Brother was supposed to enlist on the fourth day of Nainai’s wake (9 February). My dad couldn’t leave the wake, so the rest of the family – all the women – accompanied the brother on his big day.
We took a taxi to Pasir Ris interchange, joined the queue, boarded a bus to Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (which is located in Changi Beach), and then took a ferry to Pulau Tekong. There, family and friends were separated from the enlistees, who went somewhere.
Brother’s school was the extremely ulu BMTC School 4, so we had to take another bus from the main BMTC building (which houses the other three schools) to get there. The main BMTC building really reminded me of OBS. Must be because they’re both facing the sea.
As the bus trundled along, our guide, an NSF (a Malay guy with a big dimple on his left cheek), pointed out various landmarks to us and explained what they were used for.
Finally we arrived at School 4. We sat through a talk on military equipment and the like, and then went on a tour of the bunks. Surprisingly bright, clean and airy.
After that we bussed back to the main building, where we were ushered into a large auditorium.
There were a couple of speeches and presentations, then it was question and answer time. Then this auntie declared in halting English that she couldn’t speak it, then proceeded to ask a question in Chinese – how would the officers know if a certain recruit could not handle the training, and what if he had breathing problems? Her tone was so confrontational that everyone burst into laughter after she had finished. Kudos to the Malay officer who tried his best to answer her question after a Chinese officer translated it. Haha.
This was followed by the solemn oath-taking ceremony. All the boys recited the oath in their loudest and deepest voices. There was a light-hearted moment when everyone was supposed to recite their own name and IC number, so those parts sounded like a cacophony of gibberish. :P
After that they all filed out and lined up on both sides of the walkway outside. Parents then walked down the passage until they found their son. We found the brother and then went to the mess hall, where they were serving lunch.
Yay, lunch! Rice with chicken thigh in soya sauce, stirfried cabbage and a deepfried wonton. Soup. A mandarin orange. Slightly oily, but not that bad. This was the last lunch that Brother and all his fellow enlistees had as a civilian for the next two years.
After that, lunch ended all too quickly and all the enlistees went to line up at the parade square. Some of them are so scrawny! All the parents were snapping away exuberantly.
Then the officers led all the men away, amidst calls of encouragement from the parents.
It was time for us to return to the mainland.
That was almost three weeks ago (NSFs are not allowed to book out for the first three weeks of BMT), but in a twinkle of an eye, we’ll be seeing him tomorrow!
NB Yes, the title of this post was inspired by the 古文《送东阳马生序》.