All Those Bananas
|Photo by Rhonwyn Hagedorn|
My whole body goes on alert whenever I have to give a speech on the spot because the scheduled speaker has just developed a sore throat or has just left due to a quarrel with his wife.
Coming out with something meaningful and appropriate for the occasion in an audience of total strangers is more than just challenging.
The most difficult time of all is when the organizers tell me to "lighten up the whole place so we don't all fall asleep".
My relationship with most of them was limited to quick smiles and an impersonal "hi'. A few of them knew that I was from Malaysia but they had no idea about our lifestyle.
They were vibrant young men with hormones bursting from their seams. Our classes were often filled with jokes about animals and the human anatomy.
Although I was dressed in a thick wool sweater, I shivered from frightful anticipation -- twenty of us would be chosen at random to give impromptu speeches. The score would contribute to our final exam score.
"Piece of cake." He said to the microphone. He talked non-stop until Professor H rang the bell for "time's up". Another student was called. She talked about her best friend. The next student stammered on his speech about downhill skiing. Others spoke on subjects ranging from farm work to university life. Some speakers had interesting stories while others rattled on and on.
I heaved a big sigh when the second-to-last speaker finished her speech. "It won't be me, I know it." I thought to myself as I relaxed my near two-hour upright sitting position and slouched on the chair.
Ah Poh (my granmother) and I showed up every evening to buy a bunch of bananas.
"Only "dua-puluh kupang" (Malay: twenty cents) for my good neighbors. Very good 'pisang', just ripe." Hap Seng, the big bellied proprietor gave us his usual big smile that revealed his two golden front teeth.
The students smiled.
Cackles bellowed from the audience.
Another round of laughter swept across the hall.
My nervousness increased as I searched my mind for what I had said wrong.
By Chong Sheau Ching