When time stood still for a while

Last Friday, I attended Hornbill City Toastmasters Club’s installation night cum 25th anniversary celebration in Kuching. I was invited in my capacity as a former president of the club by the organising chairperson of the event, Tan Hong Mui.

I am glad I accepted the invitation. It was one of the best dinners I had attended in a long time. The camaraderie I shared with some members of the club, especially some of the former presidents with whom I served for years was incredible and amazing.

Many of them have left the club and the Toastmasters movement because of work commitment or other interests. That night, however, especially for those who sat at Table No 2, time stood still for a while.

Although many of us had not seen each other for ages, somehow, we clicked together instantly and laughed loudly at each other’s jokes and antics. Yes, for a few hours that night, we turned back the clock; became our younger selves and were so carefree!

Besides the company, the food at the historic Sarawak Club, the venue of the function, was fantastic. I learnt that it had been specially chosen by Dunstan Chan a veteran member of the club, past District 51 Governor and champion speaker.

Pointing to the food list, his lovely and beautiful wife, Violetta, who sat next to me said, “All his favourite food is here.” I enjoyed the food so much that at the end of the dinner, I personally thanked Dunstan for his delicious selections.

For dessert, we were treated to pieces of the club’s 25th anniversary cake. Guest of honour and the club’s patron, Datuk David Teng, a former state assistant minister, had earlier on cut the cake. He was patron of the club when I was president of Hornbill City Toastmasters Club from July 2002 to June 2003. It is encouraging to see his strong support for the club remains until today.

I joined Hornbill City Toastmasters Club in 1998 because I wanted to be able to speak in front of an audience. There are now many Toastmasters Clubs in Sarawak and the world and all affiliated to Toastmasters International is a worldwide non-profit educational organisation that empowers individuals to become effective communicators and leaders. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation now has more than 345,000 members in more than 15,900 clubs in 142 countries.

In some Toastmasters Clubs, you can become the president even if you have just joined the club for a year and there is no contest for the post. When I was in Hornbill City Toastmasters Club, the queue to the top post was quite long. My friends and I had to wait patiently for a few years for our turn to helm the club. We were young then and did not mind waiting.

I held most of the posts in the executive committee before ending up as the president. I climbed the rank slowly from sergeant-at-arms, secretary, vice president public relations, vice president membership and vice president education and then president. With each post, I learned various skills which remained with me until today.

For example, as secretary, I learned to write good minutes of meeting, thanks to the guidance I received from the then president, Julie Fong.

The only post I did not hold was that of the treasurer, simply because I was hopeless with figures and still am.

I am now a member of another club, Connections Toastmasters Club. I stopped being a member of Hornbill City Toastmasters because of work commitment and I could not attend the club’s meeting on the day it was scheduled.

The dinner at the Sarawak Club last Friday made me realise how much I missed the camaraderie I enjoyed with my friends as we undertook our Toastmasters journey in Hornbill City years ago.

It also made me realise how much water has flowed under the bridge; how we had changed and aged and how much I owed to the club for making me what I am today.

Hornbill City Toastmasters Club was, after all, where I made my ice-breaker, the first Toastmasters speech, and where I completed many of my educational manuals.

Joining it was the first step I took in my long journey as a Toastmaster. It was also where I first took up the post of president and area governor.

I am now a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM). The DTM award is the highest level of educational achievement in Toastmasters.

To earn the DTM designation in the traditional (old) education programme, I had to earn the Competent Communicator (CC) award, earn the Competent Leader (CL) award, serve at least six months as a club officer, serve a complete one-year term as a district officer, serve as a club sponsor, mentor or coach, participate in the preparation of a Club Success Plan, earn the Advanced Communicator Gold or Advanced Toastmaster Gold award and earn my Advanced Leader Silver or Advanced Leader award.

In the last leg of my journey towards becoming a DTM, I received a lot of help from past International President of Toastmasters International, Datuk John Lau, who is a strong supporter of Connections Toastmasters Club, my current club.

Besides the installation of the incoming president, Awang Saifeluddin and his exco members, one of the highlights at the Hornbill City Toastmasters Club’s dinner last Friday was a slideshow of the club’s history by Dunstan. Tributes were paid to the past presidents during the slideshow. It was good to see a picture of my younger self on the board!

I thank the club for remembering its past presidents and for inviting me to the dinner. The euphoria I experienced that night will remain with me for a while. Thank you, Hornbill City Toastmasters Club!