Thursday, 27 January 2011

No Other Difference.

Tonight I went to the Alumni House because they were hosting a free showing of the Shah Rukh Khan film, My Name is Khan. For me MNIK beats Slumdog Millionaire hands down. Minus the bad Presidents' impersonators they had going, it was just great. I would say a 21st century Forrest Gump. In fact, yes that exactly what it was and the talent that Bollywood has that Nollywood lacks is that ability to draw inspiration from a film without copying it word for word. Asian people- with most things I think- can take one's idea and make it so much more relevant to an audience (which is why India and China are fast emerging economies) but that's all beside the point.

Any Asian readers will probably be able to list me a plethora of Asian film that they believe top the list of greatest-so-far and it could obviously be my lack of expertise in the Asian  film industry but I think SRK is the best there is (in any film industry). If you haven't seen the film yet I won't spoil it, but if you want to know what it's about I can only say it's about a man not wanting him and his family to be treated any different post-9/11. I can only strongly recommend it.. you must watch it for yourself if you haven't already it's been almost a year since the film came out I know I'm late!

It also made me think you know. So many times, especially whilst I've been out here I've had these conversations about how inconvenienced we've all been because of 9/11 in terms of airport/airline security and violations of what I deem my basic human rights, but there are tonnes of people out there - and I know the film is fictitious but there's much truth in it - whose lives have almost been turn upside down because of 9/11. Really changed, like the people in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Muslims across the world who constantly suffer the stares and suspicions of people and people who can't get easy pass of way at border control because their country is predominantly Muslim. They have to buy a visa when all their friends walk through like genuine citizens of the world. These things annoy me. And that's all that was going through my head on the 15 minute walk back from campus.

Razia Khan: Remember one thing, son. There are only two kinds of people in this world. Good people who do good deeds. And bad people who do bad. That's the only difference in human beings. There's no other difference. Understood? What did you understand? Tell me. Tell me 
Rizwan Khan: Good people. Bad people. No other difference. - My Name Is Khan

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Primark shoes are not good in Singapore...

I love living in Singapore. 90% of the time it's sunny with temperature reaching 30degrees if not topping that. But then there's the other 10% of the time when (usually just for an hour a day) it rains.

I grew up in London, so rain doesn't phase me. To be honest I'd happily walk out in some tropical rain, I do it every time I go to Ghana and my Grandmother always seems to question my sanity. There isn't much difference between the rain in London and the rain in Singapore or Ghana - except the natural disposition to dress "appropriately" for the occasion. 

This morning I had to choose between sandals and my Primani shoes. Seeing that it was a bit overcast I opted for the now off-white Primanis, y'kno, just in case of light rain on my 10 min journey to and from the Lecture Theatre. (WELL DONE CHARLENE ;D )

Err, no. As I leave the lecture theatre - and JUST as I leave the lecture theatre - a storm begins. I'm prepared. I have my umbrella, no smelly extensions for me! A few more minutes pass and it seems like the University Internal Shuttle Bus Service takes advice from Mitcham town centre, no buses show up. So much for Singapore always being prompt (this fallacy is gradually becoming exposed the longer I stay here). My feet are getting heavy and clammy and looking down I see my shoes are paddling pools. 

The urgency for me getting back to my room is now quite clear. After jumping on the first  (and wrong) bus to reach the busstop, being embarassed by an oversensitive sensor and an agitated bus driver, staying on the bus to style out my mistake before finally getting the right bus home. I reached my room just as my Primanis had upgraded themselves to swimming pools. Don't I feel stupid, I have the air-con on like a high maintenance diva. 

I don't believe there are any quotes on the inappropriateness of Primarnis in tropical countries so my lesson here can only be: do what I did in Manchester, if it's raining, or about to rain... don't go to lectures. :D

Saturday, 22 January 2011

the Night Safari baby!

If you're in Singapore the Night Safari is a must!

It's fairly high in price but when you translate  it to pound sterling and how much the London Zoo charges, it's much worth it.

If you really want to get a feel for all the animals at Singapore Zoo then do the full shabang and have breakfast with the orang-utans before returning in the evening for the Night Safari. The taxi is about S$12 from Orchard, but if you are in down town Singapore you might as well just jump onto the Zoo provided bus (details can be found on the website).

My time at the Night Safari with all the nocturnal animals was awesome but you might get really annoying people who don't know the meaning of NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY PLEASE! I've been to the Night Safari twice now the first time (2008) the tram was pretty empty and the ride was really fun. This time it got a bit frustrating at times.

The complimentary "creatures of the night show" is the highlight of my evening, but it's something I shouldn't talk of lest I mess up the surprise for everyone.

Getting the visa card.

Getting my visa card was long!

I met Jiri at the stairs of PGPR at 12.30pm, and arrived at the ICA Building at 1.30pm which is much longer than I was expecting. But all credit to Singapore, the MRT was prompt the only problem was the bus and waiting for it but I guess that's a truth the world over!

Either way I was 15 minutes early for my appointment and I expected to be seen on time. This was not the case. An hour after scheduled I was seen and told to get my student pass 30 after that!

I guess Singapore suffers from being overstated. There's such high expectation - because people are told that that's the norm and we won't be disappointed - that in the end you feel so let down, but waiting that same amount of time in London whilst it would be annoying, it would also be acceptable because we're used to it and London does not profess to be any better than that.

So, I've got it now! :


The other day (Thursday) I went to Little India in downtown Singapore and as the name suggests (for those who aren't familiar with Singaporean diversity) the area is full of Indian-heritage Singaporeans. So it was my first time in Little India since being in Singapore this year, I had been meaning to go earlier  but I was preoccupied with essay writing.[I decided to skip that post wasn't sure if it should be posted. It simply read: Got 2  essays done in about 8 days. They might not be good but you've got the rain and I've got the sun. Two Fingers to you UoM!]

But anyway, I can do things now and I chose to start with the Hindu festival of Thaipusam. The story is that a goddess gave a god (her son) a 'vel' to vanquish a bad guy. Of course the good guy wins, Good Defeats Evil yayyy let's celebrate!

So how do the Hindus of South East Asia celebrate this momentous occasion? Well it's simple, they hook sacrifices and floats (kavadis) to there bodies and walk for miles from one temple to another. It's is most definitely awe-inspiring. One of those don't knock it til you've tried it situations. And of course with it being a religious festival its amazing to see the lengths people will go to tell God they appreciate Him. A few times that day, I questioned "what do I do to show God how much I appreciate Him?" It makes you think...

Anyways, below are some pics of guys and their kavadis and the general atmosphere on the Serangoon Road  in Little India.

There is nothing noble in being superior to some other man. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self - Hindu Proverb

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

And so it begins...

... the day I've been dreading for so long. But actually apart from turning up late, locking myself out of the lecture hall and then letting myself in to the room through the front to a crowd of amused Singaporeans it was pretty perfect. The NUS teaching style is quite laid back and interactive in the sense that all the lectures talk to you the same way a stand up comedian would to his audience.

Here's what I learnt on my first day:

(this version should have the translation bubbles if not click it and watch it properly on YouTube).


So, I've been here for a week now and I guess I'm not as excited about Singapore as other exchange students having been here before.. It's all about the exchange freshers' week and making the most of that for me which is currently being hindered massively by my failure to have these two essays for Manchester done over Christmas as planned.

It all started  with two friendly faces - Lia and Kully - who picked me up and sped me back to their house whilst I updated them on all the craziness that I'd just left behind in the UK like the anti-ConDem, anti-fees-increase protests and the imminent rise of VAT and of course the crippling weather of the deadly substance that is... snow. They offered me the option of staying with them for the entirety of my stay in Singapore which I really considered because it would be awesome to feel at home somewhere.. I've been in halls too long. 

Anyways 24 hours later they were dropping me at the entrance of PGP and I moved into my temporary room. (the aircon in my block were all being serviced or something): 

(that's not actually what it looked like when I entered.. the bed was a disgrace- I had them change it)

First Outing: to Marina Bay!!! That whole area is pretty awesome. We went in a fairly large group a bunch of French, bunch of British, many a Canadian, and the odd Indian, European and American. Marina Bay has this epic building called Marina Sands, which is basically three skyscrapers with this massive curvy boat looking thing across the top. The building has its own casino, beach and swimming pool with infinity pool which overlooks the city's business district skyline. We didn't go up to it because none of us were in the right gear to swim, but it's on the cards! 

The city is for me a good balance between Dubai and mmmm maybe, Manchetser (was going to say London but I remembered we now have this Shard building being built. Anyway, Singapore is a Dubchester hybrid because it's extravagant in it's design yet humble at the same time. None of its skyscrapers are competing for "world's tallest" but yet they look good, they're practical and they're up there with the Burj Khalifa as buildings to see (well the Marina Sands is anyway). 

Things to do: If you are in Singapore and around the bay, I suggest going to Butter Factory. It's a club, which a good atmosphere. I'd suggest getting there early because there's no chance of you slipping yourself onto a fast-track list or VIP (that costs S$3000). And they have three different levels of specialness: 1. Guestlist, 2. Table reservations, 3. VIP but I think I've already put you off that one. The views from inside the club make you feel like you're in some sort of Hip-Hop I-fly-from-New-York-to-Japan-just-for-sushi music video... it's great!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Flying Solo

Flying on my own is surprisingly a nerve racking thing - first there's the packing... with all these laws you've gotta make sure you don't take anything contraband which is difficult to ensure if your method of packing is to throw all you're worldly possessions in to a bag.  Some how on this task I managed to be very organised - on Charlene standards. My suitcase came in at 18.7kg well below the allowed 23kg which has me thinking I could've taken more!! But I've taken all I wanted and even though the weight wasn't much I haven't yet mastered the art of good packing so perhaps I couldn't have taken any more.

Then came checking in. The first test of whether I was ready to take this major trip alone. Basically the air-hostess-desk-helping-woman identified that I would be in Singapore longer than a normal tourist visa would allow. She asked if I had a visa I said "yes" (not exactly true). She asked to see it, I passed her the eForm16 which I will need to complete registration of the Student Pass - my ACTUAL visa. It all got a bit confusing I was babbling she was clearly unimpressed and so over comes the boss. Eventually it all sorted itself out thanks to my sister explaining the system to them since she's gone through it herself, but, it left me a bit underwhelmed (one may say) at my abilities to communicate quite simple information at such a crucial moment.

Of course this is my first holiday alone and with the exception of my return from Ghana in August 2010 this is my first journey alone too. So my sister was calling every 15 minutes to check if I was en route to my boarding gate and then to check if I had boarded. The plane was delayed so a few times I had to reply "negative" to her enquiries. And then I was on the plane and it was about to go. They were kind enough to pass out sweets to all the passengers although I don't think the  air host guy, liked me too much since he offered several sweets to other passengers and then instructed me to "please take one". I obliged to take just the one.

All in all that was a nice flight. I read all about the Qatar Airways mission and vision and history and services. Quite impressed. They definitely deserve to be 3rd Best in the World- apart from the cheesy in flight music they played whilst we were boarding it was not too bad for a student!

Sunday, 2 January 2011


I just need to have a rant here.

I stayed up until 0210 on Sunday 2nd January 2011 for one purpose and one purpose only: to check in online and catch my window seat close to the front of the plane.

BUT... no. My SONY VAIO laptop made that little "low battery" sound and so I ran upstairs yanked the plug from its socket and Usain Bolted back downstairs.. altogether that took a couple minutes - (I did have to stop briefly to explain to my half-asleep sister what the panicked stomping was about). But either way I returned to choose my seat at 0216. 

6 minutes out of a 34-and-a-half-hour time-slot isn't even that long! But by the time I came to choose my seat about half of them were already taken included the first nine rows of window seats on both sides of the plane. 

My heart actually sank because I've got this thing about being at the window seat and watching the ascent and descent of the plane. I've then also got this weird almost fear-like need to be as close to the front as is possible. I don't like waiting for people to get things from the overhead cabins - it always seems like rocket science to them - these things frustrate me. 

But now I'm 10 rows back because I compromised. I've got  my window seat. At least that's something.

Note to self: Always, always have your laptop fully charged. 

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Cold Feet

"When in doubt, don't" - Benjamin Franklin

I'm due to leave the country for Singapore in 2 days or 42 hours 31 to be precise and up until today I've been dreading going. I think it's because I've never been so far from family before. That I am so affected by this truth is a sad state of affairs, I know. But Singapore isn't a Virgin Pendolino train away from London- not yet anyway - but I'll be sure to pass on my ideas to Sir Richard.

The other day I went to see my family in West London. I have a big family with many young cousins, I had to see all their chipmunk faces before I left. On my way there I had the pleasure of hearing a couple's conversation about London transport (they were talking loudly, I was not actually concerned with what they had to say). It was the same conversation that must be carved into the walls of the tunnels from decades gone by:

Girl: "Why are people never happy on the underground?"
Boy: "Let's count how many happy faces we see..."
(fifty paces and a total count of zero later)
Girl: "I reckon only couples would be happy on the underground."

Now I didn't turn around to confirm whether these two had happiness plastered across their faces too - it seemed to be a sly opportunity for the girl to let her boyfriend know she was happy because she was with him or something. One of those attempts to say 'I love you' without actually saying it.

But whilst Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts followed my every step towards the CENTRAL line platform at the Bank tube station I had this strong urge to turn around and defend why we Londoners do not feel the need to smile continuously at the prospect of 1) being squeezed up to the armpit or chest of another fellow Londoner and 2) a spontaneous strike or signal failure. And then it dawned on me - I'd much rather stay here. I love London. I don't know why I would ever choose to leave even with all its faults. And that's why I haven't got excited about leaving yet.

I guess I need to just MAN UP and deal with everything. I'm off to make a start on my essay plans and pack my hand luggage  - what effort.