Sunday, 30 September 2007

What's your House?

All BBGS girls belonged to a School House, and wore their badges proudly as part of the school uniform. And what made it extra special was that our houses were named after school founders (just like Hogwarts!) and not some common Malaysian flower or animal. Let's see, there was:

COOKE House who wore yellow - my mother & I are both Cookies ;-)
GREEN House who wore green
MACLAY House who wore blue
PROUSE House who wore purple - my sister's house
SHIRTLIFF House wore red

The house loyalties were especially strong during Sports Day when we would cheer ourselves hoarse during the different athletics & games events. The highlight was always the cheerleading competitions, where our bevy of house beauties would dance, sing, shout and parade in the most creative poses to win the competition.

Did you know that invitations to the BBGS sports day (via the Prefectorial Board, Librarians, Interact Club) was the most highly-traded item in KL boys' schools? Heh...heh...must have been the cheerleaders skirts that started the bidding frenzy ;-)

But despite the house rivalries, we always UNITED in one voice during the inter-school relay race singing:

BBGS Dynamites, don't play with Dynamites - YEY! YEY! YEY!

(Repeat until voices run out)

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Chen May Yee

I've been combing the internet for stories about BBGSians when I chanced upon this article from the Star dated April 4, 2005. May Yee and I were at school together and she went on to become a journalist and author. This article describes how May Yee traced 4 generations of her family's history and compiled it into a narrative entitled "Born and Bred in Pewter Dust"

Name: Chen May Yee

Education: Bukit Bintang Girls’ School, Kuala Lumpur; Bristol University (BSc in Economics and Sociology), UK; Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism (MSc in Journalism), New York, United States

Profession: Journalist/author

Current base: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

What do we know about our own ancestry? Most of us are so engrossed in making money that we think little of it. For this reason, Chen May Yee deserves our envy. Not only has she managed to chart four generations of her family’s history, but she has managed to compile everything into a poignant 132-page narrative.

This will be an invaluable asset to her family for generations to come. Chen May Yee traced four generations of her family’s history and compiled everything into a poignant 132-page narrative called Born and Bred in Pewter Dust: The Royal Selangor Story. The book was published in November 2003, but it has been on the backburner since the 1980s.

Perhaps, it was a matter of commissioning the right person to capture in writing the legacy founder Yong Koon started 120 years ago. As the only journalist in the family, Chen was the obvious choice.

In mid-2001, having just left her job at Asian Wall Street Journal (AWSJ) in Singapore, Chen felt she needed a break from journalism after seven years. She returned home to Kuala Lumpur to begin work on the book. It took two years and a lot of “emotional investment”.

“Most of the research involved oral history, talking to employees, some of them in their 60s and 70s. They were eager to share their memories. For so long, no one asked them what it was like in that era. It was fairly emotional for them, and for me too. They would look at me and say things like, ‘Your grandfather (Yong Peng Kai) told me to save money. He booked my house for me in Taman Melawati and I’m still living there now’,” Chen, said.

She was back recently for her book-signing at the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
“All these things fleshed out my grandparents and what they were like when they were at work and interacting with other people. I just knew them as my grandparents. It gave me a sense of what it was they had built up, how difficult some of those years were and how everyone was in it together.”

Undertaking the project also helped Chen gain a better appreciation of why her mother and three siblings are so driven and married to their work. Till today, they remain active in the business.

“I guess I didn’t understand that when I was growing up because as children you just want your parents to be home,” added Chen.
Writing a book of such personal nature was not an easy task, especially for a journalist who was used to “objective journalism”. When she completed her first draft and circulated it among family members, there were surprisingly no objections.

She revealed that one of her cousins confessed to crying when reading the book. Before this no one had ever called her to say an AWSJ article made him or her cry. That made it all worthwhile.

“But I hope when readers read the book they are not going to think that this is the story of one little company that grew.

“It is also the story of Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia. Without tin, there would be no mass immigration in the 1800s, which changed the face of the country,” she explained.

In 2002, Chen and her husband Chris Beck, moved back to his hometown in Minneapolis. Then last April, she was appointed assistant business editor at the Minneapolis-Star Tribune in Minnesota.

Chen has no immediate plans to write another book. She has a job that she’s still feeling her way around and a one-year-old daughter, Zoe, so for now, she has her hands full.

She admitted that she missed going out, talking to people and getting stories firsthand.

“Every so often I try to get out. I like to meet people in the community, for example those who are involved in companies that my reporters cover. Seeing that I just moved to Minneapolis, I’m still figuring out the lay of the land, the industry players and how they interact,” she said.

When she joined the newspaper, Chen sensed the staff had their reservations, especially since many of the reporters were older than her and had been with the paper a long time.

“Being young was probably a question mark for them as was the fact that I was not from Minnesota. They were probably thinking, ‘what do you know of local businesses?’ But my job is not to know everything. It’s about asking what they (the reporters) know. Then I try and help them frame their stories.”
Chen confessed that she is still figuring out what an editor does. As no one has quit, she jested that she must be doing something right.

During her years as a correspondent for news wire services AFP and AWSJ, Chen said her most interesting stories were not about prominent politicians or businessmen.

“Talking to the people on the street, out of the kampung, and trying to figure out where the country was heading. This country (Malaysia), which used to be a kampung-based society, has been through so much development in the 1980s and 90s. I think it makes for very interesting stories on the ground.”
Chen was fortunate that she never had to choose between journalism and the family business. For her siblings and their mother, it was never a choice. Business was growing and their father, who was soldiering on what his father Yong started, needed them.

“And he really wouldn’t hear them doing anything else,” she pointed out. “There are 11 of us in my generation, and six are in various positions in the company (including brother Tien Yue, 27, who manages the company’s corporate sales). They all worked in various capacities elsewhere and only later went into their own professional specialities within the company. “It was always impressed on us that there should be a good fit, that we shouldn’t go in just because you are a family member. And for me the best fit is writing a book.”

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Making music

After catching the latest music video on MTV, I'm shocked. Surely this is not the kind of musical influence we'd like our children to grow up on? me a prude but I can't help but reflect on the wholesome and innocent musical fare that BBGSians grew up on.

Remember our school assemblies? Everytime we had a couple of minutes to spare, Ms Yeap would encourage us to sing her favourite song about a pomeranian pup (did you know why? - she owns one!)

If my memory serves me, the song went something like this...

One man went to mow
Went to mow a meadow
One man and his pet pomeranian pup
And a bottle of pop
And a sausage roll
Went to mow a meadow

(Repeat until you reach no. 10 and increase the speed of singing until everyone bursts into laughter!)

or what about this one....

Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Every morning you greet me
Small and white, Clean and bright
You look happy to meet me
Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever
Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Bless my homeland forever

and another canine-theme song

How much is that doggy in the window (woof! woof!)
The one with the waggerly tail
How much is that doggy in the window
I do hope that doggy's for sale
I must take a trip to California
And leave my poor sweetheart alone
If he had a dog he won't be lonesome
And the doggy will have a good home

A dear reader just reminded me of 2 songs that we used to sing in goes

Kookabura sits on the old gum tree
Merry, merry king of the bush is he
Laugh Kookabura laugh
Kookabura gay your life must be

Row row row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily merrily merrily
Life is but a dream

Saturday, 8 September 2007

CU Camp

Some of my happiest memories of BBGS took place during school holidays at the annual Christian Union (CU) Camp. Every year, about 200 girls would gather to learn Biblical truths, hymns and spiritual disciplines. Apart from attending lectures & craft sessions, we had so much fun running around with our dorm mates.

  • Classrooms were turned into dormitories, and we brought our own mattresses, pillows, bolsters and soft toys to make ourselves really comfortable
  • Showering in make-shift cubicles built around the waterpipes required daily feats of acrobatics. It wasn't easy to juggle soap, shampoo and water while your dorm mates attempted to relieve you of your towel and clean clothes ;-)
  • In an attempt to win the Inter-Dorm Competitions, we performed minor miracles by turning guitars into Santa Claus and soft toys into reindeers!
  • Candlelight Service was a chance for us to show off our acting & singing talents. Many of the finest amateur productions were performed in the school canteen while candles flickered in the balmy night
  • Midnight feasts were the highlight of the camp - chomping on Twisties and assam boey at 2 am was such good fun
  • My mum ran the CU Camp kitchen for 4 years. I remember helping her plan the menu and insisting that kids definitely prefer baked beans over fancy dishes!
  • Our beloved camp teachers led by Ms Moey were a wonderful blessing to so many generations of girls. The truths that we were taught have kept us anchored in the faith while weathering life's storms.
There is no doubt in my mind that CU Camp is one of the enduring legacies of BBGS.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

School Rules We Love to Hate

If there's one thing we all remember well about BBGS, it's the school rules. It kept us on the "straight and narrow" but in retrospect, we prefects may have been a little over-zealous in upholding the rules.

Here's a snapshot of some of the rules extracted from memory (which after 20-years is a little rusty):-

  • Keep left when walking up the stairs or along the corridor
  • No leaning on walls
  • Ear studs can be no bigger than 0.5 cm in diameter, earrings can be no bigger than a 20-cent coin(Malaysian currency)...some prefects actually carried rulers in their pockets!
  • Badges must be straight and aligned: school badge followed by house badge
  • Hair has to be tied once it's shoulder length (kudos to those who were brave enough to live with tufts of hair sticking out of their head for 6 months)
  • Only black ribbons allowed
  • Canvas shoes must be dazzling white (You should have seen the prefects frantically chalking their shoes before going on rounds)
  • Socks have to be ankle length
  • Nails have to be short, neat and clean (We prefects often had to witness impromptu manicures as our "victims" desperately resorted to using their teeth)
  • Language rules: English on Mondays, BM on Wednesdays, either language on all other days. Chinese dialects in very hushed tones in Canteen Block or behind the Gym

You can take a Nerd out of BBGS but...

Contributed by Tan Lu Meng (Jaclyn)

I looked through my albums and found some very interesting old photos...forgotten I'd brought them back from KL quite a few months ago. My Alma Mater was Bukit Bintang Girls' School (BBGS)...translated as 'Star Hill'. My house colour was...PROUSE (Purple)!!! To the best of my recollection, those were my super 'nerdy and studious' days...(although I must confess I was more of a last-minute 'crammer' or 'mugger' or 'midnight oil-burner')...then again, there were comparatively many others still further up on the end of that scale! School days were fun, care-free (on non-exam months) and we were certainly quite nutty as Prefects...both IN and OUT of uniform??? Ahhhhhh! can be quite therapeutic to reminisce about old times...I wonder what happened to Oy Sim, Tomasina, Lum May Yee?...and I should really try to catch up more often with Chiew Ling, Siew Ling, for Suet Yee and Amy...see you in heaven one day...Nisi Dominus Frustra...Without God all things are in vain...