Home > Memories, those were the days - kindergarten > Those were the days – Kindergarten

Those were the days – Kindergarten

Kindergarten Ayer Itam Penang

Looking through my old photo albums, I found one taken outside my kindergarten. It was obviously the last day of school. I finally appreciated the banana trees and such. Oh it brought back such memories. Backwoods memories.

I did mention in an earlier post that I was looked after by a nanny. When it was time for me to go to kindergarten, I was moved out of her house, and moved in with my 4th Aunt. My parents were working, and could not manage my schedule. Life with 4th Aunt was really something – a real blast. But that is the subject of another story.

My kindergarten was located in a little kampong like area, one main road and some back lanes away from my auntie’s house. I vaguely remember the first day of school. I was warned by my mum, and my aunt that only little babies cry. I was a big girl, and should be brave about going to school. Actually I was quite excited.

Now you must understand that I was more or less brought up by an uncaring nanny. My mum was Cantonese – so I spoke Cantonese very well. Dad was Teochew, but unlike mum had no relatives in Penang. So I spoke no Teochew. My parents communicated in mandarin, so my spoken Mandarin was passable. Nanny was Hokkien, so I could manage that too. Kindergarten however had all classes in English – a totally foreign language to me.

All my life I knew myself as 方雪 亮。Dad was very proud of my name. All my other relatives called me by my nick name, in Cantonese intonation – Liang Liang. On the first day of school, I was herded into the living room of this old, wooden cottage like house. It was strange to see so many children and their mamas. My aunt hung around outside the room, just keeping an eye on me. There were so many crying children. I just could not understand why they were crying. I suppose they were mollycoddled by loving mothers their entire life, whereas I had been pretty much left on my own by my cheroot smoking nanny. I think I must have stared and gawked for the longest time.

Then came roll call. Teacher was trying to take attendance. When it came to me, she cried out, “Hng Sok Liang.” I totally ignored her. I suppose when roll call was over, the only girl left standing was moi. She came to me and told me, “How come you did not recognize your name, Hng Sok Liang?” I think she must have spoken in Hokkien cos I could understand her. I retorted indignantly, “That’s not my name. My name is方雪 亮. She shook her head in utter exasperation!!

I have to take a short deviation here. While I could not manage English, my husband could not handle Chinese. For him, Chinese class was a nightmare. He had English educated parents and studied in St Andrews – double whammy! I think he said that whenever the Chinese teacher did a roll call, he would look around anxiously to see if anyone else identified with the name. If not, he would sheepishly put up his hand and hope he was right on the money.

Anyway, kindergarten was a blur. The only thing I was passable at was Arithmetic – since it required little knowledge of English. I could not read a word. I could not speak any more than a smattering of the language. I did not have any story books of my own – we could not afford them. While my cousins could speak English – they were so much older than me that to them I was a little pest, worth nothing more than to be ignored, or teased – depending on their moods. Somehow, I plowed through that year – did not have many friends, did not have the favour of my teacher cos I was too big to be cute and not bright enough to be noticed.

The only excitement I had during that year was crossing the main road. Sometimes my auntie was too busy to walk me all the way to and from school. There was only one main road worth worrying about. She would stand at the pavement just outside the door, and then commanded me to cross when it was safe. Then I would run across the road, and skipped along the back lanes to the school, sometimes fending off some fighting cocks – fearful creatures those, and the occasional stray dog. Coming back was even funnier. I would walk all the way, stopped in the pavement opposite my aunt’s house. If she had not appeared yet, which happened once in a while, I would have to shout for her above the din of the traffic and to the annoyance of the house owners. They must have very sharp ears, for almost immediately, either my stay at home female cousin, or my aunt would appear, and then gave the command to cross.

Life was simple and so good. Looking at the picture confirmed what I told my children. I was tall for my age. I wonder what happened to me. How did someone who was rather tall then end up being such a midget?

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  1. July 5, 2011 at 6:27 am

    I remembered my days in kindergarten too, although vaguely. The PAP school was about 200m away from the old 3 bedroom shop house where I lived with my parents, my maternal grandparents and extended family of maternal uncles and aunties (10 adults!). We only spoke Hokkien at home and my English was limited to the Alphabet and my Mandarin was limited to what I can remember from TV or Radio. It was all fun and games was what I remembered about kindergarten. I remembered also hating Chinese because the words were so hard to write and could not be spelled phonetically, unlike English. I also remember sharing my answers in tests and exams with my friends as I didn’t know what tests and exams were and like all good children, I shared the “goodies” by passing my answer sheet around for my friends! Ah those were the days…

    • SpeakSpokeWriteWrote
      July 5, 2011 at 6:33 am

      haha – glad they reminded you of those days too. I am trying to write what i remember so that my kids have an idea of the past. thanks for popping by

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