Week 1 | Go Time

Summary

Wow, what a week. Ran around Hong Kong, learned a couple new things in the lab, meet a bunch of awesome MIT/SUTD students, went clubbing twice, ate a different type (Indian, Indonesian, Muslim, etc.) of food each meal, wandered around Singapore several of the nights and so much more. To top it all off, I was able to learn a ton about Singapore's culture. This place is awesome.


White Ninjas, Nate and I's SUTD team

Wow, what a week. Ran around Hong Kong, learned a couple new things in the lab, meet a bunch of awesome MIT/SUTD students, went clubbing twice, ate a different type (Indian, Indonesian, Muslim, etc.) of food each meal, wandered around Singapore several of the nights and so much more. To top it all off, I was able to learn a ton about Singapore's culture. This place is awesome.


Some crazy Hong Kong buildings

Hong Kong

A nine hour layover in Hong Kong was an opportunity to explore that city a little bit more. The metro ride was quick. There are TVs at regular intervals and they even have volume adjustment (for said TVs) for each chair in the train! Crazy. Got into the central train station and wandered in circles from there. Saw some interesting buildings and went around the Bay before heading back to the airport. Short experience but without a doubt worth visiting again.


NUS Medicine Building

The Daily Hustle

First night I met up with Bryan and Jared (two other MIT students) and got familiar with the dorm. We met the SUTD student council president (she seemed quite excited to see MIT students in the flesh) and got my (incorrect) room keys. Playing pool while talking on the phone to some admin about what keys I need is a hoot. Ian Cheong, whose lab I'm working in, picked me up the next morning and showed me around NUS's campus. This campus is awesome and feels like it grew quite organically. It has stairs galore and I might try to free run at least once around the campus. I'm working at TLL, which is near the center of campus and had the fun of being part of a corporate video for its 10th anniversary. Making this corporate video was not fun: walking down the hall several times trying to act natural get's hard/boring after awhile, as is faking a handshake with an awkward administrator.


Marina Bay Sands and surrounding buildings

The following day Jared and I walked around the Marina Bay area, this includes the famous Marina Bay Sands hotel. We intended to find a hawker center (food!) or a store (I need shorts!). We were able to sneak into the Mandarin Oriental and walk around their pool; apparently if you act like you belong and look like a tourist, you can get in places you shouldn't. Left around midnight and made every last train back, but never actually found food or shorts, :P. Such is life in Singapore.


Helix Bridge


Team White Ninja, finding clues

Part of the MIT-Singapore program is devoted to the 5th row program, which is SUTD's initiative to help build campus culture outside of the four core acedemic pillars. MIT students have been sent to help the new students and lend our wisdom so they have a better chance of producing a strong campus. We began the orientation Friday; Nate (another Phi Sig) and I are on the white team, aka Team White Ninja. Our team is awesome and consists of several students with a diverse set of interest: tennis, water sports, game design, a cappella and electric vehicles. There were several activities and one involved hopping around Singapore finding clues from a list. It was a blast and I always love events like this, we were able to see new places in Singapore (e.g. Haw Par Villa, a crazy amusement park) and learn more about our group members. The rest of the weekend consisted of other events to help the SUTD students brainstorm about their clubs, what they wanted to achieve and how they would achieve it. Good stuff, we'll see where it leads.

Culture

A trip abroad would not be complete without learning a bit about another culture along the way. Lunches with Adrian, a Singaporean who works in my lab, have taught me a great deal about their school system, political system, interesting places, etc. For example, they have two types of high schools: junior high and poly. Junior high is more theoretical and only gives a certificate while poly is focused on technical skills and gives one a diploma. They have a final test, much like in Europe or the SAT here, to determine where they will go to college (though with only a handful of Universities, it is more of a if).

For their holidays, they try to accommodate all the different religions and do so by giving each two holidays per year. Interestingly, the political system appears to be changing and several different Singaporeans confirm this: there has been a rise in the ability of the opposition to both voice their opinion and win seats in the government. The mandatory military service for all males in interesting, but different people can choose different roles: one student was a reconnaissance platoon leader while others could be cooks if they were physically unfit. This leads to many males being around 21 when starting college while the females are much younger. Not sure if this changes the dynamic of the schools, but we'll have to see.

Night Life


at Avalon

Singapore has some great night life. We've had the chance to visit several clubs: Velvet, Zouk, Future and Avalon. The former three are all in one location and because of a lady's night out (females free) we went. It was a blast. We also met two swedish guys who joined our crew after awhile along with several other MIT students. They played an ecelectic string of songs on the Zoul dance floor: from Macarena to YMCA to more modern stuff. And there seemed to be a group of Singaporeans who knew all the songs and dances to them. We then got invited to Avalon by one of the SUTD students, Glenn, who got is in for free. Avalon sits in front of Marina Bay Sands on the Esplanade. It is an arresting visual treat and the inside was akin to most clubs. Trying to jam to techno for several hours on a dance floor is quite a workout, but was worth it. Look forward to visiting more clubs throughout the summer.

Food


Nate, Vivian, and others at a restaurant in Little India

Now onto the food! Unfortunately I didn't take pictures during many of my meals (suprise!), but I have been able to have several delicious ones. Singapore has many hawker centers where one can get food for cheap and offers a lot of choices. Canteens on the NUS campus are akin to hawker centers and I eat there for lunch. Ate a plater of Muslim food consisting of beef...forget the entire name. It came with rice and some delicious chili, the great thing was that I just had to point at things to assemble my meal. Satisfying but confusing at first. Don't get starfruit juice, it sucks.

There is a great Korean BBQ in the NUS campus and we ate there for lunch, they fry some fish and lather it with amazing sauce. At the Habour Front we went to the top level of Vivo city. They have a food court that is a bit different than those in America. There was a central stall with all types of food: Korean, Japanese, etc. You could either order from a pre-made dish to make your own. Don't order a lot of meat, it's expensive. The atmosphere was hectic, like everything here. Kim and I went the next day to Orchard Square and ate at the food court there, it was less crazy but the Japanese fried fish and rice was delicious.


Is this necessary?

But few things beat the Indian restaurant we went to Sunday evening. Taking the MRT to Little India, one wanders through the densely packed streets: music playing in the background, people walking on the streets, and various smells wafting from the stalls. Entering the restaurant, we are immediately asked to order, I got an egg dosa. Go search online for more, it is delicious. They brought out a plethora of spices, sauces and other treats, such as the delicious chicken curry. We ate the rice with our hands, which is always fun, and learned about the differences between Bollywood and Koolywood from Vivaek (another MIT student) along with other assorted facts about India. Overall was a good time and a great way to end the first week in Singapore.

Oh, and one last thing. They're always watching...

-biafra
bahanonu [at] alum.mit.edu

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©2006-2017 | biafra ahanonu | updated 12 december 2017
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