Except for the people, the Kuantan that greeted us was the same one we left behind two years ago. The people at the Base seemed to have moved en bloc. There was not even one familiar face from the Base Commander right down to the officers living in the quarters. It was a different story altogether at school. They decided to put me back at the same school I taught before leaving for Butterworth. Most of the teachers were still there, sitting at the same old places in the Staff Room. It was a pleasant homecoming after a two year absence.
The unpacking was a back-breaking and boring task. i discovered that it was far more easier to pack than to unpack. Although I was very much against having professional packers do all the job, both the packing and unpacking, as suggested by my husband, the unpacking had me wishing I listened to him. (I thought it was silly to waste money on something I could “easily” manage).
It was only when everything was laid out in their proper places that I had time to reflect on my poor performance at the Wives Club. I decided it was time I turned over a new leaf. But I think the decision was greatly influenced by my husband’s recent promotion. I would have continued being stubborn had my husband been left unpromoted. There was no reason to please anybody if they refused to please us, was my selfish argument.
It was common practice to welcome new wives at the Base. So when my turn came, I decided to put my acting skills to good use. (I was the demure Cinderella in primary school and Shakespeare’s sultry Lady Macbeth in sixth form). I put on an ear-to-ear smile and chatted like I knew them all my life. I was pretty shocked at my own hypocrisy. Only then did I realise that I was still a good actress.
The Wives Club was slowly being phased out in 1980, the year we moved back to Kuantan and in its place BAKAT came into existence. I remember we were given quite a lengthy briefing on the new organisation by the OC Admin (Officer Commanding Administration Squadron), who officially became BAKAT’s advisor. BAKAT was more structured and organised (only on paper, of course) compared to its predecessor. There were many, many committees and each one was to be headed by a Major’s wife. Unfortunately, there were too many portfolios and too few Major’s wives and the shortage had to be filled up by captain’s wives. I was unanimously appointed to head the Education committee, of course! One of my duties was to ensure the smooth running of the kindergarten in the Base. I did not have to do anything at all because one of the kindergarten teachers was also a Major’s wife who was extremely efficient. Why she was not made to head the Education committee baffled me as much as it did her but neither of us complained. She was quite happy heading a different committee and I was more than grateful with what I got.
It was a new beginning for me. Although I was not overly enthusiastic, I was slowly getting involved. I did not have to be an actress for long. Both the smiles and the chats were genuine. I dutifully attended all the meetings and gatherings. It took me a long time to warm up to BAKAT but like they say “Better late than never”.