Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Thank you teachers

The mediocre teacher tells.
The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates.
The great teacher inspires.
~William Arthur Ward

Monday, 21 December 2009

Season's Greetings from Joanna

Dear Friends,

Firstly, let me wish God's richest blessings on all of you and your family this holiday season! How truly blessed we are to find ourselves in the bosom of dear ones - a truth that I've been powerfully reminded of in 2009.

When the bottom fell out of the economy earlier this year, I received a call informing me that my role had been axed. Although it wasn't easy to bid farewell to a wonderful team of colleagues and the security of a paycheck, this news gave me exactly what I needed - a six-month break and a healthy bank balance.

Within 48 hours of reaching out to family and friends, I was enveloped in kindness and received invitations to stay in homes all over the world - a privilege I happily exercised. The Glass Half Full series chronicles this welcome break.

My heart overflows with gratefulness when I think of the many precious memories that were created this year:
  • Our Yeoh family was reunited with Julie's homecoming to Malaysia during Chinese New Year, and family ties were further cemented when we took a family vacation to Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Bodega Bay and Las Vegas
  • A wonderful vacation to Candidasa, Bali where I enjoyed massages, snorkelling, fishing, massages, drinking, making new friends and I did mention Balinese massages didn't I?
  • Spending time in New York City with my friends Andrew, Isabel and their beautiful boys. The many hours spent wandering through the inspiring Metropolitan Museum and Central Park has deepened my love for the Big Apple. And a big Thank You to Elaine Li for showing me the world beyond Manhattan, and to my NYU friends for the intellectual stimuli
  • Hunting down the Liberty Bell, Independance Hall and Philly cheesesteaks in historic Philadelphia with Julie was good fun! We also made a side trip to Washington DC where we narrowly escaped a deadly train crash...thank God...
  • Visiting and learning about the Amish community in a town called Intercourse ;-)
  • Witnessing the gala reunion for BBGS (Bukit Bintang Girls'School) at the Pavilion KL was a dream come true. Thousands of girls and teachers came together to celebrate the spirit of a school that has outlasted its bricks and mortar. I am so blessed to have contributed to the event by writing the Back2BBGS blog and the Women of Vision exhibition
  • Travelling to Australia to witness the wedding of my cousin, Aaron and the baptism of my god-daughter, Alyssa. Being able to catch up with so many good friends made it feel like a proper homecoming
  • Enjoying 5 minutes of fame when the Star newspaper published an article on my career and travels, through which I connected with old friends and a gentleman who asked me if I liked younger men...YIKES!
  • Watching all five of my god-kids grow in stature and spirit is such a joy. I'm so grateful to their parents for allowing Aunty Jo Jo to contribute to their development in her nutty, unconventional way
Let me say a big THANK YOU to all my family and friends for your kind words, hospitality, a warm bed, storage space, countless coffees and cakes, food, wine and friendship. All good holidays must come to an end so when October came round, I found myself another position at a oil & gas services company in Singapore. This city state will continue to be my home as I believe it's the perfect beach-head from which to catch the crest of the Asian century.

As we bid farewell to the noughties ('00s) and enter a brand new decade, let's continue to be grateful for all that we have and become all that He created us to be.

Here's wishing you a HAPPY NEW YEAR and a blessed 2010!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Candle 34: Melinda Tai Mei Lian

Hi Joanna,

I found your blog by chance—what a joy! I am not sure if my story will qualify for your project. (Joanna says: Of course it will. This forum is for BBGSians of any age and creed. CBNers stay away!)

You probably do not know me as I was many years ahead of you at BBGS from 1962-1974. My headmistresses were Ms. Ma Tak Yan in Primary 2 and Ms. Cooke in Secondary. I remembered how I was such a riot at primary school for talking too much in class and was often send to the office. Those were the days. Ms Cooke was a joy and a sweetie---I always looked forward to her class.

One of my fondest memories was “Funfair Days” where each class would either cook, make something or perform for the event. One of the best times was when our class was voted for cooking the best popiah! There are so many teachers' names that I may have forgotten, the ones that I remembered fondly was Ms. Boey, my Bible teacher. Despite her disability she is forever cheerful and helpful.

I have some great friends, unfortunately I have lost touch with them when I got married and immigrated to the United States.

Melinda Tai Mei Lian

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Candle 33: Chang Wai Min

When Wai Min walked into the mall, I recognised her smile instantly. She's one of these people with bright cheerful dispositions that light up a room! She's from the Class of 1985 and was a Shirtliff cheerleader at school.

Wai Min came to Melbourne to study accountancy and stayed on to work, marry and raise a family. She has 6 kids (yes, you read that right) ranging from 15 years to 9 months. She keeps up with BBGS news through this blog and was only too happy to share her memories.

One funny story includes a teacher with strange pronunciation who kept referring to John Marlowe as "John Mah-lau" (monkey in Cantonese)...haha...

Thanks for dropping by at the mini-reunion, Wai Min. Let's do this again soon :-)

Candle 32: Ida Mok

With the large numbers of BBGSians residing in Melbourne, it almost feels like home! Today, I had a mini-reunion with a few of them at Westfield Shopping Centre in Doncaster. We chatted and laughed ourselves silly over a few lattes and sandwiches at Jones the Grocer.

Ida Mok from the Class of 1988 is as effervescent as ever. I remember her as the school photographer and she remembers me as the School Captain who gave her two offence slips! She was quite a comedian in school and that hasn't changed. It was a laugh-a-minute with her around, and the hours just slipped by.

Ida read and practised Law in England before moving to Australia with her family two years ago. She now runs a successful service business from home, while caring for her two boys: Ethan and Caleb. She credits the BBGS for inculcating a sense of integrity and humility, and is now passing on the values to her kids by making them memorise the school song and wash toilets! :-)

She's chosen to focus on bringing up her kids instead of a career because that's what's important for now. Good on you, girl!

Ida struggling valiantly with 2-year old Caleb whom she affectionately calls
Ho-sama (her little terrorist)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Melbourne stopover

In a few hours, I'm boarding a plane (an A380!) to Australia for a double celebration: my cousin's wedding in Adelaide and my god-daughter's baptism in Melbourne.

In addition to the festivities, I'm taking this opportunity to catch up with BBGSians who seem to have congregated en masse in Melbourne.

We'll be meeting for lunch at Doncaster Shopping Centre next Thursday 12 November. Anyone wanna join us? Drop me a line at

Look forward to catching up!


Monday, 26 October 2009

Making Connections

I'm so excited and I want to share it with you, my dear BBGSians. The Star has published a feature on my career & travels under the Malaysians Abroad column today: Apologies in advance for tooting my own horn :-)

While her job is in training, Joanna Yeoh never wants to stop learning.

FROM surviving the 1997 riots in Jakarta to learning to trade electricity in Brisbane, Joanna Yeoh’s work has taken her places.Being a travel enthusiast, Yeoh has no complaints. So far, she has worked in eight different countries and lived abroad for as many years.

“In Jakarta, I was posted to work on a process improvement project. We always had our passports and plane tickets with us just in case of an emergency evacuation,” recalled Yeoh, who was attached to a global consulting group in Malaysia back then, via e-mail.

In 1999, Yeoh was sent for her first long-term posting to Brisbane, Australia, and held the position of generation forecasting manager.“I had so much fun learning how to speak Strine (Australian slang) and understanding cricket and rugby because, otherwise, nobody spoke to you on Monday mornings,” she quipped.

Currently, Yeoh, 39, is regional senior manager of learning and organisational development with McDermott, an oil and gas services company, in Singapore.

The former Bukit Bintang Girls School student graduated with a Bachelor of Economics from Universiti Malaya in 1994. She went on to obtain her MBA in International Business from the University of Birmingham, Britain, in 1996, on a British Council Chevening Scholarship.

She returned to Malaysia in 1997 to join the global consulting group as a consultant in energy and mining. In the next seven years, she had stints in Australia, Indonesia, South Korea and Singapore.

Yeoh assumed the post of vice-president of human resources with a Malaysian entertainment and resorts company in 2003. “That was one of my most interesting and challenging jobs. It’s a 24/7, 365-day operation there with the casinos, hotels and theme parks, hence, a never-ending cycle of recruitment, training and payroll. I loved every minute of working with the team there who were super-men and super-women!”

In 2006, Yeoh joined a multinational energy and petrochemical company for about a year before moving to Singapore in 2007 to join an American-based microprocessor solutions provider.Last year, she spent six months in Shanghai on a project (under the same company) as head of leadership and organisational development for the Asian region.

“I had the chance to build its learning and development teams and also witness the phenomenal growth of China. My proudest achievement was finally learning to speak Mandarin.“I believe that China is ready to claim prominence on the world stage and is on the brink of a new ‘dynasty’ to rival the golden years of the Han, Tang or Ming dynasties.”

In her current position, which she assumed recently, Yeoh works with senior leadership teams to help improve the effectiveness of their organisational structure and people. “The most common areas of focus are performance management, talent and succession planning, leadership development and change management. This is a specialist field within human resources management,” she explained.

Her role is to keep things simple.

“While many leaders acknowledge the importance of organisational development or change management, it is often seen as nebulous and obscure in practice. My challenge is always to keep things ‘simple, implementable and tangible’ so that the benefits can be seen clearly and quickly.”

Yeoh finds satisfaction in her career by playing a role in selecting and honing young talents – “when I meet management trainees whom I hired as fresh graduates walk up to me and say, ‘Miss Joanna, I made it. I’m now a manager in XYZ department. Thank you for giving me a chance and helping me to grow.’”

Not surprisingly, one of her aims is to groom future leaders. “I am passionate about coaching Asian leaders to lead at regional or international levels,” said Yeoh, who also hopes to pursue a PhD in the next five years.

The Kuala Lumpur-born also believes in trying new things and lending a helping hand to others. “My goal is to become the best person that God created me to be. Every year, I try to learn and practise something new, from skydiving to learning Mandarin to walking on hot coals.

“More importantly, I believe in giving back by helping someone else. One of my favourite quotes is by Winston Churchill: ‘We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.’”

Fact File
NAME: Joanna Yeoh
AGE: 39
HOMETOWN: Kuala Lumpur
EDUCATION: Bukit Bintang Girls School,Universiti Malaya, KL; University of Birmingham, Britain
OCCUPATION: Leadership and organisational development consultant

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Garage 9

Have you ever wondered what happened to Miss Prouse and Miss Glasgow during World War 2? Up until last week, all I knew was that they were interned in Palembang, Sumatra. Thanks to Barbara Coombes, a Masters student at London Metropolitan University, we now have a unique glimpse into their lives as prisoners-of-war. I am very grateful to Barbara for sharing her research with us. We'd love to hear from you if you have any comments about this article.

Views of Palembang in South Sumatra, circa 1935

Women’s internment camp at Palembang, Sumatra

Fleeing from the fall of Singapore, many civilian women found themselves interned in camps throughout Sumatra, Java and the Philippines during the World War 2. Eva Prouse and Mary Glasgow were among the women in a camp at Palembang Sumatra, although they were moved many times during their internment. However it was at Palembang camp early in their captivity that they found themselves housed in Garage 9. The houses, previously a Dutch settlement were already occupied, often 30 to a house!

Garage 9 was to be their home for nearly a year and they shared this small space with 12 other women and one orphaned little boy. This group appeared to have a particular bond with several keeping and hiding diaries recording their captivity. There were four Presbyterian missionaries, a civilian teacher; a nurse with the Colonial Nursing Service; the wife of the choirmaster at St.Andrew’s Cathedral in Singapore with her daughter who was in her early twenties, three other wives, a young single woman and the small boy. Mary Glasgow apparently had the nickname ‘Paddy’ because she came from Ireland.

(L-R) Miss Eva Prouse and Miss Mary Glasgow

Their days centred on all the chores that they had to undertake in order to survive with tasks allocated according to physical ability. Task such as carrying great lengths of wood to cut for firewood to fuel the fires for cooking needed strength and to keep them burning one had to stoop low and keep fanning the heat, therefore the younger members took on these tasks. Mary herself said that she enjoyed getting up early to chop the wood! They cooked in pairs and for their own group, later when they were moved to another camp the cooking was done centrally. Other chores that had to be completed were: cleaning the rice as it arrived with glass, stones, weevils and maggots and had to be painstakingly cleaned. Often other rations, if they were lucky, were just dumped in the grounds of the camp so had to be collected. Water also had to be carried a long way then used for cleaning food before being able to be used for personal washing. The worst job of all was clearing the open drains that serviced what passed for toilets. The heat and humidity of course made these tasks even worse. It was amazing that in the light of this that the women managed to keep their dignity and supported each other. Physical conditions and the women’s health deteriorated, as they were move from camp to camp and many suffered from malaria, dysentery and beriberi. Only 4 women and the small boy survived from Garage 9.

Despite the conditions, particularly in the early days when they were all in much better health, some women were able to earn a little money that was used to buy extra food, albeit very small amounts. Eva Prouse volunteered for the sewing party making garments for the Japanese military. There was much debate and excitement when she came back with her first 50 cents! How were they to spend it? One diary records that once they bought a whole banana! Later it became clear that the children of the camp were running wild so a school system begun with Eva Prouse in charge of the seniors and Mary Glasgow assisting. Other women took on the younger children and also ran language classes for the adults. One of the Presbyterian missionaries, Margaret Dryburgh from Garage 9, along with another internee Norah Chambers started a ‘vocal orchestra’ giving concerts to the camp internees. The ‘orchestra’ in four parts hummed classical pieces; the scores had been written down by memory – an astounding feat. The women worked hard at trying to keep spirits high but many of the activities, as the years passed, had to be forsaken as they fought hard to stay alive. From the very beginning, Margaret Dryburgh assisted by others, ran Sunday services and bible readings, helping to sustain the women throughout their ordeal.

Sadly, Eva Prouse died but Mary Glasgow survived and returned to Kuala Lumpur to continue her work in teaching.

Barbara Coombes researching women’s internment for a Masters Degree at London Metropolitan University, London.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Candle 31: Melody Gan

Melody Gan from the class of 1990 shares her BBGS memories with us.

Hi Joanna,

You probably do not remember me but I think you were a few years ahead of me at BBGS. Anyway, after years of being incognito and moving from country to country, I finally succumbed and joined Facebook. When prompted for the entry for high school, I was stunned to find that there was no entry for BBGS, but an entry for CBN. How can that be possible??!!! So I googled BBGS and found out that the name has been changed, and that led me straight to your website.

Anyway, I think it is great what you are doing to keep the BBGS spirit alive! How are you, by the way? As for me, I have been away from Malaysia for 17 years. It saddens me to know that BBGS no longer exists as it was instrumental in giving me the strength and fearless (in mandarin - "bu pa shi" or in cantonese "mm pa sei"...not afraid to die) attitude that propelled me through my life so far. I was there from 1980-1985 for primary school and then 1986 to 1990 for secondary school. Do you know anyone from class of 1990?

BBGS was a life-turning experience for me as I was incredibly shy as a kid, but somehow had the guts to try for every activity in the school. Hence, I was in a play every year in secondary school, became head cheerleader of Cooke House in Form 5, represented the school in rhythmic gymnastics and some dance performances. It was utopia for me as it taught me that you could achieve anything you set your mind to.

One especially funny memory was in Biology with Mrs Wong who was one of my favorite teachers. I was in 5S4, and we were supposed to dissect cockroaches that day, which of course no one relished. It was the last period of the day for us, and we were trying to slip chloroform into the plastic bags which contained the roaches when some of the girls panicked and the roaches escaped. Of course that resulted in pandemonium as about 40 screaming girls ran out onto the netball field which was right next to the main road. Unfortunately, the girls from 5S5 were having their class photo taken, and were neatly stacked on benches and tables on the field. There was also a lot of traffic on the main road. We were hysterical and had our skirts up to our chests, and jumped all over those girls. Before long, we had 80 screaming girls all over the field and traffic came to a standstill. We certainly exposed ourselves that day and needless to say, Mrs Wong was not amused.

My friends were some of the most amazing girls I ever met and have turned into some pretty incredible women - too many to list and I do not want to single anyone out since they were all great but some names that come to mind are Yap Lee Mei, Ng Wei Leng, Gan Gek Choo, Lisa Ng, Lee Li Ling, Ammetha Kaur, Sujatha, Chin Yoke Yuen, Lim Ping, Loke Foong Wai, Amarjit Kaur, Rekha, etc. Unfortunately, I have lost touch with so many of them due to my frequent moves and intense work schedule.

Joanna says: A great way to get back in touch with your friends is to share your story on this blog and I guarantee that our readers will get in touch with you! I have already sent Melody the emails of two friends on her list :-)

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Candle 30: Juliana Yeoh

I am very proud and honoured to introduce our next BBGSian: Juliana Yeoh. She is my sister and my best friend. And as sweet as that may sound, it's not been an easy ride. I've always known that her BBGS experience was very different from mine but it's only in the last two years that I've begun to understand how significantly different it was. Here's Julie in her own words...

(L-R): Joanna & Juliana at Lake Tahoe last spring

My journey in BBGS started from Primary 1 to Form 5 (1980-1990). My perspective will be slightly different than most. Here is my story.....

Throughout my time in BBGS, I have always been "Joanna Yeoh's sister" or "Mrs Yeoh's daughter". I never really had my own identity. Not many knew me for who I am or what I can do. I am so different from Joanna in every way and the opposite in terms of personality. I have the utmost respect and love for my sister, Joanna and I knew I would not achieve or do the things that she achieved. But in BBGS, I somewhat felt I did not live up to those achievements or standards Joanna had set. It was kind of hard living in her shadow (and I don't blame Joanna for it). This was my life. I lived with a huge chunk of insecurity. In my later years, I grew to find my identity and evolved to be the person I am now. A little late but I made it!

My most enjoyable times in BBGS will have to be the times I spent with the ‘Croakers” and working together in the Interact Club. Till this day, 20 years down the road we are still great friends despite being scattered all over the world. These are great friendships I made in BBGS. They loved me for who I am, with all my baggage. Thanks to Facebook and the blog we are now connected. Even now that I am here in Sacramento, California; I have Sujatha Rajagopal living in Tracy, just 2 hours drive away.

BBGS shaped my character and planted in me values that make me who I am today. Integrity, independence and achieving your dreams, no matter big or small, these are the values I hold dear to this day. It is now becoming a rare asset.

After BBGS, I did my STPM and then received a sponsorship from Subang Jaya Medical Center (SJMC) to study nursing at Klang College of Nursing. After graduating, I worked in SJMC and later in Sunway Medical Center. The lessons I learnt in BBGS like cleaning toilets and sweeping floors, has taught me that no job is beneath me. Nursing is not a glamourous profession, no matter where you are in the world. It is a profession of servanthood. It is physically and emotionally demanding, but with the right attitude, nursing is the best job in the world.

In 2006, when I received an opportunity to be sponsored for a green card and work as a Registered Nurse (RN) in the USA, I jumped at the chance. It has always been my dream to work as a RN in the USA.

I am now living in Sacramento, California. Many Americans have remarked that I did a very brave thing by jumping on a plane and flying halfway across the world to establish a new life here. The only thing I can tell them is that it was my dream to be living in the USA and I worked hard to achieve my dreams.

Looking back, being an RN, helped me develop my personality and chipped away all the insecurity that I once carried on my shoulders. Through my personal experience, I now can understand people a little better, see through the front many patients put up and help them with the core problems that they face.

I am really enjoying my life here in the USA and whenever I can, I plant the BBGS seed in the people here. Dream big dreams and work on achieving it.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Candle 29: Lucy Low (Leng Ah Mooi)

I was thrilled to hear from Lucy Low this week. She was the School Captain in 1962 and writes to us from Sydney. Lucy's a little shy about sharing a photo but we're still honoured to share her heart-felt memories.

They say time is never an issue when you retire. I am well into my first year of retirement and time is still an issue. God works in mysterious ways. It took a severe dust storm, brought in by strong winds from the Australian dessert, to restrict me to housebound activities in Sydney. What else was there to do except to wait for it to settle before one could start the clean up. This is one of those very rare moments that I found time to Google and stumbled on the BBGS blogs. What nostalgia and memories when I found myself listed in the Honour list of captains (1962)! Very nice and very satisfying ….. I wonder whether my adult sons and grand children can find me in the list ….

I started in BBGS Afternoon School and Mrs Siew was my teacher and companion then! Lucky for me, Mrs Siew was newly married then and she absolutely loved kids! She was only a few blocks away from me in busy KL city and shopping was her favourite past time. Guess that was the start of my passion for chocolates and ice creams as my mother could not have possibly afforded them. Then it was BBGS morning school followed by the secondary school. There were so many teachers; each moulding my humourous as well as my serious nature. Their dedication and determination in spite of their pidgin English (one Chinese educated Science/Maths teacher), their loud abusing voices, their threatening fingers/rulers, their softness, were so very inspiring and left such an impression on me. I am so sure my genetic make up must have taken such a bashing from that inspiration to remain even to this day albeit the energy level now is fast gaining speed. Thank you BBGS teachers and thank the Lord for exposing me to them.

Life in BBGS could not miss a mention to our beloved Miss Elena Cooke. She played a very important role in my younger days which contributed to a very significant part of adult me. Many knew Miss Cooke as determined, disciplined, detailed minded, and a no nonsense head mistress. But, she was a lot more and is best described in the crude poem (I was not known for my English language, let alone for my poetic skills!) I wrote in 2008 to amuse her when I discovered that she was sick. The ‘never give up’ attitude I learnt from her and her team of teachers rose onto my shoulders with the end result being a rough and tumble gathering of words:

BBGS, here we go …..

Our beloved school of old

History, geography, maths and all

But nothing beats the lessons from Gospel Hall.

Praise to the Lord, we sang and sang

Words never failing, our ears rang and rang

Eternal love and wisdom our Almighty Lord provides

Lessons from BBGS, we always carry on our sides.

Parents taught us home values and all

Life skills and success we proudly stand tall

Sources of such skills, not from books

Definitely from parents from Miss Cooke.

Our love, gratitude, and appreciation

To you, Miss Cooke, and to mention

Your lessons demonstrated in our ways

Our prayers to the Lord for you always.

I share a few incidents with you to bring home the true Miss Cooke with the intention to illustrate the life lessons we all learnt from her. Those ‘bee-hive’ hair styles in the 1960s sure kept me very busy and challenged as a school captain. They were a total ban from school and one of my responsibilities was to execute that ban! Most girls knew the consequences if they did not lower those bee-hives except for one student. Wow, that defiance was amazing and amusing too! She ended up with a self hair wash in Miss Cooke’s office basin! Mistake to take Miss Cooke on …… That was the Miss Cooke most of us could relate to.

Then, one day, I was abruptly called into her office and was told “I need you to come with me to translate”. We were off to a very sick student’s home to visit not the sick student (she was in hospital) but to see the grand mother who blatantly refused to give permission for the grand daughter to undergo surgery to save her life. There was this old Chinese thing about being cut up (surgery). The visit was very short, but boy, was it effectively and humanely executed! Miss Cooke was literally on her knees begging the grand mother to give that permission for surgery as that was the only slim chance her grand daughter could live. I still have not learnt tears control from that incident!

The last memorable gratifying incident I like to relate had to do with me personally. Miss Cooke signed for me as my ‘financial guarantor’ to the Australian Embassy when none of my poor relatives could do so, to enable me to pursue my tertiary education without any request from me as no one would have asked a head mistress to act as ‘financial guarantor’ (she had independently discovered my difficulty). There were endless stories to do her justice but that could fill the whole book. The words in the poem above were truly heart felt and expressed in the best way I could to reflect what BBGS and Miss Cooke and her team have done to contribute significantly in my life journey.

This tribute to BBGS and Miss Cooke is not complete without a mention of Mrs Simon (Miss Junie Lim). Her dedication to the Girl Guides is definitely unquestionable – I just found out that she is still currently the State Commissioner – she must be in her 70s? I take a humble bow with my hat off to you, Mrs Simon and if anyone reading this has her email address, I will certainly appreciate you forwarding it to me. Believe me, the Girl Guides principles were excellent foundation to build life skills. Go for it girls if you have daughters, grand daughters, and/or great grand daughters, especially when you still have Mrs Simon as the State Commissioner. There is absolutely nothing to lose but heaps to gain!

Lastly, just a brief mention about me as requested. I have finally thrown in the towel after a fairly successful and very busy work and home life both in KL and Sydney (mainly the latter since 1981). I managed to raise 3 independent boys (sometimes too independent, as one of them had escaped from me, and is working in Hong Kong) and blessed with 3 grandchildren. Thank you Lord and thank you Miss Cooke and her team of 1962 teachers from BBGS.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

OGA blog

Hi Everyone,

For more information about the BBGS alumni association, you're welcome to check out this new blog:

Please note that the information contained in the alumni blog is managed by the OGA separately and is not associated with or necessarily represents the views of this author.

Thanks and kind regards,

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Candle 28: Shaz M Zain

First of all Congratulations to the Reunion Organizing team & Back2BBGS for all that you’ve done! A splendid blog! I have been reading about Project Kindle since it started, but never thought to write in as I thought maybe I’m not good enough to be in it, but then, none from my batch responded and I was approached to send in, so here’s my story…

I was at BBGS for 11 years, from Std 1 (BBGS1: 1988 - 1993) & up to Form 5 (1994-1998). It was the best time of my years…Its all I remembered about my childhood, even my sisters also went to BBGS, and I have to say we all share on thing in common, we are proud to be a BBGSian!

What I miss most about my primary days are “main getah” , “batu seremban”, “galah panjang” before school starts or during recess. I wasn’t one of the good obedient ones as I used to break rules and be called up to the teachers room, once or twice to the principal’s office. There were many forbidden places for BBGS girls during that time and among them are Karyaneka and 7 Eleven! I used to visit Karyaneka, that was right opposite the school at that time, on days that I stayed back for computer classes, and of course I brought a gang (my close friends and partners in crime at that time was Sarah, Aireen, Andarmi, Izliana, Safina) with me, it was like a small adventure of ours visiting the different state houses, the mini zoo and also entertaining the Mat Salleh, there was once, they actually got us to sing the ‘Negaraku’ and recorded it on tape. We also went to 7 Eleven to get our Slurpees occasionally on those days we stayed back…I don’t really remember where the money came from since I only got 30 to 50 cents a day for pocket money but it was there somehow… Other than that I don’t really remember what I did, but there were complaints but all this small adventures of us never did reach the teachers & our parents..thank god!, anyhow I turned out fine didn’t I?

In secondary school, my fondest memory was of course the Choral speaking – we took this seriously every year, we always did our best and I really enjoyed the times we spent rehearsing and the interclass competition,. Other than that there was this after assembly singing conducted by Mrs. Abraham. And the most colorful event during the year was the sports day, the cheerleading competition was always an awaited event! I really loved it especially when Green house kept winning those years! Yes I was a full fledged Green house member, loyal all the way, unlike some who changed when they crossed from primary to secondary! Next best event is the Teachers Day, I always looked forward to the teachers singing the song “Saya Guru Malaysia” and their performance with the students. They were such a sporting bunch!

Another note on Choral Speaking, I remember one historical event that I am so honored to have been a part of. We once did a presentation for the Director General of Education in 1997. The poem was all about him as he was retiring, but the guests really enjoyed it. That dinner took place at the old KL Hilton at Jalan Sultan Ismail. Also, our class won that year for interclass competition – the judge was actually at the dinner at KL Hilton (I think there was some biased-ness since we didn’t think it was that good compared to 4sc2, which did better that year, but it’s ok, they won the next year! But they were a bunch of sour grapes for the entire year and hated our class for it!)

On the friendship in BBGS,I was in classes 1k – 6k in primary and form 1U-3U and then 4&5sc1. I managed to make lots of friendsand I still keep in touch with most of them. We just had our batch reunion last year and were able to trace about 70% of contacts. To name a few I still keep in touch with are Eliana, Amyrah, Azita, Nur Fareedza, Haslina, Hasliza, Nani, Hana, Sh Syikin, Nurul Asyikin, Poova, Fikriah, Faizah, Nina, Adriza, Noor Hazlin, Najua, Zahirra, Baemisla, Farrah, Zuien, Lili, Diana, Audrey, Ti Min among others.

Teachers were also great, and it's nice to know that some still remember me from those days, when we met at the recent reunion at Pavillion, this was what they told me or implied:
  • Pn.Jagdip – she was my teacher in Std 5 I think, teaching English, she always scolded me for being naughty and she remembers me as that only! *laughs*. I remember meeting her again in SBU, and she remembered my name then…
  • Ms.Jeyanthi – She was my science teacher in Form 2. She was telling us how she missed BBGS, how things are not the same anymore. She says we are independent, we didn’t need to be chased after to get work done be it social events or homework! Also, she said all they did was threatened us to get things done, and it was done! We were a good bunch…
  • Pn.Wahiddah – Class teacher Form 1U & 2U (year 94 & 95), she remembers us too. And she’s still small and we have grown taller than her now (she said this!) *laughs*.
  • Mrs.Lyla Roberts - My English teacher in Form 4 & 5(sc1) - 97 & 98. She did something really nice for me back in Form 4, you see, for the Choral Speaking at Hilton (explained above), we had to wear these peach baju kurungs with kain batik and there wasn't any with my size, she went to get the same peach material and got it tailored to my size, I actually told her it's ok, I didn't want to join, but she insisted and went out the extra mile yeah for that I'm grateful.
  • Pn.Azawiyah – didn’t really teach me, but she remembers me..
The other teachers that taught me were Mrs.Chong (Maths & Physics), Ustazah Rohaizan (Agama), Ms Kok (History & English), Pn Halimatus (Chemistry), Pn.Rohaizan (Biology), Pn Zarina Abd Rahman (Science & Maths), Pn.Zarina Othman (Geography), Pn.Baynum (Science), Pn Norhayati (Malay and History), Primary school: Ms Kua (Standard 6 class teacher), Pn.Norhayati (Standard 3 class teacher) , Pn.Ranjan (Standard 2 class teacher) & Pn Norziah (standard 1 class teacher) – Those are the few that I can remember: Thank you all.

On some rules I loathed about back then, but kind of miss now:
- Wearing house badge is a must!
- Ribbon on the hair (ponytail)
- Spot checks
- Offence slip which translates to picking up rubbish after recess
- Toilet cleaning
- Class deco competition
- No rolling up sleeves (baju kurung)
- Cangkuk at all times (baju kurung)
- Queuing up outside the class after recess and being checked from head to toe by the prefects

On leaving BBGS in 1998, I joined matriculation under UKM in 1999 and subsequently went on for Actuarial Science in the same University. When I graduated in 2003, I joined a local bank as a Junior Executive in Risk Management Department and did my masters in Finance part time from RMIT . I recently left the local bank for a better position and hopefully future to join an Islamic Foreign Bank. I wouldn’t have come this far if it’s not for the strong foundation built during school days, BBGS has been a great part of me and is still is.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Candle 27: Rose and Sunitha

Candle 27 is a special joint-effort by two BBGSians, who are separated by half a century in years but strongly united in family spirit. Rose Ponnudurai, from the Class of 1941 (yes, you read that right!) is our most senior contributor to date, and her grand-niece, Sunitha Priscilla Arthur, is from the class of 1992. We thank them both for adding such richness and depth to our treasured archive of BBGS stories.
Sunitha with her Aunty Rose
Rose Ponnudurai (class of 1941) Imagine sitting for exams with warplanes flying overhead…. Or waiting 4 years for your results. That’s what Rose Ponnudurai experienced. An ex-BBGSian from the class of 1941, she sat for her CSC (Cambridge School Certificate) just before WW2 broke out. Here are some of her stories: “Miss Glasgow - I remember her for teaching me English. She took the trouble to personally coach me. You’d never think of a person holding such a high position like a principal, coming to your house at a low level. Real affection to help out, not just talking. I believe that is true Christianity, not just talking about (the Lord) Jesus, but doing the work that Jesus did. I remember this humorous incident: one time, Miss Gibson stopped by our house because she said “I get the smell (of fresh cow’s milk) just like in Ireland.” So I asked “Would you like a cup of milk” and she replied “Yes why not?” So I got her some milk and she was so happy. Because the smell reminded her of her homeland. When sitting for the CSC, we heard planes flying over the school. Some of my classmates started saying we’re going to be bombed. But we weren’t. Immediately after the exams the war broke out, so I had to go and stay in the estate with my parents. For the next four years we didn’t hear anything and I thought well, that’s the end of the exam results. I didn’t mind that actually! But after the war, my brother informed me that the results were going to be released. And I became so afraid, I kept telling my mother “Don’t know if I’ll pass, don’t know if I’ll pass.” I was not keen that my brother was going to get the results for me, but anyway I passed, and that made me happy.” Aunty Rose just celebrated her 87th birthday. Thank God for her alertness & strength till this day. She is an encouragement to many by her love, sense of humour and “mirth that has no bitter strings”. Widowed at a young age, she had to single-handedly raise 5 children (at the time ranging in ages 2 to 12). Aunty Rose credits the lives of the missionary teachers in BBGS for moulding her character. Sunitha Priscilla Arthur (class of 1992) As for me, I joined BBGS primary School 1 in Std 6 after moving from Melaka. I remember being totally miserable the first few months because I missed my old school, friends, old house…. Also my former school was coed & my first impression of BBGS (& KL) girls were that these girls are wild! (No offense intended :-). In a coed school, we girls tend to be a bit more, ahem,… well-behaved, we sit nicely (not like the boys), we’re soft-spoken, etc . And everything about BBGS just felt so strange & intimidating. But after some time, I grew to really love BBGS. And I’m grateful for the friends who made the effort to get to know me, reserved as I was. I remember Marina Ramli asking me questions about me, my family, former school, etc etc etc., felt almost like interrogation, but she really took time to make me feel at home. And Yap Lee Pheng who insisted I join in a game of “Bisik-bisik”, Yung Mei (Mei Purcell) who always cheered me with her jolly sense of humour, Mui Teng who showed me the canteen & insisted that I must eat (‘cause I was reluctant to go there, didn’t like crowds). Also my class teacher & other classmates from Std 6 Kuning 1987 who were so nice to me (if any of you are reading this-THANK YOU, it’s the little things that matter). Secondary school (1988-1992) were truly years of moulding & shaping. I’m grateful to my principal Miss Yeap & teachers: Mrs Abraham (she managed to make me actually LIKE Geography), Puan Sharifah, & others & also those who taught at the Christian Union meetings and camps (esp Miss Cooke, Miss Moey, Miss Siew, Mrs Kok, etc). Also am grateful for the many friends. It’s so nice to be reconnected again because of the Back2BBGS event - thanks again Joanna & the whole committee! But the most important thing that happened to me in BBGS was the divine encounter I had in Dec 89, in the school hall. Experienced the tangible warmth, love & reality of the Lord Jesus & realised for the first time that God is really REAL. This totally changed my life. Looking back, I know it was not by chance that I came to BBGS. God had everything planned. Indeed at the end of the day, this truth remains: NISI DOMINUS FRUSTRA.

Update:  Rose Ponnudurai went home to be with the Lord on 20th April 2021, aged 98.  May she rest in peace.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Candle 26: Yang-May Ooi

Yang-May Ooi is a Malaysian-born writer and blogger (and BBGSian!) based in the UK. Her latest book, International Communications Strategy, co-authored with Silvia Cambie, is out July 2009. She has also published two novels with Hodder & Stoughton, UK. Yang-May blogs and podcasts at her multimedia online “magazine” Fusion View, the cross-cultural blog at She shares her memories with us on Project Kindle.

My childhood friend from KL, Mei W, sent me a link awhile back to a blog all about my old school Bukit Bintang Girls School, Back to BBGS in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I was at the BBGS Primary School 2, from between 1973-75, after which I left to come to school in the UK. Although I was there for only a short period, I’ve always had fond memories of the place and the friends that I made there.

Sadly, the school is no longer on its original site. In modern KL, the location is prime real estate, right in the middle of the shopping district. It clung on for as long as it could but eventually gave in to commercial pressures around 1999. The site is now the location of the luxury Star Hill development of condos - Bukit means Hill in Malay and Bintang means Star.

Although the primary school building was more modern than the colonial style secondary school, I loved the school building for its open verandahs and I seem to remember giant banyan trees and rain trees in the grounds. There was a very basic canteen near the playing fields selling laksa and fried noodles as well as stinky salted fish satay sticks and bubble gum. I would sometimes buy a bowl of laksa (10 cents, I think) but other times bring in home made sandwiches - chicken, corned beef fried with onions or fried luncheon meat, or home made fried rice.

I can still remember the names of some of my classmates - Gwen, Bek-Ngan, Jia Yee, Latifah, Valencia, Dolly, Helen. My class teacher was Miss Teh and our Malay teacher was Cik Zaleha. Miss Ma, the principal, was a very elegant Chinese lady who always wore a cheong-sam. Her deputy was Mrs Bux, whom we were all scared of because she had a very stern presence.

There were 50 pupils to class and I always came bottom - 49 or 50! - except in English, where I usually got 100% in all the tests. My family despaired that I was a dunce. At best, I was lazy and didn’t study as I should. They tore their hair out that my father was spending all that money to send me to school in the UK - what if it all turned out to be a waste of his hard earned money and I spent my years in England a layabout, good-for-nothing dunce? What if I never amounted to anything?

I think my difficulty at BBGS was that the text books and schoolwork was in Malay and I had previously gone to an English language school. We spoke English at home. I read in English, wrote in English, thought in English. At that point, the medium of instruction was still English and my friends and I also spoke in English. I was finding it hard to deal with the school work in another language, even though it was the national language of Malaysia. Also, I knew I was going to school in England and that I would never need to use Malay there so what was the point of it all?

In the UK, it took me awhile to adjust but as it turned out, this is where I thrived. I was still never top of the class to my extended family’s disappointment but I’d come in at respectable above average ranking. I never matched the string of A’s that my parents and uncles and aunts boasted of in their O’ and A’ levels but trundled solidly along with Bs mostly and the occasional shocking C and even an E! But I think I found that being in England suited me and I felt free to develop those other talents that I had that couldn’t be measured by exams.

But there are many things about Malaysia that I miss - the food, the climate, the warm and friendly Malaysian way of being, Malaysian English, the rain trees, that orange sunlight in the evenings after school. And although I did dismally at BBGS from an academic point of view, I had a happy time there with my class mates and my memories of the school and the sense of place I have about it makes me sad that it is no longer there physically in the location that I remember. Reading through the Back to BBGS blog has made me feel a bit like an old lady, looking back at her young days!

Back to BBGS is the personal blog of an Old Girl, Joanna Yeoh, and collects the memories and stories of BBGSians. It’s a huge undertaking for one person - thank you, Joanna, and all power to you - and all the BBGSian contributors - for creating such a fantastic resource and archive!

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:

Friday, 28 August 2009

Candle 24: Foo Soo Wei

Again thanks to the publicity from the gala night, I've re-connected with some of my classmates from Class of 1987. Foo Soo Wei and I were together from primary right through to secondary school. She is now a respiratory specialist practising in Sydney. Here she is in her own words...

Dear Joanna,

Greetings from Down Under! This is ( Foo) Soo Wei here. We were in the same class for a number of years. It has been a while since I have returned to KL for any great length of time.

I have been directed (by my sister, Soo Yee) to your blog for BBGSians and I just want to commend you on your efforts including the reunion you help to organise. It is so great to see that BBGS spirit and motto continue to live on in people's lives despite losing the building etc. It was very sad to see the school torn down ........

Anyhow, I am currently in Sydney working as a respiratory consultant at one of the metropolitan hospitals here. Enclosed is a photo of me and my other better half - got married not long ago in Melbourne. (Joanna says: Congratulations Soo Wei and hubby!)

Please send my regards to your mother. I will always remember her as Mrs. Yeoh and though I can't remember the details of what she taught, I always enjoyed her lessons. It is hard to find good teachers nowadays - I kinda know what it's feels like to teach as I'm involved in teaching medical students. I even enrolled myself in a course last year in effective teaching methods!!!

Lastly, THANK YOU again for the blog site. It is great fun just meandering through the bibs and bobs of your blog. The words Nisi Dominus Frustra brings back many pleasant memories of BBGS....

With best wishes
Soo Wei

Monday, 24 August 2009

Candle 23: Chong Wei Lian

Hi Joanna,

I came across your blog after reading about the "do" at the Pavilion. I am residing in Sydney and missed it. Thank God for the internet. At least I can read about some of the happenings and also see Miss Cooke in the photos.

OK, details about me:-
Name : Chong Wei Lian
BBGS Primary School : from 1967 to 1972
BBGS Secondary School : from 1973 - 1977

My years with BBGS? Much has been said about the teachers, games, choir speaking, the gym, etc, etc. Maybe I can spice things up by reminiscing about my personal experiences (apologies to those who I am going to borrow materials from for I cannot have experiences without interacting with others). My favourite memory is cooking. I have this wonderful, crazy friend who thinks there's "more to eat" by adding more salt, more flour, more of everything that we didn't have to bring ourselves. Needless to say the food is inedible! We still laugh about this till today.

Another wonderful, wonderful friend once borrowed a Mills & Boon book from me which I had borrowed from another friend (not from BBGS). For those of you who know how strict Miss Cooke is, this is right at the top of the "NO, NO" list. Of course we got caught. Miss Cooke has eyes behind her head.

Talking about saving us young ones from the evils of the world.....does anyone remember when the movie "The Exorcist" was released? There was such a huge public outcry that we were actually warned at assembly not to go and see this movie. Phew! Just as well or else there will be a few hundred more people at the Pavilion cinema :)

I suppose I can go on and on but it's getting late and I have more to cover. I noticed in your blog there is a

Noor Ashikin Ishak looking to connect with others in her year. I do not recall the face even though there's a photo but her name does ring a bell. Please ask her to write to me, would be good to catch up. There is also a Jenny Yim whom I had the pleasure of catching up with on my last trip back to KL and hope to be able to catch up again next trip.

If it is not too much trouble can you also please insert in your blog that I am trying to trace a Dorothy Ooi Kee Lim also of 1977. We have lost touch almost as soon as we left school.

Lastly, thank you very much for your effort of re-connecting all and sundry who have any connection with BBGS.

Well done!!!

Wei Lian

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Candle 22: Ho Wai Suet

This candle by Ho Wai Suet is a real treat! She has generously shared with us her treasure trove of BBGS photos from the 1960s and 70s. Enjoy...

Hi Joanna

Let me introduce myself. I am Ho Wai Suet (Sixth form 1972, being the 3rd batch of Sixth Formers) - a thorough bred BBGSian . Sow Yoong and Wei Meng were my classmates. I am a retired homemaker (opted for retirement at the age of 40 ! ). I read Geography at University of Malaya and tutored there till 1993.

Miss Cooke and Mr Chew ( our maths & physics teacher ) in a skit. Miss Cooke proposing to Mr Chew ?

Sunday School girls with Miss Gibson at a camp at Luther House in 1968

The late Sakinah Ibrahim was the princess in The Persian Market. Thanks to Mrs Jega Deva who proposed, produced and directed the play. She was our 5E form teacher. We still have fond memories of The Persian Market. It was a remarkable performance and we classmates worked very well with each other to present it at the Speech and Prize-giving Day April 1970
I was one of the camels - the front half and Yee Chong my hind legs. That brown blanket was my father's blanket ! !

I was in Cooke House. Maclay House clinched the gold medal. The late Teh Siew Lin was the anchor runner. Our athletic coach was Mr Yeoh Cheang Swi. I believed that he trained us out of his pure love for athletics and he did it free-of-charge. I remember him telling us that he cycled all the way from Jalan Ipoh (his home) to BBGS on Saturday afternoons just to train us. His daughters also attended BBGS.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Candle 21: Lisa Ng

With all the publicity generated by the Back2BBGS event, so many stories have been flowing in from BBGSians that this blog is practically writing itself. We're re-joining the Project Kindle series with Lisa Ng from the Class of 1990, which was the year she also served as School Captain.

Hi Joanna,

Firstly, great job on the Back2BBGS website and for keeping the school
spirit alive with your many initiatives. I got into the site and listening to the school song again just made me feel really emotional.The words mean so much now whereas when I was younger, I sang the lyrics on autopilot and was perhaps too immature to reflect on their

I was in BB from 1980 till 1990. I still remember the many carnival
days in primary school. We had to get our mums to cook or buy food
from the market and sell them under the huge tree in the middle of the
school grounds.

I also remember my first teacher - Mrs. Chan - who was really strict
when it came to spelling. Then there was Miss Teh for (petite lady who
raised her eyebrows at me when I said I wanted to become a
"geographist" in standard 4), Pn. Rashimah (standard 5 teacher who
would punish us with an ink-moustache if we didn't do our corrections
after 2 warnings) and Mrs Yeoh (standard 6 teacher who told us
interesting stories about her travels to Europe in between lessons).

My secondary school life was also filled with lasting memories. I am
sure every BBGSian remembers choral speaking, the co-op, and the two
feisty aunties who worked the drink stall. They would sometimes scold
us prefects for being too generous with the orange cordial drinks we
helped sold when on duty.

Also, who can forget the aunty who sold Malay-style economy rice in
the canteen? You could pick two pieces of chicken, some taugeh and a
fried egg every day and the price would vary. Why? Because she was one
human calculator who'd "agak-agak" the price of your plate and your

I love the Prefects' Room too. It was a cosy little place where we had
our meetings and talked about issues. In fact, us prefects practised
out Teacher's Day presentation every year in that room.

Cleanliness was a big thing for BBGSians. Classroom duty meant
prefects were assigned to assess the cleanliness of blocks of classes.
Marks were given for how pristinely green the blackboard was (no chalk
dust anywhere at all, please!), how pristinely grey the floor was
(runaway staples were generally tolerated as they blended into the
grey) and how well aligned the desks were (I wonder if many BBGSians
are victims of obssessive-compulsive disorder).

I could go on and on about many other things but I'd like to most
bring up "decency and discipline". Having been a prefect, I could
safely say that even the naughtiest girl in school had decency and the
ability to be polite. It is a BBGS trait I believe and it's due to the
values the school inculcates in her students. We rebel but we never
forget the boundaries that help make us human. I've had a naughty girl
tell me about another girl who has trouble at home even though she's a
friend of a friend.

Discipline has also taught all of us to persevere, to take the "narrow
gate" as it were, and not choose the easy way to our dreams. I believe
we are hardy women with a keen sense of responsibility and hands lined
with deeds done in service to friends, neighbours, family and
community. We are that kind of girls.

I left school after Form 5 with the fondest memories of Ms. Yeap, the
headmistress then, whom I remember gave me advice about my future
career while driving me somewhere (can't remember what I was doing in
her car now). Did my university years in Australia and returned with a
degree in Marketing and Business Communications. I've been a
copywriter in the advertising industry now for 14 years and have my
own creative department to lead. But I can tell you that despite the
kind of politics that occur in corporations and the fact that I work
in an industry that's partially reponsible for an increasingly
consumerism-numbed society, it's my years at BBGS that have shaped the
voice of reason I hear in my head when tough decisions have to be

I am married to a St.John's boy and have a 5-month-old boy who gives
me the kind of joy no fancy house or car could. And I think that too,
is something our school has given me: an appreciation for the things
that truly matter at the end of the day.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Blog Status

Update: Please note that Joanna Yeoh has resigned from the BBGS OGA Executive Committee on 16 August 2009 and is no longer able to represent the views of the Association. Kindly contact the President for any further information. Thank you.

Dear Friends,

It's been such a pleasure to serve the BBGS community through this blog and I've been so blessed by your kind words, support and love. Thank you for recognising and greeting me at the gala reunion last week.

Our readership passed the 37,000 mark this morning and we're only two years' old. I can only hope that the blog will grow from strength to strength in the coming years and more of us will be re-united with kindred spirits from our school days.

Back2BBGS is my personal blog which was set up to preserve BBGS memories in cyberspace. I take great care to ensure that the facts are correct, sources are credible and permissions are obtained for the stories and images. It is a matter of personal integrity, in addition to copyright.

From today onwards, this blog will revert back to its original intent and will remain a personal blog.

I am unable to adequately represent or be personally responsible for matters relating to the BBGS Old Girls' Association (OGA) or the Elena Cooke Education Fund (ECEF). The OGA has agreed to set up an official website as the channel of communication amongst its members. Meanwhile, all queries regarding monies and administrative matters should be addressed to the OGA President at

All other personal stories of girls, teachers, staff and reunions are welcome and will continue to be published as per the original intent of the blog.

Thank you for your kind understanding.

Joanna Yeoh
Founder of Back2BBGS Blog a.k.a "The Blogger" :-)

More gala photos

Here's another treat for those of you who are clamouring for more photos of the Back2BBGS event. These pictures are being shared with us by Moonlake Lee (Class of 1986) who did a brilliant job capturing a variety of shots.

Miss Yeap Gaik Khoon was our guest of honour for the evening gala. Her candid style and heartfelt stories held the audience in rapt attention. At the piano was Saidah Rastam, one of Malaysia's acclaimed composers (remember M the Musical?), who is also a BBGSian. Saidah conducted the choir and provided live music for the event....she is soooo good...swoon...

A large number of ex-teachers and staff turned up for the evening gala. Remember the jaga and Chandran (the office staff who prepared all our exam papers?)

Moonlake (in red) with Elizabeth Lee (in purple), her college principal, and her friends Darina, Salwa and Sunitha

Friends from the Class of 1986

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Women of Vision: 1893 - 1925

The "Timeless Traditions" exhibition took place on 4 August 2009 at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur. It showcased the pioneers of BBGS as well as school activities through the decades. Some readers who couldn't attend the function have asked me to share the exhibition online. So here it is...enjoy!

This exhibition has been researched, written and sponsored by Joanna Yeoh and photos have been re-produced with permission from Miss YL Moey. Please obtain written copyright permission from the author before reproducing any information and images for print or digital use. Thank you.

Miss Betty Langlands, 1893 - 1895

The British Empire was at its height of glory when Miss Betty Langlands left England for Malaya, an equatorial colonial outpost.

Her vision?

To educate the women in this country and elevate their status in society, in order that they might live fuller lives. In 1893, this determined missionary lady gathered a few women in Brickfields and taught them to read.

The first girls’ school in Selangor was born.

Miss Bessie Maclay and the five orphans she adopted

Miss Bessie Maclay (1895 - 1914)

Miss Maclay arrived from China in 1895 to take over the reins of the school, then known as the Chinese Girls’ School. The school grew under her care, even while it was physically moved to Petaling Hill and Davidson Road.

A hardworking, broadminded and strict Headmistress, Miss Maclay was feared but loved by all her pupils. Coming from a well-to-do family, Miss Maclay gave generously to all who needed help. As a nurse, she welcomed everyone who came to the dispensary at her house. Babies were left on her doorstep. She raised five of these children, all of whom grew up to be a credit to her.

In 1914, she went on leave via USA on board the Lusitania. The First World War broke out and the ship was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland and she was drowned. Maclay House was named in her honour.

Miss Shirtliff and her pupils in the early twentieth century

Miss Shirtliff arrived from New Zealand in 1898 and came to Kuala Lumpur in the early 1900’s. Firm, forthright and outspoken, she soon became well-known to the schoolgirls of that era. She planted a rain tree under which the girls loved to shelter at recess time. The much-loved raintree continued to provide welcome respite for over half a century. Shirtliff House was named in her honour.

L-R: Miss Ruth Lewis, Miss Molly Ham (1914 - 1918)

From 1914 – 1918, during the difficult days of the First World War, the school continued under the joint leadership of Miss Ruth Lewis and Miss Molly Ham.

Miss Lewis also came from New Zealand. She later married and became Mrs Robert Austin.

Miss Ham left Malaya after the war and went to live in Cheddar, England.

L-R: Mrs Green, Miss Luke, Miss O' Connor

Mrs W.H. Green, 1918 - 1919

Mrs Green, the sister of Miss Shirtliff, took over the reins of the school for a year. One of Mrs Green’s pupils was heard to remark, “Oh dear, she was very, very strict but most efficient as a Principal.” Green House was named after her.

Miss A. Luke, 1919 – 1925

Miss A Luke arrived in 1919, and led the school until 1925. She married and became Mrs. Bennett, and went on to reside in Brisbane, Australia.

Miss O’ Connor, circa 1922

When Miss Luke went on leave, Miss O’ Connor who later became Mrs G. Gough, was given the headship in 1922. She was the first graduate teacher of the school.