She Can Speak Malay….In Mandarin

She is the most interesting woman in the world. Or at least of my year so far. A small woman of I’d guess fifty-ish, but I am horrible at guessing ages and I know better than to ask. She barely reaches my breastbone, I’m a short man of only six foot one inch. Brightly wrapped in flowing skirt and long sleeves, headscarf always matching. Her smile and laughter are infectious, her scowls at rude patrons would do any grandmother proud in achieving “the look”. We all know which look, the one that says “I am a mother and grandmother and will not tolerate your crap”. I think its genetically instilled in women upon giving birth. She always has a kind word and smile for E, and the wife, and usually something good for me to try. She has been trying to teach me Malay one word at a time, mostly centered around food. Emmet, no surprise, is picking it up faster than me. Her tan face and hands are careworn but kind. And unless she is very busy is always happy to talk with me for a few minuted about food, Singapore, and family. She is simply and genuinely nice.


I mentioned in passing my “vegetable lady” in my post,, and she has become a mainstay of my visits to the market. Her selection is much smaller than some, as she is tucked away in a corner and doesn’t get the foot traffic to support a large stall. She has her niche though, as the only vendor with a coconut grinder. I make a point to visit her and buy something each time I am at the market, whether I “need” it or not. Her welcoming manner and tips on local cooking have been invaluable, she even gave me her own recipe for breadfruit fritters. Yesterday though her genuine kindness and openness was thrust to the forefront.


It was a one of the rare days that all three of us visited the market as a family, as always after breakfast the first stop was her stall. Emmet let go of my hand and ran to her for his hug, to his chagrin no candy today. I had decided to get some coconut today to attempt a soup. As we were discussing my plans for making dinner she asked and innocuous question, “How do you feel about spicy food?”. I told her I liked it and Wife said she didn’t mind as long as it wasn’t too spicy. Her next statement floored us both.


“Ramadan is coming and at the end of the month we have a feast, a holiday. I would like your family to come to my house for it.”


Of course we said yes and now must make plans and get details, what should we wear, should we bring something, where is her home? But,…Wow!! To be invited to someone’s home for a family holiday meal, is so unexpected, appreciated, and exciting. Again I maintain its mostly because E is adorable, but I’ll take it.


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3 responses to “She Can Speak Malay….In Mandarin”

  1. lovesthings says :

    Wow! What a great experience this will be for you guys! Cant wait to read all about it 🙂


  2. Expat Bostonians says :

    That’s going to be such a wonderful experience for you. I hope you do it!


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