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.
Steve Peake
7/13/2010 11:42:57 pm

James, it looks like you've started out well. Please don't forget take your hosts out to a nice dinner. And please don't waste your money buying things for your family. We'd rather you spend it on sight-seeing and exotic foods.

Unless, of course, you can get a good deal on a Rolex for me...

8/5/2010 01:05:01 pm

James, I really enjoyed your blog posts! We miss you!!!

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7/14/2012 08:25:00 pm

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