Saturday, 2nd January 2010 ~ Wednesday, 10th March 2010
Back down memory lane, I was in the National Service Training in Jugra Camp in Banting, Selangor.
It was the very first day in my life, been separated from my parents by the South China Sea. 2200 km of the flight I took made me proud to be a Sarawakian in the ‘New World’ of Malaysia, the great Malaysian Peninsula.
But, I never expected that the experience would change my life a lot.
The first time I stepped on the foreign soil, it feels like maybe it will be very exciting to be in the NS. And yet, in that 67 days (or rather 66 days, 12 hours, 20 minutes), I changed from an ungrateful person to a very thankful individual. I learned how to be honest, how to cope with hard situations, how to make friends and how to feel how gifted I was to be.
And the most important, I learned how to be and thank myself. But still, I feel grateful to gain some experience that every teenager should has.
In every circumstance in the camp, self-discipline is the number one. Punctuality is a must. There is no reason for being late, but still most of the so-called ‘warriors’ are not a warrior enough.
I lived in the B2 block, which accommodated 25 guys. I was the leader, and most of the time, I was never referred to as a leader. Moreover, some of them denied my leadership. I was the one that became their ‘servant’. They thought they are powerful enough to let me down. Well, reality was opposite.
I was asked to be the Bravo leader for 6 days. So, I have to shout here and there, I have to ensure the whole company to be in time, I have to ensure them to line up properly before any activities in front of the dormitory, I have to inform anyone that absent (with reasons of absence), etc.etc.
Most of the Bravo members (especially boys) are, well, lack of self discipline. I could see it in everything they do: being late in activities, like to start fights, smoking, being lazy, likes to see others to suffer, and many more. They seemed not to obey the rules, but to disobey them.
And maybe, I could say that the National Service is nothing to them; National Service doesn’t change them. Some do smoking, and they never stops. Some do annoying other ‘warriors’ and they never stop.
In contrast, National Service turned me 360 degrees.
And, wonders do happen, too.
It all starts when I was in the Character Building (CB) class. I still remember there are 7 rules in the CB class. They all had been implemented to help trainees to present the best in themselves and others. And surprisingly, CB classes are like kindergarten.
In the first days of CB class, we learned how to present the best in ourselves. We learned how to be honest, how to love ourselves, how to think creatively, and how to use our right brain. We are asked to draw anything we’ve done in the previous day, and what we learned from the previous experience. Sometimes, we were asked to express our feelings in front of the class. I’ve came out twice.
Then I met a guy named Justin. He was a son of an editor of The Star.
I met him during the second CB class. That’s when I started to be close to him. I invited him to join my group.
From then, I shared a lot about myself to him. Honestly, I believe in 1Malaysia concept: to live in harmony, even in a multiracial community. Justin’s story will be continued soon.
The second module of CB is to help trainees to build self-confidence and to present the best in others. We learned how to overcome arguments, how to control our emotions wisely, how to set goals in life and how to plan for success.
There’s a story about a man around 1930’s. There was a 15 year-old teenager listing down all his 127 desires in life. Before been introduced to the boy, we are asked to do the same in 5 minutes. I managed to write 57.
The boy set up a long list of his aims, and the list is named ‘My Life List’. Out of 127, 109 were accomplished when he was 60. I was totally surprised. I never have an aim for life. Hovering around the list, I asked myself, “can I do what he’d done?” Then, I realized something. I think I have been late to reconstruct my future. That’s one of the causes of the depression I faced. I was late. I am.
As time goes by, my life changed a lot. A lot of people influenced me in the way of thinking. One of them is Fatin.
Fatin is a girl, 240 days older than me, which always keep in touch with me during my tough times. She was on the line when I felt down a few months after the program ends. She was a student of MRSM Taiping. She got 9 A’s for her SPM.
I have been close to her during the Integration class (nothing to do with calculus, instead, to introduce the rich diversity of culture in Malaysia). I started to be close when I just was playful in my manners and words. There were playful teases, and just jokes. But surprisingly, I liked how she acted. She is pretty, cute and full with smiles.
In the camp, I reserved a flooding smile only for her. From that class, I began to know her. I still remember the first time she sent me an SMS. ‘If today is the Day of being Honest, what will you say to me? Remember, reply me first!’
I replied her in the next 24 hours.
‘You’re lying! Where did you found the Day of Being Honest?’
Since then, I shared a lot with her. All my 600 free SMS were used. I couldn’t forget her. Every day is a torture for me. Seeing her face is a must for me every day in the camp. I wanted to see her tête-a-tête. I think this is my first love. I never fall in love before.
My friends might think that my first love was an Indian girl in my secondary school. When I was in Form 5, she was in Form 1. She was the only Indian in the batch, and maybe because of it, I liked her. I always asked his friends to send my regards to her. We were ever exchanging ‘love letters’ since she knew me, and I ever asked someone to be the ‘postman’. The whole Form 5 batch, anyway, surprised. They never expected such things would happen, including me.
But honestly, I don’t really love her. Maybe I liked her, but I never loved her.
But still, until now, she keeps on contacting me on the line.
That’s enough for her. Let’s back to the story.
I learnt a lot from the NS. I remember when I was doing the ‘flying fox’. That’s totally beyond my expectation and my phobia. The tower is around 80 feet high and the trail is 200 meters long. That’s enough to produce vertigo.
It was a sunny Wednesday in the camp. After taking a nap after a charity work in a kindergarten in Banting, the whole company is asked to assemble in front of the tower. Looking at the tower, the adrenalin rushes throughout the body. I wouldn’t expect this to happen, actually. But I have a chance to cool down, because it was the girls which tried it first. I saw them shouting en route to the end of the trail. They seemed keen to do so.
Then, my turn to have the travel comes. I was the first boy to do so.
Looking down, the adrenalin rushed again to my entire body. Fear stroked me back. It was embarrassing that I took 2 minutes before I was to shout and slide down. Then, in the journey, I saw the beauty of fear itself. That was the shortest 30 seconds in my life before a big splash happened. ‘Whoosh!’
I fell into the water. Half of my body was wet, and I have to dry my boots. Anyway, I really thanked myself that I’ve done a fear-threatening act.
Actually, I never planned to tell a lot about the NS, and I think that it’s better for me to just summarize.
After 66 days of life-changing, personality-shifting and self-confidence-enhancement, it was time for me to leave. It was a gloomy Tuesday. There was the program-closing ceremony in the open hall. Full of gloom, we all sang the Negaraku with a very sad tone. I never saw a gloomy celebration like this before. We were back home, ending our program, and taking our SPM results on the 11th March.
The commandant gave a speech, and then came the gloomiest part when we were shaking hands with the staffs, the trainers, and our friends, as a symbolic for the end of the program. Then, I saw Fatin and Justin. I saw Fatin cried a lot. Maybe she was really appreciating the moment she was there. I saw Justin. He wasn’t look sad at all. I cried then on his shoulder. The shirt he wore was wet of my tears.
Actually, I appreciate everything I got in the camp. I appreciated Justin, I appreciated Fatin, I appreciated the lesson I learnt during the program. Some of my friends hugged me, even the ones I hate the most.
And then leaving time arrives. It was 3 o’ clock, but all the boys refused to sleep.
They wanted to send us back, but sadly, Justin and Fatin weren’t there. Justin were back home early, and Fatin was sleeping, not noticed that I was going back home.
Luckily, her friend, Zu came that morning.
Zu gave me a small bag containing a packet of Cheezels, Fatin’s favorite pencil case, some sweets, and some pictures of her. I’ve nothing to give, just telling Zu that I loved her so much.
Sending regards to her, I saw tears flowing down her cheeks.
I saw Fatin for the last time on 9th March 2010, 10.35 pm. I saw Justin for the last time, somehow too early, on the same day, on 11.30 am, of which it was the very last time I contacted him before he had something really bad to me in my absence.
Going into the bus, I was quite sad and depressed. “Why doesn’t she want to see me today? Or, does she hate or trying to avoid me?” I talked to myself. I left the camp exactly on 10th March 2010, on 4.10 am. I left the Peninsula for Miri via KLIA. It was the first flight of the day. With the 15 ringgit I had, I had McDonalds for my breakfast. In KLIA, the grief was exaggerated but I quite relieved when I saw my old schoolmates. We are all waiting for our SPM results. That grief is actually part of the greater and tougher journey in my life after the National Service.
Goodbye, National Service, thank you for teaching me a lot about life.