One could dance her life away in Singapore if she wasn’t careful (not that I mind or anything!). Saturday is a perfect example. After a morning spent cleaning house, I decided to reward myself with a merengue class at the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay. The Esplanade is Singapore’s major performing arts venue and sits near city hall overlooking the harbour. The dance studio is on the top level and consists of three walls of long mirrors and barres and one entire wall of floor-to-ceiling windows with a magnificently breathtaking view of the river. It took all my powers of restraint to keep myself from literally leaping, pirouetting, and chasseing across the smooth, polished wood floors in some sort of crazed ballerina fit of extreme happiness. All the self-control I could muster, still didn’t keep me from doing a few plies, tendus, and grand battements while waiting for the class to start. And quite an interesting class it was.
The students ranged from experienced merengue dancers, to those with other dance experience but never merengue (like myself), to those with absolutely no rhythm and two left feet. In addition, the vast majority of the students were Indian Singaporean couples… and, because merengue is a social dance, we switched partners about every five steps. While the combination of all these factors could have made the experience incredibly awkward, I found myself really enjoying the fun, flirtatiousness and sensual flow of the Latin American dance… (and at times trying not to laugh too obviously, I mean here I am in Singapore doing a Latin American dance in a ballet studio with married Indian men!). Alas, what a cosmopolitan experience.
After class, I met Lisa, Stephanie, Jacob and Jacob’s Singaporean friend from his study abroad experience for Thosa and Roti Prata at a Hawker Center...just what the doctor ordered after a 90 minute merengue class. Stephanie, Lisa and I then decided to join two other PiAers, James and John who have been here for a year already, for a night out at Zouk. And here’s where I get to the dancing my life away part. Zouk, little did I know when I was talked into going around 11 p.m., is basically southeast Asia’s premier dance club, consisting of a hip-hop club, a laid-back indie feeling club, and a house/techno club all in one. Let’s just say we finished dancing six hours later! Like I said: dancing your life away is a true possibility in Singapore.
On Sunday Steph and I met Jacob and Hannah in the afternoon to go swimming at Jacob’s Ph.D. supervisor’s pool (college professors make just a bit more than I do as a foreign secondary school teacher). His supervisor’s name is Ted and his wife’s name is Rachel! Rachel had us up for mint tea and some really great chocolates after swimming. I guess I’m a bit spoiled sometimes. I mean a pool and chocolates all in one afternoon, what more could you ask for!
Jacob, Hannah, Steph and I went to Arab street for dinner. Because it is Ramadan right now, the Arab street area is bustling with life and activity in the evenings when break fast occurs. We enjoyed some really great pita, hummus, baba ganoush and an array of other tapas-like dishes on a restaurant’s rooftop while listening to the noise and merriment of the people in the streets below.
And now the real fun begins, as I started school today! My mentor from the school, Yui Yun, picked me up at the bus stop at 6:45, yes a.m. This means I woke up at 5:50, yes a.m. Talk about a “you’re not in college anymore here” experience…a literally “awakening” experience. I attended my first staff meeting and basically just nodded and smiled and tried not to look too confused as the principal addressed test-administering procedures and the upcoming graduation day ceremony. My false, “I’m not confused at all and I totally know what I’m doing here” facade didn’t work too well though, as Yui Yun asked me immediately after the meeting if I was “really confused or just a little?” I spent the morning filling out millions of forms, for things like my laptop check-out and school contact information.
In the late morning I attended class, where I observed a lesson about finding the meaning of words from context (would have been useful for the GRE actually). Then I was asked to spend the remaining 25 minutes of the lesson, introducing myself. Obviously, I was not overly prepared for that curveball, but, thanks to years of playing ice-breakers in the sorority and at leadership camps, I was able to come up with something quickly. Basically I wrote KKG, KDLT, 17, 16 and SD on the board and told the students each had something to do with me. They then tried to guess what the clues meant. (Kappa Kappa Gamma, the news station I worked at, years I’ve been dancing, years-old my only sister is, and South Dakota, if you didn’t guess).
After lunch, which basically consisted of shortbread (someone had randomly been to Scotland lately) and coffee from the teacher’s room, I read the entire novel “Holes” at my desk, as I really didn’t have much else to do and one of my classes is studying this book right now. I then went to the gym, and here I am telling you about my day.
So just a few more details (many more to come) about school before I venture off for a coffee and reflection on the day with Steph: I will basically be shadowing and helping to “mark” (correct) papers until after the holiday break. When I come back in January, I will have my own English/Language Arts classes! This term I am shadowing one section of Sec. 2 students (14-years-old) and two sections of Sec. 1 students (13-years and basically right out of primary school). There are four or five sections, because there are four or five years of secondary school. So, I have the youngest of the bunch, which is exactly where I wanted to be!
After primary school, these students took what is called the PSLE and were placed in a “track”. They can be put into “express,” “normal academic,” or “normal technical” tracks. As a general rule, express students will go to junior college after secondary school, normal academic to polytechnic, and normal technical to a tech. school or into the working world. Although these tracks are not set in stone and students do sometimes go from normal academic to junior college etc., it is the general rule. All my classes this semester are express classes. I will be shadowing at least two classes a day, and in the remaining time, I will be helping to mark, creating a school dance, and planning my lessons for next semester. I will start my CCA (extra curricular activity or co-curricular activity in Singapore), which is New Media Club, in January as well. I may attend a few New Media Club meetings this term, though, to orientate myself with the group and equipment (I am expected to create a newsletter and a weekly broadcast after all!)
So far, I am really excited about my school and am really looking forward to the teaching opportunity! The staff is incredibly friendly (I think I was given at least ten chocolates plus cookies today), and the students are sweet and enthusiastic from what I can tell. It will be really interesting getting used to a new education system. Before I know it, I may be more familiar with this system than with the one in the U.S. (This prospect is not looking overly promising now though, as there are so many acronyms I will never be able to keep everything straight. It is kind of the running joke in Singapore that they will create an acronym for everything, and may spend as much time trying to think of an acronym as actually creating the program or position or whatever is acronymed!) More fun and awkward school experiences to come I’m sure! For now though…coffee!
Cheers and TIA,