Pin-hole camera workshop that was supposed to be fun

A little while ago, Sengkang Babies held a giveaway in their blog for a chance to win a free pin-hole camera workshop with Npower Education. By then, I had already read a few cool reviews about it from a few fellow bloggers who were invited by them earlier this year to bring their kids to give this workshop a go. Everyone enjoyed it and I was also quite intrigued. The workshop looked simple enough so I wondered if Xan will be interested. Lo and behold, I was one of the 3 winners of the giveaway! Yippee! I wasted no time to make reservations for Xan and booked an extra space for his cousin so that they could attend this together.

Npower Education (opened in November 2012) is mainly a tuition centre that caters to students from about 6 years old to 16 years old and occasionally offers special classes such as the pinhole camera workshop during the school holidays. Kids will learn how to construct the camera from a cardboard box and other commonly found materials as well as learn how to develop their photographs the good old fashion way in a darkroom. So exciting right?

Ok I need to hao lian a bit here. I studied photography back in my university days so I am already familiar with the process of developing black and white prints in a dark room. The developer, stop bath, fixer, dodge and burn, Ilford paper, etc. That being said, I went mainly to observe how the instructor was able to engage a classroom of kids in this potentially dry subject. Not every kid is interested to know why in the early days a landscape photo had to take 8 hours to get the right exposure. When the instructor Miss Khoo held up some 35mm film negatives, all the kids and I mean ALL 8 boys ( ages from from 10 years old to 12 years old with the exception of our 2 boys) drew a blank stare and said they have never see it before. Some were even shocked to learn that film was limited to only 36 exposures (sometimes 38 if you were lucky) and they would not be able to delete anything at any point of time. The gasps were deafening. I also suddenly felt extremely old for knowing what film negatives were. 🙁

The other reviews about this workshop were extremely clear so I won’t elaborate further. You can search for them by typing “Npower Education + pinhole camera”. I do however, want to share my feelings about the 3 hour session: the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good

When I contacted Npower Education to claim the free workshop, I mentioned to them that the boys were about 5 and 6 years old. They replied to say they will arrange for an additional assistant and other preparations for them. So they did and the boys thought the JieJie was very friendly even though her long hair bothered them a bit. Hahahaha! Aiyoh! At one point in the darkroom Miss Khoo casually asked if anybody was afraid of the dark. A little hand went up and Xan said quite softly “I’m a bit scared of the dark…” From then on, he held the assistant’s hand whenever the lights went off. How do I know? I was present throughout the whole workshop lah. That was another nice thing they did. They allowed me to hang around the entire time. I think mainly because the boys were so young compared to the other participants. Miss Khoo also made a conscience effort to include our boys in some Q and A so that they wouldn’t feel left out.

pinhole 01

The bad

The classroom was a tad too small to squeeze 8 active boys so there was a bit of jostling and whining when anyone wants to move around. The 3 ladies (Miss Khoo, assistant and Raine, the person I had been liaising with via email) tried their best to keep the excitable boys under control. Xan and my nephew being the sociable kids they are, attempted to engage so of the boys with some small talk but sadly most of them ignore the little ones presumably they couldn’t “get” what was so funny. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not offended. In fact I expected it to happen. Our boys need to learn how to deal with such situations on their own right? So ke lian.

pinhole 02
All excited to take pictures of each other.
pinhole 03
Miss Khoo showing the boys the various chemicals needed for developing the prints.

The ugly

Perhaps it is a hormonal thing with young boys, some of them obviously didn’t like the fact that they got “thrown” to the table of “babies” and they really made their displeasure known. Comments about the workshop is supposed to be for 12 year olds and why these 2 kids are allowed in the class was thrown sarcastically to the instructor. She held her ground and replied him that she knows and it was ok. She also added that the boys didn’t lie about their ages just to join them so his concerns are unfounded. I watched as Boy A kept pushing his water bottle onto Xan’s worksheet (not that Xan was really writing anything constructive on it) and insisted the bottle was Xan’s just to irritate him. Luckily it stopped before either one decides to swing the bottle at the other’s head. Then Boy B decided the worksheet was a total waste of time, started to comment how stupid it was. Somewhere along line, my nephew said something about not know something, Boy B, the oldest kid in the group, suddenly pointed at my nephew’s forehead and shouted “…he doesn’t know because he’s STUPID!” Wah! At this point my blood began to boil! He had the audacity to say that while I was sitting right next to him!! The entire class fell silent and stared at the boy. Prior to this he had already irritated all 3 ladies at various times during the workshop but they all tried to tahan him and not scream at him. Won’t look good in front of me I guess. Miss Khoo’s face turned into several shades of black and sternly made him apologize to my nephew who by then was too shocked and embarrassed to speak. Boy B was defiant even after being made to apologize 3 times. I wished I was informed during registration that the other kids were THIS much older so that I can have the option to wait until they have a class of kids who are of a closer age group to our boys or to tell me frankly our boys are too young. When I had to relate this story to my nephew’s mum (my sister), I could tell she was extremely angry that her son was got bullied for no reason. I was embarrassed it happened and regret subjecting the boys to the wrath of the 2 bullies. Can you imagine if I was not there to witness all these first hand? I’m sorry but thinking back, I wished I had given both bullies a piece of my mind.

My conclusion

Our boys appeared to have enjoyed the workshop and even thought being in a class of older boys was cool. However when I asked them about the 2 boys they became visibly uncomfortable. The workshop is not recommended for kids under 6. If you must, it will be better to sign up with a group of your own kids. The course is simple and interesting. Venue and location very accessible and clean. Maybe I am out of touch with the ways of kids nowadays or you can even call me over protective to make such a big deal out of such a small situation. Well, I don’t think this is a small deal and I certainly have the right to share feel how I feel. Don’t fault the centre for the bad experience, I blame bad parenting for the big boys’ behavior. They clearly didn’t want to be there so why did their parents signed them up for it in the first place? You know what I think. I think their parents probably treated the centre as a dumping ground while they go run some errands. Sigh. I hope I don’t grow up to be like them.

pinhole 04
Xan not looking too pleased with his prints whereas his cousin was absolutely thrilled with his finished product.

Baking memories

I remember one particular morning when I was probably in K1 or K2, I woke up to the smell of pineapples simmering in a pot on the stove. I watched my mum and my Darjie (eldest sister) chatting, sweating, peeling and slicing countless pineapples in the kitchen. They spent the next few hours hovering over the huge pot, making sure the pineapple mixture doesn’t get burnt. looking back, it’s amazing how many pineapples you need for a few tubs of pineapple tarts. So what role did I play? I would popped in between television programmes to “help” make sure the pineapple paste was up to standard, maybe helped to roll a few small balls to decorate the tarts and sometimes egg wash the tarts before they pop the trays into the oven. Since I was too young to do very much, I mostly parked myself in the living room with my pal TeeVee.

Gradually over the years, all of us grew up, moved out, became busy with our lives and we stopped making the treats together. Getting everyone to have dinner together at the same time is already tough, baking treats is the last thing in everybody’s mind. Oh we still bake, just not together.

Last year, I asked my favourite niece if she wanted to come to my house to make some pineapple tarts with me since she said she had some experience with my Darjie some time ago. We had a really good time nudging each other out of the way in my tiny kitchen and managed to whip up a few tins of goodies of acceptable quality.

This year I wanted to attempt to make some on my own because I thought my niece would be busy with her projects and I didn’t want to bother her. Not difficult to make mah. I even bought a small gridiron to use with my Happycall pan. Yah! You can make pineapple tarts with a HCP you know? Cool right? But then the HCP is so small, I figured I bake until the next day or break my back also cannot bake finish so I ditched the idea for another day. So anyway, Darjie suggested since she was also interested to do some baking, why not head over to her place and use her spanking new appliances instead? While we were there, if the younger kids get bored, her kids can help to entertain them. Brilliant idea!

Xan was excited to be able to help make the treats this year and insisted we make the chocolate rice crispies again and so we did with a few improvements. We used some fancy sprinkles this time. Not bad huh?

It’s not that I don’t want to share our recipe with you. I found that all the recipes on the internet were essentially the same with a few variations here and there. We adapted one but made several changes like omitting sugar in the dough, increasing the measurement for the flour, etc. Darjie didn’t measure anything, everything was done by “feel”. Darjie said “Ah Ma (grandmother) made the best nonya style pineapple tarts and she made them from memory never a recipe book. She always measure everything by hand and all her tarts always come out perfectly buttery and never dry. If she feels the dough texture doesn’t feel right, she will scold us and make us throw the entire batch out because she doesn’t like to waste time on substandard quality.” Phuwah! Scary mary… We tried to mimic her pastry recipe but with store bought pineapple filling because it was just so much easier that way. Thankfully it turned out great. SLURP!

Here are some simple recipes you can try: – Open Face Pineapple Tart

Bake King – Nonya Pineapple Tarts

Beanie N Us - Pineapple Tarts

The little ones got bored waiting for the tarts to be ready so they took a quick dip in the pool with the other cousins. As soon as he was dry enough, Xan climbed back up to the counter to continue to help us.

Since everything was either too hot or too messy for the boy, he was given the great responsibility of pasting the stickers onto all the containers. Very important step you know?

We couldn’t finish baking everything in one day so we went back to my sister’s place the next day to continue. This time we went prepared with an apron for Xan but he was more interested in swimming than baking that day. Can’t blame him, it was really hot and humid that day.

The whole point of the 2 days to me (and my sister) wasn’t about baking the treats or how good they tasted. My sis spent the most time doing the baking since my bad back didn’t allow me to stand or bend over for too long. It was the precious family bonding time we had while rolling and moulding the pastries. I was never close to Ah Ma (she passed away when I was 9) so the stories my mum and sister share with me about the time they spent with her before I was born are very special. My memory of Ah Ma has always been that angry face whenever I *ahem* smack her favourite grandson around.

Nothing beats homemade goodies and gossips with family. I hope we do this every year.


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