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Friday, February 8, 2008

Goodbye Ah Meng...

I woke up in Singapore this morning and read the newspaper's headline AH MENG DIES. I know the name...after all these years having left Singapore, I still remember her. Ah Meng was the face of Singapore Zoo and likely the most celebrated Sumatran orang utan in Asia. She died today, the 2nd day of Chinese New Year, of old age. She had been with the zoo here since '71, she was 48 (or in human terms, around 95).

Apparently Ah Meng was featured in 30 travel films, the subject of almost 270 media articles in the world and also became the first and only non-human recipient of the 'Special Tourism Ambassador' award in the city-state.

Not just a household name, Ah Meng is also the reminiscent of many of my wonderful childhood memories. Fun excursions to the zoo with classmates and teachers and many many more exciting field trips to the Botanical Gardens, Seletar Reservoir, Jurong Bird Park, Sentosa Island as well as the cool road safety driving range for children. Uniquely Singapore it is.... Whether it was the class parties at school or parties I used to throw at my home (at Upper Serangoon apartments), I treasure every one of those happy moments.

I look back today and see my life then, scented with all these great moments, many which kids today could only dream. Thanks to my friends and the incredibly fun and loving primary school teachers of Elling North Primary School. Each of them played a memorable role in making my childhood complete. My teachers were truly god's gift. They nurtured me like I was their own child. They had baked us cakes for class parties and were there to celebrate almost every one of my birthdays. My teachers were teachers who taught with heart.

Mr. Tang
Most favorite teacher of all time, he was my class teacher of Primary 4 & 5. This man adored me and spoilt me silly, he made the rest sick. He told me the Noah Ark's story.

Mrs. Ng
My very first class teacher ever ever. Primary 1, she made me Class Monitor. By far the one teacher who influenced me most, she started my nail-biting habit which I can't seem to kick. She used to stand me in front of the class to read a book, story-tell. She even put me in front of the school assembly every Monday, to say the pledge. For sure, I have her to thank for my self-confidence. By the way, I had a crush on her son, Roy since 8 for years!

Mrs. Low
Primary 2. I remember her as a kind and soft-spoken person. Unassuming as she was, the impression she left is nothing less distinguished than the fiery –orange Flame of the Forest in the school field. My connection with nature began with a smell. The smell of fertilizer in our school’s own little botanical garden. She told me that beautiful white flower is a Frangipani and now that I've felt it and smelt it, I'll never forget it. She made it very easy for the 9-year-old me to remember how to spell 'Bouganvillea' perfectly.

Mrs. Fong - by far the most stylish teacher I've known, she's actually my brother's class teacher. But I remember she drove flashy cars which she parked at our apartments sometimes because her tailor lived in our block. I learnt of Princess Di from her frequent talk, obviously an admirer...she even played the video of the royal wedding in the school theatre. She also brought the subject of bone-marrow disease to light and the plight of Ethiopian children as well. She headed the girls' scout during that time, I remember her as a tall and chic woman. She once asked the hyperative me if I was lady or a monkey.

Mrs. Chan
How could I forget... she's my music teacher throughout Elling years. I learnt to play the Recorder and the Angklung in her classes, plus the tens of songs I’ve sang with her on the piano. Music teachers like Mrs.Chan are already extinct. How tragic.


Mrs. Chiew

When Elling North & Elling South merged, she became my Primary 6 class teacher. Also my last teacher of the lot before I left for KL for good. She cried while bidding farewell to me in class, I cried, the whole class too ended up in tears. I was Asisstant Head Prefect.

So you see, after 25 years I still remember the faces of my teachers quite vividly, their voices too. I think I'd recognize them if I ever bumped into them... I think there's nothing more true to what Oprah once said :

"when someone makes an impression on your soul,
it is a heartprint"


And my memory of Ah Meng, just as vivid. She's synonymous with Singapore as much as she is with that era of my life. She's hence a part of this big beautiful picture of my fantastic childhood; grandma, aunties, school mates, wonderful teachers, parties and memorabilia like Flashdance, Michael Jackson's Thriller video, Abba's songs, Strawberry Shortcake, Lego and Scrabble!! Oh, Scrabble.... Scrabble equals Jacqueline, my one truly special girlfriend (also ex-neighbour) whom till this day I still see. Oh I love this woman.

Jacqueline then & now

Singapore is therefore a very important place in my life. Well, you can say I'm part Singaporean. Not by birth but I've lived here for 10 years... 10 amazing years, undeniably. Many people today naturally assume I'm a Singapore girl for some strange reason... I mean why, I definitely don't speak like one :P

Thanks to mum and dad for having made sound choices for their children's future or I would never have learnt Mandarin (oh yes... I can speak, read & write it, mind you. Thanks to Mrs.Lim).
Nor would I have understood the power of learning and the value of human connection. And, I would not be ME today, someone with purpose. Thank you to all who've enriched my childhood. I am truly blessed.

"In the end, we will only conserve what we love. We will only love what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught." - Baba Dioum


Brokeback said...

hi maple... u so sweet i have met twice one at Ning engagement 2nd Ning's wedding u so sweet...but tak berpeluang snap picture with u yet... i take ur picture one at Ning's Engagement..

so sad.... about Ah Meng..but at least all of her life cheering people and entertain the sadness..she die with pride and leave behind sweetness memory...

Royaltejee said...

S'up Mapel.
It was really really nice of you to do this.Seeing the pictures of Elling and it's teachers sure brought back fond memories of Elling Primary.I was the last batch to do my PSLE from Elling...the last day,everyone was in tears.Man how I miss those days spent in Elling....

Thanks a lot for sharing Maple!!

Maple Loo said...

hey royaltejee! Wow I'm elated... you're from Elling too??!! I wonder if I know you if i see your face! You see, that's the really nice thing about the web.... the world is so much smaller:) Do you have a blog too? Thanks for finding mine!!
Stay in touch!

Goh Meng Seng said...


Nice post you have on Elling North Primary. I happen to graduate from there. Fond memories.

Goh Meng Seng said...

Hi Maple,

Nice posting on Elling North. I am from Elling North as well brings back fond memories.

Goh Meng Seng