Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday night, and ready to head home

We finished up class today. Six group presentations, plus some last points to cover in lecture. It was a good group of students, and I enjoyed getting to know them a little bit. I hope I was able to pass along some worthwhile things to them.

Yesterday was also an all-day class, and of course there was also class on Friday night. So I haven't done much for the last couple of days. I did go out with one of the students last night, to a place called Holland Village, which is a shopping and dining area. We had some excellent food, including the Singaporean classic Chili Crab, as well as stir fried green beans with prawns, a very tasty fish that I don't know what it was (but it had a nasty looking head and lots of sharp, pointy teeth), some vegetables of different types... a few other things I think, as well. I was more than a little stuffed when I got back to the hotel.

My flight is tomorrow morning at 5:40am, which means I need to be at the airport at 3:40am, which means I need to leave the hotel at a little after 3:00am, which means I probably need to be up around 2:00am. I'm not real keen on that idea, but I'll certainly be able to get some sleep on the way to Tokyo. I have a very short layover in Tokyo, and then home to Detroit. I am supposed to arrive at DTW sometime around 1:30pm. I am looking forward to seeing Michael and hearing all about his week at Boy Scout camp (he earned his Tot'n Chip, and his Astronomy merit badge, I think, as well as his swimming certification). I also can't wait to see Heather and hear all about what's been going on at home, and just spend some time hanging out with the family.

Thanks for the interest, to whoever happens to read this. Not sure when it will next be updated, but I am sure some new adventure will come up before too long.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


This afternoon I got out and about in Chinatown. It's a really interesting part of Singapore, and includes a wide range of diversity in the ethnic Chinese population. For example, on my walkabout today, I went to mosques, Buddhist temples, and Hindu temples, and while eating lunch, a group of Chinese elementary age students came by, separated apparently by grade with shirts that said Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (probably 1st-4th grade). The range of foods available in Chinatown was also immense, with Cantonese, Hakka, Teochew, Hokkien, and Hainanese food types all available. There were also tailors galore, several shops to cut chops (Chinese stamps of one's name, carved into a stone stamp) all of which had the best carver in Singapore, and a wide range of "medical halls" -- shops where you can get traditional Chinese medicine and herbs. You can see the dried lizards in the photo -- I have no idea what they are used for, but they're pretty cheap if you need one.
The walking tour that I took today started with the Sri Mariamman Hindu temple. The temple was under renovation, so I didn't get to see as much as one normally might, but it was really interesting. This temple is best known for their annual festival in October or November where adherents show their faith by walking on burning hot coals.
From there, I wandered on to the Sin Chor Kung
Temple, the Al-Abrar Mosque, and then to the Thian Hock Keng Temple, which was pretty impressive. It is the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore. I spent some time looking at the ancestor tablets -- similar to tombstones, except that the spirit of the person is believed to reside within the tablet -- as well as at the dragons on the roof, and the furnace where paper money and other paper items (like paper replicas of cars, or Coke cans) are burned to allow the items to reach the dead, who will make use of them. The temple has been around since 1839, and it remains impressive.
The walk through Chinatown gave lots of opportunity to see the style of homes in the area -- row houses, essentially, but the architecture and the design/coloration being distinctly Chinese, and well-cared-for. The Night Market area is a bit chaotic, but it is clean and well-regulated, and was certainly worth the visit. From most portions of Chinatown, you can see the metropolital skyline, so that you have the mix of the traditional and the modern together.
Today was a HOT day, and so when I sat down to have some lunch at a Hakka (Taiwanese) street restaurant (I had duck and noodles), and the waitress suggested a Tiger beer, I was happy to have it. The beer was so cold and the humidity high enough that when she poured it, it froze for a few seconds. It was certainly good on such a hot day.
Tonight is an open house for people interested in the Baruch programs, and I absolutely have to clean up before going there. So I'll get a shower and a shave and iron something to wear. Then tomorrow night starts my last batch of classes -- Friday night, then Saturday, and Sunday, and then home!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Little India

I took a nice walking tour through the Little India sectino of town today. It was designed to take you to the major sights in the area, and it was a nice day to be out and about. There were a ton of shops, selling fresh fruit, trinkets, clothes, food... you name it. I am surprised so many shops selling the same things can survive in such a confined space.
The first major stop was the Abdul Gaffoor Mosque, which is about 100 years old, and which is described as "an architechtural explosion of styles -- Southern Indian and Moorish". I remembered to wear jeans today, so I was at least able to get into the mosque and look around today.
The mosque's visiting hours were not for a little while, so I stopped in for lunch at one
of the local street-front restaurants. I ordered the Chicken Biryani set, which is several rice-b
ased dishes with spices. According to Wikipedia, "The spices and condiments used in biryani may include but are not limited to: ghee, peas, beans, cumin,cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves
, coriander and mint leaves, ginger, onions, and garlic." They also say that the premium versions
include saffron, but I am pretty sure that this place was not serving "premium" anything. The food was
really good, though, and I enjoyed just sitting and watching the people go by as I ate.
From there, I walked on to the Church of the True Light, which is a more recent construction, and apparently very charismatic. The church and mosque are not quite right across the street from each other, but they are no more than a 1-2 minute walk, and they seem to co-exist peacefully.
From there, I strolled up to Dickson Street, and then up to the Sri Veeramakaliamman Hindu Temple. Also of recent construction, it is nonetheless a pretty impressive design.
I did pick up one very important thing while I was in Little India -- a package of Oreos. Mmmmmmmm...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

No eclipse for me

Well, you might have seen some of the footage of the total eclipse that occurred today in parts of Asia. There are such strong superstitions in China about eclipses that the government there went to great lengths to explain the phenomenon, and to prevent accidents by turning on the street lights, etc. It was the longest total eclipse that will happen in this century, and people were really excited about it. Unfortunately, here in Singapore there was only going to be a 6% eclipse -- almost unnoticeable -- and then it was totally overcast here, as well, so for this part of Asia, at least, the eclipse was pretty much a non-event.

She was a fish-monger, and sure t'was no wonder...

Well, unfortunately, the live music (listed online as going Tuesday to Friday) was not around this evening at Molly Malone's, but I did have a nice Kilkenny lager, and a surprisingly good steak sandwich. Here's Molly, outside the pub. The pub was originally built in Ireland, and was then taken apart and transported to Singapore. (Given the number of "originally built in Ireland" pubs around the world, one might be surprised there are pubs still left in Ireland, but then again, they started with quite a few.)
One thing I don't understand, though. A person who takes something from a store without paying for it -- everyone, including the person who does it, recognizes that that person is a criminal. But the person who creates elaborate tax dodges by keeping money in off-shore accounts, and who manages to secure passports from multiple countries by circumventing those nations' rules -- that person thinks of himself as clever, rather than as a criminal. What prompts
this observation? A conversation I couldn't help but listen to, since the two gentlemen (one American, one British) were speaking loudly next to me. They were so self-satisfied with their various schemes to keep what seemed to be large sums of money out of the hands of their respective governments. Both men recognized that, if they were caught, there would be "hell to pay", so they knew what they were doing is illegal. But they were also quite confident that they had managed to set up schemes that would not be uncovered. I mean, I believe in taking every deduction to which one is entitled -- pay what you owe, but no more. But I don't believe in creating a false identity as a Filipino woman living in Hong Kong so that you can divert hundreds of thousands of dollars there to avoid paying taxes.

But enough of that. After having dinner, I went and sat on Boat Quay for a while, on the Singapore River. It was really active and lively -- a TON of restaurants and bars, and then just some open places to sit and relax. There are boats -- water buses, essentially -- that you can take to get over to Clark Quay, and you can see a couple of them here. It was really nice to sit out in the evening, though when I saw a river rat running on the steps, I did draw my feet in a little closer to me.

To get to Boat Quay, and to a lot of other places here, I've been taking the subway, or MRT. It is very efficient, and clean, and easy to use. The minimum fare for a trip is S$2, but you get S$1 back when you return your ticket card, so functionally it is only S$1, which is about 68 cents US. You can get just about anywhere you need to go on the MRT, and I much prefer the independence of going on my own to having to rely on a taxicab.

I stopped in at the Plaza Singapura on the way back to the hotel, and had myself a little ice cream. It was nice to cool off a bit -- it is pretty humid here. I had cleaned up a bit before going out, and still very quickly found myself to be a bit pungent from the heat and humidity, so a little air conditioning and a little ice cream was quite welcomed. And then I came back to the room, and turned on the television. There are not all that many English-language stations here at the hotel, and at the moment, two stations are showing a "save the elephant" show, one is doing "save the turtles", and one is "save the rhinos" -- all narrated by John Hannah (from "Four Weddings and a Funeral", among other things. I've seen each of these shows on at least half a dozen different times already this trip. So... please... don't eat turtle meat, and don't purchase rhino horn or ivory. John Hannah will be happier, and it's the right thing to do.

A work day

I went to the main office for Baruch today, to find out details about the one-day seminar they had asked me to do. I had been asked to do a full-day seminar on employee motivation during economic hard times, and had the seminar almost all put together. Baruch in Singapore is starting to do these seminars to help increase the awareness of the program among managers in the city. I was stopping in just to find out where to go Thursday morning, and how many people I should be planning for.
Well, apparently there was some miscommunication -- they had been waiting for some information from me that I was not aware they needed, and so consequently there had never been any publicity about the seminar, and so there will be no seminar. This was the first I had heard of any problem. It's a little frustrating, because I had made decisions about travel and activities while I am here based on the assumption that I needed to be ready to go for Thursday morning. I agreed to do an open house on Thursday evening because I knew I'd be around during the day on Thursday. Now, though, I don't teach again until Friday evening, and I might have not done the open house and had more leeway to travel a bit. So I am a little frustrated (not to mention that I'm out the money I would have earned for doing the seminar). As I said to Heather, grrrrrr.
So I wasn't in much mood to go exploring today, so I stayed in the room and got some work done. I'll have more time than I had planned to go exploring in the city, so it was ok to just hang here for a while. But now I am ready to head out, and I think that I'll head down to Boat Quay, and do something very Singaporean -- go to Molly Malone's, the oldest Irish Pub in Singapore. Should be a fun place to hang out, have dinner, and enjoy the evening. I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Arab Street

I wandered through the Arab Street area this afternoon, and it was a good day to be out and about. Plenty hot, and that was a bit of a problem. I had worn shorts, and then realized once I got to the mosques that I would not be able to enter any of them. But I got to see them from the outside (as I did the Sultan Mosque, shown here), and to wander around in that part of the city, which was interesting. I did have to frame some of the shots of the Sultan Mosque to leave out the 7-11 sign. I also made it over to the Hajjah Fatima Mosque.
Lunch was murtabak, which was really tasty. Murtabak has a bread dough crust with chicken (though it is usually made with mutton), garlic, onion, and egg, served with a curry sauce.
I stopped in a toy store, and was amused at the number of knock-off products for sale, including the game O-Hello, which is Othello, and a bunch of others.
On the way back, I stopped in at the
Singapura Plaza, which is next to the Dhoby Ghaut metro station. It is a big mall, with a Carrefour in it, so I picked up some fresh grapes and a little
cheese, so I am well-stocked for days of work.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I haven't posted for a couple of day -- sorry about that. The teaching schedule in Singapore is Friday night 7-10pm, Saturday 9-5:30pm, and Sunday 9-5:30pm. Between reviewing notes for the next day's class, getting adjusted to the time difference, and trying to spend a little time chatting online with Heather and Michael, I haven't had a lot of idle time.

I had thought about going to an island for some snorkeling, but the schedule was going to be really rough to make work. It was looking like a 4-hour bus ride, then a 2-hour ferry ride to get there, and the same to get back. I'd get back late on Wednesday evening, and then do an all-day seminar on Thursday, an open house for potential Baruch students Thursday night, and then class again Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The time just wasn't seeming to work out for me, given some of the other things I need to get done while I am here. So instead I am going to get out and see some of Singapore, which I didn't get to do really last time I was here. I'll try to get to Little India, Chinatown, and Arab Street. If I get to one of those spots each day Monday to Wednesday, then I'll be in pretty good shape.

Last night after class, I went to dinner with two of the students at a local hawker location -- a place where there are lots of little food stands all together. They just kept getting more stuff for me to eat! I had barbequed stingray with a really spicy sauce, which was quite good. We also had several varieties of satay, as well as two different types of noodle dishes. To drink I had sugar cane juice, made fresh as I waited. An excellent, and filling, meal.

Conversation at dinner was good and interesting, as well. One of my dinner companions was active in the ruling party, and the other not much in support of that party. Both acknowledged -- to me, though not so much to their compatriots -- that democracy in Singapore is not quite what most Westerners would think of as democracy. There are restrictions -- both real and perceived -- on free speech and expressions of disapproval of the government are not welcome or wise. The parliament has 81 seats, 79 of which are held by the ruling party, with the other two seemingly token opposition from two different parties. We talked about whether third world countries or developing economies should have open democracy or authoritarian leadership -- one argument was that under open democracy, the leaders are there for only a short time and so have no incentive to act in the country's best interests, and so instead act in their own best interests, as compared to an authoritarian ruler who can bring the country up economically by the rigid pursuit of individual vision. There were, of course, counter-arguments to that position.

After dinner we went to Wesley Methodist Church, which is withing walking distance of the hotel. It is the oldest Methodist Church in Singapore, celebrating its 125th anniversary next year. It is also very large -- the list of new members and baptisms from the past week was probably 40-50 people. The Sunday evening service is a prayer and praise service, which was not quite my typcial style -- I didn't know any of the songs, for example -- but I was glad to have gone. The general conservatism of Singapore was evident in the service and sermon, but I was warmly greeted and welcomed, and it was a good experience. The Singapore Methodist Church is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, so I saw familiar symbols on the hymnals, and when they started the communion liturgy, I was right at home.

I am going to get a little lunch now, and go see some sights. This evening, I may make it out to a movie -- it seems that "Harry Potter" is playing on just about every screen in town.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Class is going well

Class started yesterday evening, and it seems like a good bunch of folks. We had some excellent conversation around challenges they are facing in staffing their organizations, and I think it will be a good class. Not much else going on yesterday -- mostly reviewing notes for class, and working on the 1-day seminar I will be doing next Thursday.

I did get reservations made for a trip on Monday-Wednesday to Pulau Tioman, and island in Malaysia where the snorkeling is supposed to be really good. Very isolated, and by all accounts little cell phone and likely no Internet access. So if you don't hear from me for a couple of days, that's why. I still have to work out the travel to the island, but think that should work out today. If not, I'll find something else to do!

Class starts in just a few moments, so I need to get in and get set up. Other than getting here, not much adventure so far -- just teaching!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I made it to Singapore today, with little effort, really. The hotel shuttle took me back to the Tokyo airport, Japan Airlines had everything set for my new ticket, the flight was uneventful, immigration and Customs in Singapore were very quick, the luggage was there, and I took the subway from the airport to within two blocks of my hotel. So even though I am here later than I expected to be, everything is in fine shape. My class materials are all ready, and everything is where it needs to be to get started tomorrow.

There were a couple of neat things from today. The hotel had a very nice Japanese garden, and though I only got to spend a few minutes there this morning, it was really lovely and calm. I took some pictures with my phone (since my camera was in my luggage and thus still at the airport), and had some ideas of things to do (over the long-term, not right now) in the yard at home. The koi pond had some gigantic fish in it, probably because you could purchase food to throw to them, and of course all the kids in the hotel wanted to do that. There was a family there feeding the fish, and the little boy came up to me and asked me if I wanted to feed the fish, too, and gave me a couple of food pellets to toss in. I enjoyed being in that spot, even though it was just a few moments before I had to catch the hotel shuttle.

On the Japan Airlines 777, they had a video camera that showed you what the pilot was seeing as you took off and landed, which was cool. Then during the flight, they had another camera you could watch that looked straight down, so that you could see what you were passing over (when the clouds let you see all the way down). Both of those were cool.

So for now I am settled in at the Concorde Hotel in Singapore, on Orchard Road. It's close to the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station, if you know Singapore. I am going to wrap up this post, and go wander down to get some dinner, and see what's for sale over at the outdoor shops.

Tomorrow I'll figure out what travel I can make happen on this trip, and will let you know what's up, and how class went.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Here in Japan, on the way to Singapore

I am on my way to Singapore to teach another course in the Baruch Overseas Executive Master's program, and find myself spending the night in Tokyo. Our flight from Detroit to Tokyo had to make a landing in Minneapolis-St. Paul because someone on board had a medical emergency. We didn't get much detail, of course, but apparently the passenger had a problem related to diabetes. There was apparently a physician and a nurse on board, so the passenger got good treatment while we were still in the air. We initially were headed to Duluth, but weather issues there meant that we had to go to Minneapolis-St. Paul instead. It turns out that Minneapolis was the better bet for us, because (as one of the flight attendants told us) they had used all of the medical kits on board to treat the passenger, and we would not have been able to get replacements in Duluth, so our flight would probably have sat there for who knows how long. But since we went to Minneapolis, which is a NorthWest/Delta hub, we were able to re-equip the plane more easily. Of course, we also had to re-fuel, since we had to dump a LOT of fuel in order to land (otherwise we would have been too heavy). The pilot said we dumped 30,000 pounds of fuel. We were still heavy when we landed, which meant that we had to wait over an hour for the mandatory "brake cooling period". So eventually we were back in the air, landing in Tokyo about 4 hours late, I think. At first they announced that passengers heading on to Manila would still make their connections, but then they came back and said that they, too, would be staying here overnight.

Everything in Tokyo was very easy and smooth. Quickly through Immigration and Customs, a shuttle to the pre-arranged hotel with a shuttle back in the morning, dinner at the hotel cafeteria and breakfast in the morning, and re-routed tickets waiting when we landed. I was a little surprised on the plane during the medical situation, because the flight attendants were really flustered. I would have thought this was the sort of thing they handled from time to time, but several of them seemed really unsure of what to do.

So for this evening, I am at the Excel Hotel Tokyu, to get a night's rest. Then back to the airport, to finish up the journey to Singapore. Hopefully the next time I check in here, it will be from there.