Things that make you scream shiok! #5 The First Gift I Bought for Myself

29th April 2011. #5 The First Gift I Bought for Myself

When you were studying, have you ever tried working part-time to sustain your lifestyle? Unfortunately, I couldn’t.

That was because I spent my schooling days, in the swimming pool, training competitively in both swimming and water polo. So I couldn’t find the time to actually find a part-time job. However I did get “paid” to train in water polo competitively. Back then in the late 1990s, there was this sports scheme called Sports Excellence or SPEX. For those who were training at least in the national youth team level, you were guaranteed a minimum allowance. It wasn’t fantastic, that you could buy everything you wanted. I believe it was given to us, to offset our transport allowance.

I was about 18 years of age, turning to 19, when I had to enlist into military service on 24th January 2000. All Singaporean males who passed the required health test, are compulsorily required for military service enlistment. We call this a rite of passage , and it is officially known as National Service (NS).

It was during my first three months as a recruit with crew cut hairstyle (who were incidentally the lowest creatures in the food chain), that I earned my first wage. That three months training period was known as Basic Military Training (BMT). Of course, the Ministry of Defence would say that all National Service Full Time personnel (NSF) do not get paid wages, only allowances. But money, by any other name, would still attract us to it, and honestly speaking, we only cared about the 9th of every month. Because that is payday!

When I enlisted into the army in 2000, all recruits were given a monthly pay . . . I mean allowance . . . of $235. And boy, was it  really hard work!

We woke up at 0530 hrs in the wee hours of the morning, and only slept at around 2230 hrs. If we had night exercises, then it would drag till 2330 hrs or later.  For simplicity sake, let’s round it to 15 hours of daily work.

Back then, we trained from Mondays to Saturdays, and we would book out (some call it “check out”) of camp by 1300 hrs. In other words, we could train, eat, sleep, train, and train up to 83 hours in a week or 332 hours in a month. Since we were paid $235, we were earning about $1.41 an hour. My bad, I mean, we were given an allowance of $1.41 an hour.

I’m not sure why, but I vaguely remembered that for those three months, we were paid only after completion of BMT. So I got about $700 in allowance at the end of it.

So could you imagine how much we treasured our allowance? It was really hard work for these allowances! And I had to reward myself for going through nearly 900 hours of hard work right? Back then, I didn’t fully understand the concept of assets and liabilities. Besides, I still had the “instant gratification” mentality. So with the cash, I decided to buy myself the latest high-technology music equipment – The sony walkman CD player!

My first hard-earned pay cheque.

My first wage.

And as I held my first gift that I bought for myself, after such long working hours, the feeling was . . .

Simply Shiok!

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