Archive for June, 2008

The Curious Incident of the Out-Processing

1. This will be entry number 1, because this is the first time I am writing like this and 1 is a prime number, and the first one that I know. The next entry will be number 3 and not number 2, because it is also a prime number but I do not know many prime numbers like Christopher does, who knows all the prime numbers up to 7,057.

3. Today was the last day of my In-Camp Training, which is also known as ICT because it is easier to say “ICT” than “In-Camp Training”, and people here prefer using acronyms because they are easier to say. But sometimes acronyms confuse me because in the army there a lot of acronyms and they make my head hurt. Examples of acronyms are 2WO, 3SG, COL, SAR and these are the some of the ones I know. I know plenty more but I will not write them all down because Siobhan says not everyone cares about the acronyms the army uses.

I agree with her.

5. In-Camp Training is sometimes nice but sometimes it is also not nice. It is nice when I do not have to wear a smelly shirt and pants (it is called a uniform) and boots which are in camouflage colours, except for the boots, which are black and must be shiny black, like polished. It is also nice when I am in bed and reading a book, which makes me feel calm and safe. What is also nice is when I am leaning on the railing outside my bunk and looking at the moon and clouds, which makes me feel like I am the only person in the world. A bunk is like a bedroom, except that a bunk is a bedroom for many people who are not your siblings.

7. Because today was the last day of my In-Camp Training, we had to go through something called out-processing, which most of the people here call outpro. This just means most people are lazy. Even though out-processing meant there had to be a lot of people around me I was happy and there was no need for me to do groaning like Christopher does (this is because he does not like crowds), it meant I no longer had to wear my uniform, and I could go home to my computer and play computer games and go onto the Internet and wear whatever I liked.

But out-processing today was not nice.

11. Before out-processing, we had to go through something called clearance, which means the bunks and vehicles and weapons had to be cleaned and accounted for so the next In-Camp Training could go on properly. However not many people cared about clearance, which made things not so nice. So I had to help my bunk-mates (these are the people who stay in your bunk) clean the parade square and it was really hot and I started sweating and my shoes got wet. So my face looked like this

And I know this because I looked in a mirror and my face looked something like the face in the picture above.

13. For lunch I had to walk to the cookhouse, which is where a lot of people gather and line up to collect their food to eat. We have to go there for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Today we had ice cream which was nice. Our lunch was called a Cohesion Lunch, which does not make sense to me, because all we do is eat lunch like we always do. We do not talk when we are chewing because Mother says it is bad manners to do so. And the officers always sit at the nice tables with flowers and cut fruits which is nice, but also not nice because I am not allowed to sit at those tables.

I also like breakfast because there is coffee, which is my favourite drink in the morning even though it is brown.

Christopher does not like coffee because it is brown and reminds him of poo but I ignore him when he says that.

17. After lunch we had to go upstairs to the hall because the Music and Drama Company (the acronym for them is MDC) were performing for us, but this was not nice for a lot of people because we wanted to go for out-processing. So we were made to sit on the dusty floor which was also not nice as I had made my boots a shiny black colour.

When I saw LTA Vijaya (LTA means Lieutenant), he said, “Man, who wants to watch the gay boys dance?”

But I did not really understand what he meant. However, the dancers did look quite happy on the stage.

19. Qingkai (he is a 3rd Sergeant, or 3SG, like myself) who is one of my bunk-mates was frightened by one of the dancers because she was taller than anyone else on stage and probably taller than us. She had frizzy hair.

He said, “I don’t know if she’s a woman or really a man.”

I looked at the tall woman and I said, “She is quite obviously a woman.”

And he said, “Well, in any case, their dancing is rubbish. When in hell can we can outpro?”

I did not reply as it was a rhetorical question. Siobhan said that “rubbish” is a metaphor for Very Bad.

Then I agree with Qingkai. Their dancing was rubbish.

23. We began waiting for our out-processing at 2PM, and more and more people starting coming into the stadium area which made me afraid I would have to wait very far behind in the queue. So I went to a quiet spot where there was less people and took out the last book I had not finished during my In-Camp Training, which was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It is about a shepherd boy who herds sheep because he wanted to travel on great adventures but he meets a beautiful raven-haired girl with beautiful eyes who made him forget about wanting to travel.

I wished I could be like the boy and travel while herding sheep, but this is not possible as there are no shepherd boys in Singapore.

29. I read my book and walked around the stadium a bit and people kept coming in to wait for out-processing. It was not nice as I realised that I had waited for three hours before I was allowed to out-process. The Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) was angry because a lot of people did not

1) Clean their bunks or vehicle sheds
2) Complete their statements

But a lot of people were angry because we had cleaned our bunk, cleared the rubbish and finished everything the day before but we had to wait so long to be out-processed. So this was not nice.

31. Shaohao and Dennis came to fetch me from my camp, which is Sungei Gedong Camp, and very far from “civilization”. It was nice to leave camp and go for dinner, which was crabs at Upper Serangoon Road. Crabs are red so there was no need for food colouring.

Then I come home and when I think about what book to read, I flip open Mark Haddon‘s book again and read it again even though I finished it on Thursday night. It is my favourite book from all the books I read during my In-Camp Training but only by a bit (because I also read books by my favourite author, Haruki Murakami, who is Japanese and writes sad stories).

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Go, And Be Happy

I have not had one word from her

Frankly I wish I were dead
When she left, she wept

a great deal; she said to me, “This parting must be
endured, Sappho. I go unwillingly.”

I said, “Go, and be happy
but remember (you know
well) whom you leave shackled by love

“If you forget me, think
of our gifts to Aphrodite
and all the loveliness that we shared

“all the violet tiaras,
braided rosebuds, dill and
crocus twined around your young neck

“myrrh poured on your head
and on soft mats girls with
all that they most wished for beside them

“while no voices chanted
choruses without ours,
no woodlot bloomed in spring without song…”

– Sappho

I was in another world, faraway, distant and full of silence, but filled with words and thoughts and the human need to communicate, someway, somehow.

But now, as I find myself back in this life, the only words that pour out of me have no sound. They echo, footprints on sand, reverberating and existing for mere moments. And then they are gone. So now, I come and I go.

One Day

by Livia Patta

It feels good to be back.

The last six days have been spent mostly mucking about in the vehicle shed for training and familiarisation of the mounted weapon systems and vehicle maintenance, which culminated in a single day live firing yesterday.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve not been online for such a long stretch of time, so imagine my surprise when I come home and find that I have 96 unread Multiply posts by my contacts (and not forgetting several hundred emails). I’ve only today free, which means that I’ve to be back in camp by midnight.

Even though the each entire day is packed with training, I find that ICT is far more restful (as compared to work). More about getting the job done rather than the army’s sometimes unhealthy fixation on “discipline”. After a long day of lugging 33kg automatic grenade launchers, 25kg heavy machineguns, sifting through toolbags and cabinets full of sockets, open-end spanners, monkey wrenches, crowbars or sledgehammers, or getting my hands slick and blackened with motor grease, engine oil and coolant, it’s great to retire back to the bunk, open up a Murakami book and be fast asleep by 10.30PM (after first making sure my hands are returned to their original colour, of course).

I think the real difference is that when you allow God into even the tiny details or the mundane routines of your life, even such moments become beautiful. Simple meals taste better than gourmet cuisine. Showers more luxurious. What happens is that He changes your perspective and your heart, teaching us to appreciate even the normal and natural. Sure, our national duty can be a drag, but why go through something bitter and angry when you can smile and say it’s alright?

So I might only have one day in the real world (the army is as close to a parallel universe as you can get), but I’ll take it. ‘Cause I’m spending it with You.

Boots on the Ground

It’ll be the first time I’m headed for reservist training tomorrow morning. Twelve sweet days of being away from work, only to be drenched in sweat and grime and mud and sand and engine oil and cordite.

First time in four years. It’s been a long time in coming, I think.

And I’m the only one from the batch of guys whom I served with to be posted to this unit. There is, literally, no one that I know who will be there. It’s like BMT all over again, strange faces and names I haven’t quite got used to yet.

Sometimes I wonder if there is a point to all of this, to see how bureaucracy, pride and a slavish adherence to a sometimes shoddy system can treat men as if they have no sense of self-worth at all. Sometimes I wonder if I can ever forgive the system for grinding my hopes for my army stint under its bootheel. Would I be happier if I’d been in a different vocation?  If I’d been through officer school as I should have been? Or even as a reconnaissance scout? I don’t know. I may never know. All I can do is hold on, to You and Your word, to let me see the good that will come out of this.

Going back for training feels like a reboot of my life right now, heading back to square one. So right now I am speaking this over the next twelve days: no more worries for the future, no more struggling with what I am to do about everything, no more grappling with the world or past mistakes or regrets; let me see You fresh, anew; let me experience You in a deeper way than I thought possible. Show me that it doesn’t take air-conditioning, a carpeted ballroom and a live band to have Your presence overwhelm every pore of my being. Let me like David, who stumbled in the wilderness but stood in the throne-room of the Almighty, penning psalms that live on, blessing people living in a future more than two thousand years later.

All it tells me that as we allow You to overtake us, to be infused in every aspect of our existence, eternity reaches out and touches us, in everything that we put our hand to.

So this is where I am: boots on the ground, in the wilderness, with sweat-drenched brow and a grin on my face. With my hand in Yours.

Kaleidoscopes


by KarensJilly

My mum’s been replacing the furniture in my room, seeing how they’re more than ten years old, which leaves me with more space than I had imagined. Now I’ve been thinking of leaving one of the walls utterly empty, free of shelves, boxes or any other random junk that a man will collect over a quarter century (i.e scuffed action figures, dog-eared books or stacks of negatives) so I can convert it into a semblance of a photo “studio”, if only in the barest, most makeshift sense of the word.

Now I’ve always been intrigued by the cinematic aspect of photography as well as the use of ambient light (or available light; which is of course an illusion in most films or professional stills – indoors anyway) to create or imbue a sense of inclusiveness or mood to the photograph.

One of the personal projects I want to embark on is to interpret quotes taken from Murakami’s writing into a series of photographs, quite possibly in black and white format (at least for Norwegian Wood, coloured in the narrator’s painful nostalgia of his youth, or South of the Border, West of the Sun, in which the character is afflicted for a lifetime by Shimamoto’s mysterious beauty); but I think that this time, I want to do something different, something I’ve always been terrified of: colours.

You see, I’ve never quite understood colour. I could never accurately interpret colours in art for that matter – I’m strictly a colour-by-the-numbers kind of guy. Colour confounds me. My paintings in school would consist solely of single colours I thought would sort of work. Mixing colours or painting with shades or variation of hues escaped me completely. Needless to say, I never really broke out of that mould, more content with sketching or shading.

So my personal mission for the next few months is to find old, wooden furniture to paint over, wallpaper to adorn the walls, odd trinkets and have them all in a zany kaleidoscope of colours and visual assault. If anyone has any recommendations to get such things on the cheap – let me know. I’ll probably check out the Salvation Army, Thieves’ Market (who doesn’t love the name) or estate/garage/yard sales. I’ll put together this temporary little set in my grand little studio/bedroom, take a few test shots and see if anyone’d be willing to be a model. Heh.

Yes, the thought of the whole idea blowing up in my face can be terrifying, but I suppose the whole idea of finding your limits means breaking the existing ones. Just don’t do that while you’re driving.

by samyii

When It’s Time

The colours’ faded
it’s black and white all over again
and I’m retreating

No crying tonight
I tell myself
not to give in
not to let go
I’ll smile for them

and speak to you when
no one’s around
remember your kind eyes
and your gravel voice
the way you’d call my name

No need to say goodbye
she sings
and I want to believe
but it’s goodbye for now

I’ll sleep tonight
and tell myself
when it’s time I’ll see you again
I’ll hold your hand
like soft, familiar leather and
call your name again

When it’s time

*

I thought I could get used to death. But death is ugly. And death is never easy. So do we get more jaded, more accepting, with each increasing time it confronts us? I don’t know. But I don’t want to find out.

Death is always more painful for the living. The dead leave behind a hole in the lives they’ve encountered through their own, a gaping absence that no one else can replace. We have to carry on. To continue living, without you, even during the times it seems impossible.

But that is selfish talk.

Death has been conquered, and I believe in Your victory.