Both my maternal and paternal grandparents hailed from Hainan, Southern part of China. Just like many of their countrymen in the past, despite the tough and wrecking sea journey, they ventured down South seeking a better life. Perhaps due to the political instability in China then and the promise of a future,
my grandparents took the leap of faith and moved to Singapore.
In 1920s, as many jobs were already filled up by early immigrants, my paternal grandfather had to first work as a Kopi Zai (coffeeshop assistant) before getting hired as a cook on an Indonesian Ship. He sailed across the the South China Sea and
cooked for the hungry souls of the Chinese sailors.
Towards the end of his career, together with my grandmother, they rented a stall in an all-girls school and sold snacks and beverages. My grandfather will always be remembered as a famed cook in our family. His most notable dish that until now my relatives would rave about is his Hainanese Mutton Soup.
Just like my paternal grandfather, my mum’s dad learnt to roast and serve coffee in his earlier years in Singapore. Soon after, he rented a stall in a coffeeshop situated at Short Street and sold Hainanese curry rice. As business was not thriving, he left the stall to become a street hawker.
The famous Hainanese curry rice stall located along Albert Street made quite a name amongst the many office-goers who worked in the area.
My mum recalled memories of the family helping to prepare the spices and ingredients for the curry. She said her parents worked their socks off to provide for the family.
The stories of two Hainanese. Both left their family in China at a youthful age.
Leaping towards South
What was the drive for them and belief they had to succeed in a foreign land?
Life goes on in a circle. Both of them moved in search for a better life. As their children grew, they stressed the importance of education so that their kins would not have to work in a hot and sweaty environment.
As a third generation, I grew up with the same belief. As the society develops with more educated population, we start to question our existence and meaning in our jobs.
To chase the life or to find worth?
Life goes in a circle.