Monday, June 30, 2014

Beginning an adventure in the Philippines

Today I left Singapore (don't worry I am going back) to begin stage two of my trip. I have learned the Singapore train station very well and in an effort to save money I took an almost 2 hour train ride that literally ends inside the airport and one short escalator ride away from check-in. I did not mention this upon my arrive earlier but again today I was incredibly surprised with the speed and cleanliness of the airport. On my way into Singapore from the moment I deplaned through customs and immigration and baggage claim I spent a total of 15 minutes (and apparently for Singaporean citizens this is considered a long time). Today was even quicker for check in and customs/immigration upon departure. I read Think Like a Freak this summer and one of their main points was in order to learn how to make something better we need to ask for feedback. I have posted many pictures of Singapore asking for feedback but to recap I have seen them asking for feedback of public bathrooms, of the metro system, of airport efficiency and cleanliness etc. This explains why Singapore is so successful at many things. Also, if you want a great summer book to learn how to think and act I highly recommend it. 

I flew from Singapore to Malaysia and from Malaysia to the Philippines. Not to bad right? Wrong. Professor Tanglao-Aguas informed me I could have spent half the time and money by taking a direct flight on Philippines Airlines instead of flying Malaysia air. We had dinner with his wife's family who still live together in a beautiful Spanish style home in the capital, Manila. The houseis very open and spacious and has beautiful artwork and pieces of historical and cultural importance to Filipinos. 

My phone just decided it would delete all my storage so I have no food pictures tonight unfortunately.  However, I tried two Filipino dishes and will provide Google images to show what they look like. There names were tinola and nilaga. Tinola is chicken with potatoes and greens while nilaga is beef with greens and potatoes.



Professor Tanglao-Aguas and I have just purchased our tickets to Tachloban (the area hit by the typhoon mentioned in earlier posts). We will be staying working with a nunnery for about a week and after I will travel to Boracay Island for either or both the mini research project (on social economic status creating a horrible gap in education in the Philippines (but also an issue around the world)) and soaking up some sun on the beach and "vacationing". Either way Professor will be leaving me on the fourth of July to do his own project in Shanghai but we will meet up in Indonesia on the 11th and visit Bali, Indonesia which he has described to me as a very spiritual and relaxing place. We will stay there till the 15th before I return to Singapore and he heads back to the U.S.A.

Today's thank you shout-out is for two of the coolest girls at William and Mary, Alex McAuliffe and Ciarra Nickerson. I have been friends with both of these incredible young ladies since the beginning of my time at William and Mary. Alex has one of the kindest hearts I know. She honestly tries to see good in everyone and cares about everyone she knows. Even though she is a fan of the horrid Yankees, she is a close friend. Alex is willing to talk to me about anything and everything on my mind at more or less any time. Ciarra also has many good qualities. The first and most obvious to everyone is her drive and dedication. CiCi, as she goes by makes everyone feel that they need to work harder because of all the time she puts into her studies (she is going to be a swell doctor someday, so it is going to pay off don't worry). CiCi is also a HUGE RED SOX and BASEBALL fan so it is only fitting for me to post a picture of us at a Tribe baseball game. Don't let her super studious habits fool you tho, she is still one of the most charismatic and helpful people I know. I have also had conversations with her about everything and anything at any time. Thank you ladies for being good friends for me and always being here for me. I can't wait to see you both back at school in the fall and hangout. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

See you in two weeks Singapore!

As the title above indicates, I am leaving Singapore. Tomorrow morning I am headed to the Philippines and Indonesia for 15 days. I am meeting up with the William and Mary professor who introduced me to my Singaporean hosts and is sponsoring my research and giving me academic credit for this blog and the ensuing paper/presentation. Francis Tanglao-Aguas was born in the Philippines and went to high school there before coming to the United States. We have discussed two different activities that I can partake in while in the Philippines. The first is to work with a humanitarian group in Tacloban who was recently hit by a horrible typhoon. Here are two articles. The first is about a lady's experience of this Typhoon the second is about a humanitarian aid group he has reached out to for us to work with.!projects/c21kz

The second project he mentioned was to spend some time or Boracay Island and do another education project. (Not the larger summer project of "why is Singapore number 2 in math education for 15 year old children and the USA is number 38 of 65 countries tested). This project would be to research why the social injustices on this island cause unequal education between the children of wealthy resort owners and the children of local workers. 

Because Today was my last day in Singapore (for a while, when I come back I am doing my main research project) Christopher's mom believed it was only appropriate to see NanYang Technological University, the only college in Singapore with a graduate teaching program (hence where all the teachers come from). Briefly, I will say that the school was very pretty and has an interesting history (basically people did not want to attend it for a long time because of they believed it had some ties to pro-communism ties in China, Google more about this if you want). The school is just outside the top 75 worldwide, but have no worries friends William and Mary boasts a spot around the top 200. This is a ranking of the school overall and not the education program at said school. I won't say anything more and just post a few pictures and a link to show this statistic.

Ed School Take 1

Ed School Take 2

Ed School take 3

It was raining or I would have stood in front of it

Very fitting

Inside the "Sunken Gardens"

"Sunken Gardens"

I ended my day with a 2-3 mile run as Christopher biked along side the canal that leads into the city.

Today's Thank You Shout-Out goes to one of my many "adopted" families. Before I post our beautiful family portrait I will write a bit about each member. Dad, thank you for all the good laughs and your unique sense of humor. I can honestly say that you can make anything funny and it is a joy to spend time with you. Furthermore, you have taught us what it truly means to enjoy life and those who you love. Mom, thank you for many dinners (especially all the frozen pizza), but furthermore thank you for your support and encouragement as I have gone from naive teenage babysitter to maturing young man. Thank you also for allowing me to come "home" whenever I am in town. Bro 1, first of all thank you for editing all these posts this summer. But more importantly, thank you for always being there for me even if we are just sarcastic and awful to each other it is okay because we do it because we care about each other. I wish you luck in all you do but know you have a good combination of street/social and intellectual intelligence to be successful in the world.  Bro 2, I am a bit upset you are now taller than me but I am proud of all you have accomplished this far in life. You always find a way to make me laugh (whether you mean to or just do something silly) but you also keep me youthful by making me play sports with you all day everyday. Good luck in high school next year, I know you will do great, IF you put in the time to anything you do. Sis, you have grown up a lot in the last few years. Our conversations used to be very bland and about all the friends and enemies you had. As you have grown you have become very curious about the world around you, especially about what makes people unique and different then each other. Keep this open mind, open attitude towards different things it will get you far in life. Well, enough gibberish. I miss you all and hope to see you soon.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Tourist, Local, Family

Hello again everyone,

This post is supposed to cover the last two-three days because I have not covered those days. As the title indicates I have partaken in events that allow me to be characterized into all three of these groups. 

I finally did something 100% touristy. I went to the Singapore Night Safari last night. However, I did learn the bus system at the same time. The Singapore Night Safari is one of the main reasons (other than Singapore being super safe and clean) that tourists from Europe and America visit. Bernard Harrison (who actually happens to be a good friend of my host family) built this Safari in the heart of the forest like part of the country, saving many endangered species from Africa, Asia and Australia in the process. Here is a link to the website:

Furthermore if you are interested in purchasing a book written by my host father about all of this check out this link:

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the animals. I refused to use flash like everyone else who was constantly yelled at, (at least 10 times) during the ride and my phone got nothing good without flash. 

Today I visited the oldest, largest and most prestigious University in Singapore.  I went to the National University of Singapore (about 25,000-30,000 students) with Christopher and his mom. As he went to his tennis lesson (at the University) I was able to use a real gym for two hours. I won't say much except this University was hands down one of the prettiest and most amazing I have seen anywhere. I will let the pictures (with captions of course) do the talking. 

View of Indian Ocean from Student Housing

Indian Ocean Again but here we see a new dorm being built
Tennis Courts at the University

The Gym Take 1

The Gym Take 2

Olympic size outdoor pool at the U

How about a restaurant/bar for Students (3 in this building alone)

Same bar as above, Post Workout

Student Housing

APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation Collaboration Center) 

Today I also became more of a local and family. First, for lunch I ate one of the most famously known Singaporean dishes called carrot cake. No, this is not the dessert with frosting and nuts. It is white carrot (aka radish) with other vegetables and fried eggs and rice. I had both the traditional (white one) and Chinese one (brown sauce). I also ate Chinese duck (without sauce).

Christopher's uncle, aunt and little cousin (Marcus) came over for dinner. At dinner Uncle made a comment on the way to get all Singaporean's respect was to sit at a fruit stand and eat two of the best Malaysian/Singaporean fruits: Durian and Mangosteen. Look at the pictures and see if you can guess which is which. 
Sure enough, after dinner we went to the street vendors and I ate both (and enjoyed both a lot). Durian (top two pictures) has a similar taste to avocado, even though it looks and feels quite deadly and Mangosteen (bottom picture) is like a peach-plum combination. Both are quite cheap and I plan to buy more when I return (more on this soon) 

Last but not least I became family. As I stated just above we had family over. I just met young Marcus (age 7) tonight. I already have a place in his heart. As I carried him on my shoulders he began petting my beard. He looked at his mom and said I have an Uncle Fluffy (I guess I am Hagrid's three-headed dog? And I guess he isn't used to beards?)



Last but not least we need a Thank You Shout-out. The last post did not have one so I will make three here. These three people (and many others) have been good friends for three years or more. The reason I pick them is due to the above pictures. Starting from youngest to oldest, Gavin Watson. 

Gavin and I have honestly gotten a lot closer with time and due to events that I will not go into detail about. Nonetheless, Gavin always is listens to anything I have to say, always offers an honest yet caring opinion and thus he is the definition of a true friend. He is also incredibly intelligent and I have no doubt he will do great things in the world. I could honestly rant about how wonderful he is all day but if I make it to long he won't believe me. The above tennis courts are dedicated in your honor. 

Joe and I have been through a lot since we became best friends Freshman year in J-Base. Most interestingly, we are in a way star-crossed lovers (seriously feels like his parents question who I am and vice versa a lot). Nonetheless, our similar interests (sports, jorts, not caring about money, matching clothes etc) keep our friendship strong. Joe also is not afraid to be blunt with me and understands the complexity of my brain better than most. Our friendship has both good and bad moments (but I chose this picture mostly because we look amazing and I do not have a picture of us riding the tandem bike, yes Joe sits on the handle bars). One other thing is that when Joe realized how much passion I have for teaching and working with kids he was the one who helped me become brave enough to peruse a career in this field. (The pool picture is in his honor).

Last but certainly not least Peter Cummings or as I call him Pete or P-Ball (like Baller). Peter is my best friend, big brother and mentor in many ways. After bringing a football and chocolate chip cupcakes to me when I moved to Indiana (at 6) our friendship was tested by a racist bully named Casey Leech. The rest is history but our friendship can take anything. Peter is there for me at all times good or bad and is not afraid to tell me things that may upset me but are best for me to hear. I can talk to Peter about anything and everything and know that he only wants what is best for me. Seeing Christopher and his little cousin (he calls him a brother) made me think of my big brother Peter who is also a man of the world (a multi-cultural ambassador headed to Chile!) like myself.


Pete y Yo

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Live and Learn

In this unorthodox blog post I will be writing a poem. For those of you who don't already know this about me, I like to write poems about my thoughts because it is a creative way to reflect. So, without further or do...

Last night I planned for today to be a day for personal health, mindless relaxation 
I think tomorrow morning I will attend free group Tai Chi and learn this meditation
I set no alarm for this morning because I figured I could use some extra sleep
But 8am I woke up and felt fully rested, trust me this for Arya is quite the feat
Working on my blog and catching up with friends, I waited for Christopher to get out of bed
It was a little after 10, when ready to have breakfast was what the knock knock said
Today I had something different and new, very doughy with a date like jam for 75 cents
Called something rude to call an Indian by a Chinese because I accidentally gave her British pence.  
I finished my fourth blog post i the early afternoon, then played some badminton with the little tyke
We then went to the park where I put on a basketball clinic just like number 23, Mike
The teens I played against kept saying a phrase, it sounded like "an yos" but I may have heard wrong
When I asked what it meant "I happy" was the answer I heard to this phrase being sung like a song
They made me captain and my first pick caused a stir, but I had seen him practicing all day
After the game we dominated, he pulled me aside and told me the phrase really meant "you gay"
I had experienced racism and homophobia all in the same single "mediation" day
The first definition for gay is happy, so if to be gay means happy, let them be happy I say
Christopher and friends were playing futbol when bigger kids asked the better ones to join their game
Feelings hurt Christopher and company asked me to stand up for them because this was lame
I explained to them their true friends will come back and play with them after they see
The big kids only want us to play so that they can feel better and easily beat you and me
As we walked upstairs for super, showers and to get ready to watch America v Germany futbol
I recapped today's life lessons hoping Christopher learned, good, bad and ugly can be seen in all

The Site for most of today's events and the writing of "Live and Learn"
The All in One Park (Basketball, Scooters, Futbol) 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Applying Atticus Finch and his lesson to Jean Louise Finch

As a mathematics major, I do not find myself reading pure literature often. To be fully honest, I even eluded most "required" reading in high school. However, one book that I can read over and over and always enjoy is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The book's main protagonist, Atticus Finch, taught me lessons such as actions should be done because they are the right actions even if people are rude or nasty to you. This is not the lesson that I am using for this post. I am using this advice Atticus "You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them". Why this quote? Short answer, to understand a countries culture we must understand its history. Long answer, keep reading...

This morning I woke up around 8 or 830 am (my hosts told me I looked exhausted at dinner and I was told to sleep in). After another breakfast of Champions (only costing a bit more than $1.50 USA), I took a taxi into the city with Dr. Kirpal. Today, I had three objectives. The first was to meet the people at Singapore Management University who were helping with my trip from funding, living arrangements (and my own office in the building) and helping me find schools to conduct my research at. The second was to learn the Metro System (20 dollars USA for a summer pass compared to a minimum 10 per taxi ride). More on this later, but for now, lets just say I was very impressed. Last but not least, relating to advice from Atticus Finch, I wanted to visit the Museum of National History to better understand the country I was to call "home" for the next month.

As we took our taxi into the city, I was again amazed by the dual urban-rural feel. Seriously, if you have not looked it up on Google Images you do not know what you are missing. Here look at the picture I took from the Metro (It is really bad, but shows what I am talking about).

It is a lot easier to look it up on Google, rather than come all the way here and see it for yourself. Anyways, after a thirty minute taxi we arrived at the University where I met Sharleen, the Assistant Manager of the Wee Kim Wee Center. The Wee Center at the Singapore Management University is the group that I am working with on my research. They are also assisting with my living arrangements while I am here. They even showed me my own personal office for the summer (for those of you who have seen my Dorms, I must sadly say I did not bring any wall decorations: If you don't get the reference, my Dorm walls are always 100% covered).

The Sign next to my Office

The Building Itself (We are on floor 9)

After seeing my office I was given a tour of the campus.

Li Ka Shing Library
Li Ka Shing Library
Earl Gregg Swem Library
There are quite a few differences between Singapore Management University and my home at William and Mary. William and Mary has televisions, video games, three pool tables, air-hockey, foosball and what I think is shuffleboard. Singapore Management boasts one whole pool table (simple rule, you want to keeping playing? Keep winning as more challengers sign up) and a projector screen for watching sports. At William and Mary we have the student exchange that sells food and non-alcoholic drinks right next to the entertainment station. At Singapore Management we have Ice-Cold, which as the name suggests sells cold beer and wine in addition to food. 

Mission 1 was complete and I will talk about mission 2 (Metro) last because that was the end of my day. I first went to CHIJ (Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus). Built in 1854, it is the oldest school of its kind in Singapore. The school founded by four sisters, who taught and provided housing for both girls whose families could afford to pay and those less fortunate (notably orphans). I know Wikipedia is not a trustworthy source but they provide a nice timeline of the school's history.

History of CHIJ

Front (outside gate)
School Chapel
Behind the school

Front (inside gate)
So if you were able to read the history of CHIJ picture you will see that the school has been moved. Today the school and surrounding property have become upscale restaurants and stores. I had my lunch on their World Cup viewing lawn (unfortunately, there were no games on due to the 12 hour time difference).

<------------ Every Match? Even the ones at 3 am due to the time difference?

Found my IRAN Flag ----------------------------->

Now is the time to focus on Atticus Finch's lesson and the title of this post. I spent the next three-four hours at the Singapore National Museum of History learning via audio tour. The building that hosts the Singapore National Museum of History was the governors palace when England ruled over Singapore. In the next set of photos we will compare and contrast the two.

Williamsburg, VA
Williamsburg, VA



Before you read on, I encourage you to grab a snack or drink and go to the bathroom because I am about to cover Singapore History from the 1600's to today. I will do it in bullet note format to make it easier to read.
  • From the 1600's to early 1800's Singapore not much of its history is known other than it being a monarchy. We also know that all the tale of Singapore from Sejarah Malayu were oral traditions about the Malay origins of the original inhabitants. 
  • In 1819 John Crawfurd and the British arrived on the island. The initial intent was to set up a free port in order to compete with the vast and powerful Dutch Trading Company that ruled the seas.
  • 1819 also marks the singing of a treaty by local Malay leaders with the British.
  • The initial development was done by Indian prisoners.
  • Sir Stamford Raffles is credited as the founder of the city.
  • By the mid 1800's Singapore had built its reputation as this drawing many workers, traders etc.
  • Not surprising, but by the late 1800's because it was such a large international port, we begin to see gaps creating between different social and economic classes.
  • The most notable of these being the differences in the living conditions and wellness between the English and the local Malay, but also education (more details to come).
  • Prior to the 1900's schools were funded and ran by missionary/philanthropist efforts, only later was it government funded.
  • Events in China in 1911, notably Sun Yat-Sen and his company overthrowing the Qing (pronounced Ting) dynasty and setting up democracy began this idea of love your homeland and reject foreign influence. -Cough Cough British-. 
  • England did not want Malay boys to have equal educational opportunities, even argued that the best and rightful jobs for them were farming and fishing. 
  • Mohamed Eunos fought for change here and in many other social issues and eventually became the first President of the Singapore-Malay Union Political Party. (This guy was seriously cool, I plan to read some of his books as soon as I get home). 
  • Important note: there were schools for all (including girls who were learning arithmetic and writing etc in addition to sewing and cleanliness), but Eunos thought these schools and the difference in starting age (7 for British boys, 10 for Malay boys) was putting the Malays at a disadvantage.
  • In 1942 Japan embarrassingly defeats British and take over Singapore. 
  • 1942-1945 were the darkest days of Singapore during Japanese control. We saw problems from shortages of necessities, to camps to  separate Malays aged 18-45 from their families and  even kill ungodly numbers (unknown exact numbers) of those considered threats by Japan. 
  • The English gain control back in 1945 (post World War 2) but are  gone again and for good by the late 1960's.
  • Lee Kwan Yu and the initial idea to become a country with Malaysia do not work and eventually become their own country because of conflict between the two governments due to increased racial tensions.
  • The transformation from early 1970's (third world country) to today (premier first world country) is incredible. To me, you will be surprised but, the most important factor was education
Alright breathe, your history lesson is over. The last thing is a lot lighter I promise. Just a few Metro pictures and commentary.

Even from the Outside the Train Station looks Pretty

Clean inside and this is "rush hour"

Our next stop is the red light

Bakery, Eye Doctor and Dentist all inside the station

Photo of the janitor and well you can read...

Finally, it is time for a thank you shout-out. Not that this person is any more or less important (getting my longest post yet). I write to her because I was talking to her as I wrote about half of this post.  I also told her to make sure she reads my blog when she wakes up, so if she doesn't message me I will know she didn't :). Anyways enough chit-chat. Thank you Jamie Lohwater. Thank you for your friendship. You are one of the only person from my high school graduating class that I still enjoy hanging out with, enjoy talking to and enjoy remaining close friends with. Furthermore, thank you for listening and offering a girls perspective on different things. Thank you for teaching me two important things in life (even if you didn't do them intentionally). Thank you for reminding me and showing me that I should not have to be someone who I am not or try and act different around people to get their approval. True friends will come and stay with me because they like me for who I am. Secondly, thank you for helping me understand that nobody is perfect (we all have good and bad) but it is about being the most good and finding people with the most good to be close to. Because this is the only picture I have of us (just the two of us, rest have icky exes) I am using it. It has nothing to do with the fact that it was an awesome concert or anything.