Growing Up

I went to St James Church to attend nursery when I was 4. Wait, I am not a Christian or a Catholic; neither am I a free thinker. I was a buddhist, but not a vegetarian. Many people think that buddhists and hindus are vegetarians, but we’re not. Only monks and nuns lead this kind of lifestyle, otherwise, most buddhists only go vegetarian on days like the 1st and the 15th of the lunar calendar. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know myself!

Many people have asked me this question, and that includes my teachers, “Why are you a Buddhist and yet have a Christian name?” The real deal came when my “beloved” English teacher Ms Betty Lee asked just the same question. As a knowledgeable person, I was surprised she asked me that question. I wanted to respond “Hey, fuck you idiot. Aren’t you very clever? Harry has a Christian name, yet he isn’t a Christian. Why don’t you ask him yourself?”(Harry Lee Kwan Yew is our Nation’s Minister Mentor)

Anyway, back to the question on choosing a nursery. To date, I still don’t know why my parents enrolled me in this school when there was another nursery just two blocks away from my granny’s house? I’m intrigued.

I remember, nursery started at about noon to around four in the afternoon. As said, my granddad would bring me to school and fetch me back later. Four hours at that time really seemed so long. Seconds felt like minutes, minutes felt like hours. Guess nursery was not one of my favorite phases of my life. It wasn’t like torture, but it wasn’t exactly candy either. The life just didn’t fit me. I was a shy boy and yes, I cried a lot. I never liked to be away from my loved ones. I remember crying every time I had to attend school. My mum had enrolled me into an art class and I remember crying throughout the whole art lesson and the teachers had to allow my mum to sit in with me to prevent the other students from distraction. I never attended the lesson again. Of course, this habit of crying had to change sooner rather than later. I never once cried again in class once I started kindergarten.

I’ve lost touch with my nursery mates since shifting from my grandparents’ place to my parents’ own home in Jurong. We’d bought a new mansionette, facing the magnificent view of Chinese Garden, but was blocked by the construction of the new condo “LakeShore” soon after. Damn.

Yep, back to my nursery days, my memory isn’t that good, I mean, who’d have taken much notice of any tiny details that happened eleven years ago? Anyway, all I really remember about nursery was that I was selected to perform a dance for my graduation ceremony. I hated that performance. I’d made a fool of myself! It’s the worse case scenario for a person taking drama as his main co-curricular activities in mandatory education. It’s like asking Giggs to play in goal and not as an out and wide winger! Just imagine yours truly losing track of my dance steps in the middle of the performance, having to look behind to see where I was supposed to be. Ooo… How embarrassing!

Kindergarten days were better, but NOT much better. You know, I’m used to sleeping late and waking late, not sleeping early, waking early. So, going to kindergarten was a real hassle! At least there were birthday parties to enjoy in kindergarten. Talking about birthdays, tell you a secret. As you know, I was born on the 8th of August. National Day happened to fall on the 9th. At that time, ignorant as I was, I didn’t know babies were actually born around the world everyday. So yours truly thought he was unique, (you know, “The Special One”). This led to me bragging about my birthday to my friends, until one fine day, I saw this documentary about the “World’s Growing Population”, I then realized I wasn’t the only “Special One” around. There are thousands of “The Special One” round the globe!

January 1998. First day of primary school. Formal schooling, where all the basics and foundations were learnt. Mum took leave that day to accompany me to school. Parents were allowed in school for their first day. Feeling very excited yet restless, not knowing who to meet and what to do. Dressed in “smart” uniform (it’s really dull), my mum walked me to school after lunch. School’s just a minute walk from my residence; in fact, my flat was connected to school via a covered walkway.

Anyway, the best impression of my first day in school was sitting quietly in the school’s concourse, looking back constantly at my mum. Nervous, I was, things like “Who’s going to be my form teacher? Is it going to be a he or a she? What friends would I make?” kept spinning in my mind. Who wouldn’t? Glad to say, I entered a great class. 1E. Excellence, Eloquent, Elite! Met some great friends too. Still in touch with some of them. Great memories.

During my second “5 years” of my life, I was bombarded with lots of extra stuff. Abacus was one. Tuition was another. Mum was a part-time tutor, she taught our neighbor’s daughter Serene. Serene Jie Jie (sister) was already undergoing tremendous stress under my mum, imaging me going thru the pressure and targets set by my very own mum! Assessments came one after another. Math, English, Mother Tongue, blah, blah, blah. So, besides tuition, abacus was the other. I had classes on abacus to strengthen my math, which I thought at that time, was good enough. But boy, I was wrong! Abacus was really challenging! One really has to time yourself properly, imagine doing 10 questions of “123+8536-4326+15321+9832-2311+8669+2345-9786+2727” in three minutes using abacus! Abacus, though hard, it allowed me to grasp mental calculations better. Ask me what’s 8 x 9 when I was 5, you’ll get 72. Ask that to my sis, you will most probably get 8+8+8+8+8+8+8+8+8.

Mrs. Loh, my primary one form teacher was a wise lady. She was a much respected person. A friendly and approachable person, she did well in settling the unsettled newcomers like me in school, making school feel like your second home.

Primary two, M.O.E (Ministry Of Education) introduced abacus into its math syllabus. Ha Ha Ha, this is going to be a breeze. I thought. Things started well. All those basics were not going to trouble me. Thus, not surprisingly, I was selected to compete in an interclass abacus competition. And here’s when heaven make sport of people. Firstly, I thought I had forgotten my abacus that day and had to borrow one. (It was in my bag all along) The competition, was a knockout one, where the last person to complete a given question would be eliminated. I had led all the way until the final two, where I committed a mistake and ended up second. That’s like Newcastle isn’t it? Leading right up to the end and just gave way. (Luckily the team that caught up was Man Utd)

At the end of primary two, I attended an IT workshop. It was at this workshop, I met my confidant, my best buddy, my best pal, Joshua. Sounds kinda mushy, but it was a friendship of a lifetime. It’s hard to have someone sharing the same hobbies, soccer, checkers and so on. Josh was a Gooner, while I supported their arch rival, Man Utd. Even so, we didn’t have much conflict between us. Although we have both since switched schools, yours truly to Fuhua while he went to Clementi Town; we still contact each other quite frequently, either via cell phone or MSN. Really wished he had joined me in Fuhua, but it’s his choice. His presence may have softened the blow I endured in my secondary school life in which I didn’t felt I fitted in. Guess distance really plays a part in a relationship, be it friendship or love. We aren’t as close as before, but I definitely still treasure this wonderful and amazing friendship.

Primary 3, nothing eventful really, except that I was put into the same class as Joshua, in 3H. H is the best class okay! We don’t follow the system whereby A is the best followed by B. We had an Ms Ng Mei Mei as our form teacher that year, and my, was she considered hot for a teacher! We were young though, and didn’t really take much notice of her.

Streaming year. Primary 4. I was still in H class with Joshua. We got a teacher named Mdm Lily Tan; she supposedly came from a well-known school, but was transferred here due to some confidential reasons. (You can guess why) My god, she was one of the worst teachers around. We needed to get results as it was our streaming year, yet we were stuck with a hopeless teacher. How do you expect us to get promoted into a better stream? I recalled during one math lesson, she taught us the wrong formula and a few of us students had to point the mistake out to her!

Primary 5, I was streamed into EM2 as I didn’t take higher Mother Tongue. I made some new friends, notably Jun Wen and Si Thu, who both followed me to Fuhua Secondary. Si Thu is Burmese, while Jun Wen, a handsome chap, lived at the block next to mine. Athletic, tall, tan and smart, any girl would be stupid not to fall for him! Anyway, New Year, new teacher, new lease of life. Ms Suriani became our new form teacher. She was strict, but understanding. Much much much better than the Mdm Lily Tan we got the year before.

PSLE. Primary 6. Last year of primary education. The year seemed shorter than ever. The prelims were right before my birthday, while the actual PSLE examination were right after. So hectic was the year that the syllabus was completed way before mid year! My prelim results weren’t too good, 309/400, but I enjoyed some healthy competition from my class mates, especially Josh. I remember taking the PSLE in very terrifying conditions. After every test, I would be going “Shit, I think I did that question wrong.”, “Damn. Did I miss a page or something?” Everybody had high hopes on me, my parents, Ms Suriani and so on. I was feeling the heat, and didn’t know what to expect. Results came, and my aggregate score was 241/300. A full ten mark improvement compared to my prelims, and furthermore I qualified for the top school in Jurong area! I didn’t choose Commonwealth Secondary though; I preferred one that was near my home. Furthermore, Fuhua offered me a scholarship of $500! Josh got 236/300, and I remember him breaking down in a corner after that. He had expected better results and was disappointed. As a friend, his best friend, all I could do was to console him. Josh always had high expectations of himself. I think he was expecting at least a 240. 250 may well be within his capability. 236 was just a horrendous blow to him. Nevertheless, nobody cries over spilled milk, I recently heard he’d done well for his secondary four prelims, achieving much better results than his old pal here. I do enjoy the competition though. Nothing beats a little push!


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