Monday, January 11, 2010

Staying in an 'air-condioned' wooden room

The cool morning this time of the year reminds of my days in Jerantut, Pahang. I was posted to teach in Sek Men Jerantut when I graduated from a teacher's college. When I went to the school, I met the Principal. He was then typing something with his typewriter (computers were not common then). He was glad to meet me. I liked him instantly because he was very cordial. He asked me whether I needed accommodation and I nodded. Soon he took me to see Mr Kok, a former teacher who was then serving as an insurance agent. At that time, there was no vacant room in his two-storey wooden house but he put me up in a teacher’s room temporarily. The teacher was attending an in-service course and would not be back until three months later. The rental was very low – a mere RM40.

I like the room. It was very airy and cooling. In the morning, the air inside the room is as cool as an air-conditioned room. Usually before Chinese New Year, the air there is icy cool. The only disadvantage of staying in a wooden house with wooden floor was that whenever any tenant was back, his footsteps were audible to all the tenants.

I stayed in this house for a month and shifted to a single-storey terraced house in Ruby Garden, sharing it with two other outstation teachers. The teacher from Bemban, Melaka was Tan Ching Hong, and the one from Tangkak, Johor was Boo Cheng Kee. We had more privacy staying in a terraced house. It was during the stay in this terraced house that I started to contribute Malay articles to Nanyang Siang Pau and Sin Chew Jit Poh for publication. There were mostly exam questions and translation of Chinese short stories to Malay. The honorarium earned enabled me to pay for my newspapers and magazine. I subscribed to Nanyang Siang Pau, the Straits Times (now New Straits Times), Berita Harian and Galaxie magazine. My housemates enjoyed reading them free but I did not mind because I did not lose anything by allowing others to read my newspapers and magazines.

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