Yum Cha KL – Very stupid indeed.

We arrive at Hong Tee’s Tim Sum (Yum Cha/Dim Sum) restaurant – HUNGRY. I’m joined by my cousin Sheba and her family (husband Ian, and 6 year-old daughter Tia), My grandmother (Popo) and Sheba’s friend Camelia arrives 10 minutes later.

I’ve never eaten yum cha with my Malaysian family before but I’m delighted to report that they eat yum cha just like me. Hard, fast, and without regard for anyone else. There was no messing around, and there were no boundaries, especially when it came to something as trivial as quantity. Within seconds there were 12 dishes on our table, then within 15 minutes when Camelia joined us, we had ordered another 12 dishes, and ate these extra plates as if nothing had happened prior to her arrival.

The food was delicious, though I wouldn’t say outstanding or better than yum cha’s I’ve been to in Sydney (go Hung Cheung in Marrickville). Major differences are that there were no western alternatives; like the marinated lamb cutlets that they serve in Crows Nest yum cha, or the mango ice-cream pancake, though they didn’t have my favourite chinese desert either, Tofu fa – a boiled curd (tofu) in sweet syrup. Which I admit doesn’t sound appetizing, but it is.. trust me.

During our yum cha session my Popo was saying something to Camelia about me. Camelia is Chinese and understands Cantonese. I waited patiently and expectantly for them to finish so Camelia could translate into English.

Camelia, sympathetically – ‘My grandmother says the same thing about me in public’

T – ‘Why? What did she say?’

Camelia – ‘Cheong (low tone), it means stupid.’

T – ‘oh (surprised), I heard her say ‘Ho cheong’?

Camelia – ‘Ho means ‘very’, so ‘very stupid’.’

I know my gran would have only called me ‘Ho cheong’ in the most endearing way possible, and for my 84-year-old chinese gran to be able to remember more English words than I could remember Chinese, or even Bahasa, it was pretty embarrassing on my part. Luckily, both my gran and I blame my parents for not keeping a bilingual household in Australia – What a ‘cheong’ decision it was for parents who could speak up to 4 languages to only teach their children english – Ho Cheong!

2 tales of romance – The story of Popo & Pak vs Special K & Mr Man

Scene 1
My girlfriend in her 30’s, lets just call her Special K, was telling me about this guy she met on an internet dating site. Let’s call him Mr Man.

Special k – ‘We went on a date. He’s really funny and we had a good time, and when it was time to go home we were both so drunk that we decided to Dial-a-Driver, it’s this new awesome driver service that’s catered towards drunks who don’t want to leave their car out. Anyway, so while the drivers driving my car home, I’m in the passenger seat and Mr Man’s sitting behind, I get really sick and start throwing up in my car! The driver has to pull over for me and I’m spewing and apologising to him at the same time, while Mr Man’s in the back seat laughing and yelling ‘why are you saying sorry to him for – IT’S YOUR CAR!’

A week later I’m skyping with Special K and I ask how things are going with Mr Man.

Special K –‘ aah, I don’t think I’m going to see him anymore’

T – ‘why?’

Special K – ‘ Erm.. I find him gross’

T, laughing –‘Let me get this straight, you went on a fun date, you VOMIT in front of him, and you find HIM gross?’ claps hands laughing..

Scene 2
I’ve been recording my grandmothers memories of her childhood, her marriage to my grandfather, and of my mother.

I ask my 84 year-old grandmother (Popo) how she and grandfather (Pak) met and got married.

Popo, in Chinese but translated by my cousin Sheba –‘I was working as a hostess in this lounge in Johor (Malaysia), and Pak used to come in everyday and order a Milo. For 2 years he would just come in an order a Milo from me. Then he started giving me lifts home from work (did he court you, take you on a date?) no, just lifts home. I used to date a lot of Chinese boys who would take me to the movies, I wasn’t interested in getting married so every week I would say I wasn’t interested in someone and go to the movies with someone else. After 5 years of giving me lifts home, Pak asked me to marry him and I said yes. All my friends couldn’t understand why, he was Malay, and I had never been interested in getting married’

T –‘Did your mother have any issues with you marrying a muslim man?’

Popo – ‘No, my mother said as long as he can look after you and is a good man, religion doesn’t matter.’

T – ‘So what made Pak special from the rest?’

Popo – ‘ … I don’t remember’

T – ‘So even though you were being chased by all these Chinese men who were actually courting you, you said yes to the one who never took you out, and was of a different religion?’

Popo – ‘Yes’

I knew I probably wasn’t getting the whole story, but I could kinda believe that my grandmother would choose my grandfather simply because he was handy. He was after all the man who provided her with transport for 5 years! However, I was pleased to learn that after the wedding, the movies and dinners did eventualy come.

Now, when I compare the 2 stories, one from the 1940’s set in a Muslim country, and the other a modern-day tale from a western society, I cant help but ask ‘are we being too picky?’