More than a stay

On the drive to Muar, I’m determined to master the way the locals purse their lips to pronounce “Muo,” the colloquial way, which sounds like ‘mor.’
Facade of Muo Boutique Hotel in Muar, Johor
Emily, my navigator/travel companion is regaling me with local anecdotes as we practice saying “Muo” – me with little success – but she probably got it right because her family lived in Muar between 2001 and 2015. 

As she tells me it’s the norm to eat satay for breakfast in Muar, my mouth is watering because I’m a big fan of satay!

After exiting the Plus Highway from Johor Baru, the drive to Muar is scenic as the map smoothly directs us to the hotel, situated at the corner of Jalan Petri and Jalan Sulaiman. Its whitewashed façade stands out from among the prewar shophouses and I feel a tingle of excitement, eager to see how this boutique hotel will be ingeniously fitted out in the old building.

I’m pleasantly surprised that there is a vacant parking lot in front of the nearby shops, as if it is reserved for us but Emily warns me that we need parking coupons. She promptly hops out from the car, heads into the shops and returns with a booklet of parking coupons, quickly marking out the relevant details before displaying it on the dashboard.

First Impressions

With the car properly parked, I glance at the shop signboard for A.K. Mohamed Ibrahim and read that it was trading here since 1918. Wow! This gives me an idea of the age of the buildings in this area and am fascinated at how well preserved they are.

Reception counter on the ground floor, Muo Bouique Hotel
Natural light pours into the hotel lobby from a series of floor-to-ceiling glass panel windows, giving it a spacious and airy feeling. A white neon tube-light cursive rendition of the word, Muo, adorns the wall as the backdrop to the reception counter.

While Emily is speaking to the receptionist, I take in the lobby décor and notice how classic television sets, transistor radios and video cassettes are featured along with bric-a-brac from a bygone era.

Looking closer, I see interesting artwork displayed on postcards, framed posters on easels and T-shirts for sale as souvenirs. The paintings of local food and scenery on postcards catches my fancy because I can identify popular items like apam balik, assam pedas fish and my favourite – satay!

Local themes in their T-shirt designs!
The print of the word, HOME, on a design against a black T-shirt takes me back to the days when Muarians (that’s what Muar folks proudly call themselves!) wanted to catch programmes from Singapore channels on their televisions.

The artist’s drawing is a loud blast from the past because back in the days before the age of wireless streaming, Muar homes sported tall poles on their roofs to secure TV antennas for the best reception from Singapore broadcasts!

When we tell the receptionist that we parked in front of the shops, she directs us to the carpark across the road and issues us with the hotel complimentary parking coupon with advice to re-park the car and display it on the dashboard at all times.

Cosy Comfort

From the lift lobby to the floor landing, stylish lighting brings out the rustic charm in its simple décor. We find our room with a view of the Muar River and marvel at how the space is maximised to accommodate twin beds with a nightstand in between.

Cosy comfort in a twin-share room
The tagline, ‘More than a stay’ with a clever play on the word ‘more’ which sounds like the colloquial pronunciation for Muar, is repeated on the bed runners. It’s only later when I meet hotel managing director, Max Chia, that I learn the rationale for this tagline.

When Emily shows me the discount vouchers presented as part of the stay package, we agree that food is a priority and following her directions to Jalan Abdullah, we find the Rasa Sayang restaurant.

Our eyes widen at the large portions served but between us, we try to finish as much as we possibly can. Then it’s time for a walk and a short drive takes us to Tanjung Emas, a recreational park fondly called Tanjung, to catch the glowing rays of the setting sun.

We return to the hotel where Emily spends time selecting some Muar gifts from the Muo Concept Store. I hear the receptionist say, “Boss datang,” (Translation: The boss is here) because she saw him through the glass windows. It’s a timely opportunity to meet Chia and after we chatted, he graciously offers to show us the rooftop garden.

Chia explains that guests should sample local food and see their heritage sites so the local art displayed in the lobby are like a guide to these destinations. This is also why they do not have an F&B outlet as guests are encouraged to seek out the local recommendations to discover that the hotel is much more than just a stay but a discovery adventure in Muar!

A short ride up the elevator brings us to the rooftop where we see a group of ladies in the glass-house, decorating it for a surprise birthday party. The rooftop by night, is a spectacular setting for special events and the hotel has successfully hosted several wedding proposals here.

Muar Breakfast

I cannot remember saying “Goodnight” to Emily because I fall asleep quickly on such a comfortable bed. Next thing I know, light is peeping through the curtains and it’s already morning.

Wrought iron sewing machine stand
redesigned to support the bathroom sink!
Eager to be off for a typically Muarian breakfast, we are ready in a few minutes. Soon after we exchange morning greetings with the friendly receptionist, we ask for directions to the recommended satay pagi shop.

We follow her helpful tips, walking in that general direction with my nose sniffing for the aroma of freshly grilled satay but Emily smartly reminds me, “Look out for smoke!”

Once we rounded the corner, we not only see billowing smoke but tongues of fire licking up from charcoal grills. At ZZ Satay Warisan, staff are busy fanning the flames to grill the skewers of meat to serve throngs of waiting diners. We squeeze inside to grab the last vacant table.

I like how we don’t have to place any order but a plate of three varieties of satay just arrives at the table. Then our soon-empty plate gets topped up with satay as we eat!

After having our fill, Emily spots a notice advising diners to count the number of sticks they ate before going to the payment counter. Wow! I just love this element of trust.

The hotel is also an O'Bike docking station
We leave the shop with our clothes and hair smelling of smoke but thoroughly satisfied with the satay pagi – part one of our Muar breakfast.

Taking a slow walk back to the hotel, we see a small group gathered near a stall in a side lane, off Jalan Sulaiman. To satisfy our curiosity, we walk over only to discover they are in a queue patiently waiting for their apam balik orders. 

“Dorayaki,” said the vendor as his busy hands whiz over the open trays where Japanese-style red-bean stuffed pastries and traditional apam balik pancake are cooking. This looks simply irresistible so we place our order and join the queue.

Holding the precious package, we head back to the hotel to savour the still steaming specialties – part two of our Muar breakfast. And as I lick my fingers and agree that the wait was worth it, we begin to understand the hotel’s tagline that our time with Muo is truly more than a stay!

Muo Boutique Hotels
1 & 1A, Jalan Petri, 84000 Muar, Johor
Tel: +606 952 0000
Fax: +606 951 5000

Just 24 rooms in eight different categories designed in contemporary style with clean and comfortable bedding in compact rooms with ensuite bathrooms.

No F & B outlets in-house but walking distance to recommended local food.

Rooftop garden with an air-conditioned glass house, ideal for private parties and romantic proposals.

Walking distance to local attractions like heritage buildings, popular food, 434 coffee-shop, market, express bus terminal and wall murals.

Central location and complimentary-parking across the road with rooftop garden that commands a panoramic view of Jalan Maharani and the Muar River. Stay includes F&B and hairdressing discount vouchers at nearby business partner outlets. Hotel is also a docking station for O’Bike Malaysia bicycles.

Room rates for weekend stays are higher than that on weekdays.

Promotion rates range between RM150 for Superior Twin to RM250 for Double Storey Family Room.

A version of this was published in The New Straits Times, Life & Times on 28 June 2018.

From Kitchen Stories to KS Treasures

I accepted the invitation to dine with Frankie and am glad to meet him again with his wife and son at KS Treasures, a recently opened Chinese restaurant at Taman Sentosa.

Facade of KS Treasures restaurant at Taman Sentosa, JB
I’m wondering what ‘K S’ means until Frankie, who’s a fan of the food at Kitchen Stories, a restaurant popular for Teochew home-style dishes, explains that it’s the short-form for Kitchen Stories, their other restaurant in Taman Johor Jaya.

A few friends join us for this exciting food-tasting meal and Frankie introduces us to co-owners, Jeremy Teo, Chef Benson Chia and his wife, May.

A glance at the menu tells me that KS Treasures serves traditional Chinese cuisine and as I learn about Chef Benson’s proud credentials, I quietly anticipate being wowed by his modern touch, not only in taste but also in creative presentation.

Chef Benson Chia and his wife, May at KS Treasures
Chef Benson, whose hometown is Segamat, is living his dream – cooking in his own restaurant and applying the culinary skills he acquired from an illustrious career with international brand Chinese restaurants from Singapore, Shanghai to Miami, USA.

From his stints with Tung Lok Singapore, the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, to award-winning Michelin Star Cantonese restaurant, Hakkasan in Miami, Chef Benson, longed to have his own restaurant.

Now he’s back in Johor, leading his kitchen team at KS Treasures to present a menu of dishes that will keep diners coming back for more.

While waiting for the first dish to be served – double-boiled chicken soup with white fungus and peach plum in a coconut – we can in fact, watch through a wide glass window (which separates the dining hall from the kitchen), as Chef Benson and his culinary team are in action in the kitchen.

A serving of Deep-fried Duck Salad
To whet our appetite for the meal, a white bowl stuffed with shaved ice and topped with cherry tomatoes, is presented along with a few bamboo skewers. Its pointed tips help us pick up the chilled cherry tomatoes with sour plum flavour that tastes so refreshing.

Interestingly, the next dish of Deep-fried Duck Salad comes with more duck than salad greens but I’m not complaining.

Wisps of wild rocket or arugula, pomelo beads and pine nuts rest on a bed of pulled-fried duck meat and it is tossed thoroughly before each serving has a balance of delightful duck meat with greens.

At first bite, I’m pleasantly surprised by its agreeable flavour and I make a mental note to myself – "Must order this when I’m dining again at KS Treasures!"

Signature Spinach Beancurd with mushrooms
The sizzle spluttering from a cast-iron hotplate signals the arrival of the next dish, slices of sautéed Garoupa fish fillets with white pepper and a trilogy of onions.

Once the clouds of steam clear off, I can see better to help myself to a portion to taste.

The tasty and tender fish fillet is a winner but I’m pleasantly surprised to chew into something with more bite. After a moment of tasting, I discover that it’s a slice of fried dough stick that locals call, yew-char-kway!

For something soft, it must be their signature own-made Spinach Beancurd squares topped with enoki and shimeji mushrooms and braised in oyster sauce.

Topping the Seafood Poached Rice with rice bubbles
Aware that rice is a staple in Asian diets, KS Treasures presents its popular main course dish of Poached Rice with seafood like whole prawns, clams and crabs in a rich seafood bisque, served in a bubbling claypot.

A side dish of rice bubbles/pops is provided as a topping for diners who wish to enjoy a bit more texture while they savour this comforting poached rice dish.

It’s steaming hot, too hot for me to eat so I let my bowl cool down before digging in.

By then the rich seafood flavours are further absorbed into the poached rice for a more delicious and satisfying taste!

Portions of Seafood Poached Rice topped with seafood
Tea-smoked pork Spare Ribs are next. One serving comes with four ribs that are infused with Longjing tea and tea-smoked for a unique smoky flavour.

“It is musky!” declares Frankie, who found his favourtie word to describe the ribs, which I agree, is quite distinct from the common taste of barbecue sauce.

The next dish sounds rather unusual so I take a moment to process the thought of what ‘sweet fermented rice’ is because this sauce is used to prepare sautéed Sea Prawns.

Enjoy the distinct taste of Tea-smoked Pork Spare Ribs 
I look at a spoonful of its reddish gravy and see rice granules. Its mildly alcoholic taste seems to light up a bulb in my brain because I instantly recognize it, a taste akin to traditional tapai, tapioca fermented with sweet glutinous rice!

The dish of sautéed Sea Prawns in sweet fermented rice comes with a side of fried buns or mantou, recommended to soak up all the sweet fermented rice gravy…

Someone commented that the mantou here has a different texture compared to those at other Chinese restaurants so I tear one sakura flower-shaped mantou in half (and put back half on its serving plate) just to have a taste.

It is indeed a bit more chewy but nonetheless, still tasty. Then Jeremy volunteers the information that the mantou here are made by the Chef’s wife, May.

Jeremy Teo [Left] with Chef Benson Chia at KS Treasures
Our meal at KS Treasures aptly ends with a dish of Braised Assorted Treasures served in a pumpkin. A long-handle ladle is provided for diners to dig into the deep pumpkin to fish out the ‘treasures’ that include slices of fish maw, flower mushrooms and sea cucumber.

When he has completed his duties, Chef Benson emerges from the kitchen, wreathed in smiles, ready for a chat and to hear our comments about his food.

While each one may have our own favourites, all of us can agree on the superior quality ingredients that went into the preparation of the various dishes we enjoyed together.

Throughout our meal (it’s a week night), diners have been coming into the restaurant and this is a clear sign that KS Treasures is fast gaining popularity.

Diners have a clear view of the action in the kitchen through a glass window
Cheers! Thanks Frankie and KS Treasures for an interesting dining experience at KS Treasures!
Jeremy says that work is still in progress to furnish the private dining rooms upstairs and when the restaurant is fully opened, there will also be outdoor dining on the ground floor of this corner double-shop unit.

KS Treasures Restaurant [NON-HALAL] is located at No. 155 & 157, Jalan Sutera, Taman Sentosa, Johor Baru, Johor.

Open daily, from 11.30am to 3pm and from 5.30pm to 10.30pm, with an afternoon break. Reservations are recommended for weekends. Tel: +607 – 665 1133.

#Fast4Malaysia in Johor Baru

It happened in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Penang and Kuching and this Ramadan, #Fast4Malaysia was brought to Johor Baru for the first time.

One for the album: #Fast4Malaysia in Johor Baru
Also known as #Puasa4Malaysia, this event in JB was jointly organized by Malaysians for Malaysia (M4M) and International Women’s Peace Group Malaysia (IWPGM).

Weeks ahead, details of the event was shared on social media and interested guests were asked to reply to confirm their participation.

The response in JB was overwhelming and even on the day of the event, replies were still pouring in but had to be declined as the capacity of the event venue was already stretched to its maximum!

But what is #Fast4Malaysia?

In 2009, a group of activists including M4M founder, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, came up with the idea to promote peace and unity by urging Malaysians from all race and faith groups to experience fasting for a day.

M4M founder, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir
in her video address screened at the event
The #Fast4Malaysia campaign was created in response to the prevailing tensions and sentiments in the community.

By encouraging everyone to fast for the peace of our nation, this campaign aimed to foster unity and a sense of belonging through a better understanding of each other’s cultural and religious practices.

As guests arrived in the event hall, there was a sense of celebration as people from different races, faiths and walks of life gathered with a feeling of an optimistic future in Malaysia Baru.

The organisers distributed miniature national flags and placards designed with positive and encouraging phrases that urged guests to embrace these values as they posed for photos displaying them.

A few words from IWPGM President, Woo Sow Pheng
Among the special guests at the event were Member of the Johor State Executive Council, Liow Cai Tung, State Assemblyman for Stulang, Andrew Chen Kah Eng and Thomas Fann, social activist and chairperson of ENGAGE, a non-governmental organization that focuses on democracy, defending human rights and promoting social justice.

IWPGM President, Woo Sow Pheng, said #Fast4Malaysia in Johor Baru was their effort to bring Malaysians together to help each other better understand and respect the practices of fasting in the Muslim faith.

She explained that fasting from dawn to dusk, was just one of the five pillars of the faith and this was not only about denying the body of food and drink.

Guests at a section of the Ramadan buffet
The aim of the fast was to demonstrate submission to God and to keep the mind focused on a spiritual plane. This involved the challenge of avoiding ill speech, loss of temper, arguments and malicious behavior.

She commented that #Fast4Malaysia was a very special learning experience for non-Muslims. Her sentiments were echoed by M4M core member, Anna Koh, who admitted that it was a personal challenge for her to fast for a day.

As an encouragement to work together for a better Malaysia to benefit our future generations, Woo quoted the words of the nation’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman who said:

We must always think first of Malaysia, of the national need and least of ourselves… Everyone must try to help and see that the people are one-minded, with loyalty and one aim, to make Malaysia – the land we love – a happy abode for all of us.

If we can do this then we can guarantee liberty, security, prosperity and happiness for the future.”

After Koh presented the welcome address, guests also heard encouraging words by M4M founder, Datin Paduka Marina, from her video address.

In closing, Datin Paduka Marina urged Malaysians to, “Be the change you want to see!”

YB Liow Cai Tung sharing her aspirations for Malaysia Baru
At the breaking-of-fast, guests of different races and faiths helped themselves to the food from the buffet spread and sat down to enjoy the meal together in a spirit of unity.

Guests later heard from the newly elected political personalities, Liow Cai Tung and Andrew Chen, who spoke briefly about their aspirations for Malaysia Baru.

Meanwhile, M4M Johor Chapter representative, Dr Sharifah Halimah Jaafar, said that she longed for that day when all the races in Malaysia would be known as Malaysians.

She hoped that Malaysia will adopt the practice in China where the homeless and orphans are cared for by the motherland/government. When their documents stated that they are Chinese nationals who belong to their homeland, it does wonders to restore their self-esteem.

A reminder: Where are they?
She cited the example of how children from mixed-marriages were compelled to complete forms that required them to state their race. And because they cannot find a suitable category, they have no alternative but to tick the box for, Others/Lain-lain.

In our multi-racial community with a large population of mixed-marriages, it would be ideal if race no longer matters as the population is brought together under one category known as Malaysians.

In the next segment, guests were invited to share their thoughts about the new hope and change in the nation.

Thomas Fann, reminded about the four missing people
Among the speakers was Norani who suggested that this era was not just Malaysia Baru but a ‘Renaissance of Malaysia!’

To grow into a stronger nation, she said there was no room for speeches with hatred content and urged everyone to be responsible by setting a good example and to do their part to create borderless peace.

In his moving appeal, Thomas Fann reminded everyone that four people were still missing and expressed his desire to work towards a closure for these cases.

He outlined the series of events that took place on February 13, 2017 when Pastor Raymond Koh went missing and the tip-offs he received about three others who were also missing since November 2016.

Fann was encouraged to see the restoration of public institutions reported in the daily news and while a great deal needed to be done to rebuild the nation, he was assured that Malaysia would again become an economic powerhouse in the region.

"Be the change you want to see!" Photo by Eddey Suresh of The Iskandarian, featuring
[Left to Right] Shirley Lee, K K Lew and Yours Truly, at #Fast4Malaysia in JB
The event closed on an encouraging note as Dr Zaliha Mustafa announced that the Tabung Harapan or Hope Fund, recorded a total sum of RM52 million so far.

When the proverbial ‘hat’ was passed around, guests contributed generously in a practical demonstration of their love for the nation.

The collection which totaled at RM2,668 would be sent to Tabung Harapan on behalf of the #Fast4Malaysia event in JB.

Presenting my book at Book Week

Recently I was at the campus of Crescendo HELP International School in Taman Desa Cemerlang, Johor Baru, with the honour to participate with them as guest speaker at the start of their school’s Book Week.

A section of the audience in the assembly hall
Prior to the event, the school had informed students and their parents about the week’s activities through letters and social media posts. In our age of modern technology, the school shares information with them, quite conveniently through social media.

When the online pages were shared with me, I was pleasantly surprised that they picked the right photos to use with their circular (two of my favourite shots!) so that parents and students might have a better idea of what was going to happen.

Just reading the info, I felt much encouraged by the impression that the school principal and staff were keen on meeting a local writer/author (me!) and eager for their students to be inspired by my experience.

Screen-shot of the school's social media page
I was also pleased with the partnership of MPH Publishing which arranged a support team to join me at the event with a stock of my books, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, readily available for sale.

[Stock of my books in Johor Baru was running so low that remaining stock was rushed from Kuala Lumpur to JB, specifically for this event!]

While Johor readers may be familiar with me and my work, I imagined that most of the students – of a different generation – as well as their teachers and parents, many of whom are of foreign nationalities, may not know much about me!

On that eventful morning, some 300 secondary school students and their teachers gathered in the assembly hall where I was to speak to them. This was the largest audience I have addressed, thus far.

For this part of the event, I used some of the old photos featured in my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, to give a brief introduction of myself and my family.

Another screen-shot of their FB page
Then using highlights of stories from my book, I went on with sharing with them about my inspiration, how I became a writer and about the genre I chose to write about.

In the latter part of the event which was held in the school library, I had a reading session with Year Six students.

With the students seated comfortably on beanbags in front of me, I read to them selected parts of various stories from my book and enjoyed a Question and Answer time with these lively 12-year olds.

A week after the event, the school’s Deputy Principal – Pastoral Care, Tan Seow Heng, told me that she gave the Year Nine students an assignment to write on the topic, “My Thoughts on Book Week,” in their journal.

It was just a literary exercise but when she read the students’ journals, she was pleasantly surprised by their spontaneity and honesty and wanted to share some excerpts with me.

While their command of the English language may not be flawless, we can clearly grasp the meaning of their words.

Like Tan, I was deeply encouraged by how the students managed to put their thoughts and feelings into writing.

We agreed that it was more meaningful to read the students’ thoughts from their own hand-writing and it is my pleasure to share a few of their responses here:

Excerpt from Journal #001
Excerpt from Journal #002 
Excerpt from Journal #003
Excerpt from Journal #004
I cannot help but feel deeply touched by the observations of these 14 to 15-year old students, which just came straight from the heart.

THANK YOU Crescendo HELP International School, for the privilege to participate in your recent Book Week event.

May this be the start of your students’ own journey to a career in writing!

My book event at Crescendo International School

Crescendo HELP International School had their Book Week recently with a range of exciting activities, from a house writing competition to Bedtime Stories where students returned in the evening wearing pajamas, a book character dress-up day and meeting me.

Engaging with the students during my presentation
at their Book Week event recently
After their successful inaugural Book Week last year, this year’s event was planned for three times the number of students and more than three times the number of activities.

With an aim to inspire their students to love reading and writing, I was invited to participate with the school to kick-start the week of activities.

Event coordinator, Tammy Cyngier, wrote me with a proposed itinerary of activities and suggested that my presentation should include an introduction of myself, my inspiration and the amazing journey to the success of my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.

Held in the auditorium, this presentation was for some 310 students and about 30 staff during the school’s morning assembly. I was also asked to do a book reading session with 50 Year Six students in the school library.

All this sounded very exciting as this assembly would be my largest audience thus far.

While preparing my presentation for this international school, I took into consideration, the student ages and cultural mix which was not only widely ranged but also made up of foreign nationalities.

Unlike local audiences, they might not have background knowledge of Johor culture and heritage so I adjusted the contents of my presentation and ensured that they could grasp what I shared with them.

On the appointed day, it felt like I was going back to school because I should be on time for assembly!

I was welcomed on arrival by a team of Student Leaders and Student Council members, aged between 16 and 17, and ushered into a waiting room.

Over tea with Principal Philip Brisley and these students, he encouraged the teenagers to chat with me as an opportunity to develop their social skills with a visitor.

Later at the auditorium, I watched as students came in and sat down on the floor while the teaching staff sat on chairs that lined the rear wall.

A trophy and medals were on the table and the principal explained that their weekly assembly was also a time to recognise the students’ recent achievements in the presence of the staff and students.

And then it was my turn to address the audience.

Autographing my book for the students
Using some old photographs published in my book, I introduced myself and my family and shared with them a little about my school-going years and where I grew up.

I also introduced our grandparents and explained how my siblings, cousins and I lived with them so that we could go to school more conveniently.

Earlier on in the assembly, the principal acknowledged the achievement of a student who excelled in badminton so it was easy to connect the audience to that game.

Next I showed a photograph of our grandparents and Uncle Billy with the Thomas Cup, used in my story, “Where champions were born.”

I pointed out that both our grandfather and grandmother enjoyed playing badminton and grandfather – four-time Johor state champion in the 1930s – had trained champions.

My grandmother was featured in a separate story, “The Real Champion” as she was the mother of badminton champions and passed away at the ripe old age of 103.

My reading session with Year Six students
held in the school library.
I mentioned that one of the sports achievements by my mother’s youngest sister, Aunty Sylvia, as the first and only Asian woman to win a Commonwealth Singles Gold, was a record that remains unbroken to this day.

[Later I met History teacher Paul Blake in the canteen, who said he borrowed a photo of Aunty Sylvia (from the internet!) on her 1978 triumphal win at the Commonwealth Games, to explain the Commonwealth concept which he was then teaching his class!]

I also shared with the students that while I lived with our grandparents, I learnt a great deal from them. Looking back, this knowledge that I accumulated, helped to flesh out my stories when I wrote about Johor personalities, its culture and wealth of heritage.

MPH Publishing had a book sale table at the event and I had the pleasure to autograph my books for students and teachers who wanted to present my book as gifts to their mothers and families not just here but also in South Africa, Australia, Sri Lanka, UK and USA!

Then it was time for my reading session in the library. I arrived to see 50 Year Six youngsters, arranging themselves comfortably on beanbags, ready to listen to me reading excerpts from my book.

I invited these lively 12-year olds to raise their hands if they had questions and I had no trouble answering their cute queries.

The session went on smoothly as I kept the youngsters engaged by interacting with them and giving relevant illustrations to help them understand what I was reading.

Interacting with Student Leaders and Student Council
members to encourage them in the development
of their social skills. Also present were Principal,
Philip Brisley and Deputy Principal, Tan Seow Heng.
“I wish there was a longer period for the assembly so I could hear even more,” commented Student Leader-Deputy Head Girl, Ng Zhi Yun, after my presentation.

Student Leader-Deputy Head Boy, Satoshi Omata, added that even though he may not be a writer, he was inspired and felt ready to share his own experience with future generations because he survived the horrific earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

“You are doing something so invaluable: bringing together generations with your stories and in the case of our students, stirring within their hearts an appreciation and love for the older folks – their parents and grandparents,” said Deputy Principal – Pastoral Care, Tan Seow Heng.

Finally, Principal Brisley succinctly summed it up: “It’s the recording of the impact of events and developments that allows us to grow and benefit from the past. Your accounts of people, places and society, will carry future generations forward...”

A week later, Tan told me that she gave the Year Nine and Year 10 students an assignment to write in their journal on the topic, “My Thoughts on Book Week” and it was interesting that most of them wrote about me!

A version of this was published in the June 2018 issue of The Iskandarian