Fri, Jan 22, 2010
The Straits Times
Simple pleasures

By Eisen Teo

LL kids can understand obsessions with MapleStory or skateboarding. But stamp collecting? Bird watching? Military modelling?

What is that?

Related link:
» Miniature General
» The self-taught birdwatcher
» Heir to a stamp fortune

It is the question that youngsters are apt to get from their peers about their "old man hobby". The number of teenagers into these solitary, painstaking pursuits may be dwindling but the ones unearthed by IN would have you know that they are not bespectacled nerds or aloof elitists. Their uncommon interests stem from common traits: A keen interest in nature or the world at large.

"Nature entertains and captivates me," said bird watcher Lau Jia sheng, 18, a recent graduate of Pioneer Junior College, who also dives, snorkels and swims.

These teens, like their friends, are into other pursuits as well, like basketball, reading and, yes, computer games. Said stamp collector Benny Cheong, 15, from Hwa Chong Institution: "Stamp collecting is just another hobby for me."

It is an interest that will need more youths like Benny to keep it going. The Kreta Ayer Stamp Society, one of three stamp collectors' associations here, has 500 members but their average age is 45. Their youngest and only teen member is 11-year-old Johnson Chang.

Shops selling models of military ships, tanks and planes aren't doing so well either.

Out of half a dozen outlets here, four reported declines in sales between 10 per cent and 75 per cent over the last five years.

The Nature Society (Singapore) and the Bird Ecology Study Group do not keep track of bird watchers, but senior members agree that young bird watchers are few and far between.

Fortunately, some youths are trying to stoke the dying embers. Stamp collector Soh Jie Qi, 18, from Hwa Chong Institution, formed a stamp society in his school two years ago to promote the hobby.

His club now has 46 members.

Military modeller Jonathan Liautrakul, 20, is interested in setting up a club for like-minded hobbyists when he matriculates at the National University of Singapore next year.

Jia sheng, however, is nonchalant about peers dissing his hobby. "Time will tell whether bird-watching is a good hobby," was his cryptic answer.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

  Simple pleasures
  A 'new deal' for teachers, school staff
  NUS law dean term extended
  School-less girl wants to be a cop
  Furious mum slaps teacher
  Blaze at unlicensed kindergarten kills infant
  357 new teachers graduate
  Why have extra lessons after school hours?
  SMU appoints old S'pore hand as new president
  More than just jobs the grads get