2013 marked the 30th year since I graduated from my high school, St Louis School, in Hong Kong.
In the early 70s, TV was the best channel to distribute information in Hong Kong. One of the major TV highlights, at least to my family, was the inter-school quiz competition. We witnessed the St Louis school sending off a few unassuming looking kids from its primary and secondary session and they literally put all the other schools through the meat grinder! I mean ALL!! Our primary school and high school teams were the team to beat in those days (and that was the case until the late 80s). In one episode, the team actually score points that had a value that was higher than the scoreboard could display!
My three older sisters were brilliant and they all were admitted into a prestigious girls’ high school, St Paul’s Convent school through the Hong Kong equivalent of Singapore’s Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).
My eldest sister, Jennifer, who always champions meritocracy, was the one who came up with the idea that their little brother, Ansgar, should go to the St Louis School. Unlike the other kids there, I did not start off my schooling at St Louis. I was initially studying in a neighbourhood school and I was having an easy-peasy time of my life. Anyway, on one early Saturday morning when I was 8 years old, my mother packed my report cards since nursery school days and dragged me to sit in front of this pleasant but serious looking man, Reverend Lam. Rev. Lam was in charge of the St Louis Primary School. His hair was slicked back and he was a rather good looking man with a pair of thick black glasses. After flipping through my school report cards, he brought me to the office and my new identity was born: I was given a St Louis student card with the number 11114!
When the new term started, I realised that we had boys ranging from grassroots backgrounds to families that ran banks and major conglomerates. It really was a miniature Hong Kong even though the school was located in a rather mixed neighborhood.
Throughout the years at the school, I had the chance to learn various sports (including table soccer) and hit the books. Our school motto was: ‘Scientia et Pietas’, which could be translated into ‘knowledge and fear of God’. Our Salesian fathers (that was what we called our teachers who were Catholic priests) offered a very unique opportunity to us – there were no school rules except that students had to wear the school uniform of shirt and pants! We were known for wearing multi-coloured sneakers to school. In case of rare moments if we crossed the line, we were simply asked: ‘Do you know the Spirit of St Louis?’ The fathers were from a very multi-national background. We had Irish, English, Italian, Scottish, and Dutch fathers. They played with us, ran with us, coached us in sports (and life), chatted with us and even kept pet birds and snakes with us. It turned out that years later we learnt that one of our teachers, Father Anthony Bogadek, was a renowned expert in the study of reptiles. Those ‘pet’ snakes were his research subjects! Many of us developed an interest in the health science due to Father Bogadek’s influence 🙂
Mathematics was a crucial element of our school curriculum. We learnt that going to the University of Hong Kong and becoming a professional was a low probability event even though our school was only about 2 minutes walk from the main campus of the University of Hong Kong. However, we saw excellent role models among our senior boys who managed to alter those odds by simply being diligent and book smart. We had witnessed for years that our old boys managed to get a tertiary education and many of them are leaders today in their professional fields.
In the last 30 years, my 200+ classmates have covered many miles in their lives. It was an eye-opener to see them again and share our life stories in our recent October 2013 reunion. After all, we had a history of 6000+ years to catch up on 🙂