Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Destination: Singapore!

Sorry for the slight delay in posting- I left my macbook charger in the hotel in Thailand which isn't the best place for it and it's surprisingly challenging to find a replacement but I've secured a temporary solution.
It's hard to believe how fast the first three days flew by in Singapore.  Ken and I got in late Sunday night, settled into our teeny (but air conditioned and perfectly adequate rooms) in the Prince George Apartment complex.  Bright and early Monday morning, we were bussed off to rejoin the other fellows at an opening ceremony for the EAPSI Singapore programs.  Some university administration, faculty supervisors, past EAPSI alum working in Singapore and even a representative from the American embassy joined to welcome us.  This does seem to be a country where people come to visit then end up staying and/or living... I think this place is a little too predictable to capture my mind and heart but we'll see.  It is hands-down the nicest, cleanest, more organized and efficient city I've been in, so that's saying something.  After the morning festivities and brunch, the fun began with an afternoon of paperwork to procure Singapore student passes that substitute for the visa requirement.  The process was infinitely better orchestrated than Indian but it still took awhile when you need to wait in an office that services the entire country.  The afternoon involved Chinatown and Little India eating and shopping adventures and ended back in campus with a fruit sharing party where we munched on those red spiky fruits and mangosteens (new favorite!) and discussed travel plans.  Everyone in the program is really laid back and interesting, especially the other 8 living in my hostel and working at the National University of Singapore (NUS) so I'm really looking forward to this summer and hopefully we'll find in amazing weekend adventures.
Some of the skyline... such interesting architecture!
Tuesday was the fun orientation day.  We started off at a very random Transportation Gallery that summarized that showcased some of the technological leaps and techniques for moving people around this city efficiently.  After that, we went to a chapel and museum commemorating the Japanese occupation of Singapore during WWII which was pretty intense.  I never even thought about how this area might have been affected by the wars, since very little fighting took place here but there were many prisoners of war whom suffered greatly and it did impact the country significantly.
After that, we went to the famous Merlion park with amazing views of the Marina Bay Sands hotel and many fancy hotels and shops.  We had fun taking pictures and trying all kinds of crazy foods at the local hawker center.
Some of the EAPSI team at the famous Merlion

The real highlight was the Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo, which was probably the best zoo I've ever been to.  We hopped on a tram and received a narrated tour about so many animals, many of which I had never heard of.  Some of my favorites were the sloth bear, flying squirrels and various hyenas that looked straight out of the Lion King.  We got to walk around a few of the trails and watched the fire breathing tribal dancers but all of us wish we could have stayed longer.
Wednesday (today) was kinda the first day of work but we had to pick up our cheques and figure out banking so most people didn't end up doing much.  I was pretty proud of my productivity though.  I went swimming in the beautiful outdoor Olympic sized pool which made me really happy, picked up my check and met up with my host research for a lab tour and I met some of his students.  One of his students' projects on Nanostructured Co3O4, CoO and CoN as High Capacity and Long Life Anodes for Li-ion Batteries won a global award, which is incredibly impressive.  This summer, he has a variety of students from all over Singapore and India working in the lab, from high school students to junior college to PhD students.  So I guess I get to hang out with them as I analyze my data from Singapore University of Technology and Design, which actually has one of the active learning classrooms I need.  I'll walk there tomorrow and figure out if I can actually get data from them (*keeping my fingers crossed) and in the meantime, get ready to give a talk to the department on July 18th.
We loved these granite statues- Ken and I, Sam (the Singaporean) and the German girl

This afternoon, Ken and I met up with Sam (a Singaporean) and a visiting German couchsurfer.  We started with henna and lunch in Little India, went for beer and sightseeing in a pastel-colored alien town in Clarke Quay then ended up enjoying the wilderness at the Singapore Botanical Gardens which are free and massive and put Central Park to shame.  We thoroughly explored the Evolutionary Gardens (which take you through the development of living flora and fauna from the beginning) and the Healing Gardens (which are organized by biological system which was really cool... plants for digestive health, etc.).  We'll have to go back to finish the rest.
Ok, I'm meeting up with some people- sorry this was boring and rushed but I AM alive!
Exploring pre-historic forests