Archive for February, 2010


#59 chinese lanterns

059/365 chinese lanterns, originally uploaded by rosipaw.

The last and 15th day of the Chinese New Year celebrations is also known as the Lantern Festival. Unfortunately, we missed seeing the lantern processions in the evening, but we did see lots of lanterns all through our visit. In fact, these beautifully shaped and coloured decorations kept drawing my eyes like magnets.

These ones are from the ceiling of one of the several big malls in Singapore, where shopping seemed to be the number 1 national passtime. I liked the shape of this ‘lantern chandelier’, and especially the combination of the pink plum blossoms with the bright red of the lanterns.


#58 paradise of food

058/365 paradise of food, originally uploaded by rosipaw.

The selection of food on offer in Singapore was so overwhelming that I, used to a much more limited choice, found it impossible to choose anything in the end. Luckily, we always had our local colleagues with us to guide us with the never-ending menus. During the week, we tried most of the main ethnic cuisines – Chinese, Indian, Malay, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese… And it was all mouth-wateringly delicious and exotic. So much variety that my mind boggles!

Food is also relatively cheap, which probably explains why eating out is one of the favourite passtimes of Singaporeans. I’m sure that also their unbelievably hectic lifestyle contributes to this – people simply don’t have the time to spare for cooking at home. And why would you when exciting restaurants abound!


#57 orchids

057/365 orchids, originally uploaded by rosipaw.

Endless fields of Singapore’s national flowers were presented to us on our visit to Orchidville. We only saw a tiny part of the huge farm, but learned a lot about the orchid in general, and the ways of making hybrids of all possible colours.

For us, orchids are special and rather expensive flowers. We would usually just buy or receive one at a time, and feel really upset if it died. It was very strange to see them cultivated in millions.

In fact, our students found it quite hard to see our guides break off a flower here and another there to show us some details. They realized afterwards that it was exactly due to our notion of the rarity and preciousness of these flowers. Perception and interpretation are so often relative and based on our cultural backgrounds and biases.


#56 a place of peace

056/365 a place of peace, originally uploaded by rosipaw.

As a Finn, from a scarcely populated country of wide open areas, I have a need for peace and quiet every so often. Much as I like the refreshing hustle and bustle of foreign metropolises, and all the new exciting experiences, a place like this tea room in Chinatown in Singapore, offered a welcome moment of respite in the busy lifestyle.

The tea room had nice little nooks and crannies for parties of various sizes and all kinds of calming zen-like decor. It’s lovely to gather around a low table and sit on red silky cushions, although I have to admit that my unaccustomed knees did protest a bit. And then prepare proper tea (ie. not the teabag variety!) and enjoy it from tiny little cups following all the meticulous rituals. Good for the soul.


#55 nature-inspired architecture

Nature is an important source of inspiration for Finnish architecture, and art in general. A lot of buildings and designs derive their shapes from the vast areas of untouched nature around us.

Maybe that is why I found this building in Singapore the most interesting. It is the Esplanade, Theatres on the Bay, only opened in 2002 as the venue for performing arts in Singapore. It is colloquially called “the durian”, referring to the tropical fruit that it very much resembles in shape.

Durian is a challenge for me. I find its smell rather repulsively strong and strange, and haven’t managed to get used to its peculiar taste either during all my travels in Asia. Yet, locals consider it the king of fruits. For me, the smell is somehow petrollic, and the taste like overcooked onion.


#54 east meets west

054/365 east meets west, originally uploaded by rosipaw.

Host and guest – one a Malay Muslim, the other a Finnish Christian. Very different in so many ways, but also so similar deep down. Face-to-face student exchanges teach insights into diversity and difference, but also to what connects us humans deep down, and what we share in common. Sounds a cliché, but is so very true.

Our student exchanges are always home-stay visits. Even a short stay at the home of a local family gives a new perspective to the lives of people in other countries. It helps dismantle stereotypes and promote tolerance and understanding. Our week in Singapore taught us first-hand about diversity in a multi-cultural society, since some students stayed with Chinese, others with Indian and others still with Malay families. Not only were their native languages different, but also their religions, customs, homes reflected their ethnic backgrounds. What an experience for our students from a largely monocultural Finland! In our debriefing sessions after returning home we will try to deepen the lessons learned.


#53 school murals

053/365 school murals, originally uploaded by rosipaw.

On Monday, we got the first glimpses of our partner school in Singapore. I fell in love with the new colour world straight away.

Our partner school, Pioneer Secondary, pays special attention to promoting students’ ownership of the school building. This is done, for example, by involving students in decorating the school, and having their creative artwork on display all around the building.

This mural painted by the students is on one of the walls around the main yard. It beautifully depicts some of the local flowers that we also had the chance to see live. The biggest one is the orchid, the national flower of Singapore.


#52 steamboat

052/365 steamboat, originally uploaded by rosipaw.

After an eventful week of student exchange in Singapore, I am trying to catch up with the rhythm of my daily photos. So many photos to choose from, but most of them more of the holiday snapshot style. Due to a hectic schedule all week, all I was able to do was to keep snapping away, without much chance to reflect about or focus on composition or other photographic features. I had to leave the sorting, editing and choosing of my daily photos till I came back.

On arrival, the first Sunday evening, we were prepared to leave for a steamboat trip somewhere straight after the flight, since this was written on our itinerary for the evening. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t too keen to go anywhere after travelling around 24 hours non-stop.

But what a misunderstanding and a big relief when it turned out that the Singapore steamboat is actually a special Chinese New Year meal enjoyed together with a group of relatives or friends. In the middle of the table there is a steaming pot of chicken broth on a hot plate and around it, delicious ingredients to steam – tofu, fish balls, pieces of fish and chicken, Chinese cabbage and a lot of other goodies. Chai Lin, our host on the right, had invited a nice group of colleagues from her school to welcome us in this special way. We were really happy to just stay at home that first evening! A Chinese New Year’s parade was on loud on a flat screen TV on the wall, as we were laughing and chatting – and we guests struggling to use the chopsticks.


#51 Singapore and sun – here I come!

Winter holiday, and I and a colleague are taking 8 students on a student exchange trip to Singapore to visit our partner school there.

This little porcelain sun smiles on our balcony – a souvenir from the sunny carnival in Sicily. I am expecting lots of sun and carnival atmosphere this time too. Can’t wait! I’m all packed and leaving for the airport in an hour.

I don’t think I will be posting here much for a week, but lots of pictures when I come back, I’m sure.


#50 “the day of the old”

050/365 “the day of the old”, originally uploaded by rosipaw.

Following yesterday, when the high school seniors (3rd-graders) left school, today the 2nd-graders took their place as the oldest students of the school – and with style. All dressed up in old-fashioned style finery, they performed old ballroom dances that had been practised with the PE teacher for weeks before.

This is an old tradition in Finnish high schools although it has changed a lot during the years. In the past, everybody used to rummage through their parents’ and grandparents’ atticks for genuine vintage outfits, but today it has unfortunately taken on, not always nice and desirable, competitive traits of who has the most beautiful and expensive outfit.

The polonaise, waltzes and other dances are really lovely to watch. But the lighting conditions in our school gym are miserable for my camera… More pictures of the dances can be seen in this Flickr set.


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