I was in Taiwan for three weeks of training. It was quite exciting to be deployed overseas for the first time. So yes, I will share what I have seen there.
On 24 October I went down to attend the pre-exercise briefing. What a waste of time. I was half-asleep, until the medical briefing.
Officer: Okay, the MO is not coming. The Senior Medic is not coming either because his wife has gastric. Where is the medic? Raise your hands! Come out and give the talk!
Me: (Looking around for other medics, but no hands were raised)
Officer: Eh Medic, come out leh!
I had not choice but to come out to the stage and give the talk. I was shaking like hell. It wasn’t too bad since I knew most of the stuff. I’m just glad they didn’t ask me to teach them to use condoms.
The rest of the day were spent with duffel bag inspection and weighing.
Day One at Hengchun
Our flight departed from Terminal 3 at twelve thirty am. We arrived in Kaoshiung at six in the morning.
I was happy to see Zhanhe again. He was waiting outside the airport.
On arrival at Hengchun camp, we were allocated bunks and made to move the stores in the ops boxes. I met up with the other medics. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. Since I didn’t see any of them on Friday, I thought I was the only medic for the whole frame, which was pretty scary. In any case, Zhanhe took us for hospital orientation at Hengchun, Kaoshiung and Fangliao. Along with me were some medics from Pasir Laba Camp and Bedok Camp. I was also introduced to Zhenhao, the other base medic; and Mark the Ambulance Driver. He was from Maris Stella Primary. He said I looked familiar, but I could not recognise him.
There are three hospitals in Hengchun. The 802 Military Hospital in Kaoshiung is where the complicated cases go to. On that day, we sent one fellow with persistent food poisoning. We spent the rest of the day at the hospital, and had dinner at the canteen.
Before we set off, we bought some bubble tea. I had this one called the Pudding Milk Tea (布丁奶茶). It was really good! And so began three weeks of drinking all kinds of bubble tea.
Day Two at Hengchun: Nights’ Out at Kenting
To our utter surprise, they gave us nights’ out on the second day. The nights’ out was at Kenting (墾丁), a tourist town by the sea. There were many stalls selling street food, and shops selling swimwear and other apparel.
A street in Kenting
Sushi Restaurant and KFC
And who can forget the renowned smelly tofu of Taiwan?
I didn’t eat the smelly tofu because I could not stand the smell. I just had some pig’s blood cake (豬血糕﹐,米血) which is pig’s blood cooked with rice cake. It goes well with the soup and the prawn rolls.
We spent about 2 hours there, and they sent us back to camp by ten-tonner. Yes, you read correctly, a ten-tonner. We use five-tonners and rovers, but the ROC uses ten-tonner trucks with mechanized doors and Humvees.
We had another nights’ out in the second week. During the two nights’ out I took the opportunity to stock up on food, drinks and reading material.
Life in camp
I only went to cover for a total of three times. One was navex, one was bike navex and another one was live firing. Other than that, I spent most of my time in the medical centre on duty. Sure, business was all right. We even used the Body Cooling Unit twice. It’s the first time I ever seen the drill for heat exhaustion. I let Zhanhe do the job of placing the rectal thermometer into the patient’s… well it is obvious isn’t it? There were plenty of illnesses ranging from coughs to chicken pox to STDs even. Those were laughable. The doctor was quite amused. We had plenty of people warded in the sickbay too.
There is no Medical Informatics System in the camps there, so everything is updated manually. It was great not having to deal with computers. No computers, no downtime. There isn’t much patient volume everyday, anyway.
I spent most of my free time playing PSP. I managed to complete the main story of Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core. I still have half the side missions left.
I’m glad I had ample time to say the office and my usual prayers, though PSP was quite distracting. I will reconsider buying one.
The bunks were furnished with double-decker beds. We had foam mattresses to sleep on. It was quite stuffy. Fortunately the window was just behind me. The only thing I had to contend with was the sun shining on my face at six am. In Taiwan, the sun rises that early. It goes down as early at five pm too.
As for the showers, the shower stalls had no doors. At least there was hot water. My only gripe is that toilet paper has to be disposed in the bins instead of being flushed down. I countered that by using more water to flush it down. In any case the condition of the bunks and showers never bothered me too much, because I slept and showered in the medical centre most of the time.
Food in camp was all right. They use the local short-grained rice. The food isn’t always good, but it is still better than SFI. Sometimes I just gave up on the cookhouse and headed for the canteen or the ‘White shop’ outside. There is this white coloured shophouse outside the camp which sells food and drinks. I had the pork steak rice and chicken steak rice on more than one occasion. It wasn’t that bad.
So sorry that there are no pictures of camp life! I don’t want MSD coming to my house in the middle of the night or during my off day!
Akan Datang: Part 2