Friday, March 27, 2009

Teaching in Singapore:

It is always good to go away, but to experience teaching overseas is an exceptional experience. I am happy and grateful to have this experience and share the cultural diversity in which we live. I love my job and am passionate about teaching and doing my part to ensure that women are given informed information to make informed choices.

Life works in strange ways, let me give you an example: anyone who knows me knows I love books, I enjoy walking around bookshops and will visit bookshops where ever I am. I don’t always have a book in mind, however if a cover jumps off the shelf at me, I have to have it. Let me rephrase that, I will read the back cover and then make a decision, 90% of the time I pick the book. Now airports are a great place to walk around the bookshops or newsagents, for some reason they seem to have a different selection of books and I always find one that I like, what a surprise that is! Last trip it was Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, & David O. Relin, it was an exceptional story, if you get the chance read the story.

This trip it was The Hospital by the River by Dr Catherine Hamlin & John Little. It is a story about an incredible couple; both Dr’s in Obstetrics & Gynaecology who worked in Ethiopia dedicating their lives to women suffering the catastrophic effects of obstructed labour and the awful injuries as a result, that is, fistulas. These women are often from the age of 14 upwards. I have not finished reading the book, but it is both heart wrenching and compassionate. It has opened my eyes in many ways and I am grateful there are people in the world like the ‘Hamlin’s. The story is based in Ethiopia in the early 50’s. It was interesting to read that Sylvia Pankhurst the daughter of the famous Emmeline Pankhurst (the English suffragette) and she set up the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital which is now world renowned for its incredible life saving work. It is a small world, it makes you think are you born to do great things?

As a child I always remember my father saying he left Italy after the war and went to live Ethiopia & when he was ‘kicked’ out of Ethiopia he moved down to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)where he met my mother and I eventually came along. I didn’t realise that Mussolini invaded & occupied ETHIOPIA (and thats why my father was there) in 1935 until 1941. I don't like to admit it but my father was one of those fascist, unfortuntaley he was a Mussolini man, well, each to their own. You live and learn.

Now back to teaching – Singapore is a beautiful city however the humidity is more than I can bear at times – I often feel like I am constantly in a sauna, but there is no plunge pool to cool off in. I spend an intensive 12 hour teaching over 3 days. This is usually split into formal lectures, workshops and group interaction. The group are multi - ethnic made of Singaporeans, Chinese, Malay, Indian and others. The religious make up is Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Taoist, Confucianism and apologies for the ones I have left out.

The students are always respectful and courteous, family is very important and there is great respect for the elderly in the community. Most people are softly spoken and calm, at times it is very difficult for me to get the students to engage in open discussion, and therefore it is important for me to observe body language before nominating students to answer questions. Sometimes we have long periods of silence whilst I am waiting for the discussion to begin – my next trip I think I will introduce a prize a token gift for those who engage in discussions, and see if this makes a difference. Everyone likes a gift.

I have to ask the question whether it is a good idea to have the Nurses Board in the Ministry of Health, Medical Profession Building under the umbrella of the Medical Profession as in doctors. The building is OK but maybe in a separate office to acknowledge the profession of nursing as a separate entity.
On entering this building the security is evident, you need to show ID and have a pass to enter. In Singapore the Nurses Board, Dentist Council and Medical Council are all in the same building in fact it looks as if it is all in the same office. Under the Nurses and Midwives Act Singapore The Nurses Board consists of two Doctors and 14 other people (nurses). When it comes to disciplinary matters for nurses the doctors assess the fitness of the nurse to work. I wonder if the medical board has nurses on it, and if the nurses have a say as to whether the doctors are fit for work. I think not.
The other difference I saw was that there are midwives in Singapore however the Board or the Act does not reflect the 'term midwife' in it. It is not surprising to hear that the nursing union is not strong in Singapore and that the nurses feel underpaid and would like to be more political, however the cultural differences are noticeable when it comes to being political. I have heard the term 'controlled' Democracy when people have been discussing the politics of Singapore, I now know what that means.

I took some time out to visit the Botanical Gardens, and it was time well spent relaxing, walking soaking up the beautiful scenery and flowers. Shopping is always wonderful in Singapore so much to choose from and the sales were at there peak and the credit card took a bit of a hit – I came home with four pairs of new shoes – shhhh I didn’t tell my husband, I just hope he doesn’t notice –but they were such a bargain I did buy him, a golfing book. The diet also took a pounding as the food is so good it was hard to say no. But I’m home now and back on track with the diet and exercise and the shoes look great. Until the next time, Ciao.

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