( Click me for today's menu of yummy foods! )
Slow day today. I ended up getting very little sleep last night because I was bogged down by readings and other things that I had to deal with (I was a bit of an emotional wreck, for reasons I won't disclose here), so I was pretty dead tired. I felt a bit bad in class because I felt as though I was unable to contribute—I didn't totally understand the readings, and I don't really have enough of a background in any kind of politics to really have intelligent discussion about politics. Maybe that was the sleep deprivation, but I'm not sure.
I felt a bit more engaged in the Singapore class, though; today, we talked about urban planning and public housing. Singapore is one of the most well-housed countries in the nation, if not the
most well-housed. I believe it's about 85% of Singaporeans who live in public housing, and public housing is carefully controlled to be racially mixed and with different income levels, so that no part of Singapore becomes a racial enclave (with the exception of Little India) or a slum.
Although this gives a positive appearance—most newlyweds expect to own their first home, instead of rent—it has a lot of negative social repercussions. For one, mixed housing pretty much destroys any sense of community that you might have. Additionally, housing requirements are very strict—singles under the age of 35 are unable to purchase a home, and divorcees are forced to move out, as housing is only for married couples. This also has the consequence that people get married younger and when they're not really ready, simply because they want to move away from their parents. So it's questionable regarding whether these policies are actually good policies. Moreover, just because you're mixed up racially doesn't mean that you automatically get along.
After class and lunch, I went back to PGP and just fell asleep until about 6, which was a sorely needed nap. I then had dinner with Elizabeth, Kelsey, Mary, Peter, Don, and Steven; I had a number of really good conversations with them about things like how much Walmart sucks, how nice public transportation is in Singapore and how the US might be able to learn from it, how segregation of residential and commercial sectors in the US contributes to a lack of a sense of character or community in the US, and lots of things. I learned about UNC's Zipcar service
, which lets you borrow a car for occasional use, which will prove to be really helpful for me next year. I also talked a lot with Kelsey about our work with refugees back in North Carolina and about how I would like to do field work with them.
So yes, now I'm back in PGP, and I've got to do my readings and redraft that e-mail to the Mahidol professor who does S'gaw Karen research. :X So intimidating! I'm planning on doing more tomorrow (not sure what, though); we have a group outing to see a play in the evening. (Maybe I'll get reading and laundry done in the afternoon, then? Hmm.) I feel obligated to go out and explore since I'm in Singapore, but, idk! Slow days like this are really nice. I really need them.
( Click me for today's menu of yummy foods! )
I spent most of the morning today just catching up on my blog post backlog; it takes me a good amount of time to format my pictures and my entries, so I didn't end up actually leaving PGP until about 4 or so (I had brunch in the food court downstairs). I had intended on going to the library to print out the articles that we had to read for class; while I was waiting at the bus stop, I was listening to these two people having a conversation, and I could not, as hard as I tried, figure out what language they were speaking. I thought it was a dialect of Chinese because it was extremely tonal (or maybe the girl just had a very wide pitch range).
After I was on the bus by them for a couple stops, I ended up leaning over and asking the guy what language they were speaking, and it turns out that it was actually Vietnamese. I had no idea that Vietnamese sounded like that. We had a short conversation after that (in English), and he remarked that it was pretty funny that I came to Singapore to study migration. :P When I got to the library, it ended up being closed, so I just went back to the bus stop and took the 95 to the MRT station to go to Clarke Quay; I still had another reading to do for my Singapore class to keep me occupied.
Clarke Quay (that's pronounced /ki/ in IPA; "key" in English homophones) is really nice. It's very upbeat and modern; most of the establishments on Clarke Quay are higher-end restaurants. I did also manage to stumble across Zirca, which Yong will probably be taking us to sometime next week, and I stumbled across Liang Court or whatever it's called, a mall by Clarke Quay. I went in and browsed around Kinokuniya for a little bit; it's more like a Borders or Barnes and Noble than what I've heard my friends describe Kinokuniya as (specialty Japanese bookstore). I picked up Speak Malay in 3 Weeks!
(which isn't too great, but it was S$8) and The Coxford Dictionary of Singlish
, which is definitely amusing.
After Kinokuniya, I just walked along Clarke Quay for a little while longer as the sun set; I then ducked into the basement of Central to pick up something to eat. I just got a little sushi because I wasn't too hungry. I brought the food back upstairs and sat along the edge of the pavement by the Singapore River; it was nice to eat at Clarke Quay while the sun set and just look around. I also managed to catch the X-treme Swing omg!1!1!!! being launched on video (I also got more of the view of Clarke Quay after the swing):
Sorry that the video is jerky; I don't have very steady hands (hence why I'm not a surgeon). And I know, I should've turned the camera back at myself and waved at the end or something; I thought of that after I stopped recording. Anyway, I'm hoping to coerce two other people to go on either the bungee or the swing with me sometime. :P( Pictures of Clarke Quay )
The article that was assigned for the Singapore class was really interesting—it was about how Singapore's national identity is entirely socially constructed, and how various aspects of religion and race are kept carefully under wraps for the sake of maintaining internal cohesion. And the article was quite revealing in helping me understand how Singapore was transformed in a matter of a few decades from an island of nothing into one of the most efficient countries on the planet—partly due to its small population and its need for a national identity. It's things like these that interest me—how different environments and different settings produce different results. You'd never get the efficiency of Singapore in the United States, but these specific elements combined produced this nation. Really prods the plot bunnies and gets those creative juices flowing when you think about how to build an imaginary nation and create a history for it.
More importantly than just the information about Singapore, the article was just really eye-opening in understanding the institutionalization of certain values and morals. It's really alarming and interesting to see how government agendas and specific ends are effected by instilling certain ideas and morals into groups of people, and the place where that happens most effectively is in schools.
It really makes you question the values that you were taught in school, and makes you wonder how much of what you learned is really just preparation for you to be an effective contributor to the workforce. The "unbiased" nature of schooling, the apparent neutral stance of these institutions, is actually not "unbiased" or "neutral" at all. Rituals like reciting the national anthem were just that in elementary and middle school—rituals. They didn't have meaning at all for me, but, once I read this article, I realized that these kinds of details are meant to foster a sense of national pride (which failed, by the way).
Moreover, reading about these government policies makes you realize how absolutely human the government is. Reading about these policies and attempts to tame a population make you realize that the government is, essentially, an entity that tries to decide what's good for the nation and attempts to implement it, but, more often than not, it's human and makes mistakes.
Anyway, after I finished reading the article, I went back to Central to go to the MRT station downstairs. I stopped by Sticky, a handmade candy store, and tried a couple samples and picked up a small present for Abraham.
Funky chairs/benches inside Central
Making candy and a couple shots of the candy itself (there was a lot more)
And then I went back to PGP (met up with a few SEAS people along the way) and finished up my readings and this entry, which took like an hour to write (augh!). So now I'm going to go to sleep; I have to get up to get ready for class soon! >_______<! See you soon!
Entry for Saturday, May 30.( Click me for today's menu of yummy foods! )
Today just consisted of lunch at an Indian vegetarian restaurant, and then free time. The food at the Indian place was a bit of a hit-and-miss deal for me; some were really good; some I didn't like as much. The question came up during lunch of how to tell Chinese and Malay people apart (we had a former NUS/UNC student sitting with us). I noted that Malays tend to be darker, and that they have creased eyelids, whereas Chinese people generally don't, and that's why Chinese people have eyes that look a bit smaller. It was really eye-opening (hah hah hah) for me to say that, because the people who were sitting with me—none Asian—had never even noticed that their eyelids had creases in them, and didn't even know what I was talking about until I drew a picture of an eye in my notebook. It's so interesting that they didn't even know, because it's such a big thing for East Asian women to have creased eyelids; double-eyelid surgery is a huge thing, and things like eyelid tape and eyelid glue exist too.
Anyway, after that, we left in a group and walked around a little in Chinatown; I ducked into a shop to buy some rosebud tea, which separated me from the group. Which, in a way, was fabulous for me. I really hate traveling in large groups and prefer to be by myself, or with, at most, two other people. And I hate dictated schedules but prefer to explore by myself. So I walked around Chinatown for a bit and looked at some of the stalls selling things; it reminded me a lot of China.
A few shots of the street that I wandered down
Being in Singapore is a really strange experience for me. I feel as if I never left home—everything is a mixture of the culture I get in Southern California and whatever I get when I'm in China. I haven't really left my comfort zone at all, and I don't feel amazed by anything because I feel as though I've seen it before. I keep getting more and more disillusioned because I feel as though I'm not experiencing anything new, and I too often feel as though I've just returned to the things that I tried to leave when I went to North Carolina. I mean, it's still pretty fun to be here, but I think I worked up expectations that were too high. (Maybe Thailand will be different?)
In any case, even though I was lost a little in Chinatown, I still managed to bump into Nadiah and Yong and a lot of SEAS people. We went off to explore the temple a bit; it's a new temple (only about two years old), so it's shiny and opulent and everything.( 14 pictures of the temple )
After that, we went and explored Chinatown some more, seeing the markets and other things like that. While we were at the fish stalls, a catfish jumped out of its tank and started whipping itself around and trying to escape, but the merchant caught it and put it back into its tank. (Aww.) We tried some rambutan while we were at the fruit stalls (the first one was hard to open, but the second one was okay), and then we passed by a place where old men gather to play Xiangqi (Chinese chess), and I was reminded of my dad, my grandpa, and my brother, who love to play it, and Abraham, whom I taught how to play and is pretty into it. It's little things like this that make me realize how much I miss friends and family back home, even though I don't tend to express it as much.
Old men playing Xiangqi; rambutan; mysterious brown bananas; carp going "OMG :O"
We then made our way over to Arab street, where we had some DELICIOUS satay (SO GOOD) and visited a mosque. The girls had to wear big robes because we were dressed indecently, and we could only wander on the fringes of the first floor, as that was where the men prayed; the upstairs, which was for the women to pray, was off-limits to non-Muslim women.
Mosque; sanctuary; prayer times
After that, Nadiah led the girls to Bugis Street, where they were selling earrings for really cheap (8 for $10). They weren't the style that I usually wear, so I just got some for friends that I know wear that style of earrings. And then I separated from the group and wandered around Bugis Street by myself. It's basically a huge, indoor street market (well, it's covered by a tent). It's mostly the more local/Asian brands; some prices were cheap, whereas others were really expensive (particularly the more noticeably stylish clothes). It was nice to get separated from the group again; I went around trying to find something that Abraham would like, but I didn't really find anything (well, I did see an AC/DC shirt, but I wasn't sure if he'd wear it—turns out he would, so maybe I'll go back and get that, though now the surprise would be ruined).
I then ran into Danielle and Morgan, and we decided to take the MRT and bus back to PGP. I had planned on getting some work done or something, but I ended up being so tired that I collapsed and took a "nap" that lasted me until about 6AM or 7AM. Whoops!
Anyway, so I'm now finally caught up on my blog backlog. Time to take a shower and finally get something to eat, maybe. :) Today's probably going to be a slow day for homework and laundry and things; maybe I'll go explore later at night.