I have never thought that we would ever make a trip down memory lane with such intense pleasure. Joining the trip with good friends made it more fun and added more new memories together.
On a rainy afternoon, I picked up my childhood Korean classmate at Sibu airport whom I have not seen for 45 long years but when we met it seemed like only yesterday. I recognised her on the spot!
She seemed to have disappeared from school one day and I have been searching for her ever since. God granted my wish in a miraculous way. I met her sister at a conference in Singapore and we reconnected five years ago. She is busy with work and studies. But she surprised me by telling me that she was flying over to Sibu to meet me and other classmates. I was full of expectations.
Finding puzzles of school days
Besides our grey hair, we have not changed too much. Our hearts were still young and gay. On 24 Oct 2018, we made a trip to find our memories, to find some of the missing puzzles of our school days.
My Korean friend, Helen Kim, was a daughter of the first Korean Missionary to Sarawak. I always thought her father was a pastor and teacher of the Methodist School, Bintangor. They lived in a parsonage near the church. I spent quite a lot of memorable time with her and her family.
That was something I treasured very much. My first instant noodle, a glass of cold milk, fried seaweeds, cold lemonade, homemade cakes and of course eating the sour lime from her fruit trees were all associated with her.
But, what surprised us was that the clean big parsonage is a ruin now. We asked permission from the tenant to visit the house. It is a total mess; so worn out, dilapidated indeed! Nothing looks the same, only the exterior building. The traveller’s palms were gone, so were the fruit trees. The house nearby was gone too.
The former parsonage was so different inside. The big dining room seemed so small now. There was no familiarity left. However, we met the lady who has been staying there for the last twelve years. Her husband is the gardener of the church. She is doing native handicraft for sale and we watched her weaving traditional cloth. She also let us look at her beadwork and others.
We were happy there once and we found peace now, so we said goodbye to those memories and with a grateful heart I thanked my friend, telling her how much I cherished those until now. But nothing was the same again. We have grown up and we should let go!
In the afternoon we visited our primary school. The old buildings were gone, except the row of classrooms but they looked so different. We had been studying in those classrooms. It seemed so big then and we could still hear the radio broadcast through the corner, listening intensely to find answers to the questions asked after lesson. We could still “see” the sitting places on the floor mat. We could see ourselves running down the corridor to find a place to play stones, bean bags and hula hoops. The swings under the mango trees were not there, but we still felt the laughter and giggles.
We were invited into the office and looked at photos of our past principals. One was my cousin who just celebrated his 90th birthday recently. The other one had gone to the Lord long ago! My friend and I held hands ad walked round.
Oh, there was the WC, which we remembered, but only wild plants grow there now. There are no more colourful fish. We used to be afraid that we might fall into the water below with those fishes swimming happily around.
Of course, we went back to our secondary school as well. My friend was classmate with Christina, another secondary school mate. As I studied with the Chinese school students, my memory with them ended at the school gate. Christina and Helen shared the secondary school memories. They talked about their classrooms and their seats and desks.
Looking back, though I was sad and had bad memories there, however, on a day like this, I stood trying to focus on finding the good ones, forgiving the people who hurt me and prayed for forgiving spirit to heal and let bygones be bygones.
Now I have no regrets left and I was free!
Along the way we met up with some classmates still living in Bintangor. Each of us now has different life and vocation. However, we were all very happy to meet again after almost half a century. Walking around the town, we did not see much changes in this small town. However, those we saw have aged with time and so have we! We ate durian, rojak and chendol in Bintangor, together with Kong piang. It was drizzling all day long with spots of sunlight now and then.
As we never knew when we would here again we took in as much as we could. We will have all these new and old memories in the corners of our mind. We took many photos to help us to retain these unforgettable times for a long time to come!
Thank God for this healing trip and also for helping us to reshape our new ones!
Chris of Tawau, Sabah