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Phuket Life: Young scribes come of age



PHUKET: Koji Maehara is a rare gem. Born in Tokyo on December 26, 2000 to parents who are both Japanese and non-native English speakers, he was taught to speak English before he learned Japanese.

Although his mum does speak English as a second language, he usually speaks Japanese with her at home, but always English with his brother.

His proficiency in English has since grown in leaps and bounds, and he recently won a short-story writing competition at his school, the British International School, Phuket (BIS).

Little did his teachers know what glory would become of his essay, meekly titled The Lonely Potato. Koji’s story placed third in the overall final of the primary school category of the Federation of British International Schools in South East Asia (FOBISSEA) short-story writing competition.

Young Koji, who joined BIS in Year 4, when he was eight years old, explained that his inspiration for the imaginative story struck him while “messing around with a friend.”

“I really enjoy being able to write in detail about something that doesn’t have much to describe. That way I can write about fewer things, but in a lot more detail,” he says.

“I felt weird writing about something that had no feelings as if it did have feelings!” he adds.

As with many great writers in their early years, young Koji felt a sense of accomplishment on finishing his story, but felt awkward about it being read in public.

“I felt happy when it was finished, but I was also embarrassed because I didn’t want anyone to read it! But now I am very proud though!” he explains.

Like most good-quality pieces of writing, Koji’s work took time. “It took two weeks of literacy periods at school, which meant a total of three to four hours working on my story.

“I also spent a lot of time checking words, by using dictionaries and thesauruses. I did a lot of this in my own time and in class,” he says.

As for winning his award, he said, “I am really happy and proud for my mum. She really wanted me to study in a British School.”

Here’s Koji’s story.

The Lonely Potato by Koji Maehara
In the silent kitchen with no movement, there was a food basket. In that basket, sat a lonely egg shaped vegetable. He lay absolutely still, fitting in with the motionless surroundings, waiting to be admired. The marvelous thought of being tasted and the pleasant sounds of people’s joy when appetizing food went into someone’s mouth were irresistible.

He had seen his friends (The same kind of vegetable as him) taken to the dining table and them smiling with happiness as they entered pupils mouths. The UMMMMM’S!!!! And the AHHHHH’S!!!!! The people that just ate them were licking their lips to taste the leftovers of the flavoursome food that had just gone down their throats.

But, the fabulous thought of this made him feel more and more jealous. Every time another vegetable that was not him was taken out of the vegetable basket to be eaten, it felt like an arrow was shot right through him, and the pain would last for a millennia. Then, his hopes would sink down lower into his body and he would feel as though it would fall out of his body and he would have no feelings.

As the long and dull days past, he felt like he was trapped in a film that was playing on the TV and the person that was watching the movie held down on the slow-motion button. Everyday just felt like a waste of time for him, just sitting there in a place where no one needed him. He would ask himself “Why am I here” and would repeat it over and over again.

And on top of all this, he knew that he couldn’t stay in a healthy condition for long and that he would start to rot. Then, slowly his skin would turn moldy and wave after wave appalling smells would contaminate the air. People would never touch him if that happened!

After another dreadful day, the sun came up from nowhere and the amazing light that it provides shone right through the window to mark the early morning. He looked around him and then he saw nothing! There were no vegetables except for him. The family would have to use him for their meal now!

Waiting for the meal that he was going to be included in was the last thing he wanted to do right now. Then, the sounds of people entered the kitchen room and shadows lay down across the patio floor. After that, instantly groups of people followed each one of them. Foot by foot, they trotted towards the dining table. Oh! I wish this meal was the last one in the day! I can experience something that I was meant to live for!

When the dishes were being cleaned and the table was clear of plates, the family happily walked out of the kitchen. He was so excited he couldn’t control himself. He started jumping around in circles (Well, that’s what he thought he was doing. Vegetables don’t have legs so how can they jump???)

WOOSH! An arm wiped him out of the basket and he soared through the air. He whizzed down to the ground. His body split apart in two halves. Yellow mushy squirted out from the inside. He knew he was finished. His heart broke apart as well.

“Oh look. A potato on the floor,” a voice said.

‘Child soldiers’ right on target

When a 14-year-old writes about child soldiers in Sierra Leone, it tends to have an impact. Claudia Martin’s short story had precisely that effect. Her story Astray reached the overall final of the secondary FOBISSEA short-story writing competition.

“I have a passion for writing anyway, but I was studying the theme of child soldiers in English class and I was really moved by it. I felt I had to write something about it,” she said.

Different stories take different strokes, and Claudia wrote her piece in just three hours. “But the research was roughly half a term’s theme and I had to read books on the subject as part of class,” she explained.

As for winning the award: “I certainly didn’t expect it and I am very proud of it. My parents think it is great and they are very proud, too.”

ASTRAY by Claudia Martin
I stand amidst a screaming crowd in a Sierra-Leone village, my face smeared with dirt and blood. I aim. Fire. A figure collapses. Blood blossoms on the white shirt like a crimson rose. I am not alone. Around me stands a collection of others, all dressed like me in camouflage. I aim. Fire. I am ten years old.

I aim.

The man cries, “Please…”


I step over the body. Screams pierce the air. Scarlet pools gather in the mud. Bodies litter the ground in haphazard heaps.

A woman staggers in front of me. She clutches her stomach. Blood pulses through her fingers. She cries. Agony. It ends abruptly when a bullet embeds itself in her skull.
I pause. Look at the corpse on the ground, limbs splayed at angles.

For a moment, I see the face of my mother. My mother would cradle me in her warm arms, croon lullabies into my ear. I shake it away. That was before they came with their guns. Killed my parents. Took me away.

I remember my journey to the camp, the sullen color of the sky, the never ending downpour. I had cried then, letting my salty tears mingle with the fresh rain that showered upon my face.

The camp was a waking nightmare. Violence suffocated me. I learned to aim. Fire. I learned to see the world as targets. The drugs, they helped. They were my escape. Numb.

I shake my head. I see the fear in someone’s eyes. A mother clutches the dead body of her child. She wails her misery to the heavens.

Have I done this?

There is a gun in my hand.

Tension hangs thick in the air, even the birds that usually sing in the shade of the Jackal berry trees have ceased to do so. This village should be filled with the sounds of laughter, of cicadas chirping in the gl


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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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