Posts Tagged ‘Global Prestasi School’

YEAR OF THE ROOSTER

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the barongsai at Global Prestasi School

It never grows old no matter what happens or what people say. Every time I hear that the troupe will be coming to Global Prestasi School (GPS) to usher in the Chinese New Year, I am always filled with excitement. The barongsai, as the dragon or lion dance is called in Indonesia, never fails to ignite this child-like enthusiasm in me, banishing morose thoughts temporarily. The moment I hear that they’ve arrived, I’d drop what I’m doing and run to the main grounds of GPS to get a good spot to watch those colourful, swirling dragon-lions.

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one of the dragon-lion prepping for the dance

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This year is my year. According to Chinese astrology, I was born under the year of the rooster and if it’s your animal that is the ruling animal of the year, you are in for one auspicious year. To know that lady luck is your constant companion for a year – she won’t be making her presence greatly known until after 12 years – does one’s spirits more than some good. You feel this overwhelming sense of confidence commingling with positivity which leads to a general sense of well-being. Simply put, a force field of positive energy has been placed around you thus any sad or tragic news thrown your way by fate is met with more gumption than fear.

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lion-dance-at-gps

It was not like I was cowering in fear all throughout the 12 years lady luck was just hovering at the periphery as another animal took centre stage.  Looking back, several years were indeed fraught with tension and grief, but those years galvanised me taking me out of the rut I was in. I was admittedly chary – am still am – but those years prepared me slowly to take on the world again. One can say it prepared me for the year of the rooster, the year I see as the year of splendiferous moments and glorious feelings.

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THE STUDENT, THE ENTREPRENEUR

She had a serious demeanour when I saw her. Let me re-state that: I didn’t really see her. It was my boss, Ibu Rini, the director of the Cambridge Preparatory Classes at Global Prestasi School (GPS), who saw her. I only visualised the scenario in my mind when she related her meeting with a little girl with the serious mien. I saw her much later in class. Ibu Rini narrated that she was pleased to have met up with the young girl who was far from diffident and spoke fluently in English. Rucksack slung on her back, she marched into her office, introduced herself as Nadia, and asked to be placed in the grade 7 Cambridge Preparatory Class that day. She didn’t know that such a class existed and had her mum known she was certain that her mother would have signed her up for it too alongside the local class. Her resoluteness, I believed, impressed my boss – she wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

Nadia and Indira

Nadia (right) and gal-pal Indira when they were in grade 8 in Bali during English Camp

The incident was seven years ago when she and her family returned to Indonesia from Shanghai for good. Nadia Kris Sigit – Nadia or Nat Kris to friends and classmates – became part of the Cambridge Preparatory Class, dazzling everyone with her brilliance and wit. Now, she’s a high school graduate and waiting for the first semester of college to start this September. She’s enrolling in Business Management at the new satellite branch of Binus International at Summarecon Bekasi.

“It’s like everything fell into place!” Nadia exclaimed the afternoon I chanced upon her at Eight Coffee. “It saves me the time commuting to and from Jakarta to attend school. Moreover, our office is near the school so I can either go there or at here if I have free time in between classes.”

Nadia at Eight Coffee

The high school graduate and soon-to-be college freshman, Nadia

In the meantime, in the midst of observing Ramadan, Nadia is engrossed in the family business. Her parents own and manage Eight Coffee, a café specialising in the varied types of Indonesian coffee, and one of her tasks is making sure the café doesn’t run low on banana cakes. They are her speciality, be it chocolate, cheese, raisin or original; they are served oven-hot with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream at the café. (Aside: The banana cake is splendid with cappuccino.)

“I’m still perfecting my cupcakes,” she quipped.

Added the Benedict Cumberbatch admirer: “I’m also looking into getting nicer boxes for the banana cakes, as well as designing a logo for the boxes.”

Eight Coffee is located at Jalan Puloh Sirih in Galaxy City. It’s a terrific breakfast place for the early risers, being open by 6am and ready with their American, Classic Continental, and Indonesian breakfast sets; a cosy nook to read while sipping a cappuccino, iced or hot; and splendid venue for meetings, social or otherwise. My favourite spot is the corner from the entrance. It’s a two-seater table that gives me a view of everyone who goes in and out of Eight Coffee, and feng shui-wise, my back is to the wall so I feel protected. It’s also a short walk to the food counter.

Bone-idle was never – it still isn’t – part of Nadia’s vocabulary. It is an anachronism to her entire existence, which made her stand out in the pioneer batch of the Cambridge Preparatory Class (then called International Program) of GPS. For instance, assignments were done properly and handed in before the deadline. Her research paper in grade 10 English was structured well and packed with insightful analysis. Diligence aside, class discussions were a cinch for her – she had vignettes and conjectures to delight the class. She was also always prepared for Show-and-Tell, making herself the competition to be dethroned in terms of content, fluency, and interactive communication. However, her culinary inclination was a more recent discovery. I was oblivious to it until a business project in her 12th grade where she, together with her classmates, set-up something akin to a farmers’ market albeit smaller. Nadia’s group sold her banana cakes which were cut into bite-size squares, packed in twos in a paper bag (or was it a box?), and tied with a twine bow. The cakes sold out in less than an hour! Ever since that project, I’ve been a regular banana cake client, ordering boxes as treats for my students during our extra sessions. Verdict: the chocolate banana cake is a big hit among them.

Nadia’s not resting one bit although the banana cake is a feather on her toque. She’s knee-deep in two family business projects: a floral shop named Dianita Florist and a deli called Bacassie.

flower arrangements by Dianita Florist

Flower arrangements for any occasion by Dianita Florist – it’s opening soon

“The space is too small for my bakeshop so my mum decided to turn it into a floral shop. She took flower arrangement classes in Shanghai when we lived there,” explained the Bruce Lee enthusiast. “I like doing something creative, so I’m helping with the sourcing out of packaging, décor, flowers, etc.”

Continued the bookworm: “We are also looking into launching the Bacassie Deli soon. The name is patterned after the old spelling of Bekasi. We’ll have sandwiches that will complement the coffee we serve, and we hope to open after Lebaran.”

Bacassie Deli Interior

Bacassie Deli will be serving sandwiches soon.

On a personal note, Nadia has started a blog – nadiasigit.wordpress.com – that she had to put on the back burner when she was in grade 12. Now that she has some time on her hands, she’s parking herself behind her laptop these days.

The little girl has grown up. The young student is slowly transforming into an entrepreneur and, as her former teacher, all I can do is stand, beam with pride, and watch her conquer the world one coffee or banana cake or sandwich at a time.

LASER FUN

Olivia Haura, Andita, Syifa, Prita, and Yunia of 9A are all set for a night of fun.

Olivia Haura, Andita, Syifa, Prita, and Yunia of 9A are all set for a night of fun.

There really is something salutary with breaking the routine every now and then and letting your hair down. For the grade 9A students of Global Prestasi School, who are enrolled in the International Program (IP), it meant taking a break from the books and mock exam sessions. The grade 9A IP students are facing four exams this year which begins with the ICAS Maths and Science exams from the University of South Wales this September. This is followed by the National Exam (locally known as ujian nasional) from the Ministry of Education sometime in May and a few weeks later they will be sitting for Cambridge’s First Certificate of English exam. It is interesting to note that it’s going to be a long school year for the grade 9A because they don’t get to go on summer break until after their FCE exam which is sometime in June unlike the non-IP students who are already on vacation after their National Exam in May.

The ladies and gentleman of GPS-IP are all geared up.

The ladies and gentleman of GPS-IP are all geared up.

The other teams aren't missing on the action as well.

The other teams aren’t missing on the action as well.

The last Saturday of August had the students trooping to Laser Game Indonesia on No. 16 Kemang Raya for some laser fun. Aside from a night of class camaraderie, it was also a reward for their hard work during their Preliminary English Test they sat for last school year, as everyone passed the exam.

The fun begins when, after the list of players has been handed to the “officer” (read: staff of Laser Game Indonesia), and everyone lines up before the weapons room. Each player is assigned a number which corresponds to a vest and a laser gun. Once inside the blue room (the lights are blue) each soldier straps on the gear with the help of the crew of Laser Game. The target points, as indicated on the vest which lights up when hit by the laser, are the chest, back, shoulders, and the gun. But before they head into battle in the dark room, there’s always time for a photo op. Once that’s done the games are on. Divided into two teams – red and green – and gear strapped on, each team tries to outdo each other in the world of make-believe laser marksmanship.

the ladies of IP

Adults are into welfies too.

Adults are into welfies too.

Green tea frappuccino caps the laser game night.

Green tea frappuccino caps the laser game night.

Starbucks Kemang Sky 2As for the post-laser game, after the students had gone home with their parents or their drivers, it was time for the adults to chillax at Starbucks, Kemang Sky which – thankfully – is open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays.

Photography by Sam Jeruel

PAR-TAY!

IMG_0361End-of-school parties are ubiquitous for this generation of junior high and senior high students. And malls are very much in the black during the scorching months of May and June when boutiques have hordes of teenaged girls going through their racks of RTW dresses and trying on endless strappy stilettos to see which pair would go with the chosen attire for the farewell party. Let us not forget the hair salons that are booked solid for hair and make-up sessions. Rayon from Hair Code at Grand Metropolitan Mall had back-to-back sessions during the last week in May.

Farewell party is what the end-of-school parties are commonly referred to in Indonesia. It also doubles up as a prom which you only get to know about when the Prom King and Queen are announced. Unlike two decades ago, there is no David Pomeranz’s “King and Queen of Hearts”, the unofficial anthem of proms in the Philippines, playing in the background when the announcement is made.

The junior high unit of Global Prestasi School (GPS) kicked off June with fun and entertainment. The outgoing grade 9 students decided on holding their farewell party titled Verenigen Hastha, or the eighth batch, on the first day of June at the Cinema XXI Lounge. My apprehension was all for naught, as the venue proved to be more than fitting. It was, in fact, perfect. Traditionally, hotels in Jakarta are the preferred venues for reasons that are associated with the words grand, classy, and formal. Given the exorbitant price tag that is attached to renting a ballroom or a room smaller than a ballroom, the principal, Yulie Tan, broke away from tradition and challenged the committee members of the farewell party to scour every nook and cranny of Bekasi for a suitable and reasonably priced venue. Who said GPS students are ones to walk away from a challenge? They meet them head on and with panache.

Verenigan Hastha in full swing

Verenigen Hastha in full swing

Getting the par-tay started

Getting the par-tay started

Cinema XXI Lounge is inside Mega Bekasi Mall, one of the malls within close proximity to GPS. On a good day (read: no traffic), a taxi ride is a breezy 20-25- minute ride. It’s even breezier if you take the local transport angkot and cheaper. At Rp3, 500 – 4,000, you’re at Mega Bekasi in 15 minutes. For parents picking up their children after the party in the evening, it’s not a taxing drive from home to Mega Bekasi unlike when the pickup point is in Jakarta which usually spells a two or three hour plus ride back and forth depending on the traffic.

The lounge is spacious – one doesn’t feel hemmed in – that a fun photo booth fits in perfectly within the floor area of the lounge and which was buzzing with adults and students hamming it up for their keepsakes. The stage at the centre has a huge screen that was clear and the sound system was in tip-top shape. None of the musicians had to spend minutes tuning their instruments; there were no embarrassing microphone problems; and the videos screened brilliantly.

Proud teacher - my students taking to the stage

Proud teacher – my students taking to the stage

A common bugbear for people who are organising parties is the service crew. They can be blatantly incompetent and indifferent at times. But, much to my surprise, the Cinema XXI Lounge service crew was in fighting form. No glass was left half filled; the chafing dishes were never empty and cutlery were not lacking; chairs were cleared for students when needed; and courtesy was the order of the night.

Food can make or break a party and, fortunately, the buffet table at Verenigan Hastha was a cornucopia of culinary delights fit for gourmands. Indonesian cuisine is always something to feast on but when you see them in the cafeteria every day, it becomes commonplace. Not this particular buffet table – it was a fusion of European, Western, and far-from-ordinary Indonesian dishes from appetiser, main course to dessert.

And they danced through the night

And they danced through the night

As a guest, the transformation from roguish to respectable impressed me. Unabashedly biased, I was bursting with pride at seeing my students at the forefront of the affair as committee members, emcees, party hosts, and performers, who brimmed with glittery aplomb all night. They also cleaned up, I noted.

EXAM TIME

The second semester is quite taxing and nerve-wracking for students of Global Prestasi School (GPS) particularly those working towards dual leaving certificates. GPS offers dual certification for those students interested in studying overseas, say, the UK, Australia, and the US. Apart from enrolling in the government-mandated syllabus that all students are required to go through to earn their leaving certificates from junior and senior high, GPS has set up an international program department that offers classes beginning from the Cambridge Flyers program to IGCSE for qualified students to enlist in.

IGCSE students batch 2015 - drilled endlessly with sample question papers and tempered to be resilient and emotionally strong.

IGCSE students batch 2015 – drilled endlessly with sample question papers and tempered to be resilient and emotionally strong.

Exam time is truly a stressful period for the students enrolled in the dual certification program. Imagine the butterflies that swarmed in the tummies of the grade 12 students when they sat through their four-day national exams last April – getting good marks in the exams, after all, is a prerequisite to getting into a prestigious university in the country. Now, increase the swarm of butterflies and picture how the grade 10 students are feeling right now. Their exam period lasts for more than a month; it started in April with the 15-minute oral examination then there’s a one-long respite before the battery of written exams for Maths, English, Computer Studies, Physics, and Chemistry commences. In total, the grade 10 students would have sat for 15 exams on top of the exams of the 11+ subjects they have under the national syllabus. Their “agony” will end in the first week of June when they sit for the last paper in Computer Studies. But the reprieve from the frazzled nerves is temporary as the wait begins. This waiting is for the results of their IGCSE exams which won’t be available until August.

On the flip side of the coin are the teachers who are equally overstretched with training them before the exam period. Come exam day, they also double up as invigilators who must see to it that the rules of invigilation are implemented to the letter as well as face the inspector (it’s a different one every year) from Cambridge who comes for a yearly visit to see if the set standards are met. Exam time is a day of reckoning for both student and teacher. The former will have to prove their mettle – academic and psychologically (i.e. Will they buckle under the pressure or hold steadfast?) – while the teachers will know if what they had discussed over the 10-month period in the classroom are correct and relevant.

Invigilator reporting for duty

Invigilator reporting for duty

BARONGSAI WONDER

The dragon takes to the skies at the Global Prestasi School.

The dragon takes to the skies at the Global Prestasi School.

While a former student of mine is bored out of his wits with the barongsai, as the lion dance is called in Indonesia, I am always filled with excitement and look forward to the barongsai troupe arriving in Global Prestasi School (GPS) and performing. The beautifully crafted lions, together with the dragon, never fail to make me goggle at their colours, the performers, and the huge drums sitting quietly at one corner. What is it with the barongsai that makes me all giddy like a little school girl left in a candy store that is right next to a library? For a moment, once the lion dance performers take centre stage and dazzle the spectators with their jaw-dropping acrobatic movements, a wave of serenity descends upon me, quieting the din of doubt and niggling thoughts. A wave of hope falls gently on me, while the dragon zigzagged and the lions capered. A sense of calm envelops me – did the higher beings make a tabula rasa of my topsy-turvy world? It feels that way and everything is copacetic, for now.

the dragon comes alive 2

the dragon comes alive 3This year’s performance was off to a very auspicious note. For starters, the dark clouds and sheets of rain gave way to a mantle of blue and yellow. Below, it was a sea of red in all shades and sizes, with some holding angpao, red envelopes filled with money, to give to the lions. As the grounds of GPS swelled with students, teachers, and parents from its elementary to senior high units, the drums came to life with its steady syncopated rhythm, urging the resting dragon to wake up. As if a tribute to the majestic dragon, the troupe took to the stage to showcase movements of the Chinese martial arts called Wushu. Short, sharp thrusts with the arms in mid air, half splits on the ground finished with thumping by the hands, and round house kicks in the air, they dazzled the audience with the ease of their movement, flexibility, and agility. Then the dragon awoke sending the troupe scampering to the sides.

The troupe gets a feel of the ambience at GPS.

The troupe gets a feel of the ambience at GPS.

The dragon tests the area of GPS prior to the performance at 10am that February 27.

The dragon tests the area of GPS prior to the performance at 10am that February 27.

The ground of GPS is washed in a sea of red.

The ground of GPS is washed in a sea of red.

Behind the scene: the lion heads at rest.

Behind the scene: the lion heads at rest.

Behind the scene: lion heads and drum

Behind the scene: lion heads and drum

Flying, circling, swirling and dipping, the dragon chased away the negative energy, replacing it with the humming vibrancy of the new Lunar year until it was time for the lions to take centre stage. This year’s lions were yellow fringed with crimson that capered, wiggled, and played with the young students of the elementary unit. Finally, it was time to jump up and claim the angpao hanging from a branch – a gift from GPS. Victorious!

A peak behind the scene of the barongsai - the dragon sits quietly in a corner.

A peak behind the scene of the barongsai – the dragon sits quietly in a corner.

An hour before the sun towered over our heads, the lions gracefully sashayed off the grounds, but not before showering the community of GPS with good tidings and bountiful of positive energy. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Playing coy, the lion bides his time before banishing the negative energy.

Playing coy, the lion bides his time before banishing the negative energy.

The lion turns his attention to the audience before him.

The lion turns his attention to the audience before him.

OBSERVING RAMADAN

Everything seems to be the same when it is Ramadan time in Indonesia (Bekasi to be exact) and Singapore. My Muslim colleagues and students at Global Prestasi School, for instance, are up before the crack of dawn for prayer and breakfast. Their lips are chapped because of the lack of moisture – one cannot wet one’s lips – and some are lethargic as the day wears on. There is a certain docility that permeates the atmosphere because they are mindful of their thoughts, words and behaviour, so unruly students are angelic and annoyingly stubborn colleagues are cooperative. Buka puasa (breaking fast) is an event that Muslims and non-Muslims look forward to in someone’s house or at a restaurant.

But I noted palpable differences in how Ramadan is observed in the two countries. I was only, for example, cognizant of Ramadan in Singapore when I’d see my gal-pal and colleagues napping during lunch break to conserve their energy. And Ramadan was the only time I had to make sure I was wearing this cross necklace of mine to announce that I am not Malay or a follower of Islam. I look Malay – being Filipino – and by default was assumed to be a Muslim. My gal-pal urged me to wear the necklace to prevent that incident from happening again. There was this irate Chinese man who accosted me from out of nowhere. I was in at the canteen – front of this stall- waiting for my coffee and bun; my office then was located at an industrial area so the canteen was right smack in the middle of the compound for all – employees and visitors – to go to.

“Fasting not over, ha!” he rabbited on loudly, gesticulating widely.

It was too early on a Saturday morning for me – something like 730 – so it took a while before my fuzzy brain understood what he was jabbering about. Assuming I was Muslim, he took it upon himself to admonish me for eating when buka puasa was several hours away.

“I am not a Muslim,” I said stoically and he was gone in a split second. I never saw him again.

It is different in Bekasi. I am very much aware of Ramadan because of certain unlikeness. Work schedules remain the same in Singapore during fasting month compared to in Bekasi. As a way of sympathizing with the students who are fasting, there is a 10-minute reduction in class time dovetailed with a reminder to be more understanding and not push (or scold) the students. Part and parcel of this sympathy is “dressing up” the canteen – curtains are put in place to “hide” the ones eating and keep the ones fasting away from temptation. This practice is, in fact, widespread and some commercial establishments like Starbucks in Grand Metropolitan Mall have curtains in place.

Eating outside during Ramadan was a gamble. Most of the time, the restaurants would have been booked for those breaking the fast. One is better off eating at home, but not this year with the proliferation of the new malls in Bekasi viz. Grand Metropolitan, Summarecon Bekasi and Grand Galaxy Park hence more restaurant choices.

Instant new bills for Hari Raya from the by-the-road "bank kiosks".

Instant new bills for Hari Raya from the by-the-road “bank kiosks”.

There is this one stark difference that I am still trying to wrap my head around it. Imagine a street lined with people sitting on stools every few meters guarding a little table laden with packed bundles. From the taxi or angkot (form of public transportation in Indonesia), the tightly packed bundles looked either like candy or play money. Upon closer look, they are not, but are actual, crisp Indonesian rupiah tied with the Bank of Indonesia strips. The people are actually manning by-the-road “bank kiosks” where anyone can exchange old bills for new ones; these news bills are put in a green money envelope (red for the Chinese during Chinese New Year) and given to kith and kin. Some had loose bills with them and had taken to fanning themselves with the bills in complete nonchalance to quell the climbing heat.

It is a wonder that no one walks up to the tables and grabs the bundles of money! They are out there in the open for the taking especially when the person saunters off to the next “kiosk” to chit- chat, leaving the bundles completely unguarded, when business is slow and boredom sets in.

There can only be one explanation for this distinct dissimilarity. It is the spirit of Ramadan – people are reflecting and atoning for their worldly sins. Absconding with the bundles of money would only negate what they have been striving for the past weeks, which is to be good and devout Muslims. Thieves know better than to go against the holy edict.