Monday, 28 February 2011

First Impressions.

Whilst I was on my travels to Thailand I stopped in Koh Phi Phi to visit Phi Phi Le which is where you can find Maya Bay.. or the place where they filmed The Beach for those who really need it spelling out.

Anyways whilst I was here I had a boat driver come up to me and ask me where I was from. I told him London, UK of course. That's where I was born, that's where I grew up, and that's where my plane set off from at the beginning of this year. But clearly there's no hiding that I am Black and so that response is often received with a pinch of disbelief over here. That's fine. I rep all my cultures to the fullest.

So this boat driver made us all laugh when he proceeded to tell us that he's been to London twice and that it's really lovely. I had to respond to that claim with an equally doubtful "really?" and I could have believed him just a bit if he didn't then tell me I was the first Black person he'd met. I had two options: 1) do what Charlene would normally do and expose his previous lie or 2) roll with it and be polite.

I chose the second option. At the end of the day, I'm the first (and darkest) Black person this guy has met! With my friends of many other races all around and a couple from Italy looking on, we had a bit of banter with this guy.  I made sure I plastered a smile on my face for the entirety of the conversation and extended my hand to shake when he was drifting away. "Thank you for making me your first Black sighting!" I exclaimed, "On behalf of my race, have a nice day!" And with that and a firm shake... he was gone.

The point of sharing this experience? Well first of all because I've seen some Black people react quite badly to the weird celebrity status that we inherit by coming over to this part of the world. It's not a bad thing.
YES, it can get annoying
YES, it's frustrating because none of your White or Asian friends will be stopped as much and none of them will be stroked or asked to take a picture with.
NO, study abroad programmes never prepare you for it 

but at the end of the day if you're someone's first encounter with someone of your race only you will really know how that feels, no one else can really prepare for that. You've just got to remember that your reaction with formulate an opinion within the mind of that one person about a couple billion other people. The way people are treated in that area after you is down to you.

Even if you're not someone's first encounter with your race, next time you meet someone for the first time think about.. if you WERE the first impression being made, what sort of impression would you make?

Getting ill in Singapore.

I reckon the one thing that any student going on the study abroad programme cares most about is not getting ill. The worst thing that could happen is for you to injure yourself or become unwell so far away from the love and comfort of your family. It really will bring out the homesickness you've been suppressing for so long.

So you can imagine how annoyed I am that I'm ill at the moment. I just came back from Thailand so everyone's got a plethora of exotic reasons for me becoming ill. I couldn't really care less about the reason I just want my mummy to give me a hug and make me some hot pepper soup. Singapore may not be able to give me my mum or the soup but they definitely make up for it in service.

Since I've fainted I've had numerous calls from the Resident Assistants checking that I'm ok. If I weren't the Cluster Leader in my flat I would also have the Cluster Leader looking out for me until I was better. The security guards wheeled me in a 4 person escort back to my room, and called a taxi for me to go to the hospital (I had rejected the possibility of an ambulance when I came around). I changed my mind about the hospital and so they cancelled the taxi for me and gave me the number for the University Health Clinic.

I didn't actually call the clinic, I just turned up, registered and took my appointment number. In the UK, registration would have to be a number of hours before you could even book an appointment. Singapore seems to be redeeming themselves on the efficiency front. The doctor was nice, polite and showed an interest in the fact that I was exchange, new to the whole thing and a bit scared. It didn't feel like a consultation really, it was a bit more laidback and felt like when your parents try to become homemade doctors (asking you to do all these things before reaching a conclusion) but of course with the added qualification of her actually being a doctor I was put at ease.

I've also got 3 group presentations due in this week that I haven't been able to finish. I emailed my lecturers and tutors and let them know and they were nice enough not only to grant me the extensions I asked for but to also ask about my wellbeing. That was nice. I mean, it's not guaranteed that every situation will be given that leniency but in this situation, it takes the stress off!

Now apart from having immense FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) I'm not worried about being ill in Singapore. They've got the whole care thing down to a T I reckon.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Full Moon Party

Full moon . (Astronomy) one of the four phases of the moon, occurring when the earth lies between the sun and the moon so that the moon is visible as a fully illuminated disc

This is a definition according to the Collins English Dictionary. I fear, Collins may be wrong. There is only one meaning to Full Moon and that is... PARTY!! It's is almost a pilgrimage for all young people in South East Asia to take themselves down to Koh Pha Ngan, a lovely vibrant island in Thailand not so far away from the well know destination of Phuket. 

The history of it in brief. One day in the 80s (queue music: it was acceptable in the eighttiiieeeesss) a bunch of people sat on Haad Rin Nok, the Sunrise beach of Koh Pha Ngan, on a coincidental full moon. They threw a big party. More expats found out and now its a business, an institution, a religious event for many expatriates. There are so many rumours about what goes down at the Full Moon Parties. So many DOs and DON'Ts. People DIE! Or so I've heard.

There is definitely a lot of illegal substances floating around on Haad Rin Beach. I would advise you not to even consider experimenting. South East Asia are very clear on where they stand on drugs etc. and they aren't the nicest when it comes to punishments. You will be invited to go to Mushroom Mountain (officially known as Mellow Mountain) where people are said to "relax" from the hustle and bustle of the 9 other venues along the Beach. If you must go to see what it's like then do not stay too long. Apparently the Thai police make surprise visits to catch people in the act. I would suggest going to the Kangaroo Bar instead. It's just one level down from Mellow Mountain and you'll avoid the Thai prison experience exhibited in the GAP YAH video. (For those who may not have heard of the GAP YAH video it's here below).

Full Moon Party =  Pangaea (the UoM post-exams party) x A GAZILLION. 
The venues really differed in vibe and entertainment. The atmosphere was electric! There were fire dancers and the chance of joining in - which many did. It was definitely a MUST DO if you come out to this side of the world. As long as your sensible, watch your drink and don't test the limits of Thai law it will be an experience of a lifetime!

Meet a bunch of people from around the world (but mainly Australia and Europe). Party til Sunrise. Then sleep it off on the ferry back to mainland. Couldn't get any better than that!

Monday, 14 February 2011

...every where I look around.

Yup, it is official. Love is definitely in the air. 78% nitrogen, 20% oxygen, 1% water vapour, a bit of argon and a dash of carbon. But today, there's a bit less oxygen and a bit more L-O-V-E.

NUS take this novelty occasion quite seriously. By that I mean that they really get stuck in! They make Hallmark look pretty indifferent to the event. In the halls of the Arts and Social Sciences complex were balloons of every colour and matching cut-out paper hearts taped to the ground. Chocolates and cakes and teddy bears of all kinds were on sale and you could barely move for the amount of people. The main corridor is always fairly busy as it serves as the artery to the FASS complex but when you desperately need to get to another lecture to sit an exam those corridors can feel that extra bit more crowded.

pictures (of a poor quality) to follow.

[in case you're wondering the exam went well, i think.... only time will tell]

I ended my Singaporean Valentine's experience with the age-old classic of Titanic being shown on Channel 5 in a TV room in Residence 5. A bunch of exchange girls drooling over Leonardo DiCaprio, as expected.

I wanted to reflect on Valentine's Day as a concept and question this one day of love nonsense, but I'm so tired I think just documenting what I did today is enough, there's many more Valentine's Days to slum about in, in my future. Happy Valentine's Day people, and remember if you can't be with the one you love... OD on something and go and meet your maker. No I joke I joke, y'kno how the quote ends. Love the one your with. =]

Out-of-sight, still-in-mind.

"Good friends are like stars... you don't always see them, but you know they are always there." - Unknown

This quote could not be more true even if it tried! I have a great friend whom I don't see for three years on end, but every time we see each other it's as if the 7000 miles don't matter. I love the fact that I have friends that I don't have to see on a constant basis in order to remain good friends with them. One of these truly great friends of mine, Asia, happens to live out here in Singapore and she was a major deciding factor, especially when my options came down to Hong Kong or Singapore. That being said, she went and did what only Asia does best and that is not be where she's supposed to when she's supposed to. I'm not sure if that whole sentence made sense, so basically, she went to America on a 3 month trip last November, which carried over to my arrival here.

It's been such an anti-climax for me, with her not being here because, I guess, I expected her to be a major part of all the new experiences. But finally 3 days ago, she arrived! Only to be ill on arrival (her second great skill) ... ah well.

It just makes me think as I hover around the facebook 1000 mark how many of those are 7000 mile friends? How many of yours are 7000 mile friends?

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Study So Far

I've got my first exam next week in the Singapore's Foreign Policy module. If this was Manchester, the lecture before this exam - even though it's only a midterm (worth the same amount as the final grade) - would be a recap on what we have previously learned, covering a few possible discrepancies. But nope! In Singapore, discrepancies are for you to sort out on your own, through reading and reading some more. Instead, we enter another topic that may show up on the exam. With comparisons to Sesame Street and everything! In fact, this is how the lecturer chose to break down the ASEAN for us: 

Obviously this did not constitute the whole two hours of learning, but considering everyone has been warning me to remain alert as Singapore we'll switch it up a gear, it's nice to see this particular lecturer plans to keep it laid back for as long as possible. 

By the way, Dr. Lee - the film you couldn't remember last week starring Eddie Murphy was Coming to America. I knew it at the time but as the only exchange student surrounded by domestic students in the little computer village at the top of the lecture hall, I decided shouting out would draw too much attention to myself.

This film by the way... Classic!

Gong Xi Fa Cai.

Chinese New Year is actually a 2 day affair with about a month of celebrations in Singapore.

Since it's a family affair (all the Chinese go home with tonnes of fresh money -Ang Pow- new clothes and clean cars) I decided to be Chinese in a sense and spend CNY with my adopted family "the parents" aka Lia and Kully. It was only meant to be CNY eve, and the first day of CNY before I head out to Kuala Lumpur to meet the other exchanges who would've been there since Wednesday morning. 

Sadly, it came to me booking my room in the hostel and the hostel was completely packed, no doubt by the number of exchanges from PGP that were due to be there. I did try, though, to find an alternative. I looked at 3, 4, and 5-star hotels. At the end of the day I'm gonna have to stay somewhere on my own whilst all my mates invade a hostel in some sort of grown-up mega sleepover, then I should be able to do it in luxury. I'm just saying. 

After calculating the prices and skyping my sister I decided against making the lonesome trip. A whole festive season with the parents then! Why not?!  And it was worth it. I saved money, didn't spend a cent for the whole 5 days, managed to go to the Zoo in the day which is much better than the Night Safari for what you can do; went to what I can only describe as Prata Heaven, apparently Singaporeans drive from anywhere in the country for pratas from Casaurina Curry. (Travelling island-wide for specific food is quite acceptable here). The whole mini season, was just being pampered by parents, which considering mine are no longer together was quite nice. And more than anything, whilst most exchanges had avoided a Singaporean CNY by travelling the rest of SouthEast Asia, I really felt like a real Singaporean for 5 days. This is what I expect. Nothing more, nothing less. Perfect.