Hawker Centre Cleaning Gentleman, Pasir Panjang
This gentleman is a cleaner at Pasir Panjang Food Centre. I live very nearby so I go there often and know most of the stall-owners and the cleaning staff.
I have a habit of greeting the cleaners and bringing my finished dishes to them instead of them having to come to me. So over time, I’ve developed a relationship with them.
This guy is really cool. He’s from Shandong, China. When I see him, I smile and say, “ni hao” (hello in Mandarin) and he in turn says “Hello Uncle” (yes, I’ve evolved into a heartland uncle). He speaks virtually no English. I speak virtually no Mandarin apart from “hello”, “have you eaten?”, “thank you” and “good bye.”
During our earlier interactions, he was quite shy but he’s now comfortable with me.
As I sat down with my kopi-o gau, I saw this gentleman and said hi. As usual, he replied, “Hello Uncle.”
It wasn’t a busy period so he came by and sat opposite me. Although, I had intended to read, since he sat down, I proceeded to make “conversation” with him.
After, “It’s hot” (in English) and “nǐ chīfàn le ma?” (have you eaten?), the conversation predictably stalled. He picked up the book I had put down on the table. The scene was so endearing. He looked like he was engrossed in the book and studying it deeply. Of course, he didn’t understand a word (it was not even a picture book). I didn’t have the heart to tell him he was holding it upside down.
As usual, I asked him if I could buy him a drink. He always says “no.” But this time, I asked the kopi uncle to bring him a liang teh on my account. He accepted gratefully but a little pai seh. I said it’s ok. We sat together for a while. He motioned to me if I’ve eaten. I said yes.
Soon, a family eating on a nearby table left. He smiled at me, said “xie, xie” (thank you) and went to do his job.
I sat alone reading and drinking my coffee. After I was done, I walked up to him (he was seated on another table with another colleague – a cleaning lady), thumped him in the shoulder and said bye. Both of them beamed in return. I felt great.
For all the ranting about foreigners who live here, there are many many more absolutely stellar individuals. It’s just that these usually don’t make it to social media.
I tell you what. This is Singapore. And I love it. #sg50
Sony Xperia Z3 edited on Aviary App
Singapore, July 2015