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My great grandfather left China in the 1840s to seek his fortune in the United States of America. During the Gold Rush of 1849, he amassed a sizeable fortune and wisely set up several restaurants and hotels. These reaped huge profits from the influx of prospectors, who hoped to strike it rich.

Born in 1924, my father stood to inherit abundant wealth. Unfortunately, the family's assets dwindled during the great economic depression of the 1930s and, later, the Second World War. Dad moved to the coastal area of Monterey and established a company specialising in the export of abalone and sea urchins.

I was born in 1960 and Dad believed that, being the eldest son, I would bring him luck. He paid homage to sea, upon which our lives depended, by naming me "Xiang Yang", which means "facing the vast ocean". Perhaps, my name did have some bearing on my character for I grew to love the ocean and all the living things it contained.

I decided to major in Marine Biology in the university. Dad was aghast for he wanted me to read Business Administration and run the company after graduation. Dad felt betrayed and said that I was turning my back on the very business that had provided for me. I tried to explain that it was important for me to see my own toil and struggle come into fruition, but it was in vain.

Upon graduation, I joined a conservation group attempting to revive the sea otter population, which was on the brink of extinction. Our successful efforts incurred the wrath of fishermen. The otters, which had ravenous appetites, fed on abalone and sea urchins. The fishermen feared that the resurgence of the otters would cripple their livelihood. It was ironical, for it was the near-extinction of the otters that created the fishing industry in the first place - in the absence of the otters, the shell-fish population had drastically increased. My involvement in the group soured relations with Dad even further for it placed us on opposite sides of the fence.

One day, Dad came to see me at the laboratory. I had just rescued an orphaned pup, a mere seven weeks old. It wailed pitifully as baby otters would when separated from their mothers. Dad was intrigued - he had encountered these 'adversaries' at sea but had never seen them up close.

I explained why our conservation efforts were important. There were less than 2,400 California sea otters. A major ecological disaster like an oil spill from the numerous oil platforms along the coast could wipe out the entire population. To make matters worse, their population growth was a slow five percent a year.

"Otter milk is twenty-five percent fat and this helps to keep the babies warm. I'm afraid our provisions are not adequate," I said as I tried to feed the orphaned pup. Dad left a few minutes later but returned the next morning.

"This is for Gus," he said, holding a bottle filled with a murky liquid. He sheepishly explained that it was his name for the otter. I was pleased that Dad had actually been charmed by the little, furry creature. He had concocted a mixture of chopped squid, clams, cod liver oil, saline, vitamins and minerals. For Gus, it was the elixir of life for he gained strength and weight in the ensuing weeks.

I acted as a surrogate parent to Gus. Each day, I donned a wet suit and foraged for abalone and sea urchins on the seafloor while Gus watched. Dad always waited by the shore and we would discuss Gus' progress. Without our realising it, Dad and I had come to an understanding and were mending our estranged relationship.

Our hearts were heavy when we eventually had to release Gus into the wild. We would monitor him for a few months, using a transmitter but we were confident that he had acquired sufficient skills for survival.

"It is hard to let our loved ones go, but we must let them chart their own journeys," Dad remarked as Gus worked up the courage to venture forth. I understood Dad's veiled meaning and gave him a hug. Gus was a true blessing in disguise - he gave me back my father.

   
Answer the following questions using complete sentences
  1. Explain how Xiang Yang's great grandfather became a rich man.
  2. What were the circumstances that led to the establishment of Xiang Yang's father's export company ?
  3. Explain why Xiang Yang's father saw his decision to become a marine biologist as a betrayal.
  4. Show how the fishermen's opposition to the revival of the sea otters' population was "ironical" ?
  5. Why was it important to protect the sea otter population ?
  6. In what way was Xiang Yang a "surrogate parent" to Gus ?
  7. Explain how Gus had helped to reconcile Xiang Yang with his father.
  Fill in the blanks with one correct word from the passage.
  8. Ever since their bitter quarrel, Jan and Mike have become ______ and no longer speak to one another.
  9. Liza was evidently ______ by the beautiful jewel for she could hardly take her eyes off it.
  10. Since they had run out of food, the campers ______ for wild berries and fruits in the jungle.
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Answers
 

1.

He had migrated to the United States of America from China and struck gold in 1849. He then established several restaurants and hotels, which earned great profits from perspective gold miners.
 

2.

The family's once-great fortune had been depleted during the economic depression in the 1930s and the Second World War. The export company was formed after Xiang Yang's father moved to Monterey, which had an abundant supply of abalone and sea urchins.
 

3.

It was because he saw Xiang Yang's refusal to take over the company as a sign of defiance and ingratitude, for the business had provided for the family's livelihood.
 

4.

The fishermen's opposition to the sea otters was ironical for it was the creatures' declining population that had allowed the shellfish industry to grow. The near absence of the otters had earlier allowed the abalone and sea urchins to flourish in the sea.
 

5.

It was because their numbers were too small and their population growth, too slow, to ensure their continued survival in the event of an ecological disaster. In addition, there was always the threat of oil spills from the oil platforms located along the coast.
  6. Xiang Yang was the one who rescued Gus when he lost his mother. He also fed the otter and taught him the basic skills required for survival, such as foraging for food.
  7. It was Gus' presence that enabled Xiang Yang's father understand that it was important to let Xiang Yang pursue his own dreams.
  8. estranged
  9. intrigued
  10. foraged
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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