The Duke of Edinburgh Award, aka the President’s Award, is a youth programme started in the UK in 1956 – and it should stay there. Maltese youth every year are forced to adorn rucksacks a quarter their body weight and lug them around the Maltese countryside.
They have to do three treks of 60km over three days, and a fourth trek of 80km over four days.
This is tantamount to torture in the first degree which is both illegal under international law as well as highly questionable ethically – at least, for any students who would rather be chilling at home rather than walking around in the heat.
Those that do go ahead and brave the elements to impress a man who has his own religion learn many things. Here are some of the things I learnt.
1. Maps are not your friend
You think you know how to read a map? Straightforward right? Get lost in the middle of the night in Mqabba and tell me how straightforward that shit is then.
2. Neither is the sun
“Walking in the sun is good for you” they said, as their skin began to peel away due to overexposure and high levels of UV in the air
3. Your back will hate you
I guess that’s why Maltese schoolchildren have such heavy bags – it’s to train them for the President’s Award.
4. And so will your friends by the end of it
You can fuck up the directions once. You can also spill the boiling water once.
Anything further, and you will be deemed deadweight and be left for the dogs.
5. No internet
This was about a decade ago, before the 3G revolution.
‘Dumbphones’ were as common as bad hairstyles.
This might not be the case anymore, but good luck getting a solid mobile reception in the middle of nowhere.
6. No amount of talcum powder will save you
You are officially imxawwat. Good luck.
7. You will learn what the term ‘perishable goods’ means
This will be you, except with all the food you brought
8. And you will get over your fear of bugs
At least after you swallow your fourth one
9. You will get a greater appreciation of our beautiful island though
Hey, there’s always a silver lining.