I made it back!! And I survived Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) at Pulau Ubin with all my new found friends🙂
Honestly I was quite apprehensive about going to OBS because of all the stories I’ve heard. Not bad stories, just things that indicated taking me completely out of my comfort zone. What are these things you may ask.. for one thing OBS basically means going back to basic. This meant, sleeping on bunker beds with no curtains on the windows, no hot showers, toilet sharing, scheduled meals and scheduled activities (non-stop!!). To summerise all of this, we were told to expect the unexpected!
I certainly do not like the idea of being shocked with something so very unexpected. I prefer to have clarity on everything. But the moment I set foot on OBS, clarity the one thing they deprived us. And this really tested everyone’s patience and innovation in handling what was given.
Our trip to OBS was planned for two days, 30-31 Jul (Fri-Sat). We departed from College Green on two huge busses around 8am. We reached Punggol Jetty nearly 9am because the morning traffic was quite heavy. Then we got on a boat to go to OBS, this took about 10 minutes.
My first impression of OBS was that it looked pretty decent. Surprisingly OBS had concrete (as in bricks :p ) infrastructure. We also saw some tall wooden structures that were probably used for climbing challenges. On our arrival, we were ushered to go to the Main Hall for our briefings. There we were divided into 4 big groups. There were 60 of us, so each team had around 15-16 members.
“We are the Champions” was my group. In this group there were 6 ladies and 10 guys, whose nationals included Bhutan (Tashi), Brunei (Me), China (Emily), India (Anup, Shirish, and Vinod), Japan (Daisuke), Maldives (Alim), Pakistan (Ishaq), Philippines (Harvey), Singapore (Darryl, Elaine, Ming), Sri Lanka (Charuni) and USA (Jon, and Mauricio).
Prior to all these we were tasked to come up with a set of rules for the team and we came up with: Direction, Strategise, Communication and Team Spirit.
The days’ event basically focused on challenging our leadership tools and understanding. The activities included the Plank-Blocks Motion, “Blind” Square Forming, Dark Tunnel Expedition and Rock Climbing.
The platform activity was totally chaotic. We were all asked to get on this platform and once everyone were onboard, we were to move the blocks and planks to help us move forward to the finishing line. The rules were we have to be connected physically at all times; the planks cannot touch the floor or it will be removed; anybody touching the bare ground will be blind folded and returned to the team, adding to the challenge. The funny thing about this exercise was that, we had to hold on to everyone. It was like giving a gigantic bear hug! But in that moment, it was the only way we could do to keep everyone off the ground! We performed quite badly because we were so disoriented by the idea of having to work in such confined spaces, with very little chance of manouvering the planks and blocks below our feet. But somehow we did it, eventhough we finished last among the other teams.
For me the biggest challenge was the tunnel exercise. I didn’t go in because I have fears of small spaces and pitch-dark places. So knowing my limitation, I sat it out. My friend Elaine also share this fear and she too sat it out. My other most challenging exercise was the rock climbing event. Being voluptuous, I have always lacked the confidence to climb the rock wall for fear of not being able to lift my self up. I have small feet and the arm/ finger strength are not adequate. But with the encouragement from my friends, I relented. Initially, I targeted to just climb to the red line (3m high).. but somehow, I managed to climb myself up to 7m high!! I only had 3m left to climb, but because of the pressure on the tip of my feet and my laborious breathing rhythm, I conceded and asked to be let down. Despite “chickening out” when I could have finished to the top of the wall, I did pretty good. I finally climbed the rock wall.. and I wasn’t afraid of the height🙂
I’m the one in red shirt🙂
On the second and final day, we were given the ultimate challenge that involved Alpine Rescue and Kayaking and on the sideline Nature Sighting and Check Points. We were given 4 hours and among the equipments we had to carry and use were: instruction papers, map of Pulau Ubin, compass, individual whistle, climbing harness and helmets, life jacket, sets of clothes for dry and wet activities, 1/2 liter of water, poncho and a backpack. We had a lot to carry. But we were all so gracious and kind with one another that everyone carried the heavy loads collectively and contributively.
For me, the final challenge was the most testing. It tested me physically more than mentally. The distance was far, the activities very strenuous… but somehow, I finished till the end without fainting our of exhaustion!! Although my friends told me I look so pale and tired, but deep down inside I’m glad I was able to finish the challenge with my team.
Everyone gathered back at OBS around 1330hrs. We were sweaty, exhausted and totally drained. But that wasn’t the end of it. Once back at OBS, we had to rush for our lunch, freshening up and gather back again to reflect on challenge. The closing of our OBS exercise was the revealing of the winner for the final challenge. My team suspected that we lost because we didn’t finish all of the required activities, there was just not enough time to do everything. But as the OBS facilitator revealed the score, “We are the Champions” was true to our name. We are indeed the CHAMPIONS!! We scored 280 points. We were shocked, ecstatic and confused all at once!! We were all jumping and greeting our other winning friends, still not believing that we could actually win! It was such a super feeling🙂
In the two days that I’ve been at OBS, I’ve observed a few things (that people should be prepared for) such as:
- There were loads of Mosquitoes!!! So remember to bring mosquito patches and repellent.
- There were meals 4 times a day. This was really exhausting.
- The dorms consist of bunker beds (very thin mattress, one pillow and think blank), light, fan (absolutely no air-conditioning), common toilets and showers (with no heater). It was really back to basics! and the bunker beds were very dusty.
- All the activities at OBS were challenging both physically and mentally. So it’s real when they say ‘expect the unexpected’!
- Bring enough clothes and shoes!! Minimum 4 sets of clothes and enough plastic bags for our laundry afterwards.
- Don’t forget your toiletries and snacks!!
- Because of the unpredictable weather, bring your ponchos, caps/hats and sunblock, and water bottle!
- You need 3 pairs of footwear: track shoes, wet shoes and sandals/ slippers.
- For the girls, bring your hair-dryers and crunches!!
As a reflection on the OBS programmes, they’re very sneaky and good at what they do. They’re really there to mess up your sanity but yet keep you safe from anything dangerous. The facilitators knew what to do to cause havoc among the team members. But so far, our team always seem to come out of it as a team. This was the most important product.
The few crucial lessons that I learnt while at OBS were:
- In any decision making, we have to always remember 3 things: People, Process and Product. There is no one way of doing this. It must all be considered.
- As a leader, always allow yourself a local and strategic views on situation. Don’t just stay in the box. Go out and see the bigger picture as well.
- Don’t just listen to the majority. Make it a point to listen to EVERYONE and consider all of the feedback constructively and earnestly.
- There will always be ambiguity. So expect the unexpected and adapt! Don’t be rigid, be flexible! Don’t ponder, just move forward!
I truly enjoyed myself at OBS. Although it was strenuous, both mentally and physically, it was however quite an enlightening experience. I will never forget this.
Thank you OBS! Thank you LKY SPP🙂