Friday, June 22, 2012


This is one of those really annoying times I've gone to bed more than an hour earlier, only to realise sleep would not come, no matter how hard I try. Yes, lots on my mind. Way too much! It did occur to me to write it all out, for it's what I do best and what brings me rest. Then again, seriously - who wants to read of all the matters that trouble me, things that hurt me, stuff that make me cry et cetera? So, how about a story instead? Surely, when one cannot sleep, it's time for a story?

A couple of years ago, I shared a story of a camping trip I had as a teenager. The rain threatening to flood our tents was just the opening act. The major thing was much, much less amusing. It was, after all, our very first time out camping all on our own, and we thought no further than having the time of our lives. Just imagine - a bunch of girls (40 cadets plus 10 or so probably incompetent "camp leaders" - the committee members) wanting to do manly stuff. The only thing we did sort of okay was pitching up tents that didn't fall down while we were in them - and even that wasn't perfect because we forgot the trenches. (Read the previous story!)

We reached the campsite in the morning of the first day, unloaded all the stuff from the bus, fed the girls their brunch and got to work on pitching up the tents. Then, it rained and drama ensued. Lots of it. (Seriously, read the previous story!)

By afternoon, the rain had stopped. It was bright and sunny and everything pleasant. We hiked a little way off campsite and frolicked in a stream. It was shallow and bubbly, the water cool and clear, and the girls all giddy and silly. Everyone was playing and laughing, enjoying every moment. So far so good.

Then, evening came and it was time to make dinner. It's been a long time, really, but I remember we only had 2 or 3 burner stoves, to be shared by everyone. Dinner was simply some canned food which the girls (4 to a group or so) had to cook by themselves. Here's a picture of how accomplished in cooking girls of my era are: there are 8 girls in my group of very close-knit girlfriends, and out of that, at 15 or 16 years old, only my friend, Big Eyes and me could make decent fried rice, mee or meehoon. Some can't even fry an egg without the final output appearing burnt and butchered. Yes, that bad. But no, no one set anything on fire while cooking - the comedy was to come later.

After dinner we gathered at a small pavilion for some songs, dances, sketches, stories-sharing - all the fun stuff. All the girls were enjoying themselves so much they must have thought that was the best camping trip ever (or so I liked to believe, while I still could...) Then, came the comedy. It's really a tragedy, but since it was such a long time ago, it's become comedy.

My friends, the other committee members, concluded that the cause of this comedy was the girls' dinner. They played in the water upstream, and then collected water downstream to cook with! In retrospect, it might not be likely, for they played in the afternoon and made dinner in the evening... I am more inclined now to think it was because they didn't know the first thing about cooking - most didn't wait till their concoction boiled before taking the pots off the stoves. 

It was bedtime when the first girls started getting tummy aches. It wasn't much of a problem, as we had two toilets right next to the campsite. Within the next couple of hours though, it became quite clear we had a huge issue. Almost all the girls were stricken with diarrhoea. Two toilets to about 40 girls. Imagine. Wait, don't imagine! There was nothing we could do. We were first-aiders and we had first-aid kits stocked full of supplies to treat sprains and strains, cuts and burns, maybe even small fractures, but not food poisoning. The girls just had to take turns at the two toilets until their bowels cleared. The queue outside the restrooms lasted the entire night, until the next morning.

Ironically, all but one of us, the seniors, were fine. We sat a table with wooden benches, kept awake in shifts and actually had the time of our lives. I had my first experience of the I'm-being-watched feeling. I was back-facing this really huge tree, and I kept having a feeling that something was watching me. I turned back several times in the course of half an hour or so, and saw nothing but that tree. A little while later, a friend joined me, and it wasn't several minutes before she turned as well, citing the same feeling of being watched. Then, a third friend came and joined us, and that feeling went away. We talked and joked and laughed, and talked and talked some more. Reader, you know how I somehow have the ability to say the stupidest things in the wrongest times to cause unwitting listeners, usually in the midst of drinking, to spit water they are otherwise supposed to swallow. (Example here) So, my friend was sipping tea from a glass we'd been sharing (by "we", I mean all my friends at the table and those who came and went) and I said something, well, "funny". She nearly choked on her drink, spit the very last drops from her mouth back into the glass and laughed heartily for a good couple of minutes. After that, we left the table for a while and when we got back, to our horror, we found the glass almost empty. Someone had drunk the spit-mixed tea! We asked a few girls in panic and found the one who drank from the glass. She was clearly very upset when we told her, but it was still pretty funny to us. So, we went around telling the funny story to our other friends, until my bestfriend frowned when we told her. She drank from the cup too, she said, indignant, but the story just became doubly funny.

While we were having all that fun, the girls were still taking turns at the two toilets. Then, one of my friends started feeling sick too. By that time though, half of us had stayed up half the night, so it was time to end our "watch" shift and go to sleep. My friend told the following story for years afterwards although I have absolutely no memory of it. According to her, right before we went to sleep (we were in the same tent), she told me she was afraid to go to the toilet on her own in the dark, but she knew she would need to, with her tummy aching and all. I, she alleged, declared that I will go with her when she needs to - just wake me up, buddy! And then, when she really needed to go and tried to wake me up, I simply turned to the other side without opening half an eye and continued sleeping. Seriously, she told this of me for years!

Anyhow, we all made it through the night. A bunch of us, me included, woke really early and took a walk along a trail where we saw beautiful rays of sun piercing through the thick morning mist onto a bunch of giant bamboo plants. We hurried back to the camp to get the others to go and have a look, but everyone was too sick and too tired, and they just wanted to go home. They said it was the most horrible camping trip ever and they just wanted to go home.

We made the girls take down their tents and pack up while we did the dirtier job. What dirtier job, you ask? Remember, 40 girls having diarrhoea through the night and two toilets. Someone's gonna have to clean those two toilets. So, we wrapped ourselves up in black garbage bags and we did. We even had a photo taken of us - all in a row in garbage bag fashion - but I don't think I have it anymore.

The End.

Sleep will come now.

No comments: