Of Hourly Rain, Group Visits to Room 2012 and the Absence of Leg Room in Front of the Toilet Bowl

I initially planned to write this as a journal page but then thought that’d be monotonous and repetitive since my four-day agenda at cram school was mostly the same everyday so here goes.

The official name for this cram school is Program SEDAR SPM and they told us “SEDAR” stands for “Stayback Examination something something Retest” but we all know what it really means (for those who don’t know, “sedar” means “realization” in Malay).

The initial image I’d formed regarding the camp was beyond horrible. I heard from the Form 6 seniors who had just returned from Dusun Minda Resort at Kuala Nerang where the camp would be held that they had stayed at the dorms and, I’m paraphrasing, “the bath water was black in colour, there were no bathroom stalls, just a pool for you to bathe in, the air conditioning system was dysfunctional and the beds were dirty.”

I spent the previous day clinging to my bed and spending about half an hour in the shower, savouring my clean bathroom environment and bath water before I headed off to four days of caveman life.

But when we reached the Resort, everything was much, much better than expected. It was announced at the lobby that my roommates would be Yu Han, Ee Ching and Hooi Shian and as they handed out room keys, we got Room 3016, which, we later found out was one of the chalets in the last row of the area. But we didn’t know that yet. In fact, we were completely shocked when we found out four of us had an entire chalet to ourselves with our own toilet. A toilet with a fully functioning showerhead, sink, toilet bowl and a door. My spirits lifted up so high I was confident I was able to survive this camp after all. The rest of the room consisted of only two bunk beds and two closets but it was okay. It was very okay. This was something I could deal with. The thing I was most afraid of (dirty toilets) turned out to be bearable that I got so pumped up for the upcoming study session.

Our study sessions were held alternatively at Dewan Tetra and Dewan Arowana, a long hall filled with adjoined tables and chairs, almost like a tuition centre. On the first day, we had three slots for Add Math, and for the next three days, we had four slots for Chemistry, four slots for Physics and two slots for Biology respectively. Each slot lasted about two hours and all slots started from 8-10.30 AM, 11 AM-1 PM, 2.30-4.30 PM and 8-9.30 PM. In between those slots we carried out the most important activity of our lives: eat. It was terrible. Besides being nicknamed Hutan Hujan Setiap Dua Jam, the camp should also be called Makan Setiap Jam. Everyone was always hungry there. We’d walk from the chalets to the lecture hall, get hungry and eat some snacks, walk from the lecture hall to the canteen, get hungry and eat breakfast/ morning snack/ lunch/ tea/ dinner/ supper, and then walk from the canteen to the chalets, get hungry again and eat more in our rooms. The amount of food we consumed was directly proportional to the total distance of path travelled and since walking anywhere seemed like ages, you can imagine the amount of food we’ve consumed.

As mentioned above, Dusun Minda Resort is located in the area of Hutan Hujan Setiap Dua Jam and it literally rained every two hours. It rained while we were walking, it rained in the middle of a session, it rained in the middle of a meal, it rained while we hung out in our chalets, it rained when we left out wet shoes out to dry, it rained while we carried out activities in the jungle, it rained while we slept and it even rained when we went home. I hadn’t expected such long distances between our destinations before I left for the camp so naturally, I didn’t bring any umbrellas or raincoats so I had to make do with my sweater and beanie. But mostly we tried to stay indoors if it rained. I mean, where else could we go to, the cinema? Ha! I’m sorry, that was a very lame joke.

During the break from 4.30 to 8 PM, we had activities in the jungle under “Beriadah” in the timetable. On the first day, we crossed obstacles on National Service land. There were monkey bars, wall climbing, narrow bridge crossing et cetera and it was great fun and also great fatigue and fear. There was an obstacle at which we had to walk on top of these narrow walls with gaps in between and at first I thought it’d be easy peasy lemon squeezy and then I encountered my first gap and felt like vomiting my organs. I couldn’t move a muscle and only got through with the help of the instructor’s tree branch which he held up so we had something to hold on to as we crossed the gaps. The riadah activities on the second day was more interesting, and it was held in the jungle. There were three stations and the first station was called Hole In One. There was a huge tyre tied to two tree trunks and the objective of the game was to get all members in our team to cross to the other side through the hole in the tyre- without touching it. So everyone formed a conveyor belt of arms and we were transported to the other side in waves. When it was my turn, I couldn’t even open my eyes mostly out of confusion over what was happening but then everyone started chanting “Harry! Harry!” and that set me off. I was laughing all the way through the tyre and halfway there, Aifa even had the chance to say, “You’re gonna blog about this” and she was right! Four for you, Aifa! You go, Aifa! The second station was one where we had to take two tyres out of this really huge and long pole without touching the pole and then putting them back. I admit that I didn’t contribute much since I was neither strong enough nor tall enough nor small enough nor light enough to be the one to support people on my back and shoulders or the one to be supported on other people’s backs and shoulders, but I helped…a little…I guess…Uhhh…

The last station was one which we didn’t get to complete in time since it started raining and it was also close to 7 PM which, coupled with being in the middle of a jungle, meant approaching darkness. At the last station, we had to swing across a rope and then fit all twenty plus of us onto a tyre (these people sure make use of their tyres) but I didn’t get to swing before we all ran back to the lobby in the rain.

You’d think all these activities would guarantee myself a deep slumber at night but it was far from that. In fact, on the first night, we (Yu Han, Ee Ching, Hooi Shian and I) were practically homeless. Our room was leaking and there was a huge puddle in the middle of the room which we only discovered when it was around midnight so we spent about an hour walking to the lobby to request for a room change only to be offered Room 3019 which was even further than the room we were in and was also apparently “crossed out”, walking to the dorm to get Chin Teng’s room key from her since she was sleeping in the dorm and Room 2004, which was her room, would be unused, walking to Room 3016 to get our things and then finally to Room 2004 to sleep. Three of us (Hooi Shian preferred to sleep in the dorm) pulled mattresses down from the beds to sleep on the floor but instead of falling asleep immediately, the foreign surroundings, paranoid thoughts and remnants of a previous panic attack pulled me from the desire to sleep. I didn’t dare move and didn’t dare open my eyes but finally, at 3AM, I managed to drift off to sleep. I’m sure the others weren’t too comfortable either since all of us agreed to keep all the lights on.

In fact, all three nights I’d spent at Dusun were sleepless nights. Never once did I drift off to sleep without a single strand of fear or worry to keep me awake. It was tiring since we had to wake up super early the next day and there was no time at all for me to squeeze in a nap in between our jam packed schedule. Hence, it wasn’t at all surprising that I fell asleep the moment my head hit the pillow at 10 PM on the day I came home.

However, the highlights of this camp, I have to admit, were the frequent visits to Nado’s room, Room 2012. It was always packed in there (aided by the fact that Aina had moved into that room and there were five people bunking in that room) and we even joked about it being a rumah kebajikan and the Room of the Year because it literally was the room of the year. During afternoon and evening breaks, and also after the last session ended at 9.30 PM, Beneh and I would “lepak” there along with Leea, Lela, Eel, Ayuni, Ama B, Diana along with its inhabitants, Razan, Nado, Aina, Eah and Hamimah. Sometimes, even Laiyy, Wahed, Mas and Nadsyam would join us. It was like a common room, the common room, and there was never a serious moment in the common room. It was wonderful and…in that moment, I swear we were infinite.

Allow me to digress here to exclaim that thE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER MOVIE IS ALREADY OUT

One of the downsides of this camp was the inability to get away to be by myself. I mean, of course I could seclude myself if I wanted to, but I was afraid to at a place like that, so I had to go along with it and just deal with it even when I was too tired for human company. These moments always left me feeling nauseous and homesick, but I forced myself to abandon these thoughts and mix with the crowd despite the fact that I was out of social battery and was in desperate need of a recharge. Thankfully, sometimes, just being with Beneh and Lela was okay enough to allow me to recharge. Hence, the first thing I did when I came home was spend a whole hour in my room just doing nothing. The camp exhausted me both physically and mentally.

As a whole, despite the fact that the place left a lot to be desired, the studying sessions long and tedious and there was no Internet for 75 hours, to say that I didn’t have fun would be false. I had fun. I had a different kind of fun, and in spite of the foreignness of it all, I’m glad to have experienced this different kind of fun once in a while. Walking in the rain with trees all around you sounds like an invitation to a fever but when you come to think of it, how many times do and will you get to do this in your life? How many times do you get to hang out with all of your friends in the middle of a jungle? It’s natural for us to think of the flaws around us, but I’m thankful for the four days I’ve spent at Dusun Minda Resort. The main objective was probably to get us to study without distractions, but I like to think I’ve learned more than that. I’ve also learned to be independent, I reckon. I reckoned I handle myself quite well there (I didn’t leave any underwear lying around on the floor, at least). It also made me appreciate the people around me much, much more and realise how I have met and made friends with some of the greatest people in my life.

I am pleased to be back in civilisation, but these are memories I will treasure for a long, long time.

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Author: Michelle Teoh

23-year-old cynical Asian, book enthusiast and purveyor of fine sarcasm.

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