Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A walk along the beach

Living in Sibu in those days was a very enclosed existence. Children in the 50's did not go for picnics or parties. We went to school and then we went home. We could only go the cinema during the new year. I remember my father and mother brought us to" eat big feasts" in restaurants like Lok Tien Yong, Yieng Ching, Hock Chu Leu, Lok Huong.

Perhaps it was financial management of that time that children lived without much, three meals, school (no uniform then, and not even many school books). And for entertainment, just the radio. This was before TV era and we enjoyed our radio lessons, radio song requests and of course the Chinese radio plays. So much happened in front of our small Philip radio. We were truly informed. We could not ask for more.

Then one day, my father told us that he was to go to Belawai and we were envious that he could see the South China Sea, play in the sand and have picnics! He took home loads of black and white pictures. He had plenty of fun with the group of people who were teachers, photographers and mainly from the Foochow Association. One thing that struck me now is that all of them were fashionably wearing very dark shades (sunglasses) and very cottony blouses ,shirts and probably linen trousers. This is be due to the colonial influence of that time. Some of the ladies had sun hats on. Very sensible.

For souvenirs he brought back some seashells (for us to hear the sounds of the sea), some pepples, and a few star fishes, and of course they were all dead and stinking.

A little while later, he told us a story that I would never forget and I would retell that story to my students and then later, my own children.

A father and son were walking along the beach one day and they saw a little boy throwing starfish back into the ocean. The son asked the father why the little boy would be doing that. The father asked the son,"Why don't you go and ask him?"

The son replied,"Why don't you ask him dad?"

So the father walked to the little boy and asked him.

The little boy replied, "Sir, I cannot do much in my life, you see. I am a cripple. But when I throw one starfish back into the ocean, and he lives. I do make a difference to the starfish."

And silently, the father and son walked away, hand in hand, having learnt a great lesson that day.

My father must have read this story from all the books and magazines he subscribed to. I remember that he was an avid reader of Life, The Washington Morning Post, Chiun Chiew (Spring and Autumn, Chinese Magazine), Reader's Digest, National Geographic,etc)

And coming back from Belawai, he brought back the umai recipe for us to try. I have posted that on this blog some time ago.

Besides learning how to eat umai, we also learnt the wonderful way of eating bananas with sago. 45 years later, I teach my children to enjoy bananas with sago. It is a delectable snack indeed.

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