Hail Wilhelmina Pepermunt!

May 9, 2012

A friend of mine recently came back from Amsterdam.

Now, if you are familiar with any aspect of Amsterdam, you will know people who go to Amsterdam go there to get high on smoke and drink, pop pills and engage in all sorts of party animal behaviour. It is the garden of earthly delights. So it was with great (albeit naughty) anticipation when she told me over the phone that she wanted to meet me for lunch the following day to pass me “a gift” she’d brought back from Amsterdam.

Of course I was excited – are you kidding? It’s “stuff” from Amsterdam, baby!

The next day at lunch, with gleeful fingers trembling, I took the non-descript brown paper bag as she slid it across the table. I inspected the paper bag – it was coated with a thin layer of white powder. Very contraband-ish. Dare I open the bag in broad daylight?

With bated breath, I pry the bag open and look inside – there’s another white bag on the inside. My friend looks at me with eyes big as dinner plates as I pull the bag out cautiously, ready for narcotics officers to pounce on me at my slightest flinch. Finally, I get it out of the brown bag and this is what I see.

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A white bag with the head of a woman on the front, in the national colours of the Netherlands, that reads “Wilhelmina Pepermunt”.

A little confusing, to say the least (especially when you’ve been set up to expect to receive a pound of blow from your party-hardy friend who just came back from Amsterdam.)

At this point, the smell of peppermint hits me like a subway train – this might not be hard drugs but judging from the smell, it’s just as strong. Braving the minty-ness of it all, I open the bag, peer inside and see the biggest freakin’ mints I’ve ever seen in my entire life!

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I know it’s hard to tell from the photograph but trust me, these mints were so huge they could be casino tokens for gambling cats or something. In fact, just to give you a size reference, I’ll take a comparison picture with a Panadol capsule.

They’re freaking mints for God’s sake!

wilhelmina-size-comparison.jpg

In any case, I started wondering about the name – “Wilhelmina Peppermunt”. It was somewhat regal and the picture of the woman printed on the front was no slouch either. I thanked my friend for the gift and made my way back to my office, ready for some answers.

A quick wiki later, I came upon the origins of my bag of Dutch mints:

“Wilhelmina Helena Pauline Marie (of Orange-Nassau) was Queen Regent of the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1890 – 1948. She then became Queen Mother from 1948 – 1962. She had the honour of ruling the Netherlands longer than any other Dutch monarch in history.”

As for her relationship to peppermints, Wikipedia came up short on that. Although I’d like to cook up a story about how Wilhelmina ruled the Dutch by pelting the commoners’ heads with extraordinarily large peppermints, I can only assume that these peppermints are more a sort of touristy keepsake. Why do I say that?

Because upon a more thorough wiki lookthrough, I found this picture.

 

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Doesn’t that guilder on the left look like one of my peppermints?

Anyway, they turned out to be pretty tasty and what’s even better is that they last as long as they look like they last – and that’s a really long time. In fact, I popped one in my mouth before I started writing this post and I’m only almost halfway through it. I suppose, judging from Wilhelmina’s long ruling, it should only be fitting that her mints last longer than any other, right?

Well, at this point, with the mint in my mouth, all I can (or can’t) say is:

Hail Wilhelmina Pepermunt!

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Do fat people have more fun?

May 8, 2012

Just last week, as I was running around the track at Bedok Camp for my RT when, it struck me – do fat people have more fun?For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term RT, it simply means Remedial Training. Remedial Training for what you might be asking? Basically, as part of being a reservist in the army, one is required to keep fit and pass a yearly IPPT – that’s Individual Physical Proficiency Test for those not in the know. For those who fail IPPT (that’s me and half of Singapore’s men who left the army to a life of potato chips video games), they will be summoned to attend RT, which is 24 sessions, 2 1/2 hours each, of physical training over the span of 2 months. We run, we jump, we do chin-ups, push-ups and all manner of calisthenics with strange obscure names like “Ranger Hop” and “Chicken Backside”.

My story this week begins with a particularly busy Tuesday RT session where I had a lot on my mind. After being stuck in traffic, I arrive slightly late and in what can only be described as a state close to catatonia, I told the processing Physical Training Instructor that I was in the Green group instead of my usual Blue group. Why? I have no idea.

Anyway, I proceeded to the mass warm up but it was only after we were seperated into our groups and Green gathered onto the running track that I realized my mistake.

It was when I realized what the Green group was composed of.

Now, the term “morbid obesity” conjures up images in one’s mind both frightening, funny and tragic at the same time but basically, this is an example of what you’d have to look like to be morbidly obese:

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Yup, you guessed it – the Green group is the group for the obese, some more morbid than others.

Surrounded by the mountainous flesh around me, my first instinct was to leave but then I calmed myself down and decided to stay. Why? Well, I thought it might be a novel experience to see what these guys did for training as I was certain none would be able to stomach, nay survive, the training dished out by my original Blue group instructors. And so training began with a 30 minute jog around the track. It was an “Endurance Jog”, meaning that everyone was supposed to keep moving for 30 minutes, at their own pace, around the track.

So I began my jog.

5 minutes passed and I realized that I couldn’t get ahead. There was a wall of people in front of me, spanning all 8 lanes.

They were all walking.

Feeling indignant at not being able to run at my own pace, I run up close to them and was about to ask them to make way when I realized that they weren’t walking on purpose – they literally couldn’t run.

I will never forget what I witnessed on the track that day. These guys were literally huffing and puffing and turning red in the face, sweating buckets and looking like they were all going to keel over and have massive coronary failures. And they weren’t even running! Amazed at this phenomenon, I began to trail behind one group who seemed to be doing better than the rest. They were walking at a faster pace, still huffing and puffing, but also managing to hold a staccato conversation between them. So I did what any good writer might have done – I eavesdropped. This is what I heard (reproduced here almost verbatim):

“Wah lan, damn shag, balls. Cannot make it lah.”

“I know. I wanna die also.”

“Why they make us come for this? Cannot pass anyway, what.”

“Ya lor, fat is fat lah. How can they expect fat people to pass IPPT? Then cannot pass already they ask us to come here and do this shit.”

“Ya balls. I wanna die already lah. Wah, you know what I’m thinking about now?”

“What?”

“I thinking about the KFC at Bedok lah. Shiok, sia.”

At this point, both men started laughing out loud, really heartily. One punched the other in the shoulder and the other laughed even louder.

They were actually having fun.

Throughout the “run”, I sidle up to different groups and I find a commonality in all their conversations. Nope, they’re weren’t all about dying from the run or the merits of Colonel Sander’s fried chicken; the commonality here was that everyone was laughing.

Everyone.

There were people cracking jokes left, right and center; there was a humongous dude doing the Macarena down Lane 3 of the track; there were at least 15 people laughing with him; it was such a party some were even singing as they walked along the track. It was a regular riot. I was 8 weeks into my RT phase and not one week had I seen an entire RT cohort have so much fun. Most times, my usual Blue group (which consisted of people who had failed by a thin margin), was so hell bent on shaving off those minutes or getting one extra chin-up that we forgot about the fun of it all.

Now I know people who are in RT will be up in arms about this and saying “what’s so fun about RT?” Well, to them, I say, next session, hook up with the Greens. My theory as to why they laugh is that it’s only natural that when you’re so far down, the only way to go is up and these dudes are on the up and up. They’re laughing so much even the Instructors can’t do anything about it but to laugh along. It’s the same way people laugh in the face of insurmountable odds. If you can’t beat ’em … laugh at ’em?

Next week, I’ll be back with the Blues, resuming my regular grind, trying to shave that minute off my 2.4km run timing. But if I don’t succeed, I’ll just take a look at the Greens and I know, that nothing in life is so serious that you can’t have a laugh at it.