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...