Let’s get down to business

​After having some time to relax and settle in yesterday, today we got to work! The morning started off at 9AM with a staff meeting… in Spanish. I’m going to put my comprehension at maybe 50%? And if I’m being completely honest, that might be a little high. Either way, I was proud of myself because I at least got the general idea of what was being discussed. I’m sure that more than a few details fell through the cracks, but expectations of my language skills are low, so no one is really expecting me to know much after group discussions and meetings.

The compound is located in a part of town where the properties are bigger and everyone’s lot is surrounded by walls. I never realized how nosy I am until I saw how much it bothers me not to be able to see what’s going on behind the walls. It also makes for a sort of ghost town feeling because everyone is hidden from view.

To give you a better idea of the dynamic, there are currently 5 of us who are from the US: Jim and Tony Kay (the directors who I mentioned before), Debbie (a Penn State architect!), and Julie (a teacher). Everyone besides me can speak Spanish, though they all mostly learned after arriving in Peru which gives me hope that I’ll at least have passable skills by the end of my 10 weeks. The national staff members obviously speak Spanish and have varying levels of English knowledge. When the group is together, Spanish is the language. Even though it makes it much harder for me to have any clue about what is going on, I’m happy that’s the case. It’s forcing me to work on my Spanish, and I can see how much better my experience will be once I feel more confident and can actually communicate back to people rather than just semi-understanding what they’re saying to me.

A five-week summer school is starting next week, and Debbie and I are teaching a “Mini-ingenieros” (mini-engineers) class together. We met once around the holidays when she was in the States to come up with some ideas, and today we had to actually plan out the classes and fill in some details. We have a much better framework now, but there’s definitely still a lot of work to do. To give you the gist, we’re going to talk about urban planning, transition into talking about building types and space planning, and have the kids each design the exterior of a building that takes up a “city block”. The hope is to inspire them to make some funky designs and interesting shapes and decorate them, and afterwards we’ll put everyone’s together to make a “kid city”.

Here you can see the one green part of the neighborhood up ahead to the right. Bright green grass looks very out of place in the middle of the desert!

Part 2 of the class is a robotics project that may or may not go well… Theoretically, we’re going to have the kids build these little, simple robots and then set them free in the city like it’s a robot takeover. That’s the current/still somewhat a work in progress plan, and Debbie and I are going to test build a robot next week. Cross your fingers for us because it should be interesting.
We have two classes of older kids (7-9 and 10-12 years old) and two classes of younger kids (2-6 years old). Obviously the younger kids aren’t going to be doing these projects, and we thankfully have only 30 mins – 1 hour with them each week. We’ll have three 2 hour classes each week with the older kids. The big challenge now is coming up with “engineering”-ish projects to do with the younger kids. Now accepting suggestions…

Besides planning our classes, I got to use some of my technical knowledge today! That was exciting because I was feeling a bit like this whole year was going to be me out of my element and not really using my education for anything. It wasn’t anything complicated, but they’re planning to add fans into some of the classrooms here, and I helped with some electrical investigation and gave a few options for how it could be done. Like I said, nothing too exciting or complicated, but I finally did something that made me feel like my knowledge from 5 years of college and 2 years of working could be useful in this context!

I didn’t do a great job of taking pictures today (aka I took zero), so the ones above are just more that I took while walking around yesterday. I’ll be better tomorrow!

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Lifou, New Caledonia

The second stop on our 10 day cruise. This island was my favourite and cannot wait till I can go back and snorkel there.

It’s not a fancy island with a resort but there are local stalls and coconut stands as soon as you walk off the jetty.

We adventured to some cave pools which were amazing! Unfortunately no photos, the lens on my camera fell off when climbing down. The water was so refreshing and definitely worth the hike. Afterwards we ventured back to the beach and had a swim in the clear blue water which was the perfect temperature. And after getting completely sunburnt and getting flower crowns made for us we went back to the boat before departure.

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Feels like home!

So much for the attempt to keep on top of blogging this year!

The last couple of weeks although eventful have just been mostly about getting back into the swing of university term again. It’s very strange to be back when most of the exchange students that I became friends with last semester have left. I’d always assumed that staying for a year makes so much more sense as you are just settling down after those 5 months, but I hadn’t appreciated the level of change that can occur around you even if you are staying in the same place.

I’ve nearly been away from England for 6 months now and despite the fact I’m not going home until July and I’m still in Singapore until May it feels very much like a countdown has begun on my time here and I’m discovering that I’m not ready to leave. I believe I’ve been incredibly lucky to not feel homesick very much at all, and although I love England and all the people who I get to see when I go home, I think I’d much rather stay here. It’s both sad and incredible to realise that you don’t need to be secure in the bubble that your used to, even in the same country or culture, to feel like you are at home. The feeling of being home is all to do about who you surround yourself with.

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F club night out for Raquel and Charm’s birthdays!

 

Since semester started again I have spent a large amount of time with the Lifeguard Corps (LGC) in training sessions and bonding camps, and although they probably don’t realise, they are some of the people that I am closest to in Singapore. It’s quite a weird feeling to know that they are some of the closest friends you have for thousands of miles around, and yet to them you are one of hundreds. Despite that, they have been amazingly inclusive. The only real constant events in my life are Monday and Wednesday training sessions!

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Post training photo shoot – bad quality but still fun ( I think I blend in quite well when we’re underwater and the photo quality is blurry)

It’s amazing to be let into the real culture of Singapore by locals, it’s the sort of thing you don’t get to experience very often as there is normally such a wide mix of nationalities that it gets diluted a little! But here I’m the only foreigner and when I’m out with them as a group I get a lot of weird looks, I can sense people wondering what that white girl is doing with them.

Bonding camp number one was a two day event, 1st day spent in NTU pool practising competition events, a night in a chalet with a BBQ dinner (BBQing in January still seems odd) and the second day on Sentosa learning beach comp events! Aside from the sunburn and aches from jumping on and off the rescue boards it was an amazing couple of days.

Bonding camp II was less about training and more about the fun! Yesterday 11 of us went to a trampoline park and bounced and attempted to flip around for an hour which was really fun and sweaty. Of course, this had to be followed with a dinner of Chilli crab and mantou for dinner, then Bingsu for supper and bean-curd for dessert!!!

 

Thanks to all these amazing people I feel like I’m seeing the real Singapore, and it’s made the last 6 months so much more enjoyable. I’m sure that there will be many more memories made before I leave in 4 months time! And they’ve given me a very easy excuse to come back!

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