Sunday, December 21, 2008

On Being Right

I was fourteen at the time, a weedy nobody second-former in a secondary school with a student population 2000 strong, and I was in the Red Crescent Society, an Islamised version of the Red Cross. I remember sitting in a classroom during one society meeting - it was a Friday - and was listening to a lecture given by the society's President on AIDS. He's a bespectacled, goofy, nerdy type who was doing accounts, economy or something similarly money-oriented in the sixth form. My point being; he's not a science student. But hey, any old idiot can give a lecture to a bunch of impressionable barely-teens from a book of instructions. Our country's education system thrive on this belief.

Then he got about asking us to tell him how the human immunodeficiency virus is transmitted, to check on what we already know. 'Unprotected sex', some one said. Alright. What else? Sharing needles, you say? Good, good...

It wasn't hard. Our government is pretty anal about health education, and those AIDS ads on the telly certainly helped. Those are stuff everyone knows.

"Breastfeeding. A baby can get AIDS from breastfeeding," I volunteered and the President looked right at me, a little taken back. Then he grinned, seemingly pleased that someone has gotten something wrong at last.

"Breastfeeding arh?" he said, making a big show of humouring me, "Maybe if the baby bite too hard and the nipple bleed."

He laughed at his own stupid little joke. Everyone laughed at his stupid little joke. I didn't, of course, but that's because I was busy feeling incensed and embarrassed at the time. But I know I was right. I read that from a directory of medical conditions which for whatever bizarre reason unknown, was sitting in the same cupboard as my encyclopedias and storybooks. It just appeared there one day. I got to ask my dad about it someday. But fact being, I was ridiculed for being right, by a classful of idiots led by an authority figure who refuse to entertain the possibility that, by Jove, some 14-year-old might know a little more about fucking AIDS than he does! He did not ask me where I came by that bit of information. He did not even had the decency to admit that he didn't know for sure, and that he would look it up.

A few weeks after that incident, I found myself in an English class. My English teacher was this tall Chinese guy who enjoys spending entire periods telling stories from his supposedly vast store of general knowledge, and only setting us a bit of homework in the last five minutes. So, you can imagine that he's quite popular amongst the students. That day, everyone was listening in rapt attention as he was telling us the origin story of Coca-Cola - citing a certain Dr. Pembrooke as its inventor. I know differently, of course. I once read in a trivia book I found lying around that it was a John Pemberton who did the inventing. Besides that, I also realised that he got a whole other sundry of details wrong, leading me to suspect that he fabricated a lot of the stuff he couldn't remember.

This time, however, I knew better than to speak out.


Elaynne said...

IS that english teacher Peter Suan? Hahahaha His classes are damn slack compared to Mdm Ho.. But i like them both as much.

Zzzyun said...

hah! that guy really shld get his facts straight before educating kids who know no better (well most of them anyway) abt AIDS. -_-

at least he shld hv the decency to check whether it's true onot.

bevE said...

so how does a baby get AIDS from breastfeeding?

bevE said...


minwi said...

eh sen wai. i think you gotta learn how to let go la. those incidents were years n years ago!

k0k s3n w4i said...

Elaynne: Nope, Peter Suan wasn't tall - and he has never taught me before. I remember a lot of guys in my class having crushes on Mdm Ho before xD. How come you know them 1?

Zzzyun: Well, that's my point. And I think a lot of people these days should do well to remember that. Being too sure of one's self is... limiting.

bevE: HIV has been isolated in breast milk. That's the current stand in the medical community. Unless contrary evidence is found, this is considered fact.

minwi: Don't worry. If I'm still bitter about these stuff, then you can say I have problem letting go. But I don't. I'm just being retrospective, revisiting old feelings so I can reproduce them accurately in text. What you read is my feelings - my anger - at the time. Not now. The sum of a person's experience is his wisdom. Letting go doesn't mean forgetting. How will we ever learn if we forget?

Anonymous said...

Nope that's not Peter Suan, that's Mr Wong SP, am I right? hehe.. ^^ A teacher who loves telling stories about life..