably have at least given the love; an opportunity to flourish.
I do not know where you are PS.
May you have found peace on your earth and plenty of love to grow the trees in your garden of affections!
You have carved deeply, beautiful hearts into this life of mine. Over the decades, they have prospered, bloomed and helped touch many others.
Thank you.

Let me see, that was during my Form 4 days.
We were streamed according to our LCE results and I hardly stayed more than a week in the Science class.
I couldn’t imagined how Biology, Physics and Chemistry was going to help me in my future vocation. Never wanted to be a doctor nor a scientist. The teachers kept advising against me defaulting to the Commerce stream.
Back then, the arrogance of “old school of thoughts” made explicit that the premium grade students chose Science and the moderates will overflow to the Arts; finally the “pariahs” have to do Commerce.
I chose without reservations and never looked back!
During that year, the students making up for the Arts and Commerce was small. That made “floating class” and obvious choice whereby; we combined for a few subjects. Precisely; it was for Drawing and Geography.
Alex Chung, a newcomer to Kepong.
He was in the Arts Class.
Notoriously, he pretended to be a poor boy. Told me that he hasn’t money to buy the Geography textbook and needed to borrow mine for reference.
My textbook was like passed over to him on a Friday and promptly returned the next Monday.
Weeks or months passed us by.
Vividly, as I was reviewing the text for one of the term exams; I discovered a tiny pencil written “i love you” hiding on a strip of white of an illustration.
Innocently I confronted him for dirtying the book I loaned him!
Bravely he declared that the message was meant for my eyes only!
When did you first get your “I love U”?
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
I was finishing my upper six at Cochrane.I was 19 and direction-less.

I was never a leader in any clubs or societies. I just flowed with the masses and was a great follower. Well loved and a member greatly desired by any associations.

The Leo Club was an extra-curricular activity I enjoyed. The reason was that we get to network and had activities with the Lions outside from our school. They were mostly young executives already out working in various fields. Boys our age, aren’t matured enough for us….

We attended a regional do. I was just supposed to be a regular guest and was looking forward to a night of fun.

It wasn’t meant to be fun anymore. It became funny and hilarious because our beauty pageant contestant from my school stood us up.
In desperation, our President, gullible and shortsighted came to me for rescue. She immediately pointed at me and pepped me into playing substitute. A poor one, though!

I was no where near glamorous nor beautiful.

To brave it, I attempted walking down the runway without my glasses. It totally assisted to blur my vision of those intimidating beauties all dolled up and attired in glittering evening gowns.

Those phoenixes were vying for the ultimate while yours truly was so nervous and reduced into a meekly scary cat.

I felt so naked in Lee Lee’s grey pleated suit. All armoured and I looked silly and woody; all ready for a corporate meeting!

No, I did not win any titles!

But I won the hearts of my club mates for being such a great sport!
Perhaps being scared as a cat, gave me an advantage on the runway.
Everyone praised me for gallantly; the most beautiful catwalk performed.
That walk, captured the heart of one lanky Lion, Lim. He admired me from afar and subsequently sent me a letter through the club.

We became friends, shared poems and telephoned quite frequently.
The friendship sort of buried when I left for college.

He called me 12 years back when a few local newspaper carried an article on my project.

Exchanged niceties.
Nothing unusual, and wished each other well.

An experience unplanned
I sincerely appreciated this little corridor, it shed in some light of possibilities. It allowed me to explore the unplanned, it coloured my cheeks a-pink sometimes remembering such.

How have you experienced life?
Was it just so so ?

Lim, thanks for traveling down to Sagih Waterfalls with us. It was meant to tire and weigh you down. It was surely no fun entertaining 6 demanding girls!

Sincerely hope that the Japanese dinner for us at Chikuyutei did not dent your wallet.

But it sure did help keep you from dating me after that!
No hard feelings…..

Sunday, June 1, 2008
A wondrous stage.Perplexing, curious and flattering. Lucky to have many boys “interested” in me as their girlfriend. All these great life experiences changed and moulded my thoughts about my sense of value, sexuality and vulnerability.
It gives me great pressure to gently rebuild these stories into a few chapters within this stage.

Like I have stressed, 45 for 45 reflects my past candidly. And so it shall!
At 13, I received my first ever love letter.

Not very romantic though. Scribbles on a single line page, torn out clumsily from an exercise book. A few sentences inviting me to be his friend because he has been admiring me from afar.

He must have sneaked into my classroom and left it inside my drawer during the recess hour.

Smiling now, I admired his courage to pen down his initials and the classroom familiar to me. Jimmy’s.

My brother very quickly found out for me this little bundle; a petite and dark boy who stayed prominently in the middle of Kepong town.
The embarassment from all the teasings, did not create a suitable nursery for our friendship to germinate.

We did not become a couple or an item.
We barely could see into each others’ eyes or gestured a simple hello.
This episode boosted my morale; even an ugly duckling like me was being noticed……

I had like to thank him for giving me this joyous experience; at such a tender age.

Unveiling the oceans of love awaiting for me outside my family…….

Thursday, May 1, 2008
I was never a rebel…very unlike Adrienne.Everything that was expected of me, I duly obliged…….somehow I didn’t think Ah Ma loved me enough.

Similarly, as any growing up kids would have thought of their parents too.
Dad bought our very first house in Desa Jaya, Kepong in 1974.
At the age of 12, I was made to stay a year with Cheng Sim and family. The reason; it was too far for me to commute to Pudu from Kepong. All the logistics were too taxing and it justified that the staying at Loke Yew was convenient and I only needed to walk 15 minutes to school.
If only they knew that I had walked at 7am and the whole sky was still dark.

I didn’t particularly looked forward to the weekends as I knew when I arrived home; there would be plenty of chores lined up for me to complete.

Staying with 5 Ko and family meant…
I was a visiting relative and politely treated as a “guest”, a very long staying guest.

My 1 year of honeymoon
There weren’t any chores. 5 Ko never allowed me to do any household chores and the only chore expected was to neatly fold my blanket daily.
In fact, I was very well taken care of. There were plenty of morning, afternoon and supper treats. My favorite was the groundnut porridge and economy beehoon across where we stayed.

5 Ko has a very weak heart and retired every afternoon to rest in the spare room, my room, the guestroom.

Endless afternoon chit chat.

I had crawled up and slept beside her. We shared many afternoons building wonderful dreams. She had promised to build me a kindergarten school if I had wanted to be a teacher. I sometimes told her that I had wanted to be a designer cum dressmaker and she suggested hair dresser.
5 Ko has a beautiful habit too…..she wouldn’t be caught dead without her properly compact face and beautifully painted lips. I admired the Yardley cosmetics in pretty pink packaging.
In the 70s, western fast food was unheard of……we had Indian kuih (nyonya kuih wasn’t marketed yet), indian rojak and iceballs .

And when, 5 Ko was not fooled by a skipped heart beat; we would have the best pancake in the world. Milky desiccated fresh coconut in rich creamy batter, were turned into delicious crepes.

She made delicious dinner dishes too.
She even taught me how to make coconut candies.
She was ever so soft spoken and I had always secretly wished Ah Ma was more liked her……

Ah Ma never had time to share my ambitions, she was forever too busy with household matters!

I still have very fond memories of time spent with her children; daughter Cheng Sim and son Joo Yee.
Seeking Refuge at 5 Ko’s house, as a runaway from home……or Ah Ma
After my STPM trial exams, I had planned to take time off from school to prepare.

Again, Ah Ma could not understand why I had skipped school to find time to catch up and to revise for my exams.

We had a little argument and I had pleaded to dad, I needed peace and space to study…
That night, my dad helped me escape from home and from Ah Ma……..
As far as Ah Ma was concerned, she had disowned me for running away from home…..

Her pride was bruised…..I left for 5 Ko’s house without her consent.
I called back daily to check her preparedness to welcome me home….
She never forgave me….least forget the episode.

I spoke to her this morning about this chapter. They are kept very current with what is being blogged.

I was surprised by a loud laughter from dad and Ah Ma…..maybe she has forgiven me.

But she remembered…..

Tuesday, April 1, 2008
I hate not to have shared with you the first 2 dishes I cooked.Cooking is something that comes naturally for me……I started the wok thing early. From 10, it was marketing. A small piece of scribble will be clenched in my palm while I climbed the hill upwards to the pasar in Salak South New Village.

“Pai Kuat 50 sen”; “Ham Tahn 5 biji”, “Ikan Kembong 3″etc

From 11, I was assigned to the kitchen. Our’s was the charcoal stove made from majestic cement. You needed to blow into a pipe to flame up the fire.

With the stove fire, a little too strong and I, on the other hand, with too little skills; the white little pomfret I fried turned black and skinless.
Our plate of luscious and crunchy bean sprouts or “taugeh” was reduced to a plate of depleted strands, black and ugly!

Of Circus and Elephant Dung
The circus was in town and they were at the field next to the Police Station on the Chan Sow Lin main.

The notorious Lows invited Lee Lee and I to catch a glimpse of the circus.
I had never been to a circus, less seen a tiger nor an elephant…..
The elders usually play mahjong from 2 pm to 5 pm in time for all the housewives to break to cook dinner.

If we could timed it right, we should leave home at 4pm and returned in an hour to help our moms in the kitchen.

Gamed!

As children, we weren’t very good at estimating time. We needed to walk at least 30 minutes to and 30 minutes fro. One hour was pretty tight.

That night, I had a real spanking from Ah Chim. It was really not worth it…….I only managed to watch a few elephants poo-ed!

Chen Tiang and Hui Clinic
Falling sick meant that fully dolled up nurses will give us a pastile wrapped in transparent poly. They were so colourful, and I had tried them all! Sometimes, when she was happy I got 2 sweets!
Before taking the bus home, we will always get to choose lovely butter cupcakes at Chen Tiang. This confectionary was just a door away from the clinic

15 sen Porridge, 40 sen a movie, coconut oil, learning Jawi………….

oh precious childhood memories…………

Saturday, March 15, 2008
I was daddy’s girl.
Remembering dad as the world’s most handsome man. He wore the title of “Leang Chai” (handsome) for decades till greys appeared and a new title followed….”Ah Pak” (honorary elder respectfully or uncle crudely)
He was my hero and he was my tower when I was a petite little gal. Helpless, sickly most the time.
I would wait for him, looking out the house of any signs of his return.
Giggles and gogos-n-gagas echoed when gentle strokes of duck feather touched my blemished arms and legs. I suffered badly from eczema. Pink calamine lotion, pacified that irate itch. Dad was the one who diligently “cooled” me daily…..
Of old folks tales and the like….they, especially Ah Chim liked to use stories to scare you about things “You Should” or “You Shouldn’t” do.
I swallowed a few tiny watermelon seeds accidentally and I cried an ocean of fears. A huge plot of green melons with twirling leaves were going to appear on my head by tomorrow. Daddy was the one who patiently explained logic and reality to me…….
Of tooth fairies and more folk lures again….
We usually will go the somewhere in the open, outside the house to toss the tooth extracted or loosen. Upwards for the upper cavities and downwards for the bottom cavities. We were told the tooth fairy will pick it up and a new tooth be on its way!
It was too dark, I dropped my little sweet tooth in the evening and was advised to keep it first. I looked up at the only safe place I thought right. Ah Chim’s food cabinet. Placed the almost half decayed calcium neatly on a small saucer.
It was gone in the morning. My grandma thought someone was trying to be funny and toss it away. I cried. I was always crying. I was now crying because I feared being an ugly toothless girl when I grew up. Daddy was the one who creatively fooled me that courier services existed long before UPS and Nationwide. He said a little fairy mouse came and carried it to the forest behind our house.
I bought it then……..
There are so many more stories about dad and I but I cannot be writing them all here.
I will keep them but still need to spill a bean on him….haha
Now, as an adult reflecting; only can I see dad’s mischievous intent!
Without fail, I would be dressed “prettily”, (obviously a defeating task) and dad will take me to the bus-stop down the foothill. We had take a bus down to the Chin Woo Stadium and Swimming pool.
Ugh……what Woo? Yes, Chin Woo! Check it out. A favourite place of the past where weekend recreations happened around The Stadium and the Mushroom Park. (will post with more pictures and stories)
The highlight here was, daddy will “bribe” me with a small cola and placed me under the shade of a big umbrella. From that corner, I could hear laughter and giggles.
Dad and his colleagues will be showing off their swimming stunts and inviting the girls there to join them.
The naive girls will be giggling and laughing away in their ugly, heavy and rubbery swimsuits………
I shared with mum about the outline of this chapter and cheekily asked her if she had approved of dad’s mischief then.
Her reply; “Of course, I knew…..you see that was the only way I could gestured my support as a kind wife. It was merely a “men’s day out”………”
“My only condition to your dad was that he must bring you along……so you will be a bundle fo him to try anything funny!”
Ugh….
I wasn’t daddy’s girl after all…..
I was Ah Ma’s undercover girl……..
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Can you die yet? Ah Chim (Ah Ma) said if 9 o’clock we dead! Got pain in your stomach or not? Are we going to die?Ah Heng and I took turns to fall sick. Occasionally, both together.
Rarely, you can find us looking healthy and smartly. Our uniform was the pajamas.
We were so good at eating medicine as kids. No tearing, no crying. Panadols were not in liquid form. Fever tablets were tiny pink pills with flickers of colours on it. We resigned to the fact that pill popping was our way of life. And kind of enjoyed the whole process of lining up for our dosages.
A little too much….an over dosage and wrong prescription?
Ah Ma (Paternal grandma) was a diabetic. She had this very cute blue tablet inside a small blue metal box.
Curiosity and playfulness…..we took a couple of tablets each!
Ah Chim ( due to some superstition, we were advised to address her that manner), fumed and thought she teach us a lesson.
“You, Ah Heng. You have nothing to play? You have now fed your sister and yourself poison!”
Feeling stupid and scared, Heng and I shared the red sofa belonging to uncle Swee Hock’s family. Cuddled and in tears……watching at the clock. Please don’t strike 9 o’clock. That was dooms hour
I could not read time yet…..and that agony was like forever…..
When it was finally past 9 and we were still alive….not sick….no stomachache…..and very alive……
We then knew Ah Chim pulled our legs!

Saturday, February 2, 2008
Lee Lee, my “adopted” sister joined us when she was 8 or 9 years old.
Her parents were divorced and my uncle was in no position to raise 3 kids. Each of his brother or sisters helped him “take care” of one child.
Lee Lee was raised by our family as our own. Sadly, my parents lacked wisdom and finances to help Lee Lee continue her education when she arrived. Today, it would have been a crime.
Although, 1 year my junior, she was my guardian, my protector.
Salak South New Village was dominated by the “Hakkas”. The children in that community were as aggressive and domineering like the elders.
No offence, I am not prejudiced over any “Hakkas”. This was truly my experience in that neighbourhood.
I was pretty petite or really skinny. Not much of a “voice” either.
I normally come home in a private bus. From the drop off point to my home; it was another 5 to 7 mins walk uphill through a coffee shop, a palm tree, a dumpsite and 5 houses.
We received news that Choo Choo, the tyrant daughter, from the Low family was unhappy with our “rubbish” saga. She had wanted to “beat” me on my way home that day!
On friendlier days, we would play games or share a meal together. Choo Choo and Tai Tai; were our playmates and next door neighbours.We reared chickens and they have pork lard. In the lazy afternoons, we had watched the chicken laid eggs. Bravo! Warmed up the overnight rice, break the warm egg and poured sparingly the lard with a dash of soya sauce and pepper!
Marvelously…..sinful!
On uglier days, we will rage war and hurl dirty language at each other. Choo and Tai; were our greatest enemies and wished we had better neighbours.
Ah Chim with a neighbour. On her right, the Lows’ house.
We lived about a foot lower than the Lows. The land where our house was built, sat on a disadvantaged lower ground. Conveniently, the Lows will “over sweep” their rubbish. We swept back. It was endless bullying.
Inconsiderately……nasty!
Lee Lee, the petite bouncer brought up from a “roughshod” village was my saviour!
She hid behind the palm tree the whole 30 over minutes to guard post. Lee Lee even threaten those bitchy Lows that she would bring up her whole “gang” from Malacca if they ever laid hands on any of us!
That afternoon, Lee Lee and I hugged each other in victory!
The Lows were nowhere near……
Lee Lee spent endless time with me.
I was her sister, mother, teacher, friend and child.
Her presence in my life; brought much cheers and joy of sharing and growing up with a sister.
She stayed with my family till the day she got married off back to Malacca.
Back to the very place she left with many unpleasant childhood memories….
The very place she is going back to seek solace and “re-awakenings”…….building beautiful childhood memories for her 3 children……….
Her deprivation…is her very the foundation to build!

Saturday, January 26, 2008
Ya, I know I kept saying my family was poor. We were rather poor but like I had also said earlier, everyone else was poor too!Well, we were but not my uncle Swee Hock. He is my father’s youngest brother. We were staying in a 4 room village house. His family took the master bedroom, my family the next room and my paternal grandmother had the third room.

The fourth room was kept vacant for guests; long staying guests. Remember that my 4th uncle used to “monopolize” it and I celebrated when his family moved north. I had that room all for myself for a whole year.

Coming back to whether we were rich………

Uncle Swee Hock bought the first black and white TV and we were the envy of that village.

It was so in time……
We were 1 of the few among 700 million people worldwide who watched APOLLO 11 landed on the Moon on 20th July 1969!

The whole village was so excited. Suddenly, everyone was our friend and hoping to reserve for the best seat to watch. Those responsibilities were left to the adults in the house. Least we offend anyone. As one of the minority, the only Hokkien family among the “dominant” and “abrasive” Hakka residents. No offensive ya?

Heng and I were brought up to be obliging inside the family. When outside, we adjusted. We fought alongside these Hakka kids. They made us tougher than we thought we ever could be.

We started everything young at Salak South New Village. Fighting, cooking or even transacting!

Our ‘apprentice” days…….
We were well trained from young to help dad sell provisions at the wet market up at the hill. Should China imported can food be in the surplus, dad will drive Heng and I to the market.

We would then set a “makeshift” counter alongside the aunties; Heng and I sold hundreds and hundreds of canned ham and spice meat. Walking back; we were feeling great that we had nothing to carry except the great responsibility of bringing home the money.

On this night; when the eagle made its landing on the moon, Heng and I made a little profiteering too! We decided to trade for ourselves.
We made “ice tubes” to sell…….Red and green bean sweet dessert were poured in to long hotdog plastic tubes to freeze.

While everyone watched, President Nixon’s speech and the entire footage of Neil Armstrong setting foot on Moon; Ah Heng and I only saw all the 10 sen coins adding up to a handsome profit!

Saturday, June 30, 2007
I was already home from school and I couldn’t make up why Ah Ma was so jittery that Jimmy was nowhere to be seen.
There were strong rumours that the FRU Brigade or more colloquially known by the Chinese as “Red Head Army”; probably because of their uniforms were surrounding the neighbourhood.Selamat Datang ke Istana Keadilan. Posted this photo to show you why “Ang Tau Ping” or ” Red Head Army” got their name literally because of the red helmets they wear!
Wait for Jimmy or stock up ration? Those were the 2 questions that kept pounding in Ah Ma’s head.
Upon consultations with the neighbours, Ah Ma ran out of the house, headed down to the “Tin Tuck Tong”; a medicine cum sundry store before the cinema. The owner’s son was one of the male artiste who was in a local radio play and television play; “Empat Sekawan” or “Four Friends”.
A big drum of biscuits and a packet of rice were all she managed! It almost cost her life. A FRU officer arrogantly gave a shot into the air to warn innocent citizens that the start of a curfew was coming near.
It was a sign to say,….hurry up whatever you are doing!
In her then “skinny” or twiggy legs……Ah Ma ran like there was no tomorrow.
Reaching home, Ah Ma put on a brave front and was giving instructions to everyone in the absence of dad.
Soon, Jimmy also arrived home from school. Ah Ma wasted no time to drag both of us into the kitchen and pointed to the lavatory outside at the left corner. (Sanitary and sewage systems were not yet popular at Salak South New village.)
Our lavatory was a simple toilet with a 3 metre deep hole, in a makeshift wooden shed outside the house. Shadow play can haunt you at the scariest hours; tricks played by the light of a torch or a candlestick.
I hated that corner. Actually, two. The other one was a dumpsite along the street leading to the village’s market.
Headless “ghosts” and “pontianaks” dwelt in my imagery world, often.
(Jimmy and I have affectionate names back then, Ah Heng and Ah Lan)
Ah Ma’s Explicit Instuction For Survival:
If we were to hear gunshots; Heng and I were to hide ourselves behind the bushes next to the toilet.
It was thought to be “safest place” for us…….
Thank God. Dad also managed to come home just before the curfew started. He was busy updating the neighbours on what had happened or rather what he heard had happened in town.
That night, Ah Ma prepared our “Last Supper”…….porridge with lots of condiments. Her mind must have been cluttered with a million “whys” and what next?
Having very little faith, Ah Ma probably thought it would be our “last” night. She decided to let Heng and I wear the brand new batik pyjamas she has made for us.
Two new pair of orchre plastic slippers meant for birthdays in September was also given to us. Our birthdays are 3 days apart.
Although there was a curfew outside the house, Ah Ma was very kind to us that night. No “curfew” for us! Yahoooooooooo, we played masak-masak and tired ourselves out with all kinds of games!
But then,when dawn arrived, I was awoken by Ah Ma’s loud scream!
There were patches of “bruises” throughout our bodies!
Were we poisoned?
Both Ah Heng and I had turned blue.
Ha!Ha! Caught you and Ah Ma!
Ah Ma did not realised that those pyjamas must be pre-soaked and washed.
The heavy dye stuff had transferred out of the fabric and coated interestingly on our bodies.
Heavy perspiration from a night of “kung fu fighting” had encouraged the colouring process further.
That morning, Ah Heng and I had a good laugh and later, a great body scrub!For those born after 1965, you may have no knowledge of what 513 was all about.

Friday, June 15, 2007
Daily, on my way to work, I will pass through ‘the Fountain of Joy” located in front of Chinese Assembly Hall along Jalan Maharajalela.
It brings back so many nostalgic feelings.
Back in the 1970’s, we hardly have much as entertainment or family shopping.
I remember, we used to pester dad to bring us around the fountain.
Dad had a second hand Austin Anglia bought at a bargain of RM300 in the early 1970s. We were one of the few privileged, to have a continental imported car.
He acquired it, lock stock and barrel. It came with a chest of English nursery cartridges that gave my family endless singing lessons. We learned our very first nursery songs in that car.
“She’ll be coming round the mountain…when she comes…
The car will be packed with little children all excited to see the fountain change colours.
I just drove by this evening and realised that the fountain doesn’t work at night anymore. It also look so much smaller, it used to look “huge” when I was smaller! They used to place torches with timing to flash beautiful hues over the fountain.“One more round, please! Please!”
Dad obliged us most of the time and we sang and giggled all the way back to Salak South New Village.
Dad’s Austin had no problem going downhill from Salak South New Village towards the city. However, coming back is an uphill task and proven impossible for dad’s Austin (was made in the 50’s). The engine just died off attempting the climb.
Having been given a treat in town, all the children voluntarily jumped off.
Assembled behind and; ONE, TWO and THREE…..
And when the engine jostled a sign of revival………..
Off we ran to the top of the hill, hurried inside the car and headed for HOME SWEET HOME!

Saturday, June 2, 2007
I was already home from school and I couldn’t make up why Ah Ma was so jittery that Jimmy was nowhere to be seen.There were strong rumours that the FRU Brigade or more colloquially known by the Chinese as “Red Head Army”; probably because of their uniforms were surrounding the neighbourhood.

Selamat Datang ke Istana Keadilan. Posted this photo to show you why “Ang Tau Ping” or ” Red Head Army” got their name literally because of the red helmets they wear!

Wait for Jimmy or stock up ration? Those were the 2 questions that kept pounding in Ah Ma’s head.

Upon consultations with the neighbours, Ah Ma ran out of the house, headed down to the “Tin Tuck Tong”; a medicine cum sundry store before the cinema. The owner’s son was one of the male artiste who was in a local radio play and television play; “Empat Sekawan” or “Four Friends”.

A big drum of biscuits and a packet of rice were all she managed! It almost cost her life. A FRU officer arrogantly gave a shot into the air to warn innocent citizens that the start of a curfew was coming near.
It was a sign to say,….hurry up whatever you are doing!

In her then “skinny” or twiggy legs……Ah Ma ran like there was no tomorrow.

Reaching home, Ah Ma put on a brave front and was giving instructions to everyone in the absence of dad.

Soon, Jimmy also arrived home from school. Ah Ma wasted no time to drag both of us into the kitchen and pointed to the lavatory outside at the left corner. (Sanitary and sewage systems were not yet popular at Salak South New village.)

Our lavatory was a simple toilet with a 3 metre deep hole, in a makeshift wooden shed outside the house. Shadow play can haunt you at the scariest hours; tricks played by the light of a torch or a candlestick.
I hated that corner. Actually, two. The other one was a dumpsite along the street leading to the village’s market.

Headless “ghosts” and “pontianaks” dwelt in my imagery world, often.
(Jimmy and I have affectionate names back then, Ah Heng and Ah Lan)

Ah Ma’s Explicit Instuction For Survival:
If we were to hear gunshots; Heng and I were to hide ourselves behind the bushes next to the toilet.

It was thought to be “safest place” for us…….
Thank God. Dad also managed to come home just before the curfew started. He was busy updating the neighbours on what had happened or rather what he heard had happened in town.

That night, Ah Ma prepared our “Last Supper”…….porridge with lots of condiments. Her mind must have been cluttered with a million “whys” and what next?
Having very little faith, Ah Ma probably thought it would be our “last” night. She decided to let Heng and I wear the brand new batik pyjamas she has made for us.

Two new pair of orchre plastic slippers meant for birthdays in September was also given to us. Our birthdays are 3 days apart.

Although there was a curfew outside the house, Ah Ma was very kind to us that night. No “curfew” for us! Yahoooooooooo, we played masak-masak and tired ourselves out with all kinds of games!

But then,when dawn arrived, I was awoken by Ah Ma’s loud scream!
There were patches of “bruises” throughout our bodies!
Were we poisoned?

Both Ah Heng and I had turned blue.
Ha!Ha! Caught you and Ah Ma!
Ah Ma did not realised that those pyjamas must be pre-soaked and washed.

The heavy dye stuff had transferred out of the fabric and coated interestingly on our bodies.

Heavy perspiration from a night of “kung fu fighting” had encouraged the colouring process further.

That morning, Ah Heng and I had a good laugh and later, a great body scrub!For those born after 1965, you may have no knowledge of what 513 was all about.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007
It was exactly like this night, everyone cuddled onto a bed.Except, tonight we did it because Angie, Adrienne and Ah Ma wanted a little warmth to layer this cold night. It has been pouring since 7 plus.
In the early 1970s, we did it because we were poor. Come to think of it, almost everyone was poor.

But not in spirits! We wanted similar naive fun like tonight…..except it was diiferent.

My whole family stayed in a wooden rented house in Salak South New Village. There were 4 rooms. Jimmy, Eric and I slept in the same room with our parents.

Dad was working as a clerk with a wholesaler at Rodger Street (they have converted it into Central Market). He always brought home surprises of western imports and delighting us all the times.

On evenings, where Santok Singh, Soh Chin Aun and the late Mokhtar Dahari and the late R Arumugan were playing; it would be our “orange juice” treat night!

Gleefully, I had run into the kitchen and poured out 2 bottles of LIVITA into a large China made enamel mug, adding as much ice as I could, so that we would have enough to share among the family.

Honestly, we all accepted LIVITA as our premium “californian citrus” juice!
Back then, our only source of “LIVE” entertainment and especially a telecast football match…….was through a tiny blue National transistor radio.

We had endless adrenaline shouting bouts of “GOAL“, “GOAL“, and “GOAL“!

The audio space transported my family and I deligently to the Merdeka Stadium and through Malaysia when they played their national and state matches!

We liked hugged each other so closely and each trying to outlast the other to have our ears nearest to the transistor.
Dad would then boast that; as a teenager working as a gardener for a Chinese school, he frequented the coffeeshop owned by Soh Chin Aun’s father in Kuala Pilah.

I learnt so much about all these marvelous players as a kid and truly felt so proud of this Olympic qualified squad!
I wonder if such feeling prevails……today?

Monday, April 30, 2007
Interesting…..I studied in PESS (Pudu English Girls School), commonly teased as “PEST” though.

Brands weren’t very big thing then, I cannot remember if my friends were wearing Bata or Fung Keong. I was very sure they were mostly canvas…..
These pair of shoes never left my thoughts and upon reflecting…..they appeared!Of course, I remember so vividly!

Those slippery plastics loosely holding my skinny feet. (Still having them……not the shoes!)

Those plastic shoes never appeared white, always a second grade white.
I was teased so unkindly in school because my feet smelt so badly.
” You never washed your shoes…huh?”

37 years ago, we were so poor that daddy could not afford me a pair of canvas school shoes. We settled for the cheapest he could, a pair of plastic white shoes.

I suffered the worst humiliation and deprivation.
There was no room for ventilation and the humid weather not only made the odour bad, soon my feet were suffering from eczema!

I cried with joy when dad got a raise!

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