Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Singapore



I have been sponsoring the Model UN at school this year and this week we are in Singapore for THIMUN, The Hague International Model UN.  I feel a little guilty, Irish is at home with all three kids. Friends have stepped in to help with the logistics of dropping everyone off in the morning, but I owe her.  (and I will owe her again in the spring when the club travels to Beijing for BEIMUN)

So Singapore is a great city.  This is my first time here and I had some vaguely formed impressions, similar to everyone thinking of imminent threat from North Korea when we say we live in Seoul. I remember the American kid getting caned after vandalizing cars.  I had heard about laws related to gum and flushing toilets.  I had heard it is a very clean city, I think I imagined the streets would be getting polished.  It's true that it is illegal to sell gum here, when we got off the plane Sunday night the lady from the tour company told us it is alright to chew gum if we brought it, but dispose of it properly, and we won't be able to buy any while we are here. I didn't check on the toilets, and since I usually flush it hasn't been an issue.  It does appear clean, but no one is polishing the roads.

Singapore- river through the middle, financial district on the left, colonial building turned museum at the center, fancy hotel on the right.

More than anything I have been aware of how international it is.  We are staying in a hotel in Little India.  Arab Street is a short walk from here, we had dinner there on the first night with a mosque at the end of the road, the muezzin was calling people to prayer while we ate. The majority  of the people are Chinese but English is the dominant language- though signs are often in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil.



It is hot, being right near the equator, it's hard to believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  Wearing a suit at the conference I kept looking for air conditioned rooms.  But in the evening it is manageable.  Outside the hotel there is a stand selling fresh fruit- they have Durians there- which are enormous spiky fruit that smell really strong. In Taiwan I remember them making the whole supermarket smell.  But here, that smell, with the warm air stirs pleasant tropical associations.   

On the first day we had some time so we took the students to Universal Studios.  On the way we passed the skyline downtown, and then the port with a staggering number of containers stacked up.  I guess depending on how you measure it Singapore has been the 1st or 2nd busiest port in the world, maybe third now.

This picture doesn't really do it justice, the containers go on and on.
A lot of the kids seemed to want to go to the mall more than the amusement park, but I had a lot of fun at Universal Studios along with the other two teachers who are here. We rode the four biggest roller coasters they have, waiting a little longer so we could get the front seat each time.

A couple of things I like about this sign- the warning for people prone to "giddiness" and the graphic representation of vomit in neat little balls

A fake snowstorm on fake Sesame Street, it was over 90 degrees and Christmas music was playing. 



In the afternoon we did let the kids go to the mall, there are a lot of malls here, and they all appear to be very nice if you are a fan of malls, which I really am not- I forgot to bring any ties with me, I really need them, and I still couldn't force myself to go through the effort of shopping for this thing I needed while I was in an upscale mall that presumably sold ties somewhere.  I eventually borrowed a tie from the other teacher sponsoring the club just so I could avoid shopping.  

The conference has kept us busy.  I can't overstate how impressed I am with our students, they are incredibly mature, hard working, knowledgable.  As sponsors we are primarily facilitating things, making sure everyone is on the bus, getting where they need to be, while the students do their research, meet with other students,  debate and speak.  Tomorrow I will be listening to a lot of them get up and present, it will be a particularly full day. 

I have had some time for a few other things- we had dinner with a former principle at KIS and his family who live here now.  A really nice guy, and there was another couple who had also just moved here from Korea.  It was interesting hearing their perspectives.  Over these past few days I have been so enamored of this city I thought they would just talk about how great it was, but there are things they miss about Korea and that was nice to hear. 

Buddha at the museum


Today I got lunch at the hawkers near the hotel.  They are similar to the night markets I remember in
Taiwan, but appeared more organized. In the picture below you can see a few pork options- I got prawn noodles with pork ribs, but there were two Pig's tail dishes.  Another stand had "pig organ soup" and several were selling trotters (pigs feet)


The same market at night

Juices from fruits I didn't know existed, or from things I didn't know you could juice, like avocado. I had a soursop juice, it was good, not sour, kind of bland, but refreshing.


I think it is unlikely I will find any turkey tomorrow, but I saw lots of duck and chicken, so I will eat some kind of bird while Irish has a big meal with the kids at school.  Just like Halloween they are good about keeping up with all the holidays.  And then we fly back late Friday. Red eye getting in Saturday morning.  It will be nice to get back, I've been joking about nice it is to get a break from August waking me up early in the morning, but I miss them very much. 

And today is my Mom's birthday back in Hummelstown PA.  As soon as I hit save on this I am going to see if I can catch her on Skype, but if not,   Happy Birthday Mom!

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