Our second day in Taiwan started off with a tranquil morning, as our class gathered for breakfast in the Ten Drums Cultural Village. Our itinerary for the day was to visit a number of museums, namely Mei Nong Hakka Culture Museum, Mei Nong Folk Village, Kaoshiung Hakka Cultural Museum and Kaoshiung Museum of History. Most of us felt that it was definitely going to be a relatively boring day, having to sightsee at such old places which do not seem to captivate our interests at all. However what we experienced was almost the opposite of the "boring experience" that we thought it would be. Stepping into the Mei Nong Hakka Culture Museum, we could clearly see the deep history of the Hakkas and their impact on the Taiwanese culture as much of their past are imprinted on the walls of the museum for our reading pleasure. One deep impression of that place left in my mid was the large furnace that stood near the entrance of the museum door. When we asked the guide what the furnace was for, he went on to tell us that these furnaces were used largely by the Hakkas to burn 'paper with words', and was a popular method to show their respect towards paper and words. Incinerated separately from typical household rubbish, the Hakkas believed that paper and words were ought to be treated with respect as they represented scholarly wisdom and education while having a 'living soul' of its own. After completing our trips at all the museums, it really impressed me that the government of Taiwan went through such great lengths to preserve their heritage and culture, establishing so many museums just to make sure the generations in the future knew the history of their ancestors and forefathers. At night, we went to the highly-anticipated Liu He Night Market. It was a fruitful experience as we got a chance to experience first-hand what it felt like to be bustling among the late-night crowds in the night markets, which were famous must-see sights when tourists go to Taiwan. We had three questions given to us as reflections afterwards, as follows:
1. What I feel I did incorrectly?
Answer: We made too much noise at the dining tables during lunch and dinner.
2. Why is it incorrect?
Answer: It disturbs other students and tourists/diners at the restaurant, results in public nuisance.
3. What will I do tomorrow?
Answer: Make less noise when eating or when cleaning up after meals.
My second morning at Ten Drums Cultural Village did not start off well as I was late for assembly at the lobby. It was certainly unpleasant to have held everybody up for breakfast, and I was sincerely apologetic for the irresponsible behaviour. From this incident, I learnt that punctuality is a very important factor in fulfilling targets. If one person was late in a group, unnecessary delay is caused at the expense of the whole team. I took that in mind for the rest of the trip. After breakfast that morning, we proceeded for our short drum lesson and a tour of the Ten Drum Cultural Village, followed by a drum performance by their drummers. We then went to the An Ping Fort and Old Street to learn of the Dutch's impact and involvement with Taiwan. It struck my interest to know that the walls builds over 391 years ago were still preserved in good shape even after enduring wars. Followed by the Eternal Golden Castle, we visited the defensive castle and walked about in the fort itself, feeling what it was like to be in a place infested with soldiers years ago. It impressed me that artifacts and structures are still intact for viewing after so many years from being built. It was really exciting to see something that had gone through wear and tear over much time and still remain intact after wars.
Today was the first day of our immersion in Sacred Hearts High School. It was a day most of us were looking forward to, having prepared a performance to showcase to the school. Preparation and practice for this performance took 1 month before our trip to Taiwan. I was satisfied with our performance and was really pleased when we received such a warm round of applause after our performance. It was great to know that the students of Sacred Hearts liked the performance we put up for them. Their performance was splendid as well, as their wushu team, chorale and string ensemble showcased their talents for us. The day at Sacred Hearts High School was not long, having only joined one class for that day. I joined a History class of senior high students, who welcomed me warmly despite the fact that it was only the first time they met me, making me feel at home. We also met our buddies for the first time, joining them for a short tea session. After our first day at the school, we then went to a soy sauce factory and saw how soy beans were fermented before being made into soy sauce. For dinner, we ate with our buddies and their parents, interacting with them at the same time.
Today started off with a visit to the Yunlin Cake Tower Café for a DIY towel making session after meeting 刘秘书 at Sacred Heart High School. Over there, we attempted to fold pieces of towels into cute cats while listening to the instructions given by the professional towel makers there. It was an eye-opening experience as we saw how towels were folded to appeal to customers after being made in the factory. We then went to the Yunlin Puppet Theatre Museum, where a puppeteer gave us a short traditional puppet show to educate us on modern topics such as protecting our environment, changed from the popular Chinese novel 'The Water Margin'. I definitely enjoyed the experience, as it was not a common sight in Singapore to be able to watch traditional puppet shows, now that the tradition is beginning to fade off. With the introduction of modern gadgets such as phones and tablets, we seldom would want to spend time watching puppet shows in puppet theaters. We went back to Sacred Hearts High School afterwards, and it was the second day of our immersion there. Before going for class, we met our buddies for a short tour around the school. It was then when I met my buddy's friend, who was welcoming upon seeing me. That experience with his friend was one which left a deep impression in my mind. My encounter with him has changed my perspective of life slightly, as I learnt that learning has no limitations nor boundaries. My buddy's friend showed me that fact as he took the initiative to ask me about Singapore. We have never seen each other before, yet he does not feel awkward at all when approaching me in search of new information on a foreign nation. Despite having met each other for the first time, we exchanged a long conversation with each other, as he and my. Dude brought me around the school for a mini tour during their break between classes. He showed me that the ducks in their school pond was actually tamed to respond to its own name. While others were busy frolicking with the rabbits, the three of us admired the ducks in awe. He went on to tell me about Taiwan and the history of Sacred Hearts High School, while I shared with him about former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's legacy and his impact and contributions to Singapore. He was clearly satisfied with the conversations we had, glad that he gained new knowledge. The both of us also exchanged notes and coins, as he politely requested if he could keep our Singapore note as a souvenir and momento of our visit to their school and our encounter with each other. We bade each other farewell soon afterwards as it was time to go for class. I joined a class for balloon sculpturing, after which we made our way to the computer lab for their robotics lessons. It was fun trying on hands-on activities that they prepared for us, as we do not usually get to experience such lessons in Singapore.
It was finally the day when we got a chance to spend a day with our buddies! However, before our buddies could take us out, I joined two classes in school, namely geography and English lessons. We then proceeded to their school kitchen to have a try in their FCE lesson, which required us to make carrot cakes and soup for our lunch. It was my first time trying to make soup, and it was quite delighting having to taste what we have cooked. After munching on our self-made food, we met our buddies and they brought us out. My buddy brought me to Janfusun Fancyworld, which was an amusement park. Together with three other pairs of students and buddies, we played many rides and went to several attractions of the amusement park. It was also my first time entering a haunted house. I was scared, however my buddies were comforting me that all would be less scarier with them around. I then decided to give it a shot. With my buddies accompanying me, I successfully completed the haunted house together with my buddies. We then bade our farewells to our buddies after exchanging gifts with them and their parents over a dinner with our hosts for that day. Overall, it had been a fun day spent with my buddies and their parents. I learnt and observed that they treated guests with overwhelming respect and concern, as shown from their hospitality. Their hospitality made me feel really comfortable when interacting with them, hence I did not hesitate to ask them questions regarding their culture in Taiwan such as their education system as well as cultural practices.
It was our last day in Taiwan and I felt a little reluctant to start the day so quickly, as the trip just seemed to end as soon as we started our flight on day 1. We started our day bidding our farewell to the principal and vice-principal of Sacred Hearts High School, as well as thanking the seniors of Sacred Hearts for their guidance throughout these 3 days. We then went to the 921 Earthquake Educational Park and saw the preserved site of the fateful incident which shook Taiwan on September 21, 1999. It was really saddening to hear that many lives were lost in the 7.3 earthquake which struck central Taiwan. However, it also served as a reminder for us not to take everything we have in Singapore for granted, and feel fortunate that we do not experience natural disasters here in our country as much as others. It was a timely reminder for us to know of the need to be aware of these disasters and to prepare in the event of a disaster striking. It was not a long day, as we proceeded to the airport for our flight back to Singapore after lunch. We bade farewell to the beautiful land of Taiwan, as we headed back to where we called home.
Should the Merlion be used as our National Icon?
I feel that the Merlion is the best icon to represent Singapore as the Merlion brings out our past and heritage. The fish body represents Singapore's origin as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, while the lion head represents Singapore's original name—Singapura—meaning "lion city". By using the Merlion as our national icon, it will instill a sense of belonging to Singaporeans as we would remember our past as a fishing village. The lion head is also significant as it reminds us of one of Singapore's folklore, the sighting of a lion by Sang Nila Utama, giving our country the initial name of Temasek.
Reflection on Singapore's Golden Age and Thoughts on Mr Lee Kuan Yew
It would not be wrong if we say that Singapore is experiencing its golden age now. As compared to 50 years ago when Singapore was still a third-world country, it is obvious that we have made significant improvements in our infrastructure throughout this half of a century. With new tourist attractions constantly springing up in Singapore, it shows us that our country is not merely on par with other foreign countries, but might be even better than them. Our country's status as a first-world country is not just a baseless remark made by others, it can be evidently seen from our present strong economy. Our Singapore dollar is strong, and most of our people are employed. Our country is also made up of a urban and modernized society, and we also live in rather luxurious conditions as compared to those of other countries. However, no one knows what might happen in the future. For all we know, there might be a period of greater prosperity awaiting us in the future which would be deemed as Singapore's golden age, but as of present, it would be safe to say that our current Singapore is indeed experiencing one of its 'golden ages'.
The prosperity our present Singapore enjoys is undoubtedly the effort and hard work put in by our former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The sacrifices he made while trying to build a modern Singapore from a mudflat land are uncountable, and it has indeed paid off having seen the transformation of Singapore from 50 years before till now. Our strict laws that bring down crime rates in Singapore can be attributed to the policies Mr Lee had imposed on Singapore in the midst of building a better Singapore. Our prosperous economy can also be because of the fact that Mr Lee ensured that we established good bilateral ties with other countries. This opened doors to economic advancements as our ties with other countries brought in trade and tourists, which made tourism our current source of income for Singapore. Our high standard of living is this brought about by our strong economy and low crime rates, both which are significant contributions made by Mr Lee. Hence, it is only right to say that Singapore's golden age is because of the contributions and sacrifices Mr Lee made. If it was not for him, Singapore could still be the unappealable mudflat it was 50 years ago.
Reflection on Suzhou Industrial ParkSuzhou Industrial Park (SIP) began in 1994 as a bilateral project for Singapore to share industrialisation experiences with China. This marks one of the many ways that Singapore extends its bilateral ties with other countries. The reason for the establishment of the SIP is to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. By maintaining bilateral ties with other countries, it gives Singapore a chance to make improvements to our country by adapting other countries' ways. It also gives us a chance to interact more with our foreign counterparts, enabling us to experience cultural exchanges between other countries and our own country.
Reflection on Speeches and PresentationOverall, I think that I did fairly well for my presentation. I gave a thorough description of the picture before delivering my speech on my views as to why I chose this picture to represent Singapore best. The content of my speech should have been sufficient to bring out my point that racial harmony is an important and unique aspect in Singapore. I made an effort to include certain hand gestures to engage my audience's attention. However, one thing I could have improved on would be my eye contact with my audience. Eye contact with my audience can aid in engaging them in my speech, as well as bringing out confidence when presenting. I also stammered in the middle of my speech, which showed that I did not have enough confidence when presenting. If I had improved on my eye contact and taken note not to stammer when talking, my speech would have definitely been more engaging and pleasant for my audience.
Reflections on Group 5's presentationI feel that Group 5's presentation has engaged the audience really well and it is very creative that they thought of the broom to be a pole for pole-dancing as a form of exercise. It is interesting how a broom used to sweep our floors could be thought of being something used for burning some calories. It goes to show how people can have different views and perspectives when looking at a certain object or situation. On the other hand, they can take note not to giggle among themselves when presenting as this would cause the audience to feel that they do not have sufficient preparation before presenting. Otherwise, they have done up a great presentation overall.
China's Rapid Economic GrowthChina's rapid economic growth is due to its rapid growth in productivity in goods, which increases the amount of export China does with other countries. This creates a source of income to China, and that income can be used to import products from other countries. A high amount of import can also mean a greater amount of profit when the imported goods are resold at a profit. Due to China's low currency exchange rates, it makes foreign countries' import more expensive in China and Chinese goods cheaper in other countries. This translates into higher profit coming from people who buy foreign goods in China, which contributes to the country's economic growth as well.
Dwindling Population Growth in SingaporeGiven Singapore's dwindling population growth, there will be a small labour force in the future after the children grow up to be adults. This would lead to a slower economic growth of Singapore in he near future. Dwindling population growth in Singapore would also bring about an ageing population. This means that the working population has more elderly to support, which would cause negative impacts to the working population such as increased pressure and stress on them. There would also be fewer taxpayers in Singapore, and this might cause lower government revenue as taxes contribute to the government's revenue. However, Singapore can prepare for all this by urging more Singaporeans to give birth to more babies. By doing so, it is safe to assume that the future generations can help to contribute to Singapore, and relieve the problem of an ageing population in our society.
Poverty in Singapore
Regarding the issue of poverty in Singapore, I would like to bring about the fact that there are indeed elderly and the disabled leaving on the streets in a 'first-world' country such as Singapore. These people are often too poor to afford a roof over their heads, some are abandoned by their relatives, while others are ridden with illnesses. "That was my impression of poverty. Begging, homelessness. But in Singapore you don't see all that," This is said by Mr Kevin Seah, 27, a former Anglo-Chinese (Independent) boy. With reference to the above sentence, it is eminent that although poverty is not a major problem in our country, it is definitely still there.
Picture from http://therealsingapore.com/
Homeless people resort to sleeping at park benches, playgrounds and other public places. It may not be a pleasant sight to see people lying on the benches at void decks, but the poor have been forced with dire circumstances hence their need to sleep without shelter. An example of these limitations is having a low income, it is reported that 105,000 households in Singapore earning below $1,500 a month. The situations that the poor are trapped in becomes even more stressing should there be children in the family that need to be taken care of. School fees, groceries, daily expenditure, all these factors contribute to the fact that the poor do not have a proper shelter over their heads. However, even though we recognise that these Singaporeans need help, how many people actually step up to give them the help they need? As our economy gets better, the gap between the rich and the poor only gets larger, and the poor is deemed 'poorer'. How many people, who are considered well-off, would be charitable and donate to these homeless and poor people? Personally, should I see a homeless man sleeping on the bench at a void deck, I would not have the courage to approach them and ask them if they need help. However, I do hope for the chance when I can actually provide them with what they need. Be it lodging, money or food, if it is within my means, I would not mind helping them.
2014 December Holidays (Matthew)