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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Oh tak mungkin, tak mungkin aku kembali ke OBS

This entry is more than a month past overdue. It's just another effort in my ongoing series of backdated postings. I felt that it was such a memorable experience, it'd be a crime for me not to write about it. Not that you would care anyway, but just hang in there as Yours Truly went through hell and (almost) back.

The First Rule of OBS is...

During the last week of February, (see? I told you it was that long ago) I had the pleasure (or grief, depending on which way you look at it) to go to Outward Bound School (OBS...gosh, what is it with me and all this brackets?!). FYI, there's two OBSes in Malaysia, one being in Lumut and the other in Sabah. Of course, since this is the Peninsular we went to the nearest one in Lumut.
In all honesty, when I first heard that they sent Gomen officers to OBS as part of training, I was really looking forward to it. Not that I'm an outdoor guy. Believe me, I'm wayyyy better off with my pirated DVDs and cup of teh O at home. It's just that sometimes, I feel the urge to get away from my 'comfort zone' just to remind myself that life is not just about Oscar-nominated movies and actresses with big breasts. Little did I know what was in store for me for the coming week.
OBS have this simple yet nerve-wrecking concept of Back to Basics, meaning well, you go back to basics lah. Basic means no money, no ID, no handphones, no cigarettes and what I hated the most, no booze (I'm not being serious here, okay??). Which meant that on the first day, we were stripped of our money, MyKad and our Nokias. Goodbye civilization, Hello Jurassic Park.
It's a good thing I'm not a smoker coz the guys really looked stressed without their Marlboros. And they had us sleep in these dormitories which were mosquito infested and smelled of 'God-knows-what'. Even though it wasn't exactly homey, the concept of going back to basics really was a good lesson in appreciating what you have and how fragile we are without our basic materialistic needs. This was all about you and Mother Nature. No dumb ringtones. Not even the Ringgit.

A nice view of the Torture Camp

On the first day, we were exposed to the normal daily life of an Outbounder. One thing I noticed about OBS is that it's self-sustaining. You have to do everything yourself, from washing up after eating, cleaning the toilet and even taking care of those mosquito-infested dorms. The only thing they do for you there is cook the food, which wasn't that bad really, or maybe it's just me who's starving all the time. We learned about OBS, the School Song and had an ice-breaking session (as if there was any more ice to break). The ice-breaking games were as usual, very fun and some of us boys literally stripped down to our boxers playing those games. Not that we minded, anyway. First day was fun really. It didn't give us a glimpse of what was coming ahead.

We were separated into small groups of 14-15 people, called a watch. The names of the watch are determined by OBS and have been in use since the dawn of eternity (I think). The names they used are the names of mountains in Malaysia, e.g. Jerai, Kinabalu. My watch was Beremban, but don't ask me where the hell Gunung Beremban is. From these small watches, we were grouped into 2 big groups which consisted of 3 watches. I was in Group One, which meant that we went on the whaler first. The other group went kayaking first, so that meant not everyone did the same activity at the same time.
Before you ask, "Whaler tu apekebenda??" let me just briefly explain. A whaler is a small boat, called 'whaler' because they were once used to capture whales. How they did that on a small boat, beats me. The whaler had sails and also 8 oars to be used for rowing. These oars were heavy as hell and really gave you a great workout for the muscles.
We were instructed to navigate our way to Pulau Rumbia, a small island off Pulau Pangkor. The journey wasn't that far, really. On paper! But this is the sea we're talking about here, people. And ohhh...the waves were really not friendly too. My watch was the first to depart from OBS camp at around 8 in the morning. So there we were, the 15 of us including our macho instructor on our way to sail. Ahhh yes...the open sea, the cool breeze, what can be so bad about this? Well, the first 30 minutes wasn't that bad. And then, your muscles start to cramp from the rowing, the morning sun starts to burn up and the whaler doesn't seem to move an inch! That's when the real fun begins.
The guide to surviving OBS would consist of 3 rules: Patience, patience and patience. And ohh, don't forget your sunblock lotion too. I wouldn't have made it without my trusty Coppertone. This is because the journey on the whaler takes about 5-6 hours. If you're really lucky, it could be 4. One group even took 8 hours! So 5-6 hours in the open sea with the sun blazing on your face can really cause damage. Trust me that the ozone layer is really depleting. Some of my friends had the burns to prove it.
And when your face is burning and your muscles are aching, that's when patience play a role. Believe me, at that certain time on the whaler I felt like I could have beat up anybody who talked too much or got on my nerves. You could sense the eerie silence of tension on the boat. But I was lucky to have the people in my watch. Even though we were hungry, tired and aching, we just rowed on and kept the lid on our temper. We weren't lucky that day. The wind assisted us for just about an hour and we did the rowing for the rest of the journey. My watch was the first to arrive in Pulau Rumbia at about 2 pm. And never, ever in my life have I felt so tired and deprived of energy. If I had an energy level indicator of my body, it would have been negative 100. It was that tiring! And why shouldn't it be? Rowing those heavy oars for more than 4 hours, relying on plain water for our energy (we were not allowed to bring any other drinks or supplements. Back to basics, remember?) and the heat which really took its toll. It really sapped me out of every single drop of energy left in my body. The journey felt like an eternity and I was so tired, I felt like beating the guts out of the instructor when he told us to bring our stuffs from the whaler upon our arrival at the island. And I still remember the taste of the buah lai which was soooo juicy and refreshing which was given to us when we arrived. I remembered some of them saying, "Buah paling sedap dalam dunia." I couldn't agree more.

The boats of hell aka the whaler

Pulau Rumbia was such a dissapointment after rowing nak separuh mati there. It hardly was worth the effort. The island was filled with wild boars which weren't that aggressive because they rarely got into contact with humans. I did a lot of stuff I don't normally do here in our civilisation, which included shitting in the sea. At 6.30 in the morning! It's funny when I think about it. There was the two of us and we were talking and cracking jokes while we did the business just so we didn't chicken out in the pitch darkness. If anyone took a picture of me that morning, it would have been the most embarassing thing ever done. Not to mention the ugly face while releasing it :P
Getting back to OBS camp after a nights' stay on the island was just as torturing. I had a little taste of history on the way back because as were rowing along, I had a little trouble with my straw hat. The wind kept blowing it away, so I asked to change my hat. As I stood up to take my hat, I heard a shout, "Woi, oar ko terlepas!" And when I looked around, I saw my big, 10 ton oar drifting away on the side. I felt like jumping into the water but was held back when I realized I can't swim! And we just looked on as my oar drifted further and further away from the whaler. It wasn't as funny as it is now, because I really felt bad about losing the oar. Let's just say that I didn't complain as I rowed for the rest of the journey. No worries too, as I had to replace the oar with a little help from my fellow watch members. And since this was the way back and they had a schedule to keep, we were towed by the mother boat upon reaching the bay near near OBS camp.
After coming back from the whaler trip, we went kayaking the day after. Kayaking was more fun but just as tiring as going on the whaler. Oh no I'm lying. It's not as tiring as the whaler. Nothing is! We kayaked our way around Pangkor Island which didn't take that long, if we didn't stop to rest a lot. Kayaking was nice and we were paired into two for each kayak. The scenery was breathtaking and you get the chance to see a lot of Pulau Pangkor that not a lot of people get to see. We camped for the night on this beautiful beach (I forgot the name) and it really was a far cry from the horror that was Pulau Rumbia the day before. The next morning we arrived at OBS camp early as the journey was short and with that, ended our OBS adventure.
The mosquito farm

I remembered all of us singing the OBS Spirit song and hugging and shaking each others' hands as we arrived at camp. It really was a feeling of accomplishment. I felt really proud to have done the things we did at OBS. Never in my life have I gone through such an experience. I think OBS is great in building team spirit as it shows who your true friends are. In times of hardship and extreme fatigue, you see each other's true colors: Who can be relied on. Who are just plain lazy mother****ers.
I had a great time at OBS. I learned that the standard OBS course is the 25 day course, the true OBS experience. I hardly survived a week there, I can hardly imagine staying there for 25 days! While we were there, there were some SIA trainee pilots and Petronas people having their course there. Let me just say that the SIA trainees look as fit as hell, and even they look like falling dead after coming back from the whaler. I enjoyed knowing some Minah Salleh instructors, who spoke Malay fluently, but with this funny accent. A bit Kelantanese, maybe? Anyway, these instructors were the real deal, because one of them, this lady from England sailed solo across the English Channel on a small, single boat called the laser. My hats to her. Another thing I learned at OBS is suprisingly, the poco-poco dance. It's not hard really and I think I'm addicted to it! That too, was certainly one of the highlights.
I would recommend people to enjoy the OBS experience at least once in their lifetime. It's a whole different concept together, and its Back To Basics principle really tests you in extreme conditions. It's such a privilege to have gone through it and let me end this by singing the OBS Spirit song. Altogether now:

I got the OB spirit
Up in my head

Deep in my heart

Down in my knees
Yeah Yeah!

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o