Second place 6-10 Age Group

Birth of the Merlion 

By Edita Lapsys

Aged 8

Once there was a lion hidden in the forests of Singapore, he was strong and had the biggest and most majestic main. He was trying to catch himself some dinner when a cheetah came up to him.

“Excuse me, do you know how to swim? It’s just that someone so big and strong ought to be able to swim.” The cheetah asked.

“Well, of course, I can swim!” He lied.

“Prove it.” The cheetah ordered.

“Fine! I will go swim through that river right there!” He said pointing to a nearby river.

With that, he hopped into the clear blue river, he started to swim, spreading out his paws and splashing them here and there. As he was trying to swim, he spotted a beautiful lioness. He stared at the lioness for what seemed like 12 hours, but he then realized that he was slowly drowning in the depths of the river. He didn’t know how to get up and out of the water because he was never taught to swim. He slowly started to sink to the bottom of the river. He yelled to the cheetah who was licking her paws, but his voice was muffled because of the water. He sank and sank and sank until he reached the bottom of the ocean. He stayed there for an hour, all hope was lost. But, a beautiful young mermaid found him lying there. She carefully carried him up to the shore, she had a glowing blue amulet around her neck, which she placed onto the dead lion’s chest. The lion slowly awoke. He looked down to his chest and saw that there was no fur, just scales. He was so scared of his scales that he passed out.

When he awoke again, he saw a bunch of adventurers staring at him in a science laboratory. They all tried searching up what this strange creature could be, but none of them could find anything. Since they knew that this creature was undiscovered, they tried to think of names for it.

“SCALION!” someone shouted

“LIONFISH!” another suggested

There were lots of different names here and there, but none of them sounded quite right. Until someone said that his body looks kind of like a mermaid tail.

“MERLION!” they all shouted.

They all agreed that this new and majestic creature should be Singapore’s National Symbol. They went to the government of Singapore and showed them the merlion and said that it would be a great national symbol, the government agreed quickly and made a statue to represent Singapore. The adventurers picked him up and slowly carried him back to the river where they found him and set him free, they watched him swim off. They smiled at each other and walked off. The end.

 

Third place 6-10 Age Group

 Mermaid in Singapore.

By Sidraat Ereshva Nahmar.

Aged 9

It happened many moons ago.  Maybe more.

Many people have heard about it but since only a handful saw the real person, somehow nobody wants to talk about it.  But it is a true story, I did not make it up.

A long time ago there was a mystical mermaid kingdom buried under the sea around Singapore. A very noble, kind and learned king used to rule that kingdom. All the beautiful mermaids in that kingdom lived peacefully and were content with their lives. Wait a second; I forgot to tell you that the mermaids of that kingdom were not ordinary mermaids that you see in the cartoon or movies. They were just like you and me. They looked like a normal person with legs and hands when they came to the shore and on land. They turned into a mermaid with fish like tail and shiny scales only when they went back to sea or got splashed by.

I already told you that the kingdom was very nice. Every person had enough food and drink to consume and all of them had very large specious house made of colourful corals under the sea. They sang, danced and played all day. Nobody stole others’ toys or belongings and no one quarrelled with each other. They did not use rude or vulgar words; it was a very peaceful place to live in. There was a small problem, there was not any good school in their kingdom.  The king loved all of his subjects, he always told them to study hard and to learn everything about the world. Therefore, he allowed the young kids to visit to Singapore’s land to go to school.

The youngest daughter of the king was very clever and bright. She was a K2 student at UWCSEA (United World College of South East Asia). Every morning, she visited the sea shore and changed in to a beautiful smart young girl before she went to school. She was a good student and a fast learner. Sometimes she felt sad, because she could not tell anyone that she was actually a princess and a mermaid. Every morning, she felt bad. She woke up and covered her mermaid tail with human like legs and went to school. Like all the other kids she played, made things, painted and drew pictures.  But she never wanted to swim. She knew that if she went in to the water her mermaid tail would be visible and everybody would know who she actually was. She felt scared. All of her friends thought she did not know how to swim and therefore she was afraid of water.

Oh I forgot to tell you, her name was “Irana”. All of the teachers loved her and she also adored her friends and teachers. She was very talented in academic subjects, sports, music and painting. She was also kind to others.

Days at school and in her kingdom were going fine and happily. One day, it was the annual celebration in her school. There was lot of fun activities and sports to do. Candy floss, Chocolate fountain, Ice-Cream, bottled juice, chocolate, cookies were all round. All of her friends were playing, singing and having fun.  Parents and siblings of all students came to school and were taking photos, walking all round and having fun. A little toddler went near to the big swimming pool all alone. He was just a child and loved water. While touching the water he fell down to the deeper side of the pool. The pool was really deep and the boy almost drowned. All who saw this, started screaming and crying.  His parents jumped into the water and dove down to rescue the baby. But for some strange reason they were struggling.  The child’s papa could not pull him to the surface. It was a strange and sad situation for everyone. Irana felt bad.  For a minute, she forgot that she was not a human but a mermaid. She jumped into the pool and swam deep down and rescued the family. But as soon as she was in the water, everybody saw that she was a beautiful mermaid. She had a long sparkling mermaid tail with shiny rainbow scales all over it.  She was glowing like a moon.

All of her friends were surprised. They could not believe their eyes. Their beautiful, nice friend was a real mermaid.  Irana quickly jumped out of the pool and changed herself back to a human and ran out of the school as fast as she could. Teachers, guards, students all ran after her. But she was gone.

Since that day nobody ever saw her again in the school- UWCSEA.

Irana went back to her kingdom and told her father, the king of mermaid kingdom about everything that happened.  The king was sad and worried about the safety of the entire kingdom. He knew that people would come searching for mermaids in the sea and would eventually find them. All the mermaids moved their kingdom quickly from the sea around Singapore to a place far from there but nobody knew exactly where.

Irana still remembers her school friends and teachers and she misses them a lot.

 

Second Place 11-14 age group

The Mother

By Matthew Atticus Tan

Aged 12 years

 

“Help me clean the toilet, Wati!” the ear-piercing scream from Mother reverberated through the hot stuffy air of the five-room flat. With a slight Indonesian accent, the family’s domestic helper, Wati, replied, “Yes, Madam”.

Wati promptly switched off the iron and kept the ironing board before heading to the toilet to complete her task. With a floor brush in hand, she knelt on the cold hard floor, scrubbing furiously. Beads of perspiration trickled down her forehead as she remained aware that the children were hoping she would finish her morning chores before resuming their game of Snakes and Ladders.

The children, frustrated with their long wait, ran to Mother and pleaded if she would continue the game with them. As usual, Mother shook her head sullenly. With a hand phone nestled in the nook of her neck, she waved the children away hastily as she left the home without uttering a word.

Impatience got the better of the children. Upset with the long wait, they started forcefully banging at the toilet door. “Give me five more minutes!” Wati replied in an insipid tone.

After what seemed like eternity, Wati wearily emerged. The children tugged her by her arms and legs toward the game board.

Wati had only been employed by the family for scarcely six months, yet the children took to her very warmly. She was almost a second mother to them, seeing to their needs, both physical and emotional.  It was not uncommon for Mother to leave the children at home while she went out to meet her friends for meals and shopping trips. Father never came home until it was late at night when the children were sound asleep. He always left home before the children woke up in the morning. This meant that the children saw Wati most of the time.

Being in Singapore for the first time, Wati was initially apprehensive of her new environment. She missed her two-year old daughter terribly but also knew that she had to work in a foreign land as her husband had recently passed away. Working with a family with children allowed Wati to express her maternal affection toward them.

As the game of Snakes and Ladders continued, Wati reflected on the delicate role she plays in this house. Being a domestic helper provided her with a good source of income. While she was fully capable of seeing to the needs of the children, she had to be respectful to Mother and never behave in a manner which posed a risk to the relationship between the Mother and the children.

As time went on, Wati grew closer to the children who drifted further from their parents in their day to day life. Soon, it was Wati who brought the children to and fro their school, tuition centres and the grandparents’ house during the weekends. The children no longer yearned for a game of Snakes and Ladders with their mother who had kept herself busy with everything else except for spending quality time with her children.

The story above may sound familiar to some of us who live In Singapore, a city with a fast pace of living whereby young working parents may find it challenging to juggle work-life balance and spending sufficient quality time with their children. I think, even as adults, it may not always be easy to find that intricate balance between “outsourcing” the care of children to others such as domestic helpers versus spending more precious bonding time with their children. To me, this is an interesting societal phenomenon that is thought provoking. I think this is something worth paying attention to.

 

Third Place 11-14 Age Group

I Let Go

By Linh Nguyen Coquelle

Aged 13

 

“Hey, Ma?… No, just telling you that I won’t be home… love you,”

I hung up and plugged my earbuds in. Scrolling on my list of favourite songs, I randomly selected the first song, and the familiar introduction of Nirvana’s You Know You’re Right filled my ears. As I strolled along the streets of Riverside Point, the wind caressed my cheek, bringing in the briny smell of seawater. However, that smell was soon overwhelmed by that of frying seafood, of sizzling steaks, the scents of dishes both local and foreign, countless aromas all roped into a fragrance that caused my mouth to start salivating. I licked my tongue and fought against my tastebuds, who were begging for a taste of those mouth-watering delicacies.

Tearing away from the riverside restaurants, I plunged into the crowd. Immediately, bodies pressed against me, bags and umbrellas jabbing at my ribs. While I tried my best to navigate through the sea of people, wisps of people’s conversations rushed past my ear. There were sellers hawking their goods, exclamations at prices, mumblings of foreign tongue, and dialects of all kinds. It was a rushing stream of languages from all over the globe. Singapore has a reputation of being a multiracial country, so one can bet that they were bound to hear several different languages being spoken at the same time. Singapore was also an ideal destination to visit. Almost on the equator itself, its tropical weather and popular attractions were what drew hundreds of people each year to this island.

Clarke Quay was a huge tourist hotspot, and it was in December, where inhabitants of the northern hemisphere ‘migrated’ to warmer places to escape the cold. In the swarm of tourists, I could notice many fair-haired, blue-eyed westerners, their pale skin contrasting against the tans and browns which were the norms. Alone in this ocean, I was jostled and shoved mercilessly, each person moving towards their destination.  We were packed like sardines, but I didn’t mind. I came upon Orde bridge, white stone above the dark green river, a river that had seen the hulls of many boats throughout the ages. It was a river that had overheard the bubbling laughter of young boys jumping in, the sound of modern speedboats collecting litter, the robotic monotone of tour guides as tourists took photographs from their boat ride. The Singapore river was a tattoo, inked upon the land, remembered by generations both past and future.

My eyes still on the water, I hefted myself up on the side of the bridge. Shoving my hand into my pocket, I dug out a half-empty box of cigarettes and a lighter. A cigarette between my teeth, I lighted it up, almost burning my thumb in the process. Inhaling that grey stench, I admired the shining lights dancing on the canal, reflected from the waterside stalls. The neon rainbow dances on the river, its performance tugging at my lips in a way that almost made me smile. The lights performed a ballet together, reds and whites and greens mingling with each other, shining and shimmering across the surface of Singapore’s only river. The colours rippled and leaped, creating an ever-changing painting of street lamps and murky water. Tour boats floated past, passengers taking pictures, the flash of their camera reflecting onto the water. It was a pity that the visitors didn’t even notice what was going on, quite literally, under their noses. The lights danced for nobody, an epitome of aestheticism.

Taking in a last drag, I snuffed out my cigarette on the side of the bridge, leaving a mark, another insignificant blemish. Shifting closer to the edge, I tilted my head towards the sky, staring at where the stars were supposed to be. Multitudes of stars, doused out so no one could see even a speck of their light.

Glancing back down, I paused the music right when it hit the chorus. Placing my belongings beside me, I removed my earphones and set them down too.

I was at the very edge of the bridge, ready to fall any moment.

Leaning forward, I let go.

 

Second Place 15-18 Age Group

Identity. Card

By Nicole Sim Hui Jun

Aged 15

 

My identity card,

Glossy pink,

A proof of my belonging,

A validation of my existence,

My place in this ever moving world, country,

But I don’t feel like I belong

In this place, among these people, in this being,

I don’t feel like I am.

 

This identity card

Shouts my place of birth,

Singapore;

Lion city, garden city, little red dot,

Clean, green, safe, diversity,

Merlions, Vanda “Miss Joaquim”,

It hollers.

But it is silenced,

Of the education system steaming in our pressure cooker,

Of the loneliness and detachment from this place,

As I walk down

Corridors after pavements after tar roads,

Trying to feel where I fit.

 

That identity card

Speaks my birthday,

The first day of my existence

Many years ago,

Marking the first step to my journey ahead,

The creation of a being,

The beginning of new life,

The first piece of jigsaw to a fully formed puzzle,

It claims.

However it is quietened,

Of my burdens and challenges,

Built up from that very day,

My memories and nightmares,

Accumulating with each birthday,

Of wispy tendrils of smoke from blown-out candles,

Culminating into a pungent future,

And I begin to taste,

Each sweet bite of chiffon turning bitter.

 

The identity card

Whispers my name,

Letters, syllabus, vowels, words,

Skeletal foundation of what makes me,

Ever used address referring to me,

Building blocks of the person within,

My first belonging that I carry,

It murmurs.

Yet it is hushed,

Of the values and character that I embody,

Of the pain and the struggle that I carry,

Of the emotions and experiences that I have gone through,

Of the life injected into my bloodstream,

As I hear it,

Time and time again,

I begin to feel

Foreign to its intended splendour.

 

An identity card,

Speaks volumes for itself,

Lines after lines of information,

It talks in generalisations and key facts.

When it comes to the stories behind imprinted words,

It quietens, silences……

Sealed between closed pink plastic,

So I hold my identity apart from my card,

My Identity. Card

 

Third Place 15-18 Age Group

Durian

By Tovar Stein

Aged 16

As the plane touched down I opened my eyes, my surroundings slowly coming into focus. My knees were digging into the seat in front of me, and hard plastic arm rests boxed me in on both sides. It had been almost 18 hours of rewatching old movies and bad sleep, but it was finally over. We had touched down in Singapore. I was still only half awake, a combination of bad sleep and jet lag making me feel like a rock dropped into the ocean, slowly sinking towards the bottom. Seeing the state I was in, my parents had a great idea. It was time for food. As we walked through the airport looking for something to eat, I took it all in. The shiny railings, the towering waterfall that seemed to be pouring from the sky, and the overwhelming feeling that we were somewhere different.

After talking to some of the airport staff, we found out that although there was good food at the airport, we should try going to a food center called a hawker market. They gave us directions to one that was near our hotel, and we were off. As the sliding glass doors of the airport opened I was hit by a scorching wave of heat. It had been more than a day since I’d last seen sunlight, or even been outside, and this was the scorching hot equator sun.

The hawker center was only a five minute walk from our hotel, but by the end of it, my dad (always the sweatiest out of my family) had dark sweat stains showing on his back, and armpits. I didn’t look much better. As we walked through the hawker center there were lots of large neon signs, boasting the different things they sold. Some of them I couldn’t read, but from the ones in English I could see that they sold something called “Murtabak”, another stall had “Carrot cake”, and there were at least a dozen that boasted the famous chicken rice. Seeming to be the most popular dish, my family decided to try it. Soon we had four, steaming plates of chicken rice. It turned out that its simplicity made it good, and soon we had four empty plates. I was still staring at my plate when my dad who had left earlier with a mischievous look on his face, returned, and plopped a stingray onto my plate. Surprised, I jumped back in my chair, almost falling over. My dad, close to laughing, looked down and smiled “Welcome to Singapore, Son.”

It was at this point that I noticed something strange out of the corner of my eye, something large, greenish, and spikey. Intrigued, I walked towards the stall that sold it. As I got closer I found out its appearance wasn’t the only thing unique about it, it had one of the strongest odors I had ever smelled. At the top of the stall, there, in big bold lettering I saw “Best Durian On The Island”. I asked the man running the stall how it tasted. He simply smiled and said, ”You either love it or hate it.”

A plan began to form in my mind. My parents had always told me to be adventurous, to try new foods, and now it was my turn to introduce them to a new food. I bought the smallest portion he sold, about 4 sliced cubes of Durian. Then, I went to another stall I had seen earlier, they sold a variety of fruits. I bought their version of a fruit cup, which contained a variety of fruits, of all shapes and sizes. Then, checking to make sure my parents couldn’t see, I slipped in my four cubes of durian.

As I walked back to the table, I put on my most innocent face.

“I brought some fruit,” I said.

Hungry from the flight, my family began to dig in. I sat back and waited. It happened almost immediately. My dad suddenly looked up and then over at me. Swallowing with some difficulty he finally managed to choke out “Wh-What was that-”

I just looked at him, smiled and replied “Welcome to Singapore, Dad.”

 

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