Singapore

If you’re jumping headfirst into Asia, Singapore is a great place to start. The country is a very unique blend of Asian and Western countries, and its population is notably diverse. The detailed planning of the workings of Singapore is practically a tourist attraction in itself. The food is incredible. And not only did I get to spend a week there, but I got to do so with my best friend.

Day 1

We started out the visit with lunch at a hawker centre – kind of like a food court, with individual vendors setting up stalls to sell a variety of mouthwatering dishes. Then we went to Avery’s favorite tea shop and got some time to just catch up.

Little pink king of his little orange kingdom

In the afternoon, we  made a visit to the Singapore City Gallery, the city-country’s urban development museum. Singapore has a fascinating, very dense history of development in the past century, and similarly interesting plans for the future. Tuscany enjoyed getting to see a city closer to his own size with the Singapore mini-replica.

 

Chinatown was still decorated for Chinese New Year.

We strolled through Chinatown, and I restrained myself from purchasing anything since I would soon be going to the real Chinatown (a.k.a. China). When we came across a Buddhist temple, we stepped inside to take a look around. The temple, ornately decorated, was very beautiful, although due to the number of tourists inside it felt more like an attraction than a place of worship. Temples like this one and various other places of worship can be found all around Singapore – the country’s very diverse population means that there are a lot of religions represented.

To round out our cultural experience for the day, we got dinner in Little India  – delicious dosai. All in all, a pretty good introduction to the place where I’d be spending the next 5 days.

Day 2

Setting off across the Helix Bridge to Marina Bay Sands
But the greatest piece of art is right here

The Chinese Gardens were my favorite

 

 

 

 

 

Tuscany and I spent our second day at Singapore’s famous Gardens by the Bay, a huge collection of gardens and architectural attractions infused with culture, history, and art. We started at the Heritage Gardens, which had gardens filled with plants native to China, India, and Malaysia (the origins of Singapore’s three main ethnic groups) that were also important to Singapore’s cultural history.

Tuscany found an elephriend!
And I found a camel who did not seem happy to be taking a picture with me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finished off my (thunderstorm-y) evening with a show. Gardens by the Bay is perhaps most famous for its Supertrees, massive tree-shaped structures of metal and glass that act as oversized trellises. At night, they flash in time to music piped throughout the park. This, against a backdrop of thunder and lightning, made for quite a spectacle. And thus I ended my day with a bang.

Day 3

Following my big day of tourism, I had a quiet morning. After Avery finished class, we go to go out on the town and spend some time together. We went to a coffee shop and tried various desserts, then walked around and stepped into a used bookstore. Their back room featured a single long, narrow aisle that was only a foot wide, and this is where we ended up spending an hour of our afternoon – just like old times. 🙂 We then ventured to a second coffee shop for chai lattes. I only got one picture from today, as Avery and I were having too much fun for photography.

We may have gotten several desserts here at the second coffee shop too.

Day 4

Zoo day! To make up for the dearth of pictures yesterday, I took way too many today. I saw a lot of animals, but my favorite was definitely the orangutans. So strangely humanlike, I couldn’t help but imagine their conflicts, emotions, daily moments of tedium…

YOU are our only chance, my daughter. None but you can push back the impending darkness.
The colony is at a crossroads. Danger snaps at our heels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our fate is in your opposably-thumbed hands.
Hum-de-dum…. Today’s a lovely day for waiting for a friend.
Not an orangutan, but look at how chubby and evil this creature is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I arrived at the elephant exhibit just in time for their pleasurable pachyderm performance (Tuscany came up with that one), which my traveling companion and I were both quite excited about. The show was gimmicky, but that’s half the fun when you’re at the zoo, right?

Just waving hi to an elefellowphant (that’s “fellow elephant” in non-pun speech)
Close enough to touch!
**when you get stuck behind a group of slow people on the sidewalk**

One unique element of the Singapore Zoo was a domed enclosure that visitors could enter. Inside, there were no fences or glass panes – just wild animals scurrying around my feet and swinging over my head. I followed some ducks around for a while and stopped under a pair of monkeys! The exhibit also showcased exquisite butterflies and rare plants.

At this point, it was getting close to closing, so we started heading back to the gate.

Fellow pinks!

 

 

 

 

 

I stopped at a hawker centre for dinner on the way home. Singaporean food is super tasty and super cheap, and while I didn’t know what  it was that I ordered, this meal lived up to both expectations.

Look at this magnificent blossom I found outside Avery’s dorm!

 

 

 

 

But the fun didn’t end there! Tonight, Avery’s ballroom group was hosting a dance. So we got all dressed up and had ourselves quite a night. I got to meet a lot of Avery’s friends, and I even learned a bit of the Viennese waltz!

Photo credit to Averys friend Sasha

Day 5

You know how, as a kid, you always thought snow would taste really good and were always a little bit disappointed when it just tasted like water? Eating bingsu is your vision of eating snow come to life.

Avery and I started off the day with some bingsu – Korean shaved ice cream – because when you’re with your best friend in another country you can eat whatever you want for breakfast. We then parted ways so Avery could do some work and I could go to the National Museum of Singapore. The National Museum is a history museum, art museum, and bazaar combined into one. I really enjoyed the exhibit on the Japanese occupation of Singapore in World War II. I got to see a cool sword/dagger in the exhibit on the origins of Singapore.

My favorite part of the museum, though, was an interactive, animated gallery of Singapore’s wildlife. A spiraling walkway took me down several stories as I watched tapirs lumber by and orchids bloom on a first-floor-to-fourth-floor-ceiling screen to my left. Peaceful music played, occasionally drowned out by the sound of rain as seasons scrolled by. At the bottom, a room filled with beanbags awaited, and I lay on the floor for half an hour looking up at computerized flowers falling towards me on the domed screen. It was incredibly tranquil – a welcome rest from the bustle of tourism.

I spent the evening on Arab Street, a center of shopping for Middle Eastern and Singaporean knickknacks, clothing, and food. This day was yet another that allowed me to experience the extreme diversity of Singaporean culture and history.

Day 6

My last day on the island! Avery and I went to church together and got some boba tea on our way back. I spent the afternoon packing, and then we got pizza for dinner at Clark Quay, a middle-fancy food destination. We stopped to pick up ice cream, and spent the night watching a movie back at her apartment and talking. I left for the airport at 1 a.m. Although I was sad to leave, I’m still in awe that I got to spend a week with my best friend in Singapore, getting to see a bit of her life these days. Who gets to do that?! With Singapore under my belt, on to the next adventure!

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Otsu 3.31.17

My Dearest Friend,

Spring has arrived in Kyoto and with it comes a new semester. It feels like so long ago that classes ended, and yet I had so many things I’d planned to do and haven’t done. However, I have accomplished a great deal since I last wrote. I’ve been working hard over the break on my Japanese. I’ve learned over 300 kanji and become somewhat more comfortable conversing in Japanese. I actually feel ready for this semester. I was so scared to start level four after I finished in January. My teachers had warned me to study hard lest I fail, and I took them to heart. After six weeks of hard work, I finally think I’m ready.

The break hasn’t all been work though. The new SKP students moved in a few weeks ago, so I’ve had the opportunity to make a host of new friends. I’m glad. The new students are very cool and I’ve had a wonderful time getting to know them. Just yesterday, a group of us went down to Otsu on Lake Biwa for the afternoon. The weather was beautiful and the lake was incredible. Lake Biwa is the largest lake in Japan, and it really seems like a tiny ocean. I could have sat by the lake and watched the water for hours. I wish we could have stayed longer and seen more, but Otsu is only a few towns away so we can always go back.

Now it’s time to study a bit more and enjoy this last weekend of freedom before classes begin on Monday. I’m excited about my classes and the adventures this semester will bring. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. I will try to write again after the first couple weeks and tell you how my classes are going. I hope you are doing well too. I miss you.

Sincerely,

Kestrel

My Pitch for the Baltic States

Over the past month I have been lucky enough to travel among the Baltic States and to see parts of Latvia and Lithuania, including their respective capitals, Riga and Vilnius. Previously I spent a weekend in Helsinki, Finland. In general, I think we in the US tend to think of the Nordic states (Norway, Sweden, […]
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English in Perspective

I’ve always known that speaking English as a first language was a considerable advantage in the increasingly globalizing world. English, for a variety of reasons, is quickly becoming the default language of business, academics, and cross-cultural communication. Without delving into the problems with this trend, I will say that my experience with being a native […]

Entrada 4: Formada por unas Evoluciones

Aunque todos los adultos eran jóvenes en un tiempo del pasado, las diferencias entre las generaciones de jóvenes son increíbles. Creo que las diferencias para ser jóvenes entre mi generación y la generación de mis padres originan con las políticas y la tecnología. Aunque solo hay treinta años entre mi madre y yo, hemos vivido vidas casi completamente separados por todas las razones que mencioné anteriormente.

Primero, cuando mis padres tenían mi edad, tenían un ambiente político muy diferente. En ese periodo de los Estados Unidos, existía la “guerra contra las drogas”. En resumen, el ambiente político en América parecía menos fluido al público y al resto del mundo. Ahora, no hay seguridad en relación a la diplomacia de los Estados Unidos, ni con el funcionamiento de los precedentes que habían. Más recientemente ha pasado la “guerra contra el terrorismo”, en comparación. Sin embargo, los ambos de los periodos han pasado con conflictos que involucraban y sigue involucrando los Estados Unidos.

Luego, un tema adicional sobre que hay muchas diferencias evidentes son las diferencias entre estas generaciones relacionadas a la tecnología. Durante los años mientras que mis padres eran mi edad, tenían tocadiscos, el radio, la tele, computadoras tempranas, y móviles eran objetos demasiado nuevos y caros para obtener. Después de todo, durante el tiempo de mi generación, tenemos muchísimas más opciones de tecnología – Netflix para mirar, móviles en que podemos hacer lo que podrían hacer con una computadora, portátiles ligeros, relojes con pantalla táctil, aparatos para supervisar nuestra salud… La lista podría seguir. Esto puede relacionar métodos de guerra, también; es decir, cuando había bombas mientras que mis padres tenían mi edad, ahora tenemos ciberataques. No obstante, los ambos de estos periodos están y estaban formados por la evolución y progreso de la tecnología.

En conclusión, aunque mis padres y yo estamos viviendo en el mismo tiempo ahora, hemos crecidos durante periodos increíblemente diferentes. Por ejemplo, las diferencias entre la política y la tecnología son evidentes. Aunque hay muchas diferencias, también hay similaridades. Para empezar, los ambos de los periodos han pasado con conflictos que involucraban y sigue involucrando los Estados Unidos. También, los ambos de estos periodos están y estaban formados por la evolución y progreso de la tecnología. Pienso que podría disfrutar vivir como mis padres vivían cuando tenían mi edad; En todo caso, a mí me gusta mi vida como está ahora.

Latin Dance Club, Stress, La Ciudad de Nueva York

Long time no post! Hey there again. I would like to apologize in advance for the formatting of this post, but there was little that I could do to make all of the pictures look very presentable. I’ll use this post as a learning opportunity to get some pointers on how to format nicely since I’ll have a lot when I study abroad this summer.


Latin Dance Club outdid themselves again this semester! I’m so glad to be a part of this group because the dancers are just so talented. Usually I would be intimidated by how good they are at dancing Salsa and Bachata, but they are just so amazing that I can’t help but admire their performance which is entirely improvised.
My boyfriend Peter and I learned the basic steps (Peter is a modern dancer so the style is different, but the new moves came naturally to him) at the beginning which were really simple. However, they were deceptively easy, because when it came to show time we had trouble switching between forward-backward and side-to-side motion.


Stress has been hitting hard this semester, so I had to withdraw from another course. Thankfully it won’t affect my future because the course that I withdrew from will not be required for the major that I am planning to switch to! I’ve been considering a career in mathematics because the research aspect of astrophysics was honestly killing me.

There is a funny consequence of changing majors right now which leaves just two classes until I complete a minor in physics and astronomy. Surprise, surprise, I will have three minors (including Spanish which I hope to finish over the summer). Kind of silly, I know.


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View of Manhattan Island by the Brooklyn Bridge

¡Todavía no me he olvidado el idioma! Ha sido una prueba porque no tengo tantas personas con que puedo hablar, pero visitamos a la Gran Ciudad de Nueva York donde conocí a mucha gente hispanohablante! Cuando fuimos al pico de la Plaza de 30 Rock, hablé con unas familias de España y Panamá. Pensaba que hubiera mucha gente de la República Dominicana y Puerto Rico, pero ¡había mucha gente de todos partes! A mi me encantó la ciudad porque las personas no les importa nada lo que se hace en público por los desconocidos. Sin embargo, ellos eran los más enterados y amables a quien he conocido. Aquí están algunas más fotos para aburrirte:

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Chrysler Building (estaba nevando cuando tome la foto)
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Selfie because I am a Millennial
Van Gogh's Starry Night
Van Gogh’s Starry Night

Déjame decirte que me hizo BIEN deslumbrado cuando vi la obra de Van Gogh porque es muy famosa y la a mí me ENCANTA.

Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol

The United Nations building was closed!

Trump Tower
Trump Tower

Lamentablemente la torre de Trump estaba abierto.

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Protests in Korea

Now that we are approaching the elections for the new South Korea president, this post may be a little late coming. Still, I thought it would be worth it to write a bit about the protests that went on in Korea before Park Geun Hye was impeached. 

As you may know, the most recent South Korean president was impeached due to a corruption scandal involving her relationship with Choi Soon Sil, the daughter of a shamanistic cult leader. Park is essentially considered to have been acting as the puppet of Choi Soon Sil. When this controversy came out, millions of Koreans took to the streets to protest and to demand Park’s impeachment. These protests received international attention for not only their size, but also for the peaceful nature in which they were conducted. The Korean population showed an incredibly united front across the nation with huge masses of people marching through cities, yet no violence broke out.

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Protests for Park Geun Hye’s Impeachment in Seoul

 

 

I saw a protest in Gwanghamun Square in Seoul, and although this was a little bit after some of the largest protests that went on, it was still fascinating and full of people. The protest was completely peaceful, but what was even more surprising was that the atmosphere was quite positive. Yes, there were some people with serious faces, chanting and carrying around signs that said “Impeach Park Geun Hye,” but there were also people smiling while chanting, there were children running around happily, and there were even many people taking advantage of the crowds and setting up various food carts and selling snacks. I almost felt as if I was at a fair instead of a protest. I also witnessed a small protest in Daegu that was actually in support of President Park (before the Constitutional Court had upheld her impeachment.) All of the people there were older, the only young people I saw were just casual on-lookers. This protest, too, was made up of smiling people cheering and singing and looking quite positive overall. The overall feeling was quite the opposite of what I might expect from a protest in the U.S., where protests seem to be more solemn, serious, and at times, aggressive and violent.

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Protest in support of Park Geun Hye in Daegu

 

I admire the Korean people for their admirable approach to protest. Peaceful protest is an important political tool. It allows the demonstrators to maintain their dignity, and more importantly, they avoid serious violence that can bring harm to the demonstrators and others. Furthermore, the unity of these protests and the percentage of the Korean population that participated in them was impressive. Of course, I would love it if I could see more protests like that in the United States, but I question whether that is truly possible any time soon. In general, the U.S. is much more divided in terms of political opinion, and great tension exists between differing parties. It is difficult to find an issues that most Americans agree on, and it is often difficult to keep people from lashing out at one another violently when their opinions greatly differ. Police violence has also played a role in worsening the violent nature of many U.S. protests. On top of that, the U.S. is physically much larger. Having that large a percentage of the U.S. population in one place, rooting for the same cause is no easy feat.

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Protests for Park Geun Hye’s Impeachment in Seoul

 

Although it may be difficult, the U.S. needs to work towards holding protests that are as peaceful as the Korean protests have been. Peaceful protest can help U.S. citizens make their voices heard in politics while retaining their dignity and avoiding harm. They may also be able to garner support and admiration from other countries, as the Koreans have been able to do, by showing such an incredible act of unity. During this important time when the United States political realm has become so strongly divided, we must remember this is not an excuse to turn to violence or blind hatred.

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Chinese New Year

On Image result for chinese new year 2017Feburary 2, 2017, the Asian American Student Association (AASA) hosted their annual Chinese New Year Celebration. The Chinese New Year is a traditional Asian holiday that marks the beginning of a new year based on the lunar calendar. Therefore, the exact date of the Chinese New Year changes each year. This year it was on January 28th. Since it was on a Saturday, AASA decided to host the celebration the week after. The Chinese calendar cycles through every 12 years and each year is represented by an animal; 2017 is the year of the rooster.

There was a huge turnout to this event and the room was packed. The evening began with Chinese food and a dragon dance by fellow students. Attendees could obtain tickets at different activity stations such as a dragon boat race and making a paper lantern to try to win prizes. Throughout the night, there were different performances such as martial arts and dancing. The guest of the night was DANakaDAN who is a Korean YouTube star. I sadly had to leave the event early due to a personal emergency involving ammonium hydroxide.

 

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Things That ‘Did Not’ This Week

Her teeth white and painful and fake

My X-Ray the fuel for her finessed façade of interest

“You nearly fractured your elbow,” she says

But I didn’t

“All the damage is here except for an actual fracture,” she says

But I didn’t

“You should have paid attention to your body,” she says

But I didn’t

“You should have listened to the pain, come in sooner,” she says

But I didn’t

“You should feel very lucky,” she says

But I didn’t.

 

 

You sit in front of me with your despair dripping like melting ice cream

The need outweighs the discomfort found in every pause

“I wanted to,” you say

But you didn’t

“They say I am at risk,” you say

But you didn’t

“It’s heavy, it’s everywhere, I feel like I’m drowning in it,” you say

But you didn’t

“I want to end all of it,” you say

But you didn’t.

 

 

3:00 AM wears thin on my ceiling as I stare up into the morning darkness

The paint of that hour dries faster than my eyes drift to sleep

“You could choose stay,” I say

But I didn’t

“It would be safe, you should feel safe there,” I say

But I didn’t

“You could have found a boring, beautiful happiness,” I say

But I didn’t

“Don’t run away, just this once,” I say

But I didn’t.

 

 

God makes His plans known to his people by blowing kisses through gusts of wind

He sits in a tall tree above an empty wooden swing

“You could write beautiful things instead of sad things,” He says

But she didn’t

“Listen, the world is asking for you, don’t you want them?” He says

But she didn’t

“If you left Me, the whole world would applaud you,” He says

But she didn’t

“I think your sad things are also your beautiful things,” He says

But she didn’t.