Paul Chong / Saturday 15 November 2014
With three score & ten plus six years of cumulative good living behind me, the diminishing years ahead are my bonuses. Hence the title of this piece of writing.
Sitting here day after day & night after night at my desk . . . facing my old 24 inch iMac Apple computer (the greatest birthday gift from our children), my mind often flashes back to my good old days & I often wonder what’s there ahead for me.
The question is where do I begin. Believe you me, as with most writers with mental block, my mind often drew up a blank.
It’s a beautiful bright spring morning, the sky’s clear & blue lined with patches of light clouds. A beautiful day for gardening indeed. Our younger son Andrew & his family invited us on a field trip to pick strawberries. Though tempted, I declined . . . for I feel this tremendous urge of sharing with you & my family . . . lest my son David should again say “Dad, I didn’t know you were once the secretary of ADMO (Alliance Direct Membership Organisation). Who knows in Malaysia whatever happened to it.
Our humble home sits on the escarpment in Perth Hills overlooking the city, with panoramic views as far as the eyes can see. Would I quit living here, scale down & move to a retirement home & lose all the inspiration beholding my eyes? Not in a million years. Though my eye dimmed & my back ached, ten horses wouldn’t be able to pull me downhills.
It has always been my dream to be living up in the clouds, from my school days of holidaying in Taiping Maxwell’s Hills, climbing & exercising up Menglembu Hills in Ipoh, Penang Hills for visit, Fraser’s Hills & Cameron Highlands for both holidays & conferences, and in Kuala Lumpur Genting Highlands . . . all beautiful exhilarating spots of fresh clean air & relaxation. Need I say, I have a close affinity for height & vision.
I have my fair share of ailments (diabetes type 2, glaucoma & back ache) as with age, but life’s been good. Praise God for the past & pray God for the future.
Born in Matang, a little known place some 6 miles from Taiping in Malaysia, never knowing where fate & destiny can lead you, I have lived in a few more little known places (Temuloh, Bruas & Port Weld) because of circumstances such as the hateful Japanese Occupation, before my father moved us all to Taiping where he had a repair business shop. He could fix almost anything with his pair of hands. With two years only of Confucius schooling, he did pretty well in bringing up nine of us offsprings, but not without struggle & sacrifices.
As an over-aged boy (as affected by the Japanese Occupation), I was fortunate to be admitted & schooling in English at St. George’s Institution, a Roman Catholic school. My father always very strongly advocated me not to follow his foot steps “holding the hammer”. My right hand must instead learn to “hold the pen”.
Upon graduation from St. George’s, I had taught school temporary for a year at Bagan Serai (between Taiping & Penang). What followed was being selected on a Malaysian government scholarship to be trained as a teacher in Kirkby, Liverpool (UK). You might care to read in my blog my journal article entitled “1066 My Kirkby College Number & All That . . . “
at https://paulchong.net. Other journals include “Kirkby – Down Memory Lane”, “Kirkby Memorabilia” & more.
College has been the most wonderful part of my life. Met my wife Lilian there & we’ve been married like closed to be celebrating our 50th Anniversary soon. I did a lot of travelling & sight-seeing when in College during Whitsun/Easter & Summer holidays – France, Spain & Portugal, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and in UK covering Wales, Scotland & Ireland. I was rather enterprising organising tours to the European continent with free ticket for me as the tour leader & travelling by train on group train ticket was affordable. London, Paris, Rome & the Vatican City, Venice, Lucerne, Geneva, Interlaken . . . all seem still so fresh in my memory and not forgetting all the other cities (big or small) in each of the countries mentioned.
Guess life is one big holiday . . . a journey you take towards life destiny. Life is never a bed of roses, beautiful as they are, there are prickly thorns. Like in a game of tennis or golf, not every shot is an ace nor would you expect to get “hole in one” with your swing. As with Roger Federal & Tiger Woods, the number one spot cannot long endure. The whole idea is “keeping on” and winners never quit.
“To grow to progress is to change” has been my guiding concept . . . never be afraid to change & attempt something new & better or more challenging. That’s what life is all about.
I had my fill of teaching life in Ipoh Anderson School where I taught for about four years (1966-70) after graduating from the University of Malaya, Pantai Hills, Kuala Lumpur. As the Sr. Geography Master, concurrently I was working extra hard as a teacher-trainer lecturer in the Regional Training Centre (RTC) & the Further Educational Classes (FEC) in the evening. Would you believe it, on top of all that, I was a top insurance sales representative (part-time) for Prudential Life? (Read blog at https://paulchong.net my journal on “My Life As A Teacher in Malaysia”.
The stint of the commercial world proved too tempting. Burning my academic bridge, I set forth to work for the American International Assurance (AIG company) and later seconded to its subsidiary Malaysian American Assurance as the District Manager, developing & establishing the fledging company. The years with both took me to travelling to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Medan & Lake Toba for convention conferences.
You might be bored to be detailed chronologically with my humble life’s history, compared to the sad & scandalous breakup news of Tan Sri Dr. Khoo Kay Peng, whom I had the privilege of marketing him a million dollar Georgian manor in Jalan Ampang, diplomatic enclave area in Kuala Lumpur. His wife Pauline Chai, a former Miss Malaysia 1969 from Ipoh, was my back neighbour. Off the record, on the eve of her marriage to MUI tycoon Tan Sri Khoo (someone who leaped from the position of a mere Malayan Bank clerk), a red Jaguar E-Type race car was parked outside her house till the unholy hours of the morning. I guess her romantic admirer, son of a tin miner, was reluctant to let go! I had known Tan Sri Khoo through Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship & the Calvary Church, then in Damansara, Kuala Lumpur, where I was baptised.
Talking about former beauty queens, Datin Josephine Lena Wong Jaw Leng of Ipoh comes to mind. You would certainly know her as Miss Malaysia Universe 1970, First & Only Semi-Finalist & Top Ten Expo Queen. Her brother Paul Wong was my insurance agent in my AIA days and I got to know her briefly.
Michelle Yeoh (As I knew her then)
Another girl who has done Malaysia proud also hailed from Ipoh, who used to live in the bungalow next to Ipoh Swimming Club. She is none other than the Hong Kong star Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh Choo Keng, who used to play squash with us at Ipoh Swimming Club as a very pretty teenager of 15. I got her to enter our Ipoh Lions’ Club Motor Show Beauty Queen Content where she got her first Motor Show Queen title 1977. This was never mentioned in her list of titles. She won her Miss Malaysia Beauty Pageant title (1982) at the age of 20.
Beauty is only skin deep & never last – not unless you go under the plastic surgeon’s knife like most of the Hollywood celebrities. Like everything, enjoy while it lasts. The same goes for life, there’s no turning back . . . you only have a one-way ticket.
During the period of real estate boom in Malaysia, I first came to Perth in 1981 essentially to look around & was generally impressed by Perth’s beauty & its weather. As they say “Fine today . . . Perfect tomorrow”. We had conceived in our mind to migrate after May 13, 1969. Because of the unwanted political situation in Malaysia, imminent social & educational changes & racial discrimination & unfairness, Perth was & is such an excellent choice for our purpose.
After 33 years, there’s no regret whatsoever. Our three children are all well qualified professionally & academically. Our daughter Agnes (in Perth) is a PhD holder with 2 lovely boys. David, our elder son is in Hong Kong with a son & daughter. He’s a doctor specialising in anaesthetics. Our younger son Andrew is a civil engineer with a top honours in Computer Science, also in Perth, married with a daughter.
Success must be based, not just monetarily,but also in terms of family togetherness, happiness & wellbeing. As a young man you are always in a hurry. Nothing seems to matter more than chasing after the dollar, which won’t accompany you to the ultimate plot of earth 6′ by 6′ by 3′.
At this stage in life, health is wealth, without which you can’t even enjoy the fruits of your labour or enterprises. As beauty fades, health deteriorates, family splits . . . life appears to be unkind. That may seem to be so . . . but just count your blessings, for life has its compensation & rewards in forms beyond your understanding.
I have retired since 1990 & our travel bug has taken us to China (several times since 1989), Hong Kong (many times since 1972), Macau, New Zealand, US (both east & west), Canada. My wife & I enjoy cruising on the high seas. When we were in school we talked about seeing the Seven Wonders of the World, and now that we have seen Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon, Great Wall of China . . . it’s not all that great after all. Now that we are completely free of obligations & commitments, we would love to be able to travel where & how.
Living long is a privilege & blessings from God.
Life should be one big holiday.
AUSTRALIA is a lucky country to live in.