life in the 90s

this particular blogpost got me reminiscing about all the silly little things i used to get up to in primary school.

some people would say that being in primary school is the happiest time of your life because that’s the time when you have the least responsibility on your small shoulders, and all you ever had to think about was what to play when you finish your homework.

i beg to differ. i remember being the most stressed out in primary school, because i felt so constricted by all the rules. and in retrospect, some of them were really silly and i blame them for making me the obsessive compulsive person that i am today, who never fails to write her name/date/title on foolscap even in uni, where nobody really looks at the shit you write on tutorials.

here are some things i remember most about primary school, it may trigger some nostalgic memories for some of you too!

1. after each time of receiving spelling/ting xie results, we had to take our exercise books home for our parents to sign.

teachers tend to assume that the only reason why kids come back with un-signed exercise books is Not because they have better things to do than pester their parents to sign a bunch of things every night like a admin temp, but that they were embarrassed about their poor spelling/ting xie marks and wanted to avoid getting a beating if their parents found out about it during the compulsory signing session.

for practicality’s sake, my mum taught me how to forge her signature.

but in the event that i had completely forgotten about it completely, and thus had to own up, along with several other guilty parties, for not getting our books signed. the teacher would then order us to get out, and she’d escort us to the canteen’s public phone booth where she’ll stand next to it and eavesdrop on our phone conversations, one by one, to our parents to inform them about our grave error.

(imagine how kids now can just whip out their iphones and whatsapp a picture of the spelling/tingxie grade to their parents to inform them)

my best friend in p4 taught me how she managed to get away with calling her mum: she’d dial the number that tells you the weather for the day and invent a fake conversation with the automated voice on the other end of the line LOL. i never had the guts to try it in case the teacher wanted to snatch the phone away to add in a few comments to my mum, only to find that “my mum” is just going on and on about the weather for the day.

2. prefect duty

i lusted after the position of leadership so terribly once i realised that all my other friends were receiving stealth letters informing that they were selected to become prefects-in-training. i decided to buck up in school the following year, be extra nice to the teacher  (i gave her a packet of keropok once and she loved it so much), and i got the prefect-in-training badge at the start of the next year 😀

best damn privilege of being a prefect? other than suiting up a tie every other day and distinguishing your pinafore from every one else, it was being able to CUT QUEUES at recess time so that you get your food before prefect duty starts!!!!

duty was lame ass though. i remember there was a freaking minimum quota we had to hit every year on the booking book otherwise we’d be fired from the prefectorial board.

every saturday mornings was spent at prefectorial board meetings, which i can’t remember what it involved, only that there was alot of sitting around and doing crafts.

3. the bookshop and all it’s forbidden wonders

pocket money was a real bitch when you were primary 1. on the first day of school, my mum packed me recess biscuits and gave me $1, specifying that it should only be used in the event of an emergency.

i had an emergency on the very first day: my friend took me to the bookshop and i discovered i had an emergency need for a cute ink chop! HAHA!

came home, mummy asked: “did you spend the $1?”

me: “yes, on food”

mummy: “what food?”

me: “hot dog bread”

mummy: “that’s only 50 cents (sneaky mother seemed to have memorized the canteen price list during parents orientation), what happened to the rest of the money?”

next day, she made me bring it back to the bookshop to return and get a refund wtf. from then on, pocket money was cut to 20 cents…it was only after weeks of saving that got me my very first “hard-earned” chop that my mother couldn’t make me return.

4. silent reading: a time dedicated more to keeping quiet, and boredom becoming the sole motivation to read

ironically enough, silent reading only allowed silent reading of chinese material. after getting caught for stealthily reading Enid Blyton underneath my chinese newsletter, i decided to comply with the restriction and endure that hour every week of reading.

it was compulsory for us to subscribe to the chinese newsletter, be it storybooks, 大拇指 or 星期五周报, as long as there are incomprehensible chinese characters on the material you are reading, you’re cool.

i never had a flair for Mandarin, so half the time i’d give up reading very quickly and just stare at the words without taking anything in. as such, i could bring the same newsletter to silent reading sessions every other week and the material would still look new to me.

nonetheless, my chinese failed to improve despite the hour a week dedicated.

5. school buses, and the daring stunt i pulled

all those times when i was on the school buss home, i was fantasizing about one idea: missing the schoolbus, on purpose.

one day after morning session, i decided to trail behind extra long to help clean up the classroom, with the intention of “accidentally” missing the schoolbus. i suppose the idea sort of stemmed from a need to be rescued by my parents, whom i felt were neglecting me too much in favour of my precious younger brother. i needed to get the assurance that they were still willing to come save me even though i was stranded in school with no transport back.

except at the very last minute, i chickened out on my plan and decided to make my way to the porch to catch the schoolbus, only to reach there and see it driving off without my sorry little self. but having thought through the plan countless of times before, i calmly turned around and went back to the staff room to look for my teacher to inform her that i had been stranded in school.

and then the questioning started. eventually the pressure of fear (what if my parents really weren’t gonna come!) combined with guilt (of having thought up the whole idea in the first place) was too much to handle, and i cracked, and cried like a baby to harness some sympathy from my form teacher; who gave me $1 for lunch.

my dad showed up 2 hours later and made a huge racket at my carelessness and the trouble i caused for making him leave work halfway to come get me. i suppose i didn’t manage to get the reassurance i needed from this experience at all. but it was well worth a shot 😛

6. the first time i believed in a divnity

coming from a convent school, we were taught to pray every morning, after recess, and before going home. by the end of the first month, i knew the Hail Mary and Our Father prayer by heart, even though i never attended church in my life.

one day, i realized to my horror that i had forgotten to bring my 好公民 book. and it was doom for me because the teacher was extremely strict about these things. so i prayed, for the very first time in my life, for the book to somewhat materialize and save me from a bad punishment.

5 Our Fathers and Hail Marys later, i discovered the book sitting in my bag. perhaps it was there all along, but at that point in time, the relief that washed over was enough to convinced me that God exists.

as such, most of my primary school memories are those that were centered around what we could make do with the hardcore rules that we were subjected to. there was very little freedom to truly enjoy the things we were doing, lest of going overboard and messing up the foundation years of your life. i’d say that JC was the best time of my life, because the rules were the least restrictive given a school environment, yet i had absolutely no pressure of thinking about the future just yet.

nonetheless, i’d gladly recount these silly primary school stories anytime, but mostly because i’m truly glad that i’ll never ever have to relive them again.

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