The second week here has been even more amazing than the first. Now that everyone is over jet lag and settled into their apartments, we have begun to explore more. Recently Dr. Barnard took us to see Fort Canning Hill, the site of an archaeological dig and also of Raja Iskander Syah’s tomb. We also went to visit Arab Street and toured the city’s most prominent Mosque. Later that day we toured the Malay Heritage Center, which shed some light on many traditions, achievements, and important leaders in the history of the Malay people in the Singapore area. Our group has begun to talk more and more about race relations in Singapore.
As we learn about the many different shadings of the issues in our classes, we also learn about the present state of affairs just by going about our daily activities. It is also a priceless experience to, at one time, be both an observer of a society and a participant in it. Eating at the hawker stands and taking public transportation every day makes me feel more settled here in Singapore, because my routine is similar to that of the average Singaporean. Changes in diet have also opened up new, and it turns out tasty, horizons. Cheese prata, a tasty Indian treat, and Pocky, a Japanese candy, have become my must-have snacks.
We have also been covering more ground academically. In Professor Levine’s class we have broken up into project groups based on personal interests. I have chosen Beauty and Advertising in Southeast Asia. Althea, Laurel, Kappa, Dan, and I are each focusing on particular topics within that. I am focusing on Western influence on advertising and, consequently, regional social perceptions of beauty. It’s easy to see, by taking public transportation or walking down Orchard Road, that advertising is practically an art here in Singapore. As a truly global city, it is bombarded with ads by virtually every international company. The result is a strange combination of many local values, some British values from the colonial era, and countless thousands of new standards, values, and aesthetic principles from anywhere else imaginable.
We are about to visit an HDB headquarters. The government housing provides shelter for around 85% of all Singaporeans. With this briefing session and our home stay coming up later this week, we will hopefully get a better idea of how most Singaporeans live on a day-to-day basis.