Sunday, July 23, 2006

Neighbours 3

My mom did not give up. She went on another crusade. She persuaded the lady next door to allow her younger boy, who was about eleven, to stay with us. She persuaded another lady who lived a bit further away to allow her son, who was around nine to come too. The boys were happy at first. My mom taught they should be taught religion, so he made them pray five times a day. (They were not even Moslem!) As I said, my mother did not have any training in social work. After a couple of days, the boys started to get bored with home life and the routines, especially the younger boy. His name was Phai. Phai is small for his age. Not much bigger than my four-year-old niece. One day, they were playing together when my mom started to get suspicious. Phai was rubbing himself a lot and acting funny, and was trying to take my niece to a quiet corner. Mom approached and told Phai to stand up straight and sure enough, the little guy had an erection. She sent both boys home. I’ve just learned about child abuse and I realized now that Phai could have been a victim of child abuse. Things had been shown to him or even done to him that was not appropriate. Poor kid.

Neighbours 2

We had some very interesting neighbours. Our next door neighbours were ladies of dubious reputation. They had several children, whom they beat up regularly. From our house we could hear the children crying, screaming, pleading as they were chased around the house with a cane, or whatever were used. My mother, who did not have a rosy childhood herself tried to do what she could. She had no training in social work or psychology, so her efforts were unplanned and sporadic, with some interesting results. First of all, she tried to save the eldest neighbour boy. He was a cross-dresser and had worked in a massage parlour. My mom tried to keep him away from prostitution by hiring him to wash our laundry. I think he hated the job, because he never smiled when he did the washing. He swore a lot. In the end, my mom fired him because clothes started to go missing and one time he was caught with clothes hidden under his shirt.

Neighbours 1

My salad days was not all bad. I made some good friends. My sister had a school friend who lived near us, in a small street called the Snail Alley. The friend’s mother was a hairdresser, so I often come and visit to get my hair cut. I called her Aunty. The friend also had a little brother about my age. His name is San. Sometimes our two families went on picnics together. I remember fun trips to the zoo, the beach and the mountains. Aunty sometimes took us to see Mandarin movies. The cinema was not very far so we usually just walk there and back. San and I often played together. San and I got along pretty well, considering that we were both in our early teens. Sometimes I visited San, and sometimes he visited me. One day he came while I was in my room. I had almost finished getting dressed, but not quite yet. He walked in, I screamed, he ran home. He didn’t show up again until we were both in high school.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Super Dentist

I was teased a lot about my looks and had grown very anxious whenever I left the house. I stopped looking at people’s faces. I looked down on the asphalt, up at trees, sky, cloud, sideways to the houses, things in the shops, rooftops, cars, feet, grass, fallen leaves. At one point my brain began to persuade me to believe that I was inside a bubble, like a glass shell, and nobody could hurt me while I was in there. Crazy? Sure. But that was just my self-defense mechanism going over-creative.
We went to another orthodontist, yet again. This one was a university professor. She was rough, and nasty. She always gossiped with the assistant while treating my teeth. When I asked for a discount she verbally abused me for several minutes (Trust me, you can say a hell of a lot of things in 5 minutes). It was very effective. I never dared to ask for a discount from her ever again.

The professor yanked out three mammoth teeth and installed braces that caused me headaches and a million blisters. For the first time in my life I was able to close my mouth properly. I began to look more or less normal. I was sixteen.

The Sewing Machine

I saw a small, battery-operated sewing machine at Hoya. It was pink and it could really sew. I looked at it and drooled. I was twelve or thirteen and I liked to make clothes for my doll. I asked my mom questions about it. She said it was too expensive for a toy and I could hurt myself with the needle. She told me a story of grandma, who had a needle of a sewing machine jammed into her forefinger. It must be very difficult for parents to say no to their children. I know this because my mother never forgot that sewing machine. One day she bought me a miniature sewing machine. It was not pink, but it was tiny and it could really sew. I was thirty when she bought it for me. ((((((:


By fourteen I was not cute at all. Very tall, very thin, very bucked teeth. I could only guess that my parents knew I was teased at school. I never told them and they never said anything. My mom took me to one dentist after another. The first one treated me for about a year with no apparent result. After an incident with the water-jet teeth cleaner, I got fed up and so I refused to go there anymore. The second dentist laughed nervously and said to my face that I was unfixable. OK, so he was young and inexperienced. The third one was in the city’s foremost university. He took x-ray photos of my face and the doctor said the way to fix me was by cutting my face open and shaving off some of the upper front jaw. So my mother said that we would think about it and we went home feeling horrible.


On Sundays, when my father was well enough, we usually called two rickshaws and me, my sister, and mom and dad would go to an old restaurant in the city. It was called Tip Top. My favorite was the delicious chicken steak followed by ice-cream for dessert. After dinner we walked down the street and we usually stopped by at the small bookseller’s stall. It wasn’t even a shop, but it had what we wanted. Reader’s Digest for my father, and Famous Five for me and my sister. Sometimes we went to Hoya, the biggest toy and stationary store in town. The toys were too expensive to buy so we only bought a fancy pencil or two at a time.

The Missing Ruler

I think the richer and more influential the parents, the meaner and more screwed up the kids . I'm being prejudiced, I know. These were the kids who came to school with dopey eyes and slurred speech , studied together at a friend’s house and watched porn movies, and collected money to buy Final School Exams. They were the ones who treated me like dirt. One day, a rich bratette (female brat) saw my ruler. It was purple, with a picture of a cartoon sumo player on it. She fancied it so she asked me to give it to her. She was never very nice to me so why should I give her anything? Anyway, she was rich. Surely she could buy a hundred rulers if she wanted to. I said no. A few days later my ruler disappeared. I searched high and low at home but I couldn’t find it. A couple of months later I saw it on rich bratette’s desk. She wasn’t there, so I took it back. She didn’t say anything after that so I assumed that it really was my old purple ruler. Brattt!!!

Junior High

After finishing primary school, I moved to a new school. Another snobby Catholic school. My schoolmates were savages. Some teachers were not much better. Unlike my friends in the old school, my new classmates have rich, influential parents. I could get in there because my school reports were good. We got a discount for the enrollment fee because my mom showed a letter from the neighborhood secretary, stating that my father was ill and we were poor. Just like the movie Mean Girls, there were groups at school and kids of the same kinds ganged together. There were cool chicks, rich brats, sport stars, brainy bunch, math whiz, some drug users, and one or two borderline delinquents. I belonged with class rejects. Weird kids who did not fit into any categories. We did not hang out in the cafeteria during breaks. We just stood under the acacia tree and chatted with other rejects. Sometimes we mucked around by tangling acacia fruits in each other’s hair.

End of Cute

Judging from old photos of myself, I was a beautiful baby. Then grew into a cute, chubby toddler. Things started to go wrong when my tiny, tiny milk teeth were replaced by menhir-sized teeth. The new teeth pushed forward and very soon I began to look like Bugs Bunny. I couldn’t close my mouth properly. Four front teeth stuck out permanently. People started to stare at me in a funny way. Sometimes they giggled as I passed by. Other times they made comments and laughed at my expense. A boy at school called my coconut-shaver. It hurt me sometimes but most of the time I didn’t care. Most of my school friends treated me like a normal kid, so I felt ok.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Last Breath

Father never ever raised his voice at me when he was well, but near the end he scolded me very harshly for forgetting to cook rice. He boomed through the stroke and minus his dentures, "WAH CHINDH F PUHSON AH YE!!!" <“What kind of person are you?!!”> At that time it hurt me deeply, but now I realize that he wasn’t himself anymore. He might not even understood what happened around him. Parts of him were already taken away forever by the stroke. A few weeks before he died he did not recognize any of us. He looked close to eighty. Sunken eyes, shrivelled to the bone. He was only 60 when he died.

Three Strokes

My father tried several business enterprises in JB but none worked out. I guess the pressure was too much for him. He started to become ill. We went home before the money totally ran out and bought a house in a lousy area. It was what we could afford then. Not long after we went back to Medan, my father had his first stroke. Then he got well and was able to work again. Then he had his second stroke. He got better but had to stay home most of the time. The third stroke left him completely paralyzed. He could hardly speak and what he said sometimes did not make sense sometimes. He got thinner and thinner.


I only know vaguely why we moved to Malaysia. My father had a freight forwarding business. I overheard the grown ups talking about my father helping a close family friend to ship some valuables abroad. In the eyes of the law this is called smuggling. One of my father’s employees held a grudge on him and took revenge by dobbing him to a newspaper. I remember my family sitting around in the living room and looking at the newspaper article. They were worried that the police would come and arrest my father. He was Chinese, and at that time in Medan, a Chinese in jail could soon be a dead Chinese. My parents quickly sold everything they could sell and took us all to Malaysia.

Miss Miranda

It’s a good thing that we did not stay in Melody Gardens for a long time. We found our own home. It was a big old house. My father said that it was haunted. One time he heard people talking while he was in the shower, but no one was around. Instead of running scared, my father scolded those bodyless voices. That must have given them quite a shock. My mother also had a bad experience. A huge centipede, as big as a pen, crawled up the bed, and onto her legs. Again my father came to the rescue. I myself thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I didn’t go to school because of some document problems, so I stayed at home most of the time. My brothers were sent home to finish high school. Only my sister went to school in JB. My parents solved the problem of my education by sending me to an Indian lady next door. I called her Miss Miranda. She had two sons, but I never saw her husband. She usually opened her window in the morning and hollered my name. I would come and she would teach me some English words and some math. Miss Miranda probably gave me my first English lessons. Most of the time I think I just chatted with her.


I was about eight when the whole family moved to Johor Bahru, Malaysia. We only stayed there for about half a year, but we went though some awesome experiences there. When we first got there, we stayed at a relatives house in Melody Gardens. It was a lovely neighborhood. There was a young woman living next door. She was a pretty Malaysian girl. Sometimes she invited me to come and play at her home. She had a doll-collection that she made by herself, so of course I said yes. One time I came with my fifteen year old brother. The young woman was very pleased about that. She gave me a little doll and allowed me to play with her other dolls. Meanwhile she took my brother to her room. I thought she and my brother were playing older kids’ game, and I was left out as usual. I didn’t mind because I was happy playing with the dolls. Only now do I realize that she was much older than my brother and was probably giving him some ‘lessons’. My brother might not mind it, but the rotten bitch had corrupted him.