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New Year Resolution for 2008: Swim faster, Run longer, maybe return to cycling.

Friday, November 16, 2007

State Secret Revealed: Soldiers Earn More, Save More

Singaporean guys doing their National Service (NS) are now earning more and have more opportunities to save their hard-earned allowances. Back when I was in full-time service in 1994, I remember my monthly 'allowance' was a little over $195.00 a month. It was typical for us to book out during the weekends and we'd spend it on cover charges at Zouk or Hard Rock Cafe (it was THE hangout place in the early 90's).

Some may argue about inflation and the fact that Singapore has economically grown by leaps and bounds since 1994, but I have a strong case to argue here. And this is about the legendary army cookhouse food.

You see, back then it was a well-known fact that army food sucked. We all hear true non-exaggerated stories: Rice that smelt like it was cooked in rat's urine (probably so) and it was hard and lumpy. Vegetables that was either overcooked or cooked together with roots still attached; sometimes you might even find the rubber band that tied the bunch of kailan together. Meat dishes were always suspect. Breakfasts were just loaves of bread slapped with Plantar magarine and over-boiled hotdogs. On a good day, the cookhouse might serve fried rice, but even then you'd suspect it was overnight surplus rice and finely chopped dunno-whats. The army cooks were also dubious characters with tattoos more colorful than the food they cooked.

The food was so bad that we would sneak out to the canteen at every opportunity to buy 'better' food from the canteen lady. Canteens were commercialised and they served a larger variety of food ranging from fried noodles, fruit juice, minced meat meepok, etc. Prices then weren't too bad either, but tagged on to the meagre $195 allowance, our daily canteen breaks took on a huge proportion off our wages. A day's worth of canteen food would easily have cost us $4.00, and this meant about $100 per month just going to the 'better' canteen food expenses.

There was no other choice then: food that tasted like shit, or slightly better food that tasted less like shit. Which would you have chosen?

Fast forward to 2007 and I'm now doing my highkey ICT reservist. It's the same old cookhouse structure, but army food is now prepared by aunties and uncles from Singapore Food Industries. Let's just say that we just had pasta and french onion soup for lunch today. Yesterday we had bryani for lunch, and a chicken dish that was so awesome, I made friends with the auntie chef and she let me pack some chicken home!

See my point here? Soldiers don't even have to spend a cent on canteen breaks because there's no need to. By doing so, they save a huge chunk of their allowance!

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