Adventures of a Wocket

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Things You Should Know About Introverts

This is very true. I relate to all of it.

Playfully Tacky

From MeetTheIntroverts.com From MeetTheIntroverts.com 1) We need to recharge alone.
This right here is the cusp of the entire introvert v. extrovert debate (if there is one, anyway) – Introverts need to be alone to recharge. We tend to get completely worn out by socializing. This is basically what it means to be an introvert.

2) We don’t hate being around people, but we probably hate crowds.
I love being with people, but if you drop me into a large crowd I instantly feel like I’m alone and invisible. I try to avoid situations where I feel that way, so I may decline your open invitation to some random event. It doesn’t mean I don’t like to be around you, it just means I like to have more control over my surroundings.

3) We don’t mind silence.
I can sit beside you in silence and not think we are having a bad…

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I’m Printing A Book For Charity.

Kris Carter

Several years ago, I wrote and drew some Transformers fan-comics (with a little help from various other people) that I posted up on the Allspark.com Transformers fan-website. They were very well received, and actually contributed to me gaining work on colouring the official Transformers comics a few years later.

Recently I found out that Sol Fire, one of the forum members who’s fan-character I used in the books, had taken his own life. Coupled with my own experience with mental health disorders, it seemed like a good way to help a charity and also show a mark of respect.

To this end, I’ve decided to collect together the four stories I created, and publish them in a trade paperback, which I will then sell online and at some UK conventions. Once the printing costs are all met, any further takings will all go to The Samaritans.

The book itself…

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Pu Luo Chung (蒲 罗 中) to Singapura. (Island at the End to Lion City)

You’d probably think that for such a tiny island, 710 km² to be exact, there wouldn’t be much to talk about. You would be wrong. Now I have met quite a few people over here ranging from expats to locals and people just passing through and everyone has an opinion on Singapore. There’s dislike, resignation, apathy, enjoyment, pride as you would expect from any country’s inhabitants and visitors. For me, I like history and Singapore’s past is rich and filled with toils and troubles. This on its own doesn’t really set the country apart from other countries but it is something to be proud of. In my humble Wocket opinion of course.

There have been written records about this tiny island since the 3rd century and since then it has been invaded, settled on, been a base for pirates, been fought over by warring nations, invaded again, turned into a trading center, had its settlement burnt down by Portuguese raiders and disappeared into obscurity. This was all before 1819, when Sir Raffles established a British trading post on the island and modern Singapore was founded.

There are a number of historical sites to read up more about this if you want to.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_history_of_Singapore

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Singapore

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Founding_of_modern_Singapore

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Singaporean_history

http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/History/Singapore-history.htm

http://www.yoursingapore.com/content/traveller/en/browse/aboutsingapore/a-brief-history.html

http://meridian103.com/issue-7/history/merlion/

There are loads! It is a fascinating read too, if you enjoy ancient history, mythology and politics that surround being an island nation.

Late last year I decided to go sight seeing. I’d been in the country almost an entire year and I hadn’t delved into the history or memory of the place. Coming from a country with a full, rich history, not all of it to be proud of, I always find it connects you to a place more to learn about its past, where it came from, how the people settled and built it up into the country they call home. I’ve not had much chance to do this in the past. Most of my historical wanderings are done from a computer. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the old west of America and some of the older parts of Europe in my travels but I’ve never been in another place long enough to go explore its history and just be a tourist there for a while. Living in Singapore is all go go go so it was nice to just wander for a day, taking pictures and enjoying the sights.

The place to go to find Singapore’s historical sites is City Hall. There are others I intend to explore but this is where I went for my first adventure.

First stop was St Andrew’s Cathedral. There’s always a cathedral isn’t there? This is an Anglican cathedral and the largest in Singapore.

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Here’s some history if you like: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Andrew’s_Cathedral,_Singapore

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It’s a very pretty church.

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Here are some skyline pictures. I do enjoy a varied skyline. This is the skyline near Marina Bay as you can see by the big ship on top of a sky scraper 😉

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This is City Hall. Undergoing refurbishment for the most part. It was built in 1929. The Japanese conducted political business from the building during their occupation of Singapore during WWII. It was also where British POWs during WWII were rounded up in front of the building before marching to Changi prison by the Japanese. In 1963 Lee Kuan Yew read out the Malaysia proclamation and declared Singapore no longer under British rule. The first national day parade was held here in 1966.

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These are the war memorials. The one on the left is the Cenotaph war memorial. The writing on the front states; ‘Our glorious dead’. The one on the right is the Lim Bo Seng memorial. This was erected to serve as a reminder of the price Lim Bo Seng and other war veterans, paid for Singapore to become what it is today; free and independent. Here’s a little more detail for you: http://comesingapore.com/travel-guide/article/313/lim-bo-seng-memorial

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The first is a totem pole representing Asian civilisation museum and the second is the Dalhousie Obelisk. These are at Empress Place near the museum. The obelisk was built to commemorate the second visit to Singapore, of the Marquis of Dalhousie, who was the Governor-General of India in 1850. It was also built to remind succeeding merchants of the benefits of free trade.

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This is a picture of the Fullerton Hotel taken from across the river. The Fullerton Hotel was originally known as the Fullerton Building, named after Robert Fullerton, the first Governor of the Straits Settlement. It was commissioned in 1919 to commemorate the centenary of the British Colony but was finally opened in 1928. During WWII before the British surrendered to the Japanese (1942) here it was used as a hospital. It subsequently became the headquarters of the Japanese military administration n in Singapore. Redevelopment began in 1997 and it was finally reopened in 2001 as the Fullerton Hotel.

The bridge in front is the Cavanagh Bridge, which is the only suspension bridge and the oldest bridge in Singapore that exists in its original form. It was built in 1870 and was originally called the Edinburgh Bridge after the Duke of Edinburgh to commemorate his visit to the country.

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The first two pictures speak for themselves. The next two are pictures of the Raffles statue, built to commemorate Sir Thomas Raffles landing in Singapore on the 28th January 1819. He is credited with founding the city of Singapore as it is known today and also London Zoo 🙂  Raffles was named as “Agent to the Most Noble the Governor-General with the States of Rhio (Riau),Lingin and Johor”.

“While in Singapore, Raffles established schools and churches in the native languages. He allowed missionaries and local businesses to flourish. Certain colonial aspects remained: a European town was quickly built to segregate the population, separated by a river; carriage roads were built and cantonments constructed for the soldiers. Otherwise, however, no duties were imposed and confident that Farquhar would follow his instructions well, he sailed for Bencoolen once again on 28 June.” – Taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stamford_Raffles#Singapore_.281822.E2.80.931823.29 

In 1823 Raffles drew up the first constitution of Singapore outlawing gaming and slavery, as written into the constitution was a specific regulation for there to be no crimes against race. He left for England on the 24th August in 1824 and his longest stay in the country during those years was only 8 months. He died in 1826 of apoplexy in England at 44 years old. He is credited with being the founder of modern Singapore.

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I really liked this building. This is a fire station. The Central Fire Station to be exact. It’s the oldest existing fire station in Singapore located in the center of the business district. It was completed in 1908. Since then the fire service has been intergrated into Singapore’s Civil Defence Force and is no longer a separate entity but the station is still in use today. It serves as museum now show casing the history of fire fighting in Singapore and of the developments of the Civil Defence Force from the 19th century to the present day. I mostly just thought it was really pretty 😀

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The first picture is Elgin Bridge which links the Downtown core to the Singapore River Planning Area in the Central district. It was completed in 1929 and named after the Lord Elgin the Governor-General of India. It is believed to have existed as a footbridge as early as 1819 and was the only bridge to cross the Singapore River, linking the Chinese community on the Southern side to the Indian merchants on the Northern side. This was replaced by a wooden draw bridge named Presentment Bridge or Monkey Bridge as it was narrow and so required some agility in getting across.

The next picture is Parliament House. The Presidential Council for minority rights meet in this building. This is a non-elected government body established in 1970 to scrutinize the passing of bills by Parliament to ensure that they do not descriminate against any racial or religious community. The building itself is a public building and a cultural landmark. It was completed in 1999.

There are so many other sites and buildings and cultural heritage monuments that I haven’t shown you and haven’t seen myself. Singapore has a varied, packed history. Upon gaining its independence the country pulled itself up from 3rd world conditions to become one of the world’s most prosperous nations. It suffered a great deal following the Japanese occupation and the British lost their credibility as the infallible ruler when they failed to protect the country from the invaders. Even now there’s still resentment towards us British from survivors of the war, who lived through the occupation, (some still love us) but the resentment is understandable for the others. It became an independent crown colony in 1947. In the 1960s it underwent a merger with Malaysia but due to racial tension, federal conflicts and bloodshed on both sides, Singapore was expelled from the federation in 1965. Only a few hours later (efficiency has always been their thing), the Parliament of Singapore passed the Republic of Singapore Independence Act, establishing the island as an independent and sovereign republic.

“For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole adult life, I have believed in merger and unity of the two territories.” – Lee Kuan Yew 1965

As my Singaporean friend tells me often; Singapore is probably the only country who gained its independence unwillingly.

There is, as with all countries and governments, things wrong, policies and leaders that could do things differently or better but to build a nation up from violence, poverty and being cast out by its neighbour, to being a country that is ranked as the 3rd most competitive, with the best business environment in the world and in the top 25 for education (I could go on but here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_rankings_of_Singapore), is definitely not something to sniff at.

I am only a visitor here, staying for a while, maybe I’ll set down roots, I don’t know but I know that even I am proud as a human being of what Singaporeans have achieved for their pocket-sized country. It just shows what people working together can do.

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Here let’s end with a picture of modern Singapore fronted by older shop houses and buildings along the river bank. It seems fitting. 🙂

 

 

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Another year in a pocket sized country…

Well it’s been a while since I last wrote. The lack of writing came about when I changed my job due to instability and then ended up working in a place that put me in a not so good place mentally. Currently still unemployed and waiting for a visa approval. Fingers crossed that it comes through soon or that’ll be potentially the end of my adventures in this pocket sized country. 

Since Christmas I have traveled to a different country which shows the stark differences between a third world and a first world country. Singapore is classed as first world. Fifty years ago, it was a third world country. There’s a lot to be proud of in this small island, you can’t take that away from them. They have done well and compared to the majority of countries that are on the equator it probably has the best and most stable way of life. It has its faults, that goes without saying but their successes are definitely ones they should celebrate. Unfortunately, many Singaporeans don’t realise how good they have it here and often end up complaining about the state of affairs as they are. Problems are certainly all relative though, so everyone is entitled to a good whinge. 

This post will be about my trip to Cambodia. I have to warn you that it could be quite upsetting visually and mentally. On my visit over there, I couldn’t decide whether to throw up or cry at the history the country has, recent history too. Cambodia has suffered greatly in the last 40 years and I want to share my experiences to open eyes a little about how, not bad, most of us currently have it but how very wrong things could go so very quickly.

The visit to Cambodia wasn’t a long one, just long enough to escape the frivolities of Chinese New Year in Singapore. The first day was quite relaxed at our quaint little hotel. The drive to the hotel was an instant eye opener to the state of living there. Away from the city centre of Phnom Penh the roads are just dirt tracks and there are no rules, no signs and it seemed to me that it was every man woman and child for themselves. With, surprisingly, little to no accidents. In my head it was just chaos. To the Cambodians this was normal. 

The people seemed friendly on arrival and were very welcoming. Going out to find food later was also a pleasant evening and the food was delicious. A nice start to what was to be a relaxing holiday.

Our hotel, we were right on the top floor overlooking the pool.

The next day it was decided that we were to travel via Tuk Tuk. Basically a trailer pulled by a motorcycle. It is the cheapest way to travel through Cambodia and you do get to see more. A mask is recommended though as those roads are extremely dusty, we got covered. 

This was on our Tuktuk traveling through the centre, note tarmac on the roads and vague order. 

A distinct lack of tarmac, plus dust. 

This was on our way to the place called; ‘The Killing Fields’. I can assure you this name is meant literally. 

For those of you who aren’t sure of Cambodia’s history, please click on the link to Wikipedia for a brush up. I am sorry to say that I honestly didn’t know much. I had heard vaguely of political goings on but this place, seeing it this way, really drove home what had happened in this country. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_Fields

The Killing Fields now is a monument to the people who suffered and died there. It was originally a camp. People, men, women and children were sent here to be executed. There were so many that usually they couldn’t kill them all in one day and so they had to wait. The sight that greeted us was deceptively innocuous, which I suppose is the intention. I will post some pictures of what I saw there with explanations as my words simply don’t do them justice.

 

The entrance. The monument is typically Buddhist and was built by the Cambodians to honour and remember those that perished according to their traditions. 

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This was the start of the guided tour. You could choose to have a guide or the Audio guide and make your own way around. I chose the latter, seemed more personal. These signs are all that remains of the buildings that stood here and what they represented. 

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The mounds aren’t very clear in these pictures but these fields were mass graves of the executed. 

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In the first picture, the remains of the dead buried here have been left in peace due to the flooding. In the second picture the fields of graves fall on either side of this pathway and the final picture is the view many would have seen outside the camp. 

This was the largest mass grave and a fence has been erected around it to remember the victims. 

The sign speaks for itself.

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Surreal reminder of where we were.

The tree beside this mass grave where the children were thrown against to kill them before throwing them into the pit. When the Khmer Rouge fell and this place was discovered, it was reported that blood and brain matter was still visible on the bark of the tree.

At the end of the tour, we return to the monument. 

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This is what is inside. 

The majority of the victims were sent to this camp from the notorious S-21 prison which lies in the centre of Phnom Penh. This camp is a few kilometers out of the city. We went there next.

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Just out of the perimeter.

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People of intellect were targeted by the Khmer Rouge as they were the ones most feared by the leaders to rebel and stand against them. They had to pretend to know nothing if they wanted to survive and even that didn’t save them. Many were driven out of the city and forced to work in the fields with little food and under the harsh sun and even harsher hand of the Khmer Rouge, many of whom were brain washed children. 

Let me remind you that the Khmer Rouge was made up of Cambodians. Either through fear or loyalty these acts were carried out against Cambodians by their fellow Cambodians. 

I also recommend watching the film; The Killing Fields made in 1984, it is a stark account of what happened, dramatised for film but still hard hitting and based on the experiences of an actual survivor of the genocide. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Killing_Fields_(film)

The Cambodians memorialized these places so that future generations could remember and that they would learn from their mistakes and try not to let such atrocities happen again. There were a number of prisons and camps like these dotted all around Cambodia and some that are still inaccessible due to mine fields. 

This visit left me feeling quite numb, as seeing that many bones of the dead is want to do. There is an estimated 8000 remains in that memorial. This was just our first day.

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Now I’m not going to bombard you with more images of horror and the dead. In fact this will be a stark contrast. The second day we visited a temple and the royal palace. The differences and beauty of the architecture were all the more poignant for what we’d seen sitting on their doorsteps. 

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This was the Buddhist temple and given that it was Chinese New Year there were a lot of people here. 

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The palace and the palace gardens was astonishingly beautiful.

Cambodia itself has a lot of beauty. The Cambodians have done well to rebuild and pick themselves up from what happened. Most of them will still remember the events, a lot of them will have lived it. 

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These two pictures were a short walk away from our hotel and are a good example of the beauty that exists here. I think it’s amazing that these people went through so much and are still so friendly and welcoming. It is, I suppose a testament to the human spirit.

Cambodia touched me in a way I never thought another country would. I will remember these places and the thoughts of those people because I feel it my duty as a human being to remember. Society can so easily fall into chaos. Events like these are more common place than we like to admit. Look at the current tensions in Syria, Thailand, Ukraine and Russia. It is happening right on our very doorsteps. Will we learn from what happen here? Some might, most won’t. 

Surely we can at least do them the honour of remembering. Remembering all those who die in conflicts, soldiers and civilians alike. 

Maybe one day the human race will learn to stop killing itself over politics, land, religion and wealth. I am but a dreamer though. 

Here is a picture of a cat lounging in the sun of Cambodia on our last day, right outside our room. 

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Because everything always feels better when there’s a cat. Right?

 

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Us and Them

One Singapore: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMGWJv4R88k

You’re more likely to receive a funny look on the train than you are a smile. In honesty I don’t think I ever expected a friendly face on public transport while in the UK either. I preferred it when nobody sat next to me on the bus. Whereas here I’ll move to the window seat so people can sit only for it to remain empty when the bus is crammed full. Maybe I just have a need for acceptance because I know I’m not wholly accepted here.

My friend said to me that I didn’t really understand what it was like to be racially isloated. I said to her, how could I not understand? There are places in the world I simply cannot go for fear of my safety simply because I’m a white woman. I know that other racial minorities experience this, of course they do. It’s human nature to judge and hate that which appears different or cultures, lifestyles we don’t understand. We’re all guilty of it. Even me. Now I’ve been on both sides of the fence, how could I not understand?

I never considered myself racist before. I grew up with and around those who judged people as a whole. They judged a race, a colour, they made/make assumptions, they still do, we all do. I used to think myself above it, never looking at someone differently because they were a different skin colour to me. I have and still have Asian, Indian, South African friends. I have friends literally all over the world and difference were something to learn about, understand, educate myself on. They weren’t ever an issue. Here though, here things are different.

Yes, Singapore is safe and progressive, their security and police are top notch, respected. Many racial communities live together in supposed harmony. For the most part that’s true. You can’t judge the system here. It works. This government has a handle on things. What you do experience here is the subvertive racism. The snide comments made in Chinese about us ‘Ang mo kows’ (red-haired monkeys). The comments made about anyone who wasn’t born Singaporean. One I have come across is, ‘White Monkey’ or ‘White Devil’ for us westerners and ‘black devil’ for referring to Indians.

Now I’m not just writing this from a viewpoint of ‘oh poor white girl finally realising what it’s like to be judged and be a victim of prejudice,’ I’m a people watchet. I’ve seen this between Singaporean and Chinese (essentially indistinguishable from one another mostly), Indian and Philapeno, white and everyone. Racism, for all Singapore’s claims of harmony, exists, is proliferate in here, from everyone.

Every racial group segregates from the other. They only mingle when they have to. The working westerners even look down upon and judge the rich expat westerners who come over here and throw their money around like its going out of fashion. Some really do walk around like they own the place, some of them could probably afford to. They make it difficult for the rest of the westerners who want to work who do live on a budget here. As far the the majority of Singapore are concerned though, we’re all the same.

It’s the same argument you’ll find in the UK. ‘Oh they’re stealing our jobs’, ‘send them home, they don’t belong here.’ Well like it or not, those jobs were available folks if you really wanted them. Here in some cases the choosing of foreign talent over local is true so I can understand the negativity to an extent but ‘send them home, they don’t belong here?’ Well actually this Ang mo kow pays bloody taxes and rent and bills and I only get a local wage. My new job is only slightly above average but because I don’t pay into the CPF it works out about the same as a local package and I got a job very very few Singaporeans wanted due to the stigma against mental health issues here, (a whole other story). 

I digress. 

Mostly this has been a spilling out of thoughts from my own observations and from talking to people local and foreign. 

Here have some propaganda:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZH0Dn7dcRzQ

When you have to make a video and a song telling everyone you’re a happy, welcoming place, the truth is that you’re very likely the opposite.

Singapore is not a cheerful place. Yes it’s clean and safe and you do honestly meet some lovely people and sometimes folk will surprise you by saying please and thankyou but on the whole. Singapore is unfriendly and not welcoming, unless you’re a tourist and have money, lots of it! With money you don’t have to care about acceptance. The UK is very similar in that respect the only difference being; I could drive and did drive everywhere in the UK so I separated myself from the public, here it’s in my face every single day.

I’d go so far to say that it’s harder for white women here than it is for white men. A lot of Asian girls want to bag themselves a nice rich white husband. I want to shake some of them honestly but that’s not as bad here as it is in places like Indonesia where they can pretty much be sold into marriage by their own families before they’re out of their school uniforms.

I grew up craving acceptance even among my peers, here it’s nice when somebody just says ‘excuse me’ rather than knocking into you because how dare you walk on the same path as them? That need for acceptance is fading along with my respect for people as a whole. Being here could very easily turn you into a rude, MRT barging, cold, disinterested individual with your headphones firmly in your ears, scowl on your face and sunglasses on so you don’t have to make eye contact with people lest they look down on you.

I consider myself fortunate to have met a few nice friendly individuals, locals. They keep me from completely discarding my manners and British polite sensibilities and keep me hoping that if I continue to try and be nice and pleasant with people I meet, they won’t hate me simply because I’m paler than them. It’s one reason why I want to get better at speaking Chinese so I can show that acceptance and understanding go both ways. I’m just one person but I want to keep hold of that utopian, naive, childish dream that we really can, one day, live together peacefully. Maybe its something that does need to be enforced?

Maybe Singapore has the right idea by limiting some freedoms and securing this as a home for millions of multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-religious people. 

If that’s the case I think in time I can learn to live with it and not let it turn me into a bitter, resentful, racist person.

Meanwhile, it’s difficult and isolating and so I will seek out places that have become pockets of acceptance, for everyone, no matter who you are. Mine is in Starbucks. In the seven months I’ve been here, I’ve not once met a rude Starbucks’ employee. It’s the one place I can come and find a smiling face, where I feel like I’m accepted for who I am, safe in my little bubble. If it weren’t for pockets of places like this, I think I’d be coming home for good in December.

I am giving it a chance as much as my limited patience will allow. I only hope Singapore gives me a chance to prove I can fit in too. After all it’s supposedly the country of ‘many races, one nation, one Singapore.’

The children celebrate ‘Interracial harmony day’ here in school. They dress up in traditional dress of their culture and celebrate all the different cultures in their country. One of my primary one students asked me what the traditional dress was for my culture. (I honestly have no clue if there is one), I said I didn’t know. She wanted to know what we wore when we celebrated inter-racial harmony day. I told her, much to her surprise that we didn’t celebrate it in my country. She being 7 of course wanted to know why, so I explained the truth. We don’t have inter-racial harmony in my country. She didn’t really understand why not but she understood enough to agree with me when I said she’s lucky to have been born and to live in Singapore.

Few countries can profess to have so little obvious reported unrest as Singapore. I’m not entirely sure how much goes unreported…

She also asked me if all Singaporeans were Chinese, to which I obviously said no and she has formed her opinions enough to declare that she hated Malays, even after telling me her father was Malaysian. I suppose this is like an English person saying they hate the French or the ‘yanks’ (no offence to my American friends).

I wanted to know why she hated them and she simply told me that they talk too much. She’s 7! Nothing about race or culture just ‘they talk too much’. I envy the bubble in which Singaporean children are raised. 

Britain with regards to racism isn’t much better, we just don’t have enforced tolerance. Crimes involving racial prejudice are broadcast widely, here they’re very much brushed under the rug.

In the UK the racial tensions go both ways. You have catholics being unable to wear crosses in school, other cultures getting preferential treatment as opposed to the common working white British person. Poppy burners. White British people are looked down upon in our own country by growing minorities and here we’re looked down upon for being the unwanted minority. An Irish teacher was found dead in her bed here very recently and the comments online consist of anti-foreigner sentiment and being glad that it’s one less foreigner coming to steal local jobs and she shouldn’t have been here in the first place. A woman is dead and all that matters to some of these people is that she was a white foreigner and the rest of us ‘better watch out’. Tell me again how I don’t understand racial isolation.

I know they don’t speak for the majority of Singapore but if you ask a Singaporean why are Singaporeans so racist and negative about foreigners in their country who live and work and pay taxes here, they will shake their head at you and blame the mainland Chinese people. They’re the ones who are racist, they make Singaporeans so mad, it’s all their fault. The majority of racism I’ve experienced here though has been from Singaporeans.

 

Denial is strong with these people.

I keep telling my friend not to read the racial, anti-foreigner comments on news posts, you get them in the UK too. I’ve seen anti-foreign sentiment on my facebook feed, from people I know so we’re all guilty of it. It isn’t really about race at all, it’s a few people, angry people, hateful people wanting to incite more hate because they don’t want to live with and tolerate difference. 

Reading that stuff will only make you angrier. It will make you paint everyone with the same brush even though a lot of the people we probably meet consider themselves about as racist as we do ourselves.

How we wish it could be:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTkVG6lWvwY

How the average Singaporean feels: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnoQtS-DjLQ

 

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Architecture’s battle with growing population

Life in Singapore moves along at a fairly steady pace. Due to its climate you don’t really get much in the way of passage of time. The sun rises at 7am and sets at 7pm pretty much without fail every single day. It rises and sets quickly too. Like somebody flicking a light switch. The sun is always high and it’s always hot even if the sky isn’t always blue. It’s like the height of British summer time. (You know that week or two you get between June and September where the days are glorious and bright before everything dies and it starts raining again). Britain only really touches on the humidity though. Here it ranges from breezy and pleasant to stifling and ‘oh god why am I not dead yet!’ as soon as you step outside. I’ve been here six months now and the really hot, humid days I’ve still not adjusted to. Just yesterday I got heat stroke travelling across country on a bus, twice. o_0 Yeah three hour total journey, not even in direct sunlight and I get heat stroke. Typical.

I was actually going to write about the flora and fauna here this entry but I changed my mind as I’ve learned that unlike Australia, not everything here wants to or can kill you. A few things can, they’re normally mosquitoes but that’s for another blog entry. Probably after the Dengue outbreak has subsided so I don’t tempt fate too much. It’s been a while since I’ve updated due to job things and my mastery at procrastination. Related to the climate I’m going to talk about the homes here. 🙂

Oh how boring! Tough. I love architecture and the design of buildings and fitting the country’s almost 2 billion inhabitants into a place barely size of the Midlands in the UK. It’s a feat of engineering. Us Brits could learn a thing or two about making the most of the space around us.

The general consensus of Singapore is that everything is built tall. Many floors, many flats. That is generally true but they aren’t the only homes you’ll find in Singapore. Call me naive or whatever but I was genuinely surprised when I first saw houses here. Actual landed properties! Now houses to me that we’re used to seeing in the UK are generally two up, two down, front door, back door, some with garden some without, some terraces, some semi detached or detached. We do have fancy houses too you know for the uber rich but nothing like the landed properties I’ve seen here.

Now if you walk down any estate in the UK, I think barring the centre of any major city or old country villages, you find the same red brick house lining the streets for miles. Some might have different colours pebbled over the stone but pretty much standard houses. Especially for council houses, which you’d expect really.

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These two could be found pretty much anywhere in the UK. The houses are not too dissimilar from the house I was brought up in (except ours was nicer and had a larger garden), my mum lives in a relatively nice one now, in a pleasant estate. Nice garden, quiet street. The flats are typically found in cities or large town and they’re growing along with the population. They look fairly non descript and in some areas they can look downright untidy and ugly. There’s just no thought put into them, except to throw them up as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Which is a shame. The new houses you find in England are much pokier, narrower, creakier and smaller with tiny gardens. It makes sense when you’re running out of space I suppose but then how come a place like Singapore manages to utilise their space so well? They have more people per square meter in the whole country than England does.

Let’s look at flats. I’ve lived in some pretty flats in the UK and I’ve lived in some not so pretty ones, or at least I’ve lived near them. The privately rented ones do tend to be nicer but not always. The respect for any property and the people that live in rented property council or private isn’t high in the UK. Hell we can’t even have a nice clean bus stop without some hellion vandalizing the shit out of it! No wonder we can’t have anything nice, right?

Government flats (HDBs) in Singapore are bog standard sizes and floors. They’re all the same and yet… they’re not.

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The first picture is right in the middle of a HDB estate. Look they have colour and trees! Look at all the green that fills the space and how everything fits together. This is a fairly old estate to be fair and so isn’t as nice as some of the newer ones. The one on the right is newer and with bonus pretty sunset. They don’t give credit to the detail that goes into just the outside of these concrete boxes.

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The two pictures on the left are where I currently live. Look at the colour! Even during a storm they don’t look dull. The ones on the right are taken in China square, they’re pretty much close to the city and they aren’t an eye sore. Well I don’t think they are in comparison to say flats in our cities. They use space and colour and greenery here, something we’re sorely lacking in the UK. We just like to add more concrete to everything, ugly ugly concrete.

Now not all places are like this. There are some beautiful towns and villages and even parts of cities that do this. Yorkshire and the Lake District for example have extremely picturesque housing and landscape. Even parts of London does! In Singapore though, pretty much all the modern (being in the last 20 years or so) are made to a standard which attempts at the very least not to be ugly. Especially seeing as they have to build tall here so it’s going to be noticed. There are ugly places here too, don’t get me wrong but none that make me say, ‘urgh, wouldn’t want to go there on my own in broad daylight’. (Actually nowhere in Singapore makes you want to say that, except for maybe right in the city or in more remote, poorly lit areas and only ever at night. It’s just safe here. Everywhere pretty much.

The prettiest flats tend to be the condominiums. This is not a word we have in the UK. We don’t really have this style of housing. These are flats built for luxury. They tend to be little communities within gated walls. They can have shops, a gym, a swimming pool, just to name a few amenities. These range from affordable to nope just nope in the price range and are usually reserved for business people, expats and the super wealthy. That is unless you’re lucky enough to find a nice one at a decent price to rent. I could rent one but I’d likely have to share with people. It’s like private accommodation in the UK, you rent a room and share the living areas and amenities.

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Look at the shiny! These are in the East part of the country and they do vary. Not all are this nice and some look remarkably like HDBs until you get inside them :p

Now onto housing, landed properties as they’re called here. They’re big! Narrow and long but big. Some can have as many as three or four floors to one house and each floor can have up to five rooms, maybe more. I don’t actually know the exact figures I haven’t counted and haven’t been in many.

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These aren’t the best examples as I was on the bus at the time. In passing here are some landed properties. Even if they have the same design they have different coloured roofs or different shapes and different number of floors. Some are mostly glass and others have multiple balconies. They can be astonishingly pretty from the outlandishly garish. Also there’s this one at the top of the hill:

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That tiny white spec in the top left is a house. A massive massive house ^_^;; They can be beautiful but these really are for people with money. Unless you get to rent a room in one that is.

If you don’t believe me how visually outstanding and downright ugly they can be; then type in ‘landed property, Singapore’ into your search engine and click on images. Some of the architecture and infrastructure of this country can take your breath away and other parts of it can make you recoil. 

I can’t remember the last time modern architecture in the UK made me feel anything other than; ‘Oh it’s another glass building, that’s nice’ or ‘meh’. The most beautiful buildings in the UK tend to be in the couple of hundreds of years old. Singapore still emulates some of our older victorian style buildings but for the most part it’s moving away to embrace more modern styles and forward thinking. They must use all the space they have but it also must be livable, for a country that shies away from creativity, it’s nice to see that it is embraced in a lot of their buildings, even their malls.

Sadly though, like with anywhere in the world with large and fast growing population, with the rate the housing, pretty and otherwise is being thrown up, there’ll soon be very little in the way of landscape left to look at.

I have never really been a city girl and if there’s one thing I’m nostalgic for, it’s Britain’s rolling countryside. Long may it be cherished and protected. Here have a couple of pictures. The one on the left is Britain, the one on the right is Singapore.

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There’s something to suit everyone. 🙂

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Beware the steamed chicken!!

Singaporeans are foodies. They love it! They are also feeders. There isn’t a Singaporean I know that hasn’t tried to feed me something, even if I say I’m full, no just isn’t the right answer. 

It’s good in a lot of ways because there is so much to choose from here. The food is as multi-cultural as the people and so very cheap too! 

Now for anybody who knows me (and you probably don’t even need to know me that well), you’ll know I’m what is described as a fussy eater. Personally I hate the label. I had problems with food growing up and I was very ill when very young and my relationship with food was just… delayed. This means however I am very conscious of what I can and cannot eat. A lot of the time it isn’t about taste for me but texture. This is an actual condition; SED selective eating disorder which is found in people with OCD (surprise surprise, which I have in mild form). This is something a child quite often grows out of but when pressure is put on a child by people or friends to like or eat certain things when they’re simply not that confident, self conscious behaviours emerge and they never grow out of it. Or it takes a great deal of patience and understanding from friends and family alike. 

My relationship as I’ve grown older and more confident with myself has improved somewhat. When I was younger I would refuse to eat something simply because of how it looked or smelled, it was a genuine fear of maybe throwing it back up which is never pleasant for anyone. Now, I will attempt to try everything at least once. Some of you will be cheering at this point 😉 

Singapore is not the place for a fussy eater but the beauty of being here is that there’s so much choice! When I first got here, I have to admit to being quite wary of many things. Dishes aren’t quite as clearly labelled in the hawker stalls as they are in places in the UK and sometimes the choice can be overwhelming and confusing. Thankfully my friend has been very patient in telling me what things are when I’m unsure and in the three, almost four months I’ve been here, I have learned a lot!

Now let’s move onto the food! 😀

Starting with the basics. Fruit! I love fruit. Plums, grapes and strawberries are my favourite but here water melon is so tasty and Korean strawberries are probably the tastiest I’ve ever eaten. We simply do not get fruit that tasty or fresh, nor that much variety of it in the UK. Not in my experience anyway. This is a sad fact of the decline of the food markets as supermarkets take over the food shopping industry. 

There is one fruit here that is banned from public transport due its’ smell. You’ve probably heard of it before. Durian. Before I came to Singapore I had never heard of a fruit being banned from public transport. Still it never struck me that it could be THAT BAD

Well. I was wrong.

Durian: Image

You only eat the middle bit obviously and although it looks sort of solid, the flesh is soft and slimy and weird with a hard core and I’m pretty sure it came from the Alien films. The smell is a cross between strong cheese, like Camembert or Stilton and unwashed feet. I’m not kidding. This stuff lingers too, it stays on your clothes, in your mouth and yes even in your pee. I was tasting it for about a week after I’d tried a small mouthful. The taste is sweet and not that far removed from the smell, a bit cheesy but that texture…. auughhh! No, just no. Durian is not for me. Maybe if it was frozen into ice cream or a drink then perhaps I would like it but in its’ pure fruit form, I’m going to pass. In my opinion you need a strong stomach for this.

Let’s move onto something nicer shall we? 

One of the first places I ever ate at in Singapore was the Xin Wang Hong Kong cafe in West Coast plaza. They have such a range of foods. Mostly chinese, singaporean and western but many different types of dishes. The baked rice with chicken is very nice but very filling and pretty much a heart attack on a plate as it is smothered in cheese. I quite like the lemon chicken rice with egg and the congee. Congee is a very warming comforting dish. It’s basically rice porridge with different ingredients like egg, chicken, pork and so on thrown in. Very tasty and filling. Only problem is you’re hungry again pretty much straight away.

This does however leave room for one of the most wonderful deserts I’ve had here. Would you consider putting vanilla ice cream with thick french toast? No, me neither! 

Voila! And it is a giant as it looks! And yes that is me already digging my way in 😀 This was so wonderfully tasty and not as filling as it looked. The bread itself is quite light and the ice cream helps it not be too dry. This got a thumbs all round 🙂 it was so good my friend had it for breakfast the other day ^_^

One food I discovered I quite liked even back in the UK was Japanese food. Here, you often find Japanese with Korean influences and oh my! It is yummy. My colleague took me to her favourite Ramen place and I had the curried ramen with chicken. 😀

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The image is slightly blurry but you get the idea. This was so very tasty. So many different flavours and a curry that wasn’t too spicy which is perfect for me. Also there was this: Image

Green tea smoothie 😀 It complimented the curried ramen very nicely. This is what my colleague had: 

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I believe this was pork, but don’t quote me on that. It was also very yummy so I’m told 🙂

While we’re on the Japanese theme, I also tried sushi for the first time here the other week. It was delicious! 😀 Sea food is so fresh and tasty here. It has so much flavour. I recommend trying fish and sea food in Singapore to anyone. Even the fast food outlets have nice fish. They were a very good find when I was craving good old english fish and chips. One thing I have discovered I hate however is; fish maw. This is actually fish bladder and it is often put into soups in chinese meals and is considered a delicacy and I cannot express enough how vile I find this. It doesn’t really have any flavour but it is slimy and that is one of the textures I struggle to actually physically swallow. I had an uncomfortable experience with this at my friend’s family dinner at a chinese restaurant. The food on the whole was delicious and very typically chinese but I decided to be brave and try the fish maw. That was my first mistake. Once it was in my mouth I felt like I couldn’t just spit the thing out in front of these people who had only just met me, this was a birthday dinner after all and so I had to swallow it. That was my second mistake. That was the closest I have come to actually throwing up in a restaurant in front of an audience after the age of 12. I was quite literally wretching/gagging for what felt like forever. My body simply did not want to keep it down. If you’re not into tasteless slimy things I would suggest avoiding this one.

I don’t have a picture of that but I do have a picture of the chicken katsu ju we had in the sushi/Japanese restaurant. 

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Very yummy but a lot of food and it’s quite stodgy. The best bento food I’ve had was from a hawker stall near my work. It’s actually Korean. They have breaded scallops, rice and crispy chicken and miso soup. It is wonderful and so very cheap at $4.50 SGD for the amount that you get. This is the great thing about Singapore. Even in the restaurants food is cheap. It is actually in a lot of cases cheaper to eat out than it is to buy ingredients yourself and cook at home. And for a lot of expats that live in rented accommodation cooking isn’t actually allowed so it’s very good that eating out is more than sufficient. I’ve not had all good experiences though eating from hawker stalls or food courts. If you don’t like spicy you have to be careful because the majority of food here is spicy and also watch out for the steamed chicken. While some small hawker stalls will make it for you hot with rice (which is yummy by the way) many won’t. Steamed chicken is traditionally served ice cold. I actually thought it was raw when I had it and couldn’t eat it because my brain told me that cold chicken is wrong, plus it was really cold! This is what you get used to in England. Don’t eat cold chicken! Here it’s fairly common but to save yourself from the shock, I recommend the roasted chicken rice. Hot and tasty and once again; cheap. I sulked about this for a good twenty minutes because it was a faux pas I had made regarding the local food. When you already have a tendency to get self-conscious about food and you make a mistake (anyone who has lived in Singapore would know that steamed chicken is typically cold), you feel quite a bit stupid, in some extreme cases it can be upsetting. I certainly don’t want to spend my time here, asking my friend what is in everything or how things are cooked before I eat anything. This can get very frustrating for her and honestly demeaning to the confidence for me. This is all part of trying new things though. I have soldiered on and I’m still discovering what things I like and don’t like and what things I must avoid at all costs. Fish maw: shudders! 

Singapore although being predominantly asian also has a lot of very nice choices of western food. Be it from the standard fast food places to lovely roast chicken dinner with chips and vegetables. I also discovered today a wonderful lemon chicken with mustard soup, which I will be eating again. I’m always pleased when I find a tasty soup due to the fact I’m never in the mood for soup until it is in front of me but I always find it so comforting and filling. 

On the downside, I have found that vegetables are lacking here as are salad places. Sumo salad is very nice but there just isn’t much choice in the range of vegetables and salads. It makes me glad I’m not a vegetarian. Even though I tend to stick to my chicken and fish, because a lot of places have to be halal here, this is more than adequate and I’m finally becoming a lot more confident with my diet and food experimentations. 

Here are some old favourites I’ve had here: 

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It simply wouldn’t be proper if I ended on anything other than tea 🙂 Singapore doesn’t really do tea in the way us English people do tea. They have lovely green teas but most of their tea tends to be sweet, made with condensed milk, which is nearly always sweet. I hadn’t had much luck in finding a nice tea other than lipton. However it was Cold Storage to the rescue with none other than my favourite Yorkshire tea 😀 it was like home away from home, in a cup. Also check out the funky tea spoon 😀 I am easily pleased! 

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You think you’ve seen it all…

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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Moving to a pocket sized country!

 

I uhmm’d and ahh’d about starting a blog. I’ve been here just over a week now and thought, why not. It’s not everyday you up and leave your home country to go live and work else where.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Five years ago if anyone had asked me whether I’d ever leave sunny England, or even move out of the North West of England, my response would have been a resounding ‘hell no!’ England is my home, will always be my childhood and my family, that will never change but even as a smaller Wocket I wanted to go on an adventure!

My adventures of course involved magical chairs or lions or even fairy dust. Every story I read had some hero or heroine in the story, who was sent away from their home on a great and often scary adventure. They would meet new people and make friends and even enemies, they would conquer their greatest fears and become stronger and braver than before and quite often they would be escaping their hard life or rebelling against a comfortable one.

What I learnt as I grew into an older and wiser wocket was that adventures aren’t just handed out to you like in the stories, though wouldn’t that be so much simpler? Here you must take this ring to such a place or you must make sure to return home before this time and so on. Real life has only one absolute and the adventure is everything that comes before. What I learned was that adventure was whatever you wanted it to be.

I have done a lot of escaping in my life, from my childhood, from real life, from people, I was always that socially awkward, quiet girl in the corner who would just nod and maybe smile at you if you asked her whether or not she was okay. Making friends wasn’t easy, being confident seemed a trait I wasn’t born with, oh how I wished I could be like the confident kids! One without all these hangups, insecurities, doubts, anxieties, one with opportunities and a large support network.

I wanted this so badly that I decided to get it myself, life wasn’t giving and had no sign of giving me any favours so I worked hard, made myself go to university (even though I quite hated it for the most part, I’ve never felt more out of place than I did then), made myself work every menial job so I could have that independence and little did I know that that is the start of most adventures.

Now I’ll spare you the whole growing up spiel, let’s just skip to the present. About a month ago, I randomly, out of the blue, applied for a teaching job in Singapore that had been posted on the TEFL website. I had completed my TEFL training a year before and had also tried being a teacher 10 years earlier (this did not go well, but that is for another day). It was a plan B for me. I had a good job working in Pharmaceuticals, I had friends (who’d have thought it!) many of whom lived overseas and I was reasonably comfortable in my small wocket existence. I applied thinking nothing of it, places like Singapore well, they only want PGCE qualified teachers, they want the best, or so I thought. A week later came the email and a few days after that was the phone interview, not four days following on from that Thursday morning while I was sat in my friend’s house after a night of wine and a good catch up sipping my tea, an email fell into my inbox.

‘We’d like to offer you the job.’

Wow!

I couldn’t quite believe it. They wanted me to go to Singapore and teach English to children. They wanted me! My friends were happy for me and just as surprised. I had been saying for a couple of years I wanted to go abroad maybe travel, see the world and so on, I don’t think anyone, not even me, really believed it would actually happen.

My plan B rapidly became my plan A and I had a decision to make.

Now when it comes to decisions, I am a pain in the arse! I can’t make them I don’t like deciding but nobody else was or could make this decision for me. Did I accept or turn them down? What did I want the rest of my life to be? That I stayed home where it was safe and comfortable or that I tried.

On Christmas Eve (it already sounds like an adventure doesn’t it :)), I handed in my notice at work and that was that. The dice were cast, the adventure had begun.

Now the following three weeks that I had to pack up my stuff, sell my car, move out of my flat, handover my job, say goodbye to my friends, give away any stuff I couldn’t keep went by in a flash, a blur of static noise and colour. I don’t think I could pinpoint any one day that I didn’t have full of packing and worry and more packing. Maybe my farewell party but even that involved mattress moving.

Now when your whole life is changing like that, I don’t know how other people react but for me it was pressure, I had one chance to get everything done and fly out. I work well under pressure but as far as feeling the moment, that didn’t happen. I felt nothing absolutely nothing, just focused and tired and irritated most of the time. I wasn’t excited, I didn’t have time to get excited, nor was I nervous, if I’d felt nervous even just a little bit, I quite possibly would have thrown in the towel and said ‘right I’m not going’.

No doubt people thought this was odd, most people are fairly emotional creatures and can express themselves quite easily. Emotions aren’t easy for me as when I do let my walls down and do let them out, they’re quite intense, simply because I either feel very deeply about everything (this isn’t healthy I’m sure) or I’m just not used to feeling them, it’s very likely a mixture of both. In this instance practicality took over. There would be time for emotions later.

The day came to fly and for the briefest of moments I felt completely sick to my stomach while waiting in that airport. It was really happening. Everything had gone relatively smoothly up to that point. Once I passed that security check point there was no going back. It really didn’t help that my flight was delayed by two and a half hours but if there had ever been a point to back out that would have been it.

Flying both fascinates and terrifies me. If I think too long about how high that very large, very heavy, very full metal contraption is in the sky, there would be hysterics. Instead I always focus on the shiny technology in the seat in front of me and how plane food has improved on high class airlines like Emirates and Singapore airlines (the latter being my favourite for such a long journey).

My adventure to the pocket sized country had begun!!

In the stories there’s always someone they meet on their way to their destination and sometimes they never show up in the book again but they give something to that protagonist of the story good or bad and I can honestly say this happened to me. I sat next to a guy on the plane and very randomly we got chatting and it turned out he was a teacher  too. Going to Vietnam from the UK. He had more experience than me and was encouraging and helped me relax in those first seven hours of my journey. Normally I never talk to anyone if I can help it but we did and I was so glad of it.

I wasn’t the only person who had done this was doing this. I wasn’t alone.

****

The Arrival.

For those who have been or who will go to Singapore the first thing you notice when you step outside Changi airport is that wall of heat. It’s not the heat you get when you’re in a desert (I know, I’ve been in one) nor is it the sticky, muggy heat of British summer time. It’s just a constant, perpetual, moist, windy heat. It surrounds you like water and occasionally wind gives just a little reprieve but even that is warm. I quickly learned that the 30 plus degree celsius wasn’t too much of a problem (apart from making me want to nap at various times of the day) it was that humidity. It sucks the life out of you, makes you unable to sleep, unable to relax and yet feel like you’re suffering from a hangover and not even a really bad one, just that constant ache and weariness.

That was my first week. Thankfully, I had training which lasted for four days in a lovely air conditioned office which by the end of it, ironically was pretty chilly to me. Throughout these four days there were moments of panic, excitement, nerves and massive bouts of anxiety. I couldn’t do this, I didn’t want to be HOT anymore and what I wouldn’t give for some fresh air that was at least 20 degrees below the outside temperature.

Heat exhaustion is an awful thing. By the third day of my training I wanted to scream, cry and at the very least jump on a plane back home. I was irritable and tired and grumpy and weepy. All I could think was; what have I done.

I completed my training and seemingly made two new friends in the process. All of us new teachers to this company and all of us from the UK. We encouraged each other, laughed and parted ways on the fourth day to begin our jobs. We’ll all have different experiences but we’ll be able to meet and share them and laugh and then talk about something else!!

It’s comforting for me who was always too self conscious to make new friends and is convinced most people dislike me on first meeting to have new people want to keep in touch, who want to know me a little more. I have a few close friends so I know I’m not completely unlikeable but you never really let go of that insecurity, no matter how often your friends tell you you’re being silly. 🙂

My training was over, my first day was the fifth day. My time was up, I was a teacher, am a teacher. I was told I only had one class on my first day. This one class turned into four catch up classes, all small but still daunting to me who was very much out of practise talking in front of others in that way. I also hate the sound of my own voice which is counter productive to teaching.

All these things ceased to matter. I was here and parents were bringing their children in to let me teach them. First lesson was like pulling teeth. No it wasn’t rowdy or even lots of children. It was one child who WOULD NOT TALK!! It was the longest hour and a half of my life to that point and I’m pretty certain I didn’t teach him anything!

Saturday was quite simply put a train wreck. Once again I wanted to cry and flee the country. However the day ended and my friend met me with cupcake for my first day and things seemed alright again. My whole life didn’t have to be about the job, it wasn’t the end of the world. I’m still learning and nobody expected me to be perfect or even very good in my first term never mind my first day.

My second day was much better. Mostly because the children did respond, even the young ones and I felt like I was getting more of a grasp of where they were up to. There’s nothing worse than picking up where somebody else left off, in any job.

This was when the rain came. Beautiful, torrential, tropical, cooling rain.

At the moment I feel like I’ve adjusted somewhat to the heat. It’s almost more comfortable than an air conditioned office. I even choose to sit in the outside part of starbucks (free wifi) with just the fans than in the air conditioned building. I didn’t think adjustment was ever going to happen. I still have moments though when it gets really warm. Those days really make me irritable but at least I have a schedule and a routine now to give me a sense of belonging.

Living with a Singaporean family also gives you an advantage when settling into a new place. They’re generally very welcoming and extremely enthusiastic about food as a people. It’s everywhere, and I mean everywhere! I do still have to keep asking my friend what everything is when we eat together but on the whole the food here is very nice. Chinese food back in the UK will likely never be able to match up now. Nor will the public transport if we’re comparing.

For a pocket sized country it has a lot to offer a wocket. It’s safe to go out at night, transport is regular and fairly cheap (again by comparison) and there is a lot that I still have yet to explore. It’s not like any city I’ve lived in or visited in England, for one it’s green, everywhere! Quite a contrast from the glass and concrete of Manchester, Liverpool and inner London. I’m sure the inner business district will be different but where I am, it’s green and tropical and quite pleasant.

At the moment, at the end of my first very full week in Singapore, technically at the start of my weekend, I feel hopeful that; in spite of a few hangups I have, such as having the odd person moving away from me on the train and completely changing my diet and lifestyle, I could live here for at least the coming year.

Beyond that, well this is just the start of this wocket’s adventures. 🙂

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