Friday, March 10, 2017

18 hours

I have never seen Jo so utterly exhausted. It’s like she came back from the army after a road march. She crashed and slept for nearly 18 hours. I'm pretty sure its the longest duration she's ever slept, since the day she was born.

* Jo (under quilt) and Lu (who missed her sister)

Following her first overnight school camp, I expected to see a happy flouncing girl brimming with stories about the fun she had when I picked her up from school at 3pm on a Friday, after not seeing her since Thursday morning.

Instead, as she walked toward me with her three bags, clad in her new red camp T-shirt and new gray track pants specially procured from Uniqlo for the camp, her face was a controlled plane of solemnity and gravity. There was no hint of a smile. Without breaking stride, she walked past as I took a bag from her. On the way to the car, her eyes started filling with tears and in the car, the tears started falling past her sun-reddened nose.

I’m so tired Mama I think I only slept 30 minutes or 1 hour last night, she said.

Back home, after wolfing down some papaya and taking a shower, she crawled into bed at 4pm and after languidly describing some of the camp activities, slept, past the evening (no dinner), through the night, till the next morning when she woke up at 830am to wolf down some food before falling asleep again at 10am. She eventually arose from her stupor at 11am.

* Her mid-sleep snack of her favourite cheese omelette, Milo and warmed-up leftover chicken soup from the night before

The camp for the eleven-year-olds is a first for the school, which had (under this principal anyway) never organized any overnighters before.

Day was sore: How come they didn’t do one when I was in P5?

Lu was excited: Why can’t I have a camp in P3?

Essentially it comprised an Amazing Race-style series of challenges at the East Coast Park, a beach-cleaning exercise, some outdoor cooking for dinner (they boiled eggs), a campfire, sleeping in school, and ending off with a stint at an obstacle course complete with a zipline and abseiling.

It was all really, really fun and Jo loved most of it. From effortlessly traversing the obstacle course to eating packed food and learning cheers and shouting encouragement to her friends – You can do it! – she did fine.

The nightmare was sleep time.

To the credit of the forward-thinking one, she had anticipated this way before. Weeks before when I signed the consent form, she had pinpointed what she felt would be her biggest issue: Mama can I not go? I’m scared I can’t sleep.

But I told her to try it. I always had the best time of my life at school camps, even with the sleep deprivation.

What actually happened was that at lights out at 10pm, she struggled valiantly to sleep in the new environment. She doesn’t sleep in air-condition at home but it was particularly hot in the sports hall where all the girls were ensconced. Some kids played with torches, havoc for the light-sensitive one (she lost her eye mask). Occasionally there was noise, like slamming doors. The sleeping bag I had borrowed for her (Teng’s old one) worked marvelously for Day who slept like a baby during his camp (actually I think Day is one of those people who can sleep anywhere in any condition, it will come in useful during the Army) but was far too thin for her and she found the ground painfully hard.

When she finally fell asleep at around midnight or so, someone apparently woke her up barely 30 minutes later and she says she just couldn’t go back to sleep. At 5am, she got up and went to queue for a cold shower which she had to finish in under four minutes (she practised this at home, she usually takes about 15). She also doesn’t normally bath in the morning but she was told she had to.

Then it was on to the obstacle course programme which drained her battery even more.

I think it’s good she had the experience.

Many parents were concerned over the camp, worried about whether their delicate offspring would be able to wing it, and I think some opted out. But I’m really glad she did it, discover so much more about herself in the process, and grow up a little bit more.


ZF said...

This brought back memories.
For my p5 camp that happened decades back, i struggled to sleep at night too due to the unfamiliarity. I crashed into bed when i reached home, around 4pm. When i woke up, it was evening....the next day.

Sher said...

but.... but... that's over 24 hours!