Nov 22

November 22 Cultural Tour of Singapore and fly to London. 

Yesterday we saw Singapore through the perspective of WW2, today we would see its other many faces. Geraldine was our guide and like other years she immediately connected with our group in her bubbly, engaging manner. Our kids were indeed privileged to have this experience and to have their insular worlds begin to open to the many different cultures and belief systems that make up this complex society.
Another early morning and large breakfast to combat the Indian meal from yesterday! We jumped on the bus for another hot and humid day in bustling Singapore. Among many things we went to little India and Chinatown where I purchased some unnecessary items at low prices- 3 pairs of sunglasses, 3 bracelets, 3 rings and a hat! We also visited a Hindu temple and Islamic mosque which was very educational.
Today we experienced the cultural aspects of Singapore where we learnt about the Hindu and Muslim religions. Respecting the beliefs of Islam we were required to wear sarongs to cover our legs.
The markets in the cultural centres are amazing as are the temples and mosque. We also visited a museum in Chinatown to learn about the experiences of the Chinese people in Singapore. For lunch we had a Chinese banquet: I tried almost everything and enjoyed most of it.
In Little India, I had a temporary henna tattoo. Went shopping and tasted the different foods while in Chinatown. I was a bit nervous but at the same time it was an experience. Had a great time learning about the culture and beliefs of the Muslims.
Learning about the different cultures has made me gain a lot more respect and a different view of the world. I’m really intrigued by the Indian culture. Amazing.
Singapore is a lovely place. The air is a buzz. Personally I feel that this group of students have been chosen well ….almost to enhance our journey. Some of us are covered in henna tattoos whilst others are wearing their newly purchased suit ties……classy bunch we are with. We have been guide to parts of Singapore that we would never have found on our own. The aromas in Little India are amazing. Love to everyone back home…….ps…book your ticket for 2012!
So as our group develops and melds a couple of things are becoming very clear: the dynamics of the group are wonderful. There is a very positive and co-operative feel amongst all the kids and they already are in the swing of group travel. They don’t have to be told about such things such as being on time and for looking out for each other.One of the special moments for me was our time in the Malay sector. Geraldine took us to the shop for Muslims which is run by a Hindu man….this is the essence of all that is Singapore. Barriers between cultures which we all too often see in our own home don’t seem to be an issue here. We purchased sarongs for the group and there we were in the main street dressing for the visit to the Mosque. Hilarious! The locals were very amused and asked where we were from. It was lovely. A game with a feather toy was played a bit like the hacky sack game the kids play in the yard. And then it was off to the mosque. What an experience for these kids. They took the whole thing very seriously and it was apparent that most of them were taken right out of their normal world. We were fortunate that one of the key people at the mosque was an American named Jason, a guy who had converted to Islam about five years ago…post September 11. He made it clear to the kids after welcoming us,  they could ask any questions they wanted to. And they DID! The intriguing thing was though the questions were all about the structure and tenets of Islam nothing to do with the whole 9/11 thing. And they were really well thought out and intelligent questions. They were fast and furious and I guess as Jason was so open about it all they felt kind of ‘safe’ and not fearful of saying the ‘wrong’ thing. It was a joy to be a part of and as we left the mosque I went up to him and thanked him for what he had given our kids….a positive encounter with something they are constantly told they should be fearful of: a different religious view of the world. But what we encountered via Jason was a belief of caring for the less fortunate amongst us and of a gentle and warm approach to people of all persuasions. Maybe, just maybe, today might be a small drop of tolerance to counteract the flood of the nasty narrow ideology that we are swamped by in the day to day life of the Australian media. We can only hope.
So after a superb day we were back to the hotel and getting ready for the flight to London. Swimming in the pool ….even got the bathers on after many years!!!! Argh!!!! The pool was one you could see from under the water level….all a bit scary. What fun they all had. And then it happened!!!!!!! My worst nightmare. I was in the lift with approximately 15 ish…. People going down to the lobby to get the cases ready for the bus pick up. And then the lift packed up. OMG….for someone who is seriously claustrophobic to be trapped in lift with kids who were laughing and carrying on one minute then panicking the next minute and me being the person who is meant to be in control well what can I say other than it took every bit of self control to not panic and to settle the kids down. They were good…I was not so. Apparently when the sign says that the lift carries 15 people that is actually TRUE!!!! We HAD 17!!!! It had a nervous breakdown and I wasn’t far behind. Very quickly the air we were breathing was hot and stale and I could feel my heart rate double. We pushed the bell thing several times and I asked the kids to be silent when I yelled out for help. They had no idea how much this whole experience totally terrified me. Soon a man with a screw driver prized the doors apart and we were on the ground floor with the group waiting anxiously. I was glad it was over. In such classic words Oliver summed it up……
I thought rules were made to be broken, but obviously the “MAXIMUM 15 PEOPLE” sign actually means only 15 people.
Oh dear…..onto the next adventure.

To November 23rd