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Posts Tagged ‘Taiwan’

Playing Catch-Up

21 September 2009 2 comments

All my weekends since Taiwan have all been either too short or fully occupied, so I am trying to cope with a significant backlog. I’m actually on a computer in the spec mess (I resolved to work on the backlog while I’m still actually in a camp with a computer I have access to) so there’s a time pressure too. What I have managed to do was to transcribe my Taiwan notes. They’re all backdated.

Update, 8 September 2009: Added nos. 5 and 6. More backdated posts, but not from Taiwan.
Update, 11 September 2009: Added the picture to No. 4, Stairwells. In other news, I am officially going back to Zululand!
Update, 21 September 2009: Added no. 7, Wrapping Up. As the title suggests, that’s my last post with Taiwan content.
Update, 21 September 2009: This post has been changed to an index of Taiwan-related posts only. They are numbered 1 through 5.

Index of Backdated Posts

  1. In Transit, 1 August
  2. When A Message Can’t Go Out, 7 August
  3. Remembering My Country, 9 August
  4. Stairwells, 9 August
  5. Wrapping Up, 11 September
Categories: Events Tags: ,

Wrapping Up

11 September 2009 1 comment

My Taiwan notes stopped at a point before the eight consecutive days we spent in the field, and before R&R, so I suppose I have the larger part of it left to cover, although it honestly wasn’t much.

Time and distance have blurred my impressions of the outfield experience. I remember that having wet underwear only an hour into the first mission was a huge morale sapper, but it rained every day after that anyway and somehow was got used to it. The long and short of it is that I got used to the walking, the sweat, the heat, the waiting and, to a lesser extent, the insects and insect repellent. In between that there were the missions. I suppose the matter-of-fact-ness could be taken as a sign that the ASLC was successful in making an infantryman out of me.

I’ve tried hard to conjure up something that was memorable from those eight days, but so far only two things come to mind. One was a long moment of stillness, the other was a moment of delirious accomplishment.

The still moment was when my buddy and I stood sentry on the hillside for about an hour and a half. The sky was heavy, and it rained throughout. From where we stood it was a straight drop down. We could look down into the valley between our hill and the next. There was a pylon about thirty meters behind us, and over our heads, the power lines went to the next hill and into the distance. I remember us being mostly silent throughout the time we were there, and I remember thinking about how rare it was to be comfortable with that silence and share it.

The other moment involved my left shoulder. It was the Matador and me again for a mission that involved scrambling up a muddy hill in driving rain as the sky got darker and the visibility plummeted. After the attack, we had to go down the hill in the dark. Then there was a long march to the next destination. Somehow my left shoulder (of steel) lasted the whole way through. I could feel every step, and every few meters I would think, ‘Stop!’, but I didn’t, and then I found I’d reached the end. So that was painful, and kind of fun.

Other than that, I remember the squelch of wet socks, but the rest is a muddy green blur.

R&R was unfulfilling. It had something to do with the fact that it was two-and-a-half days long. I spent almost all of the time shopping, something I don’t usually do. I ended up buying a lot of clothes though. I think, during R&R, I resigned myself to the fact that my peers’ lists of desires to be fulfilled were limited to spending money, getting stuff, eating food (mostly junk food), and spending money being comfortable in between all those things. Which isn’t bad, as far as things go, except for the spending. I think what was lacking was leisure. There was too much to do, if you weren’t prepared to go off on your own for a day. (Not that we had a single full day of unrestricted ops.) Taipei is a nice place, but R&R wasn’t much.

That about wraps things up, way over time.

Categories: Vagaries Tags: ,

Three Weeks

24 August 2009 Leave a comment

The plane landed at about 0030 on the 23rd. Three weeks have passed, the training is over, and everything was fun. In retrospect. I graduate on Wednesday.

It rained every day we were out, so we were perpetually damp, even though the sun was blazing. Summer on the hillsides. The typhoon kept us in for a few days, and although being brought back to camp was a relief at first, all the doors and windows were shut, so we were stuck in the building. When we saw the dam break and the hotel collapse on the television (pretty much the only link to a Somewhere Outside) and heard mentions of the worst typhoon in 50 years, being comfortable in bunk stopped being an appealing prospect.

Today I have been rushing with packing and washing. The weekend’s too short, but hopefully I’ll have some time to write some things down next Thursday.

Also, from what I’ve seen, a lot has happened while I was away, like school starting, the IB reunion and a new TF2 update, among other things.

P.S. Happy birthday, mum.

Categories: Exclamations Tags:

Stairwells

9 August 2009 1 comment

I suppose that if I’ve spent enough time in stairwells that they have associations for me, then I’ve probably stepped into the weird zone, although if you consider how much of my life has been spent in camp or in school, it may only be natural. Where else is one as effectively hidden from view? Perhaps the toilet, but one usually doesn’t want to linger there. On the other hand, stairs are natural chairs. Also, if you want even more quiet, just move further up. There are sure to be fewer people. Stairwells are public spaces that people only pass through, and I’ve found them to be useful when I had to be around school or camp but I didn’t have to be at somewhere at a particular moment. Stairwells are echo-ey, though, so they’re not good places for private conversations, and they’re only private if you’re going to be quiet.

Stairwells

[Note 070909: I think this is quite surely a ‘weird zone’ post. Perhaps being packed with so many people in a confined space for so long activated my instincts for fading away and disappearing into myself.]

Categories: Exclamations Tags: ,

Remembering My Country

9 August 2009 1 comment

Oh, how I wish I could go wandering around the city area like I’ve been doing so often this year, or that I could be anticipating braving the crowds around the bay area tonight with friends. I don’t remember ever having spent National Day overseas before, but here I am spending my first National Day in National Service confined to one floor of a building with forty other guys in the same cramped room with the windows closed because of the typhoon.

But I have prayer, my notebook, and a little space for musing. I also have canned coffee (acceptable) courtesy of the vending machine, and, very happily, some excellent chocolate. I suppose I’m actually feeling rather fortunate and grateful here on my upper bunk bed, despite being in some danger of hitting my head on the ceiling.

On days like national day, I like to try to remember what I was doing the year before. I don’t have access to my blog now, but a glance through the earlier pages of this notebook seem to suggest that I was preparing for IOC. (Ye-es, I remember that.) Further dredging of my memory stirs up some vague impressions of a rather emo MSN convo, so I think I spent it at home. So much for remembering. [Note 070909: Looks like it was quite a happening month after all.]

Today also happens to be Sunday, and according to my buddy’s watch, I would be in church now if I wasn’t in Taiwan. The temptation to vegetate in the bunk is an easy one to succumb to, but I am compelled to do otherwise, and now I shall attempt to fulfill my intention.

Categories: Reflection Tags: ,

When A Message Can’t Go Out

7 August 2009 1 comment

Having dutifully surrendered my handphone, and having been denied access to a calling card-enabled telephone for the time being, I am, at present, unable to call anyone. I have calls I wish I could make, and it is ironic that in the present situation, when I actually have the leisure to contemplate long conversations, I simply can’t get a call out.

The special situation I have been alluding to is this: the continuum of activity and exertion that is Starlight has been interrupted by a meteorological phenomenon known as a typhoon. [Note 070909: I didn’t hear the word ‘Morakot’ until I got back.]

We’ve had to barricade ourselves in. The batteries for the lanterns have been charged, and the jerrycans are filled. The doors are locked and the windows are sealed. Unfortunately, the payphone is in the next building.

Categories: Exclamations Tags: ,

In Transit

1 August 2009 1 comment

I left the house about 33 minutes ago in a bit of a flurry. It was only when I was in the cab here that I realized that I won’t be seeing my house again until the 23rd. ‘Here’ is Adam Road Food Center, where I’m having dinner with my YG, and after Bible study tonight, I’ll be going straight to the airport.

I’m about 20 minutes early for dinner, and as I sit here, I’m starting to feel like I’m already in transit. In my mind’s eye I see the swirling current of travel logistics, the work of preparation and hard training in front of me, ready to suck me in before it releases me again three weeks later. My instinct is to take a deep breath, but I’m not sure I can hold my breath that long.

Perhaps what I’m feeling is pressure. I am having a headache, and I am attempting to relieve the pressure on my brain with a double serving of kopi-o. Not quite as poisonous as a double espresso, I think.

Categories: Events Tags: ,