Monday, December 31, 2007

Disciplining Children - the Foochow Way

I have been observing and thinking about Foochow child rearing methods for years. Some children were lucky they became extremely successful, some were not so lucky. Was it entirely due to luck?

Perhaps I cannot actually propose a theory yet on child rearing.

Below are some of my observations.

Mr and Mrs. Ting ( Ah Chuo) were the one of the first Foochow noodles or mee sua makers of Sibu. Mrs. Ting was a woman with a loud voice, who often spoke loudly and rapidly until she lost her voice. So sometimes she would speak with crackling voice which we called "pang ak siang" in Foochow or half voice. She used two ways to keep her children in tow : scolding and cursing them loudly using phrases like "you die half way","son of a coffin","drop jaw",etc.

She also caned her children, very badly and one day we saw her dragging one of sons out from below the stairs by the hair and with one hand holding the hair, she used the other hand to cane the poor boy.

It was at this time my siblings and I learned the word "ambidextrous". So we would always associate our dear Mrs. Ting with the word. I wrote a sentence for her: "Mrs. Ting was ambidextrous when she beat up her son." I was scolded by my China-born teacher, Mr. Liong, for writing that sentence. He asked me to correct my statement. So I wrote,"Mrs. Ting,my neighbour is a good example of an ambidextrous person."

My classmate, the late Rashid, wrote a brilliant sentence,"Many husbands and wives are ambidextrous when they box each other." The whole class burst into laughter, in our innocence then. Mr. Liong kept a very stern poker face after that.

But as the years went by, Mrs. Ting became one of our best mothers in town. Her children grew up and one obtained a First Class Honours Degree in Economics from Malaya University,another took a degree from Christchurch, New Zealand. One of the Ting girls became terribly wealthy in her own right. And the rest are very good people - professionals. But what is important to the family is the fact that all the children are "GOOD PEOPLE'. And I take my hat off to them.

The Tings lived frugally and ethically. I will always remember their neighbourliness,respect, love and loyalty towards my mother for all those long years we were in Sibu. Their friendship lasted until Mrs.Ting passed away. And now her children and I are in our fifties and still good friends.

Another way of Foochow discipline is by punishment by the father who was regarded as the master trainer of the family. After the punishment, the mother figure would comfort the child to "soften the blow".

I observed this Mr. Wong (name changed) who was often depressed because of his financial difficulties. He had a unusual way of keeping his children quiet and less demanding. When a child misbehaved, he would punish him by humiliating him in public -forcing him to kneel in the shop front for an good half hour or longer,making the child to carry a red cross on the face for a long time, or just punching him in public at any odd him his temper let him . His neighbours were all very understanding and sympathetic. The adults did not consider these as domestic abuse at all. In later years,his children were indeed considered well brought up and folks give the father the thumbs up all the time. More than forty years later, today, his children have good professional careers . In a very Foochow way, the children remember and continue to respect him, even though he had passed away a long time ago.

The aunty staying not far away from us was a nagger. I have no idea why she was so. But whenever her children misbehaved she would repeatedly reprimand them, often for a few days. She would tell everyone their mistakes. Some times she would shout very loudly, releasing her frustrations, asking the heavens to punish her children. I reckoned at that time, it was the correct thing to do:to tell the neighbours that she was doing her duty to keep them in line. By scolding them publicly and very loudly, she was saving her own face too.

All the neighours considered her a good woman and mother. Uncle was a very quiet man, who was cheerful and keeping a low profile all the time.

And to the delight of every one in our neighourhood, aunty and uncle groomed their children to become very useful and God fearing people - accountants, entreprenuers and generally successful business people.

Thus in those early days, parents did not study psychology and sociology to be the perfect parents. No child psychiatrists helped them. They applied the only crude methods they knew and brought up a good generation of Foochows....along my lane in particular...

I would call my lane and my neighbourhood - the Bai Yu Lan Lane - symbolic of purity, fragrance and greenery. I truly believe that my parents , my siblings and I were really blessed by these wonderful people. Later when redevelopment took place, this piece of social history was taken away. Good folks move on and often move away from a place because of economic development but the human connections remain because we choose to keep and treasure them.

We are the sum total of all the micro bits around us.

the Making of Acar

There was no doubt that my grandmother was a Nyonya from Java. She was introduced to my grandfather by the Rev Hoover who had already introduced her brother and sister-in-law to the teaching community then. Hence the Chongs became very much a part of our Foochow community. In fact my grand uncle who was English educated became the first English teacher of Sibu in the 1900's.

According to our family history, my grandmother was not able to speak Foochow but she learned quickly and once she picked up the dialect, she never spoke any other, apart from the English she was able to speak.

All food served at home then was Foochow food as my grandfather was quite particular about food.

Any way, this brought out the significance of Foochow cuisine in my family for two generations. Without doubt, my extended family had only appreciation for the very traditional Foochow food which came from theFujian province of China.

I was a rebel and a adventurer where food was concerned. So ever since I was taught by an Indonesian born Home Science teacher in Form One, I was very keen to learn the cuisine of other ethnic groups. One particular dish that I wanted to learn was acar.

My mum was horrified that the acar had so many ingredients. Being frugal, she could not understand how a dish should have more than ten ingredients. Any way, I saved all my money for several weeks and then started to accumulate the ingredients according to the advice of my Hokkien friend.

On the day I started to make the acar, the cut the cucumber into thousands of small slices and dried them on a zinc sheet at about ten in the morning. At about eleven o'clock, the rain came. And I was truly horrified by the fact that I had squandered the family fortune in order to make a "foreign dish" , one which could not be eaten by a Foochow because of its spiciness.

My mother gave up and said, "Now what. I told you so. You cannot make any thing at all."

I cannot remember exactly what happened. But I did buy another batch of cucumbers and had the acar made in my friend's shop lot in Blacksmith Road. A lot of face was lost and probably I lost a lot of my feminine touch after that. whenever people asked me if I could make a cake or a delicacy I would pretend that I was a tom boy and I was not good in the kitchen.

My mother probably also felt that I was a complete idiot as a result of that episode.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Visiting Grandfather's House in Sungei Merah

Visiting grandfather Kung Ping and grandmother Siew was a like a cultural ritual to me. We all regarded grandfather with awe because he was a very impressive figure and a leading personality in society at that time. He was therefore very legendary and much respected man through our child like eyes.

My grandfather had a lovely house in Sungei Merah. There were three hills in Sungei Merah. One was purchased to build the Kwong Ang Primary School but unfortunately in my opinion, today,it has been flattened to make way for the new school and a few houses. The other hill was purchased by the Tien Tao Tong, or Church of the Heavenly Way and the Tiong Hin School. They are still standing on the lovely hill today. My grandfather bought the third hill for his double storeyed white washed wooden house. Today, the hill is still part of the family property but the house has long gone.

We would perhaps stay two nights or more. Sometimes it was just a one day visit. But the earliest memories of visiting him would include memories of Great Grandmother. Having a great grandmother was a very enriching experience. We learned about how she made her small bound feet cloth shoes. We also learned that she could not move very well up and down the staircase. And we also learned that she was a very special mother to grandfather. And she provided the mysterious element in our lives and childhood imagination. Perhaps our curiosity was well developed because we shared a meaningful life with this wonderful China born quiet old lady who made moves which were so different from the normal Foochow women we were used to.

The way Grandmother Siew treated grandfather was very special. I remember two things in particular.

One was the special tea time session. At about four in the afternoon Grandmother would place two pieces of "pong pian" a kind of crunchy pastry with a sweet sticky filling which she would buy by the week from the pastry shop in Sungei Merah. Grand father's tea was always jasmine tea, which he would drink by the pot. No one else had this special treatment. And if we dared to go near him, when he was eatinghis pong pian, we would be given a small morsel. And that was a wonderful treat. Sometimes I was given half of a pastry . I presumed he must have loved me a lot, eventhough I was a girl.

The other memorable thing about Grandmother Siew's special treat for Grandfather was the preparation of personal dishes for grandather at meals times. The rest of the family had the "normal food" but grandfather had his specials. today whenever I patronise a restaurant I would think of Grandfather in particular when I order the specials.

Grandfather would be served one special meat dish for his meals. It would be pork with tou cheor (yellow bean sauce), or steamed minced pork, or a specially steamed black chicken in ginger and wine. These were served in small dainty dishes. In fact whenever Grandfather ate, he would have his rice, accompanied by three or small dainty dishes, all specially prepared for him. The rest of the family would eat later with Grandmother Siew. On rare occasions we would eat at the same time with him.

Fruits from the garden were very special and grandfather had rambutan, durian,star fruit, pineapple, banana,chempedak, papaya,jack fruit and Wong Dang, an old fashioned fruit which was red on the outside and white little segments inside. We collected the skin and dried them . These dried skins were then cooked to give special flavours to soups. The mixed garden was a very intelligent way of using land and a Foochow family would never be short of fruits the whole year through. Although apples,pears and grapes were available in the market, we had enough fruits in our diet, just from the garden. Besides, they made good gifts whenever grandmother Siew visited her daughters-in-law and friends. Life was very subsistent.

But what was very memorable was the way my grandmother Siew looked for bamboo shoots. Grandfather had at least four huge bamboo groves. And every now and then we would go down the hill to watch the bamboo shoots growing. It was perhaps our imagination that we we saw the head of bamboo popping out, the bamboo shoot would be ours and no one could claim it. After a few days, we would come and cut the bamboo shoot, which by then would be about two feet tall, and very edible and sweet. Carrying home a bamboo shoot with Aunty Hiong was like coming home from a big battle and she,our general. Fried bamboo shoot was a very great dish on our grandparents' table.

Kacang Puteh,Sweets,Iced lollipops at Rex Cinema

The cinemas in Sibu had very Latin names: Rex Cinema and Lido Cinema. How did this come about?

Perhaps when cinemas had to be named and licenses obtained from the then local authority, the British colonial officers then suggested nice sounding names they were familiar with from Britain. I suppose also at that time, if a cinema had a nice sounding name, the Colonials would most probably go to the movies!!

Or would the cinemas have more class if they had a nice foreign name. So the world over cinemas have been named The Palladium,The Odeon, The Colliseum, The Plaza,etc. Even in some parts of India, you can find a Rex Cinema or a Lido Cinema.

although many memories were associated with cinemas I particularly remember two.

Firstly, I remember how I had to queue up to book tickets for movies that were very popular.Most of us were very determined to get seats before the film ended its showing period. full house was bad news to us because we could not get to see the movie!!

Being very short and just a young teenager, I was often pinched and pushed, and sometimes punched, not only by men but also by women.

Forty years later, while in a queue for Air Asia , coming from KL to Miri,I was pushed by someone using the luggage trolley. somehow people never change when standing in a queue over the years. We have to expect very lousy behaviour.

And once when trying to get a ticket in Rex Cinema in Sibu, a friend of min, who was perhaps 12 at that time, put his hand into the little opening of a box office, to get his tickets with about ten other hands. The lady ticket seller pushed down the window like a guillotine when all the tickets were sold out. Those stronger arms withdrew immediately. But my friend's arm received a long scar which could be visibly seen until today.

I suppose this was how much all of us suffered because we loved movies so much at that time.

Secondly I would like to share with you one of my fondest memories of Sibu.

Outside the Rex Cinema was a little retail shop owned by one of the Tiong families. He was oen of my grandfather's cousins, who had emigrated with my grandfather. He also doubled as a well known and honest tomb builder. My Grand Uncle Tiong would always give me half a packet of kacang puteh and would not charge me at all. He would say, "Free for you. Your grandfather was a good man. Take ,eat...."

I remember him as a very hardworking person. Grand Uncle Tiong would go early to Sungei Merah to build the tombs and by afternoon, he would be back with his wife to man the little outlet selling kacang puteh, sweets and Ice lollipops. the family eeked out a living for a long time like that. The children grew up becoming very street wise and really good youngsters. Somehow they were extremely brilliant and hardworking.

I taught one of the boys and he was the delight of my heart. As a young teacher, untrained and temporary, I was very impressed by his attitude. He and some of his classmates really liked to learn English and they gave their one hundred per cent to the learning of the foregin language in Transition class.Each day of my first year of teaching was made better because of this wonderful class of Chinese boys and girls. Many of them are still my good friends today.

I remember that my grand uncle continued to provide tidbits to cinema goers for some time after he retired from his cemetery work. He was a good man who would not undercut, cut corners, or cheat on the daching so to speak. He was one of the best Foochow men I ever knew.

And in his last years, he looked extremely distinguished in his suit as he took photos with his children and grand children. To me, he had led a great life, in a very decent way. His hard work paid off. And as good parents and being very God fearing , he and his wife were truly blessed by good children who are not only successful but are today pillars of the society. My grand uncle's is blessed by two engineers, and two doctors.

Sibu lost a good man when he passed away.

Mini Skirts

Did you wear one in the 60's if you were a young girl? And if you were a young man then, did you look at all those legs?

I wore the mini skirts like most young girls in 1968 until 1972. But I did not wear them more than 8 inches above the knee. Quite conservative to the younger generation and yet quite daring to the older generation.

I did not dare to wear the hotpants though. Probably I had lots of Taiwanese singers in Sibu to compare with. They did not look too good in them. So I decided not to have any at all. However today, with all the girl bands, etc on tv, I find them fairly palatable. Better than some of the other styles.

the very short skirt actually came from Britain in 1967. while most people were still wearing the 1950's clothes in the very conservative Sibu, and the cheong sam and sam foo were still being worn by the married women, more and more young ladies took the the street with the interesting and attractive mini skirts by the late 60's. The movie stars, the Taiwanese singers and better economic conditions caused by good timber money helped propelled Mary Quant's style in Sibu.

According to fashion history,the fore runner of the mini dress the straight shift, which had developed from the 1957 sack dress, was still well below the knee.

In the early sixties, pleated skirts set on a hip yoke basque were worn with short sleeved over blouses which were cut not unlike the shell tops of today. Straight skirts had front and back inverted pleats called kick pleats and were ideal for doing the twist dance craze as they allowed the knee to move freely. Remember Chubby Checker? Boys and girls were crazy about the twist. They were twisting and shouting on Saturday nights in the Sibu Recreation Club.

In the United States, with movies like Gidget and Summer Holidays, pop stars wore straight sweater dresses in lambswool or the synthetic acrylic variety called Orlon worn belted with waists nipped in became fashionable. Sandra Dee, Yvette were the darlings of the cinemas. Every girl dreamed of a holiday by the sea. Bobby Darin was causing every girl to swoon. And I had pictures of Cliff Richard and Elvis Presley in my scrap book . All these new behaviours caused a great deal of headaches and heartaches to my mother and many other mothers who thought that they should have sent their daughters to Chinese school where girls wore pigtails and white and black skirts only.

Sweaters were the in thing and we all wished for a twin set. Singapore was the centre of fashion and every fairly wealthy Sarawak family bought some of these gorgeous sweaters in Change Alley or other shops .Pencil skirts were still worn with sweaters .

those were giddy days for the post war babes like us. And it was a good time. Bob Dylan, Slim Whitman, and other crooners sang, "Times, they are a'changin...."

And true enough, with changes in media, communication, magazines,radio and tv....times changed very quickly...we were all trying to catch up with everything on a gallop.

Murder : for the love of gold

There was this wooden house in Queensway in Sibu which was considered haunted and no one lived in it. Each time we cycled past this house, we would all increase our speed and feel the goosebumps growing on our skin.

It could only be just psychological that we felt this way. Were the spirits really that terrifying?

Here is the story that went around. It might not be entirely accurate after the passage of more than 50 years. I first heard it from my mother's washing lady. And of course, most women in Sibu at that time did not have any first hand knowledge of court cases.

The murder could have happen in the early 50's, even before my parents moved to Sibu. Not long ago I even tried to locate some local reference books to verify the story but to no avail.

The wooden house no longer exists. And the story is fading into the recesses of our mind.I have asked several people but they said, they have never heard of the story.

The native mistress of one of the British government officers had a peculiar liking for wearing a lot of gold on her wrists,neck and ears. It was rumoured that she had a huge gold chain around her waist too. Now at that time, it was not clear at all whether she was a Melanau, or an Iban or a Kayan because our Kak (the Malay washer woman) was also not very clear about the ethnic origin of the lady as she had not seen the woman in person herself. Everything was just hear say. And being illiterate, she had not been able to read the papers, which could only have been the local Chinese newspapers of the time, the See Hua Daily News or the Malaysia Daily News.

The lady of ill repute was given the wooden house to live in and it was well equipped with very modern electrical appliances and modern amenities of that time like electrical iron, refridgerator (a rarity) ,radio,a record player,an oven and other nice fixtures. It was said that she had many fine crystal glasses and dining sets in her cabinets. And she was naturally provided with cupboardful of the best whiskeys and brandies. Her wooden floor was well polished to be danced on every saturday night.

She was the top "socialite" of the day,as she was charming, beautiful and powerful. A word from her to the right officer, a person could get a job as kerani or driver with the PWD (Public Works Department). That was considered as "power" or "influence".

According to the local stories then, one day a group of men and women visited her after they learned that she was a very wealthy woman. They might even have been related. They had decided to ask her for a loan of money but she refused saying that her Tuan would not agree to such a loan.

Perhaps the drinking and the drunkeness which resulted from the day's visit had caused the conflict to blow up into a murder, we would never know from the lay person's view.

Perhaps this group of visitors left after their drinking. But unfortunately, she was strangled to death by some persons that very evening. They had used the wire of a very old iron to strangle her to death. And they buried her in a very shallow grave near the house in a hurry.

It was a very, very messy murder actually and within days the murderers were caught by the police,produced in court and sentenced to death.

All the gold, bottles of drinks, crystal glasses and furniture were found from various places by the police very easily.

This was one of the first murder cases of Sibu involving non Chinese.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Deaf Mute in the Sun

I must have been quite a vocal and spirited child to many people! My uncles used to say that I never stopped thinking and talking when I was young. I must get my opinion in between their conversation and they would give me that particular look. But as a child, I was not at all bothered about how they looked at me. I would just run along and be happy doing what I liked best I suppose.

And this story I am going to relate is one that I had plenty of occasions to repeat to others. Telling my listeners over and over that those horrible taxi drivers should not have done what they had done.

We had this interesting deaf mute who worked for some food and some pocket money for the Yen King Restaurant in Sibu. The Yen King Restaurant at that time had taken over Hock Chu Leu as the best one in town and a very "happening place". To have a meal there was like going to the poshest place in town, and having a great treat.

Parked in front of the restaurant was a whole row of taxis ready to provide service. I remember the road being named "Wong Nai Siong Road".

The taxi drivers would rest under the shade of the trees near the Sarawak Hotel, which was just opposite the restaurant. Sometimes the taxis were parked next to the five foot way of Yen King, just to be as near to the restaurant as possible, to catch the customers directly.

So one day, a huge feast was held in Yen Ching and my family was invited. I was a bit bored by all the eating and adult chat so I went down stairs to play with my newly collected bottle caps on the five foot way with my cousins and to be away from the horrible mixed smells of whiskey, brandy and beer and oily food. The restaurant was not air conditioned at that time. so you can imagine how hot it must have been.

We then witnessed the horrible scene of the taxi drivers having fun with the deaf mute,who was already tired from his waiter's work for the day. One taxi driver played an a-go-go tune very loudly and another driver got hold of the deaf mute. The third one put a lot of ice cubes inside his shirt at the back!! As the deaf mute twisted and turned, the whole bunch of taxi drivers was having fun, shouting, clapping and saying, "Hao, Hao!!" (Good! Good!) Some were even shouting, " A- go - go!!" But there was no way for the deaf mute to dance rhythmically to the tune. He was just trying his best to shrug off the ice from his back. Finally he got the presence of the mind to pull up his shirt from his tight trousers.

He was terribly red in the face when he finally got rid of the ice and I could see the anger which he could not express well enough.

At that moment, I was really horrified and ashamed that adults could really torture and bully a very mild,disadvantaged fellow man.

Later when I commented on this incident to an uncle, all he could say was, " Hey, what does a little child like you know.......don't be bothered. No use. Adults do what they like."

Although Foochow adults were supposed to be very wise , somehow I had the impression that they were not very much in favour of smart alecks!! In later years, I also discovered in the same manner, that many of the older Foochow men I knew ,were not much in favour of "activists" and "environmentalists". They preferred people who "live and let live" and not rock the boat.

Years later in order to redeem myself and my fellow Foochow men I would push a few ringgit into the deaf mute's hand whenever I met him in town. I cannot explain why I should do that. But I had that inner desire to do so. May be it was because I could talk and he could not talk? After I moved away from Sibu, whenever I went back to Sibu I would be on the lookout for him. But I never saw him again. Perhaps he had passed on. And I hope that he had at least a few years of good life at the end.That someone would love him and respect him. I believe he had done no one any harm. And he had been known to have helped lots of people, like the Good Samaritan.

Having come across him at some points of my life has made the tapestry of my life richer.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Butcher and the Debtor

There is a Chinese saying which goes like this,"Ten years a river flows in front of the house. Then ten years the river will flow at the back." This is metaphorical talk.

The Foochows are very good with metaphors and inferences but unfortunately as the younger generation have become more modern, more Malaysianised, the older generation's version of Foochow dialect is a disappearing feature.

There is a real story which is related to this saying.

In the 50's a poor man who was out of luck wanted to buy some pork from a butcher . Butchers were traders who had sharp knives and probably a sharper tongue.

It was a normal practice then for customers to put their finger on the cut pieces and to point to the slices they would like to buy. The butcher would stand at a respectful distance and wait upon the customer until he/she made up his/her mind what to buy. The butcher would then cut according to the customer's heart's desire. Most customers would be very happy with this kind of service. And it was expected that a good butcher would behave in this manner, since Sibu was a small town and everyone knew everyone.

However, on that particular day, the poor man approached the wealthiest and perhaps the best butcher to buy himself a small piece of pork. And he did what was customary, pointing to the pork and asked for a certain cut.

But the butcher, knowing the out of luck gossips of the man, said rather rudely,"Put away your fingers. My knife will cut your hand off!"

The butcher cut a poor thin slice for the poor man and wrapped it up quickly, weighed it with his "daching" or chinese balance and called out his price loudly and curtly. The poor man was taken aback . Feeling slighted,belittled and embarrased no doubtm he said in a firm voice, probably with throbbing temples, he said, " My friend, a river water may flow in front of the house for ten years. And the water may flow to back of the house after that... ....."

He then left rather abruptly.

Many years later, the poor man came back to Sibu , now well known for his success in business in South East Asia. He was able to redeem himself by paying off all his debts and giving treats to everyone he knew.

One day he went up to the pork market. And the wealthy, but now older butcher took him by the arm and welcomed him to his stall, saying "Any cut, which ever you want. Just show me... And I won't even charge anything higher than necessary. It will be cheap for you. I will definitely give you the best price."

The now rich tycoon gave the butcher a cold look,and said, "My friend,fortunes of men may change with time. Never underestimate a poor man."

I often use this story in my training of adult students and teaching of younger children. Sometimes I would be all choked up inside remembering the hard times of the past of so many people I know.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Some how we humans have a great abhorrence for snakes and other scaled serpents.

My family had several frightening encounters with snakes and also a few snake related stories under our belt.

One of my earliest snake encounter was during a particular high flood and we were living in the Hua Hong Ice Factory's manager's house (built by my great grandfather and grandfather), across the Rejang River, near Pulau Kerto.

My mother was always very provident and we had lots of ducks and chickens in the coops. We had fresh eggs every day and fresh meat every now and then. The chickens and ducks also made very good presents for our elders in Sg. Bidut and across the river, in Sibu town.

One evening, the skies were very dark and the flood water was rising fast. We thought that the water would reach the top the stairs. Our house was very intelligently built on stilts, very similar to the Malay houses by the river side. We were always confident that no water would ever reach our living quarters.
And suddenly, we heard our chickens started making a lot of noise which challenged the loud thunder claps and the splish splash of the flood water. The sounds created quite an eerie atmosphere.

In very fast movements (usually he was very slow and measured in his movements), my father took down his gun from the wall, put on his long rubber boots and waded in the very high water, cautiously stepping on the plank walk which we could see quite clearly under the water, to the chicken houses. We saw him beding down and opened the door. Later he told us that he saw these huge eyes staring at him. He gave the reptile one shot a point blank!!

We heard the echo of the shot and I felt as if the whole house shook. That was the only time in my childhood that I heard a shot from my father's gun. In 1963 he surrendered his gun to the government and we never saw it again. He died two years later very suddenly and before his time.

We thus lost our protector,our guide and our provider. It was a terrible loss to the family and especially my mother who has been the only one person I know who has been grieving for more than 40 years for a beloved spouse. Her heart has always been heavy and she would never put on makeup to look pretty.

It is a pity I never learned to handle a gun as well as a man. I believe I could have been a very sharp shooter.

The snake was removed and given to some of the workers for a great feast. It was about seven feet long. My mother and younger siblings never came out of their bedroom during the whole episode.

Another encounter I had with snakes was a huge one that coiled up in a beam in a longhouse. I was helping an English Missionary nurse as a translator during my school holidays and we operated a mobile Mission Clinic.

We had to spend the night in this longhouse as it was quite far away from the mission house in Bukit Lan. As we were having our dinner with the Iban family, I noticed this huge python coiled up on a beam in the ceiling. The longhouse folks were unperturbed but I could hardly take my eyes off the reptile. I could not even eat that evening, wondering why no one was bothered and feeling fearful that the reptile may drop on to the floor any moment.

the next day I was told that the python was probably an ancestor coming back to see the family and according to the longhouse "pantang" or taboo, no one was to kill it. This particular family did not eat snakes because they believed that one of their ancestors had turned into a snake after he died. Nothing untoward happened to us or the family while the snake was up on the beam.

But as I thought about those mersmerizing eyes and shiny scaled snake on the beam, I would give shudder. Every time I see a snake skin handbag, I would be reminded of that particular one. Snakes are just so haunting in the mind.

Kassim and the One Legged Trishaw Driver

In the fifties most of the kids went to school in trishaws.

These three wheeled vehicles were commonly parked outside the Chinese Temple in Pulau Babi, the Lido Cinema, the Rex Cinema and the Palace Cinema. A few were found in the Lau King Howe hospital. There were probably about ten taxis.

Life was slow paced and perhaps we knew almost everyone.

And best of all, we were always looking out for each other.

Not many families had their own car. My father did not own a car until he started working in Bukit Aup where my grandfather started his brickyard. He bought his first British made Land Rover. For a while we kids were not too happy with the purchase because we would rather have a sedan, not a multipurpose one but any way we got used to jumping in and sitting at the back. We would also squat down and look out from the back. We loved the canvas flipping in the wind.

Kassim the driver took my sister and I to school. So we had the nice cushioned seats all to ourselves as only two small persons could occupy them. A larger person would take one whole trishaw to himself or herself.

I sort of looked up to Kassim because he would tell us little stories, some without beginning and some without ending, just to entertain us. He could speak a bit of English. But it was the funny, mixed up ,punctuated with some Hokkien,Pasar Malay ,that we learned from him. But .we also we noticed that he had a whole range of moods. He could be very happy one day and very sad another day. But basically, he was a very caring person. On rainy days, he would take his umbrella to shield me from the rain, and carry my sister on his arms, right to the school.

One day he told us the story of a Malay man without a leg and how he pedalled a trishaw with all his might just to feed his family of six, including his old parents.
I developed so much sympathies for the handicapped as a result, thanks to Kassim.

At that time I was too young to know that this Malay man was actually diabetic and had lost his leg to the disease. Many years later I worked at the hospital as a volunteer selling basic necessities to patients who had no visitors like orange juice, toilet tissues, sanitary pads,etc I came across this very old man without a leg. I was told that he was a trishaw driver and I realised that he was the very one-legged trishaw driver we had in Sibu.

Trishaw drivers, and taxi drivers formed a very special breed of breadwinners in Sibu and they were all from the various races. Whenever they grouped together, under a big angsana tree or a banyan tree, to play a round of cards, or a game of chess, these men would be so happy and chatty. They were all darkened from the tropical sun.

As a child it was fun to watch them. And one very endearing sight was when I caught sight of them falling asleep in their own trishaw or taxi. In my innocence I had no idea how hard their life was, how much worries they had and how long their hours were.

But Kassim would also be in my mind as the role model of a great and caring trishaw driver. He was part of my life for a few years. In such simple ways of story telling and chats, he made me see from different perspectives. And the one legged, diabetic trishaw driver would be the saddest image in my mind for ever. Life is not fair! Perhaps it was Kassim who helped me soar above the ups and downs of life later.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Physical wounds and lack of first aid knowledge

I was born in a house by the riverside. It had tall stilts very similar to Malay Kampong house. A detached house, it was home to my great grand father and great grandmother. It was also home to my grandfather and grandmother and a long list of aunts and uncles.

In fact the house would be kept as a great memory in the minds of many of my relatives. To many outsiders, it was the house of the towkay of the Ice Factory.

As a child I thought it was very grand. But by today's standard, it was not very much as it was wooden,with lots of windows. But I remember that it was a very intelligent house. Without any airconditioning or fan, the house was very cool throughout the day. At night when we used our mosquito nets, it was just warm enough to lull us to a very comfortable sleep.

We did not really get bitten by mosquitoes either. And I do remember running about the house a lot. One day I had a very deep cut on my knee from the zinc sheet that kept the vegetable garden from intrusion by animals like goats,dogs and cows. The scar remains with me to this day. I did not have any stitches. My mother just put iodine on the skin and plaster it. I was in pain for many days. But nothing untoward happened.

My mother said that a cut (it was about two inches) which was deep needed only to be kept clean and the wound would just heal itself. She blew on the wound every now and then. I felt very loved and soothed by her. We were not allowed to cry loudly. So I grew up with very little tears actually having been told that a ghost would carry us away at night if we cried .

We learned many years later that when my mother was a child, before the Japanese occupation,there was very little medication around. So the most horrible thing she remembered was the pain and agony children and even adults suffered. They had little knowledge of first aid in the first place. When wounds set in, they did not have cotton wool and any other dressing.

So a wound would just be left unattended, usually for a long time, until it just dried up.

This is lack of medication and lack of medical knowledge caused my mum's deafness in one ear. Her ear was infected for a long time and no treatment was given during the Japanese occupation. How much must she have suffered we would never know. Few can even imagine her pain and agony!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmases past and present

Sibu was built on very solid Methodist values when it was set up in 1903 and later with the coming of Rev Hoover, management of the new town was very American and very Methodist.

Sibu is a Methodist town, just like Sitiawan in Perak. And indeed this is very remarkable.

Each Christmas my thoughts would go back as far as I can remember. And remembering the past only makes the present much better.

Past Christmases celebrated with Grandfather Kung Ping and Grandmother Siew were memorable ones.

From a granddaughter's view every Christmas with Grandfather was a specially good one because he had a great Christmas tree and I remember my first reindeer hanging from the tree.And I remember Aunty Greta putting up the last touch of the star on top of the tree.(that was the period before she married Uncle Henry and before Grandfather passed away.) And then the aunts would a few days later put away all the baubles, special pieces in a box , ready for the next Christmas because Grandmother Siew was a very neat and tidy person.

Although it was a small tree, placed on top of the table near the huge mirror, it was a tree that exuded love, care and the Christmas and Christian spirit. There was this special air in Grandfather's house - the joy of homecoming and the joy of reunion. He had such a presence, and an aura about him as head of the family.

I can still hear now, as I write, people calling him "Ah Ka"(father) and "Ah Kung" (grandfather). These were old fashionFoochow ways of calling father and grandfather.

I believe Grandfather loved Christmas because he also enjoyed the midnight carolling. Carollers would come and he would be so happy serving them drinks, biscuits and rambutans.And he would listen very silently the little sermon the pastor would give. He waited for the blessings or benediction that the pastor would pronounce before the group left the house. Today I would like to believe that he had the faith that the blessings would come to his family.

As a child looking at that tree, I felt very proud to be a member of the Tiong family. Somehow, my own parents did not have a tree in our house in Hua Hong Ice Factory. Perhaps my father thought that if Grandfather had a tree in his house, it was alright if we did not have a tree in our own house.But thanks to the big family home, I did not in any way feel deprived at Christmas. Food served by Grandfather and Grandmother were always luxurious and delicious. And we were blessed for having Ah Hiong Koo and later Ah Mee with us.

The next tree I looked at lovingly was the Masland Church tree. It was always quite near to the piano. And I remember Mr. Chong, Ivy's father, playing the piano . I loved the Foochow service and all the wonderful hymn singing in Foochow. I was also amazed by the preaching in Foochow by Rev Dr. Coole. Later we had Rev. Ling Chi Shii who had a very low bass voice. In my youth I was particularly impressed by the preaching of Rev Ho Siew Liong, the only Heng Hua pastor I know in my young days. I remember him being a great reader and he had all those soft covered books which came all the way from China in his library.

AS I compare Christmases past and Christmases present, one very important ingredient is the roles played by our own earthly grandfather and father who would make the important decisions for the direction family should take. Family culture and life depend so significantly on their wisdom. Our joy and outlook in life, our attitude towards everything and our own youthful behaviour hinge on that very firm guidance from the head of the family.

Likewise, our belief in our Heavenly Father who has given us spiritual direction in our lives continue to put us on the right track all the time.

And finally, I will always remember the Christmas letter from Aunty Grace who wrote: "If I could give you presents, they would be wrapped up in the boxes under my Christmas tree. And these presents are Joy, Peace,Faith,Courage, Patience, Love, Warm Relationships,loyalty,Good health...and as I look at each light on my tree, as each light would represent father, mother, my brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces, sisters in law and brothers in law....see how bright they shine! " She had a wonderful style in writing, very American.

So in the same way, I would like to wrap up metaphorically my presents for you all, and place them under my tree...Joy, peace, patience,love, faith,loyalty,courage, warm relationships to be opened to bless you every day of the coming new year!!

Let us remember those who have gone before us. May their souls rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Floods all over the world are caused by several factors.

Floods can be defined as the overflow of river water into the flood plains. A river's main job is to channel water into the sea or ocean, apart from cutting down it sides of the mountains to accomodate the stream flow.

And we now have to discuss what cause this overflow of river water. According to nature, water springs from the mountain tops and cuts a valley on the surface of the earth. At the upper course, the river is fierce and powerful and cuts deep into the rocks to form a very deep v shaped valley. In the middle course, the river is wider, slower and cuts a wider v-shaped valley. As the river moves nearer the sea,w here it will pour out its volume into a huge body of wa ter, it meanders and swings like a snake , criss crossing the deltaic region to form a huge flood plain.

A river is dynamic. It has a life of its own. And nature evolves itself into new forms, new shapes, sometimes beyond the control of man. But nature will definitely take its course.

Left alone, a river runs its course, its high tide, its low tide,its over flow and its low and slow flow. But man wants to be a master. And this is where the nature of a river will become unruly. Man wants to tame a river. But does it really want to be tamed on man's terms?

When man removes too much forest cover through rapid logging, runoff will be too rapid and the poor river cannot contain the heavy torrents and floods occur.

when erosion is too rapid, sedimentation and siltation of the river takes place. And the river overflows naturally.

The normal high tide will flood the deltaic regions without doubt.

Too much concretization in urban areas will also mean that run off will be too rapid and the river cannot channel the volume of water into the sea rapidly enough. So the excessive volume of water will only top up the river flow, forming an overflow. Flood results.

We humans must learn to create a balance with nature. And when man play God, he will have to face unpredictable consequences.

Floods have been a regular occurence in all parts of Sarawak and in particular Sibu. They are not strange or unique to us. We have been having huge floods sicne 1963.

We just have to something about it, quickly and sincerely because too many people will be affected and too much property will be destroyed. Our projections must be accurate, our designs must be intelligent and our lives and livelihood must be preserved.

We have learnt a great deal of history and geography in school. I am taking a leaf out of that education to share with you here:

 In the Minjiang River of the Sichua Province, the annual flux up to 15 billion cubic meters, and about 40 million tons of sands and stones were washed down from upper reaches. Flood burst out frequently, in 256 BC, the governor of the Shu Prefecture (now as Sichuan area) organized local people to build the greatest project, and till now it works very well.
The Sichuan people summarized its experience in flood control and water usage as: "Harnessing Shoals Deep, Building Dams Lower" or "Keep the weirs low and the sluices deep".
Fish Mouth (Yuzui in Chinese),is located in the upper middle (the heart point close to the bend of the river) of Minjiang River . The Fish Mouth dyke divides the river into 2 flows: the inner river (D) and outer river (E), with wide for outer river (with little higher river bottom) to keep more flux (60%) into outer river if rainy season and keep few flux (40%) into outer river if non-rainy season, as well as more sands and stones into outer river, narrow for inner river (with little deeper river bottom) to keep certain amount of flux to into inner river.
Bottle Mouth (Baobingkou), the bottom width 14.3M, the top width 28.9M, height 18.8M, water width 19M at lower water and 23M at its flood water. It divides and controls the water again to keep water into irrigated canals for Sichuan irrigation.
Feishayan (drainage dam, training banks),has width of 240M with 2 meters height. It is about 710M to Yuzui and 200M to Baopingkou. During flood season, the water flows to the bank (upper) and then returns to this dam, and carry sands with stones across the dam into outer river with large flux. And this dam was built with bamboo cages filled with cobblestones more than 2000 years ago.

Actually there is no dam in this project, but only a lower dyke to keep the water flowing naturally with different direction to different way. It is believed that no one should ever break the flow with a high dam. Every year there is a annual reconstruction (just as: carry the sands out of the river bottom). Thus there has been no environment problem such as Dam breaking up,sedimentation and erosion etc.

Here a second article to share with you.

Dujiangyan Irrigation Project of China

Dujiangyan Irrigation Project is time-honored water conservation works. It is 56 kilometers (34.8miles) away west of Chengdu at Dujiangyan city, lying in the middle reach of Minjiang River, the longest tributary of Yangtze River.

In old days, Minjiang River surged out down Mt. Minshan, pushing toward Chengdu plain. When it came to flatland, the speed slowed down abruptly. Thus the watercourse filled up with silt became vulnerable to flood, the people living on the plain suffered a lot. Around BC 250 during Warring States Period, Libing, a governor of Shu prefecture (present Sichuan province) in Qin state, together with his son, directed the construction of Dujiangyan. The governor gave up the old way of dam building to catch floodwater. Instead, he employed a new method by water channeling and diversion to harness Minjiang River and built the whole works up mainly in two parts: the headwork and the irrigation system.

The project effectively put the flood under control. Up to now, the whole system still functions perfectly, serving over two thousand years for flood prevention, irrigation, shipping and wood drifting. It contributes a lot to the richness of Chengdu plain and its reputation as the Land of Abundance.

On November 29th, 2000, Dujiangyan was listed on world cultural heritages by UNESCO.

Headwork of Dujiangya Irrigation System
The headwork consists of three projects: Yuzui, Feishayan, Baopingkou.

Yuzui: It is a long and narrow dyke built in the center of the Minjiang River, dividing Minjiang into the inner river and the outer. Uniquely governor Libing designed it in a shape of fish mouth, in order to receive least water resistance. In average, 40 percent of river' runoff goes into the inner river in flood season, 60 percent into the outer, and vice versa in dry season. The inner river diverts water into Chengdu plain through Baopingkou. And the outer is the main flow, which carries off 80 percent of silt.

Baopingkou: It is the main diversion gate to draw in water for irrigation in shape of bottleneck. In construction of irrigation system, governor Libing had a canal cut through Mt. Yulei toward Chengdu plain. Baopingkou marks the inlet of the man-made river. It works for conducting water and controlling the volume of inflowing water.

Feishayan: It is spillway for releasing flood and silt from inner river to outer river. When the volume of water in inner river goes beyond the upper limit of influx at Baopingkou, excessive water will flow over Feishayan to outer river. At the same time, the eddy force of overflowing water helps take along the silt and sand, which in other cases would settle to the bottom. In ancient times, with no cement in use, Feishayan spillway was originally made of piles of bamboo cages filled with cobblestones. If there happened unusual big flood, Feishayan could collapse by itself, leaving water channel much clearer. Now it has been concrete work.

Anlan Suspension Bridge
Anlan Suspension Bridge, also called Couple's Bridge, spans 500 meters (1640.4feet) long over both the inner and outer river, right above Yuzui dyke. It used to be secured by thick bamboo rope. Although it is reinforced by tight steel wire now, visitors still can have fun by swinging back and forth on the bridge while walking across.

Erwang Temple
It was built to commemorate Libing and his son, who made great contributions to enable people a better life. Besides, Libing was an outstanding hydraulics engineer. He invented the dyke of fish-mouth style, erected a stone man amid river as water gauge for long-time observation of water in different seasons, and buried a stone rhino on bottom of the inner river as titer for measuring the concentration of silt and sand when dredging for annual maintenance. He ever summed up his experience of water-control: dredging the sand deeper, building the dam lower. The eight words are inscribed on a wall inside the temple.

Copyright © 2002 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

59 gunny sacks of pepper

Pepper,the green gold of Sarawak, and the world, has only been an exportable commodity from the Rajah Brooke Period (1842 - 1946) of Sarawak history, although it was a known agricultural crop since the Middle Ages.

The Chinese were interested in its cultivation in Sarawak. It was a cash crop first grown by the Chinese in the areas surrounding Kuching when the Brookes brought more peace to Sarawak in the 1840's and later, when the Foochows arrived in Sibu in 1903, more pepper was grown in the Rajang Basin. the Ibans and other natives also grew pepper but their production was not very well documented, although many Ibans have actually become very wealthy in the 1960's because of their hardwork and diligence in the production of both black and white pepper.

In many ways, it is the Foochow who gained the most from the growing of pepper at the beginning of the formation of Malaysia.

However pepper gardening also suffered a slight blow from the Communist Insurgency around the beginning of independence.

My story of my cousin and her hardwork was taken from this historical chapter of Sarawak.

My cousin, Moi Leng, (not her real name) was already a successful rubber planter and tapper in the 60's just ten years after she arrived in China. Still at the prime of her life, and her children just toddlers, she embarked on pepper growing because she was strong and enthusiastic. She and her husband planted altogether 1000 pepper vines. And within a few years these vines started to bear fruit. The couple harvested some pepper and sold them by the gunny sacks. The measurement of pepper was in the Chinese ton, or dan, using the daching or balance or chen.

However, life was not smooth for the family as her husband was reported to the Police as a collaborator. He therefore spent about 13 months in the Kuching Chinese Re-education Centre.

While away, Moi Leng, worked herself to the bones. The children were school going age, but she herself was determined to make a go of both rubber and pepper, the only way, she and her family could survive.

The eight sheets of rubber she could tap each day went to their daily food and fertilizers for the pepper. She worked in the pepper garden in the afternoons after processing all her rubber sheets in the morning.

At the end of 13 months, she had harvested 59 gunny sacks of pepper, all ready to be sold. When her husband came home, the couple was ready to build a new house from the sale of the pepper which was fetching a record high price. If they had waited for the price to increase, they could have made a bigger fortune.

She said that she harvested the pepper bunch by bunch, standing for more than 8 hours on the three legged ladder, sometimes only going home when the sun was already too far gone in the horizon. She never failed to fertilizer the 1000 vines. The sun burnt her skin until it glistened like a silver sheet from a distance. Her determination finally paid off when in later years, she would just shake her head and said it was definitely an amazing feat. Who could have thought that a child bride, less than five feet tall, could build herself a big house, and from the sale of 59 gunny sacks of pepper.

She had also been frugal with food, sparing in clothes, and extras. All she had to help her was her old faithful of a Japanese made motorbike to transport herself and rubber sheets to the market and to transport fertilizers and food stuff back. Every other day, people could see her on the road in this manner and complimented her for her stoicism and determination.

From her year's toil and sacrifice every one knew that she alone had harvested the pepper and as a result built herself and her family a new two storeyed house with three bed rooms,a kitchen and a toilet and other modern fixtures. She was the toast of the town. People all around congratulated her for her capabilities and staunch family values.

Her husband came home to enjoy the fruits of her labour after spending 13 months in prison. He was actually wrongly accused as he had not inclination at all towards communism.

She was glad that he was home and that she had "managed to do all that". In a very humble way, she said that it was just her duty as a wife to plan,organise,lead and control her family resources.

She did ask once,who could actually believe that someone like her, with no education at all (she is illiterate), from a village in China, could achieve so much. She herself did not believe in herself at first. But she did it.

Unfortunately our country does not have a medal for a resourceful woman like her.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Leh Pian (Sizes 5, 3 and 1)

A Foochow was ready to get married and a match would be made. The girl's family would have lots to do before the wedding.

One of the first things to do was to announce her forthcoming marriage through ordering of the "wedding cakes" or leh Pian. Size Five wedding cakes would be sent to all the married sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles from the mother's family and father's family.

This cake was made from flour, sesame seeds, pork fat, sugar and peanuts. To me it was a wonderful cake and not made any more today due to changes in taste and inconvenience.

In the 50's and 60's when these cakes were sent out to relatives, it was a wonderful event because it meant that a daughter was to be married and great happiness was in the air. And the wedding was so exceptionally important event in any body's life.

those who received Size Five leh Pian would have to give a gold ring as a wedding present. Besides the really warm hearted aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters would also get together to give a few dinners before the girl was married off. This was called the "sending off" dinner. There would be a lot of merry making and good advice given. sometimes the aunts would pull the girl aside to whisper some very personal advice, and some tips about the birds and bees.

Size three leh pian were meant for near relatives and in return these relatives would present two yards of cloth and or a sarong, plus the red packet of course.

Size one leh pian was for ordinary close friends.

I miss eating these actually because I love the sesame seeds. In those days, one could not get sesame seeds easily, except in the biscuits, kompian or leh pian.

Today as I have said earlier, Foochow families find it unrealistic to make all these cakes and it would be inconvinient to send them around as close relatives are now all over the world. Mobility and modernity have definitely put a stop to this very interesting and warm and affectionate social etiquette.

Many families say," We just want to make life as simple as possible."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

To be Left Handed or Not to be

My sister was born left handed but was trained to become right handed because it was the school policy that every one must write with the right hand. No one stopped that. She is intelligent, and good with her hands. But deep down in her, she is a left hander. She can use her left hand fairly well all these years.

When my eldest daughter was in Primary One, her teacher too insisted that she must learn to use the right hand. But as a mother I was adamant not to make write with her right hand. The teacher called me stupid. And my daughter was not too well treated by her subsequently. But my daughter thrived in her own way. Later, we found that six of her friends remained left handers. All of them have good professions after they obtained their degrees. Some even had two or three degrees under their belt.

My second daughter is left handed too. Because four years have passed since her sister was in Primary One,some of the teachers had been already informed about differences in children and had relented about left handers. So she started her primary school without any problem with writing.

But when we were transferred to Miri,we did meet one teacher who despised kids who were left handed. She went on a vendetta against them, and my second daughter was often beaten. This was very unfair to the left handed kids. They were not lepers! They should not have been treated so badly. But no one said anything bad about the teacher. They just let her be!! But my daughter would never forget the bad treatment. It traumatised her until today.

One of the strongest arguments against left handers is that they cannot write good Chinese calligraphy using their left hand. It makes sense because Chinese calligraphy is written from the right to the left and pages of books are opened from the left to the right. Furthermore the characters are often composites of strokes which are formed from left to right. A left hander would find this brush work awkward to say the least.

Years later I found out that there were specialty shops for left handers in Europe. How considerate these people are!! While many Asians are still trying their best to get their children to use their right hand, psychologists the world over are teaching about left brain, right brain intelligences, etc.

It is difficult to overcome prejudices in a society that is not very open. In our society left handers are still not "the same" as the others.

But generally speaking,with references obtained from documentated articles "some left-handed people consider themselves oppressed, even to the point of prejudice".

Here are some abstracts to share with you about left handedness.

Etymology often lends weight to the argument:

In many European languages, "right" stands for authority and justice: German and Dutch, recht, French, droit, Spanish, diestro; in most Slavic languages the root prav is used in words carrying meanings of correctness or justice. Being right-handed has also historically been thought of as being skillful: the Latin word for right-handed is "dexter," as in dexterity; indeed, the Spanish term diestro means both "right-handed" and "skillful".

Meanwhile, the English word "sinister" comes from Latin and it originally meant "left" but took on meanings of "evil" or "unlucky" by time of the Classical Latin era. "Sinister" comes from the Latin word sinus meaning "pocket": a traditional Roman toga had only one pocket, located on the left side for the convenience of a right-handed wearer. The contemporary Italian word sinistra has both meanings of sinister and left. The Spanish siniestra has both, too, although the 'left' meaning is less common and is usually expressed by 'izquierda,'[15] a Basque word. The German word for left is links, and the adjective link in German has the meaning of "slyly" or "devious", while linken means "to betray" or "to cheat" (sb.).

A left-hander was supposed to be not only unlucky, but also awkward and clumsy, as shown in the French gauche and the German links and linkisch. As these are all very old words, they support theories indicating that the predominance of right-handedness is an extremely old phenomenon.In Portuguese, the most common word for left-handed person, canhoto, was once used to identify the devil, and canhestro, a related word, means "clumsy".

In ancient China, the left has been the "bad" side. The adjective "left" (左 Mandarin: zuo) means "improper" or "out of accord." For instance, the phrase "left path" (左道 Mandarin: zuodao) stands for illegal or immoral means. In some parts of China, some adults can still remember suffering for the "crime" (with suitable traumatic punishments) of not learning to be right-handed in both primary and secondary schools, as well as in some "keeping-good-face" families.

In Norwegian, the expression venstrehåndsarbeid (left-hand work) means "something that is done in a sloppy or insatisfactory way".

Even the word "ambidexterity" reflects the bias. Its intended meaning is, "skillful at both sides." However, since it keeps the Latin root "dexter," which means "right," it ends up conveying the idea of being "right-handed at both sides."

Cross-dominance, also known as mixed-handedness, mixed dominance and cross laterality, is a motor skills manifestation in which a person not necessarily being truly ambidextrous favors one hand for some crucial and precise fine motor skill operations and the other hand for others tasks. It can be readily observed, for example, in some police force members who hold a pistol with one hand and write with the other.

It can also refer to mixed laterality, which refers to a person favoring eyes, ears, feet, or hands on opposite sides of the body. Cross-dominance can often be a problem when shooting or in activities that require aim, as the mind usually focuses on a side.

I would like to end with a personal note that being left handed definitely has its downsides but most left handers are very intelligent people who need to feel accepted like any one of us right handers. Their lives may be a little difficult or awkward, but they do make do with what is available.

The lefties are like anyone of us!! What if God is left handed?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Match Making Stories

Match making was the order of the day in the 50's and 60's. Very few marriages were self made, if I could use the term.

But there were many cases of match making which were rather dubious. But once the match was made, nothing much could be done about it.

So read on.

A Case of a Young Woman with a Twitching Eye

Young Wong was not very wealthy , not having much rubber land, that was. But he was in favour of marrying at an early age so that he would have a helper besides having a wife. He sent out a match maker to find a wife for him.

As he could not offer much, the match maker found one fairly pretty girl who suited his budget. The family was willing to let her marry a little beneath their family status. Young Wong was delighted.

So the match maker brought Young Wong to the family residence to have a look at the potential candidate.

She was shy they told him. So she appeared with only one half of her body appearing by the door. So Young Wong saw the one half of his future bride.

On the wedding day, Young Wong was shocked to see that his bride had a bad ,twitching eye.

The marriage, however turned out well.

Case 2: The Girl with a Limp

A young man was of marriageable age. His parents were anxious that he should get married. He seemed to be rather pleasant and accomodating.

One family from another village was interested in him as a son-in-law so they accepted his offer.

On the day of the bride-viewing, the young potential bride sat by a table, and waited for the viewing to take place.

The potential groom had a good look at her from a window in a house opposite the girl's house. He was quite happy with what he saw.

The girl was no doubt pretty and seemed to be comfortable with her surroundings. The young man agreed to marry her and at the same time was delighted that he would be awarded with a piece of land from the girl's parents. He could not be happier.

On the wedding day, he found out that his bride had a limp. But it was too late for him to turn around. He went on with the wedding, rather disappointed.

However, the young man, being a good Foochow and sensible to boot, went on to be a loving husband and father of many children. He did well and was blessed with quite a fortune in the end.

Years later, my grandmother saw him at a wedding. He was a very happy man in spite of the trick he was played on.

So probably these two matches were made in heaven. I am really impressed by the stories.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Grandmother's Pumpkin Story

Every new year, when we were just children we would remember Grandmother's pumpkin story. And I have passed this story on to my children who will not only remember it when they celebrate Chinese New Year but when they see each other as siblings.

A long time ago in Fuzhou, China, an old man before he died he left his land and property to his two sons. He had also told his elder son to love and look after his younger brother as he was the only relative he had. The older brother promised to do so. The two of the brothers must not leave each other, come what may.

Thus the old man died happy thinking that his older son would keep his promise.

After the father died, the older brother made the younger brother live in the barn and he made him work like a slave.

Soon the older brother took a wife who was quite wealthy and their farm became bigger. The younger brother also took a wife. While the older brother lived inluxury, the younger brother had to make ends meet while working for his brother and family.

The younger brother planted a lot of vegetables and his family had just enough to eat.

Chinese New Year was around the corner, and the younger brother was excited about it. He told the other farm hads that he was going to have ducks, chickens, and fish for the reunion dinner.

When the older brother heard the news, he was sure that his brother had been stealing from him.

On new year eve, the little poor farm house was busy and the poorer brother's family was indeed cooking their hearts out. Smoke was billowing from the chimney and a lot of laughter was heard. No one would doubt that this was a happy family.

The children and the parents got down to eat their dinner and there were screams of delight. There was a duck, a chicken and even a fish on the table!!

Then right there an then, the older brother burst through the door and got hold of the brother's arms. And he shouted, "You thief! You have stolen from me!~!"

The younger brother looked at the older brother and said,

"Brother, look, here I have pumpkins made into chicken, duck and fish! Come and have a taste!"

the older brother was stunned and bowed in shame.

At that moment, he had realised how badly he had treated his younger brother who never complained about him and yet was able to live so happily with his family.

Fromthat day onwards the two brothers became brothers again and shared their father's farm .

This is the sort of stories my grandmother told us. Brothers must love each other.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sauce from Small Crabs (Kamat)

Photo courtesy of Daniel Yiek, Sarikei-Time Capsule. Follow the link below to read his article on the same topic.During the Japanese occupation life was very tough for most of the Foochows living in the Rejang Basin. The Brooke Government had more or less abandon the state, trade was naturally at a standstill, the Japanese soldiers were every where, mainly rampaging the countryside. There was a small but almost helpless anti Japanese underground movement. Sarawak was thus a very "conquered" state.

My mother and her sister, Aunty Yung and brothers, Pang Ping, Pang Sing and Pang Teck had to do everything in order to keep the family together. My grand father passed away just before the Allied Forces arrived because there was no medication available for him. And also partly because there was no money to really get a good doctor who might have prescribed something good. But according to a kind relative, his ulcer was beyond cure any way and perhaps only today with new technology he could have lived longer. Thus they mourned the passing of a good and considerate father.

Like the Melanaus and the Malays who had belacan, the Foochows had their crab sauce as their condiment. This peculiar sauce was made from the small mud crabs or Kamat,found in the padi fields during the harvesting season. The small crabs would breed in the fallen stalks of the padi plants and small children and women would flip over the straws to find the creatures. As they were only about 2 inches wide, it was difficult to clean them.

My mother used to collect a pail of them and clean them up. By the time she finished cleaning them, she would already have a painful back. It was really back breaking and eye straining. But the sauce from it made a delightful change in the sparse diet that they were having at that time.

The crabs would then be boiled in salt water and then strained. When that was done, the crabs would be put into an urn for fermentation to take place. After about three or four days, the crabs would be taken out and ground by the stone mill. The sauce which came out was reddish and saltish. It was really good to go with hot rice.

In those difficult days, when no food was available, the Foochows only had this with their rice. And they would live on it for days and weeks. Rice grown could be taken by the Japanese, sweet potatoes and vegetables were available if planted but many were scared to be seen planting or harvesting too much because the soldiers were every where. So the Foochows would stealthfully creep to the riverside to look for crabs,snails, fish a little, and pluck wild vegetables whenever the coast was clear. But it was all too dangerous for lone women to be any where. Rape and pillage was just too common.

Many older Foochows have told stories that they do lose their appetite today whenever they see this sauce because it would remind them of those horrible lean days during the Japanese Occupation. But those younger ones just think that this is a wonderful sauce. My mum still likes the sauce a lot because it is indeed delicious and hard to get to day. My aunts and I think that it is a Foochow delicacy and should not be forgotten as a thing of the past.
Today this red crab sauce, which is usually homemade can be purchased in bottles. Fuzhou City,China, still manufactures this sauce in great amounts.

I once heard that if one had lots of boils, a spoonful of this sauce every now and then can cure the ailment. This cure is known as "using poison to overcome another poison".

It is really up to you to believe it or not.

A Frugal Life - My Grandmother's Life Principle

My maternal grandmother was a child bride bought in China, for Five Silver Dollars. Her parents were a very poor Tiong family. According to my grand uncle, Lau Ka Tii, the famous Kang Chu of Sibu, and partriarch of the Lau family, he was there at the opportune time when my great grandfather carried the little five year old on his shoulders and calling out, " Girl for sale, five dollars only!" It was a very cold but clear morning in the home village of the Laus in China in 1909. And it was the setting of a scene which would change the life of my Foochow China born grandmother forever.

Perhaps this image cannot be erased from my mind:her poor father carrying her on his sholders and calling repeatedly out to passers by, "Girl for sale, five dollars only! Girl for sale, five dollars only. Girl for sale, five dollars only!"

My maternal grand father was 20 years old at that time, and had already emigrated to Sibu, Sarawak and working as a rubber tapper and tailor at the same time. It was time to make a match. So my very enterprising grand uncle bought a child bride, just that morning, just as if he were buying a chicken for the family dinner.

My granduncle was already a very wealthy man by that time and he was a very good business man, dealing with rubber export, money lending, land acquisition and civil cases.

So my grandmother arrived in Sibu a few months later to live together with my grand uncle and his child bride too.

My grandmother grew up learning all the domestic skills from grand aunty who was already very capable as a woman's leader by then. My grandmother was given two tasks to do every day : to count and bundle the rolled palm leaves for cigarette smoking and to cut and dry the white noodles or mee sua in round swirls. Feshly made mee sua actually would come in long bundles and a housewife would take a length of the mee sua and break it up into portions by hand, and then make a round mound with the portion to be dried in a huge rottan tray in the sun. These little round portions were then kept in tins and were ready for use. A portion is called, suo zi. So a good man would be given two portions for his chicken mee sua soup. A woman with a smaller appetite would get one portion. Usually one piece or two of chicken and a little bit of mushroom and an egg would be in the bowl of mee sua. Beautiful red wine would be added if desired.

My grand uncle was a trader too. He had a big trade with the Ibans and Melanaus. So my grandmother at a tender age was already handling a lot of the background work.

The mee sua drying was a very exceptional activity for her because towards the end of the day, she would collect all the broken bits of the noodles. She would put them in a tin for her own use. And whenever she desired to have a bowl of mee sua, she would bring her bits and pieces and have them cooked by my grand aunt. She would then get a bit of the chicken soup. That was all she had, but it was a wonderful meal for the little girl who had been sold into the Lau family.

My grandmother considered herself very lucky because she was never beaten or abused and from the beginning she was called, Fifth Sister-in-law, because my grand father was number 5 among the siblings and first cousins, from the same grandfather. In the old Foochow family system, brothers had their order of status and later, their children were all put together in a system of address. First cousins were considered brothers. However, in Sarawak, this system disappeared with time.

But she continued to practice frugality until the day she passed away. We thank her for teaching us this great value of living.

I am sure, the greening of the environment is just another version of my grandmother's attitude towards life in general. If every one has practised frugality, we would not be facing so much fuel wastage or high petroleum prices today. But that is too big a story for my writing scope.

Life simply so others can simply live!!

Save lots for the future for a better life!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Another Grandmother's Story - Silver and Gold

My grandmother started training her grandchildren to think about looking after their parents as early as possible. So one day when I was about eight and most of my cousins were around that age, she told us this story:

In a Fuzhow/Foochow village, in China, there lived a man who was very wise.

One day he sensed that something was not too right about his daughter in law who was already very uneasy at the table whenever they were eating. She was beginning to show a little more impatience, a little more disrespect towards him. His son was meanwhile working extremely hard in the farm .

As he became more and more uneasy with the daughter in law's behaviour, he went into deep thought.

One evening, knowing that his daughter in law was in the next room sewing, he pulled out a drawer very loudly and started counting, "One, two, three....."

The daughter in law was curious and so she peeped through a crack in the wall. She saw the old man with his back towards her and he was counting something he had taken fromthe drawer.

She then heard him say," These silver and gold threads will keep my son and grandchildren well for a long time. I am glad I have been saving them . What lovely gold and silver." After saying that , he shut the drawer and had it locked very carefully. He kept the key in his breast pocket and went to sleep happily.

The next day, the daughter in law was very changed. She had prepared hot porridge for him and even had some conditments on the table. She waited on him as he ate. She even poured more tea for him.

The old man knew that his daughter in law had heard what he said.

In this way the old man lived out his last years very happily.

When he died, very peacefully, the whole village came to his funeral and the son and daughter in law and grandchildren wept loudly.

After the funeral, the daughter in law quickly opened the drawer. Alas, she found only some copper wires and a few bags of ginseng.

But upon reflection, she realised that her home had been at peace and that her family had gained a lot of respect from her neighbours for a long time. She had not lost but gained.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Children's Upbringing According to My Grandmother - using stories

When I look back to those long ago years, I realise how much my grandmother loved her sons and daughters, and later all the little grandchildren, including myself.

She had so much love for everyone else too. She loved every body ,her neighbours, the rubber tappers, the fishermen who came to our huge house by the river, because she was generous, kind and warm hearted. And she had no envy or jealousy, which made her such a wonderful matriarch.

She used three particular methods of training her loved ones: stories, metaphors or sayings and hands-on experience.

First of all, she used stories. Lots of them. I remember her telling me and my cousins this story:

Once there was a monk who looked after a temple. He was a very realistic kind of monk.

One day, a poor looking man came to the temple to visit him.

The monk said to the man, " Sit."

A young monk brought some tea to the visitor as was the proper manner, the monk said to the man, "Drink."

After a short conversation, the man left the temple, bowing very deeply to the monk, who bowed stiffly back.

A week went by, the same man came back, but this time, he wore something better.

The monk said to the man, "Please sit."

The young monk brought out some tea again. And the Monk said, "
please drink"

The conversation this time was slightly better as the monk asked more questions regarding the man's health and seeming prosperity after only a week.

The man left the temple, bowing very deeply to the monk. This time, the monk bowed slightly lower.

A month went by. The same man came to visit the temple again.

The man was dressed as a magistrate and he had an assistant with him

Immediately the monk said,"If you would honour me, please sit down."

He also called out to the young monk,"Bring out the best tea for the Lord here."

When the tea arrived, the Monk said,"Please, it would honour me greatly, if you could use some tea."

The man turned around and said, " Is it so you did not recognise me at all when I was dressed as a peasant just a month ago?"

The monk was speechless and bowed in shame.

We learned a lot of wisdom and social mores from my grandmother in this way. Each evening we could not wait for the kerosene lamp to be lit. And then we would drift into the wonderland which would come alive through my grandmother's story telling.

In almost every family of her children's, she helped develop one or more teachers.
Her eldest son had a daughter who became a trained teacher. Her second son has a son who is a university lecturer. Her fourth son, who has only one son, is a teacher in China! My eldest aunt also has a daughter who became a Chinese language teacher. Second Aunt also has a daughter who became a trained teacher from Batu Lintang Teacher's College. My third aunt has a trained teacher for a daughter too. My mum, the fourth daughter has four daughters who are all trained teachers. That left my youngest aunt, who married a great and wonderful English teacher. But none of her children became teachers.

I will not hesitate to say that my grandmother was my very first home teacher and mentor. She taught me really well.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Rejang River

A river is life at its best.

Without a river, man cannot survive. From time immemorial, a river is a boon to mankind. But today, it is a curse also because it takes lives away especially during floods.

Egg Nog and Foochow Hospitality Stories

In those early rubber tapping days, my grandmother's favourite welcoming drink was Hot Ovaltine Egg Nog.

Many weary travellers especially the local Methodist Pastors, one of whom was the Reverend Lau Ngo Kee, would be warmly welcomed and my grandmother would immediately start her wood fire stove to boil water to make a hot Ovaltine Egg Nog.

It was a boiling hot mug of Ovaltine with an egg or two broken into the drink. The visitor would either stir the drink very quickly and let it stand for a while before drinking, or just give it one or two stirs and let it stand for a few minutes in order to enjoy the semi solid gluey and rich egg yolk. Relatives ,loved this drink very much and it was an honour indeed to be served one. Little children did not get such a drink. We had just plain cup of condensed milk with a bit of Ovaltine. But that was good enough.

It was not impolite for a Foochow matriarch to ask "Are you staying on for lunch?" If a visitor indicated that he was staying for lunch or even the night, my grandmother would then ask my uncle to slaughter a chicken immediately. Village life was slow paced and the kitchen would start functioning only after the morning rubber processing was completed. Once the chicken was dressed and ready for the pot, my grandmother would prepare the other accompanying vegetables for lunch. Once in a while it would be the greens that her daughter in law grew in the land available. Sometimes it would be the long Chinese cabbage which was bought in Sibu. As refrigeration was not available, almost all food was fresh.

My uncle was the chief cook for the family when he did not have work in the town as a wharf labourer. Those would be his interim rest days. Once the ships came in from Singapore, he would have a few days of heavy work, carrying the goods on his bare shoulders from the hull to the wharf and then to the lorries.

My grandmother would offer a good chicken noodle(mee sua) soup with lots of hard boiled eggs. Relatives would always tell tales of how wonderful the visit was. Mainly because they were welcomed by a heavenly bowl of chicken noodle soup. Perhaps that was one of the reasons that grandchildren loved to visit grandmother in those days. Some how grandmother's chicken noodle soup seemed to be the best in this world.

Travelling at that time from village to village was by foot or by bicycle. So it was not an easy task. The hot sun overhead would make any traveller thirsty and tired. Paths would be either cement or just dried mud. Very often such paths would be crissed crossed by rubber roots which tempered the surfaces. A very unalert cyclist would often fall into the ditches along the road if he was not able to manouvre the treacherous rubber tree roots. Because our lower deltaic area (Lower Rejang) was often inundated, the cement paths often broke up under the floods, hence the cracks were often hazardous to cyclists too. Sitting at the back of a bicycle was often a very bumpy ride, but it was much better than walking for hours in the hot sun. However in many stretches of the path, overhanging branches of the rubber trees did give plenty of shade.

The bicycle was such a boon to our village people.

The Foochows living in the Lower Nang Chong Village where my grandmother lived for the whole of her life, were very friendly and hospitable. Very few visitors would visit only for a few hours. A visit would be for a few nights of stay. So it was common for relatives to drop by and stay. A visitor would never be given the cold shoulder as most would know when to move on.

Visitors would mean the evenings would be exciting as news would be disseminated and all young children would be entertained by the news from the visiting relatives. I found all these goings-on a very interesting way of enculturalization of the young Foochows. Thus a new generation grew up in Lower Nan Chong bearing the same traits of the older generation who came from Fujian China by all the role modelling of the adults.

In later years I felt very disappointed that we Foochows no longer practise Foochow neighbourliness and genuine village hospitality of the old style. Modernization, the advent of the mobile phone and the LRT, TV and computers, have created a totally new lifestyle of electronic based life. We seem to consult the computer and other data bases first before we extend our welcome to our visitors.

It would be,"Let me check with my appointments and I will let you know whether it is a good time to visit or not." Or, "I am afraid next week would not be a good time. What about the week after that?"

When I was in Central China recently, I was truly taken back to the 1950's of my grandmother's village. Time seemed to have stood still for me.

I was asked,"So good of you to come. Staying for lunch? We will kill a chicken for you." It was such a genuine welcome without apologies.

Water was from a well,and hot water had to be boiled from a small stove using heated up coals. Although there was TV, we did not watch the programmes. Instead,after a dinner of duck soup, local vegetables and lots of corn and salted pork, we talked into the early hours of the morning,exchanging news, knowledge and jokes, all three generations seating in a circle in the open air under a beautiful blue corn moon.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Job for one cousin but not the other

Years ago, when my cousins struggled to get a fairly good education in the newly established English medium schools inSibu, they had a very hard time adjusting to the language. Most Foochows would have been happy with just studying in Chinese. And everything would be familiar. The teachers who had been always there in Chung Cheng Secondary School. for example, which was just next to my grandmother's house, would have been relatives and friends who could understand the Foochow mind.

But when transition into English medium was the order of the day, many Foochow girls especially, and boys , dropped out because they could not make any headway at all with the foreign language. The teachers being quite unwilling to teach the language,or using it as a medium of instruction, were of no help too. One Peace Corps Volunteer was attached to the school for a year and he tried his very best. Perhaps a handful benefitted from his teaching. The very conservation Foochow girls would not go any where near him. They were terrified of the red hair, blue eyes and sweaty arms according to one of my cousins. Besides he was quite a tall lanky man. So by towering over all the teachers and the students, this Peace Corp Volunteer had found it difficult to mix well with the local populace. According to an aunt, the poor man could not even find butter for his breakfast, as refrigeration was quite beyond the means of most villagers. food was definitely very spartan.

And then it was during this time that the Communists were also making a lot fo demands on the population. Many young Foochows at the tender age of 14 or 15 had no choice but to join the underground movement, thus sacrificing their lives for a cause they might have very shallow knowledge of. How much were their lives worth? I only know that their parents were devastated when they had news of their deaths.

Many had their education interrupted. And because of that historical period and other factors,many of my relatives became illiterate . These so called "illiterates" had to find jobs which were suitable for them like driving lorries, looking after boats,assisting chefs,pulling logs and working in the timber camps. Some made small fortunes while others just found enough to eat.

Those who could catch up or had extra money from clever investment in the timber industry were lucky to escape the vicious development of the period. Today they would be big entrepreneurs, doctors, scientists and politicians of Malaysia.

One cousin of mine had an exceptional job seeking experience. This is a story of humiliation, a story of family pride, a story of social ties. Or is it a matter of meritocracy? Is it a story of loss of favour? Is it a story of a have been?

It is indeed a bittersweet story for me. It was also the moment for me to realise that landing on a job can no longer be just a family thing for those who are not well connected. Our destiny is in our own hands. We sink or swim on our own and there are lots of sharks around.

My cousin Feng (name changed) had just obtained her Form Five results with a fair pass and was good enough to look for employment in a bank, accounting firm or even Sime Darby with her knowledge of English, Chinese and Maths in the early 70's when there were only a handful of graduates and perhaps only 5 lawyers in town.

Able bodied ladies,with only Form Five, who were keen to work could get jobs easily as firms were opening up and the timber companies were expanding all over Sarawak.The prettier ones with good connections would get the jobs faster too. Very often they ended up marrying the boss or the boss's son. That seemed to be the trend at that time.

The job she applied for was a good one and she was called for an interview. But unknown to us another cousin also had applied for the job. But whatever was the reason, cousin Feng did not get it. At one moment she and the family were hopeful and in another moment all hopes were dashed. They felt humiliated. They felt cheated. They felt dishonoured.

My indignant, semi blind grandmother went to see the Manager immediately and demanded an explanation. But she was not able to accept the explanation. She could not accept the fact that her granddaughter, the daughter of her son, could not get a job in this company which was owned by her relatives.

So she made a scene! She was incensed! She raised her voice and her walking stick at the same time and said very loudly, " I am from a good ancestry and a descendant of the Lau family cannot get a job in your company? Where is justice? Doesn't the heavens have eyes? My granddaughter is as qualified as any one!"

My grandmother was taking all the problems of the day into her own hands. She was trying to solve a very modern problem with a very method known to her as a Foochow woman from China. People who were standing there or passing by, just shook their heads but they too understood her thoroughly. I thought that the Manager should have managed the situation better. People in good positions should not treat a grand old lady with disrespect.

However my cousin's competitor was given the job for reasons best known to the company directors. We would never know what they were , all wrapped up in P and C, but the response of my grandmother was very painful to us. She was letting off probably 50 years of pent up feelings. Beware the wrath of a scorned woman. Here it applied to her great love for her grand daughter.

Whenever I think of this situation, tears would well up again. My grandmother suffered for her self, when my grandfather died prematurely; she suffered for her favourite and youngest son absconded to China to "fight" for the glory of China in 1954; and she suffered for her third son whose education was interrupted by the Japanese Occupation and who therefore could only tap rubber, carry loads at the wharf and fish until his hardwork damaged his liver. And then she suffered the premature deaths of three sons- in -law and a daughter. When my father died prematurely,she cried,"My family is now a family of widows. Do not look at my face!"

At that time she was already philosophising on the theory of ancestral bondage.

My cousin Feng having been rejected by the company, went to the interior by accepting the temporary teaching job for three years, Limbang and Ulu Balingian and later she got herself a good job with an accounting firm, found a very propertied husband and live happily ever after. Her children are all well educated professionals.

My grandmother should be happy and philosophical now in heaven (bless her soul) to know that being rejected by a first interview is not a slap on the face. And that my cousin Feng is a very rich woman in her own right now. She has proven herself as a good manager and an "office worker". We are just so proud of her. She is now so far removed from her days in the rural areas with a small stove, and canned food for days. Her days with the leeches, mosquitoes,snakes,and dangerous travel by small boats have indeed made her a strong and compassionate person.

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Thomas Alva Edison.

(Please do not feel that I am being unkind to the memory of my grandmolther with this account.I feel that it is a real account of a 80 year old grandmother who was daring enough to fight single handedly against the decision of a company . She was therefore trying to redress a grievance in her own way. Using her democratic right to fight for transparency. grandmother was a woman before her time!! I love my grandmother,who was my best friend, mentor,guardian, perhaps more than anyone else in this world.)

Please respond...old lady....public demonstration....1973.......what say you?


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