Saturday 25 July 2015

Taking on the Varsity Cycling Challenge

by Imran Ahmad Azhar, Form 5 Science 1, Class of 2015.
All photos taken by Encik Fairuz

The Sepang International Circuit has been regarded as the beloved home of motorsport in Malaysia. It is where the ‘big’ races happen in our country. It plays host to the Malaysian Grand Prix for Formula 1 and MotoGP, as well as other major racing events such as the Superbike World Championship and the Sepang 12 Hours. But on the 17th of May 2015, the track was the host, not for a motor-sport event, but the annual Varsity Cycling Challenge.

Our very own Cempaka Schools, mostly thanks to Mr Edwin Wong and Dr Rizal, was able to assemble a team consisting of both students and staff, to compete in this gruesome event. The riders had to to complete a lengthy distance of up to 50km, which is equivalent to 9 laps of the Sepang Circuit. From our group of Cempakans, Team Cempaka was represented by Gabriel Omar Dzukifly, Carson Lai Chia Won Han, Danial bin Ahmad Azhar and Imran bin Ahmad Azhar. From the Cempaka Staff, we had Mr. Devendran, Mr. Jovial Chan, Mr Chew, En. Fairuz, Mr. Leong Koon Wah, En Ezuan, Mr Edwin Wong and our highly respected Dr. Rizal.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning when the riders busy warming up and setting up their bikes for the event. The wind was fine, a few scattered clouds, and the sun was shining to top off the typical Malaysian weather. For many, it was their first experience to be on a Grand Prix circuit. The track, which was unusually quiet due to the absence of the roaring petrol engines around the track, was instead filled with riders of all ages eager to take part in the challenge.

At exactly 9 am, all riders from all categories had lined up together on a mass start behind a pace car. The first lap was a neutral lap, in which, all riders had to follow the pace car across 1 lap of the circuit, and are not allowed to overtake it. It was an amazing scene to see riders jumbling up behind the pace car at such close proximity. After one lap behind the pace car, the riders were set off, pedalling their bikes at racing speed. The fastest riders formed their own peloton, while others who felt they couldn't deal with their immense pace, rode at their own pace in order for them to make the distance. The leading peloton, formed by a group of trained young riders, lapped the circuit at an outstanding pace, lapping the slower riders left, right and centre after the second lap!

As the hour mark kicked in, most riders have already settled to their own pace. For most of us representing Cempaka, there was no eagerness for any of us to go fast as our main target was to complete the distance. It looked to be an easy ride until the end, but that changed when the rain came. It wasn’t just a slight drizzle, it was a massive downpour! Not to mention, the wind was so extreme, it almost threw some of us off the bike! Riding in the rain was not as easy as it sounds. Firstly, visibility was decreased drastically to about whopping 100 metres. Next, the droplets of rain that hit your body can feel like you’ve been constantly shot by paintballs. Many of us couldn’t even look forward because the rain drops would hit our faces and even our eyes. Other than that, the track was filled with standing water which made riding considerably slower and made it dangerous in the corners as it was extremely slippery. All around the track, many riders have taken a tumble or two in the wet conditions.

After enduring the long 50 kilometre ride and braving the gruesome conditions, the Cempaka Cycle Team managed to complete the distance within the given time limit. It was an amazing achievement from everyone within the team considering for most of us, it was our first competitive cycling event. This event marks one of the first competitive events for Cempaka Cycle, and possibly opening the doors for many more cyclists within the Cempaka community to participate in more upcoming cycling events.

“Bicycling is a big part of the future. It has to be. There’s something wrong with a society that drives a car to workout in a gym.” – Bill Nye

Sunday 19 July 2015

Special Assembly: Hari Raya Celebration

by Emma Lim Su Mei, Junior 2 Higgs, Class of 2015

The long wait is finally over. A week full of mouth watering food, fabulous Raya clothing and precious moments with family and friends has finally arrived. Just what everyone needed after the exam week stress that has been radiating around school and the gruelling exam preparation the seniors have been enduring for the longest time, no? Of course, the wondrous occasion called for a celebration, all done up in a traditional Cempaka style assembly. A proper holiday celebration just wouldn’t be the same without the mandatory formal assemblies full of exciting performances and riveting speeches. 

All dressed in traditional clothing, the students were sat in the hall in anticipation of the show to come. Our competent emcees kicked off the assembly introducing the first performance - a poetry citation done tastefully by the Primary students. Typically, poetry citations don’t keep the crowd interested, but the enthusiasm portrayed definitely put us in the holiday spirit. The verses in their poem spoke of the Raya festivities that are celebrated every year. All in all, they did a good job at setting the mood for the day.

A throwback to Cempaka's International Understanding day, the Sophomore 2 girls came out on stage with a well choreographed dance number. For those who didn’t attend the event held in school the previous Saturday, this dance provided a glimpse of what they had missed. It was a blend of traditional and modern, which definitely couldn’t have been an easy task. However these girls definitely mastered it to the best of their abilities, leading to the most elegant yet heart racing performance of the day.

Next up was probably the most memorable performance of the assembly. Rarely do we ever get the chance to see our very own teachers grace the stage. Encik Izad and Miss Sha started by playing some traditional instruments, followed by Coach Shahar and Puan Julia on lead vocals. Who knew that in addition to scolding rebellious PE students, Coach had a hidden talent. The back up dancers - Encik Shaik and Puan Zuraida, were not overlooked as well, swaying to the music, their wide smiles instantly brightening the hall.

Soon following their performance, the teachers were replaced by the Freshman dance ensemble, performing a plucky and spirited number. Though their talents could not match up to the girls who had amazed the crowd before, they showed great promise and at such young ages, there is no where but up for them. Improvement is to be expected and I’m sure they are more than capable of dazzling us next time around. 

Though they’ve made comments of their lack of practice, the Junior 2 and Form 5 students gave us their own rendition of a Malay song. Accompanied by the cajon and guitar, the quadruplet certainly seemed like they were having a great time on stage. They were no strangers to the spotlight as individually or as a group, they’ve performed numerous times during school events in the past. 

Last but not least, the Junior Cempaka Voices ended the show with a bang as they sung their uplifting Hari Raya song. The vocal ensemble has always been a crowd pleaser since the members consist of some of our youngest, yet most spirited Cempakans.

Instead of closing the assembly with Dato Freida’s address, students were invited on stage for a singalong with the principals, teachers, even Dato herself. Many danced and sang to the Lagu Raya that was playing, ending the assembly on a very happy note.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Throwback: Kelantan Trip 2015

by Lee Ting An, Junior 2 Higgs, Class of 2015,

The states of Malaysia live at the constant whims of mother nature. Often, there is endless heat with bright sunshine and scorching temperatures, and you’ll see kids coming back from the ‘padang’ after their football games brown and burnt. This year, we were instead met with a colossal amount of rainfall, which eventually led to one of the worst, most devastating floods in the history of Malaysia.

With mud levels up to the waist, houses wrecked and their daily lives rather suddenly torn apart, the people of Kelantan - among one of the places which was hit the hardest - found themselves in desperate need of aid. While flood relief centres helped to supply basic needs like drinking water and food, they could only do so much, and were short-supplied and equally short-handed. Cempaka Schools leapt to the opportunity, and held a massive donation drive where we collected not only food and water, but the things donors tend to overlook - items that would help them resume their normal, daily lives, such as toiletries like soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, sanitary pads, clothes, hangers, towels, exercise books and stationery, and other assorted household items.

This mammoth donation drive, with so many items to collect, sort, separate, package, and distribute, took an enormous amount of effort to get done. It took the entire Cempakan family of teachers and students alike several days to go through the entire process, but with a remarkable efficiency borne of teamwork and cooperation, we achieved it with time to spare.

In February, another team of teachers, students, and staff, sat through a 9 hour bus ride to Kelantan, to help lighten the load of those who had the misfortune to be caught in one of the worst floods of our time. Together with us we brought a lorry full of donated items, and the burning desire to help those in need. On the way we could already witness the devastation that the floods had caused: torn houses, buildings with roofs caved in, and the unmissable mark that mud waters left on walls, all of which was visible even from our bus.

The first challenge we faced was housing. Finding a place to sleep for a 50-odd group of people was not the easiest task, and I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of everyone from my school, to the thank the man and his family who allowed us to stay at his house. He selflessly gave us his house and food, and the 50 of us spent the night on sleeping bags on his comfortable floor.

The next morning, we were up by sunrise, and ready to bring what help we could to SMK Teriang, a school that was left completely ravaged by the flood. Tables, chairs, and several buildings were destroyed by the flood, and by the time we’d gotten there, they had already scrubbed the mud that reached up to their knees off their walls. The entire compound was dusty and had little furniture that had survived against the destructive power of the water. Our first priority was unloading the tables and chairs that we had brought from our own school compound, and
reassembling them with the tools that we’d brought.

While the teachers who were more competent with hammers and nails slowly changed a pile of wooden slabs and metal into tables, the students and other teachers organised themselves into groups and decided on a timetable and goals. We started off the day by painting the now dark brown walls of the school to a clean, refreshing, white. After scraping the dirt and dried mud off the walls, some of us put on the first coat of white while the rest cleaned, mopped, and tidied up the little school.

By afternoon, the first coat was dry, and the compound had gained the busy, bustling atmosphere of extremely efficient work. Everyone was running around, sweating heavily under the hot sun, all of us carrying a roller, brush, mop or broom, but we all had a smile on our faces. The face masks that we wore to stop us from breathing in the old paint that we scraped off the wall, along with our hair, were by now flecked with white paint. By now, the school’s students had joined us, and together with our combined efforts we managed to finish on schedule.

After putting four coats of paint, the entire school had a new, different look. We formed assembly lines and began passing tables, chairs and shelves to each class, and then arranged them according to a floor plan. The art teachers painted a massive mural on a wall, and the students began to happily sit at their new desks, some already deciding where they wanted to sit.

The next day, we said our goodbyes, and then left for home on another 10 hour long journey. We made several little pit stops along the way to witness the culture of Kelantan, taking a glimpse of the various markets that sold knick knacks and held little nuggets of a traditional civilisation that we’d left behind. We were all tired and weary, but I daresay that none of us would have missed it, and we will gladly go again, should the opportunity arise.

It was an enlightening experience to help someone in need, and see their eyes light up when they look at their new books. Or watch a dusty, murky school slowly transform into a new centre for learning and education. I felt privileged to be a part of this trip, as I believe I speak for everyone when I say that I learned, gained, and experienced so much. I’ve seen first hand the sheer grit that the people there show, waking up with a smile even after their lives have been destroyed, and I’ve learned that if you just bite your tongue and pull through that everything will turn out ok. I’ve seen proof that if you work hard enough, and work together, nothing is impossible - even transforming an entire school within one day! But the best lesson I learned is that often times, receiving something for yourself is great, but doing something for someone else, is much, much better.