Thursday, September 11, 2008

Teaching in Singapore

I have just recently come back from teaching in Singapore; it is always a pleasure to teach there. People always say when you are passionate about something you do it well, that is me with teaching Professional Issues. My aim is that nurses and midwives have a good understanding about their legal responsibilities, that is, a good understanding of the legislation and professional codes that govern their practice. The university staff and students are very welcoming and the students are keen to learn, they are quite shy to start with then after a warm up session they are sharing experiences and answering questions.
On my trips to Singapore I usually spend 12 hours teaching and like to incorporate a few days off to do some sightseeing.
Singapore is an interesting country it is has a population of approximately 4.6 million and there are four main languages spoken, Chinese, Indian, Malay and English.

Singapore has a controlled democracy; this is the first time I had heard of this notion, not a bad idea really. Speakers corner is where people can express freedom of speech to a degree - you have to submit your speech and have police approval before you can deliver your speech = off course you can not talk about religion, race, politics or the government, controlled democracy.
It is a tropical island and has a humidity rating of 70-90%, this is the only thing I don’t like about Singapore is the humidity, especially for a menopausal woman, I have taken to carry a travel towel and mini fan to try and stem the flood of perspiration that often ensues after venturing outside for a walk or shopping, the only consolation is that the taxis are fabulous and have fantastic air conditioners’ it’s like going into an icebox.
I must say I don’t like travelling alone and do miss my husband when I’m away, however there are some benefits to being on your own; you can do exactly what you want when you want. I particularly like book shops and enjoy spending time in Borders and Kinokuniya – they are both fantastic shops, Kinokuniya has a much bigger reference section than Borders. My most recent acquisition apart from medico-legal books was the ‘Seven daughters of Eve” which I have not had a chance to start yet.
The other thing I enjoyed this trip was visiting about 4 or 5 temples/churches. What an array of religions there are in Singapore, I wouldn’t like to guess at the number of different ones in case I was to leave one out. However I did visit Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple- the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, also believed to be a manifestation of the Boddhisattva Avlokitesyara.

Also the Chinese biggest Temple with the biggest Buddha. The Hindu temple Sri Krishana. The Relic Temple and museum of the hundred Buddhas. The Muslim temple and the Catholic Church St Joseph. Wow that’s a lot of temples in one day – it was an interesting day -

– I had an unusual experience outside a Chinese Temple, a Sikh man approached me, said hello and simultaneously reached for my hand and talked into me incessantly, he was hard to understand, however, when he said ‘I was spiritual but lazy with it’ I laughed and then the penny dropped that he was telling me my fortune and giving me a personality reading – I was astounded, I had never know Sikh people to be fortune tellers, so I was taken by surprised, I was also outside a temple a spiritual place so did not expect to be ripped off. He then held my hand and asked for paper money, when I gave him some he asked for more. Now I thought I was a fairly strong woman, but on this occasion I was weak, I was taken aback by this man and also felt I should give him more money as he still had hold of my hand and that I would not have any bad karma, more fool me, a valuable lesson learnt.

On my other free day I took a round island tour – this was an interesting day, I travelled with a multicultural group of people, German, American, British, Scottish, two I don’t knows, and myself. The tour guide was a retired engineer Singapore Chinese man ‘Abdul’ he was absolutely fantastic he had lived in Europe for 17 yrs and could speak several different languages. Abdul gave a little of Singaporean history and commentary on most places we went to. The Tiger Balm Park was interesting, showing a little of Chinese cultural background. I do find some of the festivals intriguing ‘the festival of the Hungry Ghost’. We had lunch at the Orchid Country Club; Ian would have loved to have a game of golf here, it was very colonial. The most thought provoking place we visited was the Changi Chapel and museum – this was a very sad place and it certainly made you reflect. The other place that had the same effect was the war cemetery for Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, India and UK.

I relished walking through the markets and just watching people, I enjoyed the best cup of ginger tea watching workers as they rolled and cooked pastries with such precision and wishing I could try them, but after watching them being cooked I thought twice about it, my arteries and waist line were saying ‘no don’t do it’ so I took a photo instead. It just was not the same.

I look forward to my next trip.


Sarah Stewart said...

I am soooooo jealous - I don't get to go anywhere more exciting to teach than an hour up the road - can I have a job with you please!!!

Suzanne said...

Glad you enjoyed your trip in Singapore. Do let me know if you are going there again. I will let you know some of the favourite joints in Singapore, either to chill, to shop or a typical all-time-favourite-past-time-behaviour-of-a-Singaporean, is to eat. Lol. Yes, Singapore is a very humid country and when its hot, its really hot but not as bad as here. When it rains, it really pours.

Singapore is a little island marked by a red dot on the map. To many, we almost do not exist. Why did I say almost? I was out on an expedition to a remote village in Yunnan and the children were told to locate Singapore on the map. None of them got it right. The location they pinpointed to is Singapore Town in Shanghai. Good that they know there's a Singapore Town around but it hurts.

Hurts cos I'm mistaken for being a Chinese but I'm not. I'm a Singaporean and proud to be one. Though I speak Mandarin, that doesn't mean I'm a Chinese. I've often been mistaken to be a Malay cos of my tan skin and I often have to converse with my limited vocabulary of Malay telling them I'm not a malay. Parts and parcels of being a nurse in a multi-cultural society.

Nurses here also have to learn to speak a range of dialects. I'm born as a Teochew but my parents didn't teach me to speak the language. Its too bad for me but nursing exposes me to the wide range of elderly patients from different dialect groups.

To survive or to be a good nurse, I have to blend into their language and managed to pick up Hokkien, Malay and Teochew. I can also understand abit of Hakka. Its a challenge working in Singapore but such exposure is priceless.

Have you been to Chinatown or Little India and Geyland Seri? Its good to visit Singapore during the festive seasons as you get to try the speciality food in these places and also to enjoy the festive mood.

In response to the Hungry Ghost Festival, it is feared by many nurses, almost all. It doesn't matter which religion you are in, we all believe it is a bad month. Death rates are high. Ironically, admissions are also on the low. Heh. Operations done are also low. Singaporeans are known to be superstitious. No one will want to go to the hospital for fear of being 'taken' away by the spirits. I can go on forever to tell you all these.

However, if you don't mind, I have a DVD movie named 881, though a mixed of hokkien and mandarin, is about 'Getai', 'Stage Sing/Act' in Singapore during the hungry ghost festival. It reflects on the culture of Singapore greatly and the dvd is produced in memory of one of the famous 'Getai' singer Chen Jinlang who died of cancer. The story is about how the papaya (or paw paw) sisters got together and started to sing on the 'Getai' and their singing competition with the Durian sisters.

Most of the songs in the movie were written by Chen Jinlang and the last song sung was about the sufferings he went through when he was seeking treatment in SGH. During the time he was admitted, I was in fact working in the hospital. The atmosphere changed greatly as the news spread that he has passed on.

You'll hear 'Si pai por' in the song which means hospital in teochew and it also refers to Singapre General Hospital. I strongly recommend you watch the DVD which I have it here and I can pass to you if you are interested. Not to worry if you do not understand the language, there's English subtitle too. However, I do have to advise you to prepare some tissues to dab the tears away. =)

I've never grown tired of the movie cos its really enjoyable watching it. You will also learn alot from the movie. Please not that these singers spend alot of money on their costume in real life so what you see in the movie are just snapshots of the amazing costume that these singers wear.

Sarah Stewart said...

The last time I was in Singapore, a lovely Chinese gentleman taught me how to use chop sticks.

Germaine said...

Glad you enjoyed your stay in SG :)
I enjoyed your lectures very much. Thank you so much :)

infomidwife said...

Hi Sarah,
I thought you were recently in Brisbane? can you still use chopsticks? if you get the chance have a holiday in Singapore, it is the safest city I have ever been in.

infomidwife said...

Thanks Suzanne for your comments, yes I enjoyed Chinatown and Little India, it was great.
It is very interesting to see how people live in different countries, some things are the same and some not so.
I did not realise that people feared the Festival of the Hungry Ghost - it does not surprise me to hear that some Singaporeans may be superstitious.
Yes I would be very interested in watching the DVD and learning more about teh Singaporean culture.
Thank you.

infomidwife said...

thank you Germaine for your lovely comment.

Sarah Stewart said...

I've been twice now, and it's a place I have no qualms about walking about my my own. You can't say that about many cities in the world these days.

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