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Thank you ACS

A smaller turnout for the Class of '85. But we were still the rowdiest.

A smaller turnout for the Class of ’85. But we were still the rowdiest.

I wasn’t in ACS when I was in primary school, and so when I qualified via PSLE to get attend secondary school there, I was thrilled because my Sunday School friends were all ACS boys. And I was terrified, because I hadn’t been an ACS boy.

It took a couple of months in Sec One before I acclimatised, and began talking the talk thanks to teachers whose names I still remember – Mrs Evelyn Wee – English and Form Teacher; Mr Navaratnam, Science Teacher, whose first comments at lab period was to joke that the ACS lab was so old, the equipment was donated by Sir Stamford Raffles; and Mr Jagmohan Singh, History Teacher, who, apart from teaching us how to pronounce “King Nebuchadnezzar”, also famously described anthropological development thus: “the more civilised we are, the donkeyer we become”.

I am forever grateful for the liberal education I received in my seven years at ACS/ACJC, and even more thankful for the fast friends I made, and with whom I still work and play. It was a special place, this place of learning – and we were the lucky few in the 1980s who were assigned ‘native speaker’ teachers from all over the UK who brought with them their knowledge, culture and quirks and opened our eyes to the world.

We were the lucky few who were taught the difference between passing exams and learning, and more specifically, I remember a teacher preparing us for the AO Level General Paper exams which were to be marked by teachers in the UK. He said to ‘give them something to keep them warm, because they’re marking your papers in the cold of winter. Write about your hawker centres, your spicy foods, your sunshine and your tropical storms. I guarantee you you’ll score an A’.

So, thank you very much, Anglo-Chinese School for teaching us to tell our own stories. And congratulations on getting to a hundred and thirty. #TBIYTB

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Surprising Sembawang

Sembawang Onsen

A video posted by Benjamin "Mr Miyagi" Lee (@miyagisan) on

I visited Sembawang Hot Spring for the first time last Friday because I had written it into a video script.

It’s the only natural hot spring in Singapore, and you can read about its properties on Wikipedia. What was more interesting when we shot the video, was how a bunch of sixty-something year old uncles and aunties were enjoying the spring, soaking their feet in plastic wash basins and buckets filled with hot spring water. The aunties were fully clothed, but the uncles went around bare-chested. Later on, the uncles took turns to soak their whole selves in used chemical drums filled with the water.

One of the uncles appeared to have been a practitioner of a sort of therapy. He would massage the limbs of the aunties who were there, asking them to relax, stretch and flex their joints for about fifteen minutes per aunty-patient. There was one aunty who appeared to be more afflicted with something than the others, because not only did Therapy Uncle have to massage her limbs, most of her torso had to be handled by his hot hands as well. It must have hurt a bit, because there was quite a bit of shrieking.

Now that Sembawang Hot Spring is done from my bucket list of local things to do, I’m looking forward to eating some famous Sembawang White Bee Hoon. That’s right, I’ve never had it. I always thought all bee hoon was white.

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The Public Service Paperweight Award

Some time in the early 90’s my father was given a public service award for his contributions to education. It came as a surprise to all of us, since he never mentioned anything about it, and the only times we saw him getting close to education was when he signed our school report cards.

He explained that over the years, he had been donating money to a Chinese school affiliated with one of the Hainanese clans in Singapore. He also said it wasn’t a big deal, but I’m sure it was – because no ordinary donor would have been shortlisted for a public service award.

When he received the invitation to the ceremony, he showed it to me and asked me if he should attend. I said, “Why not? You deserve it”.

He went, came home, and I asked him how it was. He said, “Nothing lah. So long the whole thing”.

I asked him to show me the award or certificate he must have received, and he said, “Don’t have lah. They only give me this block of wood”.

He showed me the “block of wood”, and said, “Useless. Can put on your desk”, probably thinking it was a paperweight.

I took the block of wood, removed the ribbon around it, and opened it to show him a medal. We spent the next hour laughing at his silliness.

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