Monthly Archives: September 2015

Familiarity

What I’ve been up to in London before (and on) my first day of school:

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1. Impromptu (and expensive) lunch with Ooi because I was so desperate for someone to help me with my 20kg crockery- BECAUSE I was already holding another box!

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2. Cooking with Aloysius, Beatriz, Youjing and Beatriz’s Dad last night because her dad was due to leave tomorrow.

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3. Running with the navy trio along Regent’s Park today, which was really scenic. Frankly, the weather also made it much easier for a run- and I think I can confidently clock below 12 minutes for 2.4km in time to come, something I have never been able to do.

I really really enjoyed my first introductory lecture- and I loved how they used simple pictures to show what each professor was doing through their summer break. Fieldwork everywhere, in London, further north of UK, or analysing culture, tracking the status of refugees and the sentiments about random new ones. It’s a truly wild time ahead with lots and lots of learning but I am truly looking forward to this wealth of knowledge.

I keep thinking about my divisional officer’s words, and how he repeated it on two occasions “Hui Ping, when you go to the UK, make sure you don’t hang out with Singaporeans only”. How friends would encourage me to find an “ang moh boyfriend”, or “don’t forget me after you make ang moh friends”. I am ashamed to say that I honestly struggle to interact. Do not get me wrong, most of the people here are REALLY nice and friendly. But I think simply having grown up in a different environment and leading absolutely different lives prior to university makes it a “barrier to entry” to begin with- I’m honestly having trouble finding common topics to talk about, especially when none of my flatmates are doing anything remotely similar to my subject.

To make it worse I’m the only Asian in my block. I do not mind being the only Singaporean, but being the only Asian is making it really difficult for me to step out of my comfort zone with ease. Are they racist? Are my flatmates finding me annoying and inconsiderate? I do not know, and I think one of my biggest regrets was landing late because most of them have already been acquainted with one another by then. I crave familiarity so much that I hang out with Singaporeans- so much that I start to feel like I’m wasting the SAF’s money and my family’s money for sending me so far away from home to interact with people I know. What happened to immersing myself in their culture and truly learning more about myself and where I am?

I really hope that I’m only facing this discomfort because it’s the first few days and I’ve been away from my flat for quite a bit. I shall get to bed soon- for my second day tomorrow. I have no excuses to oversleep or doze off in class because I get to enjoy my full (8!) hours of uninterrupted rest, and I swear to be diligent, as I was for A Levels.

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D-0

D-0: I never had a countdown anyway because I busied myself this entire year with BMT/OCS and honestly all that time passed quicker than it should have. I can’t believe I’m on my way to a dream that I only dared to imagine about in the past, that “我要出国读书” is truly becoming reality instead of a casual remark that I brought up to my family last year. My ass is going to split apart soon because of the ridiculously long plane ride- it’s 2 hours to touch down and I thought I had to make a note about my departure.

“Where is the good in goodbyes”
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”
“原来最难熬过的竟是黄昏”

Graduation last year felt like it was just yesterday- and frankly and it did not have the same impact on me as the departure this morning. At the airport I saw my life coming together: Family, 6/6, 4G, 6S, NCC, not forgetting people I have individually been close to throughout my teenage years. It was a powerful group shot which, cheesily, gathered my entire life.

I’m even more thankful when I know of their current schedules. Some are having Prelims. Some are having mid-terms, carrying their files and laptops like how someone looks like when they head out to the library. People who overslept took a cab from the west all the way to Changi Airport, some slept over at someone’s place just to catch me early in the morning. The guys with limited book-out hours (I can totally feel you man) are spending their early morning taking a train (and skytrain) at the airport just to see me off for my next phase in life, well knowing that they will have to book in tonight (and at this point in time: booked in). Truth be told, I feel so undeserving of all the love. I was reading through all the farewell gifts and letters and it triggered me so much emotionally, so much effort was put into the gifts. Throughout the year I have honestly been “putting friendships on hold” and neglected so many/much more than I should have, and for all my friends to still continually put in effort to keep in touch with me makes me really guilt-stricken. It’s definitely comforting to know that I have such a sturdy net of support even though I’ll be far, far away.

Sadly I know that I will face many challenges along the way keeping up with my friendships. Although there’s talk that I’ll be away for “only 9 months”, this statement sounds much simpler than it actually should. 10 out of 12 weeks will be spent on vacation attachment, and even then it’ll be difficult to gather everybody because of conflicting schedules. I can readily expect people to have university examinations (and let’s be honest here: GPA 5 > everything, especially with the priorities in life we are supposed to have); I can readily expect everyone to start dating and realise that time out with their boy/girlfriends is easily more valuable than time with someone who has been away for quite a bit (and highly possibly “a friend I have drifted apart from”); I can already expect the “farewell party” to shrink in size more than it should. On top of this “only 9 months” talk, I’ll easily be away for studies for 4 freaking long years- and that’s the entire duration i spent in secondary school, which would spell out to be my formative years. By the end of these 4 years I worry that I’ll lose this group of friends I consider so valuable, especially the ones I have been spending my precious book outs with. Meeting at 11pm for some cheap supper before cabbing home together; meeting at McDonalds buying vanilla milkshake and staying till like 1am before I get rushed home because I never remember my house keys; rushing out from SAFTI at 12pm to meet my friends at 2pm; desperately meeting for dinner on Saturdays because these are the only nights I have. These are memories I’ll hold so tightly, and truly hope to relive in the coming years.

It’s unfortunate that from this point I’ll start to see group photos without my face; it’s unfortunate that my family will continue eating like food critics without me; it’s unfortunate that I will no longer be able to excitedly partake in impromptu suppers at 10pm and talking cock late into the night; it’s unfortunate that I will no longer be able to mock people as I used to with my uncontrollable sarcasm. As much as I think I can deal with it now, I don’t think it will truly have the true impact on me until I’m really gone.

Let me be disgusting for a bit: thank you to everyone who came to make me realise that I have so much in Singapore to miss. I have honestly never treasured familial relations and friendships this much until I entered SAF as an organisation, when it truly hit home that time is of the essence and to cherish every moment with your loved ones. On top of limited time due to what I have been involved in the entire year, I’m going abroad to study for 4 years away from the comfort of home. Physical distances matter a lot and I worry for bad days because no one will be there to cheer me up when I’m lost and soulless. Regardless, thank you to everyone for having been there for me all this while, especially since 2015 has been such a challenging year for me. I will stay safe, I will take care, I will study hard (and play hard), and I will find a boyfriend too- strangely to the wishes of many. For everyone in Singapore, please stay safe too, and may I soon see everyone I’ve met at the airport these 2 days.

MSTD

I’ve felt a lot these few days, and I’m not quite sure how to put my thoughts into words.

Many people have asked how my 17-day MSTD was, for the sole reason that I was so full of dread for this entire experience before I even went on it. I’ve heard from seniors that sleep deprivation characterises the entire deployment, that you will be facing the decks (floor) more than you look up, that you will be so busy studying in a “floating classroom”, that all your debriefs only happen past midnight and they will have truckloads of things to say, that 6 weeks of homesickness will pass slower than you can ever imagine. It is almost like a 6 week long field camp when you eagerly count down the days to home, to solace and comfort.

I remember waving to Aloysius, my mother, my sister, Edina and Gracie on the gangway which boldly spells “RSS ENDEAVOUR” for the last time, and I remember rushing back to the briefing room to muster in time to speak to Commander OCS. I was already getting so upset about having to go through this experience without having the assurance that our family and friends will always be there at the end of the night to comfort you- out at sea you will never get reception, until you reach any port, and even then you have to get yourself a SIM card before any form of contact can be established.

I was harshly proven wrong though, but I have absolutely no complaints about it. MSTD started well, when I entered the greatly pink female cabin due to the decorations done up by Chief MS, which was a source of comfort every night I returned. I had more fulfilling experiences than ever, to be able to keep watch in the dark of the night and put ROR to practice, to be able to handle marine sextants and measure the altitude of stars which I would otherwise not recognise, to be involved in harbour duty and know that you were doing it for the safety of the ship and its remaining crew, to get myself involved in port presentations and executing the entire divisional event with pride. I wouldn’t go too far to say that MSTD was easy because it isn’t- and elements of sleepiness still kicked in occasionally. However, it was much better planned compared to what I have heard from previous batches, and for that I think I should be very, very thankful.

On our final day, we were initially informed that we would leave the ship at 1300. I was not mentally ready at all, spending 17 days with the same group of people, tablemates, Tiger Bravo for watch meant that we developed a closer bond among ourselves, and I would dare to make a sweeping statement that MSTD formed a friendship so special among people that OCS life can never compete. It was more than friendship, it was emotional dependence: it was almost living with a new family, when you grow so accustomed to one another’s habits, until it allows you to know who has the smelliest socks or smelliest morning breath. When you see your officers day in day out and the line drawn due to hierarchy blurs.

But when we were told to gather at 0930 with our luggages at 0917 we were all taken aback. It was heartwrenching to say the least: one day ago we had been performing, we had been dedicated songs and quotes, jokes were made about people, about us, and about how we were SMSD and not SNSD for a reason. We were laughing and wishing that we could stay for a little bit, a little bit longer. Having all that in mind we were denied the opportunity to say our final goodbyes, and we could only frantically wave our hands to everyone else on the tank deck, trying to hide our sobs from the ship crew who were on the FCU with us. I’ll always remember this mental picture that I tried so hard to save: when everyone started singing “See You Again” of which lyrics I only learnt the day before; when the FCU slowly left the well dock and everyone started waving with their long 4s and reflective silver strips; when I saw CPT He and MAJ Tang on the flight deck waving and making heart shapes with their arms for us.

MSTD has reminded me how it feels like to be so strongly attached to a group of people, to the point I felt like I was devoid of emotions when walking around Palu, Indonesia that night. Whenever I opened my eyes on the bumpy mountainous terrain I saw my division, and smiled whenever MSTD memories came to mind. I did not have strong favour for my experience in MIDS wing and would gladly leave all of that behind, but I had a really good time on MSTD and I’m really glad my experience in the SAF abruptly stopped at a high. I think I will be able to leave for my studies happily, and still look forward to returning for my vacational attachment 9 months later.


Eating by the beach on our limited 8-hour shore leave: I’ll always remember how one of them opened up the SAF issued condom on the Tuk-tuk and faced it windward, and how it got filled up by air so easily like a balloon. We were laughing hysterically, singing and shouting our guts out along the road. It’s one mental image I’ll always smile at, unfortunately being midshipmen we were never allowed camera phones on board. For this photo we had to approach the waiter to use his phone, and we had to download Line on our non-camera smartphones to obtain the photo from him.

I am thankful for having this piece of memory.

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The cheesy love letters written by almost every guy from my division and a soft toy gift: I am sure most guys aren’t good at expressing their thoughts in words but they made themselves do it. And there are so many that made me sob at home. I took one hour to paste every single card on my Leopard reflection book and that’s definitely going to come with me all the way to London.

They said “thank God for placing me in Tiger division”, but I think, thank god for placing me in Tiger. I will never pick any other division, be it for the divisionmates, the divisional officer or the divisional warrant. Here’s a large thank you for all the positive experiences.

“It’s been a long way, without you my friend. And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.”