Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Road Trip

Six boys and three girls head out on a six-day road trip up north. A thousand kilometres later, here are some highlights from the trip.

1. Feeling like Wendy Darling

Being coordinator meant playing mother to a bunch of teenagers. It meant a whole ton of shepherding, pacing mealtimes, arranging duty-free shopping times, talking to the adults, keeping time and basically doing all the things nobody wants to do on a vacation. The first time that it really dawned upon me, properly and solidly like all revelations go, I was the only one waking up to the sound of the alarm in the dimmed hotel room in Langkawi at a time we had already agreed to wake up at. I think that must have been the point that I started properly assuming the role of Wendy Darling and got into the adjoining rooms to wake up all the Lost Boys. Later during the trip I found plenty more moments for being Wendy. Being Wendy meant having one of the Lost Boys look you in the eyes, call your name desperately, and say that he needs to poop. Right now. It meant organizing sneak bomb attacks in the bathrooms of unsuspecting cafes with a Lost Boy walking casually into the target while you and another Lost Girl flip through menus pretending to be interested for as long as he is in the bathroom.

2. Breaking all (ok, not all, but most) lines

In most friendships there are lines we do not cross, boundaries we draw to keep a respectful distance from things that are socially inappropriate even within a circle of close friends. But not on this road trip. Lines? What lines? The lines not only became blurred but were also smashed through and thrown sailing across the moon faster than anyone could become hungry. Especially lines concerning moons. Those moons seem to crop up everywhere. Taliza probably has had more than her fair share of unpleasant encounters with moons. The first time in the hotel room, I had the regrettable chore of sharing the experience with her. It was downright traumatizing. Also, the guys seemed to have discovered a new, bolder way of expressing affection for members of the same sex. I am not one to complain.


3. Going home

After two days of traveling around the north of the country, we took the ferry from Langkawi to Penang. Though it was a three-hour ride, I did not sleep one bit as I was too excited to be finally on my way home. Standing atop the ferry surrounded by the endless ocean, knowing that you are headed for home, felt insanely incredible. Even more so when the island of your hometown starts surfacing as a distant shore. And you're standing there in the middle of the sea, hair whipped by the wind and rain pelting down on your face, with two of your friends by your side (and the rest asleep in the deck below). You've come home, like you always do every month or so, but this time, you're not alone. It was a beautifully epic moment, in the most introspective way possible.

4. Watching the worlds collide

I've talked this through with Michelle; about how weird it is going to be to have our friends over at home. It's because we've learned to keep those two worlds separate; separate like the 5 hour journey that separates home and school. And now both worlds are going to collide and it'll be so weird; it's like a crossover between Harry Potter and the Hunger Games. But once I'd squeezed these eight people, seemingly from another world, into my home, it felt all right. It wasn't as weird as I thought it would be. Maybe it was the way they easily fit right in, or how easily my home accepted them.

5. Learning to drive a seven-seater

So the last time I drove properly was nearly three months ago when I was visiting home over the weekend. The last time I drove improperly was a month and a half ago, switching seats with Harris in his beloved car in the middle of a traffic congestion outside school. And I had never driven anything bigger than the humble Myvi so when I was handed the keys to a seven-seater Exora I was feeling pretty nervous. The last time I drove a seven-seater was my mom's precious Rush (and I don't consider that driving, more like sitting behind the wheels and being honked and flipped the bird at) and it scared the hell out of me and nearly scared me out of driving permanently. However in the face of necessity and eight hungry friends to transport to dinner one has no choice but to suck it up and just do it. I had the comforting presence of Austin riding shotgun whose stoic calmness allowed my driving confidence to soar to the point that ten minutes into driving the beast I finally allowed myself to step onto the accelerator with conviction. Two days later I was driving a car full of friends down the winding and narrow roads of Batu Ferringhi. Was it stupid? Nah, it was a matter of confidence.

6. Feasting

After a whole month surviving on a diet of porridge, Subway, curry rice, butter cream chicken, Gardenia raspberry-flavoured bread and the occasional sushi (the perks of living near a shopping mall), our first stop at a dim sum joint in Ipoh was beautiful. The first prawn in a month that I ate at an overnight stop in Michelle's house was even more so. It had been too long since I had any piece of decent seafood that wasn't dory fish or salmon sushi. When we all got to Penang it was just sinfully indulging in gluttony all day long. Breakfast was an elaborate three-hour affair broken into three parts. Dinner didn't end at dessert, which was the third or fourth course (it was sometimes even the appetizer).


7. Stoning in the middle of the night

Waking up at the crack of dawn takes its toll on you, especially if the day is followed by plenty of traveling and walking around in the sun. It got worse as we neared the end of the road trip as by then the effect of sustained sleep deprivation over a period of several days had cast a delirious glow on every party of the road trip that surfaces some time after dinner. I don't know how bad it was for the others but there was one point where people started falling asleep even during dinner. Or, people just became quiet, followed by outbursts of impossible energy. We were all terribly tired but we didn't want to go home, so we drove on in search of the next chillout spot. When we were in Penang I was driving 7/8th of the time for fourteen hours a day around the island and after the third part of dinner I was right out stoning in the driver's seat; it was like the car was driving itself.


8. Dance parties in the car

In the small cramped space of the car it felt like everyone's general good mood stacked and multiplied and expanded to fill the entire car with what felt like laughing gas. The car became one of the best hangout spots as the periodically energetic were rocking it out to the beats of Avicii; meanwhile some had passed out and were content to remain as limp sleeping bodies.

This was obviously not in the car but it looks pretty damn accurate

9. Driving to all my favourite spots

I haven't had the luxury of driving around the island going cafe-hopping for a long, long time. That luxury belongs to a time that predates this newfound friendship. So it was definitely nice to be able to bring them Lost Boys and Lost Girls to my favourite cafes and places I like hanging out in and streets I like driving past. I like to think that my favourite spaces are being filled by them and even when they have gone, the spaces will always remind me of them.


10. Making a video out of it

Oh wait..make that two videos. Because the part in Penang deserves its own video (I've been accused several times of being biased towards my own hometown..and I am in no position to deny it, nor do I want to).

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