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31 bodies in immaculate white uniforms snapped smartly to attention, sitting rigidly in their seats. 29 cadets with faces unsure of how this person standing in front of them would be - strict, rigid, disciplined?... or relaxed, easy-going, and a slacker for the rules? The 2 officers among them looked cool and unaffected.
I walked briskly but surely to the table at the front of the room, put my things down, and faced the class.
The cadet-in-charge for the day got up from her seat and walked smartly in my direction. Upon reaching the spot exactly half a metre from me she halted and snapped to attention.
"Assalamualaikum sir!" She said in a clear, clipped voice. "29 cadets and 2 officers reporting for duty, requesting permission to carry on, sir!"
As if by imprinted on a cellular level, my body responded almost automatically through half-remembered gestures and nuances.I was transported to another place, and another time, where instead of clean white uniforms, I saw the dark blue uniforms of the cadets of the Royal Malaysian Police...
I realised I too was standing at attention.
"Carry on" I responded, also speaking in clear, clipped tones.
This was going to be interesting... Teaching English to Officer Cadets of the Royal Navy.