Monday, March 9, 2009

Eagle's Eye Expedition

I wrote this in 1996 for our internal publication when I was with the SC. I left a lot of details then and also it was edited. Last few days I found this piece again and rewrote it. This is my personal detail version of the experience.

Ghaz, 2009

"What in the world am I doing here." " Yeah! you are right on the dot, man.""I feel even worse when I discovered that a lot of us from the original group are not here."

Day One, Thursday, 15 Aug. 1996

Well, we were back at Sabha Total Training Center in Sg Lui again. It was the second phase of the training for our group and team-building is supposed to be the emphasis. We arrived as usual lethargic, anguish, angry and some of us even hungry (at the sight of all the trees, no doubt). We were assigned our room mates but this time we could choose our chalet. Immediately we peeled off our city clothes and replaced them with the attire we used last year, some of us anyway, and some even brought in a complete set of Rambo's survival kits. Lessons well learnt. We had our morning tea break first before going for our first briefing.

When we arrived

Dynamic Obstacles, 10.30 am - 12.45 pm.

The first exercise that we had to go through was Dynamic Obstacles. Dynamic Obstacles consisted of 10 obstacles that were easy enough to go through, until we were introduced to the rules.

Rule 1. Do not touch any leaves
Rule 2. Only a maximum of five participants on one obstacle at a time
Rule 3. Any participant that has completed a task cannot help their colleague
Rule 4. One mistake everybody has to come back to the first obstacle and restart everything
Rule 5. No jumping or using both legs on certain obstacles

Well, even with the rules they were easy enough, so we thought. We set ourselves 45 minutes to complete everything. In the end we ended up finishing the obstacles in 1 hour 15 minutes in which we had to restart four (4) times. We began to rediscover the meaning of ' lesson learnt the hard way'. When we sat to reflect on the exercise we realized that we should;

• put our white thinking hat on and get all the facts right. How many obstacles, detail steps to take to go through each one of them, our strength, how many of us and what kind of tool that we can use.
• come up with a proper plan to negotiate the obstacles
• make sure everybody understand and know what to do
• set a reasonable target to achieve our goal
• be prepared and concentrate, especially on the small details. In this case, like not touching any leaves, this small detail proved to be our downfall
• have organised a better teamwork. Work as a group.

This exercise was actually a prelude to the main event.

Eagle's Eye Expedition (more like Owl's Eye) Thursday, 4.00 pm - Friday, 8.30 am.

This was our main event of the course. We were briefed on the whole event, especially on how to use a compass. Some of us have not even seen a compass in their live before let alone trying to learn how to use it in five minutes. Luckily there were a few of us who could really use it.

Making sure everyone knows how to read the compass

In essence, the three groups will have to do a compass marching beginning at 4 pm, stay, sleep in the jungle or march on to the last check point and camp there until morning. Each group would have to trek to the first check point, find a clue for the next bearing, proceed to the second check point, where we have to find our next bearing to the final destination. The second check point was also the place for us to rest, cook for dinner, say our maghrib and isya prayers before we proceed to our final check point. We were given a different bearing at each check point. The trek to the first and second check points were not too difficult, mainly because we were trekking in daylight and they were easy. The trek after the second check point was something else. It was a no man's land, a heaven for leeches, wild boar and the like. The bearing that we took has not been trekked ever before by any human being, we were the pioneer. The jungle was quite thick with bamboo trees all around. To make the trek even worse, we have to trek up and down several hills along the ridges and all of them have 45 degrees decline. One slip means all the way down.

Ready for our night trekking

We started our last phase of the trek from our second check point at 9 pm. We checked our bearing and began our assault, but to our dismayed we cannot even find a way into the jungle to start our trekking. It was climbing up a hill with a thick jungle. Each group sent in two of their best 'commandos' to find a trek to follow. No dice, there was not a decent way in, which means, we had to start chopping our way in. That was when the heads of the groups decided to have a meeting. In the end, because of the resources that each group had we decided to use just one bearing and assault the unknown together. Later on we discovered that that was the best decision that we ever made during the course. Even with one bearing and all three groups going forward together it was not that easy. I knew when we started one small margin or error in our reading would send us, if we were not careful, all the way to Jelebu. In order to manage the risk we had three readers to confirm each other. It was a climb all the way making it hard to all of us let alone the ladies. At that point Nizam the Giant volunteered to be the sweeper at the make to make sure we do not leave or missing anybody. As we climbed further to my surprised the bamboo bushes got thicker and I started to get worried as with the amount of cutting and climbing that we had to do would definitely take a toll on the ladies. Although some of them put out their brave faces I knew they were worried and scared. Furthermore it was Malam Jumaat myth went on in the mind. I thought I heard someone joked about it. Azman took the initiative to head the assault from the beginning but when we reached the two hour mark I could sense that he was frustrated as well. Being a kampong boy maybe he has not seen or been in that situation before. At that point we stopped for awhile to take stock of our situation. I knew I had to be brave and show that I was still not worried in command. Well, for the sake of everyone I had to. But deep down only Allah knows. Thinking about it now my past experience in Semenyih and the area helped me a lot. After awhile I was confident to proceed ahead and told everyone we should just go ahead and trust our reading. Now silently we moved ahead helping each other through the thick jungle. Suddenly things got even worse as the ground became slippery. We were already tired climbing and now we had to be very careful as we had deep ravine on our right. I knew that and since it was dark most of us did not realize it and I kept quiet. Somebody suggested that we use the rope. But what I did not realize was that someone actually tied the end of the rope around his waist. It was a dangerous thing to do as had someone fell the possibility for most of us to be dragged down was a certainty. In any case the rope really help but then the whole process slowed us down further.

Resting on a ledge below a bamboo trees

It was already three hours of walking when we reached a flat ground just under a canopy of bamboo trees. We decided to rest there a bit before we proceed. Couple of us tried to recce the area and someone in front shouted that there were tiny dots of lights from a building coming through our sight the in the dark jungle. I moved closer in front and true enough saw lights in line making a rectangular shape down below in the valley. Being a bit familiar with the area I guessed it was either someone’s fish pond or animal farm. Seeing that the other leaders made a suggestion to head there instead of following our reading. I agreed. But doing that meant going down quite a steep ravine. Now the rope had to be used properly and Giant was told to tie the rope around a tree as well not just his body as we went down. Slowly we went with two strong guys at both end of the rope to bring the girls down first. We started to walk down slowly towards the lights and about a few minutes walking we could hear a sound of water flowing indicating a small stream below. I was sure it was a small stream as there wasn’t any big river around that area. When we got down to the stream there was a small manmade collection pond with PVC pipe going down. I knew it was the water system for the farm down below indicating we were close by. Sensing we were almost near ‘civilisation’ the group started to relax a little bit.

We just followed the stream down and as we inched closer it was obvious that we were entering a duck farm that had been harvested. The whole area of the farm was fenced with corrugated zinc. We could see the lighted workers quarters at the other end which was next to the main road which means we had to walk over there and request for them to open the gate for us to go out on the road. We could not walk around the farm. Thus, we walked along the bank of the duck pond and I was walking at the end of the pack just to make sure everyone is alright. However as we walked along the first pond we could hear dogs getting excited and started barking in group obviously aware of our presence. The guys at the front started to get worried and it got worse when the dogs started to run in pack towards us. I shouted to the front whatever it id do not run but either I was too late or those in front were too scared. The just instantly turned their back and started to run back. What they did created a chain reaction and everyone started to scramble back to certain extend a couple of them actually jumped inside the pond. Watching that instead of getting worried Azman and I started to laugh. Primarily because two of them were security guys that suppose to set a good example of being tough, calmed and collected. I just couldn’t stop smiling and laughing after that. It was a bit chaotic after that. Some of the girls were in shocked and because of that I relented by the suggestions by a few to just stay and sleep there until daybreak. We took our tired bodies up the dry rock to find a good place to rest. The rock was cold so the girls huddled together and tried to go to sleep. I could not sleep so I stayed awake firstly talking to Giant and Azman. Later on they also went to find a good spot to rest and I just sat on the rock looking at the stars and reminisced about old times. Sitting in the cold early morning brought the nostalgic fool in me and I became sentimental and sad at the same time. I was so close to tears at times reminiscing on certain things. The ambience around me was really perfect to be sad and thoughtful. Once awhile looking at my friends I could see some of them were restless and cold.

Dawn eventually broke through the sky and I could hear azan being called by a muezzin from a mosque somewhere on my right. Judging from the sound it was from the mosque in Sg Lui. Fauzi scampered to find a place to pray. He asked me but I told him that my pant was dirty. It was really not bersih to use to pray and I decided to qada later. (I could not remember whether someone actually managed to boil some water and make coffee but I remember have a hot drink before we left the place.)

In the early mornings somebody actually managed to boil some water and make hot coffee for us.

As soon as the morning became a bit clear I suggested for us to get moving. We washed our face using the cold water and I led them out of the farm. Once we got near the dogs started to bark again this time I yelled over at the workers quarters and a Bangla came out. I yelled at him asking why he did not come down to help us when we were there in the early morning he just smiled. I knew he was scared then. I told him to call off his dogs or I would whack them all. I was scared as well then but I had to act brave he he he. You do not know how relief we were when we got out and to be walking on the road.

We came out of the whole thing safely at 7.45 am. We were tired, sleepy, aching all over, happy, and relief. As we were walking back we pointed out the place where supposed to be our last check point was. There should be few camping gears for us to use for the night as well. If we were to base it on our bearing that night we would have missed it by a few miles. Thus, stumbling upon the farm saved us from going to Jelebu he he he. Once we were back at our training ground all of us quietly took our bath and rest. The trainers realizing that we were back and not lost came around to ask us. Those that were pissed off with them just answered by stating the fact. Me, being the Penghulu, I gave my politically correct answer. Personally though to me the whole experience was worth it and everyone should be happy that they had gone through it.

I purposely left out all the gory and funny details simply because you cannot really put then into words. You have to go through the process yourself to understand.

The debriefing

To us the whole thing was everything, scary, fun, enjoyable, funny, self discovery and challenging. Really test ourselves to the limit. In the end when we started to think about it we found out that we gained and discovered a lot about ourselves and life.

• We were given a compass bearing to navigate ourselves in the uncharted territory. In live we definitely need a bearing, goals or directions to achieve. Without goals we are heading nowhere, walking endlessly like a bum. We always take this for granted and living live on a day to day basis. What we need to have are career goals, vacation goals, project goals, wealth goals, education goals, social goals, family goals and religious goals. All these will enable us to plan our live better and make sure they are of quality and improve all the time.
• The tools that we brought along during the trekking were mostly helpful to us. Torchlights to show us the way, 'parangs' to cut down trees to create a path, Bygon to repel all the leeches (though not successful), rope to pull us up and down, and food to energize us. In live we also need tools or guides to help us.
• We also learnt the true meaning of team work. Working in a group is not easy and sometimes painful. But, to succeed to achieve certain goals or objectives without doubt we have to work in a team. We have to rely on our group members to help to pull us when we slip, remind us of a dangerous spot and torn, motivate and encourage us to move on and after a thorough planning really corporate with our leader who created a path for us to follow.
• Some of us while sitting on the cold rock waiting for the dawn to break started to think about their parents. How hard some of them have to work to prepare you for the world. You than realize that the hardship that you have gone through was nothing compared to what they have to bear to provide you. It was payback time for some of us.
• Some of us even emotionally began to realize that there are lives on the otherside of the world. Lives that they never appreciate before. How important it is for us to maintain the greenery's and some part of the earth as it is. Really begun to appreciate and understand the environment better.
• Since the first outing this never failed to escape my observation, where people start to reflect on their religious aspect of their live. The feeling of being closer to God. Being in the environment and the situation without failed we in the end solely left our well being into the hands of the Almighty. We began to acknowledge how we even forgot to say thanks to Him after giving us a comfort live.

Day Two, Friday 16 Aug. 1996

Since it was Friday, after cleaning ourselves properly and with groggy head, we just had a lecture session in the morning. Kpt (Retired) Mohan was of no help at all, he even put us to sleep faster with his unconvincing lecture.

After Friday we had games in group and scheduled to have a short water marathon after Asar. The games were interesting, testing our thinking capability.

Water Marathon (Short Version)

What we have to do was to walk in the water against the current to a certain spot in group. The destination was a surprise gift for us. Our tired body, especially our leg did not help at all. We were practically dragging ourselves. But, the end product was worth the effort, a cool magnificent waterfall. No question asked we jump straight in.

Actually, this exercise was part of the activities to recondition our tired muscles. We felt good and cheerful after the swim, which eventually helps us to have a good night sleep.

After dinner I took the dishes to the stream nearby and it was the duty of the ladies to do the washing. But when I was there I noticed at least two lintah swimming closed by so I stayed at the back in case one of them swam over and scared the hell our of the three ladies.

Day Three, Saturday, 17 Aug. 1996

We had a good sleep and woke up refreshed. As early as 7.30 am we had to gather at the physical training site. We loosen up out tired muscles and enjoyed the exercises. This session was apparently in preparation for the next grueling tasks, the water activities at the Semenyih Dam.

Water-Based Activities

We were transported to the Semenyih Dam after our morning tea break. We arrived eagerly, some of us even managed to catch few minutes of sleep while waiting for the rest to get there, and could not wait to jump into the water.

Getting ready to be transported to the Dam

The first activity was a 'rakit' race which we have to build ourselves first. In group we started designing and constructing, the priority was to make sure the 'rakit' stayed afloat. There was this one particular 'rakit' which was beautifully constructed but refused to move when we paddled. So, there and then we decided to donate the whole 'rakit' to Maritime Museum. Since we took too much time designing and constructing our 'rakit' the next activity, which was canoeing had to be canceled. Instead, we did individual activities which comprise of canoeing, boating, trying to learn how to swim and sun bathing for about 15 minutes before we went back to Sabha for our closing ceremony.

Building our water machine

Designing something to stay afloat

This shows how good we were at designing. The drums supposed to be under the water the another way. We made do

Getting ready to cast off

Of course we did not win but we had fun

The Platoon

Just waiting to go back to camp

Approximately, at 5.30 pm the course was officially closed by Pn Rahima Muhammad, Director of Finance, Human Resources and Administration Division.

The Elite Team

Overall Personal Conclusion

I am happy and glad that I had gone through the two phase programme. I actually did not have to test myself anymore as I had gone through worse but it was fun doing all the stuff with new acquaintances in a new organization. Despite everything I have learnt a lot about human behaviour and I thank everyone for that. Hey! At least the programme succeeded in taking two couples to jinjang pelamin. I do not know whether they were already an item before the programme but I am sure if they were the programme strengthens their love for each other.

"It was fun man! should we do this again sometimes?""Yeah! I really am glad to be here.""See you around dude, hope to see you again during the third phase."

The Penghulu having his last reflection

By the The Penghulu

No comments: