Sunday, 30 March 2008

Celebrating our 115th year

From Jan - Mar 8, we ran a poll asking BBGSians what they thought would be the best way to celebrate BBGS' 115th anniversary this year.

Almost 150 votes were tallied and here's what you told us:

Start BBGS gallery @ Pavilion - 63%

Gala Reunion Dinner - 38%

Start BBGS private school - 19%

Publish BBGS songbook - 4%

A big THANK YOU to all of you who voted!

Friday, 28 March 2008

Anyone in Shanghai?

Another adventure beckons and I'm off again...this time to Shanghai. Beginning in April, I'll be re-locating to this bustling Chinese metropolis for work. It's only a 6-month stint that's exciting and scary at the same time. While I've lived abroad before, this will feel entirely "foreign" because I can't speak the language!

So here's a chance to put this blog to the test. Any BBGSians in Shanghai willing to lend a helping hand in my quest to "balik Tongsan"? Tips on accomodation, travel, shopping and language lessons would very much be appreciated.

Look forward to hearing from you!

Cheers, Joanna

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

No $ please!

An interesting thing happened once this blog started showing up as top of the Google list for "BBGS". Along with the congratulatory notes, came the subtle hints. "You should consider putting ads on your blog. Can make lots of money you know?"

Well, thank you but no, thank you. Putting ads up on this labour of love would be like tatooing your favourite child.

This blog serves as a reminder to live up to the ideals of our childhood. To remember a time when we were taught to become all that God created us to be. It's a tribute to the pioneers, missionaries and teachers who sacrificed all so that we could become "loyal women with our race".

What do you girls think? Am I being overly idealistic and impractical?

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Choosing significance

"We live when we are true to ourselves, authentic in our feelings, responsive to our convictions; we live when we love, when we are involved in the lives of others, when we are committed and concerned. We live when we build and create, hope, suffer and rejoice."

I found these inspiring words in one of Ms Cooke's speeches from the 1989 School Magazine. And it captures so beautifully some thoughts that have been echoing in my heart for some time now. Do I want a life of success or a life of significance?

The pioneers of BBGS were missionaries who left the comforts of home to travel all the way to Malaya so that neglected females could have an education. They chose significance.

Principals and teachers like Miss Cooke and Miss Yeap spent many years teaching, counselling, cajoling and inspiring thousands of girls, when they could have just focussed on bringing up their own families. They chose significance.

As I go about my busy life, am I making a conscious effort to choose significance over success? The BMW, Louis Vuitton and platinum cards are some indicators of success, but what measure do we have to demonstrate that we have achieved our fullest potential?

This question is especially relevant when we attend school reunions. We're all so excited to meet old friends and laugh over old memories. But do we sometimes wonder if that School Captain is now a successful CEO? Or if that school hockey player ended up representing Malaysia in the Olympics? Or if that first-prize winner ever graduated with a PhD from Cambridge? Are these appropriate measures of success?

What about the successful lawyer who gave up her career to bring up her children? Or the doctor who chose to practise medicine in the rural interiors of Sarawak instead of a private suite at SJMC? Or the financial guru who chose to work with underprivileged children in a NGO?

I can't speak for any one of you, but I know that I want my life to account for something. I leave you with some final words from Miss Cooke. She says...

"Girls of BBGS - you have a rich heritage. Look back on the founders of this school and all they stood for and fought for. Gain great courage and stimulation to live life at its highest levels and remember you can only do that as you seek God's help and receive His strength to do so.

I challenge you to live a wholesome, vibrant life totally committed to giving nothing less than your best while always remembering our school motto -
Nisi Dominus Frustra.
Without God all is in vain"

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Calling BBGSians in Singapore

A strange coincidence occured today. After years of resisting the lure of Singapore, I finally submitted my PR application papers. When I returned home, I discovered a friendly note from Suet Poh, another BBGSian living in Singapore, inviting me to start a new group on Facebook - the Singapore chapter of the BBGS alumni. I gladly accepted.

So come on BBGSians, sign up and let's show these RGS and CHIJ girls what a REAL premier school looks like ;-)

For those of you who are not yet into Facebooking but would still like to be apart of the BBGS-Singapore Chapter, feel free to e-mail or and we'll include you in the mailing list.

Sign up for BBGS - Singapore Chapter

Bukit Bintang Girls School (BBGS across the causeway - Singapore Chapter)
Welcome to the BBGS - Singapore Chapter Facebook Group.
This group is open to all ex-BBGS girls who are residing in Singapore, (married or not, working or even just passing through). For fellowship,networking, activities & possible meet-ups.
Contact Info
Singapore, Singapore

Recent News

Hi! I have noticed that we do have quite a nice community of BBGS girls in Singapore. So I am wondering, wouldn't it be interesting if we can (one fine day, soon I hope) have a little gathering of BBGS alumni here in Singapore itself.

So please do let all your BBGS friends who are in Singapore know about this group.

If you are new in Singapore, or planning a move here, let us know, we would love to welcome you and meet you..( well I would :))

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Once a upon a time

I've been hunting high and low for photos of the primary school. Thanks to Wan Norhafizah, I found some! She's been generous enough to share her class & prefect photos from 1990. many years my junior.

Thanks Wan. I really appreciate your support.

Std 3 Kuning (1987)

Std 6 Prefects (1990)

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

A place to call our own

Judging from the response in this recent poll, it appears that many ex-BBGSians would love a place to call our own. A clubhouse of sorts. If it's on the site of the Pavilion, even better. After all, it's the classiest joint in KL and we were undoubtedly the classiest chicks in town. And very modest too! :-)

If we could have a little gallery or cafe, what would it look like? Perhaps it will be cozy, English-cottage styled, with liberal doses of BBGS-green? Or a more formal Georgian-styled dining room? Or maybe a 1950s Malayan-style tuckshop? We could fill it with loads of photos of the old school, old girls, trophies, memorabilia and lots of happy memories.

What would be on the menu? All our regular canteen and food-sale favourites, no doubt. I'm thinking of:
  • Sambal and sardine toasties
  • Coconut candy
  • Mrs Abraham's caramel fudge & pizzas
  • Mrs Chua's tiramisu
  • Mrs Aziz's rock buns
  • Sengkuang/Pineapple slices topped with red sweet sauce & peanuts
  • Ice balls with syrup
  • Ais kacang
  • Nasi lemak
  • Lam mee
  • Curry puffs, cakes, lepat pisang (and all other Home Science experiments)
  • Watery orange cordial served in grimy cups (err..maybe not!)
Any ideas, anyone?

Monday, 10 March 2008

Thank you Google

I'm so excited..and I just can't hide it...

This blog now appears on the TOP of the list whenever anyone googles "BBGS".

HOORAY....this is one success factor I've been aiming for since the inception of this blog.

Thank you so much to all the BBGSians who have made this happen.
Let's keep the flag flying high!

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Tips for Choral Speaking

It's a lazy Sunday morning and I'm archiving emails when I chance upon this note from Katrina Sprott. She first wrote to me when this blog first started, asking for some tips on choral speaking. I was happy to share my limited experience with her, and hopefully spread some good practices across the globe.

Katrina writes:

Dear Joanna,

Hello, I was reading your blog on the internet and was interested in your work teaching Choral Speaking. I am a new teacher working in Hong Kong and have been asked to teach a choral speaking/chanting class this year. I had never heard of it before and don't really know what they expect. You seem to have a vast knowledge and your students seem to like the stuff you do so I was wondering if you had any suggestions for a novice teacher. My class will be around 6 to 8 years old, and English is their second language. Most of the things I found on the internet are religious or too difficult for my students level. Plus most were boring. I need something that will motivate the kids and I want them to enjoy it. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Joanna replies:

Thanks for your interest, Katrina. Most of the Choral Speaking I've done is for 13 - 17 year olds. But all is not lost...there are some poems that may be suitable for younger kids. "Matilda" and "Goldilocks" in the link below are good examples. Roald Dahl's work is an excellent resource. Or just write one that would appeal to HK kids!

Some tips:
1) Get every child to recite one line. You can then divide their voices into light (sweet & airy), medium or dark (strong & authoritative). Then get the lights to stand in front, medium in the middle, and dark at the back (on elevated platforms)

2) You can then use the different voices to express different emotions in the poem. Lights for "romantic sighs", Dark for "Charge of the Light Brigade" - you get the picture :-)

3) Focus on pronunciation, expression (facial) and volume (loud/soft) to bring out the aesthetics of the poem

4) Last but not least, HAVE FUN!

It is such a joy to watch individual kids come together as a team and speak as one voice. All the best!


Mrs Thanenthiran, the senior English teacher at BBGS for many years, explains Choral Speaking in an interview with The Star on 10 April 1984:

" Choral Speaking is reciting poetry composed by the students or adapted from the work of a poet. It enables the students to learn to read and interpret poems. It gives them an opportunity for creative imagination. It creates a love for poetry.

On the whole, it helps improve their English, especially the oral part. And for students of English Literature, it helps them in the poetry section. Choral speaking is a good introduction to English literature.

If the poem is composed by the students, the whole class will pitch in to suggest titles and polish up the lines. It takes at least three weeks for them to produce the final copy which has to be approved by their teacher. When it is all over, the girls will be ready for the competition held at the end of the first school term.

The contest is divided into the junior section (Forms One and Two), intermediate (Forms Three and Four) and senior (Forms Five and Six). Only one class from each Form will take part in the finals. There will be three external judges who will give marks for timing, special effects, pose and demeanour, and pronunciation."


Note from author of Back to BBGS blog, Joanna Yeoh (August 2011)

Given the tremendous interest among English teachers for Choral Speaking scripts, I have updated the following link with some prize-winning poems from BBGS. We are happy to share our treasure trove with you, and ask that in return, you credit this blog when citing sources. Thank you.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

The Power of the Pen

Dear Friends,

Some of you will know that this blog is helping me to realise my dream of becoming a writer. Words have always meant a great deal to me, from the moment I started reading, to the days spent penning compositions in Mrs Aziz's English class to the present day world of blogging.

I held some positions in BBGS, but none gave me as much satisfaction, or have proven as enduring as the position of Chief Editor of the School Magazine. Everytime I look at the apple-green copy of the 1987 annals, I feel a sense of accomplishment and gratefulness for having the opportunity at the age of 17, to produce something that has lasted all these years.

So many of you have written to tell me how much you've enjoyed this blog. This simply demonstrates the power of words. It has the ability to delight, cajole and inspire us. We are transported back to the age of innocence: when all that mattered were friendships and values.

I leave you with some beautiful thoughts on writing and eloquence. One is written by Alice Nah, a friend from KL, and the other is by Michael Gerson, a political editor from the Washington Post.

Kind regards,

Alice Nah - Blogger, Jan 30, 2008

Even if only a handful of people read what you write, you have connected with them. Even though it is painful, it is also an act of creation. Treasure your voice. Value your thoughts. Run through your memories. Make sense of your impressions. Writing helps you to think through what you have experienced. It is a form of meditation, a way of hearing the quiet voice in your heart, and of telling yourself what you observe in the world. Writing is a gesture of friendship to yourself and to others.

Michael Gerson - Washington Post, Feb 29, 2008

From the Greek beginnings of political rhetoric, the wise have described a relationship between the discipline of writing and the discipline of thought. The construction of serious speeches forces candidates (or presidents) to grapple with their own beliefs, even when they don't write every word themselves. If those convictions cannot be marshaled in the orderly battalions of formal rhetoric, they are probably incoherent.

The triumph of shoddy, thoughtless spontaneity is the death of rhetorical ambition. A memorable, well-crafted speech includes historical references that cultivate national memory and unity -- "Four score and seven years ago." It makes use of rhythm and repetition to build enthusiasm and commitment -- "I have a dream." And a great speech finds some way to rephrase the American creed, describing an absolute human equality not always evident to the human eye.

Civil rights leaders possessed few weapons but eloquence -- and their words hardly came cheap. Every president eventually needs the tools of rhetoric, to stiffen national resolve in difficult times or to honor the dead unfairly taken.

It is not a failure for Obama to understand and exercise this element of leadership; it is an advantage.