Arabian Singapore

What have I been up to Since the last time:

-Went to Arab street with the whole group and the Provost of UNC, no big deal. We then went to the Asian civilizations museum, which was pretty cool. Modern art terracotta soldiers, on Ananda statues, tons of Malay stuffs, and all that other jazz. Mary, a UNC grad gave the tour…. And she paid for our tickers later that night to the Esplanade to see a modern dance performance. On the Weekend it was homestays with Linden- see here:

-on the 13th we went to the Immigration authority to get our greencards. Hui Quin didn’t tell me that there was a security check though, and we had come directly after classes. Naturally I had my knives with me- my Swiss army knife with my keys and my fruit knife in my backpack. So we’re in line and I quickly pull out both the knives and stick them in my pocket, smoothly accidentally smuggling two knives into the ICA. That night we went out to Clarke Quay and some hilarity ensued. Essentially it ended with me speaking French to this old Italian businessman. Win for French.

-Tuesday I just stayed at home and worked- its amazing how busy we are.

-15th was a visit to the Hindu temple in Chinatown, of which my favorite part was the fact that the temple was all Indian in design, except for the Chinese style windows. It was pretty much a giant presentation about Hinduism that glazed over a lot. On the upside they gave us water. Then it was to Clarke Quay for the night with a couple of the group. Request details if you so wish.

-the 16th was our tour of Little India after class- a mosque, a hindu temple, and a Sikh Gurdwara. By far, the best Indian food here was at the Sikh temple, which is funny because it was free. Eventually we got back around 10:30 pm, at time which I finally got to finish my reading and presentation by 3am.

-the 18th was epic. We went to this island called Pulau Ubin and rode bikes around all day. Okay, that does not portray how awesome it was. So in the end it turned out to be Nick, Chris, Nicole, and I in a group. First we went on one loop through the northern part of the island through the mangroves, saw some prehistoric fish/tadpole/lizard like things, went on top of an observation tower, and then sat on an outcropping of rocks just taking in the beautiful view and the shipping containers leaving port (SS Stealth?). Lunch was epic: peppered ostrich and ginger onion chicken. And a drink called Jolly Shandy, which we couldn’t quite figure out until we caw it was made by Carlsberg and contained a sprite like mixture, vitamin c, and .5% alcohol. Then it was on to the other end of the island. There we started on the off trails and played on a seesaw. Then we got to the black diamond trails, aka massive rocks, huge drops down, ant attacks if you are stationary, a couple of classy bailouts, mosquitos making us compare the trip to survivor, and a flat tire on my part. Oh, and the bikes we rented had a tendency to break, so we had to be careful while going down this harrowing trail so we weren’t stuck miles away from the bike shop with a completely killed bike. My legs are still not quite pretty.

-Sunday I went to the national history museum with Francesca Segre, a contact given to me from Abby of GCY. It was her, her two young children, and a French/ Japanese couple with two children. Needless to say I t was a bit hectic, but I got to speak French a lot. Francesca is attending the policy school here for her masters (at $10k a year), and she is wicked smart. She taught me a lot about the maids here- who basically have no legal recourse for any injustice done to them. While there, I went to the Abbas Attar exhibit: « My photography is a reflection, which comes to life in action and leads to meditation. Spontaneity – the suspended moment – intervenes during action, in the viewfinder. A reflection on the subject precedes it. A meditation on finality follows it, and it is here, during this exalting and fragile moment, that the real photographic writing develops, sequencing the images. For this reason a writer’s spirit is necessary to this enterprise. Isn’t photography « writing with light »? But with the difference that while the writer possesses his word, the photographer is himself possessed by his photo, by the limit of the real which he must transcend so as not to become its prisoner. »  I spent about two hours in the exhibit it was amazing in its emotional and thought-provoking power. afterward I made my way to awfully chocolate the chocolatier that was an entrepreneurial startup by two e lawyers… that I wrote my essay to get into SEAS on. Full circle much? So I had my mind-boggling chocolate cake overlooking the harbor between Singapore and the island Sentosa (which is a tourists paradise, full on with universal studios visible from said harbor.

-Monday night we, about 5 other students and Matt the TA but really our big brother who is incredibly intelligent, went to Arab street and had Murtabak at Zam Zam- something so sweetly lovely in everything-mutton murtabak . Let me just say, I love Arab street- walking through the tapestry, cloth, and rug sellers hearing the sweet mix of Persian, Arabic, and Farsi all intertwined with the flitting smells of hookah, baklava, pulled tea, and tangible balmy heat seeping into your senses it’s a bit addicting. We then made our way to the Sufi Corner: a hookah bar that is down an alleyway, and literally is an intimate corner of chairs and tables with blue& warm lights adding that mystical quality to moments…. made complete with random American Top 40 songs playing in the background. Mint tea and kanafe (shredded wheat baklava style, minus nuts, plus a creaminess), which wasn’t even up to Matt’s standards, were a complete pleasure. The professor from last year’s SEAS program was in town too, so she came and we all had some great talks into the depths of the night… or 11 whereupon we all went home. Definitely one of those moments that is epitome of perfect simplicity.

-Yesterday we went a visited the HDB (Housing and Development Board) headquarters, where the government tries to indoctrinate young minds into believing they are a perfectly honest and nondiscriminatory state (might as well try, right?). After making my way back, and doing a lot of reading while waiting for public transport, I went back out to Raffles Place to meet Sonali, one of Abby’s close contacts from the Harvard B School. We went to Spizza, a gourmet pizza restaurant in the older part of the city, fitted into a neighborhood of interesting shops and restaurants that contrasts with the mall culture of Singapore. Sonali is fantastic- she used to work for the Clinton Foundation and is presently working for a company smoothing out processes and creating better ones to implement change (right now she is focusing on diabetic drugs in India). Singapore is a like a hub, while she gets to travel to India for a month or two here, with a trip to China coming up. She is devastatingly intelligent, witty, and just a pleasant person to be around. So thanks to Abby for the connection, and we’ll hopefully be meeting up after Brunei….

-which we will be leaving for on Sunday. It’s a booked trip (just got the first details today) a day and a bit in the rainforest, Mosque visits, Malay language classes, and some type of dance class. No sleep, all go, all fun. Really, I’m just going to be sleeping the weekish I’ll be home. Now to the randoms:

-jackfruit tastes like banana chips -think about your own hometown. How many touristy things have you done there? It seems like we never get to fully explore our own homes until we get to show strangers around.

-Korean BBQ: its not bbq, it is just trying to trick you!! It stands for best of best quality chicken aka total cop out. -all the gold stores in Little India have Chinese owners

-The crane is the national bird because there always construction going on

-Teachers are the best paid civil servants. Principles start with S$17000 a month. Teachers start at S$3-4k a cycle on 15 cycles a year. -Singapore’s on a “colonial hangover” because of how much they invest in expats -if you have 3 kids you’re tax free for life (women are)

-with $5 and 45 min you can get stiches in your chin at the hospital and be out. Wake up America???

-I’ve been waking up early to go running/ yoga. Its amazing how hot it can be at 6:30am. I.e. you can almost drink the hot air coming into your lungs.

-And right now I’m just waiting to go watch one of our class movies together before we go out for the night. More to come of course (though I have another paper due this Friday, so not too terribly soon of course). Ciao!

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