The Three Blind Men and the Elephant
Or what we learned on the first day of being in Singapore
Professor Matta had told us a story about the three blind men and the elephant. To summarize: the story was about three blind men wanting to experiencing an elephant because they hear several locals talking about it; they want to experience it for themselves. When they are actually put in the same room as an elephant, they each discovered the elephant to be only one part of the animal. One experienced solely the trunk, another, the legs, and the last, the tail. When they all tried to describe the experience, they all argued about what part of the elephant was “actually the elephant”. Because they only experienced one section of the animal, they assumed the entire animal was the area that they “experienced”.
This was very similar to our first day in Singapore. Because we had only read about Singapore and not really experienced it first hand, we each assumed different facts that we had learned summed up the entire experience of being in Singapore. When we actually started walking around to the different regions, all of our preconceived notions were blown out of the water.
The Tamil Nadu away from Tamil Nadu
The Mustafa Centre is a huge supercenter in the Little India area in Singapore. You can buy anything at this supercenter, from gold watches to tasty Indian snacks. It is four stories high and each floor is completely filled with products. The amount of stock on the shelves was a huge surprise. For example, in the cereal section, each different cereal had over 20 boxes deep. This seems to stem from the fact that the turnover in the store is extremely high. When walking through the store at 11 p.m., the store was completely packed. Every single floor was crawling with all sorts of people, thus navigating the store was very difficult to say the least. It is important to note that around this time at night (11 p.m.) is when most people go out to do their shopping since it is so very hot during the day in Singapore.
The last trip of the day was a visit to Little India. While Singapore was owned by the British in the 1800s, they wanted to bring cheap labor over from other countries. Tamil Nadu was the closest state to the coast, which is where most of the workers came from. They have now set up their own community which is bustling and thriving for tourists and locals to come visit. As soon as we stepped into the first shopping area, it was as if we had stepped right into India. Storefronts lined with henna tents, traditional Indian clothing, and beautiful gold jewelry populated the sidewalks. For dinner, we had traditional Indian cuisine including palak paneer (a spinach and Indian cheese dish), aloo gobi (cauliflower and potato curry), naan (Indian flat bread), etc.
Prior to coming to Singapore and researching it in class, we really had no expectations of the Southeast Asian island. We had presenters from Singapore and a presentation from Ohio State’s coordinator, but we couldn’t conceptualize the paradise-like Island. The first full day in Singapore included a variety of experiences – from nature to recreation to cultural ceremonies, we had the chance to experience a slice of life in Singapore.
Our first stop bright and early was the gardens by the bay. Being a tropical paradise, Singapore is the ideal destination for a beautiful array of tropical plants. A large structure of 18 fake trees called “sustainable trees” stood a few stories high. These sci-fi fake trees were designed to help with energy in the city. We had a chance to go up in these trees, connected by bridges and have a Birdseye view of the gardens.
Our next stop involved one of the most recognized buildings in Singapore – the Marina Bay Sands. Built in 2011, the hotel was designed to be family oriented to attract many guests. The Marina Bay sands cost 5 billion dollars to build, but drew in an astounding $400 million dollars in its first quarter. The Marina Bay Sands is so successful not just because of the beautiful aesthetics, but because of its unique offering – guests have an all in one hotel complete with a mall, casino, and restaurants. Guests can have a variety of options without ever having to leave the comfort of where they are staying. Not only are there all these amenities, but take the elevator up to the 56th floor and visit the observation deck, or take a dip and cool off from the 90 degree weather in the beautiful infinity pool, which overlooks all of Singapore. For those who aren’t guests of the hotel, they are free to visit the casino, shop, or purchase a ticket to view the sky deck. The Sands also hosts entertainment such as music events and plays. CATS is currently playing now, with Beauty and the Beast debuting in March. It perfectly captures all types of people. After spending an exhilarating day at the Sands, everyone is invited back in the evening for the last light show the Marina Bay Sands displays every single night.