I tweeted something along the lines of “may is like first two weeks: *watches anime into oblivion* consecutive two weeks: *runs around in circles*” because when I realised I should probably submit my e-Penawaran documents the week I was going to KL (and subsequently BTN camp), I only had a week left to complete my contract documents and medical checkups. After planning everything out and also taking into account the number of days I had to wait for my medical results to be issued, everything only just fit in perfectly into that one week.
And then on Friday morning 6AM, I was in Rumin’s dad’s car on the way to KL with Rumin and her brother.
When we reached KL, Rumin’s dad had stuff to do so the three of us took a cab to Putrajaya to submit mine and Rumin’s e-Penawaran documents. Upon reaching the JPA buildings, I was quite taken aback by how beautiful both the exterior and interior of the buildings were, perhaps because I was expecting them to be like the immigration offices they have here in Alor Setar which is quite small and white-light-washed. Submission of documents literally took one second as soon as our number was announced, and the handing over of these sheets of papers that had felt like my entire future for the past few weeks happened so instantly that I couldn’t help but worry if I hadn’t mentioned clearly enough that my documents were for e-Penawaran, or if the person behind the counter had taken those documents out but forgotten to put them back into the envelope, or if I’d lost any of my documents on my way here . I also tried several times to surreptitiously walk past the counter to see if my envelope was still there in case it wasn’t there anymore, as my paranoia made me fear.
The lobby had cool AC and free Wifi so we lingered there for half an hour before getting another cab to our next destination: Majestic Hotel.
I only knew, when Rumin asked if I wanted to follow her and her dad to KL before the camp so I didn’t have to fly to Subang alone, that there would be a dinner on Friday night. I interpreted that as a banquet and I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t exactly accurate, either. It was an appreciation dinner held at Majestic Hotel in the presence of the Prime Minister. Stepping into the lobby of Majestic Hotel in shorts and slippers made me feel entirely out of place (and okay, immensely excited) so imagine how I felt when Rumin told me that we were staying the night. Staying. In this five star hotel. It was the biggest hotel room I’ve ever been in, with a toilet so huge it had a bathtub and a toilet TV above it. I’m always very fascinated by toilets everywhere, mainly because the condition of the toilet is a pretty good and accurate estimation of how the sleeping quarters will be like. This hypothesis has so far never failed to deliver precise results.
As far as soul preservations go, I thought Broccoli would be a pretty good candidate and I was right
The food of the banquet that night was great, and Rumin and I explored the ginormous hotel a bit and I told her that I felt like we were in the Hunger Games, living days of luxury before we were sent into the battlefield that was BTN to fight for our survival.
That night I didn’t sleep well at all despite the comfort of a huge hotel room bed, still having difficulties adapting immediately to being away from home after having been more or less a hermit at home for seven months.
The next morning however, was the best hotel breakfast I’ve ever had. It reminded me of Jogoya a bit although 1) slightly less in variety 2) breakfast food (but who has smoked salmon sashimi for breakfast? The second royal baby perhaps but not me) and 3) much, much cheaper. I usually don’t have the urge to pile everything onto my plate even during buffets but I had three plates of food including dessert so that was quite an applaudable feat for me. Honestly all I could think of was how contrasting the food at BTN would be and I just kept shoving morsel after morsel down my throat.
And then the journey to Melaka commenced. It was a 3-hour journey and as soon as we arrived, Rumin’s dad had another urgent meeting to attend so Rumin and I walked to the Nadeje crêpe cake cafe in Plaza Mahkota and I told myself I deserved to order two crêpes so that was what I did and we spent the next three hours lazing at their couches while I read Noragami manga on my phone.
Lemon & cheese, matcha and black chocolate
That night, we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant (another appreciation dinner of sorts but more lowkey) and then checked into a boutique hotel. I was honestly very pleasantly surprised at how nice the hotel room was. Especially the toilet.
Tell me the toilet doesn’t look like a showroom you’d find at Ikea
I had a really good sleep that night (because I didn’t the previous night) and I savoured the AC while I still could.
The next morning, we went to San Bao Hill for a Chinese cultural event and then in the afternoon we visited A Famosa (only the arch) and Stadthuys and its surrounding historical buildings a little, and also Jonker Street for the food. We had lunch at this really quaint corner lot place called Geographer Cafe.
In the evening, we headed to Subang and stayed at Sun Inns next to Sunway Pyramid after plans to crash at a friend’s place at Sun-U Residence were cancelled. It was a windowless room with a weird mouldy smell and Rumin and I discussed how we were literally facing a gradual deterioration in the states of our living quarters leading up to BTN (five-star hotel – boutique hotel – inn – ?????? a mattress somewhere in the jungle, probably).
We had dinner at Sushi Zanmai and it was my first time entering Sunway Pyramid since graduating last year. Sushi Zanmai had been renovated so dining there wasn’t exactly nostalgic but just walking in the mall itself brought back pleasant nostalgia. It wasn’t like the sort that punched my gut which I suspected would arise if it was January, but rather like, “Dude, Starbucks, I remember all those times waiting for the shuttle bus here and also that time we hung out here for hours while talking about all kinds of crap”
I couldn’t sleep that night either because I was extremely anxious about going to BTN the next day and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to cope with the five days there so in the end I ended up with roughly 1-2 hours of sleep and woke up feeling like I’d just returned from cruising in a different dimension.
I dressed up in baju kurung the next morning and had breakfast at what I like to affectionately call “The Lil’ Subway Shop Next to College” because 1) I had my first Subway here 2) it was primarily where I befriended my classmates in sem 1 during lunch breaks.
The JPA bus arrived at college at around 9.45AM and we managed to even have a short chat with Miss Cherilyn when we bumped into her (or rather, she bumped into us since we were such a conspicuous lot by the pipes with our luggage and formal clothing). The previous night, I’d Wazed from Subang to Kuala Lipis (where this batch’s camp was held at) to see how long it would take (I’d guessed it would take maximum an hour because I’d assumed they’d choose somewhere equidistant to the Nilai camp Bellyn and Janice went to) and the answer was three hours. THREE HOURS. I could be halfway home in three hours!!!!
The three hours were spent half asleep half watching Haikyuu!! on my phone until I realised by looking out of the window that we were surrounded by nothing but trees. And yet we kept going. The deeper we ventured into forestation and vegetation, the louder I was internally screaming, all the while observing the signal bars on my phone because not even gonna lie, my primary concern about this camp (besides being able to cope) is whether there would be phone signal (because there is a certain reassurance to the knowledge that anybody is just a phone call away in the case of unable-to-cope-ness).
And then we finally arrived at a concentration of buildings smack right in the middle of the jungle – and okay, it looked pretty decent. I didn’t know what I was expecting, but I was expecting the worst to cushion any horrendous shock I might have when I saw the real thing. It looked relatively new, either that or it was pretty well maintained.
But what excited me the most was the phone signal – five bars. 3G data ran faster here in the middle of the Pahang jungle than in the living room of my own house. Maxis data coverage is meant for the wildlife and not domestic living in suburban areas. You heard it here first.
Phone signal aside, the next thing to pay attention to was living quarters/sleeping arrangements. We all got bunk beds in a cramped dormitory of about 40 people and a shared toilet. Well, okay. It’s not Majestic Hotel but at least it wasn’t a mattress on the ground in the jungle. Meals were served in metal food trays with questionable cleanliness (as we had to wash our own plates and cutleries) but the food itself was not bad. I was hungry most of the time at camp so honestly taste didn’t matter all that much when it came to silencing a growling stomach.
I only learned it was a joint camp with INTEC when coincidence of all coincidences, I bumped into my high school classmate Huda, and also later, Hajar.
The consecutive days at BTN were filled with speeches and after that, group discussions, punctuated by the worst activity of all – morning/evening exercises. Climbing the excessive number of stairs from the dorm to the hall itself was already bad enough; I was usually already out of breath halfway through while everyone else whizzed past like normal, healthy and fit human beings. The first day we had a physiological test and all my muscles and organs groaned internally at the mention of that. There were eight tests, some of which included push-ups, jumping and kicking our feet together, rope-skipping plus other impossible exercises that I thought I’d get zero for all. But? Jokes on me and you and the entire universe because I got full marks for all of them except two tests (only being able to touch the ground with my fingertips while bending [even then I usually can’t even do that so getting half the marks was laughable] and getting a 79 pulse rate after exercising [I mean. Nothing I can do about that]).
And then over the next few days we had a 2km run through the jungle (I considered pulling out of this because marathons were not my thing and by not my thing I mean I really don’t find the idea of getting lost or panicking in the middle of the jungle with no viable escape route very appealing but I pulled through while succeeding in maintaining my continuous streak of being in the last five in any marathon ever in my life) and jungle trekking (also considered pulling out because being trapped in a jungle even for 30 minutes really didn’t sound fun at all haha) (I think the reason I only managed to emerge from the jungle alive was because I was talking to Ain the whole way through) and it still astounds me to this day how I managed to survive all of that. The worst punishment the head facilitator ever threatened us with was another 2km run and if that ever happened I was willing to walk up and say, “Sir, I’d rather wash both the girls’ dorms’ toilets than do that again please”
So that was why during our last morning exercise on Thursday, when it was announced that we were having a music senamrobik session, I was so relieved and happy I think that was the most enthusiastic I’ve ever been at a senamrobik session.
I’m sorry, none of you came here to read me whine about my complete inaptitude for physical exercise.
All of us were also sorted into different groups and on the second last day, there was a game tournament session of noughts and crosses and at first I was greatly humoured by the fact that the tournament chart was drawn like the one in Haikyuu!! volleyball matches
until we got into semifinals
and then finals
it was a wild ride from start to finish and I felt so proud of my teammates.
But then at night was patriotic song performance/competition night and we were the last to go onstage and basically the point I’m trying to convey here is we completely blew our opponents out of the water during noughts and crosses but our song performance was a complete train wreck and I can’t relive that night’s events without cringing so hard I have to hide from my own memory. Immediately after leaving the stage, a teammate told me she was laughing inwardly the entire time and I told her I was also crying inwardly the entire time and the expressions we both made in consensus of this statement was that of incredible humour and also deathly embarrassment.
Out of the four nights spent there, I slept well a grand total of two nights: the first night there (because of the one hour I slept at Sun Inns) and the last night (because of the previous two nights spent feeling anxious and out of place and frozen in spot by the occasional billowing of clothing hung by the beds by my dormmates). Not that everyone was exactly allowed to have a full night’s sleep in the first place as daily activities started at 7AM and ended at 12AM. As a result, every morning after waking up (besides dusting the fallen wings of flying insects in the night off my luggage and clothes and bed oh my god) was basically a mental scanning of the day’s timetable to fit possible nap sessions in so I can still uphold an illusion of a functional human being to my teammates and facilitators. The main thing I looked forward to every day was the two-hour respite we had in the evening while the Muslim participants had prayers. I usually slot a one-hour nap into it but mostly I end up watching Yowamushi Pedal on my phone for some kind of semblance of home and my daily routines prior to the camp.
My teammates from Group 4!
And so five days ended and then this happened (if you haven’t read about my post in which I almost missed my flight you should it’s 10/10 quality irony humour content) and I was in Penang for three days for a family gathering because my aunt and cousins from Singapore came by to visit and then it was my birthday and the next day I fell sick for five days straight and I now have reverted back to not leaving the house and finishing a season of anime in two days.