Haji as we always call him speaks very good English. His stall is the "saviour" of everyone in Sibu because he opens 7 days a week. 24/7 unless local fresh cows supply is zero. His brother is his assistant who helps him sell beef and curry paste.And in many ways, his curry paste has had a very steady price for the last ten years.
And how did he learn English? He attributed his good English to his English teacher and Principal, the late Mr. Hii Wen Hui who came from Nang Chong Village. And how did a Foochow from Nang Chong learn such good English?
The late Hii Wen Hui was one of the earliest students of the Senior Cambridge Class in the Methodist Secondary School, Sibu. Most of his peers ended up as English teachers like Lau Kieng Sing and Wong Teck Moh. Mr. Hii taught in Chung Cheng School, Kwang Hua School and finally became Principal of the Rajang Secondary School before he retired and went into business.
|Visiting Sibu's central market means I would buy a small packet of curry paste, mixed by Haji. He and I are about the same age. I think he gave me extra curry paste. This is the practice of most vendors in the Sibu Central Market where the vendors are always very generous to nice people.|
Haji : "Mr. Hii was a marvellous teacher. He explained very carefully and very clearly. We learned verbs, tenses, adjectives, adverbs from him. And I can still remember how he talked in the class. We were never shamed when we made mistakes. We laughed sometimes because learning was really fun."
Haji : "Mr. Hii knew that I was working at my father's stall since I was in Primary Six. So when I joined Form One in Rejang Secondary School, after I failed my Primary Six Entrance Exam, I was very happy to have such good teachers in the private school, which was sited near Sacred Heart School. I learned a lot even though I was tired from working part time."
Haji : "After my secondary school I continued working as a beef and curry paste stall owner. That has been my life for the last sixty over years......In most places it is an Indian man who owns the curry stall. But in Sibu, it has been just my family. This is our history."
"Mr. Hii was really a nice man. Very good man. He was so humble and kind. His Mrs. was a small lady who was very quiet. I think today we cannot find teachers like those old teachers of the older style. They were really special. And also, their salary was very small. They drove simple cars, wore simple clothes....Really miss those days...."
I know that Haji is a very sincere man and I am so touched by his words and his memory of my kind uncle, the late Mr. Hii Wen Hui. Many people of Nang Chong continue to remember him with great fondness and admiration.
Tuan Haji is a typical Sibu Malay man who is humble and full of compassion for his fellow men and women. I am glad I know this Sibu man.