March 27, 2015

Sibu Tales : Ginseng Ladies

When we moved to Sibu town, we got used to town life, rode on buses to visit relatives, or walked to the town to do shopping, any time we liked.

We were no longer controlled by the early morning boat to the town from Pulau Kerto, nor did we have to return home at a specific time with the boat man.

We used to visit the town probably once in two weeks. And now that we were living just ast the fringe of the town, we could even hear the bustle and hustle of town life. The call of the Mosque for worship was for example something new to us.

And the ringing of the bicycle bell was definitely new

Then there was the handbell of the ice cream man who came on foot.

The sounds of the town were different and they were amazing!!

As a little girl I was particularly impressed by the sales talk of two ladies who sold ginseng, 8 treasures herb and other herbs. They carried two big rattan baskets and their waxed umbrellas.

I would always remember one of the names. Hua Hua Second Aunty. I asked mum why she was Number Two. Mum said according to the generation and because her husband was No.2 oldest, she was No. 2 Sister in Law amongst her generation of the Laus. Hua Hua here does not mean flower, but Hua for Chinese.

So the name stuck in my mind.

She sold ginseng but my mum would not buy any and she understood. Her main role in my mother's life was to chat with her, find out how she was , living in town and then she would tell my grandmother down river she was fine. She was probably also my mother's counsellor and best friend.

She was the news reporter of the day and we all appreciated her role. And often she would bring news for example that my mum would have to get ready a gift of a chicken because so and so's daughter in law would be giving birth soon, or any other news. She would also relay a piece of news from another relative about something important.

Second Aunty Hua Hua would make her rounds once every two weeks. And if she did not come my mother would be worried.

She was mum's connection with the Lau family. That was the old way. And it was good for them. It is hard to measure their love and the morale support they gave each other.

Second Aunty Hua Hua was truly a very unique aunt. As valuable as the most expensive ginseng in the world.

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