Monday, June 24, 2013

Singapore Day 3: Hot, hazy, and delicious

Smoke haze begins to clear
I rest in the morning while W teaches. This time around, neither of us adjusted as quickly to the time change as before. Part of it is that we're riding around in a car some of the time: we'd be walking and using public transit if Taylors weren't kind chauffeurs. The ongoing haze probably doesn't let as much sunlight through to reset our body clocks, either.

We've got opposing teaching schedules. W's on this week and our fourth. I'm teaching the two weeks between. As usual, he comes back from class excited about the discussion and material he taught. I'm reviewing material and getting ready for next week: I have to teach two intensive weeks of research methodology, or "How do you write a research paper?"

Some kids in Malaysia and Singapore wear
masks to prevent lung damage from smoke
blowing from Indonesia to the west
Most of the students have not done theological research or writing. Some from non-tech areas will have only used a computer in the previous 3-4 weeks. A few are barely literate in English. For them, this is a crash course in language and literacy, as well as academia. My job is to give them enough information and skill to get through their theology classes.

I've been inspired by those who've taught this in the past. They've loved the students and their material, and shared their joy in the progress students make. This wouldn't be my first choice of teaching material, to be honest. More artist than mathematician, I like the interchange of "what can be" rather than "these are the rules you will use." However, I have more enthusiasm than I started with from hearing others' passion for teaching English. Plus God just took me through 4 weeks of TESOL, which surely will help!

After noon, Cheryl takes me and their 9-yr-old daughter N across the island to the Junk Pile, a pottery stash on the west side. The Brits colonized Singapore so cars drive on the left, not the right like in the USA. It's a happy reminder of our stay in England a decade ago.

Young N is soon hot and bored. No wonder - her mom and I are fascinated by the variety in each aisle of the shaded warehouse. Temps are in the low 90s, but humidity is high and the breeze is minimal between the shelves. We're dripping within a half hour.

One of the island's only surviving Dragon Kilns is at this pottery. We walk through a brick tunnel and look at the pottery supplies and tools for students who come here to learn and plan with clay. When we're done, we wash the dust off our hands and cool off with a popsicle. It takes 40 minutes to cross the island back to our flat to pick up the other child, 14-year-old J.

W's class is done by 3:15. We drop by the school for him on our way to the most amazing supper at Tim Ho Wan, a Michelin-rated dim sum restaurant. The line is long but quick; we shuffle from one low stool to the next toward the entry.

Hum bao
A server comes by and hands us a tab sheet for pre-orders. Once we're seated, our food arrives on little trays and in steamer baskets. Even the kids rave about the delectable glutinous rice wrapped in leaves, fresh hot hum bao rolls with crispy outsides and bbq pork inside, and the shrimp dumplings. The tables are packed with happy customers. No wonder! We stagger out with bulging stomachs.

We make one more stop: Arab Street (the Muslim quarter). in the shops that line the narrow streets, the Taylors find batik, shawls, and other beautiful gifts. W and I are on stuff-rations. We're severely downsizing at home and determined not to bring more home than we came with. If we can, we'll shed clothing, books, and other goodies here.

W and I pause at the Sufi Corner for Turkish coffee (he) and mint tea (me). Beside us, tables of young people smoke hookahs and visit, passing the hoses of rose and milk shisha around and puffing out fragrant clouds.

We're all weary and happy to be home by 7:30. We toddle off to bed and sleep soundly. By the time I get up at 8 in the morning, everyone else is gone. In the air-conditioned quiet, I sit at my desk overlooking other flats, traffic, and lots of greenery, brushing up on what I'll teach next week.

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