Here are the sweet kids I taught the other day! Sorry the image is so blurry...
So I don't really have time for a lengthy update at this point.  In fact, I am preparing to leave in about 30 min. for Bali!  

Long story short:  the conference was simply amazing.  I met dozens of people from all around the world, and shared so much with them in terms of ideas, experience and knowledge.  I also learned some neat origami models, too!

Perhaps the biggest highlight of the conference was the opportunity to teach a group of primary school students, grades 3-5.  The kids were tops!!  They were so well behaved, intelligent and enthused by my lesson.  I also got to teach a class on origami corrugations (to the origami people, not the kids), and it looks like I got a handful of people hooked on pleating paper!  

Now I make my way to yet another tropical island... a beautiful, art-filled and mysterious one from what I hear.  Bali awaits, so now I must eat my breakfast and call my cab to the airport.  

See you in a week!!

Here are some awesome friends I made at the conference.
Singapore gets two thumbs up!
A really funny thing happened to me this morning...

After waking up at 8am local time from a normal night's sleep (yay!), I decided to venture out on my own and find a neighborhood pharmacy.  I was in need of some sunburn cream (not to worry... just a minor burn) as well as some additional mosquito repellent for my upcoming trip to Bali (I do NOT want to catch Dengue Fever!!!)  

First a note about this neighborhood:  the Jordan family (who I'm staying with) lives in a very affluent part of Singapore, a sort of equivalent to 5th Avenue in NYC.  There is a shopping mall on nearly every other city block.  Designer stores, food courts, groceries, movie theaters... you name it.  This place has it all.  And the malls can extend up to 4 floors both beneath and above the ground.  The thing that boggles my mind is that these areas are constantly bustling with people.  There is no shortage of consumers whatsoever.  It's a wonder that so many of these establishments can stay open, especially when you might find multiple Rolex stores all nestled within a few city blocks of each other.

One aspect of the underground shopping complex system that really works well is that they are often linked to the local subway lines.  I would guess that the majority of the crowds you see walking about the shopping centers are actually just commuting to and from work or just traveling to other destinations throughout the city.  (Let me just emphasize again how AMAZING the subway system is here.... more on that later.)

Another function of these underground passages is to serve as crosswalks for crossing certain city streets.  With 4.6 million people packed onto this tiny island, Singapore has found an ingenious method for diverting massive crowds of foot traffic away from the streets and into the underground.  This also helps to keep motor vehicle traffic running smoothly, as the traffic here moves at a very quick pace.  Of course, there are still several above-ground cross walks, which you must be vigilant of since the authorities will fine you S$20 for jay walking.

One nice thing about these underground spaces is that they are typically air conditioned.  Singapore is about 60 mi. north of the equator, keeping the temperature at a balmy 86-90 degrees F and the humidity close 100%... even in the evening.  So the air conditioned spaces are a nice retreat from the heat.  In fact, most indoor establishments have an AC blasting 24/7.  What really blows my mind is that a lot of these air conditioned stores and restaurants keep their front doors open much of the time.  You can often walk past a department store and feel an unnaturally cool breeze blowing across your body, EVEN from up to 150 ft. away.  

ANYWAYS... I digress.   Back to my story.  I managed to locate the pharmacy but was reminded that most stores in Singapore don't open until 10am. This gave me some time to wander around the ritzy sidewalks and explore some of the underground spaces.  I started noticing these large groups of teenagers who were all wearing these neon green t-shirts with writing that indicated they were competing in a scavenger hunt.

"Looks like fun," I thought.

I eventually purchased my goods and was traveling back to the apartment when I encountered another one of these scavenger mobs.  They had noticed me from afar, and approached me to see if I would be willing to take a photo with them.  I asked for them to take one with my camera, too.

But as I was about to part from the group, they stopped me to ask me for one more favor.  

A girl asks, "Could you please do 5 push-ups for us?"

Needless to say, I got down on the street and went to work.  The group counted in unison and applauded once I finished the last one.   

I must admit, it had been a while since I had done any push-ups, so I'm glad I was able to make it all the way through.  ;)
Greetings from SE Asia!  I have arrived safe and sound, and I couldn't be happier.  The 30 hr trip to the other side of the world was smooth as silk, and I have already started adjusting to the drastic 12 hr time change.  (Even though I woke up at 3:30am this morning after an 8 hour nap... I think I'm making progress!  Fortunately, it gives me a wonderful opportunity to BLOG!) 

On my way here, I got to stop in Narita, Japan (just outside of Tokyo) where I spent about 5 hours exploring and napping in the Japanese airport.  Even though I only caught the tiniest glimpse of the Japanese culture, it was still a thrilling experience for me (especially since this is my first ever over-seas voyage).  I am quite intrigued by the Japanese! 
Landing in Singapore after my final 8hr leg of travel was exhilerating (thanks in part to the magnificent green tea I was served by the Japan Air Line stewardess right before touch down.)  Getting through Immigration and Customs was a breeze, and luckily I was able to exchange currency at the Changi Airport, even though I arrived after midnight, local time.  The Chinese cab driver that brought me to my friends' home in Singapore was extremely nice and full of useful information.  It was a warm welcome to this strange and distant land.  

Singapore is a very modern and technologically advanced society.  Their public transportation system is one of the best in the world, and their strict laws and regulations have created a sort of paradox:  as one of the most densely populated countries in the world, it is also one of the cleanest.  The high price for owning and operating a motor vehicle keeps air pollution down and traffic problems to a minimum.  I must say that despite these crowning achievements, it doesn't appear that Singapore cares much about the disposal of its solid waste, as recycling and composting receptacles are virtually non-existent.  I wonder where all the trash ends up, seeing as Singapore has so little land.  I have a hunch that trash either ends up being incinerated (like they do in Japan), or shipped off to Malaysia, which is an awful idea but entirely possible considering the vast economic rift between this rich nation and the surrounding "developing" territories.
I can't tell you how lucky I am to have friends to stay with in Singapore.  The Jordan family (who I know through my friend, Brittany Jordan, from Oberlin College) have been SO kind to put me up during my time here.  Brittany's parents, Al and Alison, and sister, Michele,  are currently living here in Singapore.  They had a remarkable opportunity to move out here through Al's job earlier this year.  Why move to Singapore?  Brittany is currently in the 2nd year of a Shansi Fellowship in Indonesia, which you can learn all about in her WONDERFUL blog! This way her folks don't have to be away from their daughter for two whole years.  Of all the places to know people..... Oberlin sure has a way for setting its students up for world-wide exploration!
Al and Michele are AWESOME tour guides and hosts!!
On my first day in this lovely country, Al and Michele helped me acclimate to the local public transportation system.  It looks like my transit to the Origami Conference  will take me no more than 20 min. or so!  AMAZING!  I purchased an MRT card (Mass Rapid Transit) which is good for both the subway AND the busses.  You gotta hand it to Singapore....   

Anyways, we took in a few sites which included a stop at the famous Merlion statue, the official mascot of Singapore.  From the Merlion, you have a perfect view of the new Marina Bay Sands Casino, which is nearing completion... you gotta check this place out.  It has an "infinity pool" on its cantilevered observation deck which has the appearance of no outer boundary beyond the edge of the roof.  (I will post a photo of this soon.)
Kimche dumpling ramen! Mmmmm good!
Then we hit up a nearby hawker stand and enjoyed some local cuisine.  This particular "food court" is the oldest hawker stand of its kind, and is located in the heart of Singapore's financial district.  The food here is quite delicious and very affordable (I only paid S$6.00 total for my meal and beverage, which translates to about $4.00 US).  I plan on eating in these fast food courts as much as possible during my stay here.
One of the stalls at the hawker stand.
In a local perfume shop on Arab St.
After our lunch, we walked to Arab St. to see a beautiful mosque and tour around some of the local shops.  While Singapore is a very Westernized and modern society, the country has many "pockets" of traditional and historical significance.  The cultural diversity of this tiny island is remarkable.  Today, I think we're going to hit up Chinatown and Little India.

Islam is the predominant religion in the region.
What the...?
One interesting encounter that happened yesterday while we were walking around the financial district:  a procession of military vehicles from the Singapore armed services passed by on a closed-off city street.  This was quite an unusual site, considering the fact that Singapore is such a peaceful nation.  Was Singapore about to be invaded?!  Fortunately, NO!  The procession was actually a rehearsal for the upcoming parade that will celebrate Singapore's independence.  What a relief!

Oh, just rehearsing for a parade. Phew!

I can't promise that my future blog posts in Singapore will be this extensive...  I don't necessarily want to wake up at 3 in the morning every day I'm here.  Then again, this sort of schedule can work wonders in the bloggershpere!  

Please stay tuned for more to follow!

Coming up:
  • Origami, origami, origami!
  • 10 things I LOVE about Singapore; &
  • An excursion to BALI!!!
Al and I in front of the mosque.