Behind the smile…

He was a very nice boy, this ex-student of mine in Kanowit around 40 years ago, pint-sized, cute-looking, always cheerful, naughty/cheeky in a good  kind of way and very talkative. He did all right in his studies – I did not have any problem with him but behind those smiles was a very sad story that I did not know at that point in time.

He told me that day that he was very talkative because that would keep him from falling asleep in class – he had to get up at the break of dawn to go round the town to sell vegetables and help his father at his noodles stall right from the time when he was in primary school.

He would have to rush to class every day and he said that the teachers at the primary school, St Francis Xavier’s, were very nice. They would ask him to leave the unsold vegetables in the staff room and everybody would buy and he would get the money at the end of the day before he went home. If I remember correctly, I think he told me that he had to quit school after Form 4 owing to financial difficulties and he came over to Kuching to work as an apprentice for only RM5.00 a day. Of course he had difficulty making ends meet but he never gave up and worked hard, learning all the skills until he was able to venture out on his own.

I am glad to see that now, he is very successful professionally and financially and is blessed with a lovely wife and family. I think the children are married, with kids or one, at least, except the youngest son and he said something like that one will get married next year. Hopefully, he will invite me to the wedding so I have a good reason to hop over again.

With their children all grown up, his wife, also from Kanowit, a few years his junior, wanted to start a noodle stall…

Ah Lee's wife & helper

…and she is still at it to this very day, presently located at this coffee shop

Glory Corner

…and I was happy to note that it was doing well. When I was there, I saw a lot of customers dropping by, probably grabbing a bite to eat before going to work.

I was there my 2nd morning in Kuching – he insisted on going over to the hotel to take me there for breakfast before going to another ex-student’s daughter’s wedding at around 9.30 a.m. He had the Foochow fried noodles…

Foochow fried mee

…which certainly looked very good but no, I did not want that. I sure would not want to go all the way to Kuching to eat what I can get in Sibu.

He asked if I wanted some handmade noodles and I said that would be good and this…

Kolo handmade noodles

…was what I was served. It was very nice, something like a variation of the kolo mee and I so loved those wantons or what we call pian sip in Sibu and kiaw in Kuching.

Later, another ex-student, the owner who invited us all to dinner at her restaurant the previous night, and my ex-colleague came and they both had this kolo kway teow

Kolo kway teow

After they had had their fill, I followed the two of them to the wedding – the aforementioned ex-student could not go as he had to go to the airport to pick another ex-student, flying in from Penang.

After the wedding, we all went back to the shop and my ex-student’s wife insisted on us having something even though we were still full from breakfast. She whipped up this plate of fried kway teow

Char kway teow

…and this very nice fried bihun with mani chai/cangkuk manis

Bihun mani chai with ikan bilis

…with a sprinkling of very crispy ikan bilis on top to share.

We sat around chatting about old times and good times and laughing away happily…

With Ah Lee & Mrs at their noodles place

…and no, nobody wanted lunch so another ex-student who came later sent me back to the hotel to bathe and rest and left me to my own devices till it was time to go for the wedding banquet that evening.

GLORY CORNER (1.553410, 110.361035) is located at 174-178, Jalan Petanak in Kuching.