This post is part of the series on the Random Acts of Kindness (ROAKs) sharing initiated by the CIP Council. Every month, there is a different theme. This May, ROAKs aims to appreciate and celebrate the many unsung heroes in our school life.
Morning after morning, Mr. Carevin Tan, the owner of the school’s Japanese store, defrosts meat, stirs a huge pot of teriyaki gravy and steams eggs. With the roaring of the fire and the clattering of pots, pans and woks, a hot sumptuous meal is ready for the students and staff.
At the same time, Ms. Jenny Ong, one of the vendors at Cool Station, unlocks the metal panes that cover the fridges to reveal a plethora of beverages and lays out a tray of snacks, a welcome sight for early comers without breakfast.
The Cool Station’s Ms. Jenny Ong (left) and Mum’s Cooking’s Ms. Anna Ng, brightening the day with a smile. Photo Credit: Leom Sheng Teng (17S7J) @ Hwa Chong CIP Council
During curriculum time, the canteen is not silent despite the absence of students. The sizzling of the stoves and the occasional banter among the vendors punctuate the air as they prepare for the imminent flood of students.
The vendors are well-equipped to deal with the stampede of hungry students that arrive during the various recess periods. Lightning movements perfected by years of experience, Mr. Tan dishes out the bowls swiftly, rotating between chicken and beef orders. At the other side of the canteen, Ms. Ong calls out prices to students. Her hands receive and return money in split seconds as her mind calculates the change she needs to return at breakneck speed.
The Japanese store’s Mr. Carevin Tan delighting our days with his Japanese specialties. Photo Credit: Yau Chun Yi (17S7G) @ Hwa Chong Publications Society
By the time recess ends, Mr. Tan has nearly depleted his stock of ingredients. A straggle of students seeking a quick bite finds that almost everything is sold out. The stall owners can only shrug and apologise.
In the late afternoon, most of the vendors pull down their shutters, signaling the end of their tiring day. The Cool Station however remains open to give succor to students who stay back for CCA. “We usually work until 7.30 pm. Those in the sports CCAs train until the sun sets and the athletes are probably more tired than us. They need their refreshments,” said Ms. Ong empathetically.
Mr. Tan said jokingly that he has worked in HCI for “only 9 years”, and while his daily routine may appear to be mundane and back-breaking, it is actually very enjoyable. The canteen vendors see each other as fellow members of one big family. To them, the smiles of gratitude and appreciation from the students are one of their greatest motivations.
“I want to work here until I retire,” Mr. Tan smiled.
Written by: Chew Chu Gek (17S7E) & Yau Chun Yi (17S7G)