Those friends who know us well, know that my wife and I as different as chalk and cheese. But thankfully, when it comes to parenting, we are on the same page. We believe that among other priorities, we want to bring up our kids to be rooted to their traditions and loyal to their family. And to do that, we constantly pursue opportunities for Dana to draw close to her elders.
Why do we do so?
Although inter-generational families are encouraged and ‘Grandparent Parenting’ (where children are outsourced to grandparents) is a common trend here in Singapore, parents have to be more pro-active and intentional in helping our young know their elders and not so much the other way around. After all, being WITH someone and actually KNOWING that person are two different matters altogether. You can live in the same household and still be strangers.
|Great Grandma enjoying Dana’s company!|
By letting Dana spending time with her elders, we hope to instill these values:
1) Empathy: Great-Grandma is 87 years old and her health has been on the decline. Whenever we bring the wheel-chair bound Great-Grandma out, Dana gets the chance to assist Great-Grandma in her needs. She learns to put aside her own needs and care for Great-Grandma. She also witnesses how her significant adults show love to Great-Grandma in deeds and actions. Dana communicates to Great-Grandma in the smattering of Teochews which she picked up from us and this never fails to make all of us laugh. Despite the age gap and language barriers, they enjoy each other’s company and developed a strong bond, never mind that most of the time, they both don’t quite understand each other. Whenever we see the two of them interact, we are reminded that language is not needed when we show acts of love, empathy and compassion.
2) Respect: True to being Asian, we still address each other by our genealogical terms. For Great-Grandma, Dana calls her ‘Lau3 Ma4’ (in Teochew). In the same spirit, she has also been taught to address other elders according to their seniority. In addition, she sees us, her parents, doing the same. Respect, essentially, is the ability to accord consideration and proper respect to others – an important soft skill which is increasingly lacking in many young people today but is an important trait of a well-mannered person.
3) Identity: In this age of globalization where we encourage the young to have a ‘global mindset’, one’s identity is easily ‘lost in translation’. How do we anchor ourselves in the global world if we don’t even know our heritage and don’t have a reference point? That reference point, we believe would be our identity – who we are as a person ethnically, historically and genealogically. Dana enjoys listening to Great-Grandma’s WW2 stories and joins us in observing family rituals. Identity forges a sense of loyalty in our children, steering them to the set of common values (and sometimes faith) shared by the family which will later see them through thick and thin in adulthood.
How do we do all these?
1) Routine visits: We structured in weekly visits to Great-Grandma’s home. I also involve Dana in weekly phone conversations with her paternal Grandmother in Malaysia. The use of technology like sending videos through whats-app helps to bridge the gap and keep the elders up to date with the children’s milestone and developments.
2) Days Out: We are always on the lookout for new places to bring Great-Grandma on weekends. It could be a lunch or a dinner at a new dim-sum restaurant or to visit the latest attraction in Singapore. Wherever possible, we involve our elders in the creation of family memories so that no one gets left behind.
3) Other Special Events: Special events are wonderful occasions to bring our elders out. From the obvious Mothers’ Day, Birthdays, National Days to ad-hoc events. One such event perfect for inter-generational family bonding is the Singapore Teochew Festival which is now on till this Sunday (5 October 2014). This inaugural Singapore Teochew Festival showcases everything Teochew – from cultural to culinary.
The Festival spans more than 30,000 sq ft of the outdoor atrium at Ngee Ann City and boasts 24 vendors peddling unique food products, scrumptious fare and exquisite merchandise. Most of these food vendors, craftsmen and artistic talents have been specially invited from Swatow, China. We personally think this is a meaningful initiative by the Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan to give the public a glimpse into the vanishing Teochew way of life. For modern Singaporeans parents, it provides us a rare opportunity to share with our children the beautiful Teochew heritage before it is entirely eroded by the rate of modernisation. Great-Grandma and the wife are both Teochews (and I love Teochew food) so I knew a visit is a must.
|The inaugural Singapore Teochew Festival – 25 Sept to 5 Oct 2014 at Ngee Ann City|
|Some things will never go out of fashion…Teochew opera is one.|
The night before our visit, Dana overheard our discussion about bringing Great-Grandma to watch Teochew opera and asked, ‘What is an opera, Daddy?’, ‘What is Teochew?’ I was caught unprepared by her questions but was happy to see her engrossed in watching her first Teochew opera with Great-Grandma at the Singapore Teochew Festival on Sunday.
|When was the last time you watched a Teochew opera?|
|Nostalgic, Graceful, Operatic…|
|Watching opera is a different cultural exposure for the children!|
|Performers from the troupe 小梅花艺术团 which hails from Swatow, China|
Apart from cultural performances, we witnessed some rare Teochew master craftsmen at work! There was a lantern maker, a clay sculptor, and an embroiderer weaving gold threads. This was authentic learning and genuine heritage exposure at its best, this side of the globe!
|Master craftsmen at work…weaving traditional Teochew lanterns by hand!|
|In the hands of the Master sculptor, clays turns into…|
|Exquisite embroidery by the fair Teochew maiden…|
|Chinese tea appreciation…|
For many adults, the main attraction of the Singapore Teochew Festival has got to be the food! The organizing committee has invited master chefs from Swatow to prepare hawker faves for us like ‘Orh Luak’ (Fried Oyster Omelette), Crystal Dumplings and ‘Png Kueh’ (Teochew Rice Dumplings) , just to name a few. Street food may not look palatable but the moment you sink your teeth into them…the burst of flavor, texture and unbelievable taste is orgasmic. Though the prices were a tad pricey, short of taking a flight to Swatow personally for the culinary experience, it was still considered worthwhile!
|Teochew Food Street – all the Teochew delicacies under one roof!|
|Grab your coupons before you enter the Food Street…|
|Looks like an ordinary plate of Fried Oysters Omelette but one bite and you’re in heaven…|
|Some of the Teochew snacks which are hardly seen now…|
|Wife’s favourite Teochew Crystal Dumplings, Siew Mais and Kong Bak Paos…|
|This is ‘da bomb’ – the best Teochew biscuits I’ve ever tasted!|
The Singapore Teochew Festival runs from 25 September to 5th October (11am to 10pm, daily) under a large air-conditioned white marquee at the Ngee An City Civic Plaza (you won’t miss it). Be prepared for large crowds ranging from the young to the very old. We were there on Sunday and were caught by surprise at the overwhelming crowd.
Here’s how we ‘survived’ the Teochew Festival:
1) Go on Weekdays: Be warned, the weekend crowd is HUGE. While there is a queue system outside after you purchased your entrance ticket (S$5) and they do let people in by batches, once inside, there would be more queues again– especially for the Food Street. Either go on weekdays or be there really early on weekends so that you have enough time to enjoy the experience and not let the crowd dampen your spirits.
2) Take Turns – If you have to go on weekends, take turns to queue, buy coupons, buy food etc. This is to help cut down on waiting time. If you’re bringing an elderly person who can’t walk about, station someone to accompany the elder to ‘chope’ a seat in front of the main stage and wait for the cultural performances to start while the rest of the family go and get food.
3) Parking vs. Commuting – If you can, take public transport to Ngee Ann City as car park anywhere in Orchard Road is expensive. But if you need to park (like us, as we were bringing Great-Grandma and her wheelchair) then do remember to top-up your cash card. Our 4-hour Sunday parking set us back by a whopping $16.
4) Head for the Food – Once inside, head to the food street first. There are queues going in and queues at the different stalls inside as well. But once you have the food and savour it, it’ll be quite worth the timea. Take turns to queue to speed up the process.
5) How much Coupons to Buy – I would say an average of S$20 per person would suffice. A plate of the ‘Orh Luak’ is S$15 each, ‘Char Kuay Teow’ and ‘Bak Kut Tea’ are S$10 each, ‘Png Kueh’ costs 3 pieces for S$10. We particularly enjoyed the Crystal Dumplings (both the sweet and savory ones, S$2 each) and the ‘Orh Nee’ (Yam Paste, S$5 per small serving). As a reference, the 5 of us (4 Adults plus Dana) spent $100 just on food today (drinks not included). It’s pricey but stupendously delicious. Be prepared to eat standing as seats are limited.
6) Set aside Ample Time to enjoy the Performances and Exhibits – Do factor some time to watch these performances and tour the Teochew Museum set up on site. For the opera items, there was a general translation of the story and they are reasonably engaging. Make time for a holistic Teochew immersion with the family. We spent a total of 4 hours at the Festival for Great-Grandma and Dana to catch two acts of Teochew opera.
7) Bring your own Water – It can get quite warm inside the marquee (especially when the crowd builds up) and the street food does leave one rather thirsty. You can save a bit (and spend more on the food) by bringing your own drinking water otherwise it is S$3 per bottle.
|A showcase of Teochew customs such as the giving of gold dowry…|
|Let the lanterns rise!|
|Artefacts that give us a glimpse into the Teochew way of life…|
|Handcrafted earthen tea sets on sale…|
|Colourful souvenirs for the home…|
|The motto: We are Teochew, We are Family!|
|Admission Tickets at S$5 per head and stored-value coupons are available on site. Don’t miss it!|