Monday, February 2, 2009

Yee Sang without Chopsticks?

Yee Sang lunch or dinner? A popular suggestion among friends, colleagues, family members and relatives for a get together during the Chinese New Year. Yee Sang, is a delicious concoction of fine strips of raw fish, vegetables and fruits, crispy and crunchy crackers, plum juice, and spices. This is a definite ‘must have’ and is always the main dish served, be it at lunch or dinner, at restaurants and other food outlets. In fact, Yee Sang has become a Chinese New Year tradition for Chinese Malaysians.

My group of friends and I, being no different from others, will make it a point to meet up for the Yee Sang lunch every Chinese New Year within the 15 days and on an auspicious day in the lunar calendar, enabling one to hopefully kick start the new year on a good solid and sound footing! The get together lunch for this year with my group of friends took place on the 5th day of the Year of the Ox, a good auspicious day, according to Mr. SH Yong, a good buddy and pal who did not forget to organize the annual lunch, taking pains to contact the other friends. This year without fail ten people turned up for the lunch. It had all this while been a only male affair for many years. I could not remember how the annual lunch gathering evolved into such ‘discriminatory’ event. I shall remember to remind Mr. Yong to include the spouses for the next Chinese New Year do.

Well, the lunch outing was a rare occasion where I ventured out on my own without my dear wife Hong. Nervous? Yes, definitely. I was not sure how some of the friends would react, or not knowing what to say or how to talk to me as some have not seen me since I lost my sight a year ago. The lunch gathering would certainly be a first experience for some of the friends……. having lunch with a blind friend.

A kind friend, Mr Heng, came over to pick me up from my house in his car and we proceeded to the restaurant to meet the others. With his guidance, I managed to walk through the somewhat packed restaurant to our reserved table. I did not inform him about the techniques in ‘guiding and walking’ me and it served me right for feeling disorientated and uneasy for some moments whilst walking to the table. Yes, it was good to hear familiar voices of friends though I could not instantly recognize who they were for some seconds. Gosh! I quietly said to myself “How am I going to survive the lunch without Hong being there to assist me?” But then again, it was a good test of independence. Using my hearing sense and mind mapping skill, I started to ‘identify’ the sitting positions of all the 9 friends around the table by listening carefully to the source of their voices so that I could ‘look’ at them when I talk or response/reply to them. Perhaps, they did not read my blog, which I had given some tips to friends to either say my name or give a light touch of their hands to indicate that they are talking to me. I had to concentrate hard to listen to all the conversations, shooting all across and around the table. I had to ‘intercept’ when I suspected someone was talking to me. There were some moments that I stayed silent and perhaps again, appearing rude for not responding. So, my friends, do excuse me for the reasons stated and explained.

All got excited when the Yee Sang dish was served. I felt a pair of chopsticks and suddenly, I realized that since I lost my sight, I had gotten accustomed to the fork and spoon in eating my meals. None of my friends asked me if I needed the fork and spoon as they did not know that it could be tricky for me to handle the chopsticks. Nevertheless, I joined in the tossing of the Yee Sang and everyone tossed it with much vigor and enthusiasm, wishing each other a prosperous and a good year ahead. A friend sitting next to me, scooped some of the Yee Sang onto a small plate and it was a challenge for me to use the chopsticks to pick up the fine strips of food and ate it without spilling or dropping it all over the table and onto myself. Really, full concentration and focus came into play. I made sure that I cleaned off the food each time it was being placed onto my plate. I could feel I was handling the chopsticks well, feeling for the food, for example, the vegetable, chicken, slices of fish and the fine strips of Yee Sang salad. I guess I did not make a fool of myself nor created a mess, too.

Indeed it was an experience not only for me but also for my friends, as well, lunching with a blind friend. Whatever it was, we had a wonderful time, catching and updating ourselves with one another about our life journey. The lunch was sumptuous and we certainly, will get together again the next Chinese New Year, perhaps, with our spouses, too. As for me, it was a good outing and indeed, it was nice to have such wonderful and caring friends who took care of me during the lunch at the restaurant and sending me home after the outing.

Tips to my friends: When walking with me, it is better for me to hold onto your arm or shoulder as I feel more secure in following from slightly behind or by the side. For the food or drinks on the table, it is advisable to let me know the position by using the time announcement, for example, glass of water or cup of tea at 2 o’clock, bowl of soup at 12 o’clock, etc.

More challenging times ahead!

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