During this period of time, we lived in Yishun. My younger sister was born when I was 4, while we were in Clementi, but I’m not sure she has many memories of either Clementi, or our first (of two) Yishun homes. I attended Kindergarten 1 once I turned 5, and “graduated” from Kindergarten 2 three months before my 7th birthday. Both my parents were working during this time period, so I would stay with a babysitter after kindergarten every day until my parents came home.
The Yishun residential town, on the north side of Singapore, had two MRT stations that served it, a southern one named Khatib (N11 – North 11) and a northern one actually named Yishun (N12). We lived near the southern one, in Block 799, Yishun Ring Road, unit #12-3410 (local). My babysitter who lived on the 5th floor in Block 795, just behind us, and I’m pretty sure this (local) was my kindergarten. There’s precious little information on it though, I’m not even sure if it’s still around anymore despite this Google Street View pic (local), because the PCF website doesn’t even list the school anymore. But my kindergarten certificate (see Artifacts section) seems to support this. There’s another kindergarten (local) nearby that it could in theory have been too, but I don’t think that’s it, upon further review, even though my memories actually placed the kindergarten there at first. I wonder if maybe they shifted locations at some point, because I never remembered a second kindergarten in the region..
I remember our phone number here because it was a nice, fun number — 7543293. There is a second number that springs to mind — 7542772 — that was probably my babysitter’s number. She became a somewhat close family friend for many years, and looked after my younger sister too. Our postal code was 2776, this was when Singapore still had 4 digit postal codes, they didn’t move to 6 digit ones until Phase 4 of my life (1995).
Sometime in the middle of this time period, my eyes also deteoriated to the point that I started wearing glasses.
Many of my dreams that involve elevators or stairs in an apartment block are a derivative of the time in my life that was spent either here, or in the next section directly after this, while we lived in Yishun.
While I was in kindergarten, my entire world view was restricted to this tiny region above (original map view). Our apartment block was 799 at the bottom, my babysitter’s apartment block was 795 in the middle, 794 up top was the kindergarten, and 795A on the right housed a coffeeshop. My kindergarten can be seen in the link in the General section above. The coffeeshop (local) (aka kopitiam) was pretty important too as we went there for meals somewhat regularly as a family. The food is as cheap as ever, I see. This picture and this picture in particular are fairly nostalgic, especially the second picture.
Here’s an annotated version of the last picture. This road is very familiar to me. 799 was the block on the left (orange star), and I remember capriciously crossing that orange residential side road many, many times in my childhood. None of the stalls in the kopitiam pictures on its Google page look familiar anymore, but there was definitely a kopitiam there. My babysitter lived in block 795 on the 5th floor, specifically in the corridor marked by the red circle. Her unit was set in an alcove along the walkway there. The blue circle signifies where the elevators/lifts and stairs were for the block, and I can see from that picture that the lifts stopped only on the 1st, 5th, 9th, and 12th floors (the floors with horizontal corridors). The dark green circle marks out where a motorcycle parking lot was, and I am fairly sure that my father, who only ever drove a motorcycle in Singapore, had his assigned parking spot located there.
I remember that I used to call my babysitter “Auntie 795” because that was her block number and that was my entire world in this stage of my life. Both my parents worked from morning to evening, so before kindergarten started I would go there to spend the day, and once it started my parents would drop me off in the morning, and Auntie 795 would pick me up after school and bring me to her place for a couple hours before my parents came home. I’m still trying to recall her name, but I still distinctively remember her voice, and I wonder how she is doing now. I don’t remember if she lived with any other family members. I think I was the only child there most of the time, but there might have been a point in time where one other child was there too. I also do know my sister was there at some point, but I’m not sure if our paths intersected since I think I stopped going there after I entered Primary 1.
I remember one of my absolute earliest memories was sitting in Auntie 795’s house, in a doorway to a side room, playing with some kind of science-y toy that was really just a bunch of round rings that you could move along the wire from one end to the other, with the wires themselves affixed into a wooden base. There were also other toys in a couple baskets beside the doorway, like a stack of different-sized donut rings that you could stack on a wooden pole to make into a tower. I was facing the kitchen in front of me, there was a side bedroom to my right (and I was basically sitting in its doorway), and there was a couch and a TV behind me. This “earliest memory” was interesting though, because I seem to remember suddenly being conscious of myself and just noting that I was here. It was like my mind had awakened from a haze and was acknowledging my own existence.
I don’t remember if Auntie 795 cooked meals for lil ol’ me, but I do remember that I would occasionally wander to the house in between her unit and the lifts at the end of the 5th floor, which belonged to a completely unrelated person, whom my parents eventually befriended and we called Auntie Lilian. I remember just wandering into her apartment, which was to the left of the red circle in the picture above, and watching TV and getting fed food there now and then. Because I was a Cute. Little. Kid. Unfortunately, I also was overfed some sweet potato stew one day, and I ended up throwing up or causing a catastrophe similar to that. I don’t think I ever went back after that, and I’m still a bit wary of sweet potato to this day.
Speaking of kindergarten, I remember breaking down and crying in the middle of the floor on the first day, oh my poor parents. I think I was fine after that, though. I also seem to remember a daily naptime. I also won a trophy from an English speech contest in kindergarten near the end of K2. I even found some pictures of me doing this.
I started wearing glasses at the tail end of Kindergarten 2, when I was 6 and a bit. I guess I was a bad kid and always reading books in dim light and under the bed at night, and probably watched lots of TV too in this boring pre-Internet world, but even then it probably shouldn’t have deteoriated that quickly. It was probably just in the genes since everyone in my immediate family wears/wore glasses.
There’s one really important spiritual memory from this period, though it’s fuzzy enough that it could perhaps have been imagined. It’s one that I’ve remembered and carried with me since very young though. My parents are Buddhists, and took me at some point to a temple so they could pray. I was waiting for them outside the temple in a grass field when I saw a lit candle on the ground and put my hand through the open flame. It came out unscathed and I moved on with life. As an adult now, I would try to explain it away as perhaps those were joss sticks and it was smoke wafting up from them that I put my hand through, and not fire. However, that’s what my childhood memory tells me, so that’s what I am going with!
Another memory I had is that I was upset on a weekend morning because my mom had left me alone in the house to go shopping or buy some food in a nearby market. Once she left, I sat on the floor screaming and crying until she came home, and I remember vividly having the memory that I was trying to scream loud enough so my mother would hear me from as far away as the traffic crossing just past the police station near our house, and rush home for me.
I remember my dad putting a tub of water on top of the closed toilet bowl in the toilet (toilet being the Singaporean term for the Western washroom/bathroom). He’d then add a liquid scented soap (Dettol, specifically this bottle) in it, then place me inside and wash me. Eventually, I grew too big to fit inside the tiny tub, and he would still fill the tub and pour the liquid soap in but started letting me wash myself with a plastic pot instead.
I also remember a baby walker that we had and that I used to sit and ride/walk around in, with a little ridged tray that I could put things on. There are photos of it that will end up on Artifacts section eventually. This actually probably belongs in the Phase 1 section huh.
My dinner was at 6 pm during this period, and bed was most likely around 7:30 pm or 8 pm. Dinner was always tied to a certain time in my household, which left deep “dinner time!” connotations tied to those times of the day for me (particularly 7:30 pm), although this time shifted further back the older I grew.
Here is a picture of me in a kindergarten English speech contest.
And here’s another of me picking up a trophy for my efforts. These two pictures are dated Sep 28 1990, and I remember it was an event that took place late after class that day, which for me at the time probably meant mid to late afternoon. I remember Auntie 795 waiting and watching outside one of the windows, to the right and back of the photographs, along with other parents/caretakers.
This is me “graduating” from kindergarden. My certificate, shown here:
is dated Nov 04, 1990, and has me in that same pink sailor’s uniform and cap with a ninja turtle in the background, so the actual photo must have been taken not long before that. I was definitely wearing glasses by that time though, as can be seen in the speech competition pictures further up, so this definitely was them trying to look good by asking me to take off my glasses before the picture. As if my memories of that time weren’t already enough of a blur.
You’ll see my English pre-transition name in other sections, but the name above is the Pinyin version of my Chinese pre-transition name, which was 陈顺吉. Like the English one, I don’t use it anymore, except for the Chinese surname (陈, aka Chen or Tan).