Monday, 31 August 2009

Candle 25: Carolin Teh

Project Kindle continues with memories from Carolin Teh who currently resides in New Zealand. We want to hear from more of you so keep sending me those stories!

From self-loathing to self-acceptance

Most people begin to ask the big questions of life – who am I, where am I going – at adolescence. It was at BBGS that my socialisation process was catalysed, in no small way, by the battle lines that were drawn there. These lines were hardly distinct but they were there as undercurrents that made you quaver in the company of the girls that were smart, wealthy, good-looking and / or popular. In other words, they separated the economic- and social-haves from the have-nots. However, they led to my self-discovery.

Self-discovery for me was a journey that constituted making comparisons of self with these groups of girls of which I could never be a part. The process was frequently heart-breaking: of course, I wondered why I wasn't one of the bright ones; it wasn't my fault that my parents were of the proletariat, so I didn't have designer colour pencils to bring to school; certainly, I coveted the graceful beauty of the Low sisters – Caroline, Jeanette and Lydia. And very often my internal monologue composed of wishing life had fairly and evenly distributed its bounty of resources and good DNA.

Ironically, it was also in BBGS that the journey towards finding my identity was to consummate in my attaining self-love as the result of the love of God in Jesus Christ. Which is why when I think back on my years in this great school, including the primary ones (1968 – '78), I am only extremely grateful. For when all the chips have been counted, it is really my identity in Jesus Christ that is worth much more than good genes and great wealth.

Here are but some of my favourite school memories:
  • Being in the line-up of girls in primary school to cheer on HRM Queen Elizabeth II's motorcade as it passed Jalan Bukit Bintang;
  • Demonstrating in front of my fellow-Sports Day folk dancers, because Mrs. Singam thought my extensions were perfect;
  • Playing Hopscotch under the Frangipani tree;
  • Meeting celebrity sportswoman, Marina Chin, during the netball challenge against Sekolah Air Panas;
  • Beating CBN at a Netball Championship finals;
  • Mrs Thanen's informing the English class that she thought my writing went after her own heart – I still don't know what she meant, but I thought then it was probably a compliment;
  • Being the Careers' Club treasurer for two years;
  • Seeing my art creation in final print on the programme cover of the school's production of 'Aladdin';
  • Dancing the Charleston on Teachers' Day (despite being out of sync with the music and the hideous dress - which resembled nothing like those in the flapper era - I had to wear);
  • Performing in 'Noah's Ark' as one of the skeptics who drowned. That was fun to do; as was helping to make the costumes and props;
  • Beating my friends at 'Five Stones' - this was a game I always looked forward to playing between classes;
  • Chowing down on 'chee cheong fun' at the 'Hilton Drive-in' after swimming lessons with the Swimming Club.
BBGS – memories of you can always put a spring back in my steps. Thank you for eleven proud years.

On leaving BBGS in 1978, I read English Literature at Monash University in Victoria, Australia. I was there for four years and returned to KL to teach at Taylor's College. At various times, I held a range of posts in the educational arena that included being Academic Director of ELS Language Centres in Ipoh and Founding Principal of the Keris College School of Languages. I authored or co-authored five publications in Malaysia including the award-winning "Malaysia Wonders and Contrasts" (Fototeknik, 1986). I emigrated to New Zealand in 2003 where I now live with my husband, Christopher, and teach part-time at a Catholic School. The rest of the time is spent assisting my husband in his Outreach Ministry and blogging!

Finally, I'd like to share my tribute to Miss Cooke with the BBGS alumni. Read it here:

If you would like to connect with me on Facebook, please use this link:

No comments: