My journey to RYLA started on a wrong note. When we were at Sungai Petani, our bus broke down. We had to wait for two hours but the bus still wasn’t fixed. I really appreciated how the Rotary Club of Alor Setar and Uncle Ganesh took good care of me. During that short period of time, I received 11 calls from Rotarians making sure that everything is OK. They arranged someone to fetch me personally to the camp site. My journey to Alor Setar took about 9 hours and by the time I reach the camp site, I was already very tired. To my amusement, the KTM ( Kereta Api Malaysia) also broke down and some of the participants were also late.
On the second day, our schedule was jam-packed with speeches and talks. They have a very impressive line-up of speakers from CEOs, scientists to entrepreneurs. I was very impressed with one of the speaker. Her name is Sangarikka. She is only 16 and had already written a book. She took a gap year and during that period of time, she did not just sit around and do nothing. Instead, she learned all sorts of things, become an intern in companies and went around giving speeches. She even invested in stocks.
We, the participants also had to volunteer to become the emcee to introduce all the speakers and in between breaks, we had to lead energiser programmes which are dances, exercise and aerobics to keep us alert throughout the talks. They were all very enthusiastic, unlike me. We have more than enough volunteers to lead and I count myself lucky that my contributions were not required.
Then, we were sorted into groups of tens each for the third day. Early in the morning, we started our journey to Kem Paya Pahlawan. Most of our activities involved being in the man-made lake. We were taught how to build rafts from PVC pipes, tyres and rafia strings and then, we had to raft to four destinations. At each destination, we had to swap leaders so that everyone had a chance to lead and to follow. While I was rafting, I was bitten by a huge greenish leech. Even after a few weeks, the wound is still itchy and swollen. My dad said that the leech’s sucker is probably stuck inside the wound. Then, we had to crawl in a river of mud near a paddy field. The river of mud swallowed up many of the participants shoes. We swam with little fishes and some even got caught in our clothing. It is said that the mineral-rich mud is good for your skin but it was definitely a hassle cleaning up. Our clothing and shoes stink. When I was back home, I did not realise if there is any changes in my skin except that it turns a few shades darker.
During the night, we had a performance. Every group had to come up with something. You can also volunteer to do an individual performance. The whole programme was organised by the participants. I really admired some of the participants who are brave enough to stand in front of more than a hundred audiences, performing something that they weren’t good at. They were really a sporting group.
I met a lot of people, from different walks of life during the camp. Most of them are Rotracters. There are even participants from Russia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Yemen, Africa and Bangladesh. I also made friends with a lot of Siamese and multiracial people. One of my friend is a quarter English, a quarter Indian, a quarter Chinese and a quarter Siamese. Many of them were jealous that I came for free but when I told them I had to present and give a speech after the camp, they weren’t jealous anymore.
When I was on our journey back home, my bus once again broke down but it did not take a long time to be repaired. It was a really great experience but I do hope that the speeches weren’t arranged one after another. On the first day and second day, all we did was sitting there, listening and taking notes. But all in all, I did not regret going to RYLA.