After A2 we were required to attend a 1-week BTN course. It stands for Biro Tatanegara and aims to instil a sense of patriotism before we leave Malaysia. We were lucky enough to be sent to Kem BTN Kuala Lipis together with the Poland-bound students so there were only 55 of us in the camp. It was quite new and the facilities were top-notch, almost felt like a resort.
We did a lot of activities including the LDK (Latihan Dalam Kumpulan) where our facilitators would discuss issues and conduct activities with us. Some of them really opened our eyes because everything they did had some underlying implications that they wanted us to understand. In short, it was a long stretch of endless repetitions of the independence story, of how Malaysia came to be. What was refreshing was the way they bluntly and directly tell the story as it is without hiding the fact that Chinese and Indians were immigrants and the clear, fair presentation of how our forefathers worked together to unite the people back then.
We were shown Hati Malaya 1957 (a movie starring Maya Karin) and I gotta say that the 1 week was the best history lesson I ever had. Not only have I finally grasped the true meaning of independence, I also finally felt a deep sense of love for the country. They taught many things to us, including the Social Contract and why Malays have special priviledges. It was all spelt out in the Federal Constitution. We learned quite a few interesting things they never taught us in secondary schools, like how we gained citizenship. It made me wonder why they never bothered to show these things to people out there who never understand, who are always clamouring for equal rights for all races. As a young Malaysian I strongly feel that what we have now is best for all, that we should all be united and maintain the status quo. If what the people at BTN do is just to brainwash JPA scholars, I must say they have done quite a good job. I am a proud Anak Malaysia who loves his country
Oh, not to forget, we also did some physical activities. There was a flying fox session (I went up the thing twice! Hell yeah). The next morning at 2 A.M. they woke us up for a night trailing session. It was the highlight of the whole week. We were led deep into the jungle and told to go off one by one, with intervals of 5 minutes between each person. All we had to rely on was a nylon rope wound round a slippery path inside the jungle and that was it. Imagine walking alone, seeing total darkness and hearing only sounds of which you are not sure to whom or what they belong. The best part was that our facilitators hid at some points along the trail, waiting in the dark to scare the shit out of us. Some made sudden movements and a roar, others made disembodied voices. Some of my friends said they heard some flapping sounds behind them so we deduced some of them might have used a wet towel to repeatedly made a quick swishing movement to scare them. Others had more fun: at one point the trainers would follow behind them quietly and grab them behind their necks. Imagine that while walking alone in the darkness. Oh, not to mention the animal sounds. Wild boar, monkeys etc.
For the most part I followed behind one of my classmates. Either I was too fast or he was too slow, so we ended up walking together. Turned out many people walked together in groups so I guess the scare factor was not that extreme. I remembered the trail as being very challenging, with steep climb and sudden drops. Not to mention the sudden collision with tree trunks. And we could not see a single thing. Not even our own hands. It was sheer excitement, really.
We finished the trail and next our trainers placed us on our own, where each person is led to a place and told to wait there by himself of herself. I felt like dozing off but could not. It was quite humid and hot inside. Finally it all ends and we were led out back to the camp.
After a quick 3-hour rest, came the water activities. We were taught to make our own raft and then had a whole lot of fun paddling across the lake, playing a sort of Amazing Race on water where we had to go from one checkpoint to another. One of my teammates had a huge leech on his back at one point. I cut my legs but cannot remember how or when. Hmmm. Yet the fun part was getting all wet and dirty. Even though it was really tiring, we managed to finish everything on time. It was really enjoyable.
1 week passed by quickly and so our BTN course ended. It was a very meaningful period where we learned and played together. It went quite well and was not at all what I expected it to be. I count myself lucky because we had such caring trainers and facilitators.