09 August 2009

Marine! Marine! Marine!

Marine! Marine! Move it son! Climb that wall! Row that kayak! Under that barbed wire! Hardcore! Hardcore! And whatever happens, look after your Egg…..

— Earlier that day —

Saturday morning: it’s 5.50 am and I’m up. I’m supposed to be at work by 6.30 am. I grabbed something quick to eat and my bud Sean picked me up in his Civic. We found ourselves at work by 6.30am and as usual we only departed to our destination at 7.30 am. Today is the day that 19 of us were being taken to a lake site about 45 minutes by coach from our work place. I had been on this course a while back but I volunteered together with Sean and Sunny to help out the newbies at the company. This was part of an outward bound training / experiential learning course.

We found ourselves seated down and drinking tropical fresh juices whilst the training team briefed us on the day’s activities. The training was organized by a company comprising of a Malaysian outward bound instructor, a graduate of environmental studies background as well 4 commando ex-military personnel. One of them looked like a drill sergeant. The newbies were asked to write down on a white board what they would like to achieve from the training course. Some of the points they jotted down included – relax, have fun, exercise, motivation, communication, get to know everyone, strategy, team building, etc.

We were each given an egg. We were told to look after it and give it back to the instructors at the end of the course. My thoughts lingered ‘Not a chance, that baby will go well with sausages’.

‘Is it a chicken egg sir?
‘Chicken?!?! Its the egg on which your life depends soldier!!! You will learn to love that egg, you will call it by an affectionate name, you will caress it!’, blasted out the drill sergeant

The course began with some rigorous commando stretching on an open piece of land overlooking the lake. One’s legs were supposed to be where one’s hands were. One’s groin where one’s mouth was (not to be taken literally or tried at home!) We were made into pancakes.

Commando style and now elastic, we were taken on a memory journey back to our child hood. We were asked to remember our mental frame of mind when we were children and to transport ourselves back to those times. We were asked to go touch ten trees and come back to our original location with a partner.

We were asked to pretend to be butterflies and flap around the garden.

We were told to pretend we were on a motor bike. We were then told to put one passenger on followed by two passengers. Will this madness ever end? All while our HR manager was happily taking photos.

We were split into two teams. We were asked to come up with a name for our team. One of the guys suggested ‘Jackie’; so Jackie it was (He did attempt to justify it with reference to the martial arts actor but it later transpired that he had been indulging in the similarly named malt whiskey the night before!). We are the commando unit named Jackie. We were asked to run through a military style course as teams. The challenges we faced were -

1) Cat walk – walking across thin elevated poles. Easy as it seems but not very good for big guys like me with big feet and big bodies to balance. The most daunting! I must’ve looked funny.

2) Tire walk – running through tires – twinkle toe time!

3) Scaling a wall – my favorite! Over 6 feet tall and a hop over for me. Some individuals did need a lot of help as they seemed to be stuck onto the wall rather than climbing over. Others had a road runner cartoon experience.

4) Walking the rope – balancing oneself on a rope and walking across while holding onto a suspended piece of rope. Why? I don’t know.

5) Barbed wire – crawling under them.

6) The tunnel – crawling through an under ground tunnel. I wasn’t allowed. My shoulders wouldn’t fit through.

7) The monkey bar – jumping onto the monkey bar and walking across (with your hands!). Hey I did this twice.

That was just the beginning. The big stuff was yet to come.

Abseiling! The safety equipment for abseiling is weird. It’s like wearing an overly enlarged jockstrap. Anyhooooo, we had to climb up about 5-6 floors of this specialist tower. The last set of stairs was a ladder. When you’re up there, the scenery is breath taking. When my turn came up, I sat down on the edge. Got strapped in to my jock strap and was asked to let go of the railing. That’s the tricky part because your mind starts to play with you and says ‘can this thing hold my weight? Will I fall to oblivion!’ I let go and was being held up by a rope from the top of the building. It was all about letting go. Good lesson to learn – Trust. Trust that jock strap son. Trust it good. I was finally allowed to hold the abseil rope and did little jumps all the way down. Easy stuff. Adrenaline rush! Loved it. I had to make the guys laugh a bit and kept asking for a parachute! I was actually serious.

Lunch! Food! Fantastic!

Aerial rope time! Jock straps on again! Life vests on. Why don’t they have life vests that fit me! I couldn’t breathe. Had to undo it and say I ll putt it on in a bit. Another long climb up another tower. Steeper stair cases and an even steeper ladder! And carrying a metallic pulley with you all the way. When you reach the top of the tower, the entrance to the platform is made for little people. I couldn’t fit though. I blame it on the life vest. They strap your jock strap to the pulley. They then strap your pulley onto the aerial rope cable. You have to put your hands through the loop, the pulley then runs down the rope and into the lake. The difficult part here is you have to ‘jump off’ the building for the pulley to take you to the lake. They called me the ‘jet’ because of the noise the rope made when the pulley rolled down. It was like an aircraft taking off. When I landed in the water, splash! Oh and the lake waters tastes salty. The water isn’t deep at all. With life vests on you can lean back and fall asleep on the water which we were more than happy to do before swimming to shore. Don’t forget to throw straying water plants onto your friends. And if someone talks too much just splash some super salty water on them.

Last item on the list, kayaking. We had to use flat top two person kayaks. Me and Sean got the boats out, helped the ladies with carrying them. We got in the water, me in the back, Sean in front, one of the first out and ready to go. About 100 m away from shore, we heard a bit of a splashing sound to left of us, looked around, two guys racing towards us. Laughing and giggling away.
Hang on guys, break!
Use your paddles!
Nope.

Their kayak impacted where I was seated and climbed onto me. One moment you see a boat climb your lap, the next minute, all green!
We toppled.
Emerged.
Contact lenses in tact.
Air.
Sound of laughter.
Very funny guys, my ribs hurt! Getting back onto a kayak in deep water with a life vest on is not easy. We had to be helped back on. One by one. Sean boosted me on while two instructors rowed up next to us to hold the boat in place. When I got in, I had to drag Sean in. We had to kayak around San Michel’s Island and back. I used those hefty shoulders and arms to row that kayak. Pretty soon, it was flying. Sean kept leaning back saying his stomach was hurting. When we got close to the island the water was a bit choppy. To our pleasure we saw our ‘hit and run boys’ being overturned in polluted water. Sweet! We overtook some of the party and raced around the island. We did it in rows of 10 while resting in between. Being in the back I had to navigate the boat. Being in the back, I could rest without Sean knowing about it! When we got into rhythm that boat cut through water like a hot knife through butter.

We made it! Was peacefully waiting in queue to take our boat out. Looked to the left. Two girls, not rowing not doing anything and not bothered, coming at us.
Ummmm. Stop the boat? Nope! Green, drenched!!
Only this time we were in shallow water. Helped the girls control their boat and helped carry the boats out.

It was a quick dip in the pool. We all bathed in the ladies wash room by mistake! And into the pool; played a game of water basketball which seemed more like water rugby. Fun!

It was then review time, the egg hand over (I wrapped mine in tissue, hid it under a glass and then later, in a gutter. My hopes were dashed when I had to hand it back, I wanted to go home and fry it with bacon or sausages) and back home!

Sweet day!

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