Going to China to live and work there was the last thing I had ever imagined would happen to me. Yet it did.
In the autumn of 2000, I was hired by an American company, which despatched me to its China factory to start up an R&D department. Later two more portfolios, Quality Assurance and Project Management were added.
I soon discovered that besides work, the PRC Chinese also had a boisterous appetite for play. They would organize monthly dinners which always ended with karaoke sessions, and inevitably, the “expat” managers always had to oblige, by rendering their croaking at the microphone.
The big event was the annual CNY celebration. With 3500 employees — 90% of whom were females — I rendered one “女人是老虎” (Women Are Tigresses) in tribute to them at the 2007 dinner, followed by “Don’t Forget To Remember”. And they went gaga!
It was not 500 miles from home, but at the Waterfalls (Penang Botanical Gardens). In 1963 or so, several of my primary school teachers took the whole class from Butterworth for a picnic there.
I had a most memorable experience then. When I came out from the water to get my bag, I found it had been opened by “someone”, and the packet of peanuts and the bananas were gone ! Worse still. my shirt inside had been ripped apart.
When we left the pool later that evening, I was too shy to put on a badly torn shirt, so I travelled without it for the journey back home.
I was fearful that my mum was going to give me an earful. Instead, she said, “Never mind, that monkey was very bad”
I have not visited the Botanic Gardens for ages.
note : The title is a pun on one line in the lyrics of the old song, “500 Miles”
It was (and hope it still is) one of the most serene and beautiful places on Penang Island – The Air Itam Dam and Reservoir.
In the early 1980s, it was one of the favourite places that my GF (and now wife) and I loved to go there early on weekends, admiring the scenery (and each other) while soaking in the twin morning glories of fresh cool air and cozy gentle sunshine. Oh ! What A Feeling ! Those most cherishable memories come flash-dancing back.
On most occasions, we drove via a small road through Air Itam village up to the Kek Lok Si Temple carpark, and then went on foot up the rather winding road to the dam.
After 1984, we only went back there once – in 2014. We were glad that much of the old scenery was still intact.
But they had the last laugh…all the way to the bank…after fishing out our hard-earned money while we ‘pretended’ not to know it. Apa nak buat ? Life was kinda tough in those days (as compared to today) and therapeutic hardship diversions were few and far in between. Thankfully, we had cinemas to provide the much needed analgesia.
As the poor folks soaked in their favourite reality-escape fixes and got their hallucinatory-cum-delusionary highs, operators in the backroom were busy spinning reels of film.
No regrets though, we enjoyed many epic movies that were screened in the Rexes, Capitols, Odeons, Cathays, etc, and many people went gaga over the movie stars, both males and females.
Those were the heydays of the big-screen duo, viz., Cathay and Shaw. Shaw was a much larger outfit, with dozens of many cinemas throughout Malaysia and Singapore.
No, it is not “birds of a feather flock together”.
When we were kids, we used to play with a simple homemade toy – which consisted of 3,4 or maybe 5 big feathers tied together and locked and glued onto a long nail that had pierced through several round pieces of rubber sheets. Big goose feathers from the wings purportedly were the best. In Chinese, we called it “Jianzi” (毽子) while I later learned that the Malay name for it is “Chapteh”
It was fun kicking it into the air and the challenge was to keep the toy airborne. In China, this game is still very much alive and there are great experts doing all kinds of stunts with it. However, these days “jianzi” is mass-produced in factories, where real feathers have been supplanted by those made from colourful synthetic fibres.