My Kiasu Teenage Life in Singapore

BOOK: My Kiasu Teenage Life in Singapore
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For Mom, who bought me marshmallows

so that I could see what they were and made me scones,

and Dad, who taught me Christmas carols

and made egg-heads from plaster with me.

Thank you for giving me a wonderful childhood in Malaysia.

kiasu
Hokkien
(kja:su:)
ADJECTIVE
scared to lose, competitive

1

Wish You Were Here

Friday 27 December

Dearest Mei Yee

It's now 9.30 pm and I'm with my dad in the bus on the way to Singapore! Thinking of things I want to tell you all the time. Leaving BM at the age of 15 … Wonder if I'll survive the
kiasu
environment there.

Love, Pei Yi

Saturday 28 December
(First day in Singapore)

Dearest Mei Yee

I'm finally in Singapore! It's now 6.30 pm at Hua Zhong Hostel. I'm feeling miserable, lonely and lost. I'm staying in the hostel with other Malaysian students but we all attend Singaporean schools. Wish you were here as my roommate. I've just taken two photos of my room to show you what it looks like. The left half of the room is mine. The other side belongs to a Sec 2 ASEAN scholar named Nicole, who has been here for a year. She speaks English with a British accent. How intimidating. She has very long hair and she's bigger and taller than me.

Glossary

kiasu
Hokkien
scared to lose, competitive

BM
Bukit Mertajam, a small town in the state of Penang, Malaysia
ASEAN scholar
The scholarship is given by the Singapore government to students from ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) countries to study in Singapore

The girl who lives next door is Jen Nee, she's also from Penang.

We get to choose whether we go to a Science class or an Arts class. I'm going to choose Class 3A4 (3 Arts 4). The subjects are English, Malay, Elementary Maths, Additional Maths, English Literature, History, Physics (!!) and Accounts. My dad would rather me take Chemistry instead of Physics but I want Physics. Oh dear, I don't know what games to take. They have tennis, swimming, netball, ping-pong etc, but I can't play any of them.

In the afternoon, my dad and I went to Toa Payoh where my school is. I saw so many teenagers with Walkmans! Like they're under water and the Walkman is the oxygen tank. I bought my uniform—two pinafores and three white blouses—for S$58.10. Expensive!!

I haven't really seen my school yet. Just caught a glimpse when the bus passed it. I'll take a photo and you can compare it with the scene in your dream.

It's still Saturday, 9.40 pm. The girls are all really nice—fun, friendly, crazy—but I really miss you. After dinner, we sat on the stairs and chitchatted and joked. Then I started thinking of you and cried in front of everyone. So I came up to my room on the first floor. My nose is so blocked I can't breathe. My dad is in a hotel, I don't know which one.

The girls I've met so far are Betty (Sec 4), Nicole (my roommate), Pau Leen (Sec 3)—are all Chinese from Malaysia. They're all old scholars (meaning they've stayed at the hostel for more than a year, but may have come in Sec 1). They've done all sorts of crazy stuff like climbing into each other's rooms through windows. They matchmake each other with guys. No one really studies hard at all! They're a bunch of crazy girls and don't really follow rules. There's going to be a Signature Hunt, where the newcomers have to ask the seniors for their signatures, and the seniors will ask them to do all sorts of crazy and embarrassing stuff like proposing to guys and hugging someone's leg.

The hostel consists of three blocks, four stories each. I'm in Block A. Block B is for guys (been introduced to some but can't remember their names), Block C is for wardens and Junior College students. I've accidentally gone up the boy's block twice and even fitted my key into the keyhole of Room 201 of Block B. The prep room where we're supposed to study under supervision is air-conned. My roommate is being so nice to me 'coz my eyes are really red with crying.

Glossary

first floor
second floor in the United States. In Asia, the stories of a building are ground floor, first floor, second floor, etc.

air-conned
air-conditioned

Have you heard of the word Singlish (Singapore English)? Here are some words that people use a lot:

kiasuism
from the word
kiasu
(scared to lose).
Kiasu
is like the national word here. They even have Mr Kiasu, a cartoon character.

mugger toad
someone who studies a lot

blur
look confused, not alert

stone
to have an expressionless face

sabo
short for sabotage (an activity commonly practised in the hostel!)

leh
often used at the end of the sentence instead of
lah

I heard that some of the girls go back to Malaysia for Chinese New Year so I'll go back too. I wonder when I'll adapt to life here and become “one of the girls”. Oh ya, I haven't seen any really cute guys. I can't have a crush when I'm so miserable. I want to phone you now but if I do, I'll start crying and won't be able to talk. OK, I'm going to write to my sister now. My address: Hua Zhong Hostel, 673 Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 1026. I can't receive personal calls; only messages when you phone the office. Actually, after listening to all the stories of the girls I know it's a LOT of fun staying in a hostel. It's just that I wish you were here.

Hey, keep my letters 2properly!! Don't leave them on the table or in between books. Love, Pei Yi

Sunday 29 December
(Second day in Singapore)

Dearest Mei Yee

After breakfast, the girls and I went to the lounge where we joked and talked. They told a lot of dirty jokes, which I'm going to add to my collection and tell you when I get back.

Then my dad came and we went to Toa Payoh and had lunch. I bought white shoes (you know, the kind with sharp toes) for Orientation. First time I'll be wearing this kind of shoes. They're not high-heeled. S$14.90. The girls here are those you'll probably get used to and joke with sooner or later but not those you get close to. I doubt if I'll find a close friend. You don't talk heart-to-heart with them like you and me do, you know. I always thought people studying in Singapore study like hell but these people I've met fool around and don't abide by the rules. Maybe it's 'coz school hasn't started. So how's school back in BM?

I get to watch the six o'clock show
The Blood of Good & Evil
too! It's a great life here, actually; if only you were here. So far I've written to you and Yi Hoon. I've only been here two days and I miss you already. It's funny, you know, some weekends I didn't see you when I was in BM, and I haven't seen you for only two days. Please write to me often. I'll check the letter rack for letters everyday.

My dad will go back on Tuesday.

Love, Pei Yi

Tuesday 31 December

Dearest Mei Yee

I'm reading a
Sweet Valley High
book that belongs to Nicole.

When will you be coming to Singapore? You can't stay at my hostel unless you pay S$14/night. I can't wait to see you again. I wish I wasn't such an emotional person.

A lot of girls here are going to CHIJ (my school, Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus). A few are going to RGS (Raffles Girls School). I haven't met any who are taking Arts—they are all taking Science—but Betty (Sec 4) said she wished she'd taken Arts. Nothing is really strict here, actually. There're no rankings in class too.

Glossary

convent
Catholic school for girls, not where you go to learn to be a nun!

Betty is very friendly and funny. She wears contact lenses 'coz her power in each eye is over 800! She said Singaporean girls in school are the people you can talk to (like joke and small talk) but not get close to. I think I'll probably be lonely in class and be labelled quiet and all. Actually I don't really want to get close to anyone here. No, I guess I do want to have a close friend here. Everyone (the seniors) seems to be close to one another and I'm rather lonely.

I read your star (Capricorn) today. It says something about you inviting some friends over to your house this week or something. Mine is horrible—about unlucky stuff in the beginning of the week!

Reply soon, please!

Love, Pei Yi

Tuesday 31st December
(Second letter today!)

Dearest Mei Yee

Yesterday, I got to know Alisa (a pretty Eurasian-looking girl—she's actually pure Chinese) and Jen Nee better. Alisa is sooo beautiful, she has a good, clear and fair complexion, long, slightly wavy hair and a great body. She's quite muscular too! The bridge of her nose is high, which is why she looks like she's a Eurasian. Jen Nee is cute-looking, like a puppy. She really makes me laugh!

This morning, my dad took Jen Nee and I to have our x-rays taken. I slept at 1.30 am yesterday and I'm sleepy now. It's raining now, has been raining everyday. Have you ever taken x-ray? The robe you get into is so thin. It's awkward 'coz you can't wear a bra.

We went to CHIJ today. I think it's like your dream—side gate, trees and all!!!!! It's confirmed—I'm going to Sec 3A4. Even though it's an Arts class, I'll still be learning Physics. I'm the first ASEAN scholar to join 3A4. Usually they go to Science 1, S2, S3 or Arts 1, but I prefer the subject combination in A4. No one in my hostel is in that class. Sister Elaine, my headmistress, was the nun at my scholarship interview! She has an incredible memory. She remembers me and remembers everyone's results! She is very petite and frail but there's an aura around her that makes people respect her. My dad didn't dare to ask too many questions 'coz she can really scare people. The school is nice. Actually everything here is very advanced and nice.

BOOK: My Kiasu Teenage Life in Singapore
3.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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