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.

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