Driving 102

Experiencing snow in Korea: 1 in the bucket list

Experiencing snow in Korea: 1 in the bucket list

Oh look. there’s snow falling on this blog now, which shows it’s my favorite month of the year, DECEMBER! Everyone loves December, it’s an indication that the year is ending and everyone is in the festive and holiday season. For the most of December, I will be clearing off and leave (although I still need to go back some days due to stupid army which I won’t digress on). I like how I keep saying I want to dish out more posts but NEVER actually go do it, so will this be the month? I shall start the first post of December with the army driving course I was in during October and November: a summary of the things I did there, my thoughts regarding the course as well as my learning process (along with some criticism too LOL, early apologies for yet another dry post).

Rewind back a few months ago, I along with Bin Xi and Ivan, got arrowed to go for army driving course since all 3 of us have civilian license. With a few months left to ORD, I don’t really see the point of getting a license but our incompetent officer then had no idea of any shit and just shot this arrow. I didn’t have much complains either since I live pretty near the driving centre plus I get to polish my driving skills during my army time, so at least I’m doing something constructive. Despite living so close to the place, it’s still a pain to wake up 6.30am everyday and tiring to travel around even though I only take the bus a few stops and take the MRT for a stop. There are some days where we are only let off at 7pm and 9pm, which makes the course even more tiring as when we reach home, we can’t do much before going to bed. IT DOESN’T STOP HERE, every Saturday morning I need to go back to that goddamn place again, so it’s a 5 and a half hour work week. I know when I go out and work it’s going to be worse, but the course can get physically and mentally demanding as they want to cramp and teach everything within a month. It took me close to 7 months outside to get my Class 3 license, and they want to achieve the same thing within a month. Imagine if I hadn’t have any driving experience, a slow learner like me who have positively and absolutely died. As I go on further, I might continue to criticize this course, but truthfully there are many plus points as well. This is like when you judge people: you tend to only remember the bad points that you block out the good points. Before I go on, let me just say that after this course, my overall driving has improved tremendously, but the way the course was conducted, my opinion is that it could have been a lot simpler and better.

Driving an SAF vehicle, such a disaster

Driving an SAF vehicle, such a disaster

First week of course was mainly lessons studying for Highway Code (Army version of BTT+FTT), along with some theory lessons. Lessons were super duper dry and boring, I was either sleeping or using my phone during these lessons. Most of the theory we learnt is quite overkill and unnecessary, especially Highway Code where I learnt a whole lot of new signs which some are really not applicable. The most applicable thing I learnt was regarding driving in the bus lane, but other than that most of the stuff were the same as BTT+FTT. Since I wasn’t paying much attention during the lessons, I won’t comment much regarding them, but I believe driving itself helps much more than lessons itself since it’s so much different when you actually drive as compared to learning those theories. The driving simulator lessons were just a waste of time as well since it is nowhere similar to the actual driving (plus it makes you dizzy), but it’s good to be indoors and not under the hot sun. For the first week, we were only dismissed at 7pm everyday, which kinda sucks since I will have a super late dinner at home. It was a shift to stay-out life, as well as being a trainee once again.

Moving onto parking: yes my worst enemy in driving we meet again. After failing twice to striking the kerb during parking, you could say I wasn’t confident at parking at all. Even after getting my civilian license, I still have a lot of problems when I park outside. The parking slot for our parking test is really small and there is no room for much mistakes since we have also a time limit. Outside when you park time isn’t really a factor, but for here it’s a race against time and every action has to be accurate and fast. During the test, you would have to go out of the vehicle a total of 7 times to ‘check’ for safety, which logic-wise is absolutely pointless but it’s the SAF. For parallel parking, I used all the sighting points the parking instructor taught us, while for vertical parking I use more of feeling and squeeze my jeep into the slot. Failed my first test due to hitting over the time limit, after which I drilled quite a number of practice sessions to get used to finishing under the time limit. I was super nervous during the second test but it went well and I completed it safely under 8 minutes.

Onto the main part of the course, the driving itself! Did around 4-5 sessions (can’t recall correctly) in the circuit, had to accustomed to army driving rules, such as having to put up the handbrake for every complete stop as well as turning into the correct lane according to army regulations. (for example, when you do a right turn, you would turn into the most left lane instead of the most right lane). The jeep I was driving had no air-con, no side windows, so when the sun in blazing, it gets really hot to the degree that my right arm gets tanned and the difference becomes pretty obvious. The side mirrors had to adjusted manually, and it’s just a wreck driving a 30 year-old jeep. My first few driving sessions went well and smoothly as I was getting used to driving manual again, changing gears and working with the clutch. We had to pass an evaluation, which was like a mock test, before taking the actual test. Despite being a license holder, I failed this evaluation twice, which is pretty embarrassing… My instructor for my 3rd evaluation was a really nice guy, who was a driver for artillery units during his NS time and we had a good chat, and he wished me all the best for my test before passing me. Towards the end, my confidence started to drop as I was failing these evaluations and the instructors were starting to become more angst, venting it at the expense of us trainees. I myself actually have a short temper, but out of respect I have been holding it in and only rebutted once (that was because insults towards my family took place). There’s more to come at that fiasco, but I’ll talk about the test part first.


Don’t ask, just do and listen – the essence of life as a driving student

Okay test time! First test, I had a strict tester (by the name of Mr. Pandian, all future trainees please take note LOL). I had a hard time calming my nerves down, forever nervous before taking any tests. He was pretty demanding, but I already knew most of his tricks since the instructors warned me beforehand (He would ask you to do directional change but in fact you need to do a 3 point turn, along with e-braking you outside of the circuit). Got an immediate failure halfway outside driving and was sent back straight back to the camp. To be honest, for a first try I did decent to go outside of the circuit. There were many people who failed in the circuit and didn’t even have to chance to drive outside. There was this 1 guy who only drove 1 turn for his first 2 tests, 1 failing to give way to pedestrian and 1 forgetting to on his headlights. For the army driving test, you can only clock at most 10 points, which is really hard because they fault you for the really smallest errors (fail to check mirror while turning, before moving off, failing to give way to others when you have the right of way). Second test started off really bad, was rejected by the first tester as I forgot my pre-vehicle checks (aka wayang), my fault but seriously… super anti-climatic. Fortunately, since that tester already had a bad impression of me, the instructor arranged me to get tested for another tester, which was much more lenient. There was much at stake (will explain later) so I really had to pass… and I passed on my 2nd attempt, BARELY JUST BARELY. I stalled twice during my final parking (stupid old gearbox, if I had stalled 1 more time I would have failed), but I think I did well for my circuit and outside driving (there was a car doing an illegal turn into my lane but I reacted well), so the tester was really nice to pass me despite my mistakes at the end. Woohoo, passing the test is really what counts in the course, and it marks the near completion of the course.

I was the 2nd guy in the course to pass, and the passing rate for our batch were supposedly the worst in history. Only 4 out of 36 people passed out of the course in time, so you can tell how ridiculous the requirements for the army driving test can be. Towards the end of the course, everyone could tell that the testers were more relax and started to pass more people, but even with that the passing rates were low. It’s really ridiculous that the test demands a super high level of the trainee handling the vehicle, when the average person only drove at most 15 lessons, which is surely not enough when they want a level of driving that much higher than one expected during an outside driving test. I drove 200km for my island driving, which was really boring when you can only travel 50km/h on the expressway. I managed to drive on the auto jeep for most of my driving, which was really fun (since its auto and the jeep is like a convertible as it’s open air). When I was vehicle commander in the auto jeep, it unfortunately rained and since the auto jeep had no rooftop and we were driving on the expressway, so inevitably I was caught in the rain. The instructor who accompanied us was the one who passed my evaluation, was really a chill guy and brought us through different variations of the standard route to make the trip less boring. Ended course and two days later, I flew off to Taipei and enjoyed my holiday!

Onto why I had to pass during the 2nd try: As I was going on overseas leave 2 days after the projected end of the course, if I had failed my 2nd test, I would have to extend my course and the head of the centre was threatening to cancel my leave and holiday (seriously?). Needless to say it was a HUGE sigh of relief to pass the test and get this burden course off my shoulders. The disgusting thing is that from what I heard, a week after I went off for my holiday, a bunch of Guards sergeants were also in the same situation as me and didn’t finish the course in time, were allowed to go off for their holiday in Korea. Reason? They are commanders. HAH! The passing rate for our batch was so horrible, that the preferential treatment became super distinct. It was obvious the chief instructor was venting his frustration on his poor trainees, holding us back as late as possible, forcing us to read useless theory books during the time we aren’t driving outside in the training shed. Of course, after you passed, the opposite happens and as one of the lucky few who passed early, it’s a disgusting scene to witness. During one day I came back from clocking my island-wide so I casually just took out my phone and browsed through, and one instructor came up to me and started unleashing. Only when he found out I passed then he toned down and just walked away without apologizing… is there really a need to treat people like that? These are things which aren’t really worth getting angry over, you are mad; I’m mad, we rage at each other, no one wins. Maybe because our results affect your bonuses, but please remember that we are also humans and most of us just touched the vehicle. Karma stroke to one of the instructor as someone lodged a police report against him since he raged at someone while driving outside. In the end, another instructor had to go down to my unit to get a statement from one of my signal mates and tada, total 180 degree attitude change! I’m not saying that you should be nice to people just because they may “be of use” in the future, but there’s no need to make an enemy out of nowhere.

There was also off-road driving as well as night driving, but I’ll skip those as I think this post is already that dry and boring. If you’re too lazy to read all of this, just a quick summary: Course did help me improve in driving, but was treated badly, unfairly and it was one I was glad to complete in time. Okay no more army-related stuff here please. Less than 3 more months to ORD, and the biggest burden would be gone. Here’s a gif of kid leader Taeyeon to make up for all this dryness of this post haha!



The Last 25%: Final months as a NSF (Part I)

Post 90! So apparently my 80th post was during last November, so yes the frequency of posts here have been getting really slow (forever talking about this but still not posting enough). Hopefully I would be posting here more often, because I really miss just typing out stuff on my MacBook in this personal space of mines. It hasn’t been long since I came back from Thailand after my overseas exercise ended (EDIT: I started writing this 2 weeks ago but haven’t been able to complete it, so much for more posting here LOL), so it’s only natural for me to talk about it, which will be the focus of this post. Since there is much I can type out with 6 months remaining as my time as a soldier, I would touch on what the rest of all army-related thoughts in another post. (WARNING: DRY POST INCOMING SORRRRY >.<)



EX BATTLE KING! Since no one wanted to go for it, I got unfortunately arrowed to go for this exercise. At first thought, it looked horrible since I’m going to Thailand, which is going to be extremely hot, and I would have 2 weekends burnt, and to add on my misery, be away from my friends whom I used to see and talk to every week. But as time passed towards the mid-year, I got used to the mundane army life as week after week passes by, with some of my weekends burnt due to regimental and extra duties. Putting everything else aside, I went into BK with surprisingly a positive mindset and looked forward to get the most out of it. I was actually excited to going overseas since it has been close to 2 years since I haven’t travelled out of the country and I invite any changes to the really monotonous army life of mines. The actual thought of me being away for 2 weeks plus only struck quite late, so I panicked a little but I left Singapore with a light heart and off to Thailand I go! I had my first meal on a plane since I don’t know for how long as I have been always traveling on budget (no joke). As with any change in environment, at first I hated Thailand: The 75 men bunk, the poor shower facilities, the lousy cookhouse food and worst of all, I had no one to turn to and was all by myself in this foreign country. But throughout the whole exercise, I got used to the new environment, and it helped knowing that we aren’t going to stay here for long kinda subsided any sadness I experienced. Before I knew it, this exercise only became a distant memory, which ended up as a relaxing trip away from everything in Singapore and made me realize how reliant I am on technology. Now moving on the actual exercise…

The first 3 days of preparation was hell. The weather was hot, and there were many signal sets to be mounted. Not everyone was doing their share of work, so being the loner among the group, I just kept quiet in a corner did more than my share of work. I probably mounted more signal sets in Thailand than I ever did back in Singapore LOL (yes it was that many and it was so tiring). I never felt so shagged out before and for those few days, I fell asleep easily despite the sponge-like mattress and lack of ventilation in the bunk. My admin shirt changed color from all the sweat I did and from Day 1 of doing work, I started to realize how lucky I was to have such a “boring” army life, in a way that having nothing to do always is better than having something to do. With all the prep done, I was given kind of a major role during the exercise since I was the only ‘corporal’ signaler in the team. I was given a role with some responsibility. RESPONSIBILITY! Who would have known that word would be in the same sentence with my name. Imagine in a net diagram you see names of officers in charge of something and under rebro, you see CPL NICK LIM. After being in the army for so long, I was convinced I was never the leader-type material and should just stick to being a follower. You could say that I wasn’t that comfortable with my role, but there’s a first for everything. I had to draw my own stores, be a vehicle commander and be held responsible for any screw ups. So you could say that I was easily a victim of any angst from the signal officer-in-charge, yay for responsibility…

Onto Day 4, it was time to move off and it felt good to be driven along the rural areas of Thailand which I wouldn’t get to see if I wasn’t arrowed for this exercise. I don’t want to be rambling about 9 days of outfield so I will just focus on the more memorable moments. The first 2 days it was raining and I had to cuddle into my jacket. When I was hoping for slightly better weather, the days to follow the sun was blazing hot and I had a free tan and eventually became more blacker than I would wanted to be. Nightfall was very early there and by 7pm, the sky is totally dark to the extent that you can’t even see your own fingers. It was during that time where my thoughts start to wonder and the thinking starts yet again. Everyday passed by so slowly as the only thing I do is facing the goddamn radio waiting for something to happen, but somehow 9 days passed like that. I had to save my phone battery so I spent most of my time reading my book, and with that limited battery life I re-watched SNSD’s Hello Baby. You can tell how much remaining time I had to just stare blankly into space and die of boredom LOL. By the 6th day and the words of “exercise cut” gets closer, the motivation was there and time past quicker (it seemed). There was a distant lack of human interaction, as the people I talked to most was my Thai driver and liaison officer. How I wished I knew more Thai so that I could communicate with them instead of them trying to understand my English and sign language. My buddy wasn’t really enthusiastic about entertaining them so I tried my best to engage them in any random topic, from exchanging our army stories to random things about outside of army, where topics we talked about were derived from the outdated newspapers delivered to us. It wasn’t exactly an eye-opener, but it helped me understand the outside world better, especially when there is little to see and know in Singapore.  They treated me super well, providing drinks and food from the outside world, and the driver was a super funny guy who I could joke with easily. Although the whole exercise, for our side, didn’t go smoothly all the way, along with me being angst at times, somehow we survived and as the last convoy, he drove our way back to base camp. Oh how I missed my crappy and being able to sleep in a building and not in the open. Since I was only a support staff, I didn’t need to put on my helmet or ilbv, or put on that disgustingly hard to remove camo cream, or even draw rifle. You could say life was pretty good comparatively for me hahas…


The view from outfield

After outfield ended, time past really quickly as the pressure on everyone was gone. Although we were supposed to have a break, we signalers still had to do some work for the NSmen who are coming in for their subsequent exercise (forever saikang warriors), but what to do? Suck thumb and move on, and the only thing that is motivating me is seeing that percentage go lower and lower. In the middle of all the recovery of stores, we chilled a little and played some dota games as well.  I apparently drunk-whatsapp someone LOL (so freaking embarrassing) and realized how low my alcohol tolerance is. The educational tour around Thailand was okay I suppose… nothing memorable since we spent most of our time traveling in the bus and there wasn’t anything outstanding that we visited. Apparently R&R was counted as an off day and 2 of my off days were deducted which was super depressing. Fortunately, old BSO (who’s in ORD mood already) was kind enough to top up those 2 day off so I got 5 days off from this exercise. Life got back pretty back to normal after I returned to Singapore, but I became more appreciative of the things around me and I’m always glad to receive this kind of enlightenment.

So there were many plus sides to this exercise, but nonetheless there always has to be an ugly side, and yes it was super ugly. Getting mistreated, scolded for absolutely nothing and unable to argue because doing so only would make the situation worse, which simply points to the problem between officer and men, and how some just want to show that they are superior to you. And what can I do? Nothing but SUCK THUMB! I do not have a good temper to be honest, but sucking it up ever since enlisting is something I have learnt well and just lived with it. There were also many showing of “bootlicking” (the civilized way of saying it). I have said this once and I would say it again, what is there to bootlick anyway? I know this would be common when I go to the workplace, but what IRKS me is the total attitude change of some, a total 180 degree change before and after exercise. I would love to continue ranting, but I would like to keep it positive and why so much hate over something that is over already right!

With all the negative things aside, this overseas exercise has taught me much, and one which I won’t be able to learn if I didn’t physically experience and see it for myself. I saw it for myself, how a less developed country (LDC) was and how blessed I was. And also despite them having a lower standard of living comparatively, they still led their lives happily. Whenever I feel life’s unfair, I should look at them and be ashamed of myself. They do not have many things and still living happily. You never realize how you take many things in life granted until they are taken away from you and you are put in a whole new environment without them. This experience also made me realize how different of a person I am with my friends and with people I don’t know, and it felt awful always being left out and alone. Fortunately, JJ came to this exercise as an instructor so yays for having at least 1 person I know here stuck in Thailand. I never really jelled well with the other signalers, would have loved to click with them but whatever, that didn’t happen so life goes back to the way it was before I left.

And that’s it for BK. Will do another post for the remaining army stuff which I didn’t talk about. To be continued….