Monday, 29 October 2007

BBGSian wins Amazing Race Asia

An all-girl Malaysian team did the country proud by winning the first Amazing Race Asia. Did you know that one of them is a BBGSian? I spotted Tee Joe Jer (in orange dress) on a BBGS group in Facebook, and invited her to share her story. She graciously agreed, and here's what she had to say:

Hello Joanna!

I remember you as the school captain for sure! How are you? How are things? Hope you're doing great.

Thank you for your interest in featuring me in the BBGS blog. Very flattered.

Years at BBGS...

I was BBGS-ian all the way through from Standard 1 (1984) till Form 5 (1994). Well, almost all the way through.

Fondest BBGS memories...

Fondest memories were choral speaking competitions although my class never won. Also, checking toilets as a prefect. And the RM1 fried kway teow I used to eat for lunch almost every day. Oh yeah, and playing a clown with Dhalita Kaur for the BBGS 100 year celebration.

Life lessons...

The most important thing I go by is being happy in life. I try not to look back and regret things. But that doesn't mean I'm perfect. Far from it actually. I just want to lead a happy life. That's my ambition.

Current situation...

I am currently in New York, being happy.

Future plans...

No plans for the future as yet. There are too many possibilities to narrow it down to just a few.

Thank you again, Joanna, for your keen interest. I am very flattered.

Take care!

Joe Jer

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Tomasina Oh

I have just returned from another memorable BBGS reunion. We found Tomasina Oh and spent over 3 hours catching up on 20 years' worth of stories!

Joanna, Lu Meng & Tomasina

Dr Tomasina Oh (formerly known as Tommie) is now an Asst Professor at the National University of Singapore. She earned her PhD from Cambridge University and specialises in the psycho-linguistics. Tomasina is married to Steve and they have 2 beautiful boys: Hugo and Oliver.

Steve, Hugo, Tomasina with baby Oliver, Lu Meng & Jimmy

We had quick round of introductions, some tea & biscuits before all the boys were despatched to the void deck for a game of dodge ball. Meanwhile the girls retreated to the world of BBGS and laughed ourselves silly over stories of :-

  • a teacher who insisted that naive was spelt "na-eve"
  • another teacher who wanted us to make Valentine "koowshens"
  • yet another teacher who terrorised us in Geography class
  • the famous 3C1 vs 3K hockey game when the biggest team of misfits played the school hockey team and lost by only ONE goal. Tommie spent the entire game pretending to run around while avoiding the puck - "I was so scared of the ball!", she recalls
  • Tommie becoming a cheerleader because she couldn't bear the thought of running, high-jumping or throwing a javelin
  • the drama competition that we won by playing communists!
  • all the winning poems that we recited for Choral Speaking

We had so much fun that we're already planning our next tete-a-tete.

Friday, 12 October 2007

What is BBGS culture? (Part 2)

A summary of findings gleaned from a questionnaire sent out to ex-BBGS girls in conjunction with the BBGS Centenary Celebration. This extract is taken from the Centenary magazine (May 1993).

As we look back over the 100 years, we often wonder if life in BBGS has changed since our grandmothers’ days. What has changed? More importantly, what has remained? All these were part of the BBGS lifestyle and culture. Some things might have changed now. But the heart and spirit that move each BBGS girl to give, to share and to make the school a great place surely has not changed.

Fun Fairs
Fun-fairs were really fun events. Whether they were mammoth fun-fairs of the smaller food fairs, all BBGS girls enjoy the distraction from lessons. An old girl related how her class would look for the slightest excuse to beg the teachers to allow them to discuss urgent food fair arrangements instead of the usual lessons. We all learnt to make red and green square coconut candies during our BBGS days. All of us experienced the temptation of over-pricing our food so that our class could make the most money.

Fun and food fairs, if you think about it, taught us the basics of doing business. They helped infuse us with the entrepreneurial spirit. We learnt the rudiments of Profit & Loss (although the latter was taboo!). We picked up Supply & Demand and Marginal Returns faster than we managed to from our Economics class. We learnt what team work and team spirit were all about. We cultivated our creativity and ingenuity.

All said and done, fun-fairs and food fairs were great events, probably more so for BBGS girls than from those in other schools because we always needed funds to do something more for the school.

Toilet Cleanliness

Another aspect of BBGS life is the Toilet Cleanliness Campaign administered by the prefects.

Most of us hate it but force ourselves and our classmates to clean the toilets with a vengeance in pursuit of the Cleanliness Shield.

Buying toilet fresheners, repainting the class-designated toilet, locking it up so as to prevent others from fouling it up – these are but some of the things we do to have the cleanest and best-smelling toilet in the whole school. (You see, BBGS girls do all things – including the less pleasant ones – well)

Class Cleanliness

None of us will ever forget the necessity to keep our classroom neat and tidy. Remember the days when we used raffia to ensure our desk were straight and in line. The days we had to rush to the market across the road before school for fresh flowers for our class? The days we had to cut out interesting newspaper articles for our class notice boards (our interest was often centred on our handsome badminton heroes, one of whom used to be the boyfriend of a classmate)?

An eye for detail is something that is almost engraved in our minds, thanks to BBGS. How many of us, for example, can resist not straightening a crooked picture on a wall? How any of us look around and think twice before we throw even the tiniest scrap of paper on the street? How many of us consciously walk away from potted plants lest our skirts brush against and injure those precious things?

What is BBGS culture? (Part 1)

A summary of findings gleaned from a questionnaire sent out to ex-BBGS girls in conjunction with the BBGS Centenary Celebration. This extract is taken from the Centenary magazine (May 1993).

As we look back over the 100 years, we often wonder if life in BBGS has changed since our grandmothers’ days.

What has changed? More importantly, what has remained?

All these were part of the BBGS lifestyle and culture. Some things might have changed now. But the heart and spirit that move each BBGS girl to give, to share and to make the school a great place surely has not changed.

Everlasting values…

Certain values such as discipline, responsibility, conscientiousness, respect, courtesy, loyalty and the fear of God are often associated with BBGS girls. As anyone, and these words will roll off her tongue quite spontaneously.

It is the BBGS culture to learn these values well. When you are taught, you listen, absorb and try your hardest to remember. When you address your teacher, you are naturally polite and respectful. Where there are rules on how to dress, you follow.

You learn right from the start of your BBGS life that there is God. And that this God is loving, although almighty. You learn the basis of life: that without God, all is in vain.

Choral Speaking

What activities are characteristic of BBGS days? Without a single doubt, choral speaking and fun fairs stand out regardless of which generation the BBGS girl comes from.

Choral speaking, which was started in 1958 by Miss Cooke, is a BBGS trademark. Year in, year out, as one old girl put it, we “practiced and practiced till our voices dried out”. BBGS would not be BBGS if choral speaking was not part and parcel of the school’s major activities. Listen to the pride in the voices of girls who have won choral speaking competitions during their schooldays. Despite the tedium of practices, the strain on the voice and the demands on the memory, every BBGS girl will attest to the memorability of choral speaking. Who doesn’t remember the importance of listening to the whisper of “one, two, three, stand” command for the third row to stand on the bench?

Letter from Mae

I've been connecting with many younger BBGSians through Facebook. It is so heartwarming to know that our love for BBGS is strong and true - regardless of when we may have graduated. Here's a letter from Mae.
Dear Joanna,

Good day to you. My name is Mae.

I stumbled upon your BBGS Blog when I was going through my friend's Facebook. I just feel that I have to write this email to tell you what a wonderful job you have done keeping the memories of BBGS alive. Even though the years we were in school are so very very far apart, yet I was still able to relate to the things you wrote. Especially the perfection of our uniform, the discipline we have to go through, the toilet cleaning and about the "Dynamite" Cheer. Believe it or not, it has been a trademark for BBGS. I attended a camp organised by my church sometime ago and we were supposed to come up with a cheer, I suggested that Dynamite Cheer and immediately I was linked to BBGS.

I wonder if all the BBGS traditions are practised now in our so-called new school.

Just today I found out that I have 2 other BBGSians in my department. Wow... I guess if we wish to take over the world, we just might be able to do so!

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Fantastic Facebook

I was introduced to this cool new networking tool only 3 days ago and I'm thoroughly addicted already.

And the best thing about is that you can find lots of loyal BBGSians, passionately promoting all things BBGS. There are 2 groups called "BBGS" and "Bukit Bintang Girls School" who have over 500 members between them. They've also been kind enough to link to this blog, so let's all re-connect and network our way across the globe!

P/S: We are also on Wikipedia. Check out the entry and contribute anyway you can.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Miss Cooke's Story (Part 2)

This is the story of Miss Cooke, BBGS' Master Builder, taken from her article published in the School Centenary Magazine, May 1993.

Seeking Nothing But the Best (Part 2)
by Miss Elena M. Cooke
Ex-girl, ex-teacher and ex-headmistress (1958 - 1977)

Teach us to bear the yoke in youth
with steadfastness and careful truth

I never thought I would be a teacher but that was God's plan for my life and once I got into the profession I found great delight in opening up new worlds to my pupils. But it was not always easy. Taught from early childhood 'Whatever your hand finds to do, verily do it with all your might', there was this keen determination to bear the yoke with steadfastness and careful truth.

Late nights became the order of my day as I prepared the next day's lessons and marked piles of exercise books. That did not mean I had to lose delight in simple things. With great enthusiasm I began the school choir when all I had in qualifications was a love of music!

It was soon after the war. Our library was non-existent. I remember visiting friends and suggesting that they should let me have some of their collection to begin a school library again. All contributions were carefully scrutinised and thus began a lending library on the verandah outside the Fifth Form classroom. Every interval found me sitting on a low stool advertising my books and telling the girls they did not know what they would be missing if they did not stop by and borrow one of my best sellers all neatly packed in cardboard boxes on the floor beside me.

I was soon to find myself spending nearly every afternoon in school looking after such extramural activities as the Literary and Debating Society, the Geographical Society, St John’s Ambulance Brigade and the Christian Union. Those were the times I really got to know my pupils especially when we went on excursions and debated with other schools. They were fun times too.

Yes, they surely were hard times too, when difficult pupils could make life unbearable and when I had to learn to win them over – to break through long standing barriers. Then there were the not-so-academically-minded pupils who had a defeatist attitude to learning. They had to be helped out of that sad state and made to realize that they had their talents too. Yes, there were those from broken homes, those from poverty-stricken backgrounds. Knowing and appreciating the care and concern of my teachers when I was at school, I prayed for special strength and understanding to help my many pupils.

Early years of teaching were a time of learning and teaching. There were the special training classes every Saturday and sometimes, during the week, speech-training and singing. And when those exams were all over then came my private studies for entrance to a university in the UK. An activity-oriented life intermixed with much fun and laughter and sometimes tears as well.

Father in heaven who lovest all
O help Thy children when they call
That they may build from age to age
An undefiled heritage

That became my prayer when I was appointed Principal of BBGS – a position which I never wanted and which filled me with fear. But one never cries out to God in vain – His ear is ever bent low to hear our feeblest cry and He enabled me through those difficult early years and then the challenging years that followed. Mistakes were made and hard lessons learnt.

From an enrolment of 500 the school was to grow to over 2000! School extensions became necessity every time there was yet a further increase in numbers. Fun-fairs and food sales became the order of the day – hard work but so challenging one could not resist it! They were truly fun times too as the whole school – head, deputy head, staff and pupils (both old and present) all worked as a team. There was such a tremendous sense of achievement when all the necessary funds came in time for the various building projects.

The policy of the school from its inception was to build only when funds were in hand. I remember being told by the Board that we could not build a hall the size I planned as we did not have the funds for such a large building. I felt strongly we had to build it according to the original plans and hence prayed much. God answered in a wonderful way when the Lee Foundation contributed RM40,000 and made our dream come true. Yes, those were challenging years and I am always thankful that Mrs Tan Lai Kuen, our deputy head, was always there to support and be fully involved in all our dreams. Together, two very different personalities worked as a team both seeking nothing but the best for BBGS.

We aimed at excellence in every aspect of school life. We were anxious that each BBGS pupil should give of her best and so towards that end we worked. Cleanliness, a sense of order, a love of beauty had to be inculcated and so began competitions in class cleanliness, toilet cleanliness and floral arrangements in every classroom. Discipline had to be maintained and a sense of dignity instilled and total loyalty practised. Above all our sincere desire was that every pupil should know without a doubt that without God in their lives all would be in vain. And hence our school motto – Nisi Dominus Frustra – has been and, I hope, will continue to be a guide to right and wholesome living to every BBGS pupil.

Miss Cooke's Story (Part 1)

This is the story of Miss Cooke, BBGS' Master Builder, taken from her article published in the School Centenary Magazine, May 1993.

Seeking Nothing But the Best

by Miss Elena M. Cooke

Ex-girl, ex-teacher and ex-headmistress (1958 - 1977)

Teach us delight in simple things...

As I look back to the days when I was a pupil of the Chinese Girls' School in Davidson Road, which later in 1930 moved to Bukit Bintang and became known as Bukit Bintang Girls' School, I realise more and more that those happy days were truly filled with delight in simple things. Miss Prouse and those early teachers enriched our lives by their dedication to their profession. While there was strict discipline, there was also real care and love. A cane was to be found in every classroom and I had my full share of its use. Today as I think back on those times I realise just how beneficial they proved to be.

But intermixed with learning were those carefree times dancing round the May Pole to music on Sports Day, picnics by the sea, badminton tournaments with other schools and the making of wonderful friendships which have lasted to this day.

Miss Prouse must have known what an over-active little pupil she had in Elena Cooke and I remember how thrilled I was when, one day, she singled me out and asked me whether I would like to read an interesting book she had. Furthermore, she said she had other books she would lend me when I had completed the one she was lending to me. And so began a life-long love of books.

There was Mrs Lim, my primary teacher, who constantly gave me two cents and sometimes the princely amount of five cents to spend at interval because I had lost my pocket money! There was Miss Too whose art lessons I found a delight because I could spin all kinds of stories for her and thus help her forget that she was almost completing my drawing for me.

Miss Ma will never forget my piece of embroidery which she and many others had a hand in finishing! Miss Glasgow introduced us to the wonderful world of English Literature and held us enthralled. She transported us to far-distant and fascinating places but at the same time was always on the ready to catch any mischievous imp seated right in front of her! I think of her deep concern for me when I lost all interest in living when my father suddenly passed away. I think of the challenge she put to me: "Your father was so proud of you. Do you think he would be happy if he saw your total lack of interest in anything, especially your studies?" That made me sit up and get on with my preparations for my School Certificate Examination.

Yes, those were the days when a good foundation for life was laid - days when I was taught by example simple kindnesses which meant so much, when I was taught true delight in simple things and mirth that has no bitter springs.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Letter fm Mei Ling

Many thanks for your emails. Your kind words have encouraged me to keep the blog going. I look forward to hearing from more of you :-)

Here's an email from Mei Ling Routley, who writes to us from the UK.

Dear Joanna

I was researching the history of BBGS for a project and came across your superb blog. Reading through it, I found you had quoted my poem ‘The Complexities of Choral Speaking’. I am the Mak Mei Ling who wrote it, and I am very happy you have put it in your article, as I really loved Choral Speaking.

A bit about me – I left BBGS in November 1983, and in January 1984 I came to England to do my ‘A’ levels. I went on to study law at the London School of Economics, and graduated in 1988. After that I sat for my Bar Exams, qualifying as a barrister in 1989/ 90.

I am now a full time mother with three children aged 7, 12 and 14. In my spare time I help with voluntary organisations and run charity projects. I live full time in London and visit Malaysia every other year.

Thank you for the trip down memory lane. Good Luck with your blog (and your move to Singapore). It looks wonderful and I hope many more ex-BBGSians post their thoughts on it.

Best Wishes,

Mei Ling

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

It's recess time!

I'm currently on vacation in the US visiting my sister, Julie. We've enjoyed countless hours of shopping, dining and chatting. Today, we started talking about BBGS and what we used to do at recess time. When the bell rang in the middle of the school day, we all had 20 minutes free to do anything we wanted. What did you do?

The first thing most of us did was to rush to the canteen for food, or to the toilets know...

Some special activities all BBGSians shared include:
  • Class cleanliness - arranging desks in straight rows (using rafia string), sweeping the floor, cleaning the blackboard, preparing noticeboards, emptying wastepaper baskets
  • Floral arrangement - preparing posies or bouquets of fresh flowers to be placed on the teacher's table every week. It made such a refreshing difference
  • Toilet cleanliness - this sounds disgusting to a lot of people, but we took great pride in keeping our allocated toilets clean. Every girl, even the privileged ones with maids at home, had to clean toilets. No exceptions.

Having spent 70% of my school life as a prefect, I spent a lot of my recess time giving marks for class, floral and toilet cleanliness. Although during one care-free year in Form 3, a group of us got together to play rounders using badminton rackets for bats, and oranges for balls. Huh??!

But Julie tells me that non-prefects had more fun. Girls would gather to share their lunch-boxes and chat about everything. Julie even learnt to fashion different hair styles e.g. French plait during recess time.

What did you do at recess time? Please share your stories by posting a comment.