#2: “Would you maybe like a fork?”

About two weeks ago I went on my second trip outside of Singapore. Destination: Hong Kong! With the protests in full swing, I was a little afraid it would interrupt my sightseeing, but luckily it wasn’t too bad.

I arrived at my hostel late on a Monday night. The surrounding area, the buzzing Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon, was immediately a great introduction to the city and I was looking forward to start exploring the city the next morning.

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#1: Temples, Floating Villages and Ziplining

Living in Singapore, a very travel-friendly base in South-East Asia, I started to explore other countries a few weeks ago. My first trip went to Siem Reap in Cambodia. I chose this as my first destination mainly because I have always wanted to see the temples at Angkor.

I went during a public holiday, so had 3 days in total (2,5 days excluding travel time). I arrived on a Sunday morning and left the following Tuesday evening again.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

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More animals (or yoga)

From downward-facing dog to cobra: a few weeks ago I started following yoga classes. I have only attended a few classes so far, but I am definitely enjoying it already.

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While having some experience with yoga before – both in high school and in university I participated in some yoga classes – the yoga classes here seem so much more intense, going from one crazy animal pose to another. The other day I literally had to try to put my knees on my elbows (with emphasis on try...  a very amusing sight I assure you)

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Not far off from my experiences

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Mooncakes and Lanterns

Yesterday I was invited to come celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with the international hires of my school. While not a public holiday in Singapore, this Chinese(/Korean/Vietnamese/Japanese/Taiwanese) festival is celebrated here as well.

Originally a harvest festival, celebrating “the successful reaping of rice and wheat with food offerings made in honor of the moon” (Wikipedia), it is now mainly celebrated by friends gathering watching the moon and eating mooncakes. People also burn incense and put up lanterns, and there are performances of traditional dance and solving of Chinese riddes, among many other things.

Lanterns during Mid-Autumn Festival

Lanterns during Mid-Autumn Festival

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Happy Teachers’ Day to me

Today all public schools are closed in Singapore, all in appreciation of their teachers: they are celebrating Teachers’ Day. It is custom to give your teacher a thank-you card or present around this day. Stores are full with ‘Happy Teachers’ Day’ cards, chocolates and cookies right now.

While there is a lot of pressure on teachers and education in Singapore, I do think there is also appreciation for them (provided things go well) as they are consequently a large part of the child’s life. It is a completely different culture and mindset than from where I was raised. Students start taking enrichment classes (like at the centre I work at) outside of school from as early as 4 years onwards. Already in primary school there is the pressure to perform well. Many of these students will have to study at night and get up early again, maybe only getting 6 hours of sleep.

Throughout the week students have been giving their teachers at my work presents to thank them for teaching them. (Since I haven’t started teaching my own classes yet, I unfortunately was still left out in this ritual). However, since off days are the perfect time for students to do some extra studying, we don’t have a day off like the public schools. So for now, what better way to celebrate teaching in Singapore than by actually working today!

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When I say ‘cockroach’, you say ‘jump’ – and more animals

Having been in Singapore for almost four weeks now, I am slowly adjusting to my new surroundings: the people, the (work) mentality, the customs…. and the animals.

In the last couple of weeks I have had some sporadic encounters with the most charming of wildlife, many small geckos, caterpillars and (sometimes huge) cockroaches. All three can be found around my flat every day. While I actually find the geckos and caterpillars somewhat interesting, the cockroaches just not so much.

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