They came, they stayed, they enjoyed
“Kindness”, “beautiful”, “enjoyed”, “appreciate”, “special” – these are among the affirmative words used by Hamidah and Fatimah in their farewell message to my wife and I at the end of their 3-day homestay with us recently (7-9 August 2016), and as a parting shot, were these words: “Father and Mother, we love you and don’t forget us.”
Hamidah and Fatimah are not their real names, but Moemi Takei and Nao Kanda respectively, from Japan. However, they love the names given by me and even called each other by the given name. “Do give me a Muslim name,” Moemi had requested gleefully, and when I said, “Hamidah”, she beamed and asked for its meaning, and Nao excitedly requested for one too.
“Hamidah” means “Commendable”, “Praised”, “Praiseworthy”, while “Fatimah” means “Captivating”, “Charming”. Prophet’s Muhammad’s daughter is named Fatimah, and it is the most common name in the Muslim world.
The girls are students from the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology and are in Singapore on a 3-week internship, which includes a 3-day homestay stint.
There were four students altogether, the other two are boys who stayed with Mr Imhar Said who, on the last day, took his boys to visit us on their way for an outing.
My wife, Khairon, cooked for them a variety of food each day for lunch and dinner which they relished. The food, Malay, Indian, Chinese and Arabian, included mee-goreng, sotong masak hitam, beef rendang, nasi-goreng with plenty of shrimps and ikan bilis, fresh vegetable soup, tofu-cum-dried vegetable soup and chicken curry. For desert, we had lots of fruits and various Malay kuih, including lopis (sweet) and ketok ubi.
For breakfast we had bread and subsuka and once, nasi lemak bought from a nearby Malay stall. Khairon took them to the neighbourhood market area to let them see our busy and well-known shopping and eating zone.
My wife introduced them to Malay attire. They loved wearing them, exchanging with each other to take pictures, saying they looked impressive and that their parents would appreciate it very much.
The girls enjoyed going out into the neighbourhood near my home, taking my grand-daughter, Nur Iffah Muhammad Imran, with them and the 2-year old enjoyed their company and got along very well with them and vice-versa.
Overall, I took them to a few places, including Pasir Ris Town Park and its wetland and beach, Marina Bay and the Gardens by the Bay. In the morning morning of the third day, my son, Muhammad Imran, took us to East Coast Park. We even went to Bedok Point and Bedok Mall and a sports hub in Chai Chee.
Feeling sad to leave us but they have to, and so they returned to their hotel in Chinatown after watching the live telecast of the National Day celebration held at the National Stadium.
Before leaving, they gave us a self-made, self-written card (pictured below) in which the following messages were penned:
“Thank you for your kindness. I spent a beautiful time at your place. I really enjoyed my stay.
The three days flew by so quickly! Thank you for taking care of me. I will never forget your kindness. I appreciate it.”
From Hamidah (Moemi Takei)
“We had so good days. These three days were special. I can’t forget! You are really kind and jovial. Thank you for bringing us to many places and for giving me a chance to wear Malay dress! They were my treasure.
Certainly I will visit you again in the future.
PS: To Iffah, Father and Mother, we love you and don’t forget us. Thank you for the very good time we had with you.”
From Fatimah (Nao Kanda)
Moemi and Nao are very friendly, sociable, affable, cheerful and ever-willing to explore even the neighbourhood, and are at home with local food. We hope they would visit us, like some of our past foster children did.
My volunteer services in hosting foreign youths for their homestay programme thus far included:
- Ship for South-East Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP) – 21 times,
- Singapore-Vietnam Youth Exchange Programme – 2 times,
- Indonesian Icon Youth Visit -1 time,
- Iwate Global Seminar Program – 4 times,
- JENESY – 1 time, and
- Students from the Tokyo University of Marine and Science Technology – 2 times.
It is my wife’s and my pleasure to contribute our time, effort and love to these youths, most of them being students, in introducing them to the interesting multi-racial, multi-religious Singapore scenes and the rich culture and way of life of Singaporeans.
Indeed, our volunteer work in hosting them for the homestay is amply rewarded when they are happy and satisfied with their stay with us.
After reading the article about her homestay late this morning (13 Aug), the excited Moemi Takei (Hamidah) emailed me her response at 1 pm, thus:
“The whole article and the photos were sooooo exciting. Every word you wrote reminded me of the great time we had together during the three days.
I want to send the address of your blog to my parents. Even though my parents don’t really understand English well, they will surely enjoy looking at the many photos of us you used in the article.
I will also give the address of your blog to my friends to let them read the article and understand my sweet memories of my stay at your home, and know why I appreciate Singaporean culture, the local foods and the Malay costume.
I want to again thank you for your kindness. When I miss you, I will read the article in your blog again and again and remember of my wonderful stay at your home.”
12 August 2016