Friday, July 14, 2017

APGS Class of 1974 Reunion

60th Birthday Bash for the APGS 1974 Reunion.

As early as January 2017, the 1974  Fifth Form cohort from APGS (Ayer Panas Girls’ School) started planning for the Reunion in July 2017. This Reunion was special because most of us would be reaching our 60th birthday. At Form 5, some of us were 16 or 17 and now some of us touched 60. We celebrated staying in contact with each other and the teachers even after 43 long years. The date was tweaked a bit to accommodate the 6 girls who would be returning from overseas. The final date, time and place  was agreed upon by general consensus. We were all excited awaiting ;

The APGS Class of 1974 Reunion
8th July 2017
12pm - 4.30 pm
The Brasserie, Maya Hotel, Jalan Ampang, KL.

Low Soo Ting was the master coordinator, collaborating with  each one and those who would eventually form the Committee. She started a big Whats App's group with 59 participants. Long before the actual event, we started connecting. This group generated much excitement and expectation, both for those who were able to attend and those who were not able to attend. Old photos were shared and faces pondered upon, long lost magazines were found and shared. There were searches for girls like for example the Professor ( Yeap Pooi Lan) and mentions of copying Professor’s Additional Mathematics homework.

Lim Tow Lay held the fort in the accounts section and diligently checked our banked in amounts. Hers would be the most tedious job but Tow Lay did her work sweetly. Cathy Tam from Brisbane doubled checked Tow Lay’s list so that payment list and attendees list would tally.  Datin Nor-Aini also double-checked Soo Ting’s list of attendees. The list of guests in alphabetical order was soon prepared after all the cross checking. Sticker name tags were agreed upon as they were cheaper and would help us identify our long lost friends.  

Chi Oi Meng liaised with the hotel with all arrangements including a cake with our school badge. She also prepared  enlarged copies of the 1974 magazines. Chi Oi Meng , Wong Lee Meng and Lim Tow Lay brought in their personal old photo albums so we could remember what we and our teachers looked like in the good old days.   

The copy of  our beloved  magazine is bigger and clearer
than the original.. Thank you Oi Meng
Lee Meng phoned many teachers and arranged for 7 teachers to attend the event. Lee Meng and her wonderful daughter JQ and son-in-law Dexter helped with the photography and produced the most delightful video. ( Please click on link below my photo with Mrs Tay to view this video) Lee Meng also got the lovely red and champagne rose corsages for the teachers. 

Rose and champagne corsage for our lovely teachers.
Thank you Lee Meng
Nor-Aini also coordinated prettily packed yummy Lavand chocolates as door gifts.   

Nor-Aini with the prettily packed yummy chocolates for all guests.

This event saw 49 girls and 7 teachers compared to the 50th year birthday bash  which  had 16 teachers and 44 girls attending. Out of the 49 girls who attended, 6 came back from overseas with Mabel Tan Bee Poh holding the record distance from New York. We had girls flying in from Australia, Singapore and Kota Kinabalu. 

There were also 6 girls who followed our event closely through WhatsApp’s since they could not come physically to KL due to other commitments. Kath Ho followed from Sydney, Ee Yew Mei and Zainon followed from Sungei Petani, Janice followed from Kota  Kinabalu, Pooi Lan aka Professor followed from Perth and Peggy wanted us to follow her to Rome  and UK (but she actually followed our event). Time and distance could not separate our hearts .

As early as 11.40 am, guests started arriving in Maya hotel. The earliest guests were Chong Ah Looi, Catherine Tam and Lilian . They were greeted by  Lee Meng, Tee Hwa, Nuraini, and Tow Lay and others soon followed after.

The early birds .
We got the girls to register their own attendance, write their own email  addresses and write their own sticker tags and put  them on. The girls lingered on and enjoyed the photo albums  and  old magazines brought by Lee Meng , Oi Meng and Tow Lay. 

Looking through  treasures of old albums

Soh Bee and Mabel who came all the way from New York.

The welcome for our beloved teachers  were of course special and different.We pinned the lovely rose corsages on our beloved teachers. Their sticker name tags were written and put on for them.  We  then ushered  our  teachers to their seats at the center table.

Mrs Joyce Ang, Mrs Ong Guan Eng, Ms Catherine Yap, Mrs Tay Chong Chim.
Ms Jaya Ratnasingam, Ms Yong Siew Chin, Puan Sri Datin Aisha Bt Shamsuddin

Nor-Aini  was  the MC. She invited Khoo Leng Kee as head girl of the 1974 cohort to speak followed by a speech from  Mrs Ong  Guan Eng as the representative of the teachers.

The headgirl Leng Kee speaks

Mrs Ong Guan Eng rises to deliver her speech
The speeches were followed by the cake cutting and two birthday songs. 


The group photo shoot. Refer to the name list below to match faces with names.

We assembled outside the lobby for the group photograph.  Good thing JQ checked the  photos before she printed them. The  program  was  cleverly arranged so that the  group photo take would take place early to give enough  time to JQ  and Dexter  to  run out  and print the A4  size group photo for  every attendee  to take home before the event ended. This  A-4 size  group  photo with  names  of  attendees would be our souvenir and  treasured memento of this event. Even though we had to do a photo shoot re-take but we were all happy with the diversion from food. 

After the second photo shoot, the girls and teachers began serious mingling and catching up with one another. Many group photos were  taken to remind themselves of various connections in the past. Yip Sook Ping came later after the group photo shoot. But as the old adage goes, "Better late than never. " She still had a very good time and looked resplendent in her orange  dress.

Leng Kee and Jamilah, headgirl and deputy headgirl
 of the Prefectorial Board 1974

The best Biology teacher Ms Catherine Yap who was also
our Form teacher in Form 4 and Form 5 Science 1

Lock Lai Ming, Yap Bee Tien, Tai Yuet Phing and gang

Yoke Lin, Khalidah, Soo Ting and Oi Meng.

Jane Wu,  Teo Yan Foon, Dr. Yong Wai Ping and  Wong Lee Meng

Catherine Tam, Lay Suan, Ah Looi and gang.

Samantha ,Seng Nee and gang

5 Arts 1 1974

5 Arts 1 2017 - 43 years later

Meng Wang came despite having a serious knee injury.
She wore knee guard and used a walker.

Ruhaidah, Soo Ting, Nor-Aini and Khalidah

Bee Kuen, Tow Lay, Ma Sau Fong and gang

Ong Tea Hooi, Shirley and gang

Tan Tee Hwa poses with Mrs Tay. She  looks forever young.
I hope we all lookas good as her  this 10 years later.

The credit for this delightful APGS reunion video goes to JQ.

Happy smiles from all who studied at the same primary school - Marian Convent.

We are so thankful to Soo Ting, Tow Lay, Lee Meng , JQ and Dexter, Oi Meng, Nor-Aini for working through many logistics patiently. Many others helped in the background. Thank you everybody for your presence, especially those who came from afar. For those who didn't manage to join us this round, make sure you do at the next event. See you in the near future. Stay forever young. 

Posted by Debbie Yeong nee
Madam Tan Tee Hwa
Retired Principal
SMK Convent Sentul 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

New beginnings at 60 in Sibu

I was conscripted by my friends to go to Sibu on account of the fact I would have retired by the time the Sibu trip was scheduled. The trip was about 3 weeks after my retirement and I had been gallivanting to Hong Kong, Penang and Sekinchan immediately after  retirement whilst seeing my chiropractor in between. So I was not as prepared as my other team members and a little apprehensive as to whether I could survive this trip with my back issues and whether I would be of any help.

25th June Sunday 7.45 am KLIA2

As we were about to board, Tony left his IC while scanning his luggage and realized it was missing when he was near the boarding gate. He left us to look for it and we prayed. Tony found back his IC shortly. Near landing time, I could see the big river bending from the highlands to the lower altitude.  I saw a big town inland and later on I realized that was likely Sibu.  We  were mostly in  very remote areas and navigated around by speedboats around many tidal creeks so I was actually pretty lost as to where we went since rivers do not have name signboards.The teacher in me however was sharp enough to note all the schools we pass and visited and on returning back to civilization in KL, I googled and found our where we were. Mystery solved.

Where we went was a myriad of rivers from Sungei Lengan,
Sungei Lassa and  Kg Stalon near the mouth of Sungei Lassa

Using schools to understand our location. We saw about 6 schools

From Sibu by pickup truck. Speedboats to Sg Lengan and Sg Lassa.
Although Kg Stalon looks fairly near to Sg Lassa, it would take at
least 3 hours by boat so we opted out for  1 hour  journey by boat
to Sg Lengan followed by  1.5 hours journey bus to Belawai
and  45 mins speedboat from Belawai to Kg Stalon 
The guys loaded the luggage and soon we crossed Sungei Lengan in a little speedboat. On reaching, the guys mounted a very steeply inclined jetty. I knew I would slide backwards on this steep jetty  so we girls looked for an easier way to disembark.  Thank God we found another jetty which had a gentle incline. My mind questioned - " Why build  a jetty with such a steep incline? Why 2 jetties?" These questions was answered later on.

We were very thankful to see 4 thin mattresses. and some clean chairs. We were informed us that both the fans and lights could both function together (better than our expectations). We were also happy to note there was electricity supply and we had internet access. Here however,  they use rain water for everything. We could brush our  teeth anywhere we like. squatting wherever we like over the deck. We however used mineral water to brush our teeth as a precaution.

We were invited to visit Martin and family and collected Aka and family  by boat before we reached Martin's home.  The KL team was introduced to Martin’s household and friends. We had a vibrant song service led by 16 year old Wazi. Martin had an OKU daughter (about 12 years old) who was fascinated by Tony’s guitar. Lian Ai taught the family members some backbone massage and encouraged them to educate her. It was a clear sign to Lian Ai she was much needed in this trip to help educate OKU children.We see  how God orchestrated to help the very first family we  visited by bringing the the OKU teacher all the way from KL to visit the OKU child and family in this remote place.  Martin definitely felt the love of God for him and his household.

That evening, Lian Ai and me were in a dilemma as to where and how to bathe in full view of the kitchen area. Thankfully Celine rescued us and took us to bathe with more privacy behind the long house. Celine and her family were very hospitable to us and served us her home grown pomelos as well as snacks.

14 year old Quirika on the drums
Lian Ai teaches the children while I taught the youth

We had a sumptuous late dinner after the lessons about 8.57 pm. Our kind host had netted huge river prawns. They were super fresh and tasted wonderful. He also cooked Iban pig (darker like Spanish Iberico) , long beans, fried baby mud skippers and pucuk sayur manis.( local vegetables)  We slept well that night. We were not bitten as we sprayed insecticide properly and were well covered up as we had the very old air-conditioner running whole night.
Freshly netted river prawns, organic pucuk manis,
fried mud skipper and Iban iberico
26th June Monday.
The next morning, we repacked to go to Sungei Lassa to stay a night there. We saw our gentle inclined jetty was already submerged below the water while the steep jetty had now become gently inclined due to the changing water levels due to the tides. Now we understood the mystery behind the two jetties.

The jetty became submerged due to the
rising water levels as the tide came in.
We left Sungei Lengan at 8.30am and went to a long house nearby. There  Grandpa Abit who was said to be 94 years in the longhouse asked to be baptized. Grandpa could not walk but moved about in the longhouse by sliding on his buttocks using a smooth mat. What a deeply moving sight to see. Our heart goes out to Abit, “God strengthen him and cause him to rise up and walk again in the newness of life in Christ Jesus .As  he  identifies with your death through baptism let him arise in Your resurrection power and life.”

We then went to the river to witness  Robin and Johny. being baptized. James decided to get into the muddy river to show some support and to encourage the 2 young men.However both James and Tony fell into the river when James missed a step. So we had more than 3 baptisms. Tony also lost his spectacles in the river.  He was told they could not look for his  specs then as the river was very muddy.

James pulls Tony into the muddy river.
We left for Sungei Lassa at about 9.10 am. En route we visited another longhouse Rumah Hudson Madut Minggat Sungei Lassa at about 10.27 am. They were very hospitable. There were about 26 people present. James shared on the poor widow and wicked judge. He stressed on the importance of faith in God. The head of the long house asked for a big chapel (they asked to have a church build as he is willing to give a plot of land for this purpose) and a boat. They were full of faith and clearly applied James’ message to ask like the poor widow. 6 persons invited Jesus into their hearts.We prayed for many people including Catherine who had knees issue and needed the walker.

The welcome sign in Iban  had the words Selamat Datai.
So we learned datai was used in Iban for the BM word datang.
Hudson the ketua of the longhouse.

Adorable Iban baby reminds me of Emma

Kee Boon our baby showcased the Iban playpen made of bamboo.
We were served a sumptuous lunch of chicken curry (freshly slaughtered and definitely organic) and special rice. They were very hospitable. Catherine and Hudson’s wife showed us the lovely mats they were weaving.We bought 5 mats (tikar) from them to encourage them.  We paid only RM50/- for each mat. We were informed that Catherine has a very challenging life as she is a widow. “Dia betul betul susah dia tu” So we decided to give her a love offering of RM50-00 as a token of our support.

Catherine shows the mat she is weaving

Mrs Hudson is very hospitable.
James asked to go straight to Sungei Lassa as his river dip left him smelly. We then mounted the boat and reached Sungei Lassa and the church there at about 1 pm. We allowed the guys to bath first. We were very thankful for the 2 bathrooms where we could bathe in privacy. The  host  ladies were preparing a giant cat fish. One chicken was being tethered and protested loudly. Both were to be cooked for our dinner. Sungei Lassa has no electricity supply no phone line and no internet. 

We left the church to visit Rumah Selat (Selat longhouse). Dark clouds loomed ahead in the sky about 2.09 pm. We reached Selat Longhouse at about 2.40 pm just as it began to drizzle and when we had entered in and settled down it pour cats and dogs, what the heavy rain hit. We were truly thankful! 
Selat and his family took out many thick Iban bibles and Iban song books.James preached on Lazarus. The rain stopped when we finished sharing and praying. What precise timing! Truly  the hand of God was with us.
The dark clouds and rain coming down in sheets in the
 direction of the longhouse we were going to.

Safe and sound and DRY inside the longhouse before the rains struck us.
God's precision timing and tender mercies make us  so grateful!

We visited another 3  more longhouses that day. Wow -  5 longhouses visits in 1 day was quite beyond our expectations! We were truly exhausted and all of us slept for a while before dinner. We woke up to the sound of the generator at 6 pm. Dinner was very delicious – the chicken in the bamboo grilled over the fire exuded a very fresh exotic soup and we had many helpings.The catfish head with lemongrass was full of yellow omega oil. We had freshly slaughtered chicken and potatoes and cabbage.

Chicken being grilled and cooked in the giant bamboo

We received the good news that Tony's specs were found when the tide went out. This is a real miracle! God showed him great mercy. Tony shared that evening to the people in Sungei Lassa. I am sure he had heart felt thanks when he heard his spectacles were found.

There were no youth so I helped Lian Ai teach the 13 young children. Lian Ai taught about the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. The cook’s daughter, Amada Juliena who was 8 years old was very eager to start learning. We had fun teaching the 13 children who loved to learn. We realized that one young boy  was very good with words but hopeless with numbers. The Iban children were very bright and learned fast. We girls slept well in our room but the guys could not sleep well as someone was coughing in the  hall through the night.

27th June Tuesday
Early the next morning at 6 am, Ilen , our cook prepared a lovely warm noodles breakfast for us. Sunrise was beautiful with the sky tinged in brightening hues. as the kitchen faced east. We left Lassa early by 7 am as we had to catch the public bus to Stalon Belawai.  

Lovely sunrise at Sungei Lassa
We detoured to Rumah Hudson Madut (the Hudson longhouse) to collect the 5 mats. We did not dare to dismount as we knew the Hudson people were very hospitable and we would miss the bus if we dismount. We left 3 mats at Sungei Lengan  and collected the rest of our luggage as well as Tony’s specs from Aka’s house. The Iban locals were great help with the many pieces of luggage. Mercifully, a car was arranged to take all our luggage to the bus stop.The car came back a 2nd trip and took us to the bus stop.

We waited with all our worldly goods and luggage in the shade of the public bus stop.This is the first time I have waited at a public bus stop with all my worldly goods. Later the guys shifted the luggage to the other side of the road. We waited in the shade and crossed over to the sunny side of the road to join our luggage when the bus was fairly near. Sarawak bridges are very steep. We saw the bus coming down the steep bridge. Our luggage could not fit into the luggage compartment so all luggage were lugged up aboard the bus at 11.12 am. 

Waiting at the public bus stop with all our worldly possessions. ( chuin foo 
sang kar)This is the first time I and Lian Ai have done this.
Our luggage has to be lugged up the bus.
We slept fitfully on the bus. Often we were awakened as the bus descended the steep bridges and bumped vigorously at the end of the bridge. Once I was hurled across the aisle to the other side of the bus when the bus swerved a corner.Eventually we reached the bus terminal at Belawai at 12.40 noon. The luggage was unloaded and the guys carried the luggage and walked about 1.5 km to the jetty in the hot sun. We saw a Chinese coffee shop near the terminal and were filled with expectancy to eat a proper lunch. Alas, we had to settle for Maggi mee at 1.12 pm as that was all the shop served due to Hari Raya holidays.

Maggi Mee with egg for lunch after no breakfast.

Lug the luggage and walk to the jetty in the hot sun.
We took 2 boats in the very hot blistering sun at 2.25 pm and after what seemed an eternity of burning backsides and numerous turns, we reached Stalon Belawai at 3.10 pm. Apparently some longhouse visits were scheduled before Stalon but I told James we were exhausted from the bus trip and the very hot boat ride.

Hot long boat ride from belawai Jetty to Kg Stalon.
Burning backsides and back was 1 issue
We walked about 1 km from the jetty to the church.  Halfway we met a lady and some young girls cleaning some green beans. We found out these were fresh green peppercorns. The church was sweltering hot and the generator would not be turned on until 7 pm. Some men graciously plucked fresh coconuts for us and thank God we had a little respite from the heat with the cool drinks. The outside was cooler than inside the  building so we all sat on the steps of the house and drank coconut juice.

Fresh coconut juice .
Lian Ai repaired the old table fan which we put in our room. They switched on the generator a bit earlier than usual on our request and we managed to rest for a while. Of course there was no internet access in this remote place. Then without warning the generator stopped and we woke up due to the extreme heat. Although we bathed, it was still very hot at dinner time as the kitchen faced west. We had curry tenggiri and salted fish eggs and stirred fried ferns with salted fish. We had the song service for about 60 people. James put the  Good News in the form of a story  to help the locals understand. 

Again there were no youth so I helped Lian Ai with her balloon lessons in the hot kitchen which was still less hot compared to our room. The children were boisterous. We had about 12 children ranging from a 3 year old baby to one 12 year old boy. When we registered the students, we realized they had very glamorous names for example Leonardo Dicarprio and 2 twins who were Wenedi and Welius ak Robert Kennedy. Soon we realized the brightest kids was Leonardo and a brilliant 8-year old adorable boy called Mathius. They helped the other children write names and spelt colours.

The children are very happy with their balloon creations.
The table fan was spoilt again and beyond repair. Both Lian Ai and I decided to wear the sarong to sleep as the room was too hot even for our pajamas. It was another first for us both. We were so hot and sticky that we could not bear to put on insect repellent.I send a text requesting my family to pray for rain to cool down the church. Thank God for His tender mercies upon our frailty. It rained about midnight and cooled the church  down and we all slept soundly.

 28 June Wednesday
In the morning, we found lots of insect bites on us. No one came to prepare breakfast so we took our Maggi Mee cups breakfast. We were supposed to leave at 8 am to do the longhouse visit but as it was still raining, we delayed leaving the church.

Mathius came to look us up and since we could not leave in our boats due to the rain , we taught him balloon craft and managed to make several balloon poodles. Then Leonardo came by and we entrusted all the balloons and pump to our 2 heroes so they would make poodles for everyone. I also pre-test my Bernoulli Isaiah 40 lesson with Mathius and he loved it. We then left for the longhouse visitations at 9.16 am.

Me and Mathius with the poodle balloons he learnt how to make.
We put on raincoats and soon reached Bangga Longhouse in Sungei Selumit Belawai on Mukah side at 9.47 am. We were greeted by Nanta, the longhouse’s head. We met his wife Jaya Chan and his 15 year old son Daniel. Jaya Chan was a pretty but huge woman due to some hormonal imbalance. Her home was tastefully decorated. There were hand written Iban song sheets on brown wrapping paper which Tony held up so we could all could sing together. We soon discovered the Iban language had many similarities with BM. Terbang was terbai, Jalan was jalai, makan was makai. Hidup was idup and selama was belama. Satan is sitan and kalah is alah. Hmm… We surmised the BM language came from the Iban language. Maybe some language expert can let us know if we are we right or wrong?

Iban songsheets written on brown wrapping paper folded many times over.
I gave a testimony of how God healed my left knee in 2016. James shared about the story of the man who found the pearl of great price.James asked each person what they would do if they found a field with precious stones. The audience was very engaged, answering James questions. “Apa nak buat jika berterusan jumpa batu permata?”   Danial our hosts' 15 year old son  was a miracle baby conceived despite Jaya Chan hormonal‘s issue.

We then left on our speedboats and arrived at the jetty at 11.22 am. SK Bayang was also situated at the jetty. Tony met a Chinese shopkeeper Hii (of his own dialect). We then went to a longhouse.Here we heard our guide gave testimony of how God healed him from terminal leukemia. In 1991 he took SPM and was selected for the teaching college at Bintangor but could not clear the health test due to his cancer. God healed him and allowed him to live beyond the 9-months dead line given by the doctor. He also shared of his 3 years studying in the seminary in Ba Kelalan. He also shared of his 2 rounds  stay in ICU.

Akar gave testimony of his deliverance from meth drug addiction when the Koreans prayed for him at Lassa. Joseph shared also deliverance after  being prayed for. About 25 people listened on to the sharing. I realized if I paid careful attention, I could understand about 1/3 of what they spoke in the Iban language.

We left by foot for another Iban longhouse some distance away and reached there at 2.05 pm. We saw nests for stingless bees. The island was fertile with Sarawak pineapples and various produce. Lian Ai was gifted with 1 canister of “kuih sarang semut” (ant nests biscuits) and 2 Sarawak pineapples.

Lian Ai being gifted with 1 canister of kuih sarang semut
( ant hills biscuits - traditional Sarawakian biscuit)
Then we returned and reached Stalon Belawai about 3.15 pm. We found  no lunch was available and were suddenly very thankful for the many salty cream crackers and Milo we had in Nanta’s house. Since the weather was still cool due to the rain by God’s rich mercies, we decided to take a walk around Stalon. Mathius was our tour guide. We saw pepper vines and all sorts of plants. Mathius read everything aloud with accuracy and fluency, including signboards and the back and front of my T-shirt. We realized he loved to learn. We came to the junction leading to the bridge to return to the church.

Unusual plants in Stalon
I was tired and hungry and wanted to return to rest. However Mathius wanted me to go and  visit his school. The look on his disappointed face when I started crossing the bridge melted my heart so I turned and followed him to his school. Halfway we met Salbia on her bicycle and all 3 of us went to their school at 3.30 pm.

It was obvious they loved their school, a lot!
As we drew near, Mathius was suddenly afraid that his headmistress would not allow me to come inside the school but I assured him I was a headmistress too and would have access. The kids posed for many photos outside and in school. It was very evident they loved their school a lot and were very proud of their school. I noted how the school was the cleanest part of the entire dirty island. I saw how the recycled bottles were cleaned and painted to form KLCC twin towers and the Malaysian flag and form a transparent ceiling. There were also pretty Japanese roses planted form the recycled bottles hung by strings. The kids jumped into the field and proudly declared they did the decorations in the field together with their parents.

Their field school had no rubbish unlike the rest of Stalon.
I saw people in the gurubesar office and walked up to the office. There I met the gurubesar Ms Tham Siew Mei and another staff busy with several laptops in the office. We introduced ourselves. The children sat quietly as we conversed for some time.  I highlighted Mathius and his hunger to learn to Ms Tham and how we felt he was bright beyond his years. Ms Tham agreed on that. We exchanged phone numbers.

That evening the children crowded around me and my new 8+ Samsung phone. They wanted to see videos and pics on my phone. They loved the phone and being photographed. I prayed Ms Tham would allow me to send some photos and videos to her so the children could continue to view the photos and videos and jolt the memory of what they learned

Dinner that evening at 6.30 pm was a pleasant surprise. The cooks had prepared wonderfulfood  but it looked sufficient for us only.  We however saw many people gathered in the church for dinner. Oh dear, what would they eat? We remember clearly we had Maggi Mee for breakfast and no lunch and we were still very hungry. Would Jesus have to multiply our dinner? 

We were greatly relieved to find each family had brought along a pretty picnic basket in which they packed their dinner and cutlery. Thank God, there was more than enough food. We had yummy crabs (freshly caught drahma) fried fish, spicy bamboo shoots, palm hearts and other organic vegetables. We realized the Ibans were very communal and eating together as big community is something we perhaps need to emulate.

Freshly caught crabs, fried fish , spicy bamboo shoots and palm hearts.

Every family came with food and cutlery in a pretty picnic basket
Tony led the song service. Halfway he invited me to help and as I came up, all the little children who were hanging around me also came up front. When I sang, they sang spiritedly. We handed them 2 mikes. We had great fun with the children up front singing happily and confidently. Their families were very proud to see their little ones singing loudly up front.

The children singing  with great spirit and confidence
James preached and we went into the kitchen. Here I happily taught my Bernoulli lesson with paper activities to 12 children. Lian Ai’s helicopter toys based on Bernoulli principle was a source of delight for the boisterous kids. I highlighted how God would draw them upwards towards Him just as He moved the helicopter and papers upwards. We had great fun showing the children how to draw the whale, the aeroplane and the helicopter. The children drew happily. When we asked the children, what subjects they were afraid of, they said Mathematics.


So I asked them “Satu x Sembilan?” All answered Sembilan.” Then I asked “Apa dua darab Sembilan?” There was silence in heaven for a long time. Then a voice piped up “Tak tahu” I then wrote and taught them the short cut to the nine times table and soon we had the kids writing out the sifir 9 from understanding and not from memory. It was glorious to watch them learn and enjoy learning. We distributed all their poodle balloons and goodies bags and played more helicopters.

Soon we retired to sleep. Now the heat began and that night my fit bit recorded me having zero hours deep sleep. I laid awake due to the heat, listening to the loud generator, the insects flying and the steps on the wooden floor as James and gang got up at 4 am.

28th June Thursday.
We left Stalon early about 6.10 am without saying goodbye to the ladies and Mathius. The tide had not come in so the boat took our luggage while we walked to the jetty and waited for the waters to rise. We were greeted by a glorious sunrise on our speedboats and walked from the jetty to take the 7.45 am bus to Sibu. As the bus moved, it sputtered a few times. Finally about 12 km away from Sibu, the bus sputtered and gave up its ghost at 8.10 am. The apek (old) driver had forgotten to pump in fuel. James and Tony, being West Malaysians went to and fro and managed to get diesel but  the locals sat calmly in the bus saying we could transfer to the 9 am bus. After they got the diesel in, the 9 am bus ambled along and we decided to transfer quickly to that bus.

Finally we reached Sibu and civilization. We checked in to RH Hotel and slept soundly that afternoon. Later I contacted Ms Tham by phone and we exchanged many pics and videos through the phone. She also linked me to her school’s Facebook and I saw the marvelous work she had done in her school. I linked Ms Tham Siew Mei  to TCF Sarawak. She has written an article for Instep TCF September 2017 issue. We are connected now in many ways and have exchanged several emails. Ms Tham has given me her wish list for the school and we are racking our brains and thinking and praying to see how the wish list can come true.

As I surfed on SK Stalon Facebook, I am greatly encouraged by the transformation brought about by Ms Tham and her dedicated team. For 2016, they had 100% passes for UPSR. Whatever we did these days pales in comparison to what Ms Tham and team does, day in and day on. I resolved to keep encouraging teachers like her, especially those in remote areas, without electricity, water supply and internet access.

Ms Tham Siew Mei, looking smart in her thick KRS uniform
despite the heat together with her  staff and students.

Teachers Day 2017 at SK Stalon. Ms Tham motivates her entire staff to
dress up in suits despite the hot weather in Stalon. This is really so
admirable as we hardly can find any Malaysian schools entire staff
wearing suits for Teachers' Day despite having aircons and fans.
This  trip has opened my eyes and heart to  know and enjoy the Iban people. They are very hospitable people despite not having much amenities and having a simple life.  They have beautiful features. And their children ( including the dropouts) really want to learn and are bright. And one reason  they produce Olympic divers and swimmers is that  the children often jump inside the river to bathe whilst the women folk wash clothes by the river. And that the Malay language probably originate from the Iban language.

We have seen lovely and lowly Iban leaders who think nothing of doing everything to serve and grow their people. They are willing to become the boatman, the porter, the cook, the dishwasher, the merchant, the musician, the speaker and the interpreter and the Sunday school teacher whatever the need maybe.We make 1 trip to only 3  locations with limited functionality and we are drained beyond exhaustion. . It has been our privilege these  6 days to serve  alongside the Iban leaders.