Family Tree Story
Meaning of my name: Esther Cheah, 谢恩琪
Esther means “star”. 恩means benevolent; grateful and琪 means beautiful jade; extraordinary and unique. My parents had given me my English name to remind me to shine bright like a star and my Chinese name to remind me to be grateful to God at all times and to grow up to be beautiful and special.
My dialect group is Foochow. The Fuzhou dialect (福州话), also known as the Foochow dialect, Hoochew, Fuzhounese (福州语), or Fuzhouhua, is the standard dialect of Min Dong, which is a branch of Min Chinese spoken mainly in the eastern part of Fujian Province. In Singapore and Malaysia, the variety is known as Hokchiu in Min Nan, Hujiu, which is the Min Dong pronunciation of Fuzhou.
Centered in Fuzhou City, the Fuzhou dialect covers eleven cities and counties: Fuzhou (福州), Pingnan (屏南), Gutian (古田), Luoyuan (羅源), Minqing (閩清), Lianjiang (連江, Matsu included), Minhou (閩侯), Changle (长乐), Yongtai (永泰), Fuqing (福清) and Pingtan (平潭). Fuzhou dialect is also the second local language in northern and middle Fujian cities and counties, like Nanping (南平), Shaowu (邵武), Shunchang (順昌), Sanming (三明) and Youxi (尤溪).
The person I interviewed was my paternal grandmother. Her name is Amy Chua Seok Keng. She was born in Kota Bahru, Kelantan in 1939. She has an older brother, a younger brother and three younger sisters. Like me, she is the eldest daughter in her family but I have only two younger sisters. My Grandmother attended Pei Zhi Primary School (培植小学) and Zhong Hua Secondary School (中华中学). I used to attend Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary School and transferred to Nanyang Primary School. Both our schools are well-rooted in traditional Chinese culture.
My great-grandfather had objected to girls being highly educated as he felt that they should stay at home to help out with the chores. My grandmother had insisted on going for further studies. Upon seeing her determination, my great-grandfather encouraged her to achieve her goal. She came to Singapore in 1960 and graduated from Nanyang University with a Bachelor in Arts in 1963. She went to Melbourne and completed her professional certificate in Librarianship in 1968.
Our common hobby is reading. In the past, my grandmother would make use of the streetlights to read when she was told to switch off the lights. I would use the torchlight to shine on my book when told likewise. My grandmother used to read more Chinese novels, while I read more English storybooks. My grandmother's CCA in Secondary school was St. John's Ambulance Brigade. My CCA is Girl Guides. We chose uniformed groups because of the interesting activities they provide and their nature of reaching out to others in the community.
My grandmother is a retired librarian and an author. She wanted to do something to revitalise the lives of the retired senior citizens and encourage them to lead a more fulfilling life. She founded Age Management and Enrichment College at the age of 68 and was awarded the Active Ager Award in 2010 for this initiative.
At the age of 76, Grandmother gives thanks to God for being able to breathe, live, and to challenge all sorts of difficulties in life. Her encounters had made her feel that being old now is really a blessing to people. She can do many things which she had never dared to dream before. She is free to present her thoughts, fulfil her wishes and showcase her talents. Another sky seems to open up for her.