Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fate and Hikmah...

I was not supposed to go to Sekolah Tun Fatimah in 1981.

Nope. No siree. I was supposed to go to Sekolah Menengah Sains Bukit Mertajam. I can still remember the letter of offer which was sent to me via the office of SRK Treacher Methodist Girls School in Taiping. The clerk, Cik Fazillah, gave it to me during recess on a Thursday morning. The letter was in a brown envelope, with my name neatly typewritten on it. (God, sometimes I even amaze myself with the things I did and the people I met or knew more than 30 years ago which/whom I can still remember so vividly! It's scary, maaan!)

I was so excited when I opened the letter and read the contents, and I couldn't wait to get home to show it to Mommy and Abah! I had dreamt of going to a boarding school since I was 6 or 7 years old, I think. And my dream was finally becoming a reality! There were only 4 students who got 5As for the Penilaian Darjah 5 in my school - Karen Goh Gaik Sim, Ong Gaik Hong, Mageswary Devan and moi, and I was expecting to get an offer to go to a boarding school. I was barely halfway reading through the offer letter, and I was already planning on what to bring with me, and the things I needed to have to survive my stay at SMS Bukit Mertajam. I could already visualize the dorms, etc - just as Enid Blyton described them in her St. Claires', Mallory Towers, Naughtiest Girl series, etc.

But, what greeted me when I got home nearly made me cry. Abah said, "No. You're not going to a co-ed school." Just like that, and my heart dropped, and I remember thinking to myself, "Oh no...there goes my chance to go to 'sekolah budak pandai'!" :(Abah is a man of few words, for a simple reason - he doesn't have to talk much because nobody would argue with him. If 'puteh' kata dia, maka 'puteh' lah dia...)

I remember asking Mommy if she could slow-talk to Abah, and I remember her saying that there must have been a good reason why Abah wouldn't let me go to Bukit Mertajam. And there must be a hikmah if it was fated that I was not going to SMS Bukit Mertajam. With that, I was resigned to the fact that, it was just never meant to be. I was never going to stay in dorms described by Ms Blyton in all those wonderful story books of hers. Ever.

What I didn't know was that Abah had then written a letter of appeal to the Kementerian if I could be offered a place in an all-girls boarding school instead, and lo and behold barely 2 weeks after that I received another offer letter! And I was SO excited because this time it was for a place in Tunku Kurshiah College : T-K-C!!! And I remember thinking to myself - there was no way Abah was going to say "No" this time, because as far as I remembered/knew TKC was an all-girls school. And Abah could not use the same excuse of not letting me go to a co-ed school this time, could he?

Yup, you read it correctly. I could have been an ex-TKCian now if Abah had not come up with another brilliant excuse for not letting me go to Seremban pulak...This time, it was, "There's nobody in Seremban to tengok-tengokkan Shana nanti, kalau ada apa-apa hal, etc...", and my heart sank. Yet again. And this time, I was resigned to the fact that whatever it may be, I was never leaving home until I was old and crumpled at the age of 70. I thought Abah just could not bring himself to let his youngest daughter go and leave the nest at the tender age of 13... But, boy...was I wrong.

I remember Abah going to KL for a couple of days barely a week after that, and the night he came back, he called me up to the living room and said to me, "You're going to Sekolah Tun Fatimah in Johor Bahru." And in his hand was an offer letter for me to go to STF!

I was speechless, and I didn't want to put my hopes up too high, as I didn't want to be disappointed again. And I remember asking myself, "Isn't STF in JB? And isn't that further, MUCH, MUCH further than Seremban?!" But, I didn't want to risk the chance to finally be allowed by Abah to go to a sekolah budak pandai. So, I kept quiet. Tapi, my heart was bursting out with excitement! Finally, I was going off to a boarding school! YESSS!!!

I later found out that Abah had wanted to get me into STF because my uncle - Ayah Anjang, who was a CID with KTM had just been posted to Tanjung Pagar, Singapore, and Abah was hoping that he and his wife, Mak Wan would be able to keep an eye and also visit me in JB every now and then, on my parents' behalf. I guess he felt more confident, and he trusted his own brother to take care of me while I was there. Tanjong Pagar was just a train ride away from JB. And kalau ada apa-apa hal, Ayah Anjang would be there for me. I guess, it was difficult for him to let me go, but, he knew that it was the best for me and the least he could do was to have his brother in his place to be there with me, for me.

I remember pestering Mommy to go and shop for the stuff I needed to bring to STF just in case Abah were to change his mind again. And I remember all the preparations made for me to go to STF! I don't know if any of you remember the list of things that we were supposed to bring with us to STF? The item I remember so clearly was "5 pasang seluar dalam berwarna putih"...and that was how many undies I brought with me on registration day! Mommy had insisted that I brought more, but, I was so scared that it was going to be against the rule, that I refused to bring more than 5 white undies! And you can imagine how stupid I felt when I saw the other girls in my dorm who had more than 5 pairs of undies...and in so many rainbow colours some more!

Luckily for me, Mommy had left the rest of my new undies with Mak Wan. And the first weekend after registering, Ayah Anjang and Mak Wan paid me a visit. And besides the yummylicious macaroni goreng they brought for me, they also brought with them a small bag of my colourful undies...Aaaahhh, bless them. And bless my Mom to have left the undies with them :)

I remember the first friend that I made was Lin Rahman. The first thing that came to my mind when I saw her in the school hall during registration was, "Wow, she's very tall!". And I remember thinking to myself just how confident she was. The second friend that I made was Zarina Sheikh Osman - the girl whose bed was beside mine in B2-13. She must have thought the same thing about me, i.e. how confident and sure of myself I looked, because from the day we met, I was like her bodyguard/minder. She would be following me wherever I went. The Dining Hall, the Surau, 'Round Compound', etc, you name it, and she would insist that we walk to class together, even though she was in 1(1), and I was in 1(3).

And I can still remember how she would always ask me to remind me about everything -

"Shana, nanti ingatkan kita kunci jam, okay?"

"Shana, nanti ingatkan kita pakai talipinggang, okay?"

"Shana, nanti ingatkan kita telefon Mak kita, okay?"

"Shana, nanti ingatkan kita pakai skirt hijau kita, okay?

"Shana, nanti ingatkan kita beli sabun basuh baju, okay?"

And I would remind her to do all those things. She was a very nice girl. But, I guess, boarding schools were just not for her. She would be crying almost every night, and almost every day she would ask me to accompany her to call her parents to take her home. And I was quite sad when her parents finally came a few weeks after that to bring her home to KL. The second friend I made in STF was no longer there...and I never heard from her again after that.

But, of course, I made other friends to whom I became very close after that : Noi, Idah Balquis, Awin, Kala, and Yah who became my dorm-mates for 5 years. We shared so many memories together - sweet, bitter, and of course those horror/horrifying stuff, too, especially about the thing that goes bump in the night ;)

And all my 1(3) and Soc Sci friends : I will not do justice to anyone by trying to list the names of all my partners in crime/my best friends who grew up with me in STF. Some of whom include Yus, Reha, Jo, Sal, Yati Samad, Arwah Ross, Oya, Neetot, Eta, Anne, Tan, Kmar, Mahani "Bo", Masni, Mas, Wan, Jue, Sanisah, Farah, Aida K, Hye, Awe, Zaza. Oh my..the list goes on and on...and you know who you are, dears :) Some of whom I've lost touch with, and some of whom I'm still VERY close to, syukur alhamdulillah.

And some of whom, I was never THAT close to when we were in STF, but, through penentuan Allah, have become my closest buddies after leaving the alma mater until today - Abid, Onair and Ieja :)

And I really treasure the friendship and the memories we made while we were growing up as sisters in STF, and I would never trade the friends I made in STF, and the memories we shared there - sweet or bitter, with anything.

And I shudder to think what could have been if my Abah had allowed me to go to SMS Bukit Mertajam or TKC instead, all those years ago. I might have never had the chance to know all the wonderful friends I made in STF.

And those who know how I got to know my hubby would also know that I might not have known him if I were in Bukit Mertajam or Seremban in 1984... ;)

To think that I was not supposed to be there in STF in the first place, I have indeed come a long way, in terms of meeting, knowing and loving all the special people who hold a special place in this heart of mine until today.

Call it fate, but my Mommy was right after all. There WAS a hikmah when I was fated not to go to SMS Bukit Mertajam all those years ago...

And the hikmah comes in the form of my wonderful STF friends, and the special someone whom I got to know when I was 16 in JB...NOT in Bukit Mertajam. NOT in Seremban :)

GOD works in mysterious ways indeed...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Of Tears and Streetlights

Looking at this photo remind me of my early days in STF. The street lights... oh how I hate those street lights!

The year was 1979 ~ I sat for my Penilaian Darjah 5 and scored 5A. I was the only one who got 5A that year. My school, being a sekolah kampung in Parit, Perak, only produced one 5A student every year for Peperiksaan Penilaian at that time, unlike these days when hundreds of Primary 6 students get 5As in their UPSR.

Because of my good results, I was offered a place in a boarding school to pursue my secondary education. At the time, everyone wanted to go to a boarding school because it was simply the best place to further one's studies. My cousins went to boarding schools, a friend's sisters went to boarding schools, everyone clever went to a boarding school. So naturally, I also wanted to go to a boarding school.

So when I received the offer to go to STF in 1980 (I was in Standard 6 that time), I was very happy. I knew one of my cousins was already there in Form 3, so I was not very afraid of going.

Imagine, I was only 12. I was so young. I didn't know how my mother could let me go at such a young age. I can't. How she could send her only daughter away from home and let her be on her own for the next 5 years in pursuit of better education was beyond me.

I also didn't know that I would be badly hit by the separation; that I would miss my mother terribly; and that I would cry my eyes out in the first 3 months that I was there until she left me all alone beside my bed on that fine Saturday afternoon.

Ahh.. the torture of separation. I still have tears in my eyes whenever I think of that first day in STF.

I don't quite remember what happened before that, but I do remember getting into my dad's new white Fiat which he drove to JB. It was a long journey. At that time, there was no NSE. So Ipoh-JB took almost 12 hours. Upon reaching school, again, I can't remember what happened, but I remember going into my dorm for the first time.

It was dorm D1-8. That was to be my domicile for the next 12 months. All Form 1 students from green house were to reside in this dorm.

As I walked in, I saw many parents fussing about, helping their young girls to put away stuff/ make their beds. I didn't know a single face. I continued walking until I reached my bed which was located next to a window somewhere in the middle of the room. There were 20 bunk beds, if I'm not mistaken, 10 on each side. I got the one on top.

When I reached my bedside, I saw a girl sitting on her bed which was located below mine. She was very fair, almost Chinese-looking. I didn't say hello to her, but my mum did. As usual, my mother made small talks with her while I started unpacking my things. Her name was Zaleha and she came from Kelantan.

I was minding my own business while my mother made acquaintance with all the other girls/parents in the room. Later I was informed that the girl sitting next to my bed was from Kluang (Lin Ali) and another was from K.L (Pis).

Then I saw another girl coming into the room. She has this beautiful long hair and she seemed very relaxed and comfortable despite that being her first time there. Shortly after that, another girl came along. She also had a nice long hair and was very friendly towards the other long-haired girl. She brought along her little sister whom she called "Baby", who spoke in English with an Australian slang. Her parents looked like someone very important, and indeed, they were someone important.

These two girls chatted away like they had known each other and I felt quite intimidated by them. I didn't know anyone then, they were all strangers to me. But the two long-haired girls, Intan & Dada, would end up being my bedroom buddies throughout my stay in STF and my closest friends until today.

Anyway, after I had sorted out my stuff and made my bed, my mother told me she was going home. At that point of time, it suddenly hit me, "No! She can't go!" I saw tears forming in her eyes and I knew I didn't have much time left. She hugged me and as she squeezed me in her arms, I broke down and cried my eyes out. "Mak, jangan pergi!!"

I was cyring uncontrollably. I remember she had to push me away as I held her tightly so she could stay with me a while longer. But when she finally turned her face away, I knew that was the moment of truth. She was not staying with me. I was going to lose her.

So I just stood there crying as I watched her walking out of the door. That was one of the saddest days of my life. I wouldn't want a repeat of that.

That night, I couldn't really sleep. I kept on thinking of my mother and my own sweet home. I wondered where she was, what she was doing, if she was thinking of me... I missed her so bad. Everytime I thought of her, I would break down and cry.

Things got worse in the morning. We all had to wake up at 5am to shower, pray and get ready for school. That first day of school, when I got up, I looked out of the window and saw the street lights flickering by on the main street. It was still dark and cold. Everything was so quiet. I just sat there on my bed, looking out of the window to the cars that passed by under the street lights, and I cried my heart out.

Gosh... I missed my mother! I just couldn't pull myself out of bed and I felt so sick in my stomach for I missed her so much. I just couldn't do anything but cry and cry and cry until the tears ran dry.

That was my daily routine in the first 3 months of my stay in STF. It was sheer torture, I tell you. How I managed to pull through was beyond me but I made it through somehow, and I'm glad.

I think, as I made new friends, things started to change and life got better for me. I didn't feel so miserable anymore. With my newfound friends, we discovered new things and spent many happy moments together, keeping each other company. Those streetlights didn't mean anything to me anymore, except to brighten up the streets on those cold, lonely mornings...

Class of 5 (2)

Back Row (L to R): Ungku Nurulkamar, Zaleha Adwin, Zaimy Haniza, NoorHaliza, Zalina Ali, Tuti Aini, Aida Haniza, Kamariah Shamsinar, Azlinda, Kaladevi, Nik Nurlaili

Middle Row : Arniwati, Rosmawati, Chong Mun Peen, Fajura Juffa, Tina Abdullah, Azlina A. Rahman, Nik Harlina, Rozita Baharom, Nan Aini, Noriza, Pang Poh Ling, Rosrahimi

Sitting: Noraizan Hassan, Noorhayati Munit, Rashitah Rahmat, Pn. Chong, En. Hozaimi, Siti Aida, Valarmathy, Eliza Hashim

These are my classmates from 5(2). That Mr. Hozaimi was my favourite Physics teacher.

Looking back to those years in STF, I wonder how we survived. Amenities were very basic. In our dorm, we only had 1 bunk bed with 1 pillow, 1 white bedsheet, and 1 thin blanket. There was no air-cond, not even a fan. Each one of us was given a small locker to store our bajus and valuables (not that we had many) and a small compartment to put our toiletries and such. That's all. And we survived the 5 years there with only these few possessions. Amazing.

I suppose at that time, our needs were very minimal. We didn't need fancy clothes, more than one shoes, expensive perfume or other luxury items. We went there with only one intention in mind, ie. to study hard and do well in the exams. Our life (well, my life, at least) was centred on going to class, prep, and passing the exam with flying colours. Day in, day out, that was what I did mostly.

Outings were only possible at the end of school term, and that, for only 2 hours. The green bus would pick us up infront of the dining hall and drop us all off at either Komtar or Holiday Plaza for our much-awaited shopping. All of us would be dressed in our green baju kurung to make us easily recognised as a student from STF. Quite boring, actually, but what the heck. It was the school policy.

So, for students who lived far away from JB (and had no relatives nearby), their only outing would be once every 4 months or 3 times a year. How sad! But we didn't complain, and we survived.

Getting ready to go for outing. From left: Salina, Dada, Eliza, Nan Aini, Aida K.

Despite the lack of amenities at school, education was a top priority. The teachers were very dedicated in making sure the school maintained a certain standard of achievement for every major exams. We were named top school for SPM & SRP for many years in the 80's and all students worked hard to maintain that posisition.

Oh well, had I not been in that school, I don't think I'd become what I am today. The school taught me discipline and to always aim for the best in whatever I do. And that's important because I notice children these days (my children, at least) lack this virtue. They tend to be too complacent with life, do not want to aim high in exams, very laid back when it comes to studying and revision... the list of complaint is endless.

Now, going back to my class photo, I can safely say, out of the 29 students, I've only met 9 or 10 since I left school. The other 20, only God knows where they are right now. But this coming Class Reunion on Sat, 31 Jan 2006, would probably give me a chance to meet up with some of my long lost friends whom I haven't met in 24 years. 24 years.... gosh, that's a long time! I left school when I was 17 and now, I'm 40 years old! I wonder if everybody still look the same...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How Do I Begin?

Starting a blog is easy. I have one. But doing a blog for my alma mater is another story.

How do I start? What should I write? A lot, really...

Five years in STF grant us hundreds of stories to tell. Happy stories, sad stories ~ you name it, we have it. This is where we spent most of our growing up years. This is where we learn to love, be loved, independent... away from our safe home and doting parents.

I sure have lots of stories to tell and I'll do so as I go along. But for a start, let's just say that this is going to be our common forum to share stories of our yesteryears. Let's bring back those memories and share them all here to remind us of the good old days...

So, please write.