Saturday, August 16, 2014

Final Reflection (A poem)

Hello Friends and Family,

I have a few announcements. First, this is the last post on this Blog. Thank you for keeping up with my adventures, we are at 1,147 views as I write this. If you want to know how many  "final" views I ended up with (after this post is released) don't be afraid to ask. Second, I am home safe and sound (and have been for the last two nights). If you haven't heard from me, it is because I am recovering from 30 + hours of travel & a 12 hour time difference, while trying to spend quality time with my dad. He leaves for Kansas tomorrow morning. I have put a lot of thought about how I want to end this Blog and I decided that I will end it with a poem. So, without further or do here it is, the name is Final Reflection.

Bill Nye said, "everyone in the world knows something you don't"
So, my challenge to you is to meet every person alive, you won't!?

Alright, my challenge is not feasible or the main idea of this quote
You can always learn from someone else, so listen and take note

Everyone and everything have ways to become better and improve
So don't say, naw I am okay, I like where I am, this is my groove

Traveling is one of the best ways to open your mind, to new stuff
Food, music, history, etc. one can never experience & try enough

I am not saying having the experience alone, is what people need
Being open to others ideas and lifestyles, will help you succeed 

Molding your identity, that updates quicker than Apple's new iOS
Find out who you want to be and how to get there, try not to stress

Find the right people who will help you get where you want to go
As Levitt & Dubner wrote, ask for help and say, "I don't know"

We are all able and destined to do great things if we want to
But again step one is to be open, honest and to yourself true

"Words and ideas can change the world", Robin Williams said
Open your mind and learn from others, soon you'll be ahead

Saturday, August 9, 2014

My Final Days in Singapore

Hello Everyone,

It is hard to believe that my summer trip is almost over, as I will be flying home on Wednesday. I have not checked in recently on here for two reasons: First, I have been working a lot on my summer research paper and proposal.  I am getting a grade for it, but most importantly, I am hoping to find a way to it incorporated into the American Education system. Secondly, because of this, I really have not done much of anything else. This Tuesday, before I head home, I have an interview with Robin at SMU. He will be asking me questions about my summer trip, the proposal, as well as posting the video to YouTube for the viewing of those who had paid my expenses. You all will have the opportunity to see this video as well, as I plan to share the link as soon as possible. If you would like to know more after seeing the video, please do not hesitate to ask. Once I finish editing the paper, which is 23-24 pages at the moment, I will send you a copy to read. As mentioned, I really have not done that much outside of my paper/proposal. So, I will tell a few short stories of what I have seen and experienced the past two weeks.

I have had a lot of cheap, yet incredible food on this trip. One that I will miss the most is Prata because it will be the hardest to find in America. For all my friends who know their Indian breads, Prata is basically naan. For those of you who do not know what naan is, think about a hot, flaky, yet doughy and buttery piece of breading. The only difference depends on the kind of prata you purchase. I have had plain prata, egg prata, cheese prata, and banana prata to name a few. This has been one of my go-to snacks to get me through the day as I am attempting to save money and have cheap dinners at home, which are mostly eggs, noodles and frozen chicken. I’ve thrown these into pots and pans to cook on my old fashioned stove. It is astonishing that for the last two weeks I have been able to survive and have well balanced meals for ten dollars. I am getting protein, carbohydrates and fruit daily.

Cooked Pratas

Making Pratas
This is the stove I cook my eggs, chicken, noodles etc on. 
Today, I decided to treat myself to something nice considering that it is a national holiday.  So, I decided to go to this fancy foot massage place.  While I was there, I met this local guy named Gavin.  We got to talking and I asked him what Singaporeans had done to celebrate.  He proceeded to tell me that it was fairly similar to how Americans have celebrations whereas families would come together and have cookouts.  Gavin told me that the government was holding a celebration as well, but that you would have to pay to participate and see fireworks.

Anyways, as we continued to talk, Gavin and I started to talk about his profession.  I was surprised to hear that he was an Art teacher making the US equivalent salary of $112 k a year.  Although the cost of living in Singapore is relatively more expensive than the United States, they were still being paid a fairly decent amount.   As I continued to ask him why he wanted to teach, Gavin told me about the educational system of Singaporeans.  When he was in school, the educational curriculum was structured behind core subjects such as math, English, and Science because they perceived the western countries such as Britain and America as the up and coming top of the world. They pushed what they believed would advance the kids and the country forward. Later, the government realized that they did not have a curriculum structure designed to promote their individuality as Singaporeans such as art and sports.  

Singapore has changed their curriculum 2 or 3 times and will possibly be transitioning back to placing the core subjects in the curriculum but replacing Mandarin instead of English to model after the China because they are perceived to be the new up and coming force of the world.

Gavin then asked me further about why I was in Singapore, to which I told him that I believe that schools should be required to have their students do something every year to promote the building of their community. For example, building a garden, housing, cleaning a park, etc. and be responsible to do fundraising.  The point being to see how the people work together.  So that they have the mindset of family and community first and how it ties into the real world.

This next picture (two men in the boat) is for a conversation I had with two locals today. Today, August 9th, is Singapore's Birthday! These men locals made the decision to spend their holiday “working”. It blew my mind. 

Me: "Hello Uncles, what are you doing?"
Uncle 1: "Cleaning up this River, so Singapore can celebrate more birthdays in the future."
Uncle 2: "Yesterday I am 59, today Singapore is 49. I have to help, if Singapore is going to stay clean."

For this next overheard conversation I do not have a picture. On August 5th, I was taking the bus back to my apartment after a day at the office. What I overheard brought mixed emotions to me. On one hand, I was happy that these young teenage kids were called out for their actions, but at the same time I was a bit upset to hear such stereotyping directed to Americans. After asking the bus driver how much to pay, they sat down. The driver turns and says to the girls, "You American, ya?". One smiled and nodded and asked how he knew. His response, "because you lazy and do not read. Those seats say elderly, handicap and children.”

Last weekend, I went to Dr. Singh's home for the last time. I was able to spend one more weekend with Christopher, my new 10-year-old little brother. We worked on his math studies, played board games, went into the city, and went to the park. On the way back, Christopher informed me he had two questions. The order of the questions was important. The first one, because he was not feeling well, was if he could nap on my shoulder on the bus. The second was an idea, which was, “I think eating McDonald's will help me feel better. Will you buy me McDonald's?” Before I could even answer him he felt bad and worried that I would tell his parents who apparently do not allow for him to eat it either. I told him not to worry, that as much as I do not like or want to eat McDonald's, if he wants it, I will buy it for him and we do not have to tell his parents. We waited in line and as soon as we got to the front, Christopher pulled on my arm and said, “You may not tell them, but I will feel guilty. Let's just go home." I apologized to the cashier and we walked back to the bus stop to take the final bus home. I will most likely not see Christopher before I head back to the States, but I am having lunch with his father this Tuesday before my interview. I plan to give his father 10 SGD (Singapore Dollars) and tell him to tell Christopher that he can buy anything he wants with it.

Sleepy and Ill Feeling Christopher

As I sat here writing this post, I sat next to the Ronald McDonald statue at McDonald's.  I still have not purchased anything and am still using their free WIFI.  As I wrote, two little Indian girls came by.  The younger one was (2/3) and following her big sister (6/7).  She was trying to climb up the bench to sit next to me and Ronald McDonald and ply with her sister.  She could not get up, so she looked at me smiled and said, "up uncle". So I pick her up so she could stand her on the bench.  She handed me her ice cream and played with her sister.  After her sister went to sit with their parents she sat down next to me eating her ice cream and put her arms around my arm smiling and asking me, "who this" and "what that" as I went through Facebook pictures and typed this post.  I really do have a unique ability to connect with kids everywhere I go or am.

As I close, I don’t think it would be fitting to have gone through this whole trip without saying thank you for the help and guidance of Professor Tangalo-Aguas and Dr. Kirpal Singh.  Professor Aguas was responsible for my opportunity to spend a large portion of my summer in South East Asia.  He and Dr. Singh worked together to allow me the opportunity to come to Singapore for a month with most of my expenses included. Prof. Aguas had taken me to Bali, Indonesia and the Philippines, where he was more than just a travel companion.  He was also my teacher in lessons on how to understand the astonishing cultures and life in a way that I have never seen before. However, one of the most important lesson that I learned was how to improve myself.  While I have a long way to go, I feel calmer and more confident than I have before. I think about the impacts, a bigger picture, as well as opening and widening my horizons and opinions.

Thank you, Professor Aguas, for all the lessons that you've taught me and for giving me the opportunity to see the world differently than what I have before.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Week 2 back in Singapore

Week 2 in Singapore complete; 2 more weeks to go. Another week gone but not much new to write about. I went into the office a few days this week to work on my paper but I also found our office has a pool on the sixth floor so I used that twice this week. I went to the SMU (Singapore Management University) gym twice this week as well. I began looking at Graduate School programs for a Masters in Education and bought the 2015 Gruber Complete GRE Prep and have worked through about 100 of the 700 pages so far. I am happy to say that my reading score (in comparison) to the SAT has sky-rocket. However, the math (which is all high school algebra, trig, geometry) actually went down a little because I have not been practicing those topics much lately. However, when I took a second diagnostic math test I scored 1 away from a perfect score. This would actually be a nice place to ask for some opinions. If I get into Match Core in Boston that is my plan because they pay you while you get your masters in Boston. However, if I do not get into that program I have debated taking a few (2-3) years off to teach and gain some experience before going back to school and maybe try and get a second masters in Policy or a PhD even. What do you all think? 

As for things I am doing here. Friday night the 9th floor staff (my center and the one next door) went to a Korean Barbecue place. The picture of the menu is from there. The idea is that you pick what you want (really anything) and they grill it for 1-2 dollars on a stick and it is all you can eat. It adds up quick though I ended up paying 20 for just food (20 skewers with veggies, bread, meat and a bowl of rice) plus 17 for my Chinese double beer (also pictured below). Compared to local street food that can cost between 4-5 dollars and fill you up just as well. Needless to say that explains the other picture of cheese, crackers and salami that was the next two meals. Also, in great news we (Anne and I) have a working fridge again so I have been able to buy small amounts of perishable foods instead of eating out every meal.

I also officially feel as part of the Singaporean community. Through my interactions and gradual acceptance as a member of the community and my experience visiting different temples I feel like I am part of this community. Most of the neighborhood children and small ones on the bus have began calling me Uncle. The general rule is you are expected to call any male at least 20 years older than you Uncle and woman Aunti in Singapore. It is a sign of respect for the generations before you and what they have done to advance the community. Starting this week (maybe due to my beard) small children who I had become friends with in the community and were under 10 years old began calling me Uncle. One specific account was one morning as I got out of the lift and was walking to the bus stop I passed by a young kid (no older than 5) who lived in the complex and I had met him earlier last week at the park turned to his mother and smiled and said, "Uncle fixed his beard, he looks much better." He then asked me, "Does it feel different?". I have also visited both Sikh and Hindi Temples in the last week.

At both temples I was to remove my shoes before entering. This is a part of many eastern religions and the reason being is that the temple is a home of the divine and to wear shoes and bring dirt into any house (but especially the house of the divine) is disrespectful. At the Sikh temple I also was asked to wear a head covering and to wash my hands upon entering. What I experienced in both (other than seeing locals praying) was a very strong sense of community. At the Sikh temple after Dr. Singh said a prayer we went to the dinning hall area. Here as we had a cup of tea he explained to me that the Sikh temple wants both worshipers and non worshipers to know that they can come for tea and a home cooked meal whenever they need it. As for the Hindu temple both individuals but more so large groups praying together and holding circular candles and flower offerings. Many prayed together to show a sense of the strength of community being stronger than that of one individual. The first 9 pictures are from the Hindi Temple and the last 2 from the Sikh Temple.

Outside of Hindu Temple

Outside of Hindi Temple

A pillar holding up temple

Another bright statue

Bright statue

One of many bright statues


The golden door with bells

Lobby of Seek Temple

Inside a Seek Temple

In an unrelated transition likely due to the beard, I should have started asking people for 1 dollar every time they ask if I am Muslim or want to know where the nearest mosque is. I would have a little under $100 in the last two weeks. Most comically was the little Chinese girl below (pictured with two Indian boys) who asked me why my God was named Allah and then asked Uncle if she could have his seat because she was tired from her day at school. 

Well, there really isn't much else new to report other than these few things so here are some pictures.

View from 6th floor of Office

View from 6th floor of Office

6th floor of Office also has games

6th floor relaxation area

Little kids on the bus
Most streets have street cleaners

For my friends who take pics and drive



View from Floor 6





Morning Inspiration at Work

Morning Inspiration at Work

Neat Restaurant Idea 

Learned to use Chopsticks

While drinking Chinese Beer

Nobody wanted the fountain :(

"Homemade"/ "Money Saver" Dinner

The mosque every local asks if I go to

Ghandi Restaurant--- Aka greatest Indian Food I have ever had not made by Grandma

For 8 dollars I had two cups of rice, 2 cups of lamb, bread, 2 cups of veggies (mostly potatoes) and fresh mango juice