dedicated to sleepy students

Help! Help! There's a kid nap!

At 11am this morning, I received an SMS from my 17 year-old sis that read something like this: "Oh no! I think I am going to flunk my GP* exam! How? etc etc"

Being the older sis who used to be a teacher and a fine survivor of this island's hectic education system, I offered this piece of (useless) advice/comfort: "Don't worry."

For the past two weeks, I have come home to find her asleep at the table, her head resting on an open book.

"Hey E, why don't you go to sleep?" I would say, nudging her.

She would make some sort of a noise, but barely move. On the table I would find a mug, emptied of its coffee. And beside it, a small empty glass jar that used to contain Essence of Chicken. And on the floor a couple of steps away, there must be some 8 cartons-worth of that dark concentrate!

Tonight, J and I found her by her table as usual, the book open before her. And though she was seated upright, her head hung low.

Of course, I offered more useless words to the 17 year-old.

"You know, no one cares whether you fail this or not. When you are my age, you'll realise that all this doesn't matter. It makes no difference to your life. It's not important. It won't change anything. Just relax. You'll look back and see that exams don't really count towards anything."

She gave a weak smile to all that, her eyes half closed.

OK, since I was probably not being that convincing, the task of being the kind advisor was passed to J.

J, whose A-level results at 18 had spelled D-A-D or A-D-D (at least there's a vowel!), assumed the role with more empathy.

"Hey, I was just like you. Wah, don't know why, long ago when I was preparing for my "A-level" exams, I just want to sleep. Every time I look at my books, then immediately, ka-bom - my head would hit the table and I would sleep. I tried everything to stay awake, but cannot. Coffee. Red bull. Chicken Essence. Washing my face. I wanted to give up, don't study anymore. Maybe can go and be an air steward."

At this point, the 17 year-old giggled. "You are so himbo!"

Undeterred by the remark, J continued. "Then I thought I should sleep under the table instead."

"Huh? Why?"

"If I sleep somewhere really uncomfortable, then maybe I won't sleep for long and will wake up to study mah. But of course even this didn't work. But I found quite an effective way later. I found out that there's this other guy in the opposite block of flats who was up always as late as me. Probably also studying. So I watched the light in his room. I told myself if he is still awake, I would be too. It was like some competition. No matter how sleepy I was, I kept the lights on. Only when I saw that his room was dark, then I would go to sleep. After a while, I think he realised that there's this crazy guy living across from him who is challenging him!"

Disbelief was on her face. She looked to me, as if to ask - why are you going out with this weird guy?

"Eh, I even tried to trick him once. I was damn sleepy, but the light in his room was still on. Wah lau, still studying! So I switched off the lights in my room. He fell for the trick!" J proudly declared. "After a while, he also switched off his lights. Haha, then I turned on the lights and went back to studying. But not for long lah..."

I don't think we managed to convince the stressed-out teenager to call it a night and get herself to bed, or assuaged her fears about flunking. But at least she had 30 minues of distraction...and human company.

help for the sleepy students - the chickens have not died in vain

*GP = General Paper, a writing and general knowledge paper that is part of the "A"level examination system


tscd said…
Man. Chicken essence. Even now, I can taste it in my mouth whenever somebody mentions 'exams'. It's become like a rite of passage for Singaporean secondary school students, almost.
Anonymous said…
hey there, pc paper starting in another 3 hrs. Just wanted to say the presence of 2 "nice" ppl last night was comforting and enlightening. Should really write a song (probably rock) abt this crazyyy weird stressful time and hmm sell it to angsty students out there. u guys can consider writing a book on angst management, haha, or if u design a shirt abt it i'll definitely buy. I've realised commenting on blog posts is a good way to de-stress. peace.
Tym said…
I never resorted to chicken essence, nor coffee either. I think I had more stamina before I hit university...

Don't you think all the kids are a lot more stressed than we used to be? I see the furrowed expressions they wear, whether they're in JC1 or JC2, and it's downright disturbing. I keep reminding them it's not the end of the world, but I see it in their eyes that it is.
ampulets said…
tcsd - I love chicken essence!!! especially these new flavours. my fave is the one with dang gui. yum.

tym - i agree completely! they are super stressed, and the smart kids are getting damn well-read and merciless in their competitiveness. And they are so focused on the 1 GOAL - that scholarship/that perfect score. And when you ask them why, there's no good reason given. Then again, every generation probably appears "more/less ____" than the previous ;>
tcn afen said…
how does one create chicken essence?
some how I imagine some magical process where a shaman sucks out the soul of a chicken and distills it in a liquid...
ampulets said…
jing - Exactly, that's why chicken essence tastes so good :>

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