Adventures of a Wocket

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You think you’ve seen it all…

on 02/25/2013

It’s been a whole month now since this wocket made the big move to the pocket-sized country and against all odds – most of which have no place in this blog – I’m still here. I would say this is an achievement. It may have been only one short month but for me, it’s been the longest month in many hundreds of months of my life. Time moves differently here for me. Perhaps because I work Wednesday to Sunday which breaks up the familiar nine to five routine I was so used to following. Or maybe it’s because the sun rises at seven and sets at seven every day without much in the way of variation. It is mostly likely because the majority of people I know and talk to live so far away that to them I live in opposite land. The routines I used to have of talking to people across the world have been turned on their head so drastically that it has resulted in a form of isolation. Oh no, that’s terrible! I hear you cry. Well it is and isn’t.

When major upheavals occur in your life it usually results in two things, stress and loss. Stress because things that you once had a firm grasp of now seem entirely out of your control and loss because no matter how good your intentions, people drift away, lose touch. It is true what they say about knowing who your friends are at a time like this. It has been an eye-opening experience for me in that regard and there’s still a great deal that I have to learn. When it comes to friendships across the globe though, all you can do is try your best through all the change, make the effort when it’s required especially when it’s pointed out to you that you’re not, to keep trying and hope it’s enough.

But, I digress!

For those who don’t already know and I’m sure I’ve mentioned it just about a thousand times now, I am an English teacher. I would be the first one to tell you that this is something I never expected to happen. It goes hand in hand with leaving sunny England. Yet, here I am. If I can be honest with you, I disliked learning English as a child. I still remember the lessons in school of hating my handwriting, of not understanding grammar and generally being bored out of my then tiny little mind. As far as I was concerned at the grand old age of four or five, I already knew everything I needed to know about English. All I wanted to do was write stories and I could do that quite happily without any help from my teachers. Or so I thought. I ended up taking English right up to A level, ironically and never really enjoyed the studying of it very much. The older I got though, the more I realised how little I actually knew about the language itself. When I started learning Mandarin, I developed a new appreciation for English and for people who learn English as a second language.

Now, I am a teacher of English, my primary school teacher Mrs Jones would be thrilled I think but my college professor who disliked me immensely because I argued against some of her extremely feminist views of the language, would be aghast in horror.

All in all though, I have learned more in this long month teaching English than I ever thought I would and my appreciation for the art of writing has only grown. It is difficult for a lot of children to pen an original story and sadly here in this pocket-sized country, encouraging and nurturing imagination in story telling isn’t at the forefront of educators’ minds. Being technically proficient is.

This blog however, isn’t going to be the place to discuss or compare the differences in our education systems, for each system has its benefits and drawbacks and I am merely an observer of these differences. I can see the failings in my own country’s methods just as I can see the stress and pressure to succeed that is placed upon children at increasingly younger ages over here. In this pocket-sized country, anything below 90% is just not good enough. I can sit here and judge quite easily but the approach to education in this country as seemingly harsh as it may be, works on a lot of levels, on many levels which the education in the UK is falling down on. We could very likely learn a lot from each other but here is not the place, now is not the time.

Let’s move on shall we?

Being British means being used to rain. Let me tell you though, you haven’t experienced rain until you’ve been caught in a tropical rain storm. Thunderstorms are so loud that you truly believe the world is coming to an end.  Rain falls from the sky as a wall of water. Streets and walkways turn to streams. You think you’ve experienced flooding? Even in spite of all their excellent methods of controlling the flow of water, it’s still sometimes too much. It feels, when it’s really bad, like the sea is trying to reclaim the land and if it wasn’t for ingenuity of these people to utilise modern technologies to combat it, it very well would.

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This is a picture of the aqueduct near to where I live. Normally there is a tiny stream of water coming from the sea no bigger than a meter in width and no deeper than my ankle. This is what it looked like after one rain storm that lasted all of an hour. It may not seem all that dramatic from where you’re sitting. It really is one of those things you need to experience for yourself to understand it. Same with the humidity and the heat. All I can do is paint you a picture. I encourage you to get out and live it. There is no ‘fine rain’ or ‘spitting’ here. 😉

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Now this tiny country is no Australia in terms of wildlife but having come from a country where the most we have to worry about are certain types of ants or one poisonous snake (that I have never personally encountered), I’m going to say this, this pocket-sized country has little buggers that like to nom you while you sleep!

First of all there are the mosquitos! They leave a lovely red mark that looks like a bruise with a raised lump the size of a penny wherever they bite you which itches like crazy and that isn’t even the malaria carrying ones. They only come out at night… apparently. Excuse me while I barricade up the house forever.

The local resident here that very likely out numbers the people by two to one is the long lamented cockroach. Now I’m not in many ways squeamish or averse to insects. I find them quite interesting. But when a cockroach decides to run under your feet while your casually slurping on your strawberry smoothie before your class starts, you scream, you run. That is unless you’re Singaporean and then out comes the bug spray and tissue and the chase begins. When you get them as frequently as you do here, you become numb to them. I’m not in that group yet and cockroaches I discovered have a habit of appearing out of nowhere. Didn’t anybody tell them it was rude to sneak up on a wocket?

On the scale of big scary insects, even cockroaches and mosquitoes are fairly tame. Nothing compared to the giant spider that I saw just chilling out on the walkway to work. I do believe its body was the length of my forefinger so you can just imagine the legs. I do wish I’d gotten a picture of him though he was pretty impressive. What? I like spiders, so sue me! 😀

Getting away from the creepy crawlies, I move onto things everyone everywhere will recognise. Public transport and healthcare.

‘Oh no, I missed my train this is a nightmare, the next one is four minutes away, what am I going to do?!’ Said no British person, ever.

That is an example of what people are like here. Distances are considered far if they’re more than a ten minute walk. If you just miss your train and the next one is five minutes away, well you might as well throw in the towel on the day because it couldn’t get much worse. It makes me laugh. Coming from a place where if your train was in twenty minutes you’d consider yourself lucky and if you’d somehow managed to get a discount on your ticket? It’s like winning the sodding lottery. Here, trains are every five minutes, six minutes maximum, they’re air conditioned, well maintained, fast and most of all cheap, is it any wonder people here think walking fifteen minutes to the nearest mall is far (that is quite far for a mall to be at any given location here)? Buses are on a similar scale, not quite as reliable but still nothing compared to the shambles that is called public transport in the UK.

It’s more expensive to own and run a car in this tiny country than it is to travel by public transport whereas it is the opposite in the UK. I’d be the first to admit, I’d choose car over public transport back in England every time and for me there’s just something wrong with that picture. I’m not saying public transport in England is all bad. There are some good reliable routes, frequent buses and there are some good train services, depending on where you live. It simply doesn’t compare though. The MRT system here is fairly similar to the tube/transport system in London and I find myself comfortable to use it any time of the day or night. It’s safe, bright, clean and well designed, with the majority of MRT stations built underground and did I mention it’s safe?

Continuing along the same line of public services, I went to the doctor’s today. It wasn’t for anything serious but I don’t recall ever going to my GP at home and coming away satisfied with the service. Some people do and hats off to you, you’re lucky. I only went there to make an appointment for tomorrow, not really expecting to get a reasonable time. Oh how wrong was I.

Now let me first mention that GPs are based usually within shopping malls here. In this particular mall, there’s about three all in a row. You don’t have to register, or be assigned a particular GP, nor do you have to go to the same Dr. You can walk into any of these establishments and ask to be seen to and if they can’t see you that day you can make an appointment. They’re open until 9 pm too. I know, if only, right?

Today, I didn’t get to make an appointment. I was booked in and seen to within minutes of arriving and to my surprise, my issue was taken seriously. I was out with medicine direct from the Dr within fifteen minutes of arriving and advice and with instructions to make another appointment two weeks from now. I felt… cared for.

Yes, the UK has its’ NHS and there’s a great deal of good about the NHS. I am and will always be a supporter but as someone who has never felt comfortable going to the doctor, even at the expense of my health, there is something to be said for instant, friendly and satisfying service at a relatively cheap cost.

There you have it, so ends a month of living in this pocket-sized country with all its’ nuances and culture. There have been ups and downs and a sometimes near desperate need to return home to the familiar, cooler climate of England, but seriously? It’s just too damned cold over there. 🙂

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2 responses to “You think you’ve seen it all…

  1. Ucalegonne says:

    Wow, Wocket – Singapore sounds amazing! If only public transport and doctors were like that here. (I’m afraid you’ll have to keep the giant spiders and the rest of the insects though. :3) How are you coping with the heat so far?

    Drop me an email if you ever feel like it – I’d love to keep up. :]

    • casturt says:

      I had thought I had replied to this…. Hmmm… That would be good. Do I have your email already? (I may have previously asked this, sorry), 🙂 Could you pass it me anyways? 😀 Keeping up sounds fun. The heat is sticky in answer to your question. Mostly okay but sometimes just draining.

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