Basic Training Camp, or BTC for short, is an annual camp organised and run by the seniors of ODAC, and is conducted every March holiday. As the name suggests, the camp is meant to reinforce the fundamental camping skills taught to the juniors, such as tent pitching, bag packing and outdoors cooking, while giving the more inexperienced juniors their first taste of the outdoors, via an overnight camp in Ubin.
Put like that, BTC sounds pretty dull, especially when you compare it to all the crazy antics our CCA gets up to. All night island wide mass cycling events, treacherous ascents up mountains in distant lands, not-quite-legal acts of trespass into abandoned locales, visits to nigh-untouched reefs in the middle of the ocean, digging up holes in the school track and setting them on fire … A camp for “basic training” ? Would it just be a “UG Lite” boot camp, conducted out of formality?
Don’t let the name fool you – there’s a lot more than meets the eye. BTC is as old as the club itself, and for the past 31 years it has served as the rite of passage marking one’s initiation into the CCA. More so than any other event in ODAC, BTC forges a link between batches past, present and future.
Yes, even more so than ODACIA and senior’s farewell. Those are one day events
Like any time honoured tradition, the trappings may change with the times, but its core elements and purpose remains the same. BTC is more than just “basic training” – it is the best opportunity the seniors and teachers have to impart their values and vision to the next generation.
Valuable lessons aside, BTC lets seniors pass on the timeless experiences and practices of Raffles ODAC culture to the batch below them. Just ask any old ODAC alumnus to do some starry-eyed reminiscing, and you’ll notice more than a few comforting continuities across the decades. Fond memories will be dredged up of Ubin, the ODAC song, the Night Walk, the Long Walk, and the ever present sense of mystery and adventure that comes from having a secretive, slightly sadistic bunch of seniors run your camp. More on that later!
All of us go through BTC twice, first as green juniors at the mercy of their seniors, then as old fogeys all too eager to return the favour. Thus, every batch enjoys a unique BTC experience, even while keeping our favourite old traditions alive. This year’s BTC was no different, and ODAC 30 did a damn fine job making it an enjoyable and memorable affair for the juniors. (even if we do say so ourselves!)
You’re welcome 😀
The first day of BTC was marked with a sense of excitement and anticipation for all parties involved. As planned, the juniors came into BTC with no idea of what to expect, so they would have a genuine response to the activities lined up for them. On the other hand, the seniors knew exactly what to expect, and were more than a little anxious as to whether the camp would run smoothly from start to finish. Everyone was a little wary of the prospect of two and a half days in the company of new faces. Would this year’s BTC be a success?
Spoiler alert: everything turns out fine. Sorry for the suspense :p
The first day of BTC began in the evening, and took place entirely in school, but the seniors still managed to squeeze in a few goofy activities to liven up the day. Upon their arrival in school, the juniors were briefed, broken up into groups, and given the opportunity to get acquainted with each other and their group ICs through some good old fashioned ice breaking activities.
Orientation games, anyone?
Once all the getting-to-know-each other stuff was finished, the juniors were soon to discover for themselves ODAC 30s love for wacky station games. Right off the bat, the juniors were thrown right into the first of many madcap activities – the Blindfold challenge.
What inter batch camp would be complete without a little hazing?
For ODAC 31, there was no such thing as a free lunch. Their food for BTC had to be earned through teamwork, perseverance, and the willingness to endure just a little humiliation. To get to the food, the juniors had to blindfold themselves and grope their way through a darkened room filled with obstacles, decoys and seniors skilled in the art of trolling. Despite all the poking, prodding and other shenanigans, the juniors emerged from the activity in good cheer, with a veritable bounty of chow to show for their efforts.
Artery clogging, diabetes inducing, ultra processed goodness. ODAC Diet = Best Diet!
The juniors soon got to enjoy the fruits of their labour. After pitching their tents in the Marymount field, the juniors partook in some traditional Outdoors cuisine – Maggi Mee àla Canned Food, cooked in mess tins held over a shaky butane gas canister. Yum!
Exquisite – the dish was savoury, with just a hint of stray insect…
There was another activity waiting for the juniors once they had washed up – Find Your Seniors. As evening fell, ODAC launched into a game of hide and seek that sprawled across the entire school, with the juniors ganging up to hunt down the seniors. Once caught, the seniors would challenge the juniors to identify them, and answer whatever lame riddle they had prepared. If the juniors managed to succeed in the above tasks (some answered the riddles embarrassingly fast) the senior would be sent off to the losers corner to be ridiculed. A good time was had by all, and before they retreated back to their tents for the lights out, the juniors were at least marginally better at associating the senior’s faces with their names.
“Lights out” meant a strict curfew – absolutely no one snuck out to play cards, or anything like that
The next day brought a fresh gauntlet of fun and games for the juniors, starting with the bewildering Key Punch activity, in which the juniors had to decipher a cypher comprised of cryptic symbols. The game was hilariously off-beat, and more than a little unfair, but the teamwork and communication it required helped the juniors to bond and become more familiar with each other after the activity.
Seriously? You expect us to understand ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and freaking Star Wars symbols?
Right after that was the Maze Runner game, which had the juniors scurry around the school hunting down coloured slips of paper hidden in locations all over the school, guarded by vicious seniors, er, “Grievers”. The YA-novel inspired activity let the juniors exercise team work and bonding, while giving them a good physical workout.
A chartered bus took the club off to Changi Ferry Terminal in air conditioned comfort, giving everyone a much needed breather before the next round of ODAC insanity.
Up next was the game known as “Granny’s Candy.” As you may have guessed from the rather demented clip below, “Granny’s Candy” involves juniors trying to retrieve a bunch of balloons from seniors scattered all over the Changi Beach. At each of these locations, juniors would have to complete a small mini-game to obtain the balloons, then transport these balloons back to the collection zone.
Of course, there’s a catch to this – seniors, now known as Oompa Loompas, would chase down the juniors, and try to pop the balloons. Imagine an enormous game of rugby no boundaries, fragile balls, with about 40 players, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how the activity turned out. Bloody amazing, that’s how.
The Scavenger Hunt was held after lunch, and had the juniors look for miscellaneous items spread across the park and take photos of bits of scenery like signs, leaves and rocks . The hidden items included a Rubick’s Cube, a Barbie Doll, a mouse, and a furry ended pencil. Don’t ask why, that’s just how ODAC 30 rolls! Every couple of items found or photos taken, the juniors would have to complete a short mini-game to carry on.
How is this a “game”…
With the station games ended, ODAC prepared to journey to Ubin to set up camp. In contrast to the zaniness of the past two days, the next part of BTC was steeped in tradition, and contained many elements that past generations of ODACians would find familiar.
Ubin has always been the location of choice to camp for BTC, and even in the far flung future of 2015, ODACians got to enjoy an open air ferry ride on the way there, complete with a cool sea breeze and roller coaster-esque bumps and dives.
Upon alighting at Ubin, ODAC set about the usual business of pitching tents and making dinner. This time round, the camp site was equipped with a spot to light a camp fire, perfect for creating the eerie mood necessary for the night to come.
When darkness fell, the juniors were squeezed onto narrow rows of logs facing the center of the camp fire. It was there that the juniors were taught an important part of Raffles ODAC Heritage: The ODAC Song. It’s the immensely cheesy, yet oddly charming song that has the power to tug on your heart strings and stir up a strong sense of camaraderie and nostalgia, while having some really tough bits in the middle that seem to have more syllables than notes. You know which parts I’m talking about.
Off key, off beat … Encore!
To be honest, the junior’s rendition of the ODAC song was a little soft and mumbly, but that just highlighted how tired they were after the day’s activities. Thus, it was no big surprise when the juniors failed to notice their numbers slowly dwindling from the campfire, one by one…
Don’t worry, this is Basic Training Camp, not Cabin in the Woods, so the juniors were never in any real danger. Not to say they didn’t end up getting a little spooked – the juniors were being hauled off to participate in the Night Walk, another venerable BTC tradition. The juniors were directed down a path into forest, with only one other member of their batch to keep them company. The journey was long, dark, and punctuated by clots of barmy seniors that would act in strange, sometimes disturbing ways.
Imagine running into this bunch of nutters in the middle of the night.
Some seniors instructed the juniors to sit down with their eyes closed, then disappeared into the darkness… Some seniors feigned asthma attacks… Some seniors just wanted to gossip…
One way or another, the juniors survived the Night Walk, coming away from it a little closer to their Night Walk partner, and a little more leery of the lunacy of some of the seniors. With any luck, the exhaustion of the second day quashed any nightmares the juniors might have had. They would certainly need the rest for what was to come.
With the start of the third day, came a sweet little activity called the “Affirmation Circle”. The juniors were arranged into a circle and asked to close their eyes. About five randomly chosen juniors students would be asked to stand up and tap the shoulder of three people that they felt demonstrated a certain set of values or qualities, such as “This person helped me over the past two days”, or “This person rallied the group when it was faced with challenges.” It was heartening to juniors supporting each other during the activity, and there were many smiles to go around.
However, the fact that each junior was limited to three taps, and the fact that the juniors had only known each other for about four weeks at best, meant that a large number of juniors didn’t get to have the pleasure of being affirmed by their peers. To remedy this, the juniors decided that, obviously, the best course of action would be to roll up into a big ball for a massive group hug.
After everyone had finished throwing up from the concentrated adorableness, ODAC struck their tents and headed back to the mainland. Wow, good job for surviving BTC guys, it’s time to pop open the champagne now the worse is behind us, right?
Well, the best was truly saved for last – the final task set for the juniors was the infamous “Long Walk”. It’s reputation was fearsome enough that many juniors were dimly aware of it’s existence beforehand, despite the tight veil of secrecy the seniors had tried to maintain. Wild rumours abounded, and seniors were badgered with urgent questions like, “What’s coming up on the third day? Why would we “need a good rest” for later? What is this Long Walk I hear about? Would it involve a really long walk?” Seniors being seniors, all we could say were cryptic comments like “You’ll find out soon enough.” And “Remember to fill up your water bottles.”
Our BTC journey was to end where it had started; back in Raffles Institution. But how were we going to get there from Changi Point Ferry Terminal? By taking a bus? Hell no! That’s for wimps and senior citizens! Our CCA isn’t called the Outdoor Adventure Club for nothing. We prefer to travel the old fashioned way, the way every batch has done it since 1984: hoofing it on our own two feet. Am I right lads?
OOH RAH! (Alright we also happen to like cycling and kayaking, but that’s beside the point.)
Just like with Oddyseus, the real challenge lay in finding the way back home. Laden with heavy backpacks and deprived of Google Maps, the juniors had to make their way back to school on foot within 7 hours.
That’s the way we like it
The trek was long, hard and marred with more than a little confusion as some juniors lost their way. Juniors became casualties to sprains and migraines, and some groups were so befuddled that they ended up in Stadium!
Missed the target by about six kilometers, Houston, we have problem here…
However, it was during such times of hardship that the juniors had the opportunity to display their mettle and character, as they took charge of dire situations and offered help to their fellow group mates in need. The credos of “leave no man behind” was really hammered into the juniors during the trek, as they learnt to be open to giving, as well as asking for, assistance whenever it was necessary. The group ics, being prohibited from giving any direct help, could only give moral support, as well as the occasional serving of ice cream.
Everybody loves ice cream 😀
Unfortunately, a couple of groups were unable to make it back before the deadline of 5:30pm
, so they had to resort to public transport or Mr. Faizad’s car to hasten the last leg of their journey. Either way, everyone made it back to Raffles (mostly) in one piece, collapsing in the air conditioned Stamford Training Room with aching feet and sighs of relief.
We are the champions, my friends
With the last and most arduous part of BTC finally over, the juniors could now call themselves fully fledged ODACians: they’ve learnt the song, they conquered the 22 kilometre trek, and formed an indelible bond with their group mates. Now, they were ready to tackle one and a half years of outdoor adventure together, and along the way, create another unforgettable experience for the next batch of ODACians come next March. Godspeed!
ODAC 31 in full force
Of course, BTC would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of ODAC 30 . Special mention goes to Denise, Syahirah and Theng Yi, who were the BTCs ics for 2015- we have them to thank for dreaming up all the nutty station games, and for making sure the camp ran as smoothly as it did. Good job guys!
No shame, no gain – juniors, give us credit where it’s due! But do try to do an even better job next year 😀
The teachers also deserve credit for the success of BTC 2015 – their supervision, advice and assistance made things a lot easier, especially when we ran into rough patches. Thanks!
Mr. Faizad, Mr. Chew, Ms Chua and Mr. Tan
We’d also like to give a shout out to the J3s who dropped by to visit us and help out on the second day. Seeing you guys brought back good memories of our own BTC, and it was cool to hang out again, we really appreciated it!
Chester, Wei Jin, Rui Xiang
To the ODAC batches of the future – we hope you’ll continue or legacy by making sure BTC continues to be the most amazing welcome, to the most amazing CCA. Good luck and have fun, you guys!