Sunday, April 05, 2009

Much Ado About Trophies!

The trophy for championship in table topics at the Area S6 contest

At the speech craft at Changi Prison, I kept yawning continuously. As usual, Elaine Tan, with her eagle eyes, asked if I did not have enough sleep. Little did I know it was the start of a flu that was going to take a long time to recover.

My throat was sore and despite drinking litres of water, it was dry and perpetually in need of being quenched. The next day I started coughing out thick mucous and I knew I must visit the doc. Despite completing the medication, I did not get any better. I noticed there was some blood in the mucous and told the doc accordingly. He gave me some stronger medication and expectorant. The medication made me sleepy and lethargic. I could not go to my office for meetings and tried to work from home. Then came two days of total loss of voice. I had to sms back to the people who called me on the phone.

During the third visit, I was desperate. "Doc, please give me some good medication. This is my third visit now and I must get better because this Friday is my speech contest. Nowadays the virus and bacteria are very intelligent!". The doctor smiled and he asked if I was a teacher at ACS as he found my name vaguely familiar. He told me he was not my student but had heard about my interesting Literature lessons from his school mates.

Fortunately with the herbs that eldest sister brought from Sarawak, I made a rapid recovery with my voice, although I was weak. I realised I even did not have the strength to tune my violin and had to struggle with all my might to get the strings in position. On the contest day, I felt lethargic and after garnering all my strength to meet my client at Toa Payoh Hub, I was thoroughly exhausted. I felt like going home to sleep and rest and give the contest a miss. However, I knew that two members of the Teach Me Toastmasters' Club were also taking part and I knew it would not be easy for them to make their way to the lecture theatre of the Singapore Polytechnic, given the college's hilly terrain and their being on crutches and wheelchair. This goaded me one, for shame on me to give up so easily as I am able bodied. I also did not want to disappoint my club as I was the only contestant for the table topics.

By the time I arrived at the Lecture Theatre, my clothes were totally drenched with perspiration. I had brought a set of clothes to change. I was feeling warm throughout the whole evening despite the air conditioning. I applied medicated oil on my throat to help reduce my coughing. I kept some sour plums with me to help me keep awake as the medication caused drowsiness. As I was the last speaker, it also meant braving the heat outside of the theatre, and I prayed hard that I would not cough when I was delivering my speech.

Thank God, I managed to complete my speech without any interruption from coughing. However, it was not easy to be as clear headed as I usually was. The topic was "Winning a trophy is not important". Of course, winning a trophy is important and that was the reason why we had gathered for a contest. I was told that all the earlier contestants had agreed that winning a trophy is not important.

I was surprised when I won the championship. I felt I could have done much better. I guess this is always the case. On hindsight, most of us would reflect and then regret for not saying this or that. The Area S6 Governor, Frederick Kok, was quite humorous when he said the trophies were of course, very important to him, because he had to guard them well. He was worried about putting them at home because of his active and curious son. He was worried about putting the trophies in the car for fear of them being damaged or scratched. I am so glad that two of our club members, Ng Cher Khim and Ang Chew Hoe won the championship and first runner up in the International Speech contest.
I have to work harder to prepare for the Division contest now. Hence, as Geok Cheng had invited me to the Division D contest, I took the opportunity to learn from other great speakers. Geok Cheng had also asked my tenants, Jasmin and Avinesh, to help her as Stage Manager. She was gracious to pick us up at noon and even brought packed vegetarian lunch for us. Her maid had cooked some delicious fried noodles and mock chicken. I was happy because I had been encouraging my two tenants to join a toastmasters' club. I knew it would be too ambitious for me to try to be up and about the whole of Saturday, and that was why I had written to our group leader, Christopher Yeow, earlier to inform him that I would have to miss the speechcraft at Changi Prison. Although it was extremely tiring for me, I enjoyed the wonderful speeches by all the excellent contestants. It was indeed a great afternoon of learning.

Although winning a trophy is important, we already win when we have the courage to try and to give our utmost in all that we do. Tears welled in my eyes when Stephanie Fam gave her wonderful speech about her struggles to survive from the time she was born two months premature. Haridharan was persuasive when he coaxed us to save the earth. He was seated on a high stool as he put away his crutches. We were uplifted by Derek's speech, "Born Again". It warmed my heart to see so many of the Teach Me Club members at the contest to give support to Stephanie and Haridharn. Shahidah and Yuan Ping came in their wheel chairs. When Ken, Luan Eng and I walked with some of the members with their wheel chairs and crutches to the MRT station, it gave me even more courage and energy to press on with life's setbacks. Beads of perspiration filled Si Yuan's and Eugene's forehead as they struggled with every step on their crutches. We were blessed with the help of a kind poly student from India, who guided us to the MRT station. Singapore Polytechnic is truly a maze!
I want to give thanks to God for His blessings because although I did not cough when I was delivering my speech, yet my cough was quite bad yesterday evening and this morning. More importantly, the members of Teach Me Club had inspired me very much. Ken Toh was very excited when he sent me an sms from home, saying that he saw Eugene riding a horse on television!
Tonight is my niece, Kam Ning's concert at the Esplanade. I must pray hard not to cough again during the performance. I guess my tenant, Jasmin, is right. To recover completely, I need to sleep out the flu!! I am still as cheerful as ever, because I know it is nature's way of telling me to slow down. I remember my pastor had once said that if God could not get our attention when we are standing, He has to get our attention by putting us flat on our back so that we could not help, but look up to Him! Praise God for everything!

Gan Chau
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