Loy Krathong (water parade)

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing a copy of: A Day in the Life – The Beatles – 1967-1970 Disc 1, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn’t steal music.

Tonight I have to book back in to camp early because we’re having a water parade.

We’re having a water parade because they are conducting the physical proficiency test (IPPT) in the morning, and they don’t want any of us to die of thirst. So tonight, they’ll make us drink two bottles of water (2l) and hope we don’t wet our beds.

I was looking forward to passing the IPPT and getting $400, but they tell me I can’t do the IPPT because I haven’t gone for my Fit For Infantry (FFI) medical inspection, which is compulsory for all soldiers aged 35 and above. I tell them they didn’t tell me to go for FFI, and they tell me they were supposed to write me a letter telling me to go to them for an FFI.

They, are the all-knowing, all-powerful them. Source of all information, true and false. Last year, they said Stefanie Sun was gonna come to camp and sing for us. Last year, they also said we’d only have one ICT this year. This year, they tell us we’re going to Australia for training next year. Every day in camp, they say there might be night off at night. Every week, they say we might go home on Friday night. Every once in a while, someone says it’s been heard that they say National Service might be scrapped.

Apart from the water parade and some Army evaluation (ATEC) of our battalion, we’re not sure what else we’ll be doing this week, and we’re looking forward to them leaking bits of information and rumour. Last we heard was that they were making us do heliborne training as well as boat coastal hook assault. Quite busy, if it’s all true. I’ve stocked up on my instant 3 in 1 milk tea and biscuits already, as well as a stack of women’s magazines for the rest of the boys. (Cleo and Her World are very popular in my platoon).

Who will keep us safe?
Who will keep us safe? (Live firing exercise dry run, Singapore 1990).

Brand of Bothers

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing a copy of: Oh, what a beautiful mornin’ – 1998 London Cast Recording – Oklahoma!, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn’t steal music.

“Eh, so, Diana Ser’s boobs really quite big, ah?”

And another thread of conversation in the bunk commences. In-Camp training (ICT) gives us licence to become lewd, loud blockheads. It’s one of the symptoms of what my platoon mate and journalist, Corporal Dilbert Chua (not his real name, obviously), calls the ‘Green Disease’, where the moment you put on that No.4 uniform, you leave your civilian sensibilities and common sense at home. And you feel sleepy every single minute of the day.

At 9.30am on the first day, we have our first canteen break, where we spend half an hour or so catching up on each other’s lives over a cup of coffee and some oily canteen food. The ones in front of the queue buy the coffee, and tell their friends to go chope a seat. This is where we forget, no matter how many times we’ve been to ICT, that we’re not used to being in uniform, or seeing our friends in uniform.

Reservist No.1 buys and carries a tray of coffees, turns around to look for his friends, and suddenly realises that everyone is wearing the same thing, and so can’t find his friends. Ditto Reservist No.2 after getting his and his friends’ drinks. It takes about two days before we get used to this, and look out for our friends’ faces instead of what they’re wearing.

Later on in the day, we complete our drawing of stores and equipment, and there is some free time, which is spent lounging on our beds, chatting. Our newly appointed Company Sergeant Major, a school teacher by civilian profession, comes into the bunkroom and joins in the conversation. This in-camp’s conversation thread reflects the boys’ ages, and most of them are turning 28. Thoughts turn to marriage, career, new cars and babies. Dilbert says he wishes we’d still talk about loose women, tight girlfriends and good blowjobs.

So, our Company Sergeant Major, 2nd Sergeant Clive Lim (not his real name also) laments that he too, isn’t married, and doesn’t know when he’ll ever get a girlfriend. He looks at the tattoo on my arm and asks if he too, should get a tattoo so that he can get the girls. Dilbert tells him dismissively, “You getting a tattoo is like a man with no hair trying to have a ponytail”.

Undeterred, 2nd Sergeant Clive carries on soliciting advice. His questions begin to reveal too much information: “Eh, I ask your advice ah, should I have a circumcision? I think my foreskin is too long”.

And because we have nothing better to do, we ask him if this is giving him problems. He says not really. We tell him then don’t cut. He then tells us that once, he walked into a table and injured his penis, but that it wasn’t serious, because the foreskin protected him. We tell him, see? Good what! Cut for what? Then he tells us that he gets aroused too easily, and that maybe, being circumcised might help.

Thankfully, the conversation is broken by several phones going off and some of us having to answer our phones and talking to our loved ones. (Dilbert and myself excuse ourselves and go make phone calls to our loved ones.)

Some things don’t change. Catching forty one winks. Kanchanaburi, Thailand, October 1989.