The first Mango hopped off the transporter’s vehicle and started crying as he reached his home sweet home. Despite being younger in age, the second Mango rattled off a long lecture about the importance of studying hard and getting good academic grades because “the old mangoes have to slog away at work to bring food to the table”. “So Koko, the conclusion is, you have to get better grades next time, don’t give up!” the second Mango said. “I don’t deserve to be a Mango, I should just be a Banana,” the first Mango whined.
“Banana? I gave you a chance to be a Banana last year when I asked you if you wanted to change to another school since you think and talk like a Banana but you wanted to stay on in the Chinese school because of your friends,” the older female Mango said. “Son, you have got to be certain where you are heading to in life, make good choices for your life not because where most your friends are, but because you care about where you will end up at.”
In a sulk as if it really was the worst day of a typical 11 years old, Mango no. 1 stared at his own 58/100 score for Chinese essay paper. As if the entire Mango Orchard was not dramatic enough, the long lecture continued when the older male Mango came home with the conclusion that Mango no. 1 will have to receive his punishment if the rest of the other exam papers do not bring up the average score to 80.
Our kids go to the Chinese primary school which instructs, conducts lessons, converses in Mandarin and teach kids the virtuous teachings of Chinese ancestors from over 5,000 years ago and valuable traditions that a Chinese must observe that reflect the true essence and beautiful discipline that uniquely make Chinese, well, as Chinese as a Mango (inside yellow; outside yellow because one knows how to speak his own mother tongue). I did not want to raise Banana (outside yellow; inside white as in Chinese who does not know how to speak his own mother tongue.)
When they were much younger, Daddy Joe and I thought hard over the choice of schooling for them – there was the Kebangsaan school, which was the country’s national schools that instructs in Bahasa Malaysia (BM), our national language. There was private schools that teach the national curriculum in BM; private schools that teach the international curriculum in English; and there were home schooling centres which teach international curriculum in English. The choice was aplenty!
Daddy Joe and I were raised up in Chinese-speaking family (Hokkien for him and Mandarin for me), attended Chinese primary school and took Chinese classes in secondary school and even went as far as sitting for the Chinese subject in the national exam papers for SRP and SPM. We do not think that we are far more superior than any Chinese who came from other educational background, and growing up, we were both embarrassed at some points that we could not vividly express in English or BM as eloquent as our counterparts from the Kebangsaan schools.
Of course, being the simplistic and practical parents that we are, first of all, we could not afford to send them to private schools which cost five-figure fees per annum. But above all, we like how we were raised up to embrace the Chinese discipline and culture of respecting the elderly, of recognising that family ties never break and last but not least, to live frugally for oneself and yet, be generous in treating others. If you ask me, hey, these are the cool stuff I want my kids to have in them and I mean, really, really nailed deep and hopefully, they will walk this talk like this pair of older Mangoes.
We also like that we can easily belt out any Chinese pop songs from Taiwan or Hong Kong and just as easily switch to a Michael Bublé or Taylor Swift number or croon to a popular hit from Siti Nurhaliza.
Later that night, while watching a romantic sitcom from Taiwan on the Astro channel, I tugged my first Mango close to me and together we laughed hard when the main characters did something silly. “I know you are struggling in Chinese even though you have tried your best,” I said to him, in Mandarin. “But one day when you are that much older and taller than I am now, you will look back and think just how knowing this language opens few more doors and gives a different perspective in life. By then, son, you will be grateful that you are a Mango.”
“I know mommy, I already think it is awesome that I can understand Chinese shows and enjoy them together with you and papa,” my little Mango said softly. “Yes, and we can now sing and even dance to a silly Chinese song too,” I said as I tickled all the little Mangoes who screamed and begged for mercy as the older female Mango kicked up her legs and did a Gangnam style dance that was so hilarious the night lit up.