The Passing of Eileen, the “Emperor”

ANOTHER year on, another sad news of the death of a friend, EC. She left on 31 August 2016 (I didn’t know about it till two weeks later today). She was only 49.

EC left 45 days after she first discovered her illness. She recorded her wish not to have a funeral, and was cremated. Her daughter posted a video of EC’s last days. Watching it was heart-wrenching and tearful; EC put up a brave front till the end.

EC was my sister’s classmate; while her sister was my classmate. To me, EC will forever be remembered fondly as the Emperor, when I was the Nightingale, back in 1979.

RIP, EC.

The cast of "The Emperor and the Nightingale", 1979. Both our sisters are in this photo too.

The cast of “The Emperor and the Nightingale”, 1979. Both our sisters are in this photo too.

More Reunion Rounds

THE SMKPP Centennial Gala Dinner may have been over last Saturday, but the reunion mood is obviously still in the air.

Last night, there was another round of reunion amongst my friends over dinner, this time with three former teachers – one from Standard One (38 years ago), and two others from secondary school (29 years ago).

The teachers have obviously managed to keep well and young too, while the students have matured gracefully.

In the Grand Imperial Restaurant, 1Utama, a grand reunion took place. Who are the teachers, who are the students? (27 Sept 2014)

In the Grand Imperial Restaurant, 1Utama, a grand reunion took place. Who are the teachers, who are the students? (27 Sept 2014)

Earlier in the day, my four older siblings made a trip back to their primary school in Jalan Ipoh. A school that was opened in 1963, it is now in dire need of funds to upkeep it.

My older brother naturally have a special bond with the school as he was the Head Boy in Std 6 (over four decades ago) before going to Victoria Institution. My eldest sister completed her primary education there while the other two did mid-way before transferring to PEPS and eventually PESS.

This is the WHOLE school population, including the ex-students who paid a visit to the school. The student population stands at 69 only! (27 Sept 2014)

This is the WHOLE school population, including the ex-students who paid a visit to the school. The student population stands at 69 only! (27 Sept 2014)

sri_2

Former students meet current students… they also did their bit giving back to the school and handed out goody bags to the students.

Meanwhile, in two continents, three locations and eight hours apart… Accra – Petaling Jaya – Port Dickson… another little reunion took place among three Standard One friends (one was the long lost friend from 33 years ago) via WA chats. And just like a fairy tale, they chatted happily ever after. 🙂

It All Began in PEPS…

SINCE LAST WEEK – in the build-up to the SMKPP Gala Dinner on 20 September 2014 – I have been re-living the past, digging into the memories of my old school days in PESS and PEPS (Pudu English Primary School).

For my “regular” kakis, our friendships were forged way back in 1976 – from both PEPS (1) and PEPS (2). Back then, we referred to ourselves as School One girls or School Two girls.

Amongst us, we have WK with a memory of an elephant and an equally mammoth collection of old photos. Back in 2012, the gang was caught up in a chain of emails for some months where we each shared pieces of recollections of our school days.

In one of the emails, WK – our “memory banker” – recalled her first meeting with me…“I could still recall my first day in Std 1, I was arranged to line up with a tanned little girl. I was scared I didn’t know how to speak Malay as I thought she was a Malay! But the next day she came to me and asked, “I lined up with you yesterday, rite?” 

WK with whom I queued up on the first day of school in 1976; since then I’ve stood with her and danced with her too; I last stood next to her in this Sept 2013 photo when we visited the school together, and back in school again in Feb 2014.

WK with whom I queued up on the first day of school in 1976; since then I’ve stood with her and danced with her too; I last stood next to her in this Sept 2013 photo when we visited the school together, and back in school again in Feb 2014.

I admit I do not recall that first day in school, so I was thankful for WK’s memory. Indeed I was tanned then. When we were back in Malaysia, even Little Em was mistaken as budak Melayu too. I’d been asked numerous times, “Ini anak awak ke? Macam budak Melayu lah“.

In a 1988 birthday card to me, another good friend WL recalled… “Was it only yesterday that two little girls got to know one another in the midst of a noisy and crowded classroom, and one speaks Hokkien and the other Cantonese. But somehow they managed to carry out a conversation and later became friends, and this special friendship lasted till today”“today” being 1988 at that time, and 26 years later today, still friends in 2014.

That goes for the rest of us… it seemed only yesterday we met as little girls. Such a blessing our friendships have survived 38 years across different continents! Hopefully that represents only half of our lifetime, may we be around to celebrate another 38 years… if Ebola and malaria don’t get me first, TOUCH WOOD!!!

Memories of PEPS (1) performances…

1976 concert

1976 concert

1976_Rice

1976 performance of “Planting Rice” that involved both 1Hijau and 1Merah, with class teachers Mrs. Amy Koh and Mrs. Ranjit Singh.

1979 concert performance of “The Emperor and the Nightingale”. Inset left: The Emperor and I - Eileen Chua was the Emperor and the plain nightingale (Jessica MSM played the beautifully-decorated mechanical bird).

1979 concert performance of “The Emperor and the Nightingale”. Inset left: The Emperor and I – Eileen Chua was the Emperor and I the plain nightingale (Jessica MSM played the beautifully-decorated mechanical bird).

Earlier in the same year 1979, the School One girls performed “The Emperor and the Nightingale” for an RTM children’s programme. This photo of the whole cast was taken after the recording was completed at Taman Tasik Titiwangsa.

Earlier in the same year 1979, the School One girls performed “The Emperor and the Nightingale” for an RTM children’s programme. This photo of the whole cast was taken after the recording was completed at Taman Tasik Titiwangsa.

1980 concert under the supervision of Cik Siti Mariam.

1980 concert under the supervision of Cik Siti Mariam.

1980_Mcca

1980 trip to Malacca… (L) Two sets of sisters; (R) Everyone in this photo – except me – were at the recent 2014 SMKPP Centennial Gala Dinner.

A Reunion with OKP

I was envious that so many of my former classmates made it to the SMKPP Centennial Gala Dinner held on 20 September 2014 in Kuala Lumpur. Three flew in from Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Heck, even my husband flew home and arrived that very Friday night, he could have made it to the dinner the following day on my behalf (but that’s another story)!

So I was left “Alone in Accra” (ok, I was left with the girls), getting updates and photos from my sisters and friends, as eagerly as football fans awaited the World Cup. From this far end, I also managed to reconnect with some former schoolmates back in Malaysia.

What a reunion it was for them! Prior to Saturday’s gala dinner, they caught up over lunch. After Saturday’s dinner, they stayed up till wee hours of the morning, and were up early Sunday for breakfast, lunch, dinner/supper, truly a makan marathon. Stories and photos of their Sunday’s fun and food-filled outings, filled up my Sunday in Accra.

Who knew I was about to be rewarded with a reunion of my own!

On Sunday night, (rather Monday morning past midnight), as I was hitting the sack, a WA message came in from my sister. Out of the blue, her friend SylviaC had asked if I still remember her cousin OKP.

My eyes flew wide open and my fingers went to work. “OF COURSE I remember OKP”, I replied to my sister and begged her to get me OKP’s contact.

Unable to contain my excitement at close to 2am my side, I immediately “reported” the good news to the gang (my batch girls) back home. They were rather impressed. WK messaged “Salute you, KL ppl can’t find OKP, you in Accra pulak found her!” SQ wrote, “Oh wow, all the way from Africa. Respect Respect!

So the secret is out, I didn’t find OKP, it is thanks to my sister and her former classmate SylviaC who turns out to be OKP’s cousin. Who knew! OKP and I were in Standard One in PEPS (1) when SylviaC and my sister were in Standard Six. SylviaC went on to become the head girl of PESS in 1981 (my sister was the assistant head girl) and had left quite a lasting impression on me. If I had known they were cousins I would have found OKP much earlier!

Truth be told, I have wondered all these years where OKP was. OKP left the school when we were in Standard Three (1978), we obviously kept in touch after that because I still have the CNY card she sent me in 1981 as well as a black and white passport-sized photo she gave me as a keepsake, and a few photos we took together which are kept at home.

Over the years, I did try to look up OKP. I was successful before in locating my lost Scottish pen-pal when I was in the UK, as well as a varsity roommate when I was in HK; and recently got re-connected with a Ghanaian varsity course mate after losing touch for 17 years, through a bit of “detective work”. However, I wasn’t successful with OKP.

And today, 33 years later, I am glad to say I found my friend, OKP 🙂 This sweet virtual reunion is indeed the icing of the cake!

This CNY card I received from OKP on 4 Feb 1981, is also the last piece of news I had from her.

This CNY card I received from OKP on 4 Feb 1981, is also the last piece of news I had from her.

Postscript:

I officially re-connected with OKP on 22 Sept 2014. Three days later on 25 Sept , we “saw” each other again for the first time in 36 years! The photo exchange episode was a hilarious one!

Within the next three days too, OKP became a “wanted” person. She WA on 25 Sept that a colleague from another department (who also happens to be my sister’s former classmate) alerted her that a classmate’s sister was looking for her long-lost classmate. And that very day, OKP also received an email from “complaints department” (!!!) that another person (WK, another Std. 1 classmate) was looking for her too!

On 27 Sept, all three Standard One friends were finally “reunited” albeit virtually, after three decades. Yeah!!!

Vandort Shield Winners

The SMKPP Centennial Gala Dinner held last Saturday 20 September 2014 was a night to remember. I was glad that all four of my sisters attended the historic occasion.

Photos are still being shared by thoughtful friends, and as I was looking at them, I was able to pick out five past Vandort Shield winners.

(L-R) Ms. Lee Chii Nuo (1972 recipient, who became a teacher and dedicated her life to PESS and will retire next year) with my classmate SQ;  Lim Ooi Meng (1985 recipient) with my classmate NC; Kong Soke Yue (1987 recipient) with SQ, at SMKPP Centennial Gala Dinner, 20 Sept 2014.

(L-R) Ms. Lee Chii Nuo (1972 recipient, who became a teacher and dedicated her life to PESS and will retire next year) with my classmate SQ;  Lim Ooi Meng (1985 recipient) with my classmate NC; Kong Soke Yue (1987 recipient) with SQ, at SMKPP Centennial Gala Dinner, 20 Sept 2014.

(L) My dear friends - NC, LL, WK and BM - in another photo with Ooi Meng… I suppose this made up for missing OK, another one of our good friend who is in Australia. And now I see the lovely shades of pink and purple, and black too :-) ; (R) From my sister’s batch, 1981 Vandort Shield recipient Miaw In (left in pix) with a friend, at the SMKPP Centennial Gala Dinner, 20 Sept 2014.

(L) My dear friends – NC, LL, WK and BM – in another photo with Ooi Meng… I suppose this made up for missing OK, another one of our good friend who is in Australia. And now I see the lovely shades of pink and purple, and black too 🙂 ; (R) From my sister’s batch, 1981 Vandort Shield recipient Miaw In (left in pix) with a friend, at the SMKPP Centennial Gala Dinner, 20 Sept 2014.

vandort_2

(L) A family of four librarians, three school chess players, three prefects, two assistant head girls and a Vandort Shield winner (Bee Buan, 1984 recipient). (R) And the 1986 recipient shared their moments from Africa.

The list of Vandort Shield recipients in the school hall. (Taken on 21 Sept 2013).

vandort_4

The Vandort Shield (named after Mrs. Murial Vandort) is “an annual school award presented to a fifth former student who not only excelled academically but is also active in extra-mural activities. Any fifth former student who is outstanding (excluding the school captain) is eligible for this honour. Miss Chin Kwee Thai, an outstanding fifth former, was the first student to receive this award in the year 1969.”