Category Archives: Family

Photos and snippets of family moments

Charming, isn’t it?

October 21, 2007 9:47 PM

Chinese matrimonial charm

Mom dropped this on my desk …

Me: What’s this?
Mom: It’s a matrimonial charm. It worked for your cousins in Penang. They swear by it.
Me: So you are saying that my natural charm and good looks aren’t good enough?
Mom: Well no, but we all know that you can do with some help.
Me: Who’s “we”?
Mom: Never mind, just put it in your wallet ok?

If it works, you’ll read about it here first. :mrgreen:

Off to Penang, again

October 5, 2007 9:07 PM


Am heading off to Penang once again tomorrow and will be there for a week, coming back the following Sunday. I will have net access as I’m working half-days from the service apartment we will be staying at. The place is a short walk to Gurney Plaza with its pubs and pretty girls. Work or beer and girls? Work or beer and girls? Work or beer and girls? Heheh.

You may remember I last went in June for my cousin Shane’s wedding. This time, it’s for the 90th birthday of my dad’s mother – a.k.a. the nasty mother-in-law.

I’m so gonna get cut from the will. :mrgreen:

Nasty Mother-in-Laws

September 19, 2007 10:59 PM

Empress Dowager Cixi
The mother of all Mother-in-Laws, the Empress Dowager Cixi who was so overbearing that she ruled China through two weak Emperors, the first her son, and the second her nephew. Imagine what their wives went through.

The nasty mother-in-law is a universal stereotype in all cultures. And recently I found out that my father’s mother is one too.

To understand the following story, you have to understand the dynamics of traditional Chinese families. And to make it less complicated, I’m assuming the case of a woman marrying into a family with only one son*. Typically the daughter-in-law would rank lower than the husband’s parents, the husband and the grandchildren, in particular the grandsons. It can be inferred from that that daughter-in-laws are merely there to produce children who will carry on the family name.

And to set the scenario, my father is his father’s eldest son, and my brother and I are the only grandsons with the family name. Going by traditional norms, my mother would be considered by my grandmother to be the lowest in importance in our family of four.

For the past 2 months that my grandmother has been staying with us, all of us have witnessed everything from mild insults to sarcasm. A couple of times, I even heard my grandmother say one thing to my mother and another to my father. Maybe she needs to see people fight for entertainment in her old age. The reasons that I can put it down to are spite and jealousy of the other woman in my dad’s life.

Even though my mother always had the suspicion that my grandmother never really liked her, we didn’t think too much of it because my grandmother never lived with us for any period of time, and my dad is not a pushover who listens to his mother all the time.

What I don’t get is that my grandmother would have probably went through the same when she married into the Ooi family, so why isn’t she more understanding? And her story is even more interesting. My grandfather was a middle child and his mother was the second wife of three – I don’t know how the dynamics worked in that one!* Think I need to go rent out “Raise the Red Lantern” to brush up on my knowledge.

And to put it all in even greater perspective, this is the same grandmother whose children are fighting over her will even before she’s dead. It’s a mess but karma perhaps?

* Chinese family politics and dynamics are endlessly fascinating, like one of those games or quizzes where you have to put things in their proper order. Most of what I’ve spoken about here are considered outdated and dysfunctional by today’s standards, even though it is still happening in varying degrees.

Getting in touch with our Chinese selves

September 17, 2007 12:18 AM

My parents, aunties and uncles and family friends in China 2005

My parents, aunties, uncles and cousins, with family friends in China, 2005

Ever since my mom retired, she finally had the time to do something that her father, my grandfather had told his children to do,

See China before you die.

It had something to do with how we should understand where our bloodline came from to better understand our place in this world.

I remember once having an interesting discussion with him about the need for a Chinese to know how to speak Chinese. I appreciate the advantages of knowing the language myself, and being able to appreciate the TV shows, movies and music produced by the Chinese diaspora around the world. However, I do not believe that a Chinese need to know how to speak Mandarin or the other dialects to be culturally aware of our race.

Basically my grandfather thought that a Chinese who doesn’t speak it is not a true Chinese. My argument was that it was more important that the person accepts and understands certain values like respect for family and elders. I mentioned something similar a while back on a post by Blinkymummy about Chinese snobs who look down on other Chinese who don’t know or don’t grasp Mandarin as well as they do (also a follow-up).

I commented:

Language is one thing and inner values are another. You don’t have to speak Mandarin to still be a “Chinese”, and vice-versa just because you speak Mandarin doesn’t mean you are a true “Chinese”.

Although I may disagree with my grandfather about the need to know the language, I don’t disagree with him about getting to know the motherland. Even though I was born in Malaysia and now naturalised as an Australian.

So back to my mom … she and dad are heading off to China again, using Shanghai as their base and going on a 1-week tour with some of her sisters to see the Chinese countryside. Meanwhile, my uncle working in Shanghai has been urging me to go visit him there. He knows that although I may not dig natural beauty and scenery, I do dig big city life.

I haven’t decided where I want to go for my end of year holiday yet. I have the old standby of Malaysia and Singapore, but I’m now tempted to check out Shanghai, and maybe even Taiwan. Suddenly like my parents I feel like soaking up some of that “Sons of Dragons” stuff.

Taipei, Taiwan

Xi Men Ting, Taipei (Phil~ @ flickr)

Penang June 2007 – Lunch the next day

July 4, 2007 7:38 PM

The next day after the wedding, what did we do? We went eating again. Woohoo! This time it was at a new hawker food hall near the famous Swatow Lane. It’s a completely different feel to the traditional road-side stalls on the same road which I went to last time. The place was built as much for locals as it was for tourists.


There are nice big English words on the signs, so tourists would know what they shouldn’t be ordering. Heheh. Yes, you read right – there’s cubes of congealed pork blood in them laksa, or “curry mee”. Authentic. Slurp.


In attendance were Shane’s family, their family friend and his wife, my family, sixth-grandaunty, and my dad’s cousin and his family.

lunch-crowd eat-eat-eat
sixth-grandaunty-mom food-and-drinks

And another two pics to add to the food porn. This is the aforementioned curry mee.


And this is sar-hor-fun, a stir-fried noodle dish. Yummo.


Penang June 2007 – At the Reception

July 1, 2007 7:56 PM

The second part of the wedding day (see first part) was held at City Bayview Hotel and it started off with the tea-ceremony for Shane’s side of the family, where Su-Fern is officially welcomed into the family.

tea-ceremony being-welcomed-to-the-family

The entire process went by smoothly and with much hilarity.

tea-ceremony-shane-sufern tea-ceremony-choy
marvin-choy teasing-the-brother-in-law

When the tea-ceremony had completed, everyone headed to the reception hall to find their tables. This part of the evening was slightly hectic as we helped greeted and ushered the guests, and made sure that the angpows or red money packets and gifts did not go astray.

What followed in the night were the usual speeches and dancing. There were also some good singing sessions, toasts and lots of good food and liquor. A few of the guests, including Su-Fern the bride worshipped the porcelain goddess that night. 😉

choy-yam-seng choy-singing


I had a really fantastic time. Congratulations again to Shane and Su-Fern on your big day. 🙂


More photos in my Flickr set. Below is a highlight clip (2:52) showing crazy Choy, who is an uncle to both Shane and I even though he’s the same age as us, singing and dedicating “Stand by Me” to the happy couple, Choy leading a celebratory toast to the two families, and Shane and Su-Fern singing a traditional Hokkien song.

At the Reception
from Marcus Ooi

Penang June 2007 – Getting the Bride

June 27, 2007 11:02 PM


In the morning, we set out from Shane’s house to Su-Fern’s house to “get the bride”. The rules and rituals for this part of a Chinese wedding were explained previously when I wrote about my other cousin Shane’s wedding to Kirsten in Sydney. A video of that day of “getting the bride” can also be found on another post.


When we arrived, we were immediately met by the bridesmaids who will be the “masters of pain”. :mrgreen:

correct-answer mistresses-of-pain

And one of the very first tasks/challenges was for a bunch of Shane’s friends to eat sandwiches filled with chillies.


We had two “gates” – one was the steps upstairs to Su-Fern’s room, and another at the door to her room. After Shane got his bride, Su-Fern and him performed the tea ceremony for her side of the family which was huge. The rest of us adjourned to the front yard for lunch.


Full-sized photos can be found in my Flickr set. Below is the highlight clip of this morning (3:30). Parts of it are in Hokkien but with the subtitles, you should get the gist of it. All you need to know is that the entire process was hilarious thanks to Shane’s crazy friends, and a really fun time was had. 🙂

Following this in the evening, we performed the tea ceremony at City Bayview Hotel for Shane’s side of the family. And after which we had the reception in the same place. Stay tuned for those photos.

Getting the Bride
from Marcus Ooi