Saturday, September 12, 2009

TOA Cadet: Day 5

"No," I thought, seeing all the rows of chairs occupied as Cadet Tricia and I entered the classroom about five minutes late. The only seats available were right in front. Right in front of General Yap Sau Bin, with his long scraggly beard and hair, which was longer still. Right in front of the large AC that blew arctic winds into the relatively small classroom. 

NO!!!

Survey of Southeast Asian Art and Culture. That was the class today. Cadet Kelly, Cadet Tricia and I looked on almost bleakly as General Yap proceeded to enlighten us as to why Southeast Asia was so - as he put it - capalang (mixed up). 

Interesting, maybe. But with 90% of my thoughts dedicated to wondering why it had to be so darn cold in the classroom, I could hardly care about the similarities between Southeast Asian cultures. And what General Yap perceived to be dedication as I wrote down all the notes he projected in slides was to me a form of distraction from the cold. 

We tried to ease our situations, hiding our arms behind our bags and squeezing our hands between our armpits. Our request to have the AC switched off was denied by General Yap, who claimed himself to be completely useless should he perspire in the middle of the lesson. "When your laptop is running, you don't switch off the AC, do you?" Why yes, General Yap, as a matter of fact, I do. 

More than half the lesson, Cadet Kelly and I huddled under the blue jacket Cadet Daniel so kindly provided us. (Thank you so much, Daniel!) Later still, Cadet Ah B, who sat behind us, also donated her jacket for the cause. 

"I can't wait till class is over so I can defrost myself," Cadet Kelly murmured as I fantasised about hot cocoa from 7-11. 

Admittedly, the class wasn't that bad. Although boring, it had its moments. Like when General Yap acknowledged Ilina as The Singaporean. And when Cadet Kai accidentally declared that Tan Cheng Lock was the one who was responsible for bringing Islam to Southeast Asia. General Yap nearly launched his shoe into the air for that one. "Which class are you from?" he asked Cadet Kai.

"Digi!" exclaimed Kai, the Illus cadet.

Thus, we have successfully, but accidentally, lowered the esteem of Digi cadets in General Yap's eyes. The end of class was greeted with a simultaneous sigh of relief as everyone woke up from their dazed stupor and clamoured to get out of the classroom. The warm, humid air of Kuala Lumpur had never felt better. And so, Cadet Tricia and I vowed to never be late to General Yap's class again. Let someone else brave the arctic cold!

Then, we happily skipped to Vision to buy some yellow acrylic paint, which costed nearly thirty ringgit, therefore successfully ruining our moods again. 

Friday, September 11, 2009

TOA Cadet: Day 4

0900 approached way too quickly again as I ran up the steps, hoping I'm not late. A couple of cadets near headquarters were lounging; lingering; and suddenly one of them says, "Yea, today is nine eleven. The day when the plane crashed into the building," he added needlessly. 

Oh yea. Today was September 11. 102 Minutes That Changed America. The World Trade Centre. Osama bin Laden. Hijacked British Airways. A son onboard who managed to call his mother as the plane slammed into the side of the WTC. Eight years ago, this date became part of history. 

Mention it to a friend and you'll probably get the customary look of supposed mourning, furrowed brows, maybe even a sigh if you're lucky. Only a matter of time, I think, before we forget all the sorrow and regret. We forgot emotions surrounding Nagasaki and Hiroshima, didn't we? Give it a few generations. Nine eleven will soon become obsolete too.

"When did you become so nihilistic?" asked Cadet Chua after class as we queued up to pay our fees. 

I'm not. Not exactly anyway. I still maintain my religious views. Still struggling to remain a devout Christian. But yes, why do I feel so disheartened when I step through those glass doors? So certain that something bad is going to happen to me while I remain cadet here?

"Not very...it's kinda dark," General LCK said unsurely as he projected my piece of work in front of the class. "I don't know." He pressed the button and moved on to the next cadet. 

I gritted my teeth as I thought back on his expression. Disapproving. Doubtful. I took another bite out of my pizza lunch as Cadet Thomas entertained the others with his witty quips. "I think this semester will weed out the less determined ones," he said, munching on his club sandwich, then wiping his hands and continuing his pencil portrait of Gerard Butler.

Yes, I thought. He was right. 

On my own, I do not think I will see my Thermopylae. Not with the devil biting at my determination and my right of being here. 

But there are some people I don't want to prove right and others, I don't want to prove wrong. So help me, Father. Grant me strength to pull through obstacles. For if Your favoured Daniel could grow up among the enemy, castrated and constantly tested, surely I can survive this simple training by Your Will. Remind me of Your presence that I will not uselessly seek help from an empty well. In Jesus' most precious name I pray, Amen. 

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Happy day! Just found out that Keira Knightley is to star in the remake of My Fair Lady. Anyone else, and I'd probably be fuming because no one can replace Audrey Hepburn!


TOA Cadet: Day 3

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'entrate, wrote Dante in the Inferno of his Divine Comedy. The last line of what he said was inscribed on the gate to hell. After Marker Visual class today, I think I am beginning to understand. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

The One Academy weeds out the weak the same way Spartans used to throw away deformed infants. The ones who remain struggle to prove themselves worthy of staying. This is the training for our Thermopylae. This will be a funny memory several years from now.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

TOA Cadet: Day 2

There were two classes lined up today to replace the one missed on Monday due to the public happy. The other cadets didn't seem to mind the arrangement but I could see some of them simmer with discontent. Fortunately, these negative feelings seemed to have faded (or rather morphed) into boredom during Introduction to Photography.

General David was a generous, apologetic ("sorry if I'm being long-winded") 50-something-year old man, whose experience boasted an education in Japan, works in Paris and a long decorated career in Leo Burnett as well as Ogilvy. But his long speech of introduction and encouragement, with the occasional Q and A session slipped in, drove us to a sleepy stupor, which I tried to rid of with a can of iced latte and a bar of Snickers during the break.

The first and second class was separated by a blissful 90 minute break, in which I spent having lunch at Zanmai with the other cadets. We met the Singaporean along the way and so dragged her along for a healthy Japanese meal. 

We entered Cartoon Character Design (acronym: CCD) nary a minute late to find that the frames, canvas and paint for Illustration One have arrived. I still cringe thinking about the amount of work we have to do for that class. 

Also to my surprise, Cadet Chua was present. After he had been absent earlier today and yesterday, I had thought that he had gone AWOL along with Cadet Hua Yuan (whose whereabouts are still untold). It was great to see that our numbers have strengthened by one and that some noise have returned to our squadron, thanks to him. 

General Bryan and Lieutenant Zhuo Yu were in charge of us for this class. Cadet Kelly expressed doubt (and I'm understating here) about having General Bryan lead us. Cadet Tricia (and her beau) and I silently agreed, citing our previous dealings with General Bryan. But the general today was more lively than I remembered him as he pitched us into a discussion that raised our eyebrows. 

"Why is he wearing shorts?" General Bryan enquired, pointing at the printed illustration of Detective Conan on a plastic bag.

"Because he is young?" I ventured.

"Yes. Now what is special about the shorts?" he went around asking, pointing for fervently at Conan's shorts and people backed away slightly in their seats.

"They have pockets?" I said.

"Yes! And why do they have pockets?"

Here, I exchanged looks with Cadet Kelly and Cadet Tricia, who were also looking at me incredulously. Yes...why indeed? Should we start demanding why short pants have pockets? The general went around asking some more. Despite the confused stares, he seemed more invigorated than ever. I tried to give it another go.

"Because he's on an adventure?"

"Yes!" Then the general went on to ramble about how Detective Conan was an example of a good design and was his favourite out of the four choices (which consisted of Sasuke, Luffy and Hitsugaya as well. Poor Hitsugaya got a thumbs down from the general. "I don't quite like this design.") 

I'm not sure if the general had intended to be this funny but it works in keeping us awake throughout. At one point, he even asked what type of illustrations do we like, to which Cadet Chair replied, "One Piece."

"Ah," said General Bryan, understanding. "One piece jokes."

The class burst out at that one. Apparently, our general was unfamiliar with the adventures of Luffy and his pirate gang. 

The end of class was filled with the hassle of getting our materials and Cadet Shaun reminding everyone to pay up by tomorrow. With some fumbling and clanking of the frames, I left the classroom in search of my friends, whose calls I had not taken in class. The outside world greeted me dry. The bullet gun costed RM 22. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

TOA Cadet: Day 1

I woke up at 0730 today from first day jitters and nervousness of not yet acquiring the time table for the next three months of my life. The subsequent hour was spent running about the house like a headless chicken until it was time to go. And in the ride to headquarters (read: TOA main block), I sat in silence, playing possible armageddon scenarios that could happen on this first day. 

Headquarters was flooded with people, annoyed and confused. So I bypassed it in favour of being early for the 0930 Illustration One class in block M. It took a while for me to realise that the man, with whom I was privately racing with, was actually General Gan Chin Lee, who I later discovered, was no longer in charge of my squadron (Batch no. 851).

He looked thinner somehow. It must've been all that zen training under the mountain waterfall, I surmised as I entered the M1 class, and halted at the sight of unfamiliar faces. Was I in the wrong classroom? No, there were familiar faces as well. 

The Singaporean was happily chatting with the new personnel. Were they POWs?

No, apparently they were new additions to our squadron. They had prior intel, which helped a lot during the class, and I found out that one of them (Cadet Nikki) was an otaku+yaoi fangirl. A rare find, as it were. A valuable one as yaoi fangirls are a force to be reckoned with. 

But although we have new recruits, our numbers have lessened. I was dismayed to discover that a number of us have gone missing. Cadet Felix, Cadet Aster, Cadet Chua and Cadet Lex among them. And although Cadet Aaron had previously left us for another squadron, he happily intruded our class to part with souvenirs from Korea. The new lieutenant (whose name I forgot, only that his initial were JT) didn't seem to mind at all.

After class and lunch, I returned to headquarters in hopes of getting my time table. Alas, I could not find them but bumped into Cadet Joanna, who was waiting for her brother, and Comrade Ajeet, who was leaving the cause to pursue a path that decreed more freedom. He was there to hand in his withdrawal form, but was made to wait however, because the counters were flooded with people, who were keen to renew their visas (read: failed a subject and so was looking for their new time table).

The first day at cadet training promises much work and suffering but yours truly will prevail, if only to prove to the folks that (s)he can!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Here's a sombre toast to the end of the short semester break, during which I have achieved nothing other than bubble with distasteful depression as one by one, my friends and family leave the coop. 

The one kicking off first is Deepaa, who will be leaving on the 12th to Birmingham. 

Next is my brother and my cousin Gary, who will be going to London and Scotland respectively on the 14th.

Joshua Lau himself will be departing for Manchester on the early morning of the 17. 

And yours truly stares deadly at her laptop, wondering what she has been doing for the past year or so. Trying to stay alive, mostly. Struggling to keep afloat in the tide of assignments with no help from her annoying habit of procrastinating.

So buck up, JACK! The world isn't going to wait for you. So don't wait for it any more.