Teochew Whispers

By Carissa Foo, Writers’ Centre

Between Mama and I was a hefty marble table, a bottle of ah char, and a bowl of porridge. Sometimes what divided us was language, sometimes it was England. Sometimes it was me.

Teochew

Mama: Hor chiak bo?

Me: Mm. (Slurping the water from the bowl.)

Mama: Chiak ga ho see. Dou jing koong ah?

Me: Mm. (Slurping… scooping up the remaining porridge.)

Mama: Mang mang chiak la. Hoi!

Me: Orh. (Kiaps the carrot from the bottle of ah char.)

Mama: Diang si deng lai?

Me: Next year… (Kiaps the carrot from the bottle of ah char)

Mama: January ah?

Me: Bo la. (Licks lips. Satisfied smile.). April…

Mama: Chinese New Year deng lai la.

Me: Buay sai la.

Mama: Chinese New Year wu pineapple tart la.

Me: Wa zai. But buay sai la.

Mama takes the bottle of ah char and peers into it. She kiaps two chilies and eats them. She digs for a cucumber and eats it. She wipes the bottle neck with her finger. She puts the cap back on and tightens the bottle.

Mama: Next week you go back Mama muek ah char kor le bring go England. Ai mai?

Me: Orh. (Takes the bottle of ah char and unscrews it.)

Mama: This time go diang si deng lai?

Me: April.

Mama: Chinese New Year deng lai la.

Me: Huh?

Mama: Chinese New Year wu deng lai bo?

Me: Bo la. (Kiaps a carrot and eats it.)

Mama: Mama ga le muek pineapple tart, ai mai?

Me: (Kiaps a carrot and eats it.)

Mama: Ai mai?

Me: But wa bor tor Singapore.

Mama: Mm si yik gueh deng lai meh?

Me: Huh?

Mama: Yik gueh?

Me: Mm si lah. (Kiaps a carrot and eats it.) Si guei.

Mama: Si gueh…. Si gueh Chinese New Year over liao.

Mama takes the bottle of ah char and peers into it. She puts the cap on and tightens it. She walks to the kitchen to keep the bottle and walks back to the table.

Mama: Hor chiak bo?

Me: Mm.

Mama: England bo ah neh hor chiak gai me kia hor?

Me: Mm. (Licks the chopsticks.)

Mama: Mama muek ah char kor le okay?

Me: Orh. (Gets up and walks towards the room.)

Mama: Okay la Mama ai deng ker leow.

Me: Orh.

Mama: Ah girl diang si deng lai ah?

Me: Huh? (Pauses and looks at Mama)

Mama: Next year diang si?

Me: Si gueh.

Mama: Yik gueh buay sai ah?

Me: Mama…

Mama: Okay la Mama ai deng ker leow.

Me: (Continues to walk towards the room.)

Mama: (Walks to the gate and pauses.) Ah girl?

Me: (Pauses and looks at Mama.)

Mama: Chinese New Year bo deng lai ah?

English

Mama: Nice to eat?

Me: Mm. (Slurping the water from the bowl.)

Mama: Eat until so happy. Very hungry ah?

Me: Mm. (Slurping… scooping up the remaining porridge.)

Mama: Slowly eat la. Hey!

Me: Orh. (Picks the carrot from the bottle of ah char.)

Mama: When are you going back?

Me: Next year… (Picks the carrot from the bottle of ah char)

Mama: January ah?

Me: Nope. (Licks lips. Satisfied smile.). April…

Mama: Chinese New Year come back la.

Me: Cannot.

Mama: There will be pineapple tarts during the Chinese New Year.

Me: I know. But I can’t.

Mama takes the bottle of ah char and peers into it. She picks two chilies and eats them. She digs for a cucumber and eats it. She wipes the bottle neck with her finger. She puts the cap back on and tightens the bottle.

Mama: Next week when you return to England, shall I make some ah char for you? Shall I?

Me: Orh. (Takes the bottle of ah char and unscrews it.)

Mama: When are you coming back this time?

Me: April.

Mama: Chinese New Year come back la.

Me: Huh?

Mama: Are you coming back for the Chinese New Year?

Me: Nope. (Picks a carrot and eats it.)

Mama: Mama make pineapple tart. Want?

Me: (Picks a carrot and eats it.)

Mama: Want?

Me: But I will not be in Singapore.

Mama: Mm are you coming back in January?

Me: Huh?

Mama: January?

Me: Nope. (Picks a carrot and eats it.) April.

Mama: April…. By April the Chinese New Year will be over.

Mama takes the bottle of ah char and peers into it. She puts the cap on and tightens it. She walks to the kitchen to keep the bottle and walks back to the table.

Mama: Nice to eat?

Me: Mm.

Mama: There is no good food in England?

Me: Mm. (Licks the chopsticks.)

Mama: Mama make ah char for you, okay?

Me: Okay. (Gets up and walks towards the room.)

Mama: Okay la Mama will go home now.

Me: Okay.

Mama: Ah girl when are you coming back?

Me: Huh? (Pauses and looks at Mama)

Mama: Next year, when will you be back?

Me: April.

Mama: And how about January?

Me: Mama…

Mama: Okay la Mama will go home now.

Me: (Continues to walk towards the room.)

Mama: (Walks to the gate and pauses.) Ah girl?

Me: (Pauses and looks at Mama.)

Mama: Are you coming back for the Chinese New Year?

Advertisements

One thought on “Teochew Whispers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s