Jeeez, Chinese New Year is a month away and I haven't prepared anything. Blame it on my pregnancy [good excuse to be lazy :P] and the new school year. Usually by this time [before I became a Muslim], I would had done spring cleaning at home. Oh well, there's still 4 weeks to go, hehehe.
I was at the market last weekend when I saw some gingko nuts for sale. A 'must' dessert for my family during the festive season. So I went over to the Chinese stall to have a look.
"Hello, these are good for health," said a Chinese lady in Malay language. Must be the seller.
"100 gram kui lui [How much for 100 gramme?]" I asked in local Hokkien dialect.
She didn't even bat an eyelid or shrank in horror.
"60 sen," she replied after a quick mental calculation. "You want?"
"I'll come back later," I answered and thanked her. Need to compare with the supermarket price.
Shopping is always fun when I enter Chinese stalls especially for my supply of traditional herbs and fresh flowers. I've learned long ago never to give them any chance to ask questions regarding my reversion to Islam. Usually they won't ask anyway, but you'd never know when you might come across a kei-po-chi [busybody]. So it's strictly business. Enter, ask for whatever I need in Hokkien dialect, try to bargain, buy or leave.
First-timers might be surprised to hear me ask questions in the local Chinese dialect but being business-savvy, they recover very quickly. Reply will be quick and naturally-spoken. I suppose they see a hijab-clad lady as just another customer, although they might find it awkward to talk Chinese to me in my hijab. [same way, I'd find it awkward to speak Malay to a Chinese, hehehe]. When I first reverted, I hesitated to speak to Chinese sellers in the local dialect, fearing negative reactions but now I don't really care. It's all about being confident actually, to speak in my own Hokkien dialect with other Chinese. [I'm Cantonese but due to being brought up in Hokkien-speaking community, I'm more fluent in this dialect].
Same goes for my dealings with other Chinese. My former Chinese neighbours have gotten used to me as a Chinese Muslim in hijab, so we always communicate in local Hokkien dialect. To do that comfortably, I know that they'd need to see me as a Chinese and not as a Malay. It's challenging for them too in a way, as they need to break the stereotype thinking that all hijab-clad women are Malays [just imagine suddenly talking to your Malay-speaking grandmother in English for 10 minutes to understand what I mean] Till today, they had never asked my why I had chosen to revert to Islam. Chinese are very private people, and unlike most Malays, they won't ask personal questions unless they know you very well.
An advantage of being a Chinese Muslim is that when I deal with Chinese sellers, it's usually easier to bargain with them. They can't communicate with their assistants secretly as I understand their languages, so usually I'd get a reasonable/lower price for goods. And sometimes the naughty me upon entering a new stall would choose to be a "Ho-nah cha-boh" [Malay woman] to listen in to their talk as they discuss how much they're going to charge me for an item. After that and only after that, would I reveal my true identity by speaking in Chinese. You should have seen their faces, hahahaaa! [usually to cover their embarrassment of being found out about their different prices, I'd get a good bargain :P]