Being a helper instead of a normal camper, I not only got a small discount on the camp fees (though Arts camp helpers got a hefty 50% discount off the $50 fee and the head honchos got to go free - hah!), I also got to slack off here and there: whenever there was an activity that the helpers weren't keen on taking part in, we'd just cheerfully proclaim: "Freshies [Ed: Freshmen] play! Freshies play!" and hide in some corner. Knowing what was on the program, we were usually not caught unawares by strange forfeits and activities, and had a behind the scenes look at happenings: "Do you know what happened to these straws before you put them in your mouths? I do! Muahahahaha!". Most importantly, I got to spend Monday and Tuesday helping out instead of hiding at home and meditating.
The goody bags contained the usual stuff: Newater (they give the stuff away to anyone who asks), a Yeo's H20 apple drink, old magazines, pens, biscuits and an M1 plastic bag as the bag itself and the like. Apparently the goody bags for guys attending the King Edward VII hall orientation last year had condoms.
We had a small turnout of slightly more than 15 people (or slightly less than 20), which was slightly more than usual: last year I'm told they had slightly more than 10 campers (?), and the year before they had less than 10 so they actually camped in tents in Sentosa (and it rained and the tents flooded, so they had to hide in the monorail station). This means that we actually had more helpers than campers, but since we usually took part in the activities, this wasn't much of a problem. I was musing that maybe we should merge with the Sociology society (say) to hold a camp next year. But then a small camp is cozy, with only 2 Orientation Groups (OGs), less time is wasted due to there being fewer people and OGs to manage and less manpower is required; since games are always between the two OGs, less movement is required and only 1-2 facilitators need to co-ordinate them. People also get to interact with each other more. We were also one of the very few camps to accept non-freshmen as campers, so we got some Year 2s (and possibly some Year 3s too) joining us.
On Wednesday, we lodged at TMS (aka Temasek) hall, and I got a little look at what being a hall inmate is like. Of course, the most famously restrictive part of life as a hall inmate is the interminable list of silly rules which are unreasonably foisted on young people already past their teens. Some might argue that no one cares to follow the rules, but their mere existence and occasional enforcement can tell one about the attitude that the administration takes towards students.
Instead of keys, inmates in NUS get transponders - high-tech devices that probably emit some radio signal to unlock doors and access certain areas. The catch is that pressing said gadgets only makes it possible to turn the locks on doors - one still has to rotate them manually to lock or unlock them. So you have the disadvantage of modern technology (the batteries need to be replaced every now and then) without any advantages (you have to manually turn the locks).
Everywhere in Temasek Hall was locked: the laundrette, kitchenette and TV room. One wonders at the need to keep everything restricted and barred. In contrast, a source who lived at King Edward VII hall the last academic year told me that there, everything except the rooms and the girls' toilets (because they had a history of peeping toms) were unlocked. Eusoff hall, bordering non-NUS territory, has some fancy transponder-locked gates to stop outsiders from trespassing. Ingenious people (presumably NUS students) have however found a way around the gates: a plank has been laid over a drain and people can go in and out of Eusoff hall as they please. So you have the disadvantage of fancy locked gates (bother and hassle) without any advantages (those up to no good can easily sneak in). Is anyone detecting a pattern here?
Meanwhile, my forays into PGP have revealed a seemingly endless number of grilled gates barring corridors, lifts requiring the transponder to unlock access to floors and emergency fire escape staircases, the exits to which are locked. My sources inform me that some halls also have grilled gates sealing off corridors. Of course, students usually leave such gates and doors unlocked, so the end result is, all together now, that you have most of the disadvantages of these security measures with almost none of the advantages (pitiful though they already are).
I hear that some halls have darkened corridors, making them look like asylums, but the names of said halls are unknown to me.
Many hall inmates are afflicted with hall fever, making them "go to mad extremes for the sake of hall". Which explains the recycling bin in the Arts canteen which says: "Stop vandalism! Prevent theft! Unauthorised person found in possession of the bins its contents will be referred to the police!" I figured no one would be desperate enough to steal the contents of soft drink can recycling bins, but I forgot about rag. If they're willing to buy cartons of soft drinks and pour the liquid inside away just to construct their floats, they're certainly willing to plunder recycling bins.
This being an orientation camp, there were plenty of forfeits for those who lost the games, or somehow picked the short straws. The art of thinking up forfeits is most fascinating: one needs to have the suggestion of prurience to tickle even the jaded palettes of worldly university students just past the cusp of teenagehood, without being blatant enough to offend the sensibilities of the NUS administration or the slightly more conservative bunch. The same goes for the games and activities, albeit in a more attenuated way (since forfeits are supposed to be 'punishments' of a sort). So we had forfeits like Body Parts (2 guys have to put requested parts of their bodies together. Examples: Hand and knee, face and armpits, elbow and calf), 'Do a pole dance with someone of the opposite gender' (few were up to standard though) and the banana dance, and games like 'With straw quarters in your mouths, pass a rubber band to the person beside you - who surprisingly enough is of the opposite gender'.
Of course, the crowds going for different camps differ: not being funky and kinky like the Arts camp people, we didn't have speed dating (SDU sponsored them some money, but still!), clubbing or the Nutella game (this involved smearing Nutella on someone's neck and having someone else of the other gender lick it off). One thing about orientation camps in co-educational institutions is that they all have pseudo-kinky activities which play on the male-female divide and the latent sexual attraction that is presumed to exist. This of course excludes certain non-negligible constituences, so next year I might want to help organise a GLBT camp (Gay, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgendered) to cater to those communities. Instead of salacious activities pairing people of different genders, this will have people of the same gender pairing up. But then, in the shape of Body Parts, we already have a little of this (same-gender pairing up and engagement in semi-lurid activities), so [Ed: For those who don't get it, this is a joke. Our dear conservative NUS administration would never approve this kind of thing].
Incidentally, one reason single-sex (rather, male) secondary school orientation camps are the most extreme and punishing ones is because they only have guys; another reason of course is that the students are not free to pontang (skip) them, being powerless and clueless Secondary Ones - in University they're optional, and in JC they're effectively so (which is also why conscript armies treat their slaves worse than volunteer ones, but by now I'm horrendously off-topic).
The T-shirt was, as usual, too small for me. Gah.
Lunch was catered by Temasek Hall. Some people complained about its quality, but I found it okay. Given that the food there is supposed to be one of the best (Raffles Hall, for instance, serves its inmates "health food", so I'm told), they're in for a rude shock if they choose to be inmates anywhere else. Besides which, I suspect the caterers up the quality of their cooking for orientation camps to con naive freshmen into staying there during term time, whereupon the quality of the cooking will plummet. The Law camp people were also dining there at the same time, and they had one more dish on their plate. I always knew they were filthy rich; even their orientation camp meal plans are more expensive than others'!
We had haram food all the way except for the last meal. Yay.
For the station games, I was appointed a station master, so I got to sleep, muse and read my periodicial for a few hours, albeit in a location without air conditioning and indeed fans or ventilation (MPSH 6). One group played the game (Win, Lose or Draw) a bit dodgily (with the drawer vocalising words even after a warning from me), so to get a point withdrawn due to disqualification returned to them, they gave me a saucy cheer about their coconuts, their bananas and their being chopped off. Having people perform so enthusiastically for you in meaningless but amusing rituals for the sake of empty points that merely serve to lubricate the functioning of an ultimately pointless game that has no significance at all in the grand plan of things is most amusing [Ed: For the clueless, this means that I enjoyed it]. Both orientation groups went by me relatively quickly, so I could run an errand or two before returning to my
Not having quite enough time on the program and worried about lack of enthusiasm, we very cunningly offered the campers a choice about whether to forego the Talentime, a customary camp activity whereby people humiliate themselves further. Not surprisingly, they overwhelmingly decided against it. Which makes one wonder why camps have Talentimes in the first place: it can't only be to kill time.
At night we had more games, the forfeit for one for which was for the males of the losing team to be adorned with makeup, and the females with camouflage cream. Then there was one where two team members had to sandwich a plate between their faces (the original plan was to use a slice of bread, but we decided that that was too disgusting), run to a tray of flour in which was scattered unopened sweets (which was unusual - it's de rigueur to remove the wrappers first), grab them in their mouths, run back and spit them out in a tray - all without letting the plate drop, naturally. I'm told that on the way back, I had the guy running with me in a wrestling armlock, with my arm around the front of his neck, so it looked like I was supporting him. And when we were running to the tray he, and not I, was yelping, so I'm not the only male who does such things!
The night ended with a "trust walk", with the campers blindfolded and made to walk down a long road. It was much too long, with not enough props to spice up the action: mustard, ketchup, chili sauce and cornstarch were all missing. We had lousy Made In China water pistols (damn, I miss my Super Soaker 200) which kept clogging up and malfunctioning, but after a while that got stale, even with my aiming at their ears and into their shirt sleeve holes. While the campers were being herded through the canteen, I found some stuff that hadn't been locked down by the vendors: a shaker of pepper (I shook some in the air but in the end I was the one who suffered the most), some wooden sticks (which we used to prod their legs with) and loose eggs (which we didn't use. Pity.)
The night walk ended with a slide which was lubricated with soap water; cornstarch would've been better but apparently we couldn't get any. Unfortunately the slide was too short, being about a storey at the most: I'm told last year's KE VII orientation had a 3-storey high slide. There was also a complimentary shampoo (and with Clairol too!) at the end, but I think that was just either an excuse to get everyone wet or a way to use up the shampoo since its original purpose was to lubricate the slide when diluted with water (what a waste!)
There was an obligatory midnight supper expedition, but as usual the cheese prata shop was as usual overpriced and delivered substandard food; even though we waited a long time for our food, it was cold, soggy and not at all satisfying when it came. Though I liked my watermelon milkshake.
I also found that the 7-11 still stocked the vibrating condoms which I can't find in other 7-11s:
ViCon: FIRST Vibrating Condom in Singapore. A top draw at Geneva Inventors' Trade Fair. Extra sensuality for both partners. Extremely safe and easy to use.
Checking out of Temasek hall the next day, I noticed a poster politically incorrect in the extreme: "Retarded? Look for more retards in the RAG room....". The words were accompanied by a picture of a guy putting a roll of film over each eye. Tut tut.
After a boring and awful sponsors' talk, we left for Sentosa. After making our way to Siloso beach, my OG (Group 2) won the first game so while the unlucky member of Group 1 who had been nominated to perform a forfeit was carrying it out (looking for a male stranger, finding out his name and getting him to come over and say hello), I had one of my numerous strange, perverse and twisted fantasies fulfilled: I was buried up to the neck in sand. While I was given a mermaid's tail, figure and DD cup breasts (incidentally, that wasn't part of my fantasy. Even I have my limits). Following which we had wet games while being pelted with an unearthly quantity of flotsam and jetsam, most of which I searched out and disposed of.
After the wet games had finished and we were cleaning up, we had some time before the next item in our program: some night confidence walk and Fright Night. We then proceded to attempt to finish some of the prodigious quantities of (nearly expired) Apple-flavoured H20 and Bubble Justea (with an indeterminate expiry date) that our sponsor Yeo's had gifted us with by playing a drinking game: A deck of cards was shuffled and each person drew one in turn. Those drawing cards between Ace and Five inclusive could assign to other players in any combination the requisite amount of sips of beverage to consume. Those drawing a six could keep it and throw it any time, whereupon everyone had to show a thumbs up; the slowest to respond would have to imbibe a number of sips between 1-5 chosen by the thrower. A seven would result in the drawer coming up with a word and everyone offering a rhyming word in turn; the first person to be stumped would get the same punishment. An eight resulted in a category of things which everyone had to provide a member of, with the usual punishment. A nine was a toilet card that could be redeemed at any time. A ten resulted in the drawer being able to make a rule that would last the session unless rescinded, the flouting of which resulted in the usual punishment. Jacks or Queens did nothing and a King let one deflect an order to drink X number of sips.
In the end those who suggested gender-specific rules (eg "All guys must at all times flap one arm like a chicken wing", "all girls must place one finger on their heads") got targeted by the other gender. And towards the end some wacky rules came out ("All girls must pinch themselves and say 'ow' when someone draws a card", "all guys must do star jumps when someone draws a card"). I was asked to provide a list on two occasions; the first time I suggested "Monarchs of England", but when I suggested "polearms" on the second instance, everyone was stunned, so I had to think of something else.
At a suitable interval, I extricated myself from the fray to prepare for Fright Night while the campers had their confidence walk down a dark trail. We held ours at perhaps the most famous abandoned house on Sentosa, just opposite the DBS/PA holiday chalets, and up the road from both the Scripture Union campsite and the Tourism Academy. I think it was the same house which I glimpsed when, during the GEP camp in Sec 1, someone in my class got lost and Tay Poh Huat led a search team to look for him, and we found some Malay drug addicts getting high at the entrance of the place.
After our setup, the path went something like this: the camper(s) would walk up a slope to the porch of the house, where they would see a dark room. Moving through the room, they would be accosted by a ghost. They would then exit the room and walk down a covered pathway. At the end of it, behind a shed, I would lurk with a white cloak (of sorts, which I later removed because I was baking in it) and with a bottle of silly string in one hand and snow spray in the other, and spray them liberally with it. I would then give them directions to U-turn (a term that no one understood, strangely), walk back towards the dark room, turn right and go up the corridor. A disembodied human head (a ball with 'hair' stuck to it) would roll down the stairs. When they walked up the steep staircase, they would turn around and walk into a large room, whereupon another disembodied human head would come flying at them (another ball sliding down a length of comms cord). Exiting the room from the right, they would walk down a long corridor, past a tree branch with a white cloth thrown over it. At the end of the corridor they would encounter a woman and her fetus, the former of whom would proposition the camper(s). Going down the stairs, a little boy would greet them ghoulishly (though the makeup unfortunately made him look more clownish than ghost-like). They would then be free to leave the house, to their delight. At least, that was the plan.
In the end, I think the ghosts were more scared than the campers, even with some helpers to keep them company in the night. The night was quite bright, so moonlight illuminated the trail somewhat (except, sadly, where some of us ghosts were stationed) We also didn't have enough props or enough preparation, so we were quite shoddy as ghosts. The guys strolled past merrily, especially the first (and only) all-male pair. Most of the girls yelped softly or otherwise didn't display their fright in a very audible manner (perhaps they had looks of dread on their faces, but it was dark where I was, so). I did notice at least one gripping her (male) partner's arm very tightly though. One guy, entering alone, had the decency to ejaculate token yelps of surprise, so there's some credit to him.
Above all, we probably went around scaring people the wrong way, and our impact was lessened despite - or probably because - of our antics. It was reported to us that before entering the house, many participants were "fucking scared" and that some didn't want to enter (no doubt due to some judicious seeding of suggestions and messing with their minds through the telling of ghost stories after nightfall). Ghosts which actively try to scare you ("Boo!", "I'm scared...", "Muahaha!") merely reassure participants that a live human that they know is in front of them, especially if they recognise the ghost's voice and/or visage. Ghosts which actually give you directions (as I did) totally spoil the effect. The campers' imagination is probably our most powerful weapon, especially for the females (witness the popularity of romance novels). Ghosts which ignore you, look through you or flit past the edge of your vision, uncaring, are probably the most effective spirits (IIRC, Haw Par Villa used to hire a woman in ghostly makeup to stand around with an umbrella in their "10 Courts of Hell" attraction, and she wouldn't take heed of passers-by). In fact, if we'd left the house totally empty, it'd probably have been more scary than it was with us inside.
Despite our ineptitude, some girls (naturally) put on such a good show that it was worth hiding for hours in a house stinking of bats. One pair of excitable girls came in together, and spent what must have been at least 15 minutes hesitating on the lintel marking the entrance to the first room, talking loudly to each other all the while about how scared they were ("I'm very scared, I'm very scared). When they finally reached my station and I sprayed them, they screamed and screamed and screamed: these were not the usual pathetic yelps or squeals which most girls are fond of; these were good quality, resonant and piercing screams. First one screamed, which prompted the other to start. Hearing her, the first became more agitated and continued screaming. And so on for at least half a minute. It made up for all the others' non-response.
Another pair of girls later wasn't quite so spectacular in the screaming stakes, but they were so spooked by the bouncing ball that they fell out, and someone had to guide them through the rest of the house with a light, "disarming" the reamining ghosts.
After Fright Night, I got a ride home from Gilbert and returned the following day after lunch. We had some dry games by the beach, I rode in the aforementioned contraption (merry-go-round variant), got horribly disoriented and screamed too much (for some inexplicable feminine reason, some girls were screaming even when the thing stopped, so I decided to scream for fun too. Oh, and it was rather scary also), for which I'm currently suffering (sore throat).