[Left to right: Ella Chong, Susie Voon and me.] In late 2012, just before I moved from Kota Kinabalu to Brisbane, I went to a goldsmith in Wisma Merdeka to buy a small chain. The shop owner’s name was Susie Voon. After a while we discovered she was from a town called Beaufort, which is where my mother is from.
“I know the house where your family grew up!” Susie said.
“We children used to secretly search through their paper rubbish looking for envelopes, for the stamps! They had so much international correspondence and letters were from glamorous places like England and Europe. We took them for our stamp collection books!
“In the town, there was a row of shops on the Padas Road. Your uncle had the first few shops and our family had a shop further down. Our shophouse was no. 8 under the name Yun On Goldsmith and our family surname is Chong.”
I took a picture of Susie Voon (born Chong), and resolved to blog this chance encounter when I got to Brisbane. I never did, and her photo is on an old SD card stored with a pile of other little cards, and data CDs.
Yesterday I looked for her. There are several goldsmiths in Wisma Merdeka and I couldn’t remember what the shop looked like. I went to each one asking if the owner is a lady from Beaufort.
In the third shop, a woman said, “I think you spoke with my sister. But she’s retired now.”
She went to the back of the shop and picked up her phone. After a short chat she said, “She’s coming over.” She happened to be at the bank, which is nearby!
While we waited for Susie, Ella Chong drew a picture to show me what the shop lots looked like.
“The shops were right next to a big football pitch, and your uncle’s shops were always covered with swallows.
“The Chinese believe that swallows like to land on the places of prosperity. Your uncle’s shops had many, many swallows!”
Privately, my mind wandered to the cleaning. But who would mind if it meant good fortune?
Susie arrived and she did remember our chat. Mike took a photo for us, which you see at the top.
Ella and Susie’s shop is Kedai Emas Kinabalu, or Kinabalu Goldsmith, in Wisma Merdeka shopping mall.
I’m so glad I got this entirely random and beautiful encounter onto the blog.