This is another old blog of mine, written in September 2006.
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“Ma, kan best kalau Penang Medical College tu sebenarnya Terengganu Medical College?”
“Terengganu is a very nice place. I didn’t want to come back to Penang. I wouldn’t have came back if it wasn’t for my parents.”
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It has always have some kind of charm to me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the coconut trees. The cool night breeze. The language. The batik. The slow pace of life. The empty roads. The thousands of hectares of oil palm estates. The Ubudiah Mosque. The people.
I still can’t figure it out.
I’ve always came back to Terengganu. Usually following my father when he has some work to do there. Especially if it’s the school holidays. We’d come in a family or two, or three. Us with our aunts and uncles and their families. We’d stay in Awana Kijal. We’d play in the beach, trying to survive the huge waves of South China Sea. We’d build sand castles, dig holes in the sand with our own bare hands and then sit in it. So much fun.
I used to live there nearly 20 years ago. That’s the first place I remember vividly in my life. We moved to Mawar Estate in Kemaman, from living in Kuantan. No, I can’t remember the house in Kuantan.
We lived in the manager’s bungalow in the estate. When we moved there, my brother Adam wasn’t even born yet. Well…soon to be, at that time.
I remember going to school in a van with other kids. The driver was Pak Cik Nawi. I started kindergarden when I was five. It was a Felda wooden house turned to be one of Kemas’ tadika. The teacher was nice. I learnt reading, and, well, manners. Yes, I really did. I think I’m still practicing what was taught those days. Before breakfast I’d count the number of children who came, then my friend and I would prepare the bowls/plates and spoons. I can’t remember what we used to eat, though. The teacher even taught us how to bring our plates to the kitchen. The plate at the bottom, then bowl, then the cup on top, with spoon inside the bowl.
My brother Taufiq, then 2, would follow me in the van with me, carrying a schoolbag and water bottle, but he wouldn’t join me in school. He’d return home with the van.
My father told me that I’d come back and draw the pictures of my friends. Then sometimes if my father sends me to school, or when there’s a school function, he’d be able to recognise my friends through my sketches!
During weekends and school holidays I’d play (and most importantly, fight) with Tau all day long. We’d build houses from cushions, or play fight outside the house. I’d catch tadpoles and put them in what I remember as Adam’s milk bottle. Haha! But I can’t remember my mom scolding me. So I guess they’re Tau’s, or maybe my, old milk bottle. I remember once we were running out to play in the lawn when a snake sort of ‘stood’ in front of me. We ran back inside and called our parents. They never caught the snake. But nothing happened to any of us.
There’s a big drain at the main gate on the way out of the estate. During rainy seasons, it’d flood and guess what, I didn’t have to go to school!! Before it floods, we could see the water running high, dangerously below the small wooden bridge.
When I first started primary school, I went to the school (which was right opposite the kindergarden I went to the year before) all by myself, sent by Pak Cik Nawi in his van. Of course, the school was a familiar sight, and I know my friends were waiting there, so I wasn’t really scared. My parents came afterwards to register me and send me to my class.
I can’t recall much of learning (though I can remember getting high marks…heheh!!). I played so much then (just look at my sister now and you’ll have some idea). We had this reading corner at the back of the class. That’s where I spend my free time in class. We’d go around the school helping our teachers. If we get correct answers in maths, or when we’ve done our works, we can go out for recess early. Once we have started to play (police and thief) when other people were only beginning to line up for food in the canteen. Haha!
One day my maths teacher told me to pick some stones for counting lessons. So, the playful me ran out of the class to get the stones and BAM! I hit another girl I didn’t see coming out from the class next door. My lower lip bled and bled…I think it’s still one side bigger now!
In the afternoon, while waiting for the van to pick us up, we’d buy some ice cream and play under the trees. There was only one flavour, corn.
I remember speaking in Terengganu slang in school and when playing with friends in the estate, but I switch to normal Malay when I speak at home. Just like my sister did in Kuching. She spoke some Sarawak language at school. I guess I still can catch up on Terengganu if I’m given 2-3 weeks with only Terengganu people around me.
At times my father would bring us to Kuantan to have dinner with his friends and their families in Merlin Hotel. We’d stay in a hotel room after dinner while the men chat away through the night. Sometimes we’d play with other children in the playground outside the hotel. My father told me that once they started telling ghost stories to each other, became really scared, and they drove back in a convoy (because the ghosts they were talking about were supposed to be on the quiet and dark road heading to our houses).
Some other weekends are spent in Kuala Terengganu with my aunt who’d just married a guy from Terengganu. She was pregnant with, and gave birth to her first daughter, Sarah, when we were there.
We moved from Terengganu to Kulai, Johor in August 1988. I brought pleasant memories of childhood with me.
After reflecting on all that, I sort of able to see why I’m so fond of Terengganu. It has always have a special place in my heart because that’s where the sweet memories of my life begun. That’s where my life, as I remember, started.