January 24, 2010

Revisiting Su Lai Primary School

I felt as if I was visiting a studio in Hong Kong  making a 1930's movie.

It was a nice sunny and hot Thursday morning (after several days of rain)when I had a chance to revisit this old and abandoned primary school located in Ensurai the area our Foochow pioneers started their agricultural projects in 1901.

Since many of the Foochow settlers have moved to the town of Sibu the elders and community leaders thought that the Primary School should also be relocated in Sibu. Not too long ago the new Su Lai Primary School was established in Sibu.

Stepping into the lower floor with all the wooden floor having rotted away my mind was full of past images and noises...all of a sudden I could hear children's ghostly voices resounding upstairs. My imagination went on overdrive. I could even hear the voice of my relatives teaching Chinese lessons.

The lower floor was the assembly hall to commemorate the contributions of Mr and Mrs. Lau Kah Tii. (My maternal grandfather Lau Kah Chui was the second brother of Kah Tii.) The usual photos  honouring Mr. and Mrs. Lau hanging on the beam remain there for some reasons. It is a common practice for the Foochows in particular to name a hall after the benefactor. Mr. Lau Kah Tii was an exceptional man who would always include his wife in his benevolent activities.

The name of the school continues to have permanence - etched deep into the concrete. When I was small the words looked extraordinarily big and the school seemed so big and beyond my reach. Later when I went to the Sibu Methodist Primary school I realised that the two school buildings were similar in design.

The stairs going upstairs used to resound with happy feet.

The Chinese four-word slogan.The moss greened walls are dappled with sun spots made by the sun shining through the cracks in the asbestos ceiling and the holes of the belian roof tiles.

When we were young we used to feel sad when visiting friends whose roof needed repair. We were used to stories about  rain coming through  holes in the roof  and children and their mother had to use every container and aluminium buckets available to catch the rain water. You can imagine how one could pass the night if the bed was wet . And there was even a story of a poor widow who had to marry another time so that her little hut could be repaired at the encouragement of her neighbours who pitied her situation. It was a story in which a poor woman had to exchange her body for a roof over her children's head.

The jungle will soon creep into the building and colonise the whole block.

Windows are old and rotting away. Cracks on the wall are appearing and the white wash has turned brown. Everything seems so cold and decaying except for the sunbeams which penetrate the room casting shadows every where.

The bamboo which used to to so dainty and pretty are now old stumps covered with moulds and moss.

P/s Thanks to Wong Meng Lei (Rajang Basin) for arranging this one day trip to the East Bank of the Rajang River. He took time to drive us along the small roads (Lau Kah Tii Road and Chew Kung Road)  and then we "fell into the kuali" of a church man who gave a treat at Tang Kee in Engkilo. Thanks for the wonderful organic lunch!


KLAX said...

Something you might like . But you probably need high speed internet to down load.



all3 said...

wow...i love visiting places like dat..

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Klax for your tips...

thanks for visiting. God bless.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

thanks for your comments. Next time we can go to Sibu to hit the Pioneers' Trail!! At each place we will learn about the history of the Sibu Foochow Pioneers!! That would be nice....GBU

Bengbeng said...

ah..it must have been quite an emotional experience for u

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Bengbeng
Thanks for visiting.

I can no longer see the "big house of the Laus" and the visit to the school only reminded me of Ozymandias and man's frailty. Nothing can last . Only God's mighty power is ever lasting.

wenn said...

somewhere to remember by.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

This is part of my childhood "play ground". My maternal grandparents lived on the opposite bank. The older brother lived on the Ensurai bank (Eastern banks). I used to visit cousin Yien and her family and ate beautiful biscuits and sweets sold in the shop "Hock Chiong" established by grand uncle Lau Kah Tii for the village.

My father and his siblings stayed away from the Japanese for a while in this little paradise called Ensurai. He was put in prison but later released when headmen spoke on his behalf and vouched that he was not a western /British "spy"

For this reprieve and retreat my family and descendants would be grateful. Another story there.

Ann said...

These places should be preserved.

The stairs are quite something.

I recently watched a Hogg who saved kids in China. Forgot thre title, your So Lai schools looked like that.

Ann said...

My dad and your Dad have simliar stories during the Jap war. When I get back to Auckland, we can compare notes.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Yes Hogg's story is called Escape from Huang Shi...good movie with Chow Yun Fatt and Michele Yeoh??

The new Su Lai School in Sibu does not look like it has a great history...very functional.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ann'
where are you now?

Ann said...

Flew back to Auckland yesterday.

Hogg movie is Escape from haung Shi,

The two famous Chow Yun Fatt and Michele Yeoh are in the movie. I just watched it on TV last Sunday.

Sarawakiana@2 said...


I asked my children to watch the movie and they all said that they wish today's teachers are all like Hogg...

But Michele Yeoh portrayed as sacrificing Chinese woman with great decorum and compassion.

Very good roles for every one actually. I heard there is a statue of Hogg in Huang Shi.

anan liu said...


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