Found this slipped in between the pages of my journal/notebook which sad to say I treat very badly, although I write journal entries, prophecies people have given me, Bible verses, snippets of good writing from novels and food recipes in it. I even have one page I use for writing practice with my left hand. I’m serious. I used to want to be ambidextrous. It’s no longer high on my ‘goal list’ now.
I wrote the following in Langkawi during math camp, a few hours before I left for Greece. I was 15. I think it’s kinda funny and heart warming, so I’m gonna put it up here. I had a lot of time, there was a typewriter in the hotel meeting room–I wanted to try it out–and soon I finished writing my reflections…
It is two thirty five in the afternoon and I am sitting in class for the last time. A smile appears on my face as I reminisce about toy guns, water bombs, and all the silly stuff we’ve been doing over the past week. Indeed, this is the youngest International Math Olympiad team Malaysia has ever had. As I look back, the training I had dreaded so much has turned out to be a memorable time for me.
“Tolong derma sikit! Saya ada sebelah tangan sahaja!” Jack* rattles on and on as he hobbles around the classroom, one arm slipped inside his shirt. The Malay guys follow suit. I wonder if acting has anything to do with math. I suddenly remember how much I disliked him few months ago. Cynical, sarcastic, always complaining and fretting, I thought having him in the team would be such a pain. But it’s really surprising how my view about him has changed completely. I guess everyone has their own antics and we just have to accept their uniqueness.
A head pops through the door. It is Weijian with a senapang in hand. I thought he really looked like a kindergarten kid! Together with the gang, they have bought 4 pistols and 1 senapang to date. “Jangan bergurau lagi! Siapa bergurau, saya tembak!” says Weijian with a stern look on his face. Zul laughs out loud. “Bang!” A red dart flies across the classroom and hits Zul in his face. Now everyone is laughing. More darts are fired. Darren shakes his head. And then a dart lands near to him. He examines it. “Hey! It can stick to the table ya? This is cool!” Amazing. Five minutes ago, he just commented on how childish they were. Now, he himself is examining the dart! By this time, I am already having a stomachache!
The next class, the pistols and senapangs were confiscated by Darren. They had no choice but to obey (very reluctantly, I might add). OK, no more toys. Now what? Zul reads the question on the board (edit: it must’ve required us to prove something, just like proving the Pythagoras Theorem, or proving all even numbers can be divided by two–and no, giving examples doesn’t constitute proof). “What is there to prove? It’s obvious!” he exclaims. We now have Zul’s Principle–Everything is obvious. I know this is stupid, but sometimes when everyone is stuck, I just cannot help but wish Zul’s Principle is true.
Going through mind-boggling questions everyday is no easy task. Darren groans in frustration when we still do not understand his explanation for the millionth time. Weijian, Farzan and Zul give up and resort to shooting darts again. There is a new addition to their arsenal–a ping pong ball and two bats. I sigh. No wonder we never do well in the IMO!
Enough about playing the fool, I also contemplate about the outstanding qualities present in my teammates. Darren, for one, really makes me look up to him. Early in the morning each day, he would isolate himself in a quiet place to pray and ponder about the Word of God. I will never forget the incident where a few hotel guests wanted to call the police after seeing him perched on the balcony of the top floor. They thought he was contemplating suicide!
(edit: Darren went on to win a bronze medal that year. I remember being SO proud to see him walk on stage with our Malaysian flag to receive his medal. It was an overwhelmingly emotional closing ceremony for me to see the creme de la creme from so many different cultures and nations on that stage. Perhaps I’ll tell my story about Greece some other time.)
These people leave me in awe of how unique and diverse God’s creation of personalities are to do great works for Him. Darren shared with me about how he has been communicating with mathematicians in the States and he said God is raising up Christians to impact the mathematical world which is the foundation of all sciences. I now leave with a mind more open and a heart more appreciative of the creation of my maker.
As I write this, I wonder if I will ever come back for a camp like this. There were lonely, difficult, and tiring moments, but the satisfaction and the knowledge gained were certainly worthwhile. Of course, I will not mind watching another gun-shooting match between my friends!
Sidenote: We were ordered by security to ditch our toy guns before boarding our flight–the longest flight I’ve taken to date.
* Name changed