Being Poor

Whatever

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.

Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.

Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they’re what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there’s not an $800 car in America that’s worth a damn.

Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.

Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours.

Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won’t hear you say “I get free lunch” when you get to the cashier.

Being poor is living next to the freeway.

Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching…

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that defining moment

National service is no foreign term to Singaporeans. After all, all Singaporean Sons will have to go through it. Since young, I never liked the notion of having the hair on my head getting shaved away, never liked the notion of wearing green, never dared imagine myself to be a soldier one day. Still, that fateful letter came. And not long later, on the 10th of December 2014, I enlisted into Taurus coy PTP batch. It was hard to believe to be have my Pink IC taken away and replaced by an 11B, hard to believe that I will be transcending into a new foreign environment, and definitely hard to believe that I am now a soldier. Gone are the days where I lead a carefree civilian life; gone are the days when decisions can be dwelled on and pondered upon; gone are the days when time was abundant. Life began to change.

It encompasses several processes of metamorphosis. I guess the biggest one would have been my experience at Taurus Field Camp.

At first, I have this preconceive imagination that “Field Camp” comprises of recruits crawling through the mud, recruits consuming stale food rations, recruits getting punished by the commanders for the sloppy movements, recruits learning about jungle warfare and more. My divination was not too far off. But there is one problem with this self-crafted imagination. I failed to take into account the weather. I never expected it to have rained.

It occurred on the first day, after we had our 12km route march. By then, we were already frazzled. Body drenched in perspiration, legs swollen in subtle discomfort, and breathless. We were further instructed and dispatched to have our bashars set up. No one expected it. Because halfway through the process, I recall hearing the distant rumbling of the thunder, a few flashes of lightning and not long later, the rain fell.

To have that rain coming, inevitably meant a significant plunge in morale.  My bashar area was located at the front, which happened to also be the base of a slope. Precisely because it was pouring, in mere moments, huge streams of muddy water flowed down towards my area. The result – our bashar got flooded and both my buddy and I were waist down drenched. We looked like flooded victims.

But it is also at this point, when I took a peek out of my bashar. I realised we were not alone. Everyone else was also suffering the same ordeal as we were, or perhaps even worst (ant’s nests). We were all cold, tired, demoralised and a little bit hungry. Yet amid those uncanny circumstances, we were all persevering on, silently tightening our jaws, bracing our guts for the worst that has yet to come. After all it was just Field Camp Day 1.

Perhaps it was because we were situated in close proximity to one another and that we had a clear view of our situation. And precisely because of it, we seemed to have subconsciously made a unanimous agreement that we were all in these together. Because the next thing I remembered was, somehow, in the pouring rain and in the absence of the commanders, we smiled at one another. Such revelation was more than just pure motivation, it was warmth, a mutual warmth. Our mutual presences kept us going. It was a touching scene and I will not forget it.

They say the extra two months in a PTP batch is a waste of time. People in there could have accomplished so much more in the two months if they were to be enlisted in an enhanced batch. I disagree. Because in those two months, my platoon and I have bonded so much, and such strong ties should not be underestimated. Till now, the army continues to enrich my life. And I wonder what the future holds for me, as I continue to transform. For all that you have done for me, thank you, Taurus coy. Thank you, Platoon One. Hoo-Hah!

P.S. I know this post is slightly late and I apologise for posting this late. Still sulking at the fact that I didn’t get nominated for best essay. I guess the format in which this was written is to be blamed; I should have gone for the mundane “oh-this-is-what-I-learnt-in-army” kind of writing. Nonetheless, enjoy.

we charge ahead as one

Time is sometimes silent, sometimes loud. Which is as much a good thing as a bad thing. Time is a scarcity. Which makes it also a problematic asset to possess. Time is a paradox. Which is too mind-boggling to even bother. But most importantly, time flies. And it sure did in a manner of bitter sweetness combined with a little bit of joyful sadness.

Because it was as if it was last week where I recall enlisting into the army with the hair on my head shaved away, abandoning my sheltered civilian life and embracing the military one as well as beginning a process of metamorphosis both physically and mentally. I was entering a new phase in life that is mandatory for every Singaporean son. I was ill-prepared, dubious, anxious, excited, reluctant and scared. I was no soldier material. I cannot run, cannot jump, cannot engage wholeheartedly into any strenuous physical activities without attaining a bruise or two. The thought of getting drenched in perspiration, getting dirtied with mud and sand, getting hurled at with profanities disgusts me. I was a sissy. And a very hopeless one indeed. And just two days ago, I managed to graduate from the Basic Military Training Centre. This all happened in a period of four months.

Four months was not exactly short nor was it long either. But it definitely was gruelling. What else can you expect when you are isolated on an island so close to home yet so far away for the majority of the week with no forms of outside world communication, except for the pathetic muted televisions in the cookhouse, which is available only during mealtimes, and the horribly short personal time back at night when all activities cease? I vouched never to cry, never to let my parents worry, never to make trouble for the people around me. Yet, I broke down, let my parents worry, and eventually caused some problems. I guess they were inevitable. In these four months, I have been through a lot (trust me on this, read here and here and here) and learnt a lot at the same time. I think things happen for a reason. The fact that we meet ordeals essentially translates into a test of resilience, wits and courage. When they do come, pain will ensue. Because if it never hurts, then it will not be meaningful; we will not grow. And at the end of the day, after these four months, I see myself change into a completely new person.

Till now I am still in a state of stupefaction.

From the ridiculous “Agility Group Runs”, to the “Route Marches”, to the much anticipated “Basic TrainFire package”, to the very much dreaded “Field Camp”, to the debilitating and arduous “Graduation Parade Rehearsals”. I have conquered them all. Not alone. But together with my band of brothers, my comrades. I am truly grateful and very much indebted to all of them because without their presence, I doubt I would have walked as far.   

I am not going to lie that everything between all of us was fine and smooth-sailing. Because there have been times when we quarrelled, and hurled caustic remarks at one another especially at our own stupidity, even to the extent of having every deliberate intent to sabotage. Perhaps it was because we are somewhat mature, or perhaps it was for the greater good, or simply perhaps we gave up, for at the end of the day, we still manage to work together and overcome several seemingly insurmountable feats which were very much kindly distributed out by our “beloved” commanders from hell. That said, I know the commanders also do not have it easy either. Like us, they too are humans. They have emotions. They succumb to sickness. They do occasionally break down. Their responsibility for us is immense. We never see it, but we can feel it and we know it. They are people with calibre deserving of every single respect that they rightfully learn, not from the ranks they wear but from the actions they show. It was more than an honour to be with my comrades and my commanders.

One day, we will all come to a realisation that time is limited. One day, we will realise that our bank accounts is buried deep into the ground and our bills rocketed sky high. One day, we will desire greater financial and materialistic wealth. One day we will feel the need to be crop up with work. One day, family will come into play. One day, we will miss old times. I am already missing my time with them, both comrades and commanders alike. But I have no regrets because I did/still do cherish them.

At long last, the completion of both the 24km route march from Changi Ferry Terminal to the Floating Platform at the Marina Bay as well as the Graduation Parade marks the end of a recruit’s life as well as an indication for the one that has yet to come. To me, there lies a renewed sense of fulfilment. A very subtle bliss. I am happy. I have changed. I still remember the scene where I threw my cap together with Ryan. It was beautiful. Very Beautiful. 

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Much love to all those who came by to support me and my fellow brothers. I can never thank the few people who has been motivating me throughout. Shout out goes to Taurus Coy Platoon 1 and 2LT Daniel Lim, 2SGT Ming Han, 3SGT Mubarak, 3SGT Aldwin, 3SGT Eden.

#WECHARGEAHEADASONE!

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~ Happy POP~