Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sec 3 Resilience Camp 2012 - Reflections (#iamresilience2012)

Starting on the 16th of January 2012, the Sec 3s of Temasek Secondary School embarked on 5 day adventure cum resilience camp, far away from the oppidan landscape of Singapore into the boondocks of Pahang - "The Abode of Tranquility" and the third largest state in Malaysia. Having just gotten my Student Pass a few days back, this was something I was looking forward to, as a new arrival in Singapore. Since bloggers don't need a license to write, allow me to take you through a part of what the journey was for the 350-odd of us.

Remember? Quoting myself from my last blogpost, "My next blogpsot will be on what I expect to be a helluva weekend". This is it, albeit a fortnight tardy. 

The camp was on a grander scale than what I describe here. To start with, we were parceled out into 3 groups, each having a different adventure theme - Wilderness, Summit and Horizon. I was going out with the Summit group, and this was what I wanted in the first place. Let me give a brief outline of all the exciting things that we were to do in Malaysia. Just open the pics in a new window to read everything.

1. Horizon

2. Wilderness

3. Summit

Oh yeah, that IS my hand! :P

Just about a week before the week, we had our briefing as part of our weekly assembly. One video shown during part of the briefing both touches the depths of my emotions and motivates me. The embedded video below may not be the one, but it is definitely on the same person - Nick Vujicic.

Resilience is all about bouncing back stronger, overcoming your current situation and coming out as a new, bold and hardy individual. Its all about giving a positive reply to the taunt, "You cannot do this. You cannot do that." Can. And if you can, you are resilient. If you think you cannot do something, remember, there have been people who have been in the same situation as you before, and there is a high chance that they have done it.  If you cannot and you back out, then face this :

"If you voluntarily quit in the face of adversity, you'll wonder about it for the rest of your life." 

As you'll see later, this is what was running through my mind while descending a 80 foot surface back first, held only by ropes and the trust of my trainer. And I did it, although in an unprofessional way, but I landed. 
All this while I've been drifting here and there like a kite under the control of the wind. But, let's get back to the journey.

Skipping all unwanted details, we arrived at the Summit campsite at Jeram Basu, Malaysia after arriving a day after our peers had, because of a delay in processing our visa. Singaporeans don't need a visa, all thanks to their gaudy orange passport. Jeram Basu houses the Countryview Resort, famous for its aquatic activities and boasts of having the most challenging white water rafting course in the whole of Malaysia. 

Day 1
The Countryview Recreation Park at Jeram Besu

Flying Fox and River Crossing was our first activity on the first day
Imagine being suspended from ropes attached to our harness, standing on a platform on a tall tree. The instructor attaches you to the main line, and tells you to squat. Then, in pirate style, you walk the plank and let yourself drop down from the platform. Whoosh! You are now at the mercy of the ropes. In Olympic fashion, you complete a 100m in about 10 seconds, and before you know it, the instructors at the other bank stop you. Safe landing. Easy? No. Exhilarating? Hell Yeah. The glow on your face tells it all. The adrenalin rushing through your bodily system keeps you wide awake. Next challenge - go back to the other side again, only this time you need to cross a river, WITH a strong current. You only can propel yourself forward using a rope, stretched out from one end to the other. It took me about 2:30 minutes to get to the other side, and in the end, my back was aching so very much that I employed a back float manoeuvre and hobbled to the other end. Again, I would've never imagined doing these awesome things when I woke up that day, but, then, it was over. Time to move on.

After lunch, we had the Water Confident challenge. This was something I enjoyed - Swimming. It started quite easy, we had to float on our back from point A to B, and swim back to the shore. Then, we got a pleasant shock. Our instructors told us to jump, belly first into the raging rapids, swim as and where the rapid takes you and hope to swim back to the shore. Now, jumping belly first is not easy for rookies like us. There is an involuntary resistance imparted by the body which confuses you while performing such an action. Almost all of us struggled dealing with the rapids, but somehow, the rapids were kind enough, and carried us as if we were infants near the shore. Our cheerful instructions then threw in the floatation device, and we grabbed it as if it were ice-cream. Safe. Another adventure checked.

In the evening, we unpacked and dismantled out tents. Next in our itinerary were the Kota Gelanggi Caves, 150 million old and still going strong. Considered among the best caves for exploration, we had 5 specific caves to explore. Day 2 next.

Day 2

After a briefing and an exercise session, Day 2 saw us in an entirely different environment. We were living in a tent in a cave. In the midnight one could hear distinct sounds, those made by bats. In the morning, one would wake up to the damp smell of the cave. One had to even walk a 300 m to go to the toilets! The first activity was Abseiling. Although I had heard of this term before, I had no idea what was to be done. Simply put, while abseiling a surface, one has to dismount, suspended only by ropes and a safety line, lean as far back as one can, and one leg at a time, hope to reach the ground. The surface was a natural one, and had natural foot holdings and ghastly landform. Initially, I panicked to such an extent that I was blabbering nonsense to myself. Hah! But once I reached Mother Earth, I wanted to do it again. And the guide obliged. Some of us did it again, this time the fear was almost nonexistent.

The afternoon activity for Day 2 and the morning activity for Day 3 was cave exploration. Kota Gelanggi is blessed with numerous types of caves, each one presenting new challenges to the explorer. While hopping from one cave to the next, we had to face the muck of the wet rainforest. The afternoon session had us explore 3 caves, squeezing through tiny holes, climbing down parts of the cave, walking inside slippery caves with artificial light and coming back with shoes that had gained weight in muck. The Elephant Cave had a natural rock which looked like an elephant, and also had small statuettes made from piled-up stones. Among other things, this suggested some occupancy of the caves in some point of time.

In the night, we were told about a game we would play. It was called the Solo Nightwalk. Yawn! Not yet, for it proved to be one of the highlights of our stay at Kota Gelanggi. The challenge was to walk to the base camp on a familiar route, WITHOUT any artificial lighting. There were lightsticks placed on the side of roads, and circle lightsticks meant danger, but that was all we had to guide us. Imagine covered by pitch blackness, only your feet touching the ground, lightsticks placed within fixed distances and your mind telling you to move, and move in a straight line. Sometimes you just trip, for no reason at all, and sometimes you feel like calling it a night and sleeping on the road, with the sounds of crickets, frogs and other insects being your lullaby. Yes, being an amateur astronomer, I did take time to appreciate the beauty of the stars on the clear night, but my field of view was limited due to the towering personality of the caves. Recalling those few moments before going to bed made for some sound sleep.

Day 3

The morning had more cave exploring in store for us, but this time, we were told our shoes wouldn't gain any weight and navigating the caves would be easy. The Turtle cave had a rock resembling a turtle, and being a less challenging cave, the guides confiscated our artificial lighting sources and handed us candles. In groups of three, and only with the faint flame giving us solace, we were tossed into the cave. We carried on. We could see wax melting and falling to the cave floor, and we could ONLY see wax melting and falling to the cave floor!!! Nothing else. We reached a point where we thought we could sense water, with some of us dipping our feet in the water to check out. The guides, out of nowhere, flashed a brilliant beam toward us. Squinting our eyes, we heard them motioning us to stop. Click! No light, darkness again. Stunned, we stood ground. After a few moments, Click! The guides materialized into another spot. Click! Off. After 10 seconds, Click! On. A game of cat and mouse was in progress. They led us outside the cave and we proceeded to the next cave, this one having artificial elements like lights and staircases. But, this was one of the few having a lot of bats. 7 caves and some heart-thumping experiences in 2 days, not bad! Not bad, at all.

The afternoon saw us board the bus and proceed to the Rock Climbing site. On looking up, we could see a high rock-mountain in the middle of nowhere. Quarter-way through were two different rock climbing tracks. Rock Climbing requires a lot of upper body strength. Some of it was compensated for us, as the guide below gave timely jerks and helped us ascent. The challenge was finding natural crevices which your limbs could grip and propel you forward. Owing to exhaustion from the previous activities, I could go 75% through, after which I gave a thumbs-up, signalling that my climb was over.

After going back to base camp, we completed our final preparations for the team cheer, which included spinoffs of popular (and popular but hated) songs - the theme songs of Spongebob, 'We Will Rock You' and 'Baby' by, yeah you know who.

Departure, Mass Finale and Day 4 Dawns

We departed from the Kota Gelanggi base camp to the Jerantut Hill Resort, about 25 km away. We were among the first groups to arrive, giving us ample time to practice our cheers. It was only some more time before the other groups arrived, and suddenly you had about 350 bruised, relieved and boisterous teenagers in the conference room. After a tasty dinner (One the others were quite deprived of, because Summit had the best food around), it was time for the Finale. The finale videos of the 3 groups and the Finale Finale Video :P (THE Finale Video) were shown and the cheer competition was won by the Wilderness group. It was midnight when we departed the resort, and by 12:40 arrived at the Railway station. It was only at 4 am that our train finally arrived, leading to many people fall asleep on the platform. What a sight it was! We finally arrived at the Woodland Checkpoint at 1 pm next afternoon, and reached school at 2:30 pm. And our abode was re-conquered after another hour, our Hostel, which suddenly seemed like a more comforting place to live!

The ordeal, or thrill or whatever you would call that, was over. The camp was a wonderful learning experience and an opportunity to try things one has never done before. To sum it up - I've been there, done it all. #iamresilience2012

I have embedded the finale video of Summit and I also feature in the Finale Video (at 0:40 and 0:59). Also, I've embedded the Resilience Adventure Guide Booklet they had handed us, which can also be downloaded through Scribd.

Summit Finale Video

Finale Video

The Adventure Guide
Temasek Sec 3 Resilience Camp Adventure Guide;;

Please fill free to pitch in with any inputs in the comments section. Till then,