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Keep on walking, baby.

 

“12 May 2001 heralded the dawn of a special event for Penang Free School. The Grand Old Lady had organized a fund-raising walkathon for none other than the benefit of the school…wait, everyone in the school.”

When World War I broke out, Field Marshal Sir John French, commander of the British Expeditionary Force shared the then-common view that the “War to end All Wars” would be “all over by Christmas”. Lord Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of War, who foresaw that the struggle would be a long one, fiercely opposed him.

Nearly five long bloody Christmases later, the Great War was finally over. For most of the protracted struggle in Europe, it was a game of waiting with mud-splattered, fatigued, exhausted or simply bored-to-death foot infantry sitting in trenches, not daring to go “over the top”; yet nearly driven mad by the seemingly endless waiting.

Wait a minute, where am I? Oh my god, it’s May 2001! Was I dreaming, or just wondering? Anyway, 12 May 2001 heralded the dawn of a special event for Penang Free School. The Grand Old Lady had organized a fund-raising walkathon for none other than the benefit of the school…wait, everyone in the school.

Come 7 am, having been forced to interrupt our beauty slumber earlier than usual on a Saturday, we were waiting for our attendance to be taken. At 7.30 am, we proceeded to the school field and gathered in front of the pavilion. We were organized into groups that were Girls, Class 3, Class 2 and Class 1. Ir Zulkifli Ahmad, the Chairman of Free School’s Parent-Teacher Association (PIBG) who looked cool in his cowboy hat and lively yellow outfit then delivered a thankfully short opening speech. Y.B. Dato’ Syed Aidid Syed Murtaza then officiated the Walkathon.

Ir Zulkifli flagged the Girls and Class 3 (not fair!) off first. Class 2 and Class 1 followed suit. The route was hardly anything to speak of. Three-quarters of a round of the field, down Jalan Lim Lean Teng, Jalan Terengganu, Jalan Free School and we were back again. The early arrivals and the brisk walkers lingered around for the others to catch up. Many a student hardly raised a sweat, though.

The long-awaited, abundantly sponsored lucky draw saw numerous numbers being drawn, announced and either answered or rejected. Various prizes from towels to hampers to a camping set awaited the fortunate students and teachers, not including the special prizes for the class and individual who collected the most money. In twelve suspense-laden rounds, the students degenerated from enthusiastic to just plain tired, thronging the pavilion steps, seeking refuge from the scorching sun. Finally, after two hours fifteen minutes, the school anthem played. Relief was in the air.

The Walkathon had successfully raised over RM20000 for the school. Ah well, some brisk exercise is good for those stiffened muscles and bones that result from sitting down too long. I hear the afternoon siesta calling. All quiet on the western front.

Neoh Joon Kee

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