It was the first week of the new school year in a new school, when 16/17 year olds fresh from the too short December holidays arrive in the JC/junior college/senior high school of their choice. The first few weeks for freshmen in JC is an interesting and truly colourful time – you get to meet people from different secondary schools still wearing their old uniforms in all kinds of styles and colours (official posting to the JCs of your ranked choices still hinges on the release of the official O-level results, which used to be later in Feb I remember, so freshmen will continue to wear their old uniforms until then).
And especially for boys who had been institutionalized for four long years in monkish all-boys secondary schools, moving onto JC and the nirvana-like prospect of having female classmates…let’s just say we had been looking forward to it. And the first week of JC for freshmen was truly Fun Time, totally free from classes, being Orientation Week and filled with fun and games, your OG (orientation group) mates, OGLs (second-year seniors who act as your OG leaders, usually student councilors), all the different sports teams, clubs and societies with their carnivals, stands and demos to try and get you to join their clubs; and of course, Orientation Songs.
[But I remember my first week in the school of my choice, the affiliated RJC, was tinged with some doubts. While doing math/science in RJC was what I put down as my first choice, I was still holding onto the application forms for the Humanities Scholarship Programme, which I thought of pursuing at Hwa Chong Junior College. Truth be told, I was more than a little tired of the R-family schools, and relished the idea of making the ‘sacrilegious’ switch to our biggest rival school; and perhaps entertaining the thought of going one better than the old man – what better way than to go to his old alma mater and gunning for his old Top Student award there.
But while my English and Literature teachers were fully supportive and said I still had a chance to make the switch from math/science to take up the HSP within the first few months of JC, part of me was also loathe to give up the opportunity to continue with my SRP project. And the ‘piad training classes were always interesting.
In the end, I stuck with the devil I knew…sigh.
Orientation Week. It was GREAT. I don’t remember what the pudgy principal said during his welcome speech, but I remember everything else: our orientation groups divided into two camps based on the rather hackneyed but still fun Greeks vs Romans theme, with each OG named after either a Greek or Roman city (my OG was Pompeii); coming up with an OG mascot and totem pole, customized OG dressage we had to wear throughout the week while visiting all the different game stations; coming up with OG cheers we had to perform every 10 minutes, at every station or when we bump into an opposing Greek OG (to the beat of an imperious trumpeting herald or rather the Scooby Doo Puppy Power! cry: Pom-po-po-po-po-POOOOO!!! POMPEII POWER! … groan, was that the best we could come up with?!); our OG leader, a lanky netball senior with her name ANNI emblazoned across her black OGL cap; clubs and societies day, when all the different clubs laid out their wares and attractions, and where for the first time, I saw there were guys with much bigger and better physiques than the ruggers/rugby players and who moved with a quiet confidence and discipline very unlike the other swaggering jocks and lettermen and made me want to find out more about the canoeists/dragon boaters; the camp and campfire on the last night of O-week where the Greeks and the Romans finally came together to make peace and we sang our orientation songs and danced the orientation dance we had been practicing all week; and definitely not in the least, ahem…what else, the freshmen girls, in their dazzling myriad uniforms in various forms and hues…
And in the midst of all the hustle and bustle and rushing about from one activity to another throughout the week, the school hall was turned into the meeting and resting ground for all the OGs, divided into half between the Greeks and Romans like an ancient battleground, with each fighting tribe/city/OG having its own campgrounds where we piled our bags and stuff, and where we would retreat to for rests. And playing constantly over the speakers in the hall were our more than half a dozen orientation songs, chosen and prepared for us by the seniors in the Orientation Committee, which we were supposed to learn and sing by the end of the week.
One of the songs I will never forget for the rest of my life. It was playing over the speakers when I was taking a rest with my OG mates in the hall, the song If I Could by the band 1927. As I was slumped there, listening to the song, I suddenly caught sight of her, entering the hall, wearing her all-blue pinafore over a PE shirt, her long hair billowing and caught in the wind at the hall entrance and cascading over her face. I shot up straight and was instantly smitten. And that moment has been forever imprinted in my mind – her long hair flowing across her lovely face, the song and lyrics resounding in my head, my pounding heart and that strange fluttering in the stomach…
I have just met my Lin Yan-mei 蔺燕梅 for the first time.
1927 – If I Could:
If I could paint
I’d paint a portrait of you
The sunlight in your eyes a masterpiece of truth
And a single tear like a silent prayer
That’s shining so much brighter than a diamond ever dared
If I could do anything at all, I’d do it for you
If I could write
I’d write a book for you
A tale of hidden treasures with an I.O.U
And a million words couldn’t say a thing
That won’t be said in three words
Where love’s the central theme
If I could do anything at all, I’d do it for you
Darling can’t you see
What you mean to me
Anything that I can do I’ll do it for you
And darling don’t you know
Just how far I’d go
Anything that I can do, I’d do it for you
Sometimes I feel so second-rate
Seems loving you was my greatest mistake
I know I’m insecure
And love don’t keep score
But I wish I could give you more
If I could play
I’d play up a storm for you
A raging sea of passion that you never knew
Every whispered sound would touch your heart
And maybe for a moment I could be your favourite star
If I could do anything at all
If I could, I’d give you more
If I could do anything at all…..I’d do it for you
I would paint, write and play up a storm for her, I swore to myself…
Ahh, the passions of our youth.
The original MV of the song, If I Could:
The other big song on the orientation songlist:
Our orientation dance, to be performed to Martika’s I Feel The Earth Move: