The appreciation ceremony for Malaysian teams in international competitions was held in Education Ministry office in Putrajaya two weeks ago. It had been postponed for more than a month from the tentative date of 6th Feb, but it came eventually. And we savoured this complete reunion: I promised myself that I must meet Shazryl (and the other 4) one day and I did it without real effort!
Here goes the ceremony: Yi Kye called a taxi and we traveled there. Just when we entered Putrajaya, the cabby and we were nonplussed by its convoluted nature, with galore of roundabouts and junctions, which misled us into another MoE building before knowing that we already pasted our desired destination. As we were gazing every signboard along our way in searching for Precinct 1, my high school principal asked me where was I through my mother. Speechless, I could only say “give me time, we were doing fine with the signboard and will be arriving soon!” But fine, we arrived just before the VIPs entered. I settled down, beseeching someone to make knot tie for me, and, sigh!–the anxiety was all resolved!
After some protocol our names were called, and we were to receive our certificates with our principals. When I look at it, hey! Chung Ling Butterworth has a gold medal and a HM in IMO 2014! Seemingly amusing at the first sight, “hey, our alma mater deserves something for the contribution of raising us through education!”
The ceremony ended precipitously, and we had our food heartily. Especially interesting was the meeting with Ze Kai, my senior in college who won an HM in IChO last year. We discussed about what’s peculiar about our common Physics teacher, when he suddenly exclaimed “oh you are the one whose paper was marked by me under request!” Likewise, Zi Song depicted handout on math Olympiad written by Evan Chen (IMO 2014 Gold Medalist: 36 points!) with awe, and Justin expressed bemusement when he arrived at 12:30pm at the almost vacant hall.
This was suddenly called for a halt when we were requested to have our group photo taken.
Zi Song and Kin Aun were in the rush to return via transport provided the state Educational Department, which left 4 of us to had our extended chatting session. It’s really inconceivable for outsiders on how Justin, Yi Kye and I can still chat continuously even after our meeting in APMO camp. But this time the topic isn’t that lighthearted; this was overshadowed by the impending mock exams for three of us. I could feel the stress when Justin told me how he needed to take 13 papers for coming AS exams, and how KYUEM students studied like workaholic every single moment available for this exam. How could I be slacking then? (note: Si Yu and 4 of us were invited to take part in APMO; all except Shazryl turned up).
All ended when Justin’s transport arrived at 5:30pm.
Believe me. 8 months have well pasted but I still dwell those 4 years of IMO life. Not just for the achievement of gold, silver, bronze, etc, but for a motley of factors. I missed the moments when we were conflated as a team; I missed the moments when we complained how hard a problem was and was astounded when we saw an insightful approach into it; I missed the moments when we competed on games, broke numerous high scores and jeered at others for inferior achievements; I missed the moments when we were together, exploring the beauty of every city and tourism spots and say “if only we can see this in Malaysia!” during IMO excursions; I missed the moments when we were on stage for opening ceremony as a team of six, waving flags with sheen on our face. Whatever moments in IMO, I missed them. And these are thing we could do as teenagers: we had all the vigour to conquer these challenges and enjoy life to the maximum with our friends.
This feeling was recently provoked again when I sat for my Statistics and Physics papers for AS mock exam, for they were in the enormous exam hall in Sunway University New Building (NUB), gradually opened to public since early March. It was initially underwhelming when I first visited: the stressful ambiance with chairs and tables perfectly coordinated in exam undermined my anticipation of being able to take an exam in a new building. However, the sudden surge of IMO nostalgia was evoked when I saw it analogous with that in IMO 2012/2013: schools of candidates discussing concepts before entering the hall, waiting for invigilators’ instruction to start and end, and sharing how well they had done for the paper (or lamenting for poor performance). Absent from the IMO atmosphere was the bond, the Malaysian team bond which was peculiar to just 6 of us; the Malaysian team bond that held us from averting our attention away, at least before we finally socialized with our friends. Everyone’s performance mattered to anyone of us, as every work they did contributed to our overall ranking. We even bantered by holding others’ attention when a returning top participant passed by, and second-guessed that he/she may get a 42 that year (in some cases, yes, the speculation materialized). How could this school exam reproduce that memories?
How about tribute to our IMO team leader and deputy leader? Among trainers, only they acted as our guardians and close friends at the same time. After we melded as a complete delegation, their words were no longer didactic as compared with when they gave speeches before 60 students. There was, therefore, virtually no limit on scopes of our discussions, which explains why I was elated upon meeting them after Day 2 of IMO: I rushed into Mr. Suhaimi and Mr. Iqbal last IMO once I met them strolling in front of me, and we dumped into long-winded discussion at the similar time frame in IMO 2013.
I particularly remembered a quote on Instagram by one of my friends: “buddies aren’t necessary those you wish to meet everyday, but those you will appreciate and treasure for every moment of meeting”. Thanks to everything that made 6 of us convened again after months of severance.