Mista Ee had encountered many adventures since the monsoon winds brought him to the shores of Malacca that 19th day of December 1906.
The first weeks were trials of sheer grit adjusting to the uncertainties of a foreign land. The heterogeneous mix of people and cultures confused him. It took all his willpower not to stowaway on the next returning boat to China. If he could find one friendly face he could survive.
He frequented the domain of the migrant Chinese. Simple reason - language and food. The money he had brought with him did not last him very long. At least he found refuge at night outside the busiest coffee shop, run by a fellow Cantonese, 30-something, and by the look of it, pretty well off. Every night he waited for the shop to close, which was considerably late by his sleeping time back in Guangzhou. When lights dimmed, he crept to the corridor which was sheltered by a tin awning and curled up for a nights' rest.
One morning he woke up late and was set upon by the owners wife who cursed him in Cantonese, "Soi yan!" and shrieked for her husband.
As luck would have it, Wong, was a kindly man and in need of someone to help in the kitchen. He had been observing the boy this past week. Although close to destitute, he had not attempted to break into his shop or steal food. He liked the boys' face and admired his guts for doing what he himself had done not so long ago, venture alone to a strange land.
"So you sleep in my shop every night? Do you have money to pay for shelter?" Wong raised his voice, more for effect than anger, his wife was still chirping about being startled for no good reason.
"What no tongue to answer?" Wong persisted in Cantonese. This time Mista Ee answered in a low voice, "I did not mean to startle taai taai, the Mrs. I woke up late today. Usually I am early so as not to disturb anyone. My humble apologies to you and your wife."
Now Wong was impressed. "What a respectful demeanour and answer from a man so young. You don't see that these days. He must have been brought up well by his parents."
"Okay, don't grovel. You have been slinking around my shop for the past week. If you want work, you should have asked. If you don't ask, you don't get?" hollered Wong, testing the young man's mettle.
Mista Ee returned a golden smile, showing his teeth which were in need of much repair work. "Oh please, I would be most grateful for a job Sin Sang" referring to his future boss in an honorific term. "I have no more money left. I will work for free till I pay you back for sleeping outside your shop."
Sin Sang Wong could not help being drawn to this young man. Even his wife did not treat him with such respect. In fact she bullied him.
"Okay today you will start work in my coffee shop, the best coffee shop in Malacca, on the corner of Jonker Street and the Malacca river. What is your name anyway?" bellowed Wong feeling very pleased with himself.