Day 7: Crawlin’ in Faith

Each day will be a bit difficult for me to write about as I am trying to write all of these from memory with a bit of research in case I am missing anything. (Writing these on February 28th)

Today (February 26) we had our Temple Crawl and boy was it a crawl for ya girl. We went to a total of EIGHT temples/churches today, and they were not even in a circle! I was sooooo tired after today. However, I really learned a lot during this day and was questioning the perceptions that people have on these faiths/religions that I witnessed and learned about first hand. We began at Silat Road Sikh Temple where the denomination is obviously, Sikhism. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded in Punjab in the 15th century by Guru Nanak. “Sikh” in the Punjabi language means “disciple” when translated.  In this religion, sikhs are disciples of God who are to strictly follow the writings and teachings of the Ten Sikh Gurus. Some key philosophies and beliefs in sikhism are that there is only one God (the same God for all people of all regions), the soul goes through cycles of births and deaths before it reaches the human form, in order to reach salvation and merge with God one must live an honest life and avoid sins and temptations, it condemns blind rituals, and preaches equality of all people of all backgrounds in the eyes of God. The members of this temple and practitioners of this faith were so sincere and kind. They were so welcoming toward us and really wanted us to feel at home and invited us to return if we ever wanted to. We were brought to the kitchen and dining area and they let us help make a flat rounded bread (I forget the name but I will add it later!) for a bit with a few other women where they were then put on the stove/griddle and toasted. After trying some of the food, we then attended a prayer service upstairs for about 20 minutes. It was very peaceful, the songs/chants were repetitive but you could follow along with them because they provided an English translation for newcomers. We had to cover our heads and legs because of the religion’s conservativeness and also our heads was because hair is considered sacred by sikhs, a blessing that should not be cut. I definitely found this first temple to be fascinating, not just because of how peaceful it was but because of some of the similarities it had with my own faith. The next temple was Wat Ananda Metyarama where the denomination was Theravada Buddhist. What a beautiful temple, no wonder it had been nominated for the World Architecture Award! Theravada Buddhism is generally found more in Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka; it is also called the Southern School of Buddhism. It is focused on the oldest Buddhist scriptures; therefore it is strongly founded in the Way of the Elders.  The focus of the monasteries, or the types of monasteries however, vary. Some have monasteries that serve as a place for ceremony, prayer, cultural activity, education and medicine while others focus on chanting and ceremonies or intellectual pursuits or healing. The Buddha was born in the forest, so much of his knowledge has been cultivated by the forest and passed away in the forest. The forest was significant as it was an arena to overcome one’s fears and train oneself spiritually because the wilderness was simple, serene and naturally beautiful, causing peaceful meditation and appreciation for deeper concentration. The temple was abundant in figures and jossticks burning from prayers from its believers. I was overcome with a feeling of peace once I entered the temple. It is such an meditative environment. Our next two destinations were St. Andrews’ Cathedral which was Anglican and Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple which was Buddhist. St. Andrews’ unfortunately was closed off due to the current ceremony going on but we were able to speak to one of the ushers or representatives who provided us with some information on the church. The Anglican faith combines catholic and apostolic faith and believes that all is revealed in Holy Scripture and the Catholic creeds and interpret these in light of the Christian tradition of the historic church, scholarship, reason and experience. It is a bit strict but growing up in a Catholic school, it was nothing new to me haha. The Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, we did not go into because they were celebrating the first day of the month for the Chinese New Year of the Rooster. It is a traditional Chinese temple, and it began as a temple dedicated to the goddess of mercy, Guan Yin. It was rebuilt in 1982 however, and declared a historic site by the National Heritage Board. Flower shops and various jossticks stands surround the front of the temple as people file in and out after conducting their series of prayers. It was a beautiful temple. After eating at another Hawks Center, we headed to our final centers for religious services. The first one, was the Sultan Mosque, of the Islamic denomination. This was the one that raised the most questions for me and made me more aware of the current state of our world views on religion. The Islamic religion is not one that is violent, nor is it one that is destructive. It is actually very peaceful and empowering as it stresses the importance of chances in the three stages of life that you are given. The religion may have a stricter praying schedule and conservative clothing, but after discussing the background and basic principles of the beliefs of the Muslim community (those who are traditional and follow the foundations) they deserve more respect than what they are given or not given in the current situation of the U.S. They. Are. NOT. Terrorists. Their religion is actually somewhat similar to Christianity. They believe in the creation story with Adam and Eve, they value the environment, they have conservative views, they request you attend regular prayer, but the prophets are different in who they are. In the Islamic religion, the most respected prophet is Muhammad who was given the Quran, a holy book of God. Also in the religion, they believe in the importance of equality and empowerment of their women. This is fundamental in my opinion. Women deserve this kind of  empowerment daily. After reading about their equal respect and lead in the household, I was able to think of strong, passionate and powerful young women who I know are Muslim but have this inner drive, this determination to be independent, intelligent, and successful. How amazing is that? Learning about these religions during the Temple Crawl which was created by Eudora and Stephanie (shoutout to them), was actually very fulfilling and created a deeper appreciation within me for the diversity of cultures within the world and the various faiths that exist within them. I developed a greater respect for people with these faiths because even though they differed from my own, the way they helped develop the individuals that I met was truly admirable. The insights from each religion brought light to my beliefs in my own, and I would like to say that do not let the bug of rational ignorance bite you and infect you. Learn about the world and the cultures and their foundational religions that they offer, because not only do you develop a deeper appreciation for theirs but you are able to better understand the fundamentals of your own.

*Our final two stops were at Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple (Hinduism) and Leong San See Temple (Taoism) but one was closed, and the other, Leong San See, was open but quiet so we were unable to meet or talk to anyone to discuss the religion. I have included a link below that I have found about Taoism and Hinduism if you would like to learn more about them!

Hinduism:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/hinduism.htm

Taoism:

http://personaltao.com/teachings/taoism/taoism-101/

 

Day 6: Lil’ India in the House

Sorry I am a bit behind guys! My computer decided it did not want to work anymore again so I have been behind on blog posts. Let’s recap last Saturday:

Today (February 25) we went to Little India after taking the bus to Harbor Front and then the MRT to Little India. We began in the market place where it was ABUNDANT in produce, fish, meat, spices, and herbs. It was so cool! It was like a farmer’s market but with grocery store-style. Something that I noticed though while walking around was there was not really any lobster in the seafood sections and also there was A LOT of okra despite it being a South American native. It was quite interesting. The fact that Singapore relies heavily on its imports was prevalent here. The wide variety of fruits and vegetables was great though! I was in FRUIT HEAVEN, I just wanted to buy every piece of fruit I saw; from the grapes, to the starfruit, to the bananas, to the oranges, to the dragonfruit, EVERYTHING. What was even cooler was that upstairs was another little market but this one had clothes and antiques. The clothes were the traditional garments of India such as the saris and the _____. I really wanted to buy this purple and gold one I saw, because saris are SO beautiful. I remember at the Abele Awards last year, this young woman, I think she was a graduate student, wore a traditional sari with head piece and all because I think she was from Southeastern Asian decent but anyways she looked absolutely beautiful. I remember going up to her and telling her how gorgeous she looked and I could not help but tell her. She beamed with happiness and pride. It made me smile. Anyways, after splitting into small groups we had walked around Little India hoping to cover it entirely, but I am sure we may have missed a few side streets haha. We saw a really beautiful temple called Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, the architecture was STUNNING. It is a Hindu temple that displays colorful statues of deities on the outside and is a brightly colored pink. This may have been one of my favorite temples that I saw in Little India. For lunch, we stopped at this Indian cuisine restaurant where I tried Banana Prata! It was really good, I was also able to try Mango Lassi and some Passion Fruit juice (although it did not taste like passion fruit juice). According to some research I did on the Mango Lassi, lassi is a popular traditional yogurt-based drink from the Indian Subcontinent. It is a blend of yogurt, water, spices and sometimes fruit. If done in a traditional style, it is meant to be savory and sometimes flavoured with ground and roasted cumin. Interesting, right? I also bought jackfruit and dragonfruit from there, but the jackfruit was not ripe enough to be good as I later found out. Afterwards, we checked out the fresh produce and spices street section, which was filled with people sorting through the freshest produce. I almost forgot! I had henna done on my forearm! It is not perfect because I accidentally messed it up when I was leaving but it was okay, because I thought it depicted life: imperfect but beautiful :). I love it, I actually was thinking about going back and getting more done. Maybe on my back next, or hand. Little India was definitely a great highlight for this trip! We caught an MRT back and I later went out after the rain to go look for C cell batteries for our flashlights at 7/11 then another little cornerstone, but I ended up just going back to Harbor Front’s Vivo City Mall to find some in an electronics store. I met Dr. Dan and Tom when they were on their way to go meet the other undergraduates for dinner and Durian. I decided to opt against going with them just to make sure I had the batteries in case I forgot later. I also managed to find an adapter that night though too! I ended up trying a Hong-Kong cuisine restaurant for dinner where I tried lychee (the fruit) and steamed buns for the first time! Pretty good! Lychee is a soapberry, it has a very distinct taste to it. Definitely will try again! I took the #143 bus home and showered after a long day, because Sunday was about to be another new adventure.

Day 5: Bit of a Lizzzy Day

img_9245(February 24) We had a bit of a late start this morning! Finally found myself being able to sleep in until about 7:30 A.M. We had breakfast around 9 A.M. and were off by 9:30. We were headed to the Alexandra Wetlands today to collect more water samples for genetic analysis back at the Duke Marine Lab. The Alexandra Wetlands are located toward the end of the Alexandra Canal, a waterway that had been transformed under Singapore’s Public Utilities Board’s (PUB) Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters or ABC Waters Programme into a recreational and community bonding area in just 2 years. PUB is a statutory board under the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources; basically it is a part of the group we went to visit and get clearance for when Dr. Dan sent in a request to collect water samples almost a year ago. To continue though about the wetlands, the canal was made to further connect the community to the resource of water. The Alexandra Wetlands are pocket wetlands made to help us understand more about the flora and fauna that coexist together in helping create cleaner water. The part of the wetland that was subsurface flow has no water visible because it was flowing below the surface through a filter media which collects suspended solids. The roots of the plants then absorb any impurities in the water. In addition, there was a plot of vegetation that was a rain garden which collects rainwater run-off from paved areas. The impurities found  in this water are removed once it passes through the rain garden’s plants and soil. That filtered water then flows into the Alexandra Canal and eventually makes its way into the Marina Reservoir! Cool, right? We walked along the canal and saw various species of fish such as a Catfish, some turtles, and a few birds as well. When we made it to the wetlands area, we started looking a bit more closely at the water and the vegetation surrounding the area to see what creatures hid within the brush. Dr. Dan pointed out to us a few snake heads peeping out of the stalks and we even saw some more turtles up close with the Koi fish in the pond. All of these animals were not originally in this area but released or introduced by locals who may have had them as pets  and could no longer keep them. The biological diversity in this wetland continues to grow. We finished up by collecting water samples as well from 3 locations in the wetland, the front, the middle, and the end to see the effectiveness of the purification process of the wetland. Using the filter pad and the vacuum filter, we collect our three sets of data and were on our way to lunch! While they were creating the vacuum for the filtration, I img_9268wandered back to the wetland area to see what else I might be able to find and to take a few more pictures of the vegetation. While taking a few action shots of the fish, I turned around and staring right back at me was a Water Monitor Lizard! It scared me! I did not even hear it. I could not get too close to get a good picture of it, but I did manage to snap a photo or two of it before it scrambled back under the wooded boardwalk that surrounded the rain garden. The lizards are one of my favorite animals to find here in Singapore! Not just because of their uniqueness, but because of their coloration and body structure, because for example, some have longer tails than others. After we finished filtering the water and I showed Dr. Dan my photos of the Water Monitor Lizard, we jumped on Bus #51 and headed to the Alexandra Dr. Food Court area where I had a Passion Fruit Smoothie and Shrimp Dumplings with Noodles! Nothing too bizarre and different today for cuisine, but it tasted pretty delicious :). I love that I am able to have passion fruit here in Singapore, not only because it is my all time favorite fruit next to raspberries, but it is always so fresh! I headed back to the hotel after lunch with Dr. Dan and Tom because I had some work that I wanted to do and wanted to get started on this blog because today was my “official” day to blog our trip. It is still raining though, but the rain is nice. It has thundered a bit; I love when it thunders during a rain storm. At 5:15 P.M. we are meeting in the lobby I believe to head to the NUS (National University of Singapore)’s campus at the School of Design and the Environment for another lecture by Dr. Dan!

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We just had our lecture on the questionable success of the environmental conservation of Chek Jawa by Dr. Dan. The title of his presentation was “Remember Chek Jawa Lessons for the Straights of Jahor–Predicting and Planning for Change.” The overarching question however, was “How do you inform policy with science?”. Dr. Dan has studied Chek Jawa for several years now and has seen its decline in biodiversity over time due to things like development and climate change (which are the most significant factors). After the huge monsoon season that had occurred in Singapore in December 2006 with a meter of water in only 5 days, there was an detrimentally high amount of freshwater that ended up in the marine ecosystem that existed in Chek Jawa. The Jahor River, in addition to the monsoon, had dumped most of the freshwater creating a freshwater lens that settled on Chek Jawa at every low tide. Carpet anemones, normally a common organism found in these parts, were totaled in August 2002 to be 112 +/- 4 that were 40 cm in diameter. By October 2008 however, after the monsoons and the developments along the Jahor River, only 2, yes 2, medium sized carpet anemones that measured to be 15-19 cm in diameter were found in the transect area. Mussels, tube worms, and cake sand dollars had become the abundant species in the area; illustrating the extreme decline of biodiversity in Chek Jawa that once was flourishing with carpet anemones, peacock anemones, sea stars (4 different species), sea cucumbers and other Echinoderms (15 species), and mollusks.

How long is Chek Jawa going to be like this?

-Unknown qtd. by Dr. Dan

From this decline what can we predict? How long will it take? Will this go on forever? Unfortunately, Chek Jawa’s biodiversity has been destroyed and will not be coming back from about 100 years. It will continue to lose its biodiversity because with continuous development and poor prevention policies and actions only pollutant and sedimentation resistant biodiversity will emerge in the area. This is the inevitable. If the region surrounding Chek Jawa, the communities off the Jahor River, continue to develop then Chek Jawa will lose its biodiversity. It may be gone in a decade but at maximum, it may be 30 years. But this is why we need to incorporate comparables in these situations. Yes, comparables, like real-estate. (Sites where we can compare this situation to in order to determine the resulting valuation of the costs or benefits.) Does that make sense? We need to compare the biodiversity issue and the influence of development and climate change in Chek Jawa to places like Qingdao (China), Venice (Italy), New York City (NY), and Hong Kong. These areas may be bigger than Singapore, but their issues are the same. Their natural resources, in this case, water, is being threatened by the same factors. Qingdao has a dead zone just like the Gulf of Mexico, its dead zone is 11,000 mi^2 versus the U.S. Gulf of Mexico’s which is only 8,000 mi^2 (and growing). Imagine, only A CITY causing a greater size dead zone than a few states bordering the body of water that is the Gulf of Mexico. The nutrient loading is extremely high. Therefore we need these comparables in comparing international areas ahead or behind in history in order to prevent significant environmental issues from occurring due to development. If we have these comparables, we are able to hold on to areas like Chek Jawa, we are able to hold on to our environment, our Earth. We cannot just cap these areas, put sediment cores down, and put people on top of these contaminated areas. That does not solve the problem. Tin is found in the water off Hong Kong, specifically in the sediment. What happened? They capped it, put an impervious barrier over it and built houses on it. Efficient right? Well, in my view it’s not. If we let go of this idea of comparables and just put people on this land, what is the greatest risk we are really taking here? Our environment? Or, people’s lives? This is where the discussion of ethics and the environment emerge. If you do not believe in a balance between intrinsic and humanistic value of this world, then the effective idea of using temperable comparables would not be your answer to the question quoted above that was asked 15 years ago at a roundtable discussion by one of Singapore’s officials regarding the current state of Chek Jawa. If comparables is not your answer, then what would be?

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Day 4: Lizards, Veggies, & Frogs, OH MY!

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Today (February 23) we went to the Kranji Wetlands area to go on a hike to find various species of animals such as birds, snakes, otters, and lizards. We took a bus driven by Mr. Lim to the outskirts of Singapore, that border Malaysia. In the wetlands, we were able to see one species of lizard which was called the Changeable Lizard. img_9173We searched the area but we did not find any snakes! However, Tom may have found one and took a picture of it coiled around a branch; this snake is still in debate of whether it was a vine or not haha. Most of the wetlands area was actually closed off though due to construction and re-planting because they were trying to construct a golf-course out there. Go figure right? It was hardly recognizable by Dr. Dan which was sad, but we were able to explore it and climb one of the towers and look off into the horizon to see how far it stretched. After boarding Mr. Lim’s bus, we headed to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve which is Singapore’s first ASEAN Heritage Park. It was first opened as a nature park in 1993 and by 2002 130 hectares had been officially gazetted as a Nature Reserve  and renamed the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. FUN FACT: After reading about this wetland reserve I found that it had been awarded a certificate by Wetlands International and by receiving the award it gained a formal entry into the East Asian Australasian Shorebird Site Network which includes a few other parks INCLUDING Australia’s Kakadu National Park! I had went to this national park back in summer 2016 during my Duke in Australia program. How awesome is that! As we hiked its trail, we made it to a part where it is on the edge of Singapore actually and directly across the water was Malaysia! Literally right in front of me, in pure sight, was the bordering country of Malaysia.

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Also on the edge of the park were these logs inserted into the ground in the water almost like a fence which were put there to prevent crocodiles from entering the area and disturbing those who wished to take advantage of the mud experience. The mud experience, according to Dr. Dan was where visitors can step onto the mudflats during low tide and get an up-close experience with those organisms living within the mudflats. The area where most of the mud experience actually occurs was off this balancing rope bridge where visitors can climb down onto a lower platform and onto a wood walkway with stairs leading into the mudflat. We departed the wetland reserve and headed to our next destination: Bollywood Veggies!

This may have been my favorite place thus far if not one of my favorite places (which includes Gardens by the Bay). Bollywood Veggies, located on Kranji’s Countryside in Singapore was a sustainable agricultural farm owned by Ivy Singh-LIm who is also President of the Kranji Countryside Association. Her farm utilizes freshly grown fruits and vegetables in its Bistro! She was so energetic and welcoming toward us on her farm. She really is the epitome of a gentle warrior (which she calls herself and truly is) and true advocate for the environment because to her, Bollywood Veggies is more than just farming:

“It’s about creating a circle of life. The very rich must help to carry the poor. Everything that has a heartbeat has a place in the kingdom of the gentle warrior”

-Ivy Singh-Lim (SG Asia-City 2014)

We all sat down to lunch and Dr. Dan, Emily, Kayla, Daniella, and I all shared the Bollywood Starters Plate which consisted of Bolly Wings, Samosas, Moringa Tempura, Mixed Veggies/Salad and Chicken Curry I believe. Although on the website the dish on the menu says different, I do not remember if we had Spring Rolls or not! It was all SO good. For dessert, we tried their freshly made banana bread and IT WAS HEAVENLY. Wow it was so fresh you could taste the bananas that they grew and baked into it. We then had a tour of the garden with Anthony, and he was so smart and witty as he talked about how smart plants are. I tried a seed from a freshly grown pepper there and it was SO SPICY wow, and I usually love spicy things! My mouth was burning for a bit afterwards. But we learned that the spiciness was an adaptation for the pepper in order to defend itself against the fungus that tries to attack it. It is did not have the capsicum inside it, it would not survive. We had a bit of history background also about the introduction of various plants and got to see the Sandbox Tree which is one of the most poisonous trees in the world. We saw breadfruit trees, jackfruit trees, flowering trees that had blooming hibiscus flowers (which are used in makeup and also as shoe shiners in the past), and we also saw Tom’s personal favorite I’m sure, the coffee plant. This tour was so much fun. I really loved talking to Anthony and listening to him and his passion about plants and agriculture. The farming practices reminded me a lot about what I learned in my classes back at Duke and also I cannot wait to share all this with my best friend Natasha! She would be over the moon about this. I really hope to go back there one day soon. Sadly, we had to say good bye and head to our next destination, back to Sungei Buloh, through another entrance to hike the other trail that they offered. On this trail however, at the pond at the entrance, we saw a medium sized Water Monitor Lizard! A bit further down, across the bridge that was over the river, we even saw a small crocodile on the water’s edge. No snakes however on this hike 😦 but I was able to point out to Dr. Dan a smaller sized Monitor Lizard that was almost camouflaged on a tree branch. We were also able to see some ferrel dogs that are in the park on our walk before it started to rain. After the rain slowed down we made our way to the Frog Farm where they grow and reproduce frogs. The farm was closed so we only were able to look around; I am not a HUGE fan of frogs so I tried to keep my distance haha. The tadpoles and fish were cute though. From here, we headed to our last destination for the day: the cemetery. *cue the thunder and lighting and instant rain storm* Just kidding :). We went to three cemeteries and all three were actually VERY different but very fascinating because they were structured based on religion. There was a Chinese cemetery that had Hinduism and Muslim rituals for the burial of the dead, another Muslim cemetery, and then we went to a Catholic/Christian cemetery. The differentiation between the three was profound whether it was how well it was kept or the over all construction of the graves. Check it out below (one of the pictures is not mine because I was not able to get a clear show of the Muslim graves):

Later on in the evening, I decided to venture out to Chinatown on my own. It was definitely an adventure. I took the #10 bus to the Haw Por Villa MRT where I got on the Circle Line to Harbor Front and then took the North East Line to Chinatown. This was then where I knew I needed to memorize where I was going. I came to Chinatown hoping to try the well-known dish from Singapore called the Chili Crab, but no one in our group knew how much it was because it always said “Market Price”. I went and sat down in this restaurant in Chinatown just off the Buddha Tooth Temple and THIS DISH WAS $46. I passed. I ended up getting some Seafood Fried Rice and Dumplings with Dragonfruit Juice. I guess I will not be trying Chili Crab this time around haha. I really enjoyed my time walking around Chinatown though and seeing the shops, buying a few gifts and collectibles here and there, before heading back just at sunset so I would be home around dark. Overall, it was a really great day and I definitely had a lot of fun on my adventures in Singapore today.

Day 3: The Day I Almost Got Lost in Singapore

(February 22) *5 A.M.* Man this jet-lag is really not giving up on me is it? I am still trying to shake the jet-lag so after laying in bed for an hour, I started getting ready for going downstairs to prepare for blog posting and breakfast. I try to be on time for the 7 A.M. breakfast, even though I could be later if I wanted. Maybe the longer I am here, the lazier I will get at being to breakfast on time. The days have been starting consistently at 8:30 A.M. now, which gives us a schedule. Breakfast consists of the following items that are available for selection: an approaching proficient omelette, fDSCN3040.JPGried eggs, scrambled eggs, and fried rice with fried egg or fried noodles with fried egg. The eggs usually come with this link of what appears to be sausage cut in half and then there is white toast with New Zealand butter and Orange Marmalade. We really eating gourmet style out here L.O.L. Tea and coffee are available as well which is nice, the staff is friendly and tolerant as we invade their morning breakfast every day at around 7:30-8 A.M. Today, was the Bishan Ang Mo Kio Park wetland! It took what felt like forever to get to it, but we finally made it and to our surprise it was abundant in a diversity of fish and bird species. For example, we saw a white-breasted water hen and HUGE catfish along with other fish species. Our itinerary had said that we were going to be fin clipping however instead of fin clipping, we collected water samples that we will be analyzing back at the Duke Marine Lab with genetic barcoding to confirm the organisms we observed in these areas as well as illuminate new species that may inhabit the wetland as well.
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We had to go to the Environment Building of Singapore and sign paperwork confirming that the research analysis of the water samples we collected would be classified and was for the purpose of research. It was so official, I was amazed. Dr. Dan said that he had just been approved yesterday, after waiting almost a year when he first filed a request to collect samples from the wetland back in May 2016! The process must be incredibly elaborate, going through various chains of command. Well, after we signed our lives away, we headed to the National Museum of Singapore! It was a trek and a half to get there, but we made it
to this beautiful building. The architecture and design was  gorgeous. I wish I had taken more pictures of the inside, but photography was limited to none so I decided not to take my chances. They had an exhibit with all of Singapore’s history from its days as an early trading village, to its annexation from Malaysia to be the independent nation that it is today. According to geological findings, the earliest history of Singapore began during the Paleozoic Era where the oldest rock formations are dated to be from (shoutout to Professor Alexander Glass). It was a img_9118productive and growing port in the 14th century with various names such as Danmaxi or the most common: Singapura. From 1299-1818, Singapura was a burgeoning trading hub where one could find Chinese porcelain, stoneware, or other pottery and local products. It was not until 1819 when it was discovered by the British, when its trading potential was recognized. Sir Stamford Raffles and Major William Farquhar arrived in Singapore in January 1819 where they claimed and occupied the region through the English East India Company. William Farquhar is recognized as the first British Resident and Commandant of colonial Singapore, and assisted in its governance where by 1826 Singapore had become a Crown Colony to the British. No longer were the Straits Settlements, the settled areas within the Strait of Malacca, under the control of the EIC. Singapore had been an integral part of Britain’s empire in Asia and by the late 19th century it became an important financial and economic center. The fight over Singapore by the Brits and the Japanese during the early years of the first World War led to Japanese occupation by February 1942 and its new name: Syonan-To. However, Britain was able to reoccupy Singapore by 1945 and by the early 60s Britain sought a way to end their direct rule over Singapore while still having security over their commercial interests. This led to the creation of Malaysia in September 1963. The joint countries however only lasted for two years. In 1965, Singapore sought independence after concern over a too closely linked economy to that of the peninsular Malaya. Now, Singapore is one of the most prosperous nations in Southeast Asia! Its economic growth, People’s Action Party elected prime minister: Lee Kuan Yew, and push toward sustainability has allowed Singapore to prosper as the nation and widely recognized trading port that it is today. That is a short crash course on Singapore history :).

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Then came the worst part: I GOT LOST. So Dr. Dan and Tom left the museum and the rest of the class was still inside looking at the exhibits. We all do not have cellular service or data, well Trevyn does but the rest of us do not, and we all cannot really stay in contact unless we have Wi-Fi. I was own my own throughout the museum and made it through all the exhibits when I realized, where the heck was everyone? I looked around through the main exhibits, I had went through the Story of the Forest, no one was to be found. I connected to the museum’s Wi-Fi and texted the GroupMe….nothing. So, it was time for Bri to venture out into Singapore on her own. Just me. All by myself. In a big country (j.k. it is a small island). Alone. Thank Jesus above for Google Maps because on the museum’s Wi-Fi I managed to find the nearest MRT station and hopped on to get to HarborFront, where instead of taking the next MRT to Haw Por Villa, I forgot and went through Vivo City mall for some reason and ended up literally on the Harbor Front. Like, that was when I discovered that Singapore has a Universal Studios. Of course, I did not get to take advantage of that but it’s fine. I searched for a bus station and instead found another MRT station and low and behold it had a way to Haw Por Villa. I made it to Haw Por Villa, and was able to catch a #10 Bus to Pasir Panjang Road and back to Pasir Panjang Inn, my hotel. I managed to get back to my hotel, on my own, in an hour. You know what I did as soon as I got home? I went right to bed and it was only 6 pm.

Day 2: Whatta Walk!

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Today (February 21st), was straight hiking. We were headed for Kent Ridge. We hiked up this long hill, looking around for any possible creatures in our path until we arrived at Kent Ridge Park and embarked on its Heritage Trail. Kent Ridge Park is a known to be a 47-hectare public park located in Kent Ridge, Singapore, between the National University of Singapore and the Singapore Science Park. Its historical significance is its location. Here, was fought one of the last battles for Singapore during World War II! It was a wonderful trail featuring rich vegetation and a high biodiversity of flora and fauna. It stretched for what looked to be a few hundred kilometers. The abundance of greenery, birds like kingfishers and brown shrikes stretched along the wooded and metal railed walkway. The trail is described as this “living diorama” where they have created three zones to reflect the history of the vegetation in Kent Ridge Park and Singapore in general. The three zones are Original Vegetation which includes lowland evergreen rainforest, Agricultural Crops that have been key in cultivating at one point in Singapore, and Present-Day Vegetation that represents most of the forests areas that are left in Singapore. The elevated boardwalk is a total of 280 meters long, linking HortPark to Kent Ridge Park!

Following the board-walk we were greeted by beautiful skyline views of Singapore’s city centres and toward the middle to end, we encountered a view of the port. Where we were standing on the boardwalk, also called Henderson Waves, was actually +67.22 meters above sea level How crazy is that! The Henderson Waves bridge is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore. It was completed in 2008 and has a whopping 274-meters in total
length. HortPark, the gardening hub, was filled with flowering vegetation and greenhouses that appeared to take advantage of the ability to partake in sustainable agricultural practices. As we walked through this park, there was a river and we saw two or three otters swimming along the side where vegetation was floating at the surface! So adorable. There was this little area that was actually a one-stop geneal store called NÓNG by Edible Garden City where private events like company off-sites and team outings can be organized and allow members to become farmers for a day odscn3001r get down and dirty in the garden. It promotes “farm-to-table” on a whole other level where the vegetables that are being served to you or harvested BY YOU are growing only a few feet away from you. We continued along the trail and saw the SP Jain School of Global Management which was surrounded by greenery and vibrant colors. The entirety of our hike composed what is known as the Southern Ridges Walk, a five kilometer hiking trail that takes pedestrians through three of Singapore’s major parks: Kent Ridge Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, and Mount Faber Park. We ended at Harbor Front where we found lunch at this little Food Court! I tried this dish called Braised Pork Rice with some cilantro and scallions after Eudora had recommended I try it when she got it! It was delicious J. Afterwards, the undergrads and I walked around the Vivo City mall which was HUGE with a few recognizable brands from the states like VANS. The graduate students got to check out the gondolas that we walked by when we went towards the Bell of Happiness! I wish I had gone with them! I will make my way over there eventually (I hope). The gondolas were SO COOL. Meters above the ground, they hang over Singapore’s landscape by the port and although apparently the view was not AS spectacular, you did get to see Singapore from a different perspective! We ended the day traveling through Singapore’s academic district with all of its universities and schools. It took about an hour to get to our destination at NIE where Professor Dan was giving us along with Lik Tong Tan’s class at the Uni on Pharmaceuticals and fouling management. Some of the graduate students and I later stopped by a bakery where I tried Apple European Soft Bread! IT WAS DELICIOUS. A great treat to end the day.

Day 1: Welcome to Singapore

Today (February 20) we began on the bus and headed to the MRT, the Mass Rapid Transit (basically a Singapore subway system), to get to the Gardens by the Bay which is a city garden that is only 3 years old. According to TripAdvisor, it is the number one attraction in Singapore with already 20 million visitors total after three years of being open. It was absolutely beautiful…breathtaking honestly. When we arrived at the Gardens there was this area known as SuperTree Grove where these immensely tall tree-like structures that fostered this vertical gardening technique reaching 20-25 meters high. There were about 5 of them. You could walk on this walkway known as the OCBC Skyway where the best view was right at sunset or a little later where the city center is illuminated. They have a light demonstration at night which is absolutely beautiful around 7:45pm.

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We circled the gardens and saw a biodiversity of flora that was amazing. In the center, was a large white baby which was an art sculpture titled “Planet” signifying the connection between life and the Earth. From there, we went past the Children’s Bay Garden Café and stopped at a fresh fruit and smoothie place where I was able to try Starfruit and Dragonfruit again (my first time was in Australia) as well as a smoothie called Bayfront Sunset. We proceeded to go to the Marina Barrage, a dam constructed at the confluence of five of Singapore’s rivers where they embrace the three benefits they calculated: water supply, flood control, and lifestyle attraction. Opened in 2008, they constructed the dam to seal off the ocean from the used-to-be estuary of brackish water in order to secure a freshwater supply from the country’s rivers. Most of the non-anadromous fish died when it was constructed. After examining the green roof on top of the barrage and the view of the city centre skyline and we ended up seeing a fighter jet pass over the area (possibly Singapore Army). We went to Maxwell Food Court and surveyed the options we had to eat. I ended up picking the Cuttlefish stuffed with sprouts and lettuce over a bed of cucumbers with a spicy side sauce as well as a few “century eggs” that are apparently eggs that are left in the ground to ferment more. Not my favorite dish but it was really cool! We then went to the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority which was first opened in 1999 and City Gallery where students were displaying their urban city planning research and architecture designs of what they believed were the best ways to utilize some of Singapore’s land spaces. There was a full scale island-wide model of Singapore on the ground floor with every detail of the present and future planned buildings on the map.

It was down to the T! The next level displayed a gallery of a full scale model of the city center, or center area, and also some background about Singapore’s history toward sustainability in their Periods of Progress section. Their urge for planning, consultation and realization was evident in their interactive displays. One of the our favorites was the wipe-away screen where you can see the before and after of Singapore’s initiative toward greener designs. There was a lot of emphasis on embracing heritage and a community-based approach to ensure that all bases were covered to the best degree in ensuring civilian appeal. This may have been my favorite part of the day because it not only covered the fundamentals of urban design but also the history of progress needed in order to develop successfully. We proceeded on to the Buddha-Tooth Relic Temple and Museum where we were able to observe a ceremony and see the relic tooth of Buddha. Because of my love for rompers, I had to put on a shawl and tie a skirt-like thing around my waist to pay my respects to the religion and how it emphasizes being conservative. The architecture, art, and design of the temple was magnificent. I remained quiet but vigilant of my surroundings as I stood toward the middle of the observation area, it was very fascinating to watch. We later left to go walk through Chinatown where I bought my boyfriend and I these small scale posters with our names handwritten in Chinese and on the back, the meanings of our names. The intricate strokes are so beautiful. The lady running the shop was very friendly and curious about me asking why I came to Singapore and what have I enjoyed thus far. It was a lovely conversation, I will never forget her magenta eyeshadow, soft tone, and almost grandmother-like gestures and questions. We then departed for the MRT and the bus system to take us home where I realized how fatigued and sick I was feeling. It had been a long day and I needed sleep. Unfortunately, I woke up still feeling sick with my sore throat. I am trying to not let it discourage me because I still have more days to go before I return home to the states. I cannot wait for what today will bring.

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