After reading a close friend’s blog about how he had to bribe his school mates in standard 1 with snacks during recess so that they would play with him, I thought about my own recess times throughout the years and realised that there is some truth to his musings. Though he mused more about being lonely, I’m overwhelmed by a sense of nostalgia of how each recess or lunch break was spent as I went through seventeen academic years.
In 1990, money was a foreign concept to me. 1 cent coins were enough to make me gleam with excitement. Nobody gives a three year old any money. My mother would give 20 cents to me every other day to bring to my nursery school as there was a small room(with a table blocking the entrance to it) where two Indian aunties would be selling snacks to the kindergarten children. I would take my single 20 cent coin out of my strawberry coin purse and point to a jar of round biscuits, each topped with a solid sugar icing of a different shade. I called them colourful biscuits and I still call them colourful biscuits to this day.
One of the Indian aunties would roll a piece of wax paper into a cone and scoop some biscuits into the cone. I would take my 10 cents coin change from her and put it carefully back into my strawberry coin purse, excited yet perplexed that I still have money to hold. Having money to hold was a very big thing to me.
I don’t remember eating being very important when I was in St. Anne’s, my first kindergarten.(T___T how nice if I don’t find eating important now. T____T) I remember spending my recess time playing with this fat little boy called Kevin, peeking at each other through a tunnel and then shouting with laughter. If I was lucky, the cool crowd would invite me up to the ‘kampung house’ in the middle of the playground. On a good day, there would be a rather impressive amount of masak-masak items scattered about. On a bad day, all the good toys would have been taken by the other children and we used our imagination to make do. I have no idea how recess ended or how classes were conducted but I do remember bringing my smelly pillow to class for our afternoon naps. My classmates were scared of my pillow, that I remember too. Whenever it rained outside, i would wail and wail, with tears streaming down my face, wanting to go home.
In 1992, my grandparents moved to USJ so I could no longer attend kindergarten in Petaling Jaya. My mother transferred me to a kindergarten in USJ2 called Ladybird. It was cleaner and prettier than my old kindergarten which was more rustic and dark. The kids in the USJ kindergarten sang “Fatty Fatty Bom Bom Juli Juli Jagung Kiss Your Darling Two By Two, Gorilla love you!” in a different way and I was confused because I remember the lyrics to be “Fatty Fatty Bom Bom Juli Juli Jagung, Kiss Your Darling Two By Two, Bangali Love you!”. I guess kids in Subang Jaya were taught to be more politically correct.
Anyway, recess times were spent in the classroom munching on biscuits over small orange bowls or porridge in the same orange bowls. But I loved it most when they served Hokkien Mee on Fridays, in the same orange bowl. I remember hating the onion bits in my porridge and would scoop it out and stick it to the back of my chair. I’ve been gross ever since I was a child. There was a playground in my kindergarten and a sandpit too. We had special periods to play and proper recess times to only eat. The whole class would eat quietly as the teacher watched over us.
In 1994, standard one rolled around. When Standard one began, KFC was having a promotion whereby a kiddie set would be presented in a flimsy plastic lunch box with Chicky’s face stuck on the cover. My maid would put a bottle of water and a sandwich inside the lunch box and i would bring it to school. I felt really cool that I was totting a lunch box and would look at other girls who had the same KFC lunch box. At that time I felt no emotions because similar fashion statements didn’t mean a thing back then. The lunch box didn’t last long as it proved to be very very flimsy. My sandwich and water bottle rolled out onto the floor when I spotted a boy from my kindergarten mandarin class(forgot everything already so you can get rid of those question marks about my current banana status) and ran after him shouting, “eugene! eugene! Hello!!! It’s me Jolene!” and got really upset that I had no food left to eat.
Food was usually brought from home in a square Tupperware, sitting next to Clara on any available surface – the side of the drains near the canteen, on the tyre where a tree I used to climb up on grew, on the cement slabs that were the make-shift badminton courts… such simple times. 🙂
In 1995, I spent most of my recess with Huimin, Elaine and Poh Wei. I remember speaking a lot of cantonese with Elaine and it was when I was 8 year’s old that food was secondary to me. I’d rather play catching with Elaine and listen to her tell me off for having small eyes. My class was very united. Skin colour was beyond us and we played paper games together during recess time. It was also rather sweet that there was this boy who would stick to me during recess time. Like really invading personal bubble that type. Once, he even told me that the boy in standard 3, who is a year older than me, whom I used to carpool with (Hello Meng Kim Fei if you’re reading this! *waves*) in 1995, had a huge crush on me. But from the way Kim Fei treated me(by not letting me play with his Power Rangers action figure after school), I knew that it was not meant to be and that the other boy who told me about Kim Fei was really the one who liked me.
I remember one particular recess when he came up to me while I was standing in some tyres with my classmates waiting for my turn during a game. He told me that someone really likes me. I ran away and hid in my classroom until the bell rang, signaling the end of the recess period.
In 1996, I became a prefect and I would trot down to the canteen mightily 10 minutes before the usual recess time to gobble hot bowls of noodles for RM0.40 with my fellow prefect friends. I think it was then that my social skills started developing as I made more friends with people who were not my classmates. Recess time back then consisted of a lot of “Jangan berlari!” and I was in charge of a standard two class and so it was “Selang diri,” and “tangan lurus”.. all those prefectorial commands, ahem. My prefect partner was an equally round boy called Kelvin who would entertain me with stories about a disembodied hand that came to him in his sleep. He was always sweating and drank a lot of water. During recess times, Kelvin and I were stationed at the Block D staircase, right in front of this other standard 2 class. I was enjoying my senior status and grew to have a few standard 2 friends who were very nice to me. Hard to imagine that I’m still in touch with one of them. Hello Chia Wei. *waves*
In 1997, I lost my easy-going personality when I was sent to mix with students who were a year older than me. But it was also the year that I got close to Jocelyn and Siew Li who were my class buddies, tuition buddies and prefect buddies. Jocelyn and I would take care of the bicycle shed together during recess time. The bicycle shed was next to the fence separating Lick Hung from my school. At that time, Chee Kiang was also a prefect at Lick Hung. Hehe, who knows, we might have glanced at each other before when we were mere ten year olds. I ate alot of roti canai in standard five. Also RM0.40. OH AND DONUTS TOO. Those were RM0.20.
In 1999, my mother would give me RM15 a week and it was ais kacang for me everyday while sitting with my then bunch of friends, at the benches lining the walkway from the canteen to the bookshop. In form1, it was then that I noticed cliques huddled in different corners of the school during recess time, each marking their own territories. The form2 seniors would usually take all the available seats in the canteen and us juniors were to meekly sit in our rightful benches around the school for the entire 20 minutes. Old enough to have crushes on celebrities, too young to gossip. That was how we spent our recess time, raving about the latest pop song on the airwaves instead of backstabbing our classmates. Sometimes, our eyes would rove around checking out the seniors and whispering to each other about who’s with who. Okay lah, the early humble beginnings of the gossip queens.
In 2000-2001, the canteen was finally my territory as I was an afternoon session senior in form2 and in form3 we had our own separate session from the seniors. The Dahlings would conquer one table and yak and yak and just yak. Recess time became too short. 25 minutes was just not enough for us to have a proper meal and trade juicy stories. How come 25 minutes seemed so much longer when we were kids?
In 2002-2003, the same bunch of us would sit at the canteen but it was a healthier mixture of guys and girls this time. Since it was 4-5 years into secondary school, all of us pretty much knew each other and we didn’t really have specific places to sit and ‘conquer’. It was all very social butterfly-ish and any available seat was your seat! I would say it’s because of all the recess times during form4/form5 which allowed us to bond and foster our friendships. As they always say, secondary school friends are less fake as compared to the friends you make once you step out of school. Less enemies etc.
In 2004 and mid 2005, the world was my oyster. Well, okay, SS15 was my oyster. Spoiled for choices by the amount of eateries surrounding Taylor’s College, my college classmates or my high school friends and I would waste 10 whole precious minutes of our hour long lunch break deciding on where to eat. We’d then waste another 10 minutes walking to the destination and settling down. It was extremely important to have our tummies filled with the delicious array of food selection at SS15. If the group was too big, stories were listened to with a blank look of vague interest because our lives were starting to deviate from each other.
In mid 2005, meals were anticipated as I did strenuous physical exercises in the morning, attended boring motivational activities in the afternoon and marched till my toes bled in the evenings. Meal times during national service was not the most hygienic but it was definitely one of the more happier times in the day for me. Announcements to collect mails were usually made during dinner time and whenever my name was called, I would dash up three flights of stairs, collect and tear open my mail to see what Weng Lum had to complain about his camp in Terengganu. Eating my ikan kembung while laughing at his mishaps, most of my national service mates would try to see what was written in the letters. They would put their heads in front of the paper and not understand a word as everything was written in English. Coming from a national school, I was the one who mixed better with the other races. The chinese usually sat on one side, and the malays sat on the other side. The banana sits in the middle. Even though the food sucks in this world of mine today, it was so delicious when I had nothing else to eat but their meals. It didn’t matter if it was spicy, Air Sirap Rose always saved the day.
In 2006, meal times were smacked dab in between classes. In the first half of my first year, I was still a hosteler and thus had to endure the horrible food that the cafeteria provided me with. Lunches were usually spent gasping in horror at how rude the canteen staff were to me and how measly was the variety of food provided. The first half of my lunch would be spent picking at my food, hoping to not find another dead fly, and the second half would usually be spent drafting complain letters to the university. I once made the whole class sign the letter too.
In mid 2006 to now, 2007, after tumbling out of class in a sleepy stupor, we’d ask each other, “Eh, where to eat ar?” and feel so upset about the lack of places to eat. Chicken rice, bak kut teh, lou shi fun soup, wantan mee soup, chap fan.. same ol’ same ol. A glass of chinese tea to wash down my lunch, having a good round of bitching while browsing through the Hong Kong TVB Pirated Dvds from a persistent peddlar, that’s how I spent my lunch these days.
I just thought it was pretty interesting(for me, it’s okay if you’ve fallen asleep by now) to document how my break patterns have changed over the years.
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