15 January 2019, 5:03pm

 

It was very seldom that a typical East-dweller like myself would venture to this side of Singapore, more so for a future that had yet to show any semblance of becoming a reality. Still, there was never any harm in trying, and if anything, the free goodie bag could provide me with some consolation, or compensation for the MRT fare at the very least.

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Not expecting much, I stepped out of the MRT into Tan Kah Kee Station, and wandered up the stairs toward the commonly dubbed “elite institution at Bukit Timah”. There were hoards of people surrounding me, all bright-eyed and nervously excited, each bearing a unique set of hopes and aspirations. We were all different, but somehow these differences converged at this common destination called “Hwa Chong”.

As I walked through the turnstiles, I was immediately greeted by a cheerful Mobile Usher who brought me to the registration booth. There, I received the object of the day’s visit — the goodie bag — and quickly rummaged through for the coupons I had been so eager to receive.

“Hey there! Welcome to Hwa Chong! I’m Kelly and I’ll be more than glad to show you around!” Instinctively, I turned toward the source of this cheery greeting. To my right was a girl with rather distinctive bangs and one of the brightest smiles I had ever seen. I scarcely managed to mumble a breathy “hey! sure” before she led me and a group of other prospective students forward.

As I trailed behind her like a newly graduated fledgling, approaching what she called the “Central Plaza”, my lips parted, making way for an audible gasp. There was so much beauty, so much effort poured into each and every one of the banners hung up on both sides of the Central Plaza, and collectively, they painted a breathtaking image of hard work and dedication, in every shade and hue. And the ground — oh, the ground — was a sight to behold, with numerous coloured orbs yielding and halting to the rhythm of the wind. Fascinated, I looked up, squinting and subsequently raising one hand to shield my eyes from the dazzling sunlight. In my somewhat limited vision, I could find myself admiring a huge web that spanned across both “wings” of the building, and attached to it, large brightly-coloured circles made of cellophane.

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As I took in the spectacle that is the Central Plaza, I saw a group of brightly coloured performers on stage, and resolved to return for the performances right after the tour. As we turned to face the huge space flanked by two pillars doused in the loveliest shade of muted orange, a huge banner with the most ethereal qualities sprang into view. The streams of water from the fountain right before it rose and fell, forming smooth arcs and bows, making the view even more magnificent than it already was. At both sides of the fountain were numerous cardboard cutouts of clouds, which gave the fountain an otherworldly quality.

Eventually, Kelly brought the group of us back to the cafe. With the tour over and all my doubts clarified (thanks to Kelly!), I decided to return to the Central Plaza to take a look at the ongoing performances. Upon reaching the Central Plaza, I was greeted by enthusiastic cheers of “Apollo! Apollo!”, and instantly recognised the name as one of the 4 faculties in the school — as Kelly had so helpfully introduced just now. Right as I took a seat near the front of the stage, the performers launched into a high-octane and highly coordinated dance routine that kept my eyes glued to the stage the entire time. Eventually, they made their way off the stage in accompaniment with rapturous applause, their positions taken over by the representatives from Athena. The other 3 faculties were not to be overshadowed by Apollo’s performance either, as Ares showed off their unparalleled tutting skills in full synchrony, Artemis showed their prowess with incredible harmony while Athena wowed the audience with their intricate dance moves. Next, the Students’ Council presented an interesting and humorous dance that the rest of the student body seemed to be familiar with, as a few even started to mirror the actions of the councillors on stage. In between performances, I noticed a colourful backdrop that contained all the best parts of the banner I had seen earlier. Every now and then, visitors gathered before the backdrop to take photos.

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Soon, the Council’s performance ended, marking the beginning of the intermission. Just as I was about to visit the CCA stalls, I was distracted by a swarm of people clad in black shirts and heavy makeup, who brought a flash mob to life in the middle of the Central Plaza. After standing there transfixed throughout the entire intermission, I finally managed to regain the use of my limbs and my hands moved feebly to meet each other, producing sounds of applause not half as proportionate to the rigour of the performance.

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As the crowd dissipated, I was able to catch a glimpse of the fountain at the back of the Central Plaza once more. Once again, I stood awestruck as hundreds of other visitors manoeuvred their way around me. For a moment, it was just me, the gentle breeze and the dreamlike quality of the whole scene. After gathering my thoughts, I approached the student standing at the side of the fountain (presumably in an attempt to guard it against overzealous children and prying hands) for a photo, and she cheerfully obliged.

After a quick visit to the various CCA booths around the school, where I was overwhelmed by the variety of CCAs on display, as well as the level of dedication displayed by each and every CCA member, I began to head home. There were all sorts of questions running through my mind: what CCA to join, what subject combi to take, or whether I should join one of the special programmes……

But there was one thing I knew for sure — Hwa Chong was going to be my next destination.

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