Wong Lai Cheng - Headgirl
This is Lai Cheng, your ex head girl speaking so everyone better pay attention! Seriously, it is an impossible task trying to condense my 30 years in England without it appearing like a job application but I shall try my best.
I left Seremban in January 1972 and arrived in Gatwick, London after an initial false start. My original charter flight had overbooked so I had to stay with my brother in JB for a couple of days before catching the next flight out. Not a great start! London was in the midst of a bitter winter, chilling me to the bone. People may remember me as this weed who needed to wear a cardigan in class when the fan was on. I spent the first weekend tucked up under layers of blankets, venturing out only for meals and bathroom visits.
Nobody told me that the school year in the UK bizarrely starts in the middle of September so I had missed my slot for "A" level admittance and had to retake some "O" levels which I had just done back home. I enrolled in a Comprehensive School where discipline was non existent. As a 6th former I had special privileges including not having to queue for dinner (usually fish fingers, double mash and gravy followed by a stodgy pudding with custard, what a change from the canteen at ACS! No more laksa, nasi lemak, kachang puteh etc.) and being addressed as Miss Wong by the teachers.
September 1972 saw me registered at a local college as an overseas student. In those days tuition fees was cheap, I believe it was only £50 a year. Even so my family had problems supporting me so I had a mid week evening and Saturday job as a sales assistant at a department stall. I missed out on all the field courses as unlike the rest of the class I had to pay for them. Two years later I gained acceptance into Kings College Medical School but unfortunately because I was 3 months short of a 3 year residency requirement I had to pay fees for the next five years. (I should have had better advice before I came to the UK!)
My five years training at medical school went by in a haze of lectures, hospital training and umpteen exams all of which I passed first time. I was only able to come home twice in 10 years because of financial constraints. In those days I could not cook and Chinese ingredients could only be obtained in Chinatown so I suffered from severe food deprivations. These days every kind of oriental ingredient is obtainable in most supermarkets.
I qualified in July 1979 and started my first job as a Surgical House Officer in August at a hospital near the south coast of England. From then on I moved every 6 months to a different job fulfilling my requirements to become a General Practitioner. My sister complained that she had a whole address book just for me as I moved house so much. Training to be a GP was finally accomplished in 1983 when I joined a group practice as a partner in South London. I joined a group with 4 male GPs already in their sixties. So I settled in and enjoyed working in a multi racial inner city area. Patients of mine originated from countries like Vietnam, Cyprus, West Indies, Ethiopia, Hong Kong including the local white population. My very rusty Cantonese dialect was useful in my dealings with the Hong Kong and Vietnamese Chinese and I know I was much appreciated.
In 2000 I resigned from my partnership having being there for over 17 years. As an illustration of my great age, a visiting medical student asked out of interest when I had qualified. When I replied 1979, he said "Oh I was only 5 then!". On a similar vein, on one of my visits back to Seremban I met a clerk at the Allson Klana hotel who professed to be an old boy of ACS. I asked if he knew the various teachers that I remembered but got a blank. Finally he asked when did I leave ACS and when I replied 1979, he said "I was’nt even born then". My husband had a very good laugh at my expense.
Which brings us back to the personal stuff, ageing and families and such.
I don’t need to remind any of my contemporaries about the fact that we are all approaching the big 50 so I guess most of us who have married or have partners have children of varying ages. I married an English solicitor 15 years ago. We have 2 boys, James and Felix aged 14 and 11 years. Both are of course still at school and doing well. We live in South London, very close to the children’s schools and to the centre of London where my husband has his law practice. Since my "early retirement", I have branched out into complementary medicine (homeopathy), oil painting and ceramics. Lately I have also become the proud "grandparents" of two lop-eared dwarf house rabbits, my elder son’s choice as a birthday present. I lead a happy and relatively low stress existence these days, much needed after 20 years as a overworked and under paid NHS doctor. I also now have time to dabble with the internet so anyone keen exchange emails with me is most welcome. We also make it a habit to return to Malaysia every 2 years, our next visit being 2004…..perhaps we will meet then!