Singapore

I’ve been in Singapore for about 48 hours now. So far, I like the city. I expected it to be more like Hong King – lots of people, pushing, crowded. I don’t feel that way at all. However, I must say that my hosts have been good at making sure I get to the MRT station before the rush. Maybe at the rush, it is a different story.

Yesterday, we had some free time, and then went out for dinner with some of the hosts. Today was a work placement. I feel so taken care of. My hosts dropped me at work, and stayed with me until my vocational placement came to meet me.

I am adjusting to the weather, somewhat! It is hot and humid. But it is beautiful. However, my feet have swollen to look like boats, so I think it is time to turn in for the night and get off these feet!

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Update, no updates…

I must say that as someone who feels really anxious without plans, I’m doing pretty well with the “planning” for this trip. I think it is because I know that there are people who are taking care of this for me. And, if they don’t take care of it, then my team leader will step in and make sure everything happens as it should. It kind of feels like I’m a kid again, and my team leader is my mom watching out for me. I’m already thinking of how I can thank her for taking care of us. 

In this program I’m in, we’re supposed to have our itineraries about six weeks before we go so that we have a chance to review them, make sure our job placements are in line with our interests, etc. We leave in five days. We still do not have a complete itinerary. We don’t have all our flight info. I do know the names of the people I’m supposed to stay with in three of the six towns we’re visiting . I know that people on our end have been trying to get this all figured out, but I think it is a cultural difference and they may be much more laid back in the “planning” department than we are. Again, I’m shocked that I’m not stressed about this lack of details! I was at my mom’s on the weekend, and it was weird to say “No, Mom, I can’t give you the details of where I’ll be staying as I don’t know them yet.” Instead, I gave her the name and number of our coordinator here, hoping that if she needs to reach me, he’ll be able to figure out where I am. 

Last night, I was messaging with the team leader from the other district who is here now. She was telling me a bit about my billet that I’m staying with in the first leg of the trip. She told me that the one I was supposed to stay with has changed, and that I’m now staying with her best friend. Even though I haven’t met this woman, it was nice to know that I’m staying with her friend! This time next week, I’ll be settled in at that friend’s house, happily getting ready for my first work placement the next day. 

As for the work placements, it seems like there are a few really cool placements lined up for me in Singapore. I’m not sure which of them I’m going to, but I’ve been emailing back and forth with a man there who has been fantastic at trying to get me a good placement. I am quite excited about that part of the trip! 

Now, if I could only figure out what to pack. 

 

Eleven Days

I leave in eleven days. How did it get to be so soon? There is still so much to be done! I write an exam in two days, and then I hope to be able to get everything done over the weekend. And by everything, I mean shopping, packing, repacking, visiting family, getting my documents all together, getting the other blog up and running. 

Yes, other blog. My intentions with this blog was to chronicle my trip. I was telling my group about it, and they put me in charge of starting the group blog for the trip. I have put a lot of time and energy into it, matching the color scheme with our brochures and business cards, learning how to add other users, trying to teach people how to blog, etc. However, because I’m such a planner, and others aren’t, I still wait for the others to accept the invites to the blog and ask any questions they might have. So far, three of us are registered, and two of us have posted. (The blog is private for now to give is a chance to figure out multiple contributors, but will go live this weekend.) So, I have a feeling that myself and another team member will be doing the majority of the blogging on that site. So, I may have to figure out how to just link this one to that one for simplicity sake while I am gone. 

On another note, what do I pack? The temperature should be 25-35 with high humidity. There are lots of mosquitoes, and we will be in a conservative area for some/most of the time. I know that whatever I pack will be fine, and if not, I can buy something over there, but for now, I’m consuming my non-studying, non-working time with thoughts of shopping and packing. 

Until next time… 

 

Year of the Snake

One of my teammates organized a dinner for our group with two Malaysian students this past weekend. That was the greatest idea. We had a lovely dinner and were able to ask the students any questions we had, and hear all about their country and their customs. For instance, in Malaysia, they do not discuss the weather like we do here in Atlantic Canada. Instead, their casual greeting is “Have you eaten?” This is good to know, as if I haven’t and say so, they may just respond “Oh, that’s too bad,” but will not be looking to feed me, just making conversation. I’ll know not to expect a snack every time!

Near the end of the meal, I asked the question I’d been dying to ask, “What about the snakes and insects? Should I expect to see them outside, inside?” I hate snakes.Or, I’m afraid of snakes. I don’t hate them from afar, just the thought of them near me.

Last year in New Orleans on the swamp tour, there were snakes in the trees, and our tour guide was warning us to keep our feet up if a snake fell into the boat… Luckily, no snakes decided to hop on board, but the thought of it still freaks me out. I didn’t see Snakes on a Plane, but Snakes on a Boat sounds just as scary to me…

neworleans

The swamp in Louisiana – there were snakes in the trees. I didn’t get any pics of the snakes I saw as I was cowering in the boat…

Anyway, I’d read about all the snakes in Malaysia and pictured them slithering into my bed at night. When I asked my question to our Malaysian friends, they both burst out laughing. So, I feel much better about my chances of coming face to face with a snake now.

As an aside, 2013 is the Year of the Snake according to the Chinese zodiac.

Travel Shots – Get ’em or Skip ’em?

In the past, I’ve gone to get travel shots at two different times. The first time, I got a ton of them before my trip to Hong Kong. The second time, I think, was before I went to Mexico. What did I get each time? Honestly, I have no idea. I went to a travel clinic that no longer exists, and while I’m sure they gave me a little booklet with my immunizations to keep in my file (or give to my doctor), I don’t know what I did with it. And, I’m not sure why I felt I needed travel shots either time as I was going to well developed areas. I think I was just scared and thought it worthwhile to be “better safe than sorry”.

Same thing happened for this trip. Since this is an organized trip through Rotary International, we would have to get vaccinations if they were mandatory to enter the countries we’ll be visiting. There are no mandatory shots for Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. So, it was up to us and our doctors if we wanted to get any.

I went to see my doctor and after discussing the shots I know I had in the past (tetanus booster and Hep A/B), he got out his big book of diseases (at least that’s what I assumed it was) and asked where specifically I was going. Apparently, it would be helpful to know more about the towns I’ll be visiting. While I assume they are all built up villages, I’ve got no clue just how urban they will be, or how mosquito filled, etc. So, my doc told me what he thought I should definitely have (polio, typhoid, and Hep A), and what he would get if he were going (meningitis). He separated them onto two scripts so I could do my research and weigh the costs and benefits.

After talking to a friend who is a doctor, I decided to do them all. I do plan to travel more in the future, so why not? Then I found out the cost. The optional shot was $134 and my health plan doesn’t cover any of them, so I thought more about it. I talked to another doctor I know, and he said it wasn’t necessary… I did my own research over the weekend, and I agree, unless I plan on going to Africa in the next five years, it really isn’t necessary. And now that I cancelled that one, going against what my doctor suggested, I sure hope I was right.

If you haven’t guessed by now reading my blog, I over think and worry about so many little things. I read my travel guide for two hours the other night after going to bed. However, it does make me feel more prepared. Though now I’m worried about those 10 metre pythons that live in Southeast Asia. I sure hope I don’t see any of those!Image

Reacting to Changes

I’ve been following the headlines about the conflict in Malaysia since I first heard about it a few days ago, and was hoping that I’d hear that it was all settled. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe that everyone decided to stop the violence and just live and let live? I know this isn’t necessarily realistic, especially not in that time frame. 

We got news this morning that because of the uncertainty, they have changed our itinerary, and we will be staying away from Sabah. This made me a little sad, though I agree that it was the right decision and I am happy that they are putting our safety first. Sandakan is only 120km from the conflict zone. 

When my team and I first met, we were each given areas to research and Sandakan was one of the places I was assigned. I spent some time researching the town and the surrounding area and was really looking forward to seeing it all in person and meeting the people. Instead of visiting, I will now be hoping that the people in that area stay safe. I will still be following the news and hope that the conflict ends soon and there are no more deaths. 

But on the plus side, we now get to go to Kuching, Sarawak! I have heard amazing things about Kuching, and I think it will be a fantastic place for us to spend the last few days of our time in Malaysia. I think I see some research in my future this weekend to start to get (even more) excited about this change in the itinerary. 

Should Fear Affect International Travel?

I was searching the news sites this morning when I saw an article on google news from Brisbane that talks about the conflict going on right now in Sabah, Malaysia. Hundreds of Filipinos made their way to Sabah a few weeks back to try to claim the land back for the Sultan of Sulu, and over 25 people have been killed in the conflict. It made me start to think about travel and how you can be putting yourself in some interesting situations when you travel to foreign areas where you don’t have a clue what issues might be brewing there. Should fear stop you from travelling to foreign places?  

I’m not concerned for my safety at this point (obviously, since I’m still in Canada), and I’m not overly worried about myself and my group related to this current conflict. I have faith that the Rotary International organizers will adjust our visits if this situation escalates or is still not over by the time we visit. But it sheds a whole new light on reading international headlines. I can only imagine how much more interested I’ll be in the battle for Sabah once I’ve been there and have met some of the residents. I’m already thinking about the people that I haven’t yet met, and how this whole situation is affecting them and their safety. 

I’m happy that my mother isn’t overly interested in international headlines, and that she doesn’t know much about where I’m headed other than I’m going to Malaysia… If she heard this news, it might worry her unnecessarily. However, it very well could have happened in a few months time when we are scheduled to be there, and still could be happening, or happen again. 

So, how safe is it to travel internationally? How much research should a person do on the areas that they are going to be visiting? I find this an interesting topic as I’ve always had people who don’t travel much telling me to “be careful” when I take a trip.

The first time I went to Asia, I’ll admit that I was terrified. I’d only know little bits of about the places I was visiting, and was afraid of pretty well everything. It was my first trip outside of North America, and I was terrified that there would be a language barrier at customs and I’d get put in a prison somewhere. (This is thanks to watching the movie Brokedown Palace and seeing Claire Danes’ character go to jail in Thailiand for smuggling.) But I put all my faith into my friends who lived in Hong Kong and would take care of all my concerns while I was visiting, and I’m glad to say that customs was not at all intimidating. 

I’m still full of fears about traveling. I’m always afraid I’ll run into strange wild animals. This was not at all helped by a fruit farm guide in Malaysia getting fruit for me from a bush that cobras are known to sleep in. And the bumblebees in New Zealand are terrifying. I’m still nervous every time I go through customs. Mexico terrified me when I heard that you push a button at customs to see if you get an extended search or not. However, things are never as bad as I think they will be, and so far not worth any of the worrying I do before hand. 

So, I’m worried about going through customs, and wild animals that I’ll likely never see, but I’m not worried about the big issues like standoffs. Why is this? What about the rest of you travelers? What concerns you before you travel to international destinations?