Life in Kampong by 7lz011A

VIEWS: 12 PAGES: 17

									 CTL202: Selected History Topics for Primary Social Studies

                    An Oral History Assignment
Kampong Life




                                                   HDB




NAME                    : Ms Evelyn Chua Sok Huang

Matriculation No.        : 047019D08

NRIC No.                 : S7914645E

Programme                : BA (Education)

Tutor                    : Ms Chee Min Fui

Tutorial Group           : Group 6

Tutorial Day / Time      : Tuesday / 1430 - 1630
                    CONTENTS

*Word Account
  -The Writer’s note
  -Madam Sim’s background
  -Life in a kampong in Changi
  -The Shift from a kampong to a HDB flat
  -Conclusion

*Appendix

*Bibliography

*Profile of Interviewee

*Oral History Transcript
                                   Life in Kampong


The Writer’s note…

       Fun and curiosity surrounded me when I conducted this interview with my

interviewee, Madam Sim who is actually my mum. In fact, I felt excited yet nervous as I

had never expected myself to end up interviewing my mum. Throughout the two-hour

interview, I was engrossed in listening to her relating her childhood days in the kampong.

Madam Sim spoke in fluent Mandarin, talking about her experience living in a kampong

from 1955 to 1975.



Madam Sim‘s background

       Born in 1955, Madam Sim who is presently 49 years old, spent her first twenty

years of her life in a kampong. She comes from a family of seven and she is the second

daughter in the family. When the land that they were staying had to be redeveloped,

Madam Sim and her family had no choice but to move from the kampong in Changi to a

HDB flat in Bedok South. After her marriage at the age of 21, she moved on to live in a

HDB flat in Bedok North and currently, she is staying in Tampines.



Life in a kampong in Changi

       Since birth, Madam Sim has been living in a kampong in Changi, ‘Koh Xia Lin

Road’. It was located somewhere near Tanah Merah where the MRT trains are presently

being repaired and serviced. The people living in the kampong were all Chinese but from

different dialect groups. From her accounts, she mentioned that people were usually poor

about forty years ago and so was her family at that time. Her mother was a housewife and
her father was a fisherman. Her father usually caught fish and prawns and brought them

to sell in the market. Furthermore, she recalled that most of the people living in the

kampong, were fisherman as well.



        According to Madam Sim, the kampong in Changi did not have a village head but

there was a landlord. Her parents had rent the land space from the landlord and it cost

about a few dollars each month at that time. In addition, they had to build their own

house by themselves. If there were some families who did not know how to build a house,

the other neighbours would lend a helping hand. Here, ‘kampong spirit’ was portrayed

and helping one another in the kampong was a common sight. In general, ‘Chinese

houses were usually rectangular or square and built on earthen platforms, or sometimes

on cement of brick foundations’1 (see Appendix). As for Madam Sim’s house, it was

square and built on cement flooring. Her family which was poor, lived in an attap house

with only two bedrooms and a living room.



        In fact, the kampong that she lived in was quite big. It consisted about fifty

households and they were quite evenly spread out. Based on Madam Sim’s recollection,

there were no electricity and tap water in her kampong. The lack of amenities mentioned

by Madam Sim, is common according to published source.2 She recalled that her father

had to dig a well and they used the water from the well for their daily use. It was

surprising to hear from her that each family indeed had a well of their own. However,


1
  National Archives, Kampong Days: Village Life And Times In Singapore Revisited (Singapore: National
Archieves,1993),p24.
2
  National Archives, Kampong Days: Village Life And Times In Singapore Revisited (Singapore: National
Archieves,1993),p46.
Madam Sim remembered that they only get water supply from the tap when she was

about fourteen years old. However, her family still used the water from the well. As

‘electricity was too uncommon in the kampongs’3, they used kerosene lamp instead. As

for the cooking facilities, Madam Sim recalled the use of firewood. ‘For cooking, we had

to get wood’ 4to set the fire, ‘charcoal was considered very expensive so no one used

charcoal for cooking’.5



        As for the sanitary facilities, Madam Sim recounted that each household had a

toilet of their own which they had built using wooden planks. Then a hole was dug to

place the bucket for the collection of faeces. After every two days, the waste material

collector would come to collect the faeces.



        Surprisingly, the life of a kampong child was not just about playing. Madam Sim

recounted that she did attend school when she was young although her family was poor.

Her parents managed to let her finished her primary level education before she quitted

school to work, to help to ease the burden of her father’s. She mentioned that it was

perhaps that she was not the eldest daughter and thus she still got an opportunity to attend

school. However, her eldest sister did not attend school at all. In addition, she said that

some children would not attend school if their families were too poor. Furthermore, most

girls in the past did not attend school as ‘many people said that girls did not need




3
  National Archives, Kampong Days: Village Life And Times In Singapore Revisited (Singapore: National
Archieves,1993),p47.
4
  ibid
5
  ibid
education’.6 At that time, people tend to put their priorities on the males rather than the

females. Hence, if you were a boy, you would be sent to a school. Yet, Madam Sim

recalled that most of the children only studied up to primary two as ‘parents were not

very strict about education and many boys played truant. It was very different from the

present.’7



        According to Madam Sim, she could still remember that her school’s name was

‘Bedok Zhong Hua Public School’ and in Chinese, it was called ‘Gong Li Zhong Hua

Gong Xue’. In fact, the school was just in front of her house and she walked to school in

the morning just like most of the other children. She recalled that she had to go ‘as early

as 7.30a.m. to attend flag-raising ceremony followed by morning exercise’8. It seemed to

me that Madam Sim really treasured her schooling days as she could remember clearly

every single detail of her schooling moments. What surprised me was that there were no

food being sold in the school as it was a boarding school as mentioned by Madam Sim.



        Regarding her relationship with her neighbours, Madam Sim described it as

‘generally ok’. She said that she communicated well with her neighbours and everyone

got along well. During her childhood days, she remembered herself playing with children

from different households. Sometimes, she would watch the boys playing ‘goli panjang’.

This is a common kampong game according to published source.9 However, Madam Sim


6
  National Archives, Kampong Days: Village Life And Times In Singapore Revisited (Singapore: National
Archieves,1993),p33.
7
  ibid
8
  National Archives, Kampong Days: Village Life And Times In Singapore Revisited (Singapore: National
Archieves,1993),p34.
9
  National Archives, Kampong Days: Village Life And Times In Singapore Revisited (Singapore: National
Archieves,1993),p29.
mentioned that she still preferred to play outside her attap house and walked around to

look out for ripe fruits on the trees. Occasionally, she would help to rear chickens, ducks

and pigs to pass her time.



       Furthermore, Madam Sim recalled that there were only ‘black and white’

televisions at that time and her house did not have one as they were too poor. She

mentioned that only those who were rich could afford to buy a set of television. Madam

Sim laughed while mentioning that sometimes she would secretly watch the television

programmes from others’ television. Moreover, she also said that there was no

community centre.



The Shift from a kampong to a HDB flat

       In 1975, Madam Sim and her family shifted from the kampong to a HDB flat in

Bedok South as the government needed the land for other uses. According to her,

compensation was given to each household depending on the size of the house, the types

and the number of fruit trees grown.



       Madam Sim also mentioned that her feelings were not severely aroused as most of

the people living in the kampong were shifted to the same area, Bedok South. Hence, she

could still see her old neighbours from the kampong frequently.



        Her family got a unit on the eleventh storey in a HDB flat in Bedok South due to

balloting. Madam Sim said that she did feel awkward initially as she had never lived in
such a high-rise building before. However, as time passed, she got used to it. Based on

Madam Sim’s experience, she mentioned that the living conditions in a HDB flat were

much better than the kampong. The HDB flats were cleaner and there were more shops

and markets. Furthermore, shops were opened for business till the late hours in the night.



       Despite of all these, Madam Sim still preferred to live in a kampong rather than

the HDB flat. To her, living in the kampong was safer as she remembered that her family

did not have to lock their doors at night. In addition, the air was fresher and she could

grow fruit trees and pluck the fruits to eat when they were ripe. Life in the kampong was

not so stressful as the standard of living is lower whereas money is the key to living in a

HDB flat as everything needed money.



Conclusion

        Through the interview with my mum, Madam Sim, I came to know more about

the life in a kampong. As I was born in a generation where there is a supply of tap water

and electricity, perhaps I should learn to appreciate and treasure the bliss life I had as

compared to my mum.
                                                    Appendix




Figure 1: A sketch of a Chinese Kampong House




  Figure 2: Basic layouts of Chinese Rural Houses
Bibliography:

National Archives, Kampong Days: Village Life And Times In Singapore Revisited
(Singapore: National Archieves,1993)


Lim, Patricia Pui Huen. Wong Ah Fook: Immigrant, builder and entrepreneur
(Singapore : Times Editions, c2002)


Curriculum Planning & Development Division, Ministry of Education, Understanding
Our Past: Singapore from Colony to Nation (Singapore: Federal Publications, 1999)


Kampong Changi. Virtual Tourist.com. Retrieved 21 October, 2004, 2200 h from
http://www.virtualtourist.com/vt/16d2e9/
Profile of Interviewee

Name: Madam Sim
Age: 49 years old
Date of Birth: 27/10/1955
Nationality: Singaporean
Venue: Madam Sim’s living room
Duration of Interview: 2 hours
Language spoken: Mandarin (translated into English)


Transcript of Oral History


   1) Can you briefly introduce yourself?
       My surname is Sim. You can call me ‘Madam Sim’. I am 49 years old. I am born
       in 1955.
   2) Where were you living when you were young?
       I lived in Changi, ‘Koh Xia Lin Road’ when I was young. It is a kampong.
   3) The kampong where you used to live, what is it used for now?
       It is now somewhere near Tanah Merah, the place where the MRT trains is
       repaired.
   4) How were the living conditions in kampong?
       I lived in a kampong since I was born. My family was poor. Forty years ago,
       people were normally poor. I lived in an attap house. There were no electricity
       and water. We had to dig a well and used the water from our wells. There was no
       electricity but we used kerosene lamps instead.
   5) Did every household have a well?
       Yes, every household had a well.
   6) Can you talk about your family?
       My family is poor.
   7) How many brothers and sisters do you have?
       I have five brothers and sisters. My father caught fish as a living.
8) What about your mother?
   My mother did not work at that time.
9) Was she a housewife?
   She was a housewife. We lived near the sea. Most of the people, who lived in our
   kampong, were fishermen.
10) What about your neighbours?
   They were fishermen as well. After they caught the fish and prawns, they will
   bring them to sell in the market. Every household lived by themselves. Some of
   them have several children while some have fewer children. Everyday, we ran
   about and played together after we woke up.
11) So, was your relationship with your neighbours considered good?
   Generally ok.
12) Do you greet or communicate well with your neighbours?
   Yes, we do and the children from different households also played together.
13) What were the races of your neighbours?
   They were Chinese.
14) Were there neighbours of other races?
   No, not in my kampong but there were other races in other kampong.
15) Were there any incidents that gave you a deep impression during your days
   in the kampong?
   Yes. A racial riot happened when I was about five or six years old.
16) Can you talk about the racial riot?
   The Malays and the Chinese were killing one another. The Malays wanted to kill
   the Chinese. When I was young, I was not very sure what racial riot was. People
   told me that it was racial riot. When I heard that the Malays were coming, I would
   run for the other way. When the Malays were coming from this way, I would run
   that way. The direction I ran depended on which direction the Malays were
   approaching.
17) Did the Malays really come?
   Not in the kampong but in the city. It was mainly in the big city.
18) Can I say that you didn’t really see the riot taking place but only heard about
   it?
   One or two people. I heard that one or two Chinese were killed by the Malays.
19) Can you describe about your feelings at that time?
   Very scared. My legs turned jelly when I heard about it and was supposed to run
   for my life. Actually, I did not have not much feeling because I was too young at
   that time. Hence, I only felt frightened.
20) Was there a village head in your kampong?
   No. There is only a landlord. We rent the land space from him and built our own
   house. It cost about a few dollars each month at that time. We rent the land from
   the landlord. We lived in an attap house.
21) Was the attap house built by your family?
   Ya. Some people who knew how to build their house would build their houses by
   themselves. Those who do not know, would ask help from other neighbours to
   build the house.
22) Were there many people living in the kampong?
   Yes. About fifty households. They were not closely located together but a
   distance away.
23) Was there any water supply from the tap in your kampong at that time?
   No. There was no water supply from the tap when I was young. It was only when
   I was about fifteen or sixteen years old, then we had water supply from the tap.
   Previously, we only used water from the well.
24) What about the well after you had the tap?
    We still used the water from the well. It still can be used.
25) How did your mum do your cooking?
   We used firewood for cooking. Charcoal was too expensive.
26) Can you describe about the toilets?
   We built our own toilets using wooden planks. Then a hole was dug to place the
   bucket for the collection of faeces.
27) What happen to the faeces?
   The waste material collector would come to collect the faeces every two days.
28) How was the transport system like in the kampong?
   I lived in a kampong. Hence, it was inaccessible to go to the city. I had to walk
   quite a distance along Changi Road to take a bus to reach the city.
29) Did you attend school when you were young?
    Yes.
30) Can you remember the name of your school?
   Yes. The name was ‘Bedok Zhong Hua Public School’ and in Chinese, it was
   called ‘Gong Li Zhong Hua Gong Xue’. My school is just in front of my house.
   Hence, I walked to school in the morning if I had classes. However, there was no
   food sold in the school as it was also a boarding school at that time.
31) What was your educational level then?
   I only studied till primary six. I did not continue my studies as my family was
   poor.
32) What about the educational level of the other children in the kampong?
   Some children went to school but some don’t. If their parents had the money, they
   would be sent to school. They would not have attended school if their parents
   were poor. Most of the girls did not go to school. People in the past put their
   priorities on males rather than females. If you were a boy, you would be sent to a
   school. However, if you were a girl, it didn’t matter if you did not have any
   education.
33) What was the average educational level of the children if they were being
   sent to a school?
   Some of them studied up to secondary level while others studied up to primary
   level. In fact, some children only studied up to primary two.
34) What did you do after you stop schooling?
   I went to work. I did odd jobs. My salary was cheap, only two dollars a day.
35) How did you go to work at that time?
   I walked to work and back from work. I walked till the midway of Changi Road
   and my factory was there.
36) What would you do in the kampong during your free time?
   I would help to rear chickens, ducks and pigs.
37) Was there a television in your house at that time?
   No. Not when I was young. You would have television in your house if you were
   rich. If you were poor, you would not have a television. In the past, there were
   only black and white televisions. Only people who were very rich would buy a
   television set. My family did not have a television set but we secretly ran to watch
   the television programmes from other people’s television.
38) What about your neighbours?
   No. They did not have a television as well. I had to walk about sixteen households
   away, and then there was a household that had a television.
39) Was there a community centre at that time?
   No. In the past, people were so poor. There were no such things at all.
40) How old were you when you shifted away from the kampong?
   I shifted from the kampong when I was about twenty years old. That was in 1975.
   The government had to use the land so we were asked to move. The government
   gave us compensation and we were allocated a HDB flat.
41) Where did you shift to?
   Bedok South.
42) What were the reactions your family and neighbours when all of you had to
   move?
   Not really a lot of reactions. Most of the people in the kampong were older and
   they had their own work and family. Everybody was busy with their daily work
   and family. So, we didn’t really ask about one another’s opinions. Anyway, we
   were shifted to the same area - Bedok South. There was nothing special; we still
   live close to one another.
43) How much was the compensation?
    It actually depended on the size of your house. The kind of fruit trees that you
   had grown was also a factor. The compensation would vary depending on the
   number of trees you had grown.
44) Did the authorities come and talk to the people in your kampong about the
   shifting?
   Yes. The authorities just mentioned that they needed the land for other uses.
45) Did anyone in the kampong protest about the shifting?
   No. Anyway, the land was not ours. We only rent the land from the landlord.
46) Can you describe your feelings when you first shifted to a HDB flat?
   Not really much feelings. However, I had never lived in such a high-rise building
   before since I was born. Hence, I feel awkward.
47) Which storey did you live in the flat in Bedok south?
   Eleventh storey as it was due to balloting. When we ballot, we got a unit on the
   eleventh storey. Initially, I felt that eleventh storey was very high as I had never
   lived on such a high storey before. When I looked down, I felt very frightened.
   However, as time passed, I got used to it.
48) Can you talk about the difference between a kampong and HDB flat after
   you shifted from the kampong and moved to live in a HDB flat?
   Of course, there were differences. HDB flat was cleaner, not as dirty as the
   kampong. When I lived in a kampong, I used to step on sand most of the time.
   There were not much recreational activities in the kampong. There were actually
   more shops and markets in the HDB. The shops were still opened for business till
   the late hours in the night. All these were not found in the kampong. In a
   kampong, I had to travel a long distance to buy the things I wanted.
49) Do you think it is better to live in a kampong or a HDB flat?
   It is more convenient in a HDB flat but the daily expenses are too high.
50) Can you adapt when you shifted from a kampong to a HDB flat?
   Yes because I was much older by then and I had my own work.
51) Were there a lot of changes made to your lifestyle after you shifted to live in a
   HDB flat?
   No. Just that, after I shifted to a HDB flat and I went out to work, I got to know
   more friends and we would go out to watch movies and shop around. Not really
   much difference, I think.
  52) So, can you just briefly describe about your kampong life again?
      When I was young, living in the kampong was safer. For example, we didn’t lock
      our doors. We left the doors open all the time. I used to play outside my attap
      house and look out for fruits on the trees. When they were ripe, I would pluck and
      eat them. All these were not found in the HDB.
  53) If you were given another chance, where would you like to live in?
      I still preferred to live in a kampong. The air is fresher and I would grow some
      fruit trees. Living in the HDB flat, there is nothing and everything has to be
      brought with money.
  54) Do you feel more stressful living in a HDB flat or in the kampong?
      Of course, I feel more stressful living in a HDB flat. Living in the HDB flat, the
      flat needed money and everything needed money too whereas living in the
      kampong, the living expenses are not so high.
  55) So, can I say that you still prefer to live in the kampong?
      Yes. That’s right!


      Ok, thank you for your time.




I give permission for this work to be digitally stored and made available by NIE for
educational and research purposes.
Date: 23rd October 2004
Preferred Contact: msevelynchua@mail.nie.edu.sg

								
To top