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  • I love teaching students the Chinese word for 'house' or 'home'.

    It's 家 -- jiā, meaning 'pigs under the roof'.

    It relates to pig, 豬 zhū, of course.

    My friend Bob loves scouring old bookshops for ancient encyclopaedias, and in one of the old encyclopaedias written for children, there was this image of a Chinese mud house:

    “Life is very simple in China. These houses are built of mud with straw roofs. They have only one room, in which live from five to a dozen people with a couple of dogs and as many pigs as can be squeezed in.”

    Of course, these pigs were not treated as pampered pets.

    Growing up in Malaysia, my mum raised a few chickens a few months before the Chinese New Year. The big, fat, juicy chickens would then become our yummy steamed chicken and crispy roast chicken.

    I covered my eyes, nervously peeping through my fingers to see how the chickens' throats were slit, and how they were scalded. I was only little, so I was responsible for plucking the chickens' feathers, sometimes using a tweezer.

    In our cosy suburb in the south of England, now we have 2 surviving hens in the garden (one was killed brutally -- not by us -- a few months ago).

    We get 2 fresh fee range eggs every day, and Ben would make scrambled eggs for himself almost every morning.
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