Friday, January 10, 2014

The Chicken and the Duck

On our last night in Singapore, the entire family went out to dinner. Typical of tight-knit Asian families, this meant anyone who could make it: grandparents, parents, in-laws, children, etc. All told, there were 16 of us. I sat in between my niece, Felicia, and my brother-in-law, Jordan. My Mum sat across the table a couple seats away. After several courses were served, she asked me in Malay if I liked the food.

"Makan good?" Mum asked.

I pointed to the chili crab and the mixed veggies and gave it the thumbs up. I then waved my hand dismissively at the kuay teow and said that I didn't like it as much.

"Tsiam pa?" she asked while patting her stomach.

She was speaking to me in her mother tongue Hainanese. Of course, patting one's stomach is universal for "are you full?"

"Tsiam-be-liau," I replied to indicate I was full. I patted my stomach a couple times for extra emphasis.

Jordan witnessed this entire transaction and asked me, "Wow -- you understand what my Mum is saying?"

I turned to Jordan and said, "Your Mum speaks many languages, but English is not one of them. And since I don't speak Chinese, we settled on a middle ground. We speak Malay to one another."

A wave of understanding washed over Jordan's face. "Oh, so you know Malay."


Laughter broke out around the table.

I continued. "This is why Katherine refers to your Mum and I as 'the chicken and the duck'. We squawk and honk and mill about until an improbable understanding has been reached."

While they laughed so more, I looked across the table at my Mum. She had a big smile on her face. I gave her a thumbs up and flashed my best toothy grin back at her.

Yeah, Pretty Good.

1 comment:

  1. You know what that duck is looking for? Quack! Oh man. I'm funny.