Archive for February, 2010

28
Feb
10

#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.

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27
Feb
10

#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!

26
Feb
10

#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.

25
Feb
10

#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.

24
Feb
10

#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.

23
Feb
10

#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.

22
Feb
10

#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.