Sunday, May 11, 2014

妈妈,어머니, mẹ ơi, mum, ibu, mom, お母さん

Not everyone can have a car, nor everyone an iphone. But each of us has a MUM.  No matter how you turn those 3 letters around, mum will always be mum.  These are the 3 most powerful letters besides GOD.  

My mum is 76 this year and she is still as strong as ever.  At least in my mind, she never aged a bit.   Yap Soh Tin, my mum, was born in Singapore in the year 1938.  But her identification card says she was born in China.  My mum never knew her actual date of birth, just her year of birth.  She remembered, however, based on the Chinese lunar calendar, that she was born on the 4th day of the Chinese New Year.  

Mum never really went to school. The year 1950, at a tender age of 12, mum had to work to put bread on the table.  Or in the Asian context, I should say “to put rice on the table” as bread wasn’t the stable food in those days. My mum did the dishes, cleaned houses, and cooked for her siblings. My mum made pennies doing household chores for others.  But little by little, my grandmother was able to use the money my mum made to buy a television. To afford a television in the 50s, one would be considered rich.  
That is how hard my mum worked, yet she had no share of every cent she earned. My mum only envied her younger siblings enjoying the novelty of a new television. But my mum had to clean again.  Clothes to wash and iron.  Iron that used hot coal to heat up the plates.  That was my mum’s childhood.  A parentified child at the age of 12. My grandfather used opium and was practically not able to provide for the family. 

Growing up, I remembered my mum trying to make extra income by cleaning factories and people’s houses. I also remembered how my sister Mary and I had to help with the delivery of clothes that my mum helped to iron.  My mum worked hard. Very hard.

I recall vividly how my mum will ask the children to collect disposed detergent bottles.  We, the children will collect the disposed bottles home, washed it and fill it half with water and half with bleach.  Little did we the children realized that we were helping my mum to cheat.  Selling diluted detergent as concentrated detergent.  But that was how my mum knew to put food on the table.  With her hands, my mum successfully raised 7 children.  Today, she has 17 grandchildren and 1 great granddaughter.

Mum, you are the greatest.  Thanks for showing us what it means to love; love sacrificially. 

The love of a mum for the family.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Reflection of a Tea Talker, Phương Lương

Definitely that ONE is not the number representing how many times I have been asked about Tea Talk. “What is Tea Talk?”, “Is there any special thing helping me differentiate between Tea Talk and other cafes in Hanoi?”… And if I’m not a deadline runner that time, I will be a talkative person for sure. And even if I have no time to lose, don’t worry, I’m not very bad at working and talking at the same time
But if you ask me that: “Could you tell me your best memorable story with Tea Talk, please?”, here is my answer: “Hmm… That’s a difficult question, could I have a moment to think about it?” “How long does “a moment” take?” It may be your 2nd question after staying too patient with me
I don’t know how long “a moment” takes, but I think my final answer, of course, is not the former. It exactly is…: “I’m sorry, we may often mark a book’s unfinished page for the next reading, but I can’t apply it to the special pages of my notebook about Tea Talk. It is special in all.” Opening it randomly, here are some of things that I will keep in mind forever…
A drink, a book, and a corner of Faith room can make my day. A guitar with the very peaceful colour of sunset can dispel my sorrow, and even every “Tea Talk xin chao” greeting whenever opening the door seems to open my new own door also…
Coming to Tea Talk with nothing special in my CV, but after one year working here as a volunteer, I will always bear in mind that: “The important thing is not how successful the result is, your attempt to do it deserves more than that”.
So, “nothing” may be the word at the beginning, but if you meet it again at the end, I believe you throughly understand this word in another way
Though who you are, whatever you do, be successful or failed, love is always around and beside you. And “love will protect, love always hopes, love still believes when you don’t…” you. Don’t stop believing ;)
Despite not working here for almost a year, I still visit Tea Talk every time I feel homesick. And “homesick” because Tea Talk is my second family
Here are some details of my story with Tea Talk. How about you? 

Phương Lương is a Tea Talker

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Almost Lost - A poem by Grace Ong

“Almost Lost!” a poem by Grace Ong, 15 year old, was inspired by Michael’s birth story. The poem takes the perspective from Michael’s eldest brother Kek Kong, who at a tender age of 12, faced the consequences of poverty but gave a courageous fight for survival. 

Almost Lost!

May 7, 1969
My mother looks tired
She is pregnant
With the seventh child.

We already have enough
Three boys and three girls
We don’t need another
My mother says.

We don’t have much money
So we don’t know if the baby is a boy or girl
My mother doesn’t know what to do.

July 26, 1969
She drinks and swallows weird things
Red pills, and black coloured water-
Chinese medicine.
It will make me feel better, she says.

She doesn’t seem better
My mother looks unwell
She’s aborting the baby
The medicine is going to kill it.

No, you can’t do that
I say in my heart
I don’t dare tell her though.

August 14, 1969
My mother is terribly ill
Overdose of medicine
She has a bad stomachache
Even though we have not much money
We still send her to the hospital.

This is dangerous
The doctor says shaking his head
You not only can kill your baby, but yourself too
He scolds my mother.

My mother’s energy is drawn
She must carry the baby to full term
I almost lost my mother
and also a new sister or brother.

January 16, 1970
It’s time
My mother is in great pain.
The baby is to be born at home
We have no money for a doctor.

My grandmother is the midwife
My mother is struggling
The baby isn’t coming out
I wonder if it will be okay.

My mother screams in pain
Almost like a miracle
The baby finally comes out
It’s a boy
Everyone exclaims.

He’s not crying
Aren’t all newborns supposed to cry?
The clock is ticking
And we wait.

We finally hear his first breath
He’s finally crying
The baby is okay
We almost lost him.

We don’t need another one
My mother says again and again
We have no money
No food for him.

January 17, 1970
My parents have a plan
My baby brother is to be given away
A wealthy buddhist family
He will have a better life
My parents say.

I can’t take it any longer
How could my parents do this?
This baby is my brother
Not just an object.

I will jump off this building
If you give my brother away
I threaten my parents
I cannot lose him.

I will quit school
Work hard and buy milk for him
If you let him stay
I will not lose him.

My brother is kept
He will be okay
I almost lost him —
Three times
But he doesn’t know
One day he will lose me.

Steven Kek Kong Ong
26/12/ 1957 - 1999, Age 44

Grace Ong, enjoys creative works like writing poems, song and music. She is a student at Concordia International School. She loves a good game of soccer and basketball, and being silly with her friends.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What's so special about Christmas?

Christmas is a special day.  I guess most, if not all, knew that it is the birthday of the baby Jesus.  But why so much fuss over this very baby?  What is so special about Him?

Christmas is a special season, I guess, most, if not all, do not know that a person very close to my heart was born around this time.  Want to guess?  No, not my wife though she is very close to my heart.  No, neither is it my daughter.  It is my brother Kek Kong, also known as Steven. He was born on Christmas day too.  What is so special about him?

My eldest brother Steven was born on 26th December 1957.  He was 12 year old and 21 days older than me. My parents had 4 sons and 3 daughters at that time. When my parents wanted to sell my off so as reduce the financial burden, Steven intervened and promised that he will see to it that I be support through my education. To make ends meet, steven quitted school.  He worked in construction sites, laying cement for some of the skyscrapers we have today in Singapore. He worked hard, took part-time courses, and at the age of 30 became a computer systems operation manager.  In 1991, when Michael enrolled at the National University of Singapore, Department of Social Work and Psychology, Steven bought him his first computer and paid for  Michael’s university tuition, thus fulfilling his promise to see Michael through his education. The stress of supporting the family took a heavy toil on Steven.  At 44, Steven die of kidney failure, the effects of long term unhealthy use of alcohol.  Steven sacrificed for the family, so that I, his little brother may live.  He paid the price so that I may enjoy the better life.

In the same way, the Christmas story is similar to my brother Steven’s story.  Jesus paid the price by dying for mine sins.  He die so that I may live.  I guess that is why Christmas is so special.   

The Ong Family

Kek Kong and Chye Hong
Chye Hong, Kek Kong, Kek Eng
& Chye Kheng
Steven's & Alice's Wedding