July 26, 2016

Sibu Tales : Broken Mee Sua and Changkok Manis

ONe of my favourite stories from my friends who lived down river from Sibu is about their growing up amid rubber trees and vegatable patches in the flood prone backyard.

Their parents worked hard tapping rubber and planting rice to supplement their father's meagre teacher's salary of $60.00 a month. And all the kids lent a hand before and after school. Luckily the school management allowed the primary school classes to start late around 11 and finish at 4 or 5 to be aligned with the rubber tapping schedule, unlike today's normal school time table, 7 to 1.30.

Don't throw away the broken pieces. They are still good for a meal.
Very often the kids would come home to cold rice, warmed up by tea and some sugar. A slice or two of salted fish was a king's menu for the evening.

Plucking the leaves of changkok manis for customers.
But one of my friends had a special fondness for her mother's basin of broken mee sua and changkok manis. When the whole family shared this dish together, love warmed up the whole kitchen and laughter rang throughout the house.

The broken mee sua (Foochow noodles) came from the bottom of the tin. It would then be time for the mother to visit the town to buy another lot of mee sua, dry it and fill up the tin for a few more birthdays.

Stomachs filled and needs satiated, the kids went to take their bath and then studied hard. This family has 5 graduates,including one doctor.

May God bless the families who struggled during rubber tapping days .

July 21, 2016

Sibu Tales : German Chairs

When Foochow girls were married in the 1910-60's, most of them, if they had fairly good families, would be endowed with some bridal gifts.

These bridal gifts were carried on two bamboo poles to show the village or town what the parents could afford A rich man (groom's father) would even engage the local brass band to head the procession which made its way to the groom's house. People would line up the road to watch the procession and children would even dance ahead of the band!! This was defnitely a good announcement of a new marriage.

One of the most beloved bridal gifts in those days was a pair of Germany Chairs or tek guo yea. In time to come, the happy couple would save enough money to buy a marble table to match, and two more German Chairs.

This was according to my mum who was not given a pair of German chairs because her father had just passed away and her mother had spent almost all their family money in China to build a house which was bombed by the Japanese. That was a bad time for her family, my maternal family.

 But nonetheless, my maternal grandmother was able to return to Sarawak with her son, and a brand new daughter in law. That was already a blessing.

My father however was most kind and loving to his in laws and helped in whatever ways he could. Over the years, my father kept his promise to provide for my mother a sewing machine, a wardrobe, four German Chairs, and one marble table,

My mother had always had bitter sweet memories of her lack of bridal gifts. She did not even get a set of pillows, she did moan once to us!!

Photo from Google.

Photo from Goldenshowers Tiong with thanks

When ever she sees a set of tek guo yea or German Chairs and a marble table she would be reminded of her lack of bridal gifts.

In those days women compared and competed with each other how many bridal gifts they received. And more often than not, the in laws would also compare what each daughter in law brought. Those with more gifts would be treated better in some ways and that would be very hurting to the less "endowed".  Perhaps that was what my mother often felt at the beginning.

"But later, when the big Foochow family split up and each son of the family would live in their own nuclear family homes, the stresses of living together with in laws were reduced," said an aunt. She continued, "The idea of the Big Family is old fashioned. And as an educated Foochow woman, I would not encourage any parents in law to encourage their married sons to live with them. There would be disasters, and of course lots of small quarrels. In the olden days, some fights were even brought to the headmen to settle...Very unbecoming actually."

However, regarding bridal gifts, my mum would always say to us, "No point having material things. God's love is eternal and only His love is promised."