Saturday, January 4, 2014

friend 1960 ksl

Friend 1960





On 1960, Mr. KS Lim’s family including his mother- in- law came to Brunei. Dad said, “I have a car. I will meet them in Customs and help them settle in our house at 3 Jalan Teraja.”  Dad designed and built that house for Booty &Edward on leased land from Mr. Cheung. Mr. Lim moved into the smaller northern section of the house with a separate staircase (right side of the left picture below). That night “There was a blackout. It turned out KS tried to fix something and triggered a circuit break.


“He was a very hard working young man. He borrowed a tricycle, carried the unwanted wood and made furniture himself.” Dad was also very impressed by a very memorable feast organized by Mrs. Lim and their mother.

In order to make ends meet, KS and dad soon took a side job conducting pilling survey/evaluations at SOAS college. This required both of them to dig a big square holes 4x 4x6 feet for $50.  They took turns to dig and to carry out the dirt. They concentrated so hard , they  forgot to eat dinner. The wives went all over to look for them and Mrs. Lim was in tears when she saw her loving husband in the hole digging. They soon quit this laborious job and took up lighter contracts to do Fence and window screen work. The family became very close , and we called him Uncle Lim. Soon, Uncle Lim was transferred to Kuching after 2.5 years before they returned to Singapore a year later.

“Uncle Lim is very kind to me. Every time I went to Singapore, I always had a room. I stayed sometimes up to a week without any charge. I was introduced to all his family. They were all very kind to me.” I vaguely remember that Mom and I stayed with Uncle Lim’s family in Singapore several times and enjoyed their hospitality very much.

“I borrowed money from him, many times, sometimes up to S$7000. He always gave me the money without question asked. He was not rich, It is likely he borrowed  the money from his family.” A college graduate might get S$300 /month. I questioned why Dad needed so much money on his trips to Singapore. He explained, “I did not have enough cash and I had to send money to China.”

“He helped me with various  architectural  work. This included a 6 stories Hotel in Tawau, North Borneo. After that, I wanted to give him a S$5000 bonus for his work and kindness, but he refused.”


End note:

On my last trip to Brunei 2011,   I taped many hours of Dad’s audio stories.  It has been a challenge to pin him down and have him concentrated on one subject.

He has shared stories about three of his very best friends in life. I have summarized the experiences here.   Money, house and other material aspect were mentioned to give some perspective of the times and  just to show lucky we are today. I am amazed of his memory of the details.

These stories show me certain life lessons: It reminds me that life is quite random, that small interactions can mean so much. We should be mindful of how we treat others. And we could make our trip on earth a pleasurable one with these lessons in mind.

Friend 1953 QHW

Friend  1953
By Sun-Hoo Foo 符傳孝 (32-74-109) January 28, 2012

1Brunei Town: Booty Edwards (front circle); Pier (rectangle next to water)
In 1953, Booty Edwards from Kuala Lumpur wanted to expand its business influence in Brunei.  Dad and his boss, Mr. Bailey were the only two from the company that were transported to live under one roof in Bandar.  Soon, Qing Hao Wong, a young engineer who just graduated from Hong Kong University, applied for and accepted the new position with Booty Edwards.   Dad remembers this site-engineer had to walk under the hot tropical sun to work.  He suggested to Mr. Bailey that the company should buy or give Qing Hao B$10 for a bicycle.  That was good for both.

2 QingHao sits in the middle
In 1954, mom and 3 children spent seven days in the sea on a Singapore cargo ship to arrive in Brunei.  On the day we arrived, Dad was working overtime and still in the office.  Qing Hao came into the office; learned of the situation; and immediately, volunteered to greet us in the pier.  Later, Mom complained: “how could you just have a young man to help me with all the luggage. Luckily, he was superb”
She would not have known how to manage the situation with us around. At that time, the youngest of us, Chuan Yee was only 40-days old.  Travelers were on their own getting in and out of the ships. 
Qing Hao wanted Dad to practice and speak English with him. “Talk to me in English. I will teach you what I know.” He helped Dad to master the English terms of their trade. Bailey commented to dad one day, “Why you two speak in English?” After he helped to select a West Germany surveying instrument, Qing Hao gave dad a survey book and taught Dad the surveying technique.
One day, Qing Hao asked Dad out for a walk after dinner and asked if he had any savings:
“I have 11 people to feed and I send money back to China. I have no money left.”
“You are like a tree; you have to build the foundation. If something happens, your children will fall like leaves. They will have to clean the road then.” He advised dad to save at least 10% of his wage.
“so, I take extra job. Like this 5 story hotel and make $1000 /month” A university graduate engineer was paid highly around $500 then.
Before he left for vacation to Ipoh, Malaysia to visit his parents, Qing Hao told Dad that he wanted to buy two bungalows in Serangoon, Singapore with the money he saved. “One is for you and you may pay me back in the future.”  At that time, Qing Hao made $700 and put around $550-$600 each month in his savings.  With further support from his parents, he believed he could afford the down payment. Although the plan never materialized due to a sudden sharp inflation of real estate prices, Dad vividly remembers this spontaneous and extremely generous offer.
Soon after, Qingao went to England to advance his studies and, unfortunately died suddenly from a ruptured appendicitis. I remember Dad was very upset, and later named his daughter, Nin Hao, after him. Although they worked for less than five years together, Dad regards Qing Hao as one of his best friends.  He has a lasting impact on our family. 
In Brunei back in 1955: a bicycle cost B$10; a down payment for a Singapore bungalow cost S$8,000; but, friendship and trust were priceless.
 Life is not how long one lived; it is how much impart one left behind.