The Day I Saw Need at the Supermarket

Seeing that this Saturday is the World Day of Social Justice, and in light of the current debate on a certain plan to recruit 1.5 million foreign laborers into Malaysia, I thought sharing this post would be timely. The encounter below happened in Singapore and was recorded in late 2015.

Disclaimer: This post does not mean that I endorse the government’s plan. I suspect they’re doing it for ulterior motives and we should critique it wisely. But I hope that this would help put a face to the foreign workers already in our neighborhood.

It was Monday afternoon and I was buying groceries for the week.

Happily I carried my basket of greens and meat to the counter. As the cashier scanned and bagged the items, I looked at the SG50 cash vouchers inside my purse, wondering if I should use them. The bill came up to $43.75. My fingers grabbed $40 worth of vouchers and passed it to the cashier. I fished in my purse for cash to pay the balance and looked up. That’s when I saw it.

As the cashier laid the vouchers out to verify them, a pair of eyes were staring at them. They belonged to the customer behind me – a foreigner, probably a Bangladeshi. He was obviously a blue collar worker. His blue polo shirt was faded, his jeans worn, and his slippers and feet dusty. And he looked tired. In pure awe and hunger, he looked at my vouchers, his own hand clinging to crumpled $2 notes ready to pay for his one carton of eggs.

Continue reading

Celebrating Chinese New Year – According to Me

Ah, Chinese New Year. Or Lunar New Year, as it’s more commonly known in the rest of the world. ‘Tis another season of travelling and feasting. Homes are filled with the happy cacophony of relatives and visitors. And for 15 days, red is the new black. In fact, don’t even think about wearing black!

When I was planning this post, I reflected on my experience of Chinese New Year growing up. The truth is, the celebration was always a mix of joyful memories, uncomfortable moments and learning to laugh at yourself.

For me, Chinese New Year is when:

1. You’re reminded of the goals you’ve yet to achieve

It’s a painful ritual: Smiling and pretending I understand what my 10th granduncle is saying. Then when he realizes what’s going on, he’ll ask the dreaded question, “Cannot speak Mandarin? Hokkien also? Cannot, must learn!” I try to appease his horror by promising to learn soon. But next year comes, and I still haven’t made good on that promise. Repeat.

Oh well. At least I’ve gotten pretty good at visual communication. I think. (For the record, I’m finally putting some effort in learning the language. Yay me!)

Continue reading