Wan Hua Chapouthier

Even though she has settled down in France for the past 45 years due to her job as an interpreter in UNESCO, Wan Hua Chapouthier has never said adieu to her Ipoh mali connection.

She depicted the “kopitiam culture” of the old days here, besides giving a glimpse about her Peranakan roots in her book Stories from the Heart: An Insight of Real Life Experiences in Malaysia and in France.

Wan Hua Chapouthier
Wan Hua Chapouthier at her alma mater [Photo credits: ourargosy.blogspot.com]

It took her 15 years to write it, her second after Shock Waves from Abroad, which was published in 1990.

“Writing is like painting,” she said of her painstaking effort.

“My message is that Malaysia is a beautiful country. Let’s listen to the birds sing,” she said during a trip back here last week.

Wan Hua, who was born in Bidor and grew up in Ipoh, would come home annually with her neurobiologist husband Georges Chapouthier.

The couple has four children, between the ages of 29 and 41, and a granddaughter who is almost two years old.

With each visit here, they found certain facets of Ipoh “disturbing”.

“For instance, the Kinta River is beautiful. But some parts of it are quite smelly,” she said.

“We (Malaysia) are moving towards global tourism. Cleanliness is of utmost importance.”

As a former teacher, education is another topic that is dear to Wan Hua.

She paid tribute to mission schools, saying that they played a great role in guiding many prominent figures, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (St John’s Institution) and former Bond girl Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh (Main Convent).

“Without good schools, how are we going to educate the young?” asked Wan Hua, who studied at the Methodist Girls School here.

Her itinerary back home this time included attending the Festival Puisi Lagu Rakyat Antarabangsa in Pulau Pangkor.

Incidentally, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr. Zambry Abd Kadir played a pivotal role when Wan Hua and Chapouthier, who is a poet, organised the 33rd World Congress of Poets in Ipoh last year.

“I wrote him a letter about the event and he responded, saying that he would endorse it,” she recalled.

Wan Hua is now retired from UNESCO, working on her third book, which focuses on the “inexplicable, different dimensions in life”.

Credits: The Star