Listen and Share


Listen + Silent = Better Understanding

Listen + Share = You are important

Yes, yesterday I blogged about listen in silence and looked at a 17-year-old differently.

It was also yesterday that the Engineer (hubby) and the Technician (me) were unhappy over some differences. Before the sun went down, I received not only one card, but two cards. One read, I am sorry. The other read,

You listen to my sorrows
You share my ups and downs

Does that shout “You are important”?

To be more romantic, it’s like Roy Croft’s words (Jim Reeves’ voice over the music is even better):

I love you. Not only for what you are
But for what I am when I am with you.

I love you, not only for what
You have made of yourself
But for what you are making of me.

I love you for the part of me that you bring out
I love you for putting your hand
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over all the foolish, weak things
That you can’t help dimly seeing there
And for drawing out into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find.

I love you because you
Are helping me to make
of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern but a temple
out of works of my every day
Not a reproach, but a song.


A cup of Kopi-O Kosong


Yesterday I had a glass of milk to repair my bones. Today I have a cup of Kopi-O Kosong (coffee without sugar) to give me glowing energy!

A friend texted me at 7 am with a message that reads –

Good morning! Hi, treat you to a relaxing morning lingering over a cup of Kopi-O Kosong … to give you a glowing energy for a great day ahead!

It’s one of the those SMSes that people forward to each other. But, this one is personalized with Kopi-O Kosong. Friends know I drink coffee without sugar!

The personalized “Kopi-O Kosong” really infuses, saturates and releases energy in me this morning.

The Teachable Moments

This article appears in The Borneo Post today (22nd October 2006) running as the fifth in the series of articles of Malaysians abroad making a difference in the community they live in… I have named this column “Pass It On”.

In this article, I remember and talked to an old classmate of secondary days…

She changed my perception

Related to many qualities of our teachers are these adjectives: dedicated, passionate, caring, understanding, compassionate…the list just goes on.

Wong Leh Chuo showed such qualities when I was her classmates in secondary school. She had made an impact on her classmates during our school days.

I remember Leh Chuo as a classmate who was good in drawing. She could draw sketches of classmates in minutes. She amazed me. I had often wished she could draw one sketch for me, but short of the beautiful face features and long silky hair, I could never gather up enough courage to ask her to do one for me.

However, one day in an art class where we were made to go outside to draw nature’s scenery, Leh Chuo changed my perception forever.

While I saw the sky as just blue, the tree trunks as brown, leaves as green, Leh Chuo coloured them yellow, grey and green, with splashes of gold and white. I stared at the sky, it was just blue and white; I walked near the tree and scrutinised it, and it was just brown; I walked around the tree, the leaves were just green. There were no other colours. I looked at her work again and suddenly I caught a speckled beauty in the brilliance of the sunshine that she had created.

Her picture grasped the teachable moment in me. Even though I did not learn to draw, from that day on, the sky is not just blue and white, and the tree trunks no longer just brown. I never see things the same way again.

I learn the power of words, just like Leh Chuo who knows the power of paint.

Teaching Career

Indeed, Leh Chuo is the richer for it. She became a teacher in September 1984 after graduating from the National Taiwan Normal University with a bachelor degree in Chinese language studies.

She came to teach at Citizen Middle School in Sibu for a year then joined Chung Hwa High School in Muar, Johor Bahru, where she taught for five years. And then it was on to Chung Hua Middle School in Brunei where she taught for seven years. At the end of that period she left the sultanate for White Sands Primary School, Singapore where she is now.

Leh Chuo teaches Chinese language in White Sands Primary School, it is thus natural for me to want to know how the learning of Chinese language in Singapore is.

Elite (jing-ying) Vs Essence (jing-hua)

I was in Singapore last August where I heard its Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech for National Day Rally. The island republic’s number one politician said that a new generation has emerged in Singapore. According to him, the new generation is not only bilingual, but, in his own words, “understands Chinese Culture”.

Lee quoted Jack Neo, a celebrity in Singapore, saying that only the English educated are the elite (in Chinese, Jing-Ying) because they master English, while the Chinese educated are the true essence (in Chinese, Jing-Hua) of the country, because they master Chinese. However, similarity of thoughts apparently came only to that point, as Lee disagreed with Jack in saying that this group of ‘essence’ is one that was disappearing. To the premier, this group of ‘essence’ has just emerged, and that they are the first of the best shows in a long-running serial.

I, therefore, asked Leh Chuo about the learning of Chinese language among her students.

“In recent years, Singapore government has put in a lot of effort in promoting the learning of Chinese language. The education ministry, besides making a lot of changes in the teaching of the language, also employed many teachers from China. They also employed many Chinese language teachers from Malaysia. I heard that they even went to my former university, the National Taiwan Normal University, to head-hunt Malaysians to teach in Singapore upon their graduation,” Leh Chuo said.
Leh Chua added that teachers in
Singapore are being frequently sent to attend various courses related to Chinese language learning and teaching in order to keep them updated and competitive.

“However, despite that, learning of Chinese language seems to remain as if it is there for the sake of examination only.
Singapore parents do not see the importance of learning Chinese,” Leh Chuo lamented.

“I have one student who looks exactly like a Chinese, however, he keeps on saying that he is not Chinese. He has a Spanish name, creates a lot of trouble in my Chinese lesson class,” she said.

According to Leh Chuo, Singapore parents communicate with their children in English. “This may be part of the reasons why the standard of Chinese is comparatively low.”

Besides that, students also communicate among themselves using English, Leh Chuo observed, adding that there were not many chances for the students to use Chinese language.

“Probably, it would be only through the Chinese drama in TV that they are exposed to Mandarin. Chinese is their second language.”

Leh Chuo observed too that despite the fact that Chinese is the second language, it is encouraging to note that Singaporeans are actually speaking good Mandarin. Their ascent is good and they also express themselves well using Mandarin.

“Perhaps, the worst part is writing. There are many mistakes and the structures of the sentences are usually the direct translation from English.”

Leh Chuo went on to say that students are fearful of writing Chinese characters because of the many strokes in each word.

“Besides, they have to memorise which stroke comes first, which to them are the unnecessary pains of learning Chinese language.” she said.

But despite the not so encouraging acceptance of learning Chinese language, the Singapore education ministry is introducing interactive learning to arouse the interest of students in learning the language, according to Leh Chuo.

Creative Learning

Interactive learning includes using multi-media in the teaching, small group learning and learning through play.

“My students in primary four are keying in their essays to the computers and print-outs. The students are also expected to search for information from the internet. They even do their homework on the net. They like this way of learning most,” Leh Chuo said.

Leh Chuo said she does have students who love to learn Chinese language and are very proactive. One of them is Leong Man Fang, Singaporean, studying in Primary Six.

Talking about Man Fang, Leh Chuo was suddenly a radiant figure. She proudly said Man Fang has been her student for three years, and showed much enthusiasm and interest in learning Chinese language.

Singapore children

I asked Leh Chuo how she would compare the students in Singapore with their Malaysian counterparts.

Leh Chuo laughed, “You really caught me unprepared.”

Leh Chuo said that when she was teaching in Malaysia, she taught in secondary schools with students aged 13 to 18. However in Singapore, she is teaching students who are below 12 years old. Leh Chuo felt that it was difficult to compare.

Leh Chuo said: “However, the students here in Singapore are under a lot of pressure in their studies. Take for example the Primary Leaving School Examination (PLSE), the results affect the secondary schools in the sense that parents want their children to go to the best school. That puts tremendous pressure is on their children because they don’t want to end up in the less preferred schools.”

Leh Chuo said children have endless tuition classes after school. On reaching home, they have homework from schools and tuition centres, while weekends are mostly spent in tuition centres.

“Earlier this year, some PLSE students told me that they don’t have their own time anymore with school classes extended to 3 pm in the afternoon,” said Leh Chua, clearly feeling the pressure faced by her students and showing much compassion for their tight schedule.

Leh Chuo said the syllabus of science and maths in Singapore is generally different from syllabus used in Malaysian schools in the sense that it is more difficult.

“The school starts at 7.15 am with an assembly. Class starts at 7.30 am until 1 pm with a recess of 20 minutes. Most children go to tuition centres after class, or to talent classes.” Leh Chuo said it was difficult not to feel for these young children who had little time to play.

Memories of Sarawak

That leads Leh Chuo to remember her good old days in Sarikei, the town where she was raised and brought up.

“I return to my home town in Sarikei almost every half a year. Even with such frequent visits, I can still see the great changes to our former school, Sekolah Tinggi Sarikei.” Leh Chuo said.

Leh Chuo remembers the days when she cycled to school everyday.

“I am glad that we have class reunions these few years and with the convenience of technology, many old classmates are in fact just a click away,” she said.

Indeed, lately, Leh Chuo took the initiative to compile a list of old classmates and their contacts, and many of our old classmates are connected once again! We are forming memories and sentimental links and attachments!

Wind beneath the wings

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in 2005 National Day Rally that the education institutions in his country would be training people to be hands-on, minds-on and hearts-on so as to develop a complete round person!

Lee Hsien Loong also said this: “We are also aiming for a mountain range, not a pinnacle. We want many routes up, many ways to succeed. If you are a ‘teh tarik’ man, you must be a good teh tarik man, pour the tea and turn around … In Chinese, they say ‘hang hang chu zhuang yuan: In every profession, there are people who are outstanding, who are world-class and I think we must be like in Singapore.”

Leh Chuo, answering her call to be a teacher, is dedicated to helping her students aim for mountain ranges, realise their full potentials, present their best and brighten up their lives to be outstanding and world-class.

She doesn’t just teach; she cares.

And from me, to a friend who has helped colour my perception of many things in life, I quote this saying: This child whose life I touch with mine is like a piece of clay. I take his gentle will in hand and shape it day by day.

I thought, IF NOT FOR MY TEACHER …… we would never been able to achieve beyond our dreams. Many students of Leh Chuo would have said that time and again.


On July 21st, a new blog was born! It’s my best friend, Sandra, who started her “Patchwork”. Lifted from her blog today –

In times of poverty, we learnt to appreciate life and also what richness really meant. When we were poor, we learnt that we should always appreciate what we have, and not to take things for granted. And most of all, I learnt to be humble and to have proper respect for everybody. I thank God for my blessings in disguise as it made me who I am today. There is a saying that goes ‘opportunity only knocks once’, so even if you feel that you only have little blessings in life, appreciate them – because you never know if you’ll have that opportunity again.

This is part of the touching story of her childhood which Sandra calls “A blessing in disguise”. Visit her at Patchwork and find out why she has called her blog, Patchwork, read her childhood story and be touched and inspired!

Posted in Soul Mates. Comments Off on Patchwork

Tomorrow when you wake up ….

The title of this post is “borrowed” from an open letter of Vincent Goh dated 19th May. Vincent Goh is BN-SUPP candidate for Pelawan. He has just been re-elected by the people. He ended this letter with …

It has been an eventful five years since 2001 and I must say the journey, though sweet and bitter at times was made very meaningful with you by my side. For that, I am truly grateful. Till we meet again, I’ll still be WITH YOU, EVERY STEP OF THE WAY. Thank you…

Yes, tomorrow when you wake up, it’s Sunday. For many, it’s another day – a family day, going to Church together, having breakfast at the favourite coffee shop, going to wet market ….

For many, the world seems to have changed. They have a new elected representative. Hopes, fears, frustrations, expectations, happiness, uncertainties… whatever it is, there are changes.

There are many unpredictable changes in life. Yet what warms my heart is to know that, in the midst of all this flux and change, one thing remains absolutely unchangeable – and that is the word of the Living God!

Yes, the message of the Bible never changes. It is always up-to-date, and always speaks to the issues of our time. The Bible is like a solid rock in the midst of a desert of shifting sand.

I remember the story of a man who went to see his friend who was an old music teacher. When he knocked on the door his old friend opened the door and greeted him. And the man, in his almost exagerated voice said, “Well good morning! What’s the good news for today?”

The old music teacher didn’t say a word. He just went back into the room, picked up a little rubber hammer, and struck a tuning fork that was hanging there. As the note sounded throughout the room he said, “That is ‘A‘. Now, that was ‘A‘ five thousand years ago and that will be ‘A‘ five thousand years in the future. The soprano across the hall sings off-key. The piano downstairs is out of tune. The baritone upstairs flats his high notes. But,” he said, striking the tuning fork again, “that is ‘A‘, and that, my friend, is the good news for today!”

Ah, yes, when you wake up tomorrow, many things may have changed. But you know the nature of God never changes. Basic family relationships, fathers with children, brothers with sisters, never change…

In every change, His faithfulness remains –

Be Still, My Soul

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, be leaving, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.


Food, Fellowship, Fun, Fullness

This is a recollection of the Girls' Brigade Asia Fellowship – 72 hours of food, fellowship, fun and fullness…

Worked 48 hours without a sleep to complete my "Hello Kitty" project (Hello Kitty? Someone said the Kuching International Airport should be called Hello Kitty. Looking at my bewildered eyes, he said, why not? Cats' city, say Hello Kitty upon arrival.)

I thought I would be able to catch some sleep on the plane. I did not. A long-time friend travelled with me. She talked non-stop from Sibu to Kuching and from Kuching to Johor. I managed to keep awake just in case I murmured secrets of my heart.

Travelling through the most-talked bridge of love, I'm finally in Sing-Land on 15th April.

It was quite a back-to-basic life checking into a five-beded room. All the "business" have to be done outside with a row of bathrooms and toilets. Yes, Girls' Brigade Singapore HQ is housed in an old school called St. Gabriel at Upper Serangoon Road.

Six sessions of leadership training based on Dr John Maxwell's Million Leaders' Mandate Module 5 means leadership development is not an event, but a process! We have been through the process, and the last Module (6) shall be done in Cebu, Philippines next year!

Here are some "quotable quotes" from the 3-day workshop and business sessions –

In sitting or standing – When I sit down, I am munching food. When I stand up, it is going to take more food to munch. – Grace, Philippines

Anything else – Is there anything holding you back for a grace-filled ministry? If so, what? Anything else? – Geof, the trainer

Always have an open heart so that God can bless you. If you hold on to what God has given you, God can't give you more. – Sally Chew, GB Singapore

All you can – earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can. – John Wesley's financial rule in the 18th century

Probably, praying a blessing into someone's life is something that gives me much thoughts in the midst of food, fellowship, fun and fullness!

In Cebu, Philippines in April/May next year will all these wonderful women from Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines and Brunei meet for the last module of Million Leaders Mandate training and business sessions.

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Status of Our Accounts

At the memorial service of my late uncle yesterday, the Second Finance Minister, Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh recalled my late uncle telling him that each one of us should have two accounts.

One account is your personal saving accounts. For this account, it is best that the deposits be more than the withdrawals so that there is always balances for the rainy days.

As for the other account, it is our social responsibility. What we draw from the society must be equal to what we give back (deposit) to the society. It is also best that the desposit be always more than the withdrawal.

That reminds me of the emotional bank account –

The emotional bank account (EBA) is a metaphor for the amount of trust that exists in a relaitonship. It suggests that every interaction with another human being may be classified as a deposit or withdrawal.
Deposits build and repair trust in relationships. Withdrawals lessen trust in relationships.

– Stephen Covey

What are the deposits in the EBA?

Kindness and Courtesy
Keeping Promises
Honouring Expectations
Loyalty to the Absent (when you say something about some, say it in front of that person)
Making Aplogies

The Withdrawals?

Unkindness and Discourtesy
Breaking Promises
Violating Expectations
Disloyalty, Duplicity (double-minded)
Pride, conceit, arrogance.

Yan's thoughts –

EBA is different from the bank account in that you don't deposit in order to make withdrawals! Deposit has to be done with sincerity.

Keep depositing.