Friday, April 9, 2010

My handsome pen-pal


He was my pen-pal. He first wrote to me after reading about me in the Look n Learn magazine. At that time he was in his school Library. He was studying at Undang Rembau English Secondary School (URESS), in Rembau, Negeri Sembilan. He was in Form 2.

I wrote in the pen-pal column of the Look n Learn magazine. It was published in the United Kingdom. I was a school librarian, in Monks' Hill Secondary School, Singapore. I was in Secondary 2. I love reading a lot. So, while waiting for the borrowers to come in, I would read whatever books or magazines available in the school library. That was how I came across the magazine and decided to write requesting for pen-pals from around the world.

So, my husband was one of the many readers who wrote to me. I received a lot of letters from all over the world. I was so thrilled. Imagine receiving letters everyday..... Felt like a celebrity too. I replied to all of them. Imagine where my pocket money went. I need to buy stamps (there was no email) so, since I could not afford to send my replies via the normal Air-mail, I usually buy Aerogrammes. It was a lot cheaper, but you cannot enclosed anything. It was just a piece of paper where you glue all the sides before posting!!

Ahha!! Lucky for me, my husband was living in Malaysia. So, the stamp was not expensive. At that time it was only 15 cents. My pocket money to school was 30 cents. An aerogramme cost 30 cents!!! So... I was broke most times.... But then, luckily my father increase my pocket money to 50 cents when I studied in Secondary 3. By that time, I have lost contact with most of my overseas pen-pal. Only Stephen Croft from Yorkshire, England and Kamaruzaman Bin Budin (my husband) from Malaysia remained.

Since we were both still in school, and broke most of the time, my husband taught me how to 'save' our postage by 'cheating' the postal department. Each time before I post my letters to him, I would rub glue onto the stamp. Wait for it to dry, and then put it in the post-box. When the post office stamped the stamp, the logo would touch the glue and not the stamp itself!! So... when my husband received my letter, he would remove the stamp and soaked it in water. He would then return the stamp in his letter to me. The stamp can then be reused!! Clever eh??!! Heyyyy, that was his idea, not mine!!

We had fun corresponding with each other. I only get to see how he looked like when he sent me his first photograph, a year later. He was in his school uniform and carrying his school bag!!! Wowwww!!!! He was so.... cute!! I never sent him any photos because, I felt I was not pretty enough. That was in 1973.

We wrote regularly, almost everyday until mid 1973 because he was sitting for his SRP (Sijil Rendah Persekolahan) or LCE (Lower Certificate of Education. So, we stopped corresponding until he finished his examination. We continued our correspondence until mid 1974. We stopped because I was sitting for my Cambridge GCE 'O' level. Then, we started to write each other again end of 1974. By that time, I was already living in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.

My dad, who was working at the Singapore Port Authority, decided to send my mum, me and my siblings (I have 3 younger brothers) back to our village in Malaysia. My dad continued working in Singapore until his retirement.

Anyway, while waiting for my GCE results, I took up a Stenography course in Seremban. I learned typewriting, shorthand and also book-keeping. That was in 1975. I was 16 going on 17. My husband was in Form 5. I did write to him informing him that I was living in Malaysia also. I was just 16 km from where he lived. Yet, we never met, because, he was still in school and will be sitting for his Malaysia Certificate of Education (MCE) that year. He replied that we can continue our correspondence after he finished his MCE. We adhered to that decision.

Meanwhile, I continued with my studies at Maktab Seri Jaya (Seri Jaya College) in Seremban. I cycled to class by borrowing my neighbour's bicycle on his off days, otherwise I took the bus. Then, one day, the bicycle was stolen!! It was stolen when I was in class. I had to walk all the way home (2.2km), crying most of the time. My mother wanted to replace the stolen bike, but my neighbour, refused. I was so thankful!! But, my mother gave me a very very very long lecture on the subject of 'borrowing'.... Hmph!!

At college, I had many girlfriends (there were no boys in my class) and we had so much fun. They were mostly Chinese and Indians. I did not have any Malay friends. I have a few pictures of them here. I will post it later. We graduated at the end of that year. We had a farewell cum pot luck party. We bought a saree for our lecturer as a farewell present. Again, there were no boys at this party. We did invite them (from the other class) but they were too shy. Perhaps boys during those days were from a shy breed!!

During the party, our lecturer called me and asked whether I would like a job. I said, sure, why not?? So, she told me to go to the Labour Department and register myself. The Department will then send me for an interview whenever a vacancy existed in any company. I did what she told me to. A week later, I received a letter from the Department requesting me to attend an interview at Guthrie Rubber Processing Sendirian Berhad (GRPSB) in Siliau, Negeri Sembilan.
Siliau??? Where??? Designation? Confidential Stenographer.

I took a taxi to Siliau. When I reached the destination, and got out of the taxi, the odour was awful..... it was the smell of ammonia. I have reached the rubber factory. The security guard took me to the office where I was going to be interviewed. I was the only applicant. I was told to fill in the application form. Half an hour later, I was called into the Production Controller (Rubber) office. Wow!! If I got this job, my Boss is a Brit!! Mr Dermott James Barry interviewed me himself. He dictated a letter and I had to transcribe it. That was so easy. Well, I also got the job!! I started work on 2nd January 1976!! I was only 17 years old!! My salary??? Only RM250 a month. I felt Rich!!

Well... where was my husband by this time??? Want to know??? View my next post!

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