"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Sunday, April 14, 2002

Bookout post:

Yet another bookout, yet another post.

Restored post

On reaching the School of Military Medicine (SMM) on Monday, we were made to wait until about 4pm to be assigned to our individual platoons and such, because the SAF, "an efficient and well run organisation", had sent too many people for the medic courses, such that some (like Jason Lau and Yong Gen, who applied for Medicine) had to be made Temporary Support Staff (with 8 to 5 jobs!) and about 60 others are now in the NDP marching contingent for the Medic wing, and also get to go home at 5pm.

SMM is located tantalisingly close to the Civilian World. That makes it both better and worse. One of these days I'll spend a good half an hour gazing longingly past the token barbed wire tipped fence.

Perhaps the most irking thing about being a trainee at SMM is that you are not allowed to bring in handphones. The given reason is that they may be stolen since most of the cupboards can't be locked (mine's one of the few that can!), but that should be the trainee's own problem. I suspect they just want to torture us, or force us to read our notes and medical books or die of sheer boredom (since anything more expensive than a Discman is prohibited too). Especially since there are 3-4 public phones for probably 200 people. At this stage, I am like one of the 3 people who are -not- going to smuggle in a handphone. This is because I am lousy at doing illegal things :) and don't want to risk signing for extra duties. A weekend duty'd probably drive me madder than going without contact with the outside world. I think I agree with Kairen that the thing that keeps you going while you're a slave is the company and comfort of the others. Though I was commended by some bunk mates on my "cover and concealment" - hanging clothes to block myself while chatting on my mobile. So we shall see how the endless game plays out, with trainees bringing and having brought handphones for years immemorial and instructors alternately trying to catch them or closing an eye.

I'd been warned by many that the facilities and amenities at SMM were very bad, but it was even worse than I expected. Or maybe it's just that, coming from spanking BMTC, everything seems pithy in comparison. The bunks are very dirty and run down, though our beds are quite new. Though we get pathetic looking foam mattresses, they're actually okay to sleep on, because the area the mattress rests on is formed from lines of metal, which are very springy. And the fans blow wind to the bottom bed, which I sleep on, so the only bad thing about the double bunk bed is that my buddy steps on my stuff on the way down in the morning. It's the mosquitoes that trouble our sleep the most - 4 nights out of 5 I was frantically scratching my legs through the night. The place is also accursedly dirty - the Health Inspector did a check and found it too dirty. Which is one reason why I got the SMM Flu. The thing I mind most is the shower facilities. There are no walls in the shower area, so you shower like you're in prison - naked with the others! So I went from he-who-comes-from-the-shower-with-a-towel-around-his-chest to he-who-bathes-in-underwear. Though on Friday night I decided to bathe in the squatting toilet cubicle with the pipe that the Malays use to wash up after doing their business. Some of the Malays decided to be disgusting and bathe outside the shower area - in front of the washbasins. Ugh. Most of our appraisals of the conditions - "cannot make it". It sometimes seems like BMT with fewer privileges and fewer amenities. We're the last batch to be schooled in this campus, though. The new camp should have better conditions (and allow handphones, having lost the skimpy pretext for banning them). However, it is rumoured that passing IPPT and SOC will be a requirement to pass the course after the shift.

The School is surrounded by thick jungle terrain, which means the wind cannot blow. So we all sweat more than usual. Oh, and we all have to wear Smart 4 all the time. One day, squeezing my handkerchief resulted in rivulets of water dripping down. I miss the days of running around in admin attire!

Our first 5 weeks in SMM will be spent mostly studying and doing practicals - the paramedic phase. After that, the last 6 weeks will be the Combat phase. Erk.

There were a lot of people in blue outfits running around (or more accurately, sitting around) on monday. They look like Aircon Technicians.

One Malay who'd gone for the MDC auditions too recognised me and cursed them for rejecting him.

Ken was posted to "Public Health Assistant". His job is to supervise the mosquito foggers.

Because the place is too small to support 2 cookhouses, all the food in the cookhouse is Halal. Oh well. The food is worse than Tekong, if that can be imagined, though I'm told most SAF food -is- worse than Tekong. The receptivity ratings are suspiciously high for all the meals, and I suspect they are made up - two being 96% and two 98%. Probably it's because of their cunning - to indicate that you've consumed a meal, you drop a pink chip into a box, and for surveys you drop the chip into one of 3 holes labelled "Good", "Satisfactory" and "Poor". One day, they'd turned the container around such that where you expected the "Poor" slot to be, you found the "Good" slot, so you'd inadvertently give them the wrong rating. Another time, I went to cover the first two holes with the chip containers, but when I was eating I noticed they'd shifted the containers so they covered the last two holes. Cunning! Rather distressingly, the vegetarian menu one day had a dish cooked with Oyster Sauce! There've been some meals with all or most of the dishes containing chilli, but luckily I brought in chocolate covered digestives (which were attacked by the hyper sensitive ants!), and we got a canteen break a day from tuesday to friday (with 2 on friday!), so I was alright. The only saving graces are that we've 2 choices for breakfast, so I'm not forced to consume Mee Rebus, and that the pseudo-Western food is more interesting than that at Tekong, at least from the sole experience I've had. On the menu was 'Irish Stew' (Creamy lamb stew), 'Fish a la "Orly' (Deep fried fish with lemon sauce) and 'Corn O Brien' (Just corn on the cob). At least we can't fault them for having no imagination.

Many people in my platoon are OOCs from SISPEC. Eheh. And our platoon is cut into half - 2 sections bunk at one block and the last at another. Makes morning movement irritating.

Our school is rather small, yet we are required to march from place to place. And sing the silly songs too. This is ridiculous.

There are an inordinate and disproportionate number of cats in SMM, around the cookhouse. Irritating.

We've 8 Bruneians in our platoon. They've diplomatic immunity and get to take shortcuts and have all sorts of other privileges. Maybe we should go to Brunei to train.

Apparently there're many snakes around SMM and snakes are often seen around. School of Many Monsters!

We are not allowed to sing songs with vulgarities and which imply or explictly describe sexual acts or feelings. This means, of course, that 90% of Army Songs are proscribed. Perhaps this odd rule, and the relative scarcity of vulgarity use, is because of the fact that we are very near to the civilian world, and that we have female instructors around. Anyhow, having exited BMT and being bored with the normal army songs, we've started modifying them.

Examples:

Down by the river, we took a little walk.
Ran into some teletubbies, we had a little talk.
We kiss them! [Platoon: Yah!] Hug them! [Platoon: Yah!] Kiss them hug them! [Platoon:Yah, yah!]
Pull off their antennas.
Smash their TV screens...

Training to be soldiers, wasting our time.
Once in a life, lucky it's not twice.
Have you ever wondered, why we must serve?
Because we all bo pian...

Far far away in the South China Sea yah,
I left a pack of Malboro
I must go for my smoking break yah
A smoker has to smoke even he has to die...

*end examples*

We only have to sing songs from 7am to 7pm though, what a relief.

The anatomy and physiology lectures which we've been getting are basically what I learned in Upper Secondary Biology, so it was like Low Mei Choo redux. Ooo, "phalanges".

Those with driving licences can drive into camp and park there! Wah.

Now we only wear the green socks. Makes you wonder why the SAF issued us white socks in the first place.

The smokers are very happy, because they can smoke 500 sticks a day. They get frequent smoking breaks, and before the first parade and after the last, they smoke outside the bunk as if there were no tomorrow. Too bad the smoking hut, where they must smoke during office hours, looks like a cage.

Someone else also commented, as I have, that if all those ranked 3rd Sergeant and below decided to rebel, the SAF wouldn't be able to do anything. Oh well, timing's the issue.

I was rather depressed on Tuesday and Wednesday, about as bad as during the first days of BMT. Argh, 26 months to ORD... I miss the days of throwing 1 cent coins at Huimei during lectures to wake her up. But my mood swang back to one which, if not exactly exuberant, was at least partially joyous.

We don't get newspapers. Argh. Back to the Economist. We could get the Stayout personnel to procure them, of course, but it'd be too troublesome.

My platoon mate doesn't shave either. Yeh!

Apparently Saturday guard duty's counted as weekday guard duty, even though it steals more bookout time than Sunday duty. Grr.

One C9L2 guy is in my platoon. Weird. I thought such don't qualify.

I hear signals is quite slack. Except they have homework, and it's like Electrical Engineering mixed with Telephony.

One person was proclaiming that he'd try to get out of course and join the September batch.

Seeing that there are quite a few stayout personnel, and that they can afford to give many Nights Off, I think that actually they -can- afford to let us go home everyday, it's just that we have the status of 'trainee' and they want to torment us. I just hope the Nights Off come in abundance!

The Medic School has no Medical Centre. Yeh.

I see varicose veins popping out on my feet again. Gah.

Generally, the regimentation is less strict than in BMT, though after a week's block leave, it didn't feel that way. Our sergeants are all quite nice (I believe we're the only platoon that has not been knocked down as a whole yet), but there's one who's very enthusiastic, the proverbial "xiao on". He made us do pullups before lunch on Friday and breakfast on Saturday, the only platoon to do so, and he hinted ominously about various tortures during the combat phase, which is starting week 6. Ironically, he warned us to beware snakes, but got bitten himself and had 3 days medical leave.

One thing good about being on the Island of Doom is that bookout times are not easily delayed due to the indented boats, whereas on the mainland, they can let you off as late as they like.

To aid us in our learning, we have Computer Aided Instuction lessons, which are somewhat useful. However, the programs were programmed in 1991, have numerous bugs and always crash.

Many or most people are, as in BMT, very religious about brushing their teeth at night and in the mornings, but so far, since December 13th, I'm the only one I've seen flossing (though I do not brush my teeth as often).

My glasses went through a lot of strain - one morning my buddy stepped on them as he came down from the top bed, and later that day I left them under my mattress and proceeded to sleep on them. Luckily, I've wrenched them back into shape.

BMT for females has only 6 obstacles (the low wall is not one of them) and I think they don't wear helmets. Unfair!

During out lecture on shock and the symptoms of it, I was the only one who knew what priapism meant. That's what comes from knowing your Greek mythology!

We're to be allowed to fold our mattresses from tuesdays to saturdays - no pulling of bedsheets! Welfare, man.

We're required to wear our headgear all the time when we're not under shelter. It's quite uncomfortable, but we've to make do. One sergeant major saw that I hadn't put on my cap yet, and he advised me to put in on lest the birds shit on my head :) Heh.


Quotes:

"[On SMM] This place, you look at the buildings. Looks like [a] mental hospital."

"Practically, you will shed blood and tears here."

"Make sure your song is loud and clean."

"[On good buttocks being a sign that a woman is good for child earing] Like me, I don't have... Have ah? Why are you all so... nevermind."

"There's no way you're going to get out of this place, unless you kill yourself."

"The standing order here is, you all cannot IV an instructor."

"Stupid. Medic school no medical centre. (has no)"

"By the end of the course, last 3, 4 weeks, some of you will be volunterring to shoot 3, 4 times. (be shot)"

"[On the theory tests for the course] Past year papers got or not?"

"Don't think that, the tests here you will surely pass, just like all the other tests in the SAF (you will surely pass all the tests here)"

"Everytime you [say] 'Yes Sergeant', like want to fight... Very irritating you know."

"My helmet makes me look like a chipmunk."

"[Me on our bunk: Why are there grilles on the windows?] It's to make this place look like a prison, understand?"

"[To me] Has anyone called you Harry Potter because of that scar?"

"This is the so-called WOW. [Trainees: Wow!] Corny lah, I hear that every batch."

"[You want to bring in an] icebox? For what? You think [this is a] chalet ah?"

"[On SAF tests] They teach you a lot, but they test you little. It's just for show."

"[On my not eating chilli] No wonder you always go back to bunk and eat biscuits.. That's why you sleep so much (slept so much during BMT)"

"[Me: I swear, 75% of Muslim males have 'Mohammad' in their names] I think it's more."

"You know what the IV [needle] is good for? Poking pimples."

"This book, 'Human Body in Health and Disease". Don't just turn to the reproductive system... There are not many pictures there."

"[On us massaging each other after 3 long lectures in 3 hours] 'Ahh!', mass orgy, ah, 'Ahh!'"

"[On priapism] This only occurs in male patients... When he has a spinal injury. So don't think that he's trying to be funny with you."


Stanley Huang is going to the police at the end of the month, where he'll meet lots of Malays!
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