Just like your average city girl, I was sent away for national service kicking and screaming. I worried about the food, I worried about theft, I worried about my hygiene(*snorts*), I worried about my skin, I worried about hamsap trainers and I worried about the lack of internet. I think I worried about that the most.
In all my life, I realise that I’ve been sheltered far too much. There were people here who don’t even own handphones and to me, that’s incredulous. But I soon learnt that these people who hail from the village have their own way of slow paced life.
Only in national service would I ever have the chance to play and learn together with these kids who come from all walks of life.
Despite the language barrier with the other chinese speaking chinese at camp, I tried to keep an open mind and communicated with everybody. I was desperate to find somebody who could converse with me in english.
As the weeks go by, I soon got by with my limited cantonese and broken Malay.
Everybody at camp noticed that I scribbled furiously in a notepad whenever there was time. They’d peek over and la
ugh and smile because what I was writing was about my experiences together with them.
After form5, most people would end up sticking with their own race. It is inevitable. But in National Service, it was arranged in such a way that nobody of the same race should sleep next to each other. My neighbours were both Malay girls.
My favourite of the two girls was named Farah. Farah is very down to earth and she remained impartial despite the politics going onÂ in the dorm. Politics happened everywhere and you guessed it, it happened between the malays and the chinese. Farah and I were very close. So close that we’d join our beds at night and she would help me hold my torch light while I religiously wrote about my experiences in national service.
Farah comes from Putrajaya but it must be the environment that she grew up in because she can hardly speak a word of English. She recognises a few word every now and then from my journals and would chuckle.
“Oh!! Marriage!! Cakap tentang hukuman seks tu ya?” she said. I mentioned in my NS diaries something about the trainer threatening a marriage ceremony should anyone be caught doing naughty things around the camp.
She told me, “Bagus Jolene tulis diari tiap tiap malam! Cam nih Farah dapat belajar bahasa inggeris! Tulis lebih ya!” I was overwhelmed with a sense of encouragement.
Once of the cutest scenes I saw in camp was during my character building classes.
There’s this tall, lanky and hairy indian boy who would act like a total monkey making everybody laugh. He can only speak very little Malay. When you disturb him, he’ll get slightly pissed off and scolds you in Tamil. It was very funny so my friend Yee Ling, a hair dresser who works in Klang, found him very endearing.
Now she was the epitome of your typical ah lian hairdresser together with the hokkien accented Malay. Very very amusing.
“Oi Raju!! Lu jangan nakal ar!!” she’d shout at Raju, the aforementioned Indian boy and break into a giggle. Raju likes to disturb her as well because she had blonde hair, blue eyes and was as fair as snow. They’d squabble.. one teasing the other in broken malay and the other one scolding back in Tamil.
One of the things I miss about national service are the songs and the cheers. Every night, all of us would gather in our oversized t-shirts and trackpants and sing the songs thought to us by our trainers.
I wouldÂ love to continue this post. But I just puked my guts out a while ago and am in no position to blog. Hope you all understand. Happy merdeka. The gist of it is that I had a greatÂ time in National Service. Will edit this when i get back.