So we have settled in Bedok Camp 2. A spanking new camp in the year 2001. I may not have much photos of the camp as cameras were not so accessible in those days. But I'll try to remember how life was in my home for 1 and 3/4 years.
If you have been reading my “Army Series” posts, they were all about being in training schools. After about 10 months, I am out of schools and it was now a steady life of being a full time soldier.
Life was still 5.5 days week. Even though it was more than a 44 hour work week. We wake up at 530am in the morning and sleep at about 12am every night. The lack of sleep was actually quite frustrating for me but I guess being young at that time, it was manageable. We book out every Saturday noon and back in camp on Sunday evenings, provided we were not assigned to weekend duties.
We had annual leave and off hours that we accumulate. Hearing from other friends undergoing NS, they were able to clear their offs and leave before they ORD. On the day I ORD from NS, I still had at least 10 days of off and 10 days of leave uncleared. I cannot remember the exact numbers but definitely no less than 10 each. I really felt angry at that time (until today actually). We are entitled to those rest days but were never allowed to clear them. I think it is very unfair and it is one of the reasons I hate the army very much.
Everyday it was just training after training. Physical training, military training, proficiency training. We just keep doing them over and over again. The idea was to keep us proficient but we got bored and it just went on to become a monotonous routine.
So we had (at least for me) to look for things that could make our life there interesting for the rest of our active days in NS. I was still hoping that I could be posted out to a non combat unit though but you would have known by now that it was never achieved until I completely finished my army stint at the age of 37.
Well sometimes we had nights off. It didn't happen often. Maybe once in 3 weeks or so. Most of the times I went to meet my girlfriend. Most of us had girlfriends then so if you didn't have one, you won't have anyone to meet when you go for night off.
Since we were on the mainland already, and in Bedok, it was easier to head to some place. Luckily we were not at Lim Chu Kang or Kranji. We could always go to Tampines and Bedok and sometimes head to town. The bus stop was just outside our camp and there were bus services to these places. It was quite convenient.
Of course our hearts will sink again whenever we came back to camp. But upon alighting from the bus, we would see the Bedok Camp 1 first before walking to our camp behind it. We count ourselves lucky as our camp was a nicer and newer camp. Bedok Camp 1 at that time was an old run down camp and it was occupied by the 3rd SIR if I'm not wrong. In our minds was, ok lah... at least we were not posted there.
As we trudged back to our camps and bunk with very low morale, we had to make it into something that could make us feel better. A number of us picked up smoking. There were also smoking areas on every floor of the building so it wasn't as strict as it is now. Just walk out of the bunk and turn left to the end of the corridor.
As for our bunks, we personalised it to make it more “welcoming”. We rearranged our beds to make it more interesting such as we had our own space. We even arranged our cupboards to create partitions like as if we had our own areas. We attached curtains to the windows, pasted posters on our cupboards, used our own bedsheet and pillowcases. We also brought our own extra pillows from home. We used our own non army towels and clothes when we're in the bunk.
An interesting thing about our bunk was, somehow, some day, one of us actually brought a TV in. We were all very happy. The TV was placed at the end of the bunk. Slowly we started attaching a VCD player and a playstation. So we could watch TV, play games and watch movies. At that time there were a lot of pirated CDs so it was fun. A friend brought boxes of Korean drama series VCDs and we would watch it together. We also played the playstation console, mostly FIFA games and I remember there was a time when we watched the 2002 World Cup games in our bunk.
The view of Tanah Merah Country Club and East Coast from the corridor of our bunk. Sometimes ghosts would fly to our corridor and bunks. The guys would excitedly say "hantu!" and chase after them. So did I. But I could never see them. I could only see the curtains and stuff in the bunk flying everywhere.
Honestly the cookhouse food in Bedok camp was nice. I was a more picky eater at that time but they were nice. Breakfast was a bit hard to swallow though. Maybe it was just me. I still feel that 530am is too early to eat breakfast.
I would then eat a bit and then waited a while to maybe about 9am when I would go over to the canteen to get breakfast. Yes we had a canteen even though we have a cookhouse. My usual meals there then were half boiled eggs and toast bread.
There was also a barber too but most of us cut our own hair. The “guards” haircut was a simple crop at the sides and back and very short top so we could do that by getting our own hair clipper. There was also a guy who would offer to cut hair. He would set up a chair at the end of the corridor and some of the guys would ask him to help them cut their hair.
We also had a “mess” where we could eat western food and chill in an aircon room. There was a TV there, some board games, a fussball table, a billiard table, a pool table and dart boards. We go there once in awhile but since we already had TV in our bunks, we just bought food there and bring them back to our bunks.
Well there were some recreation facilities in the camp but we hardly got the chance to use them. There were basketball courts and street soccer courts. Sometimes we did have time to play but I don't remember that we played that much.
Most of the time we were told to go for runs. Our common running routes were of course along the camp's perimeter. For planned group runs, we ran along the East Coast Park. Out of the camp from the back gate and cross the expressway via an underpass. Since we could not get nights off, sometimes we would say that we want to run outside of camp. We would then run in the evening to Bedok interchange, eat ice kacang at Hollywood and then go back to camp.
And then it is a Saturday again. Book out day again. We would change to our civilian attire, ready for another short weekend. I mentioned in a previous post that we were allowed to book in and out wearing a minimum of polo t shirt, bermudas and sandals. It was a privilege that no other camps in Singapore at that time had.
So we walked out of the gate heading towards the bus stop. One funny view that I can remember was, the bus stop was just at the doorstep of Bedok Corner food centre. At that time the design was different and you could see the stalls from outside. And on every Saturday, ALL the stalls, be it the drink stalls and all food stalls, would have a young lady working there. I remember this view very clearly. It was obvious that all the stall owners would get their daughters or nieces or whoever to help them out on Saturdays. It was funny. The attraction didn't work for me though because I just wanted to get out of there quickly because before you know it, it would be Sunday again and it was time be back in camp again.
NEXT WEEK : Training Areas
Categories : The Army Series
Web logs of art activities on a regular basis (hope).