Local Heart, Global Soul

November 6, 2012

One Building Has Worn Multiple Hats, Another, the Result of a Dying Wish…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Situated near the Stadthuys entrance of the square stands a clock tower painted in a matching shade of pink/red as the Youth Museum & Art Gallery, Church and Stadthuys… our guide tells us it was built by a son over a century ago to fulfill his father’s last request. I did some research on the internet because I had totally forgotten the names our guide gave us at the time and discovered the following information: (website link at the bottom of this post if you are interested in reading more)

More commonly known as Red Clock Tower, the Tan Beng Swee Clock Tower stands tall at the center of the Dutch Square. While it was named after Chinese billionaire Tan Beng Swee, it was actually his son, Tan Jiak Kim, who had this built in 1886 to fulfill his father’s promise.

Tan Beng Swee was a rich Chinese man who lived in Malacca and was known for his philanthropy. He donated the land where the city’s Chinese cemetery now lies and the bridge just beside the tower.

For almost a century, the clock installed on top of the tower was from England. In 1982, however, it was replaced by a Seiko clock, which was not received well by the older residents of the city and caused an outrage because many of them still remember the suffering they experienced when Japan occupied the city decades ago.”

When I first photographed the clock tower  from the bridge I was under the impression that it supports a radio mast… luckily this isn’t this case, the mast being a far larger construction situated behind the Stadthuys, and my position on the bridge just producing an unfortunate angle.

Once I walked a bit further it was clear that the two were separate and that the clock tower was rather a sweet little building. In case you are wondering if  it’s Melaka’s version of Pisa, it’s me on a lean, not the tower. I was juggling crutches, camera and a water bottle and the further I walked the more I ended up leaning on at one of the crutches when I stopped since it was rather tiring keeping up. Nevermind, you get the idea of the surroundings at least.

I’m not quite sure if requesting my kids to build a clock tower would be an item that features anywhere on a list of my dying wishes… but hey, each to his own, and Dutch Square is certainly a prettier place for it, so maybe Tan Beng Swee was onto something.

There’s another former administrative building on Dutch Square too, it stands on the opposite side of the Christ Church to the Stadthuys and was built in 1784. In 1826 it became the Malacca Free School and then roughly one hundred years later a second story was added to it and it took on a new function as a post office, before finally becoming the  Malaysia Youth Museum & Art Gallery.

The  Youth Museum is located on the ground floor and the Art Gallery is housed on the upper floor and displays artworks from both local Melakan artists and from artists from around Malaysia.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

http://www.thepoortraveler.net/2012/05/tan-beng-swee-clock-tower-queen-victoria-fountain-dutch-square-malacca-malaysia/

February 27, 2012

The Day a Police Car, a Random Act of Kindness and some Wise Words Changed my Life…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I was going to post something different today but something happened this weekend that reminded me that one person’s actions can influence the path of someones else’s life forever.

Me?  I’m the person who was influenced.
I was given a gift, a very special gift.

Remember a few days ago I wrote about the Rugby Street Church in Christchurch New Zealand and the church hall behind it that has now been completely demolished due to earthquake damage?

Well this place holds a special place in my heart for more reasons than just the dances and fun times I  had there.

I went to this youth group because I was friends with a brother and sister who parents had a holiday house in the same place as my family did.

These two people came into my life during some turbulent years and I valued the fact that they accepted me for who I was and we got on well, so when they invited me to come along to their youth group I said yes.

My parents were semi-neutral about my joining this group and although I had a sister who rarely went out and for whom they were a ready and willing taxi service, when I expressed hope of the same it was made clear that my bike was in the bike-shed and if I wanted to get there, I could do so under my own steam.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Since I lived in the shadow of the Port Hills on the other side of town I therefore commuted to and from the friday night youth group by ten-speed bicycle.

One day when I was locking up my bike outside Rugby Street hall another member of the group, (“M”) came over and wondered why I hadn’t walked to the meeting. (It appeared that he assumed I lived close to the brother and sister friends who lived a short walk away.)

I laughed, told him where I lived and thought nothing more about it.
A few weeks later “M” came  and told me that he was really worried about the idea of me cycling home in the dark alone, especially through the often deserted one -way system that I used to get home.

I’ll explain why he said that.

In the “wisdom”and thinking of the day,  Christchurch’s City fathers planned the layout of their new city in a concise looking grid pattern before even leaving England, which got somewhat complicated when they imposed it on a landscape on the other side of the world that surprised them with added features like  meandering rivers.

The grid pattern road system worked well on paper, but when motor vehicles were added to the equation, reality was that the sheer number of intersections meant more traffic lights than city inhabitants and crossing the city became a nightmare.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

One day someone had a bright idea and turned designated streets into one-way systems with synchronised traffic lights for speedy travel north/south and east/west on each of the four sides of the city centre.

Good, the system worked well enough, but it was synchronised for car speed and not bicycle speed so for cyclists there were many stops along it anyway.

I still considered the one-way streets safer than the very busy Columbo Street because there wasn’t much space on Colombo for bikes and I wanted to avoid the weekend inebriated who hung out around Catherdral Square.

The one-way systems were by far the quickest routes, but often the most lonely too, light industrial businesses had strung up along many of them, the inner city residences that there were, were few and far between and because this was an area of the city that  might be termed as “an old-established,  pre-regeneration area”  the houses tended to be more run-down needing some obvious TLC,  than inner city chic.

“M’  was worried about my safely cycling alone here at night and said he wanted to borrow his father’s car and drive me home. My problem with this idea was that “M” lived very close to the Rugby Street church and my house was a long long way out of his way… not only that, but it rankled with me that  I couldn’t afford to give him petrol money, so in my pride and stubbornness I politely refused his offer.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Several  offers of a lift later, also politely refused, and despite assurances that no petrol money was needed (after finding out that it was one of my reasons for declining)  “M” took matters into his own hands.

When I got on my bike and cycled home in the dark, he would follow a safe distance behind me in his father’s car, made sure that I got up my driveway ok, and then wave and drive home again.

Since I was resolute in my opinion that his actions weren’t necessary and hope he would grow tired of it,  I continued to cycle as usual and he continued this process until one summer night when our youth meeting had gone on far longer than usual.

It was well past midnight, but the weather was still balmy, it had been tropical all day so I was wearing a tee-shirt and skirt as I cycled  home as usual.
The one-way street that would take me south was Barbadous Street and it was really quiet… the odd car passed but other than “M”  following slowly behind the streets were deserted.

I’d been waiting at the traffic lights because of course they were phased for car speed and not cycle speed, and when they turned green off I went. All of a sudden I heard a strange noise… a sort of “whop whop, then a pause and again “whop whop”.

More than the noise I now noticed a strange light in the darkness and still cycling, turned my head to see what it was.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Imagine my shock to see “M’s”car pulled over to the side of the road with a police car next to it… there was no siren on but police car’s light’s were flashing and this was the strange light that I had noticed.

I turned around on my bike and cycled back to find poor “M” tying to explain to the police that he was on a mission to assure my safety and that he wasn’t actually stalking the female cyclist as it certainly looked to them.

The look of relief on his face when I arrived back to confirm his story will stay with me for the rest of my days, so will the incredulous looks on the faces of the police officers at the whole situation before them.

My pride and stubborness were knocked down quite a bit that night and not wanting to embarrass “M’  further we quickly thanked the police for their concern and intervention,  put the bike in the back of the station-wagon and drove  the rest of the way home.

Outside my door we sat in the car and had a long talk. It wasn’t about the petrol money “M” said, or the time,  effort or distance, it was because he really worried that something might have happened to me on one of these nightime journeys and he had the means to make sure nothing did.

He wanted to help, not only for me but for his own peace of mind… this had really been worrying him  and he wanted to help.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Then he said words to this effect: “Sometimes someone just wants to give, they know you can’t pay them back, but that’s not the point… payback to me isn’t needed.

Maybe instead, one day, some time , somewhere in life you will find someone who has a need that you can meet.

It might have nothing to do with cash, it could be your time, your talent, a skill, a listening ear, it may indeed be financial … but most often you will find that your time and efforts are needed far far more than money.

When you see this situation and can meet the need, just do what you can and in doing so you will have paid me back in full.”

His words that night changed a lot of things in my life, not least  my attitude because it made a good dent in my stubborn streak.

The biggest lessons I have learned from this … is that help often comes to you when you least expect it and in guises you never dreamed of …. that giving back brings a satisfaction that you never imagined possible…. and that if you have your eyes open you will always find someone who could use a helping hand and that both parties can be richer for having given and received.

Whilst I have never “given”with the expectaion of anything in return, I can tell you that I have often experienced some very strange situations in my life in which seemingly unrelated chains of events have slotted together prefectly to ease a complication in my life.

Is this “karma”or a case of “what goes around comes around”? Who knows…

I am richer as  a person because  I have learned that when I give, I grow.

For various reasons I now longer attend church but I don’t think that having faith is necessarily defined by church attendance, for me it’s all about the maxim “to whom much is given, much is required“.

Sadly I  lost touch with “M” long ago, but I will continue to be influenced by him because his kindness and his words changed me and widened my horizons. I can only hope that every now and again he is blessed in receiving a random act of kindness from a complete stranger whenever he needs it too.

The best thing about a random act of kindness? …. Passing it on.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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