April 30, 2015

Sibu Tales : Green Skinned Oranges and Visiting Relatives.

In the 1960's and 1970's most Sibu people would visit their relatives and stay over night because of the lack of transport. Staying over night and enjoying time together was not a holiday visit many could afford especially when they had to work hard, looking after domestic animals, children, the home, tap rubber, carry water, clean the house etc.

In the 1960's these were only 50 cents per kati.

When Foochow women visited their relatives, they would bring a gift from their farm, or they could buy a gift in Sibu if they had some extra cash.

They would usually buy green skinned oranges as it would mean, more share for every one. And fruits were always welcome.

Visiting a relative was a time honoured activity and often well planned. During the visit, the relatives got together, they could eat and talk at the same time, updating each other on news and family progress. By word of mouth, without taking any notes, these relatives would remember how many new children had been added since they last met, and how others were faring in their lives. A visitor was often the bearer of good news and even bad news.

I remember in those days these oranges were really sweet. They did not look as pretty as Sunkist, but they were really juicier and sweeter and definitely fresher.

Most fruit hawkers used paper bags to put these oranges and then the bags were tied with Geng Chow or Salty Vines.

Our favourite place to buy these oranges was at Moi Suong Coffee shop where there was an elderly lady who sold them and other fruits from morning till mid day.

It was important to visit relatives in those days, especially when the elders were getting older. Sometimes an elder would send word "hung Nu" to a relative to come and visit. After the visit, the elder would give a gold ring or a token gift to the visitor and say that this is the "Chiu Mui" (end of hand) or last gift. Usually in those days, an elder would prepare herself for the final journey in this way and she would give away her personal possessions to her favourite relatives. It was also a way to show appreciation to relatives who had been kind, compassionate and helpful.

And after receiving the "chui mui" the receiver would burst into tears. And if transport was difficult and the elder's home too far, it could also be the last time she saw her elder alive.

Up to today, many Foochow women of means still practise giving of "Chiu Mui".

Somehow the smell or fragrance of green oranges would evoke that special sadness revolving around my Ngie Mah who gave away her gold rings, earrings and a gold bangle as chiu mui.

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