Since late 2003 when a few of us agreed to look after the teams together with Cikgu Umi and Cikgu Sharifah (better known as Sherry. The kids still call her Miss Sherry in spite of her newly wed status), we always start a debating season with a workshop at the beginning of each year to prepare the teams for the tournaments throughout the year.
For some reasons privy only to the coaches and teachers (which I would not divulge here), this year we decided to do it at a recreation park, situated deep in a middle of palm oil plantation, on a fringe of a jungle and by a river (someone pointed out it was a very dirty river).
The idea was to get the kids to go camping, but not the coaches and the teachers (the news that I was going on a camping trip in a jungle has already been read as tanda-tanda kecil kiamat and sent some people packing to masjid for weeks!). So the adults had our chalets and air conditioned VIP room – though given the condition of the chalets, we might as well joined the kids sleeping on the ground by the river.
Some of the usual crowd (Ben, Dany etc.) could not make it, so I had to import a few other people. We engaged Wong, Badut and Gadap to prepare for the jungle trekking module, which they gladly did without charge. Koleq was initially quite reluctant to allow such an activity to go ahead without so-called a proper supervision, but after seeing Wong’s credentials (for the record, he went to Everest twice) – we had a free hand. I had this lingering doubt that the kids would be taught how to make bombs etc., but Wong stuck to his rules of engagement and did not expose the kids to any of the terrorist philosophies he and Gadap were so fond of.
There were 9 old boys altogether from 2 generations of debaters and collegians. There were Shahrol (BM debater, Class of 93), Fazurin (English debater, Class of 94), Izzat (BM debater, Class of 04), Afiq (English debater, Class of 04), Canoe (avid supporter of koleq’s debating teams, Class of 93), Dr Azlan Majid PhD (ha ha who was just bored sleeping at home during weekends that he decided he could do with a quickie holiday, so he joined us – Class of 94), Wong (Camping Master, Class of 94) and Badut (Deputy Camping Master, Class of 94). Gadap couldn’t make it at the last minute.
I travelled all the way from East Coast to pick Allen, Shahrol, Fazurin and Canoe in KL. Wong and Badut left the next morning, in time for a breakfast at Saudiah (budak koleq and the obsession with sambal Saudiah).
Most of us were of different backgrounds, interest and characters back in college. Shahrol and Canoe by tradition should not get along with the rest, as they were the only batch kampung in the group. Canoe was quite a sportsman back then, representing koleq in hockey and cricket – as opposed to myself, Fazurin and Allen whose only sporting achievement in koleq was to have collected just above 10 points for our respective houses throughout our years in MCKK (after much whipping by the house captains).
Wong and I had always been in the same camp politically since our days in koleq, we used to have secret meetings in the gymnasium after lights off discussing how to outdo the rival group. Badut was my classmate in the junior years, though for some reasons we always kept our distances. It is only after we left college that my respect for this guy increases tremendously (well you see things differently as an adult) that our paths begin to cross more often now. As for Izzat and Afiq, we were separated by at least 10 years, so you can imagine how ‘much’ we have in common (when Wong was on his crime spree, breaking into AVA room and short circuiting telephone lines for free calls, Afiq and Izzat were in Standard One – just imagine that).
Of all the team members, only Fazurin, Allen and I who were members of the elite Kapal Layar Club, the rest were worthy sportsmen who represented koleq in many games (Badut was the hockey team captain).
So the fact that we could pull off a team building activity like this in less than one month’s planning astonished me. All the old boys agreed to contribute equally financially for the camping, despite the fact that they could have asked me to bear all the costs since I was the originator. Everyone did their part professionally without complaints (well this is not entirely true, some people complained endlessly about the kind of food I intended to feed the boys and them, the lack of mush mellow during bonfire etc. etc.) and agreed to the division of work. Izzat and Afiq perfected the art of making tea and coffee, although I know Afiq has never done that in his life time.
We shared the same jokes, sang to the same tune and slept in the same chalet. If someone ever wonders how people of different backgrounds and characters could put their heads together for something so unconnected to them, then that someone has to go to MCKK to understand it. It never fails to amaze me how affection for an alma mater can always pull people together to work on a common project.
To all of you guys, I did not thank you personally in Sungai Siput – but I was so proud of all of you (one of these unspoken understanding and acknowledgement we always talk about). It would have been impossible without all of you and should they win this year, you guys deserve the credit as much as anyone else. More importantly, should the kids grow up to become men of characters worthy of MCKK; in our little ways we have played our part.
“5 minit je dari jalang besor”
That was Wong’s remark when I asked him how far the camp was from the nearest road. 5 minutes.
So the college boys were offloaded, with their suitcases etc. (yes, some of the kids actually brought suitcases for camping!) by the roadside. I told them they had to walk to the camp and whoever brought so many things knowing that we were going on a camping trip – well padan muka korang.
Fazurin decided to walk with the kids, but the rest of the old boys did not share his passion for fitness (moi, of all people), so we took the car. Travelling by car, it took us more than 10 minutes. It was hilly, the road was too small for two cars and it was about 7 kilometres from where the kids were dropped. I was cursing Wong all along – if this was his definition of “5 minit je dari jalan besar”, I’d better be careful if he were to say “5 minit je jalan nak masuk hutan”. As he testified later on, that “5 minit” referred to Orang Asli’s 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, I was getting a bit alarmed thinking how exhausted the kids would be by the time they reached the camp. After all, we were already in danger of being derailed off the timetable since the bus was late by half an hour.
Luckily the kids managed to do their own tricks and got a lorry to transport them to the camp. How they managed to fit nearly 20 people on a small lorry was beyond me, but I was really glad to see them arriving – only to realise that Fazurin and the boys that he took with him (Bucks, Jijoe and Akwa) were still walking. So we had to drive back to pick them up. Fazurin initially refused to take the car, only after much threats and persuasion that they agreed to hop in (habis suspension, Jijoe berat 5 tonnes!).
The rest was smooth sailing after that, but we would never take Wong’s words at face value anymore. 5 minutes je ye?
There were a few games, which judging by the way the kids participated and responded, I was quite glad that they enjoyed them. We were constantly amazed with the kids, as the games were the typical games used for adults’ team building activities – yet the kids always managed to come up with solutions comparable to adults’, if not better.
The tents were all set up successfully by the boys, their eyes blindfolded. There was no untoward incident, apart from one old boy allegedly kena rubbing by the kids while they were busy setting up the tents (that old boy happened to be in the vicinity when the kids were looking for something ha ha).
Cooking their own meal was an experience they enjoyed very much, by the look of their excited and satisfied faces when dinner was ready. We divided them into 3 teams – one cooking the rice (ha ha the hardest, so none of the old boys wanted to be associated with the team. We left them under the care of Cikgu Umi and Cikgu Sharifah), one the sayur (Haqqa and the boys, under Allen’s, Canoe’s and Fazurin’s supervision), the last group given the responsibility to cook telur dadar (under Shahrol’s and my tutelage ha ha). We the old boys cooked sardine as the main dish for the night.
All went well and the kids (and us) really enjoyed cooking – it’s one of those things, that unless you sleep together, cook together, eat together, it’s very difficult to work as a team. I also believe in the Malay custom that orang muda kena makan air kaki tangan orang tua (through cooking, bukan nasi kangkang macam Perempuan, Isteri .....), baru orang muda dengar cakap orang tua.... So boys, if you are reading this – memang banyak giler peluh kitorang bubuh in all the cooking, that was why garam tak habis ha ha...
We did the jungle trekking that night – it took us about 4 hours to go into, left the kids alone and picked them up again. By the time we reached the camp site it was already after midnight. Wong and Badut selected a nice spot with a large pond nearby, so if the boys did not walk carefully or did not follow orders, a few could have walked into a pond. They were blindfolded again, so they had to rely entirely on the leader they appointed. I had no complaints about the trekking but for the cow dunks – we spent more time avoiding the droppings than admiring the beautiful sky (I think Allen fell asleep waiting for the kids to finish their ‘bertafakur dalam hutan’).
The night ended with a sharing session – the kids shared what they felt about the teams, teamwork and winning PPM etc. I had to admit I admired the frankness of the discussion and such a discussion was unthinkable during our time, as the juniors were quite bold in criticising the seniors and the seniors were very cool in accepting the criticisms. It was a sign of changing times.
The next morning, we had to cook breakfast for ourselves – all went well as the kids really enjoyed cooking (jakun kot, tak pernah masak in their lifetime). Fazurin took over after that, he fancied himself as Malaysia’s Jeremy Paxman, so we delegated the quiz master job to him. We had a University Challege-style of quiz and despite some of Fazurin’s questions which border silliness (e.g. Jawab “Ya” atau “Tidak” sama ada negara-negara ini anggota Asean. 1) Amerika Syarikat ....), on average the boys’ general knowledge was not bad (although I doubt they know who is Edward Frederick William Walugembe Mutebi Luwangula Mutesa since the art of reading Britannica was lost years ago).
As much as this short camping trip does not guarantee our victory at PPM, I have high hopes that the boys learnt something out of it. Our education system puts too much emphasis on academic and scoring straight As nowadays, that that part of education on character building is thrown out of the window. It was a pity really, since the kids were really bright and talented – if only they have more opportunities to explore their talents, not just hooked up finishing homework and revising notes for exams. Our hopes, through camping trips like this, we can complement the education they get from college, with ours concentrating more on the character building part so often neglected lately.
As for the rest at PPM – it is up to them. Insya Allah the trophy shall return to Kuala Kangsar again this year, the last time it was in 1999.
More pictures (80++) here.
1) Not satisfied that our respective batches are not yet featured on Explorace, Allen and Shahrol are teaming up to enter Explorace next year. In fact they had tried kayaking last weekend, though by the look of it – I would put my bet on Malek ha ha ha. I don’t know how Allen is going to convince the producer that he is for outdoor activities, given his sleeping records (he sleeps nearly 15 hours a day, including in office)
2) No one was harmed or received treatment for food poisoning (well, at least not yet)
3) PPM this year is at SAS Putrajaya, so I am going to persuade Jita to persuade his family to loan his huge house to us as headquarters. We expect collegians to throng Putrajaya in drove this year – Cagers is defending the championship.