Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Turnin' Avocado to Guacamole

Final countdown begins!  Only three full days left in Singapore.  Fortunately, I've been able to cross off all the last major things off my Singapore bucket list.
Last Tuesday, Jen, Dawn, Marie and I finally made it to the famous Gardens by the Bay, which was incredibly impressive even for someone who doesn't know too much about flowers.  The cab driver told us that the gardens contained over 70,000 types of vegetation.  Jen and I focused on redeeming our Groupon to see the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest conservatories.  The Flower Dome featured gardens from around the world, including some crazy Baobab trees (from Australia, if I recall correctly) that inspired the Supertrees that they illuminated each night.  The Cloud Forest was undisputedly my favorite- despite the humid moistness was frizzing my hair beneath its braids.  It featured a 35 meter high man made waterfall covered with a variety of orchards and ferns, which you could explore from the inside on multiple levels- I've never seen anything like it.
Waterfall at the cloud forest

We finished those gardens just in time for the simultaneously futuristic and tribal Supertree sound and light show- it felt like a cross between the Lion King and Star Trek.  Tomorrow, I'm meeting Lauren, Daly (my dumpling friend) and some fellowship people for wine and cheese inside one of the Supertrees!  So pumped- Lauren went last month and said she felt like she was inside a James Bond movie.
Supertree Grove
Speaking of fun Wednesdays, I think Wednesdays are favorite day of the week in Singapore.  Last Wednesday was particularly amazeballs because Ken got the EAPSI gang a room at Marina Bay Sands.  AND we got upgraded to a premiere room on the 47th floor with a ginormous bathtub.  I'm not used to staying places so nice- we called down to order some ice and ask for extra cups.  They called back, what kind of cups we would need.  Sure enough, when we opened the cubard, we found at least a dozen cups: coffee mugs, wine glasses, beer mugs, tumblers, highball glasses... more glassware than I know how to name!
Alissa jumping up and down- blur of excitement!
We didn't linger too long because fellow fellows were flooding in and we didn't want to miss out on our Ladies Night free drinks.  Almost everyone showed up and it was a fun way to celebrate a successful and truly unforgettable summer.

Katie, Dawn and Alissa in the infinity pool
Once Alissa and I stopped jumping for joy over the spacious epicness of the room, we donned bathrobes and headed to the infinity pool on the 57th floor. Nothing can beat the viewing experience of peering over the edge of the pool to see the illuminated city, spilling out before you.  It's where the musical genius B.o.b. shot his "Livin' the high life" music video (I think I shared it in an earlier post), rapping to life changing lyrics, including those in the title of this post (just kidding, it's an awful song but we like it for nostalgic reasons).
Most of the Marina Bay Sands crowd- some of the boys were still having fun in the room
Work has been going well too.  Last Monday, I gave a successful talk at NUS high school, despite being bleary-eyed after stepping off my Sri Lanka flight at 5 AM.  All of the physics teachers came and most stayed an hour and a half after my talk to chat (and eat yummy snacks).  Prior to my talk, I got a private tour of the impressive facilities.  Singapore definitely is doing some extremely innovative things with their education system.  NUS high school is exempt from national exams and they exploit that freedom to get students engaged in high level research opportunities, machine shop classes and electronics labs.  One student independently constructed Tesla Coils (a project beyond the capabilities of his teachers- they just gave him space to work).  Pretty impressive for 7-12th graders!
Today, I gave my final educational outreach "talk" to NUS-Yale college, which I was a little nervous about because the professors there were by far my most educated audience.  The acceptance rate for students was only 4% (in the first year of operation!) and students turned down Stanford and Yale to attend this brand-new school.  Dr. Adams, who I had met with before, was born in Kenya, earned degrees from Stanford, Oxford and Cornell, earned the prestigious National Research Fellowship scholarship in Singapore and helped set up a S$225 million educational initiative as a graduate student! He encouraged me to read the faculty bios of the RSVPed attendees and everyone was Ivy League educated, innovative and adventurous.  And he wanted me to provide a ten-minute introduction to SCALE-UP then lead a two-hour discussion so I had no idea what they were going to ask me.  Over a dozen people showed up which was an impressive turnout considering they have a small staff to begin with and everyone's nervous about classes starting next week.  I wish I knew more specific details about SCALE-UP implementations in the humanities (NUS-Yale College is Asia's first Liberal Arts College so they have a strong presence in the humanities) but at least I could successfully direct them to further resources.  Most of them stayed all two hours and it was cool to hear about their visions for the school.  Everyone gets the 7th week of classes off and students are encouraged to go on interdisciplinary trips- that sounds right up my alley!  And I got jokingly offered a job so they must have liked me.
So life is good!  Vice President Biden visited Singapore this past weekend and I was kinda bummed to have to turn down my invite since I'd be in the Philippines (in Dawn's approximate words "Superpumped to be invited to VP Biden's visit to Singapore.  Bummed to miss it.  Superpumped to miss it because I'll be in the Philippines") but the cohort who went, said we didn't miss much (just a 30 minutes broadcasting America's greatness).  So that was a relief.  Tonight, I'm meeting Etkin and some other couchsurfers at West Coast Park for some good brews and views.  Tomorrow is Wine and Cheese in the Supertrees, Thursday is lunch with the lab, Friday is the closing ceremony and Saturday morning, I'm off!

This summer has been the ultimate amazing adventure.  I've accomplished all I wanted (and more!) so I think I'll be happy to be home.  I told Zach that this summer was the traveling equivalent of a thanksgiving feast- it'll be nice to wallow in the equivalent of the subsequent "food coma", blissfully filled with good travels, good times and good memories.  I'm definitely looking forward to cooking, eating oatmeal, getting back into yoga, playing with Effie, seeing everyone and enjoying ant-free workspaces and warm showers.  
I won't be surprised if the next time I write, I'm in the airport- so enjoy life until then!