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Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Memorable Visit ...

August 17, 2008, Monday.
What a surprise to everyone, in the morning of August 17, 2009, when an unfamiliar and stranger like, walk into STS ground. More amazing, when Mr. Wong Ming, STS Headmaster greated him warmly. Madam Yii Mee Ching, recognized him immediately, when he humbly introduce himself. Surely, he was none other than Mr. James F. Keegan, her former teacher in the 70's. What a moment, and definitely a very touching one, where no words can describe but only the hearts can feel. As I see, Mr. James still look young, spiritually and physically as well, though he said he was 60 plus. He was just wonderful, what a guy and very energetic indeed.

He was toured around the school compound and briefed about the changes that have taken place since he left. It was a very touching and memorable moment, when he found that a photo of himself was on the wall of the school show room (Bilik Pameran). It was a nostalgic photo indeed even though it was just a black and white one.

Later in the afternoon, he was treated to lunch by STS headmaster, at Happiness Restaurant, in Sarikei town. There, Mr. James, Mr. Wong Ming (Headmaster), myself and Mr. William Wong (Senior Assistant, Curriculum) enjoyed and shared discussions on various aspects of life and education. From the sharing of thoughts and ideas, I find that Mr. James, still very much a teacher at heart, even though he was now a lawyer.

We wish him all the best in future. God will bless him. His effort and contributions to STS in the past, and his recent visit to the school will be always remembered by us. It will be definitely remembered in our 70th school anniversary celebration.

Reported by: Ng Meng Heong (Senior Assistant, Administration)

(Left to Right: Mr. William Wong, Mr. Wong Ming (Headmaster), Mr. James F. Keegan, Mr. Ng Meng Heong )

Mr. James (Happiness Restaurant, Sarikei, Sarawak.)

Email from Mr. James:

On Monday, 17 August 2009, not long after 11:00 in the morning, I showed up out of the blue, as it were, at Sekolah Tinggi Sarikei. I was greated warmly by the headmaster, Mr. Wong Ming, given a tour of the school grounds by his associate, introduced to members of the faculty, including Madame Yii Mee Ching, who was gracious enough to remember me, and treated to lunch at a local restaurant.

Although an American visiting Sarikei is perhaps not unusual, an American visiting Sekolah Tinggi probably is. But the primary focus of my vacation was the school visit. I was a Peace Corp Volunteer some 35 years ago, and taught English and History to fourth and fifth form students at Sekolah Tinggi during the 1973 and 1974 school years. This was my first visit back.

Much has changed in 35 years. I, for one, am 35 years older - I was a young man when I was a teacher. Sarikei is many times larger. The town has so many new streets and new buildings that I can scarcely recognize it. The movie theater is gone. The basketball stadium is gone. The empty field I knew as the Central Padang is gone. The house I lived in for almost two years - a small, wood structure on piers - is gone. I think the coffee shop I would frequent is still there, but I was unable to pick it out from others with any confidence.

Not everything has changed. The view out from the wharf across the Rejang River is much the same, although the wharf itself has been enlarged and modernized. The food is much the same, Chinese and Malay, and I still like it. The ubiquitous birds are still on the wires and on the buildings. The people are much the same, and I think this is good.

Sekolah Tinggi is much larger now, and has more students. badminton and basketball were popular with both students and faculty. Unfortunately, I could play neither very well. I could play table tennis, but a form four student beat e fairly easily on my first visit to the school. I still remember at the home of one of the faculty to which the then headmaster and I had been invited. The main course was dog. I went heavy on the bread.

Sekolah Tinggi was an excellent school. This has nothing to do with me. It was an excellent school before I arrived, and it was an excellent school after I left. Part of the reason was the faculty. I am very much aware that broad characterization of groups can result in mischaracterization of
individuals. But the teachers at Sekolah Tinggi were intelligent, dedicated and conscientious. Sekolah Tinggi was in part a reflection of the quality of its faculty.

But it was also a reflection of the faculty of its students. It was the students who made my two years at Sekolah Tinggi so meaningful. They were intelligent, high-spirited, inquisitive, and good - morally good. Thus is not so to say they were all geniuses. Many, like myself, were not. Nor is it to say they were all saints. They were not. Intelligent, high-spirited, inquisitive students are not likely also to be saintly, and from time to time my students drove me wild. But from time to time I probably drove them wild too.

I can remember many of my students, a few by name. I have photographs, with names, of many. Some are photographs I took, and some are photographs given to me when I left. There must be some students I can no longer individually remember. I had many students, and this was 35 years ago. But I very much hope that all have lived as they were - intelligent, high-spirited, inquisitive, and good.

James F. Keegan.

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