Dec 19, 2011

Last Days in Singapore

The first week of December my parents travelled to Singapore and for 5 days I showed them around the city. We then went on a week long trip to Phuket, Thailand. It was a nice relaxing week and we went to Patong beach where I bought a gorgeous sarong. We also went to the Phi Phi Islands (apparently they filmed the movie "The Beach" with Leonardo Dicaprio there) which was very picturesque. I won't have access to the photos until after Christmas, but I will put them up then.

Right now I still have two days left in Singapore, because I fly back to Amsterdam on Wednesday at 23:50 with Singapore Airlines. I can't wait to go home for Christmas, but it's also strange to say goodbye to the place I've come to consider as my second home. Tomorrow I will be saying goodbye to some of the friends I've made on this exchange and though I will miss them, I know that I will see them again sometime in the future. We shared a unique experience on this exchange in Singapore and will never forget it.

Today my grades were released. Yes, remember, I was here doing university courses, too! SMU uses a curve to grade.

From Wikipedia: "For example, if there are three grades, A, B and C, where A is reserved for the top 10% of students, B for the next 20%, and C for the remaining 70%, then scores in the percentile interval from 0% to 70% get grade C, scores from 71% to 90% get grade B, and scores from 91% to 100% get grade A." So, if you got an A you were definitely in the top 10% of the course at SMU. My grades:

Shipping Business A -
Enterprise Development A -
Singapore Society A
Intercultural Communication A -
Intro to Psychology B +

I am really happy and find this a great way to end my stay in Singapore - knowing that I worked hard at SMU and got the grades to show for it AND that at the same time I enjoyed my free time to the max; going out, travelling, and having a great time with new friends.

Dec 4, 2011

Infinity Pool

Last week I went to the infinity pool on top of the Marina Bay Sands which is located on the 57th floor. Gorgeous views and a nice pool.

BOB's "High Life" video filmed at the pool:

Dec 3, 2011

Candid Camera

In Indonesia, people wanted to take pictures with me. Why? Probably because I was the first white person they had ever encountered. Groups of people would come up to me and ask if they could join me for a picture. Sure, ok. Then a group of 40 men who went to Jogja for the first time came along and ALL wanted a picture. Maybe not. My friend had told me that her tall blond male friend was asked for pictures in India all the time. I had laughed at the time, but now I know what it's like!

Jogjakarta Part II

The Hindu complex called the Prambanan temples consists of 204 temples. During the "big flash" most of the temples were destroyed and the ones that exist today have been rebuilt using the original volcanic stones that were used in the 9th century when the Hindus peacefully coexisted next to the Buddhists on Java.

The Hindu temple has many carvings. What looks like a stupa is actually an upside down lotus flower which symbolizes purity.

A panel with an image of one of the many Hindu gods. These three large temples were dedicated to; Brahma the creator, Vishnu the protector, and Shiva the destroyer (the most important god). The temple of Shiva is the largest one and the middle one.

One of the other Hindu temples on the grounds of the Prambanan temples.

Me in front of the "evil" statue protecting the grounds (on the opposite side was its "good" twin). This statue is more than a 1000 years old, but the stone looks brand new!

Beef redang dish. Indonesian food sure is yummy!

Some chocolate cake for dessert.

The Sultan's Palace (Kraton) where the 10th Sultan currently resides. He is of age and has 5 daughters so his brother will most likely be next in line. The 9th Sultan actually signed the Indonesian declaration of independence.

Women in the palace creating batik fabric.

To finish my trip, I took a blissful massage and had a rose bath. Wonderful!

Jogjakarta Part I

I just went on a 3 day trip to the city of Jogjakarta, located on the Indonesian island Java, to visit some temples and experience Indonesian culture. This first blog post will be dedicated mostly to the Borobudur temple!

The Phoenix Hotel where I stayed at was an old Dutch colonial mansion. The building was gorgeous; colonial, antique, and very rich.

I saw the Ramayana ballet which is a Javanese story about Rama fighting for his true love Sita.

Our first stop on my private tour of the temples. This is just a small temple and the huge tree next to it is thousands of years old.

Next to the little temple and gorgeous tree, was a Buddhist monastery. A tranquil garden was open for visitors and provided the perfect meditating atmosphere.

This is the Eastern entrance of the Borobudur temple. When monks visit the monument, they have to go up all the 10 layers and walk clockwise on each tier to read the stories that have been carved into the panels on the side of the building. The Borobudur has no chambers and only has its exterior to showcase Buddhist lessons. The temple was built in the 9th century, but no one knows how long it took to build. In 1006 there was a "big flash" (the eruption of Mount Mepai) and the Borobudur was covered completely in ash. The ash protected the building for centuries until a Dutchman discovered it once again in 1812 and excavations began. The Buddhists had left Java after the big flash and many had gone to neigboring Bali.

The first two levels of the building are still hidden behind stone. They are hidden, because they reveal the evils that mankind faces and must overcome; dance, drink, fornication, war, etc. As you can see, many of the Buddhist statues have no heads. This is because 60% of the heads have been stolen over time.

At the highest level is the large stupa (a stupa contains four elements: the priest's robes, a lotus flower, an upside down rice bowl, and a walking stick) which is surrounded by smaller stupa.

Me in front of a stupa. Inside these stupa are Buddhist statues and if you touch them it will give you luck. Of course you are not allowed to touch them, but with the promise of luck, how could I resist?

My tour guide and I in front of the Northern side of the temple. (Note: each of the four sides are exactly alike!)

Nov 28, 2011

Living the Life

Ann-Katrin and I went to a photo booth and took some Japanese inspired pictures!

I went to the Titanic exhibition at a museum. They had remade the grande staircase, state rooms, and there were actual artefacts which came from the bottom of the ocean where the Titanic vessel is slowly decaying. They actually predict that in 80 years there will be nothing left of the cruise liner, because the fungi/bacteria at the sea bottom are slowly de-constructing the ship.

At Orchard Road the shopping is amazing and the Christmas decorations make it even more exciting to be there!

Today was my last High Tea with Ann-Katrin; this time it took place at the St. Regents.

Nov 21, 2011


I just finished "London: the Novel" by Edward Rutherford and at the end of this comprehensive history of a dynamic city, the following quote presented itself. Because I found it so moving I thought I would share it here, in the hopes that you may understand and gain something from its historic significance.

"Imagine, a summer. At the end of it the leaves fall. They lie on the ground. They almost dissolve, you might say, but not quite. The next year the same thing happens again. And again. Thinned out, compressed, those leaves and all the other vegetation build up in layers, year after year. It's the natural process. It's organic.

Something similar happens with man, and especially in a city. Each year, each age, leaves something. It gets compressed, of course, it disappears under the surface, but just a little of all that human life remains. A Roman tile, a coin, a clay pipe from Shakespeare's time. All left in place. When we dig down, we find it and we may put it on show. But don't think of it just as an object. Because that coin, that pipe belonged to a someone: a person who lived, and loved, and looked out at the river and the sky each day just you and me.

So when we dig down into the earth under our feet, and find all that is left of that man or woman, I try to remember that what I am seeing and handling is a huge and endless compression of lives. And sometimes in our work here, I feel as if we've somehow entered into that layer of compressed time, prised open that life, a single day even, with its morning, and evening, and its blue sky and its horizon.

We've opened just one of the millions and millions of windows, hidden in the ground."