Off to Shah Alam on a creaky bus


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 28 Mar 2004

NATIONAL SERVICE DIARY By LILY ISMAIL

SATURDAY, March 20: No formal activities today. We held a gotong-royong – the guys cleaned up the campsite while the girls combed the beach. 

There were loads of rubbish and it was frustratingly dirty and smelly. I hated doing this. 

At night, we were shown a classic Malay movie. I went to bed early.  

Boredom is seeping in and I’m thinking of the amount of things I could have done if I was at home. 

Sunday, March 21: It's the last day at camp but the trainers still would not let us go to the seaside. 

The problem began when some of the guys went swimming in the sea. The trainers were worried, saying that this part of the sea wasn’t safe for swimming. 

After completing two modules, I have learnt to be patient because I noticed no one has bothered to be on time.  

Trainees would just hang around waiting for activities to start – sometimes for nearly two hours.  

Hopefully, it wouldn’t be this bad once we get to Shah Alam. 

I will miss the beach very much. 

Monday, March 22: Trainees were told to get ready by 7am as the buses leave at 8am. We were all packed for the trip back to KL – but the buses did not show up till after 4.30pm. 

My group was the last to leave camp and we ended up in a creaky old school bus for the journey. I heard that the bus operators were delayed by permit problems. 

Along the way, we stopped at some stalls to eat. Hygiene was suspect but we were hungry and kept on eating despite the place being swarmed with bugs. 

We reached Shah Alam early in the morning and were shown to our rooms. We were placed four to a room and shared a common toilet. I was relieved.  

Tuesday, March 23: The first thing I did was to send mum an SMS that went “Yo mum, wassup? Still sleeping?”. 

Whenever mum gets this kind of message from me she knows I’m coping with things and she worries less. That was my intention. 

We were given two pillows and mattress covers but strangely no blankets. 

Then they gave us the new uniform to go with the new module. The uniform looks like a cross between that worn by a bus driver and a factory worker. 

After being at camp for more than a month, I found it strange being restricted to the hostel compound. 

There were parents all around the whole day, including mum who arrived with food. The only activity for the day was a briefing on the new module held at the stadium. 

Wednesday, March 24: The new module hadn’t started so we had an aerobics session instead. Some of the trainees showed more enthusiasm than the rest. 

The environment here is rather chaotic and different from that at the camp. The trainers seemed uptight and rigid, unlike those at camp who appeared to have better skills and experience. 

I was a little upset to see trainees being shouted at and ordered around. It put me off, so I didn’t pay much attention to the evening talks on how to save money and handle bank accounts. 

Thursday, March 25: Minutes after waking up, I heard a siren and loud voices of some trainers ordering us out of bed. 

The first activity was yoga, which we were told would help lower stress levels. It didn’t help me at all as I felt even more stressful afterwards. 

We had to assemble again immediately after breakfast, waiting under the hot sun on the scorching road. Finally, we were told to attend our classes but the teacher was missing. 

The programmes had been more or less finalised by today and so I informed mum that visits were still maintained for Sundays only. 

Friday, March 26: When mum called, I told her about how disorganised the activities were in Shah Alam. Nothing starts on time here. 

There are so many trainees because UiTM is huge. Altogether, there are about 6,000 of us from 10 camps from the first and third batches. With that many people, someone had better think about a more systematic way of doing things.  

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