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.

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