something that is imitative or derivative of an earlier work, product, or establishment; especially :a television show starring a character popular in a secondary role of an earlier show
I have been back home for four weeks now, after spending 49 days away in Rockhampton, Queensland for Exercise Wallaby (XWB) 2017 – an overseas military exercise.
While there, I wrote a post about something that had happened before I left for Australia. And now I am back to tell you all about what went down during the 49 days.
Let me start by saying that I have no regrets about participating in XWB and that was one of the main goals for me – to not have any regrets about my participation once it was all over.
For XWB, I was part of the communications team. There was about 20 people on the team and our role was to help with the setting up and distribution – & later tear down and return – of relevant communication equipment to the various departments and units that were involved in the exercise.
Like I had anticipated in one of my previous posts, we also had to man radio equipment in pairs, at remote locations, in 4D3N shifts and other times, manage the drawing and returning of store equipment in daily shifts.
The first week was pretty intense. The equipment we had to set up came in days later than expected. So there was a lot of waiting around before scrambling to get things done when everything finally arrived.
I remember returning back to the apartment everyday, the first week, slightly worried about the next day. It always seemed like there was a lot more to get done.
But the team pulled together – even staying on site, within the camp one night to save time and the trouble of having to travel to and from our apartments the following morning.
The drive from our apartments to the camp took about 90 minutes. And it’s an additional 30 to 60 minutes to get to the remote locations. So I definitely have a lot of respect and appreciation for our drivers – who were all senior members of our team.
After the initial set-up phase, there were issues with how functional the communication equipment were.
You could compare it to a game of whack-a-mole. We were constantly troubleshooting the equipment and ensuring that everything was smooth but there would always be another issue or complaint popping up every now and then.
While there, we lived in comfortable apartments – each apartment had two to four people – fully equipped with a kitchen, washing machine, dryer, TV and air conditioning.
My roommates were the one guy I came into this whole process knowing, back from camp and the admin guy.
Since we were responsible for our own meals I ended up eating a lot of fried rice from Noodle Paradise – a Chinese takeout place – and burritos from Zambrero – a Mexican restaurant. Those were my go-to meals because they were really filling.
Below are a pictures of some of my favourite meals while there:
There were days where I felt like making my own meals but they often were failed attempts. I had trouble cooking my pasta just right and ensuring my wrap did not fall apart. I even melted a plastic skillet after leaving it in the frying pan for too long.
The alternative to eating out and cooking your own meal was to go over to another apartment where someone else was cooking for a group. So I did that a couple of times too.
I also picked up the habit of having cereal for breakfast again. It had been some time since I last had Froot Loops. But after the third week or so, I ditched the cereal for muffin bars. And three weeks later, I ditched the muffin bars for cereal bars. So maybe three weeks is the limit to my ‘creature of habit’ food tendencies.
So depending on our tasking for the day, we would either be staying overnight within the camp as part of our 4D3N duties or be back at the apartment in the afternoon or night after the daily morning/afternoon shift to handle the logistics at the ‘HQ’ near the airport.
During our 4D3N duties we slept on safari beds in a large tentage. And within the tentage there would also be a fridge for us to keep our frozen food and a microwave to heat it up.
Microwave meals were the most practical and convenient option when on duty. I got the same meals for all my duties during the six weeks – chicken carbonara, chicken & mushroom fettuccine, creamy tuna bake – with a couple of wildcards thrown in here and there. But I eventually got sick of everything in the final week.
I had a total of three 4D3N duties while others had four or five. So people were constantly passive aggressively pointing that out.
Even though I had nothing to do with planning the schedule, a part of me did feel guilty. So when impromptu 2D1N duties popped up for an additional site, I passively volunteered to do more of those when the schedule was being planned, to shut people up.
The 2D1N duties were solo ones instead of in pairs. So it was easier to do your own thing instead of feeling pressured to communicate with whoever you were on duty with or do as much work as they seem to be doing.
We basically had to ensure that the equipment was working and that communication was possible. And if not we would have to change the settings or troubleshoot.
I had downloaded a couple of movies and episodes of Terrace House: Aloha State to watch offline on Netflix. So that was how I killed most of my time.
My roommate ended up taking on my second 4D3N duty because he wanted to ‘explore’ the site and catch the sunrise with the person I was supposed to be doing the duty with. So I ended up only doing two 4D3N duties.
I had no qualms with that.
The people I worked with out there were definitely a good change from the people in camp back here. I felt a lot less pressure or need to make meaningful connections with them. Probably because I knew at the back of my mind that everything was just for 49 days.
But of course, there were people that I gravitated towards more. As well as those that were harder to click with. Some situations did bring me back to the same feeling I felt back in camp of being misunderstood. It would make me question if I was the problem. However, I already addressed this in my previous post – it was not that deep.
It was really not that deep to begin with, back in camp. And I certainly was not about to overthink whatever was going on with these new people during the 49 days into something deep either.
Furthermore, at the end of week three, there was a ‘cast change.’ 10 people were swapped out for 10 new people. And I was worried about the change in dynamic especially since there were some people coming in that I had not previously interacted with at all.
But it was all good, as there seemed to be more of a laidback vibe. Maybe because there were lesser issues popping up by then.
On our off days, we were free to do whatever as long as superiors were informed.
Side note: Not informing our superiors and going on a stroll to a café nearby, got five of us in trouble. Our punishment was to clean the vehicles that drove us into the camp everyday.
If you were feeling lazy or thrifty, you could stay in your apartment all day. Or if not, you could go over to the shopping mall that was a 15 minute drive away from the apartment or walk 15 minutes to the nearby Target. I did not have high expectations of the mall after my online research. Which is maybe why I was not disappointed – there was actually quite a lot to explore, thus exceeding my expectations.
I loved this shop called EB Games which had games, toys and other collectibles. Just walking around aimlessly in there brought me happiness. I often felt like I was burdening whoever was with me. That is probably why I preempted the people that by telling them that spending 30 minutes there during my last visit to the shopping mall was on my to-do list.
I also splurged on Dusk candles for friends, family and myself. At first I thought I could just get Yankee candles back in Singapore but when I realized that Dusk was an Australian brand, I thought it was worth it.
And I bought a total of eight WWE action figures. They were definitely considerably cheaper than what I was used to seeing on Carousell. So I started with two. And then another two. And then I got the last four during my final visit. It made me happy.
Throughout my shopping visits, I had this mental checklist of people to buy things for. And checking people off this checklist genuinely made me happy.
Back at the apartments, we had a couple of game and movie nights. It started with the Exploding Kittens cards I brought. And then I expanded by buying travel versions of Monopoly, Game of Life and Cluedo while I was there – they were on sale!
As for movies, it was hard to find something that everyone wanted to watch. So I suggested Riverdale because I had been meaning to catch it myself. So there were four of us who watched the first nine episodes together.
Sidenote: I have given up on Riverdale after completing the first season. I just do not feel much for the characters or storylines.
And I also tried to keep up with my weekly to-watch list on my off days and whenever I got to stay at my apartment. Thankfully, there was WIFI!
The tear down phase during the final week felt a lot less stressful than the set up phase. It is just like how the journey to always feels longer than the journey back.
Accounting for all the logistics was problematic at times. But whoever was in charge did a great job with keeping tabs on everything and knowing what was where or what should be where.
And once all that was settled, it was time to head home.
I remember halfway through, I was talking to someone – who was leaving at the end of week 3 – about the likelihood of either of us getting too attached to anyone out there. And I could not give an answer to that question.
Of course, there were some people I felt more comfortable with that I opened up to and others I could have potentially opened up to if we continued to be friends after this experience. But I think somehow I just knew that was not likely.
Regardless, I expected myself to be emotional during the last couple of days but the excitement of returning home just overpowered whatever little emotions I had about the experience ending. So there were no tears at the airport.
And speaking of the airport, there was some drama with the luggage situation. Turns out that a couple of our luggages were delayed when we arrived in Singapore. Somehow they were placed on a different flight? So after the initial confusion and denial, we all made a report and were told that we would be informed when our luggages have been found.
I was disappointed at first for two reasons:
1. I had this plan to unpack everything that night I got back home.
2. I had things in my luggage that I wanted to give the people I had planned to meet the week after my return.
It took me a while to be okay with not having my luggage. It meant that I did not have to get all worked up about unpacking that night. I could start with my backpack and duffel bag – this itself stressed me out and took up quite a bit of time.
So maybe this was better?
Of course, I was worried about the possibility of never seeing my luggage again. But I kept the faith and stayed positive.
And the next morning, I got a call that my luggage would be delivered to me before noon. I got it around 11am. I unpacked. And everything just worked out great.
Since I came back on a Sunday evening, I requested to be on off the following week because Wednesday was Deepavali, a public holiday. And thankfully my superior was agreeable. So I had time to reset and get everything in order – I will write about this Reset Week in my next post.
All in all, my XWB experience was a pleasant one. I coped a lot better with being away from my friends and family than I expected but I still missed them dearly.
And I feel like this time away from the things that were bothering me allowed me to regroup and remember what was really important. In a way, it helped me find myself after getting lost in other people and negativity.
I could just be myself for the most part.
It reminded me how I enjoy being me.
And it reminded me that I am pretty damn awesome.
So there you have it, my summary of my 49 days away – something I never would have thought of doing when I started my National Service last May.
Until next time,
P.S: I know this is a pretty long post but I tried my best to condense everything that I can without having to go into the details, like names.