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[personal profile] orchidfire2009-07-09 10:30 am


Over the course of this trip, we've explored the idea of "national identity", particularly as it relates to the idea of "culture". Do either of these notions exist? Singapore has perpetuated an aggressive nation-building campaign, in which various "Asian values" are heavily instilled in the populace; Thailand markets itself as unique in Southeast Asia—free from colonial influence, with its own, distinct culture—which is actually a fusion of various cultures. The United States claims itself to be a bold, diverse, free nation—yet, what does it mean to be "American"? What does it mean to be "Singaporean", to be "Malaysian", to be "Thai", to be "Chinese"? Are these identities real, or are they imagined?

When I applied to the SEAS program, I had little to no knowledge of the region at all. In my application essay, I reached for a topic that would appeal to the readers—"exploring my heritage". I figured that, China has such a broad influence on Asia that, surely, there would be influence in Southeast Asia, which I would be able to pick up on and understand my heritage, even if (so I thought) the majority of the culture would be entirely different. Previously, I didn't even know that Singapore was primarily Chinese; it wasn't until I reached the area that I discovered exactly how much influence China had over the region.

I discovered how easy it is for me to pass in various cultures. Being a Chinese foreigner in Southeast Asia is almost like being a ghost. Certainly, there are aspects of your dress and your gait that will still make you stand out, and I don't look like your typical Chinese girl, but, nonetheless, I look Chinese enough that I have passed in almost every place I've been in in Southeast Asia, with the exception of ethnic pockets, such as Little India in Singapore. In Singapore, passing was a seamless transition—Some 60% of the population is Chinese; large segments of the population speak Mandarin, and, if they don't speak Mandarin, then they speak English. The food is mostly familiar. The environment is familiar, even if it's not exactly the same as Diamond Bar, or Los Angeles, or Beijing. People wear stylish clothes, and my Western-brand clothes blend in well. People address me in Mandarin; I respond with the same. Perhaps the only thing that would make me stand out among a group of Chinese Singaporeans would be my lack of a Singaporean accent.

Malacca in Malaysia was a similar experience. The Straits Chinese in Malacca soon came to control a large part of Malacca's business economy, subsequently exerting significant influence in the area. Although Straits Chinese culture is not completely the same as, say, Chinese culture in Beijing, it is still very similar. I can read much of the Chinese on the Chinese signs in Malacca; I recognize the food; I look like the natives; I could speak Mandarin on the street market. I recognized the Buddhist temples, the iconography, the history of footbinding as presented in the tiny shoe shop. I blended in.

Since I could blend in so well, I felt safe to explore the streets of Singapore and Malacca alone, to go out and just live my life as if I were a local. And, at times, I almost forgot that I wasn't at home, or that I wasn't local.

Thailand, however, has been much more difficult. Although I've been trying to learn the language, I still don't know it. I can only understand the numbers and a couple of greetings; I can read some of the writing, but I don't understand it. However, there has been much Chinese influence in Bangkok—largely due to the history of trade in the region—so much of the population looks Chinese. People at 7-Eleven, street vendors—many people view me as Thai, and talk to me in Thai, which ends up bewildering me, and makes me end up looking mute or dumb. Allison and Liz, really, have it easy—their red hair, blonde hair, white skin, makes them stand out, and people understand when they don't speak Thai or are confused. But people expect me to understand Thai language and culture, and I don't. While in a taxi with Reed, Sean, and Liz—all very clearly white—the taxi driver kept pointing back at me and saying, "You have one Thai! Thai." And I continued to clarify that, no, I wasn't Thai—or else he would've began speaking to me in Thai.

At the same time, my appearance and background challenges the stereotypical notion of who an "American" is. When I go to the street markets to buy some souvenirs or some clothes, vendors who can speak English somewhat well strike up conversation with me. They ask me where I'm from—as it's fairly implicit that, if you're at that kind of market, you're a tourist; plus, I speak English in the Thai markets—and I tell them that I'm from the United States. Everyone seems surprised—"You don't look American," they say. "You look like you're Chinese." It's almost as if "American" means "white", and it seems mind-boggling to them that I can be something like Chinese-American.

So what does it mean for me to be "American"? Dr. Qwek said that she knew that she was Singaporean, not Chinese, when she stood on the Great Wall of China and didn't feel at home. Yet, I have seen Mount Rushmore and have not felt "American"; July 4th came and passed and I didn't particularly care or feel "American". At the same time, I felt at home at Singapore; Malaysia felt familiar; I feel like I could immerse myself in Thailand and pass. But I'm not Singaporean, or Malaysian, or Thai.

Is it, then, that I'm only Chinese? But, at the same time, I'm not completely Chinese. There's still a language barrier; I'm still not completely familiar with the traditions and the customs. And if you showed me the Chinese flag and the American flag, I would still pick the American flag to more accurately represent me; if you played the Chinese national anthem and the American national anthem, I would still be more moved (if only ever-so-slightly) by the American national anthem. So who am I? What am I?

If there is one thing that this trip has shown me, it is exactly how fluid my identity is. Being American has instilled me with a lack of any sort of concrete national identity—there is little that can be characterized as quintessentially American, and what little there is, I rarely identify with. And having Chinese blood makes me invisible in Southeast Asia, makes my identity malleable and fluid in a region where I can pass as Singaporean, Malaysian, Thai... And on top of all that, I've been mistaken as Korean and as Japanese. I am American, but I could just as easily pass as Canadian, or Australian—two other countries that are immigrant-based.

The malleability of my identity is, on one hand, useful. I can immerse myself in cultures in a way that others cannot. No matter how well they're familiar with the region, people cannot change the color of their skin, their stature, the way they look, which still influences the way locals interact with them.

But, on the other hand, the malleability of my identity is also a curse. Am I truly American? Am I truly Chinese? Can I change myself and be Singaporean, be Malaysian, be Thai? What is my culture, or is it all imagined? Who am I, really?

Or maybe there's only one thing that I can say with certainty: "I am a chameleon."

I may revise this later, as I wrote this while trying to filter out a boring lecture. :P I'll update more with actual going-ons later. ♥
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[personal profile] orchidfire2009-06-07 09:13 am

「✈」「note to self」

Sorry about the lack of updates! I've been busy, and I was having a hard time emotionally for a couple of days, too, and now I have to catch up on homework.

Remind me to write about:
  • Zouk
  • The Harmony Center
  • Day out with Singaporeans

See you soon!
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[personal profile] orchidfire2009-06-02 11:19 pm

「✈」「Day 8」

Click me for today's menu of yummy foods! )

Tired, so I'm going to try to keep this short... I didn't have too good a time in class today; I felt as if I wasn't really able to contribute to the discussion, and I wasn't paying full attention to Dr. Quek's class, which I'm normally listening to with rapt attention. I guess I was just a bit tired, physically and mentally. After class, I grabbed lunch with a group of people, and then we headed back to PGP. I finally got around to doing my laundry (well... I still have to fold my clothes); PGP's washing machines are really good—the wash cycle is done in 30 minutes, and the dry cycle in 40. I think the wash cycle finishes quickly because they seem to use less water, which would make sense, as Singapore has a limited supply of water, as far as I know.

Afterwards, I went and had dinner with Elizabeth and Sean, and then we headed off to the bus stop for tonight's scheduled performance: Les sept planches de la ruse, which is 《七巧板》 in Chinese, and roughly translating to The Seven Boards of Tricks in English.

Credit: http://www.legrandt.fr/Les-Sept-Planches-de-la-ruse.html

The performance is a modern dance performance (70 minutes long) that plays off the Chinese game of 七巧板, which is commonly referred to as a tangram in English (composed of a very specific set of shapes: two large triangles, a medium triangle, two small triangles, a square, and a parallelogram). The entire tangram itself used in the performance weighed a total of about a ton; the largest triangles weighed about 300kg, or about 661 pounds; the outsides are made of wood, but the insides are pretty high-tech and made of lightweight and durable material like the kind found in airplane wings. Anyway, the performance itself was very much left open for interpretation by the audience; it was primarily a series of mathematical and geometrical abstractions, plays on space and function, as well as an exploration of concepts of integration, the whole, and the human body in its environment. I also found significant the themes of balance and identity.

More information and another video available here.

Personally, I identified very much with the themes and icons of balance that were very prevalent throughout the performance. Balance was critical throughout the piece—the grace and majesty of the piece was the ease with which both people and pieces balanced upon each other; at any moment, one of the dancers, or one of the pieces, could slip and crash. But everything was artfully controlled with an intensity that left me enthralled and literally left me at the edge of my seat.

And there was more than just the physical balance that existed in the piece. I felt that the physical balance was there to convey a social commentary on the necessity for balance in our lives. To me, the blocks became symbols for the invisible weights and pressures that we as "modern" citizens place upon ourselves; these pressures vary from person to person, and the abstract, empty, featureless character of these blocks allows the audience to imprint their own stresses and anxieties onto the face of these weights. Multiple times throughout the performance, dancers would be in a position where they would appear to be squeezed or crushed by these simple, black shapes. Only the fluidity of their bodies and the grace with which they handled themselves seemed to prevent them from being crushed. And, at times, dancers would disappear behind or beneath these shapes; they would lean against these shapes and rely on them for support; yet, at the same time, they would climb to the top of these shapes, as if to conquer them.

Much like these dancers, the modern citizen, faced with the burdens of simultaneously preserving the self and nurturing the self, as well as forging a path and niche for the self while integrating the self into a community (however broadly or narrowly one defines "community"), is forced to learn to balance and juggle these pressures and anxieties while maintaining a social grace. And we as modern citizens come to rely on these anxieties to fuel us, yet, at the same time, detest these anxieties and seek to conquer and overcome them. And if we are not able to find that balance between motivation and punishment, or to find that necessary grace in dealing with these pressures, we will be crushed and consumed into a vast, black emptiness of space, also represented by the black tangram.

And this space need not be death, or, at least, in the physical sense. As more and more people struggle to balance these enormous weights and find their tipping points, as urbanization and modernization push our lives to faster and faster paces, there is the danger of the inner self being destroyed: having a vast emptiness within the core of one's self. Losing a sense of identity, of permanence, of what truly constitutes the "self", versus external pressures to fit into a certain type or mold that best benefits society. This is an idea that I have struggled with myself: an emptiness within the person; a lack of integration; a lack of a sense of the "whole".

Closely tied to this idea of balance is the idea of integration: the whole, and, when applied to the human experience, the creation of the stable self. Again, the tangram is a wonderful metaphor for ideas of integration and completion of the whole. The function of the tangram is to provide room to experiment and play around with the pieces in order to create a new, stable whole consisting of all the parts. To me, this remarks on the human experience in general: All humans are given a set of pieces with which to form and construct their lives, but the way in which these pieces are rearranged is ultimately what determines the person.

Key to notions of integration, the whole, and the creation of the self are ideas of both identity and permanence. Concepts of identity were primarily conveyed through the juxtaposition of the old and the new, as well as the East and the West. Personally, I felt that this aspect of the play was a bit hastily done. Representing the "traditional" were the more rooted, almost stereotypical markers of Chinese culture: the repeated refrains of erhu (二胡) music, and traditional Chinese, operatic tunes. The contemporary, meanwhile, was represented by the stark, sleek, modernized shape of the tangram, as well as the more contemporary sounds of the avant-garde, neutral noise of the cityscape, or the simplicity and sporadic piano chords that would carefully tug at one's emotional core. The traditional and the modern seemed, at times, to be starkly tossed against one another, as well as representations of the East and the West. But maybe that's a hasty judgement—maybe the purpose is to allow the viewer to struggle to integrate the two parts of the binary and, in doing so, understand the struggle in our own experiences of integrating these two pieces while attempting to preserve both.

As for the theme of permanence, the performance seemed to make it clear that there is no sense of permanence. The very nature of the tangram itself—a large shape made up of smaller shapes—allows for fragmenting, splitting, and rearrangement. The tangram itself lends itself to a transitory nature. It is momentarily stable—but it is not intended to be just one shape in the long run. It is meant to shift, to change, and, mostly, to be changed. Thus, it is an apt metaphor for the shifting and changing nature of the environment in which humans find themselves. At times, the focus of the performance was on the shapes themselves: a mathematical exploration of space and function, exploring and manipulating the space of the stage and how we viewed that space by rearranging the geometric figures. But the more compelling aspects of the performance are when we see a human interacting with the changes in space and function, an exploration of the human ability to adapt to their environments, and to be—literally and metaphorically—flexible.

A lot of people left the performance feeling as if it didn't make any sense, or that they didn't understand what they saw. However, as the Q&A with the director revealed, the intent of the performance was not to convey a specific message. The intent of the performance was to provide abstract, mathematical, stark visual imagery, and to allow the audience to imprint their own meaning onto the performance. Perhaps that was an easy way out of creating a message to convey, or perhaps what the audience imprints is more telling than whatever basic message the director may have wanted to convey. Personally, I find the value of the piece to be found in what it taught me about myself and my interpretation of the world, as well as how I viewed this performance within its context.

And I feel that the fact that I saw this performance in Singapore is critical to my understanding, interpretation, and analysis of the performance. Although this performance was produced by a French director and consists entirely of Chinese performers, I feel as though it, and its themes, are highly representative of Singapore. The amount of pressure and stress that the Singaporean population imposes on itself is, in the views of an American, horrific. And yet they are forced to find the balance in order to survive. And these ideas of integration, of creating an identity, are paramount in the creation of the identity of the Singaporean nation: integration of races, religions, languages, motivations... all with the intent of allowing Singapore to answer the question: What does it mean to be "Singaporean"? Moreover, this sense of permanence, of human flexibility to the environment, of the effects of modernization, all are so present and so visible in Singapore, a nation that struggles with establishing permanence and with taming its environment through modernization.

- - -

Okay, this entry is getting long and incoherent. I apologize if it was really difficult to follow my "analysis"; I was writing it as my eyes were beginning to close... I might go through it within the next couple days or so to refresh it and clean it up a bit. But yes, I did enjoy the performance, even if, on the surface, it was just a bunch of people moving around shapes. :P

Hanna and I had a little bit of a tough time finding our way back, as we were the only ones to stay behind for Q&A, but we made it.

Okay, pictures of Q&A (the black rectangle in the back is the tangram), Victoria Theater, and Raffles Place before I sleep:

Click me! )

Okay, I'm sleepy, and it's late. 'Night! (This entry was WAY longer than I planned! >_______<)
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[personal profile] orchidfire2009-06-01 08:48 pm

「✈」「Day 7」

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.
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[personal profile] orchidfire2009-05-31 09:58 pm

「✈」「Day 6」

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!
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[personal profile] orchidfire2009-05-31 11:07 am

「✈」「Day 5」

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.
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[personal profile] orchidfire2009-05-31 08:52 am

「✈」「Day 4」

Entry for Friday, May 29.

Note: Any picture with to the left of it means that there's a wallpaper version of it available. :)

Click me for today's menu of yummy foods! )

Friday was an extremely busy day. In the morning, we had our two classes—the migration class was mainly a discussion of the readings and an attempt to figure out what Walzer and Carens were attempting to argue. I personally felt that the two articles weren't all too well-written—they often diverged from their main idea and rambled a bit. But, then again, most academic articles are pretty dense; I see them a bit like I see classics—they're supposed to be interesting and insightful, but hell if I'm supposed to enjoy reading them.

The Singapore class was more interesting and revealing, though. I realized that Singapore is, essentially, Diamond Bar/Southern California Asian-American culture, except spread across an entire country. Singapore places high emphasis on education. Extracurricular activities are all in place to boost one's resume and increase one's chances of getting into a good school—much the way extracurricular activities were in my high school. There weren't that many people who were in organizations or wanted to head organizations because they were really, truly interested; most seemed to want to have the titles to look good on their applications. And many people had very standard hobbies, which they were doing as part of school.

Moreover, Singapore is extremely good in its education—that is, in producing students who are excellent at passing tests, much in the way Diamond Bar is good at producing students who get good test scores. Additionally, most of the good students from good schools automatically go into state jobs, which guarantee you middle-class status, if not better: much in the way most people in Diamond Bar move on immediately to things like medicine, law, and engineering, which, similarly, automatically grant middle-class status. Few want to actually go out and be innovative; Singapore has a major problem in that it relies on the innovations of other countries and produces very few, if any, of its own, because its people are good at following but not so much at leading and taking risks.

As Dr. Quek was telling us about these things, I realized that that was pretty much a summary of my life. All my friends were setting out on a specific life path—going to the good UCs with the intent of getting a degree to get a good job. But I've always been the one who's a bit different—rejecting the easy path and trying to forge one of my own; going into fields that very few people are even familiar with; doing things because I like to do them and not so much so that they'll boost my resume; taking classes and working hard because I'm interested in the material, not just because I need that grade or that class for my requirements. And people have always raised their eyebrows at me and wondered what the hell I was doing, but it all works out for me, and I'd like to think/hope that I'm doing the right thing and being innovative.

This rant/discussion was going to be much longer on Friday, but I was far too busy on Friday to actually write out a coherent blog entry. :P

Anyway, after classes, we went out for lunch at a Thai restaurant close to downtown, which was really tasty. And then we went to the Asian Civilisations Museum and had a one-hour guided tour; personally, I don't like guided tours of museums—I prefer to go roaming around museums on my own and discovering things, and I don't like standing there and ignoring other artifacts and listening to people talk about the history of the region (even though it's interesting). So I got a little bored at the end, but it was still interesting.

Pictures from the museum! )

After that, we had a half-hour boat cruise (we were on a BOAT!), which was pretty cute. And then we explored the bay/esplanade area and saw the merlion and theater and everything :)

Me with the statue of Sir Raffles. Yay pretentious poses!

Me with the merlion

Me with the durian theater... ignore my stupid smile; I wasn't totally ready :P

More pictures of the bay! )

We also popped inside the theater to get to the MRT station there; on the way, we passed a band doing a soundcheck for what I assume to be a small performance; they were playing a cover of The Cranberries' "Zombie". They sounded really good, and I wanted to stay longer, but we were moving with a group and I didn't want to get separated at that point, and we were moving too fast for me to convince someone to stay with me. :P

Public art with the Arabic for "I love you" (I think?); picture of band

Band doing their soundcheck

Some of us had dinner at a Muslim restaurant at the mall, and then we went out and walked around a bit along Orchard Road. After that, I was way tired, so I headed back to PGP and promptly fell asleep. :)

Okay, that's about it for Friday's entry—I might add more if stuff comes to mind. I'm going to write up the entry for yesterday as quickly as possible so I can spend some time exploring today, too. Thanks again for reading!
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[personal profile] orchidfire2009-05-29 10:26 am

「✈」「Day 3」

First and foremost, thanks for following my blog :) I've gotten a number of comments from people saying that they like it, including my daddy (to whom I've sent the link, and also my mommy, but I'm not sure if she's reading this or not—so behave yourselves ;P). I really enjoy sharing my experiences and my insight towards these experiences, hopefully with the intent of having personal growth and sharing that growth with others.

Also, a note regarding comments—if you leave anonymous comments, please be sure to put your name in it somewhere! Otherwise I have no idea who I'm replying to. :( It takes all of a couple seconds to tag a name or alias by which I know you on there (first name's fine; include a last name initial if you have a really common first name), and it lets me know who's reading.

Anyway, onwards with the entry! :) Sorry that this is late; my internet wasn't working, and I'm borrowing a friend's computer on wireless.

Click me for today's menu of yummy foods! )

Today was our first day of classes. In Dr. Steiner's class, we went over the projects and principles of the class; the class looks promising, as we are encouraged to go out and talk to Singaporean natives regarding topics that we cover in class. I anticipate that the class will be particularly eye-opening for me—I was born and raised in Southern California, where issues of international migration are particularly important because of our shared border with Mexico. As I've learned and as is very apparent even without an academic background, Mexico has a very large number of emigrants who seek work in more prosperous countries, then send home their remittences.

The issue is a very touchy one, particularly in the more conservative areas of Southern California in which I live—the views regarding illegal immigrants tend to be very negative, and people opt for closed borders and for decreased rights, if any rights, for the immigrants. But, as I've already seen from the readings, part of the key to understanding and implementing good immigration policy is working between nations to try to reduce what prompts the immigration in the first place. At the same time, however, I feel like a lot of this class will be political theory that will be difficult to implement in the real world—depending on the region you're in, it may be extremely unlikely that people would want to help less fortunate countries anyway, even if it's their "moral responsibility".

In Dr. Quek's History of Singapore class, meanwhile, we mainly had an open forum for questions about Singapore. I found that session particularly useful—I figured that Singapore was probably not 100% the utopia that it claims to be, or that it appears to be to outsiders. Surely a nation that is so heavily controlled by government policies would have dissenting opinions—and that seems to be the case for, at least, Dr. Quek. She tends to be fairly anti-government overall and was very frank in her discussion and answers to our questions, and she stated that the Singaporean government has since realized that it can't control the internet and has been fairly lax with its censorship in that arena, so long as people don't touch out-of-boundary topics, such as religion and ethnicity (for the sake of national cohesion).

One thing that I found particularly interesting regarding Singapore is its attitude towards sex. Dr. Quek mentioned to us that censorship heavily affects sex, even though it appears to be unreasonable—for example, in Singapore, anyone of any age has access to uncensored violent films. Unlike in the United States, age restrictions do not apply for violence. However, should the movie have any steamy scenes in it at all, the age restriction is immediately bumped up. And, as Yong told us, Singapore is also not like the United States in that a person under the age limit of a particular movie may not see the movie, even if they are accompanied by an adult.

Yet, at the same time, prostitution is legal under a pragmatic view of, "Well, it's going to happen anyway, so we may as well regulate and control it." Moreover, in the metro, I saw a blown-up wall ad for the latest issue of Cosmopolitan or another one of those girly magazines, and part of the cover design was a flagrant yellow circle around the article title that was something like the "sex directory"; Cosmo, obviously, does not censor its titles at all and are just blatantly about sex and just more sex (which is something that I disagree with and frown upon, primarily because I feel—even though I am strongly for openness towards sexuality and for it not to be this ~*mystical, unspoken thing*~—that it aims to market women and the "hip woman" as sex-obsessed and encourages others to view the "hip woman" through a sexualized lens, but that's an argument for another time). In any case, that cover for Cosmo, in all its glorification of sex, was advertised, despite this stringent censorship against sex.

Additionally, Dr. Quek mentioned to us that Singapore's sex education is, predictably, abysmal. It is, essentially, two biological diagrams of the reproductive organs of the male and female body, and nothing more than that—it's an exercise for the reader viewer to figure out how they're supposed to fit together. Yet, at the same time, as you saw in one of my previous posts, an enormous selection of different varieties of condoms were available at 7-11, and all in an unhidden, immediate line of vision.

I was particularly interested in this, as, in the United States, sex education also is abysmal (I don't recall ever having a class where I was taught, for example, how to put on a condom; all the classes were about STDs and how getting an STD is Really Bad), yet the United States visibly grapples with issues of teenage pregnancy and other sex-related problems. Yet, Singapore, in its shiny utopian state, doesn't seem to have mention of that. I asked Dr. Quek about it—whether Singapore struggles with sex-related issues because of its lack of comprehensive and open sex education—and she didn't answer my question directly, but rather stated that abortions in Singapore are very easy to get and don't have a stigma attached to them as there is in the United States, thus hinting that, yes, it is a problem, but it's easily taken care of.

Another thing (unrelated, somewhat) that I find interesting about Singapore is its diversity regarding ethnic and cultural groups. Yet, I feel that this diversity is also a bit superficial. The Singaporean government is very careful about doing their best to quell ethnic and religious tensions—public housing (which makes up 85% of Singapore's housing), for example, is strictly planned out so that economic and ethnic groups mingle, and no part of Singapore is designated as a "slum".

Yet, as I picked up from Dr. Quek, there is still underlying resentment between ethnic groups—Malays, for example, often consider themselves the "original" inhabitants of Singapore, and are often bothered and upset that ethnic Chinese now have the upper hand economically. Moreover, I noticed that, despite diversity measures, I see that most of the more menial workers—janitors around PGP and the like—are all of South Asian descent. I'm not sure if that was just a coincidence because of the places I've been to, as it's only been two or three days here and I haven't seen much, but I'm definitely on the lookout to see whether there's still unmentioned job stratification based on ethnicity or other distinct cultural markers.

Anyway, after class, we went off to the "hypermart", which is essentially a Walmart-type store in the middle of the Jorong Point. I bought some shampoo and conditioner that's "specially formulated for Asian hair" and promises to leave me with "virgin hair", which I am very curious about (starting with, what the hell is "virgin hair"?). The shampoo and conditioner should last me for two months, I think, so I'll let you all know if there's any visible change in my hair. I also find it interesting how I've become the resident Chinese "native speaker" to practice Chinese with—a number of people on the trip, including Kelsey, Virginia, and Aja, are learning Chinese, so they want to practice in Singapore, and I try to help out as much as possible. :)

I also got to try durian with Peter, Steven, and Don. I figured that, if my parents love eating it, it can't be that bad, right? Wrong. First of all, going to eat it (Peter had bought some) felt as if I were trying some sort of illicit drug. Peter was like, "Yeah, I'm gonna try durian! I'm really gonna do it! I'm scared, but I'm gonna do it!" and we'd have a few people shadily going, "Oh, I wanna try some with you!" So it ended up being us four going out to the open air (God forbid we take durian into our rooms) and each taking a piece, eyeing it carefully, and taking a bite, before going "OH GOD." (Well, Steven seemed to like it...) There was ample room for "that's what she said" jokes, as you can imagine.

Peter and Steven eating durian

After that I took a quick shower before running off to have dinner at Garuda padang, an Indonesian-style padang restaurant. We had dinner with Mark, who's to be our professor of Malaysian history; others had dinner with Dr. Quek and with a dean. The conversation was very enlightening, although it was a bit difficult to hear because it was very noisy with the clatter of silverware, and because he was talking in the opposite direction of where I was sitting. In any case, the food was delicious, and the two hours flew by quickly.

We went out again—the mall in which the restaurant was located is called Vivo City—and took a few pictures of the fountains and the night sky; my camera, unfortunately, ran out of batteries before I could get a group picture, and before I could take a picture of the moon (it's more of a smile than a parenthesis in Singapore).

And then we finally went back to PGP, where I got the lovely opportunity to trawl through two heavy articles on immigration and border theory. I think I got like four hours of sleep, and I still have more articles to skim through before class at 9. Ahhh! It's not a totally ridiculous amount of reading—I got this much weekly for my history class in the spring, on top of readings for other classes that I had to do—but it's still a lot to deal with when you've had a full day of activities and more full days up ahead! Plus, I had issues with my adaptor and now with my internet, so I'm a little stressed out. :(

Anyway, we've got a visit to the Asian History museum today and a boat ride planned. :) I can't wait! See you all later, and thanks again for reading!
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[personal profile] orchidfire2009-05-28 07:35 am


I'm offering wallpaper-size pictures of some of my favorite pictures that I've taken, if anyone's interested. :) I'm licensing them under the by-nc-nd Creative Commons license, which means that you may share these wallpapers if and only if you (1) attribute them to me (name and link is fine), (2) do not use them for commercial purposes, and (3) do not alter the wallpapers. You may ask my permission to override these rules; just leave a comment here and I'll consider your request.

Creative Commons License





Enjoy! Let me know if you're taking any of them. :) If you need a different wallpaper size, let me know and I'll do my best to accommodate. I can't go over 1600×1200, though, as that's the size of the original.
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[personal profile] orchidfire2009-05-27 09:09 pm

「✈」「Day 2」

Note: I'm still experimenting with picture layout, so apologies if the picture formatting keeps changing on you! You can click any picture to enlarge it.

Click me for today's menu of yummy foods! )

Today was mostly an administrative day—we registered as NUS students, then went to register for our student passes (which was a bit of an administrative nightmare, but I had other SEAS people to talk to, so it wasn't too bad overall). We also got a tour of the NUS central library, which is absolutely amazing. The collection is huge; the design of the library is very colorful and yet professional; they have ample study space, and they even have designated rooms for students to pick up their cell phones! They looked like they had a good amount of books on language, so I'll probably be hanging out in that section pretty frequently. They also have the world's second largest collection of Chinese books, so I'll probably pop by that. I wish I knew more Chinese, though, so I could fully appreciate the collection.

After all the administrative work, we then went to the botanical gardens, particularly the National Orchid Garden. The orchid (Vanda Miss Joaquim, specifically) is Singapore's national flower, and it's also my favorite flower (no surprise there :P), so I had lots of fun looking at the orchids and taking lots of pictures.

Click me for 50-ish pictures (thumbnails) of the garden! Most are of flowers. )

None of the pictures are captioned at the moment, as 1) I'm sleepy, and 2) I need to finish reading a long reading for class tomorrow morning. I've spent roughly two hours formatting this post, which was waaay too much time :P So I better get to my actual work! See you guys tomorrow!
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[personal profile] orchidfire2009-05-26 08:21 pm

「✈」「Day 1」

Note: Click picture thumbnails for larger images! :)

Apparently "Travellator" is the name of the moving walkway in airports. Huh.

Prior to takeoff from Hong Kong, a few of us had gone off to explore the airport, and we ended up getting a little bit of food to nom on. The flight from Hong Kong to Singapore itself was, for the most part, uneventful; it was a relatively short flight (around four hours). The in-flight food was actually surprisingly decent; there were noodles of some sort and some dragonfruit:


Once we got to Singapore, we had some standard administrative things to deal with—going through customs, etc. Nothing particularly horrific or outside of what I was used to.

Waiting around... head count... and we're off!

We then got on a bus to get to PGP, where we'll be staying for the next four weeks. The view outside the bus window was really pretty—very green and lovely, with rain streaming down in fairly consistent sheets. Personally, I love the rain, because I don't get much of it when I'm home in California—but we'll see if that opinion changes once I get consistent rain for at least the rest of this week. :P

Views from outside the bus window—I want to ride that Ferris wheel sometime!

Prince George's Park dormitories.

My room—small but simple and comfortable. :)

After a brief orientation to PGP and going over some more administrative details, and some time to take a shower and unpack (I finally realized why Abraham likes lukewarm showers—if you try to take a hot one in the middle of the day while you're in the tropics, it'd be like torture!), we finally got to go get some real Singaporean food and to get a small taste of Singapore. Nadiah took us to Holland Village, where we stopped by a hawker food court to grab something to eat.

Top: Holland Village, hawker food court, another view of Holland Village
Bottom: More of Holland Village, Reed looking contemplative, mashed potatoes dispenser in 7-11,
big rack of condoms by the cashier—a sight you won't see at 7-11s in the United States :P

I decided to be a little adventurous and get sambal squid rice, which turned out to be much spicier than I expected. (Edit: Apparently sambal is a chili paste... no wonder.) The rice didn't stick together, so trying to use chopsticks proved to be pretty useless. So I decided to do it the other way—with a fork and spoon. Problem is, I'd never eaten with a fork and spoon in the way Southeast Asians use the fork and spoon. I was sitting with Don and Hanna, both of whom have Filipino backgrounds, and Don taught me how to eat with the fork and spoon after I struggled for a little bit. I think I'm getting the hang of it; Abraham would be so proud. :P Earlier, I had taught Hanna how to use the chopsticks, and I tried to refine Don's chopstick technique, too. I found it really interesting how we were sharing bits of our culture via our utensil usage; it was a nice little bonding moment.

The squid rice proved to be a bit too spicy for me, so I shared a strawberry ice kachang with Hanna. We got about halfway through before we ran off to explore again.

Sambal squid rice, delicious white grape juice, all that I managed to get through of the squid rice, and the strawberry ice kachang.

Singapore reminds me a lot of China, which isn't surprising. Breathing in the humidity brings me back to memories of being in Beijing and Shanghai during the summer, and the fact that there's Chinese—the people and the language—everywhere only serves to heighten that sense of déjà vu. It's funny because I tended to be bored or dislike the family vacations to China I would have when I was younger, but, now that I'm older, I realize how fortunate I am to have been able to have those trips, and I actually kind of miss them. In any case, I suppose I'll feel a more distinctly Singaporean atmosphere when we get to the busier parts of Singapore.

Anyway, that's about it! Afterward, we came back to PGP, where I'm now sitting and updating this blog. I get really quiet when I'm tired and sleepy, so I didn't talk to people much towards the tail end of the day. I do find myself sharing a lot about my (well, shallow) experience with Chinese and China, and I find myself mentioning Abraham a lot because 1) I partially associate him with Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, and 2) I miss him a lot. :( I hope people don't think I talk too much about myself! I'm just trying to share what I know, so I hope I don't end up sounding pretentious or something.

Well, I'm going to put my schedule into my Google calendar and then sleep; I'm so tired! :) See you all tomorrow; thanks for reading!
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[personal profile] orchidfire2009-05-26 06:39 am


Daybreak at Hong Kong International Airport

I just got off a harrowing fourteen-hour flight from LAX to Hong Kong; we have a three-hour layover before boarding the plane for Singapore. There's really not much to say; I ate some semi-decent airport food as well as the snacks I brought on board, I slept, I watched part of Stardust before falling asleep again, I watched a couple episodes of Scrubs and the Onion; I read one of the articles for class; I got to know Mary and Peter; I had apple juice spilled on my purse by the guy sitting in front of me... The flight was overall pretty uneventful, except for Peter's little episode. (The attendants all thought he had swine flu for a moment because he got a little nauseated from his sleeping pills.) So now we're all just on our laptops (and by "all", I definitely mean each and every one of us) and killing time.

The fourteen of us waiting at LAX for our flight—the other eleven are coming in from JFK

Peter with his sleeping pills and Don

I think my two semesters of Chinese, in addition to the Chinese I've already been exposed to, have actually paid off somewhat. I was pretty proud of myself when I could read the sign in the bathroom, with the exception of the No Smoking part—well, I couldn't read every character, but I extrapolated and figured them out based on what I knew the oral translation would be:

It wasn't so much the vocabulary I learned that helped as much as it was the strategies for reading unfamiliar characters—figuring out the pronunciation from the phonetic portion, for one. I was also concentrating hard on the Cantonese and seeing if I could hear some words that were the same as Mandarin, and I did get that 安全带 (seat belt) is pronounced in almost the same way. I also liked being able to understand the Chinese and Spanish airport announcements, as well as the ones in English. </language geekery>

Anyway, so that's about it. I'll leave you guys with some more pictures of the airport and outside the airport, and I'll probably update this with more pictures if I go exploring the airport some more. :)

Click me for the pictures! )
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[personal profile] orchidfire2009-05-24 09:24 am

「✈」「Packed! And a bit of pre-departure information.」

I swear I usually take better pictures than this.

I am, for the most part, packed! I still have to put away things like my camera, my computer, etc. but that's about it. I'm spending the rest of the day today just cleaning up the mess I've left in my house, and then I'm off to SEAS. :)

A little bit about SEAS—it's a seven-week program that's funded entirely by a scholarship (read: free, for the most part) and is offered to twenty-five rising sophomores at UNC. The first four weeks will be spent in Singapore at the National University of Singapore (NUS), and the second three weeks will be spent in Thailand at the Mahidol University International College (MUIC). We will be spending four hours a day from Monday through Thursday in class, learning about international migration and the history of Singapore and Thailand, and the rest of our time will be spent going out on excursions and doing other fun things. The program is open to people of all majors.

So, why did I want to join this program? For one, Southeast Asia has crazy ridiculous linguistic diversity. For example, there are four official languages in Singapore: English, Chinese (I presume Mandarin), Malay, and Tamil. Plus, there's the rampant Singlish. All that in an area that's about 25 miles across from east to west, and 14 miles across from north to south. (To give you a sense of perspective, the distance from Chapel Hill to Raleigh is about 30 miles; the distance from Diamond Bar to Pasadena is also about 30 miles).

Anyway, all four of the official languages come from different language families: English is Indo-European; Mandarin is Sino-Tibetan; Malay is Austronesian; and Tamil is Dravidian. That is to say, they are entirely unrelated, with the exception of borrowing. Meanwhile, Singlish is a creole that has arisen from all these different linguistic influences. I myself am fluent in English, obviously, and know enough Mandarin to communicate readily on a casual level; I wish I knew more of the languages used in Singapore so I could have a better understanding of how they influence each other! It will be apparent in the English, but I would love to geek out in Chinese, too.

Chinese loan-word borrowing is interesting, as it's somewhat difficult to borrow words unchanged, which English does rampantly. Chinese either has to adopt the meaning of the word (e.g. 电脑 simp./電腦 trad./diànnǎo 'electric brain' for computer) or settle for an awkward transliteration, in which the syllables must somewhat reflect the original sound, and the character combination itself—since each character has its own meaning, unlike the Japanese syllabary, in which each kana does not have its own meaning—must also have an appropriate meaning (e.g. 可口可乐 simp./可口可樂 trad./kěkǒu kělè roughly translated as 'a delight for the mouth'; 可 is also a homophone of 渴, which means thirsty. Anyway, all this had to be taken into consideration when translating Coca-Cola into Chinese :P).

Meanwhile, the official language of Thailand is, obviously, Thai. Thai is of yet another language family, Kradai. So, in a strip of land that's roughly the same size as the West Coast of the United States, you already have five languages being used prominently that are all from different language families. (Although, at home in Southern California, I also get a crazy ridiculous amount of linguistic diversity—I regularly hear English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Spanish, Hindi, and dialects of each being spoken. English is still the lingua franca, though.) Anyway, Thai, like Chinese, is a tonal language, so syllables that have the same onset, nucleus, and coda can still have a different meaning based on their tone.

Additionally, there are a number of minority ethnic groups that live in Thailand, one of them being the S'gaw Karen. I tutor a couple of S'gaw Karen refugees when I'm at school in North Carolina, and, as I was looking up information on their language online, I realized that there wasn't that much research at all on the language (except for a few papers by one of the professors at Mahidol! I want to talk to her, but I don't know about what, and I'm too intimidated). I'm hoping to maybe do some research of my own on the language, once I have some more linguistic training and have some training in field work.

SO YES, long story short, I'm going to geek out a lot over language. (Sorry about the tl;dr linguistic tangent. :P) I kinda wish that I spent more time trying to learn Thai, but, um, oh well. (Can anybody say immersion?)

ALSO, second reason—the religious diversity. Singapore is teeny tiny, but you've got all sorts of different religions gathered there—Islam, Christianity, Buddhism... There are churches, temples, mosques, other places of worship just about everywhere. Thailand also has strong religious traditions that are completely different from those of the US. As I'll be living in UNC's living-learning community RELIC next year, which explores religious diversity and interfaith interactions, this will be an extremely valuable experience. I'm really interested in seeing how these different faiths coexist and how they influence each other—however, my observations may not be as deep, seeing how I don't have full knowledge of any of the faiths. Interfaith interactions in particular are a close spot for me, as religious conflict was part of the reason why my boyfriend came to the US, and he and I are also of different faiths (he's Christian; I'm... um... yeah, I'll get back to you once I figure out what I am; apparently, the most accurate label is secular humanist).

I'm also somewhat interested in how cities work in other places (I have a fascination with freeways and how they're interconnected, for example), and how in the world Singapore manages with its various laws and regulations.

OKAY WOW, enough about me. Have some info about the other people in my group! Some of the other people in SEAS have set up their own blogs in addition to the official SEAS blog, and you can find them at the following links:

Allison   http://alliegc.blogspot.com/
Andrea   http://lookitsandrea.blogspot.com/
Don   (TBA)
Elizabeth   http://gringatravels.blogspot.com/
Mary   http://minicoop19.wordpress.com/
Meghan   http://megsadventures09.blogspot.com/
Virginia   http://virginiasparks.blogspot.com/

Blogspot looks really handy, primarily because it has integrating picture services (I use Photobucket). But oh well, I like Dreamwidth. :)

So yes! I need to finish cleaning up and stuff. More updates once I'm actually in Singapore!

I've also fixed the settings so that you may comment anonymously (please leave your name) or with OpenID (also leave your name if it's your first time commenting with that ID). Sorry about that!
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[personal profile] orchidfire2009-05-19 08:38 pm
Entry tags:



  • Leaving for Singapore on Sunday!
  • Getting to know an awesome group of people!
  • Getting ridiculously fat on food!


  • Packing! Particularly, figuring which clothes will allow me to breathe and still present a more conservative image.
  • Humidity! Heat I can deal with, but humidity? OH GOD.
  • Malaria risk in Kanchanaburi and Melaca!
  • Mosquitoes!
  • Getting ridiculously fat on food!

Just a prequel of things to come. :) More information about the SEAS program and the various places I'll be visiting can be found in the links list!