Can you believe that for 4 years in secondary school, I was a little girl soldier?
Everyone in school had to join an ECA (Extra-curricular activity). When the enrolment exercise was going on, my best friend and I promptly joined the brass band. After discovering that we had to attend band practice several times a week, we wanted to weasel ourselves out of the deal. Lacking the courage to do it ourselves, Mum went to school to speak to the teacher. I can’t remember what excuses she gave but we were freed!
Happy to be out at last, we decided to join the NPCC (National Police Cadet Corps). Being blur queens, we signed up for NCC (National Cadet Corps) instead. From a police wannabe, we became soldier girls. Oh well…
Life as a cadet corp was tough. We had to be on the parade square every Saturday morning, in our stiff, starched uniform and polished boots (with metal studs underneath). I loved the sound of my black leather boots click-clacking as we walked around. But that also meant polishing the bloody shoes all night long with black kiwi until I could see my teeth reflected on the shiny surface.
The uniform gave me the biggest headache. Big-time! My school was a 90-minute bus ride away from home. In order to get to school by 7am, I had to catch the first bus at 5.30am. On Friday nights, I would iron my freshly starched uniform (a formal green army dress) to perfection. I’d hang it carefully on the hanger, fold the skirt up, peg it and protect it with a plastic cover. The boots and other army paraphernalia would be ready packed in my bag. Perfect!
5am in the morning, I’d set off on my chopper bike with the bag behind my back, the dress hanging on the handle, to ride 3km out to the main road. When I got to the bus stop, my starched uniform had already softened in the cold morning air. By the time I managed to shove and squeeze myself up the crowded bus (because we lived so far away from the city, many other residents also boarded the first bus), my limp uniform had already turned into a crumpled dress. Let’s not even talk about missing the first bus or rainy days.
We changed into our uniform the moment we arrived in school. My fellow schoolmates (most lived near the school) would slip into their perfectly pressed uniforms while I unveiled my miserably crumpled one from the plastic cover. Needless to say, when we assembled in the parade square, I stuck out like a sore thumb. The teacher could never understand why I never looked my best. He thought I wasn't putting in enough effort. It didn’t help that the other girls in our snobbish girl school were terribly mean and unkind. So I was labeled the village girl from god knows where, who couldn’t fit into their city-girls clique.
As you can imagine, four years in the NCC didn’t bring much favourable memories. Fortunately, I had my best friend for company. She was slightly luckier than me. Though we lived in the same district, her house was right by the main road, and near the bus terminal. That means she always arrived in school with a perfectly pressed dress. In fact, she did so well in NCC, she was soon promoted to Staff Sgt and headed our troop.
Well, it wasn’t all misery. We participated in lots of obstacle courses (I almost drowned in a water-crossing exercise!), shooting competitions, camping trips and so forth. We canoed, kayakked, climbed, repelled, marched, assembled/dismantled/cleaned rifles, oh, the whole works.
I remember one year, a Cadet-Lieutenant from a junior college, started coming every weekend to train us. He wasn’t that dashing or particularly macho but being so male-deprived, all the girls were swooning all over him and vying for his attention. For the record, he finally married one of the girls. I think they have two kids now.
We had some opportunities to meet guys through combined-school training exercises. Inevitably, there would be parties and picnics after that, and the pairing-up of couples. Rumours were rife on who’s secretly admiring who, and who had a crush etc. I wasn’t spared of course.
Ah, those were the days….