OELP Trip to Tainan (23/5/15 - 29/5/15)

Day 1 : 

Today was the start of our activities in Taiwan. Breakfast was at Ten Drums Village, the place where we slept the previous night upon reaching Taiwan. The food was delicious and we realized Taiwanese breakfast is quite different from the kind of breakfast we have in Singapore. There was rice and noodles, which we usually have for lunch and dinner instead of breakfast. After eating, we placed our used cutlery, plates and cups into a trolley for collecting dirty dishes. Then we threw all the leftover food into a big garbage bag. The tour guide told us that the people in Taiwan were very particular about categorizing their rubbish. Food that was left uneaten should not be thrown away but used to feed farm animals or as fertilizers for crops. We also realized it was very rare that a rubbish bin could be seen along be streets in Taiwan. In Singapore, there are rubbish bins everywhere for us to dispose our rubbish so that we can keep the roads clean by not littering. But in Taiwan, that was the not way, people often brought their rubbish back home to dispose. They will groups their rubbish into groups and recycle them. I think this is something Singapore can learn and adopt as it would be an even better way of keeping Singapore a clean city and at the same time, preserving the earth.

After breakfast, we visited 3 museums which were mainly on the Hakka (客家) culture. I has always thought of Taiwan as a small country without much history. But today, I realized that even though Taiwan isn't very big as compared to China or some other larger countries, it is still rich in culture and has a very interesting history. The tour guide also told us that the Taiwanese now are trying their best to preserve as much of their original culture and history as they could, so that their descendants would know of how their country was like before. I think this is something every country should do, preserve their culture and heritage in museums for the later generations to be able to understand how life was like before the modern lifestyle that they are living came about. Singapore doesn't have a very long history but we could build museums to remember the people who first came into Singapore and made it a city or those who came here to work and made up the population in Singapore.

Lunch that day was the first meal we had at a Taiwanese restaurant. The food was similar to those we ate in Singapore, but they were prepared in a very different and that made it taste very unique to Taiwan. I wasn't very comfortable with the food as I couldn't get used to the taste of food there, but some dishes were really tasty and overall, it was a great meal where I got to eat traditional Taiwanese food for the first time. After lunch, we visited 1 more museum about the history of Kaohsiung. When I first entered it, I didn't even think it looked like a museum. The marble like flooring, grand symmetrical staircases and huge white pillars made it look very much some kind of England castle. But the guide that brought us around the museum told us that every feature of the building had a significance and was that way for a reason. After visiting so many museums, we went to the supermarket in Taiwan in the afternoon to find out the price of things in Taiwan as compared to Singapore to complete our task regarding the Cost of Living in the two countries. All the food and daily items found in the supermarket were shockingly cheap and many of us went crazy buying food. I didn't buy much besides some pineapple tarts and milk candy as they are the special products of Taiwan. I brought some back for my family and they all loved it, it was really nice.

Dinner was at a very special restaurant that had two levels. Some restaurants in Singapore also had more than one level but what made that restaurant so special was that the surrounding made it feel like we were eating in some kind of old streets. After the scrumptious dinner, we went to the Liu He Night Market, what all of us had anticipated since we arrived in Taiwan. Even though the night market wasn't very big as compared to those in Taipei that took the whole night to cover but it was enough to give us a whole new experience of eating and shopping. Everything was along the streets so there was no real door and walls to separate the stalls, they cannot even be called shops. But the food they sold looked really nice. Even though the tour guide told us that the food at the night market should be safe to eat and many people eat it but I still didn't dare to try so I can only say it looked nice. What I was more interested in was the price of items sold at the night market. The tour guide told us that it was cheaper than things sold in malls or other shops in Taiwan. And when we went to the supermarket, we were already so amazed at the low prices of the things, I wondered how cheap the things would be there. I wasn't disappointed when I got to know the prices of the things. It was so cheap that my friend and I didn't know what to say when we just got to know the price of the shirt we wanted to buy. But I guess the shop owner thought we thought the price was too high and was considering whether to buy it or not so she lowered the price further and asked us if that was okay. Then we immediately nodded and got the shirt at a really affordable price.

To conclude the first day, it was a brand new experience in Taiwan and I really looked forward to the next day and seeing more of life in Taiwan.

Day 2 :

Before we left the Ten Drums Culture Village, where we had spent the last two nights, there was a tour guide who brought us around the whole village to explore the facilities and structure of the village. First thing in the morning was a drum lesson. It was my first time hitting a drum and it felt really good. The sound was very loud and gave the feeling of confidence and boldness. We followed the guide, who was very good at drumming, to play a few sets of rhythms. At the start, because we played as a class and some were faster than others, the sounds produced was very loud and messy. But as we practiced a few more times, we were able to play a steady rhythm as a class. It was really a unique experience to play the drums in Taiwan. 

 - incomplete to be continued -

Top 3 Classic Taiwanese Dishes

Number 3 : Stinky Tofu
Stinky Tofu, also known as 'chou dofu', is one of the most polarizing dishes of all times, it can come of as terribly repugnant or deliciously savory. Even how it's made is controversial. The tofu cubes are soaked in a brine of fermented milk, vegetables and meat. Many who are unfamiliar to the delicacy tend to associate to aroma to sewage and are appalled to learn that, for the Taiwanese, the stronger the smell, the better it is. But don't be put off by its reputation, there are still thousands who love stinky tofu. Stinky Tofu is often served with pickled vegetables, which add a nice crunch and sour contrast, and drizzled with soy sauce-based condiment.

Number 2 : Taiwanese Beef Rolls
The roll is comprised of a crispy green onion pancake wrapped around braised beef slices with a handful of pickled greens and cilantro. Dark sweetish bean sauce is the perfect condiment to officiate the marriage of pancake, green onion, been, and veggies. Though they may be a bit on the oily side, these beef rolls are finger food at it's finest. 

Number 1 : Taiwanese Meatballs
Taiwanese Meatballs, also known as 'ba wans', are adorable glutinous dumpling-like balls wrapped around a fistful of minced meat, shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots. The skin is a combination of rice flour, starch and water, which gives it its translucent and thick sticky texture. Served with a generous heaping of a sweet and sour like sauce, they're portable snacks and are typically on the cheap end, no more than $5 at most joints.

Do you think the Merlion would make the most national icon to represent Singapore?

Yes, I think that the Merlion is the best icon to represent Singapore because it is very unique to Singapore and no other Country has any connection to it like Singapore does. I know that many people may think that the Merlion is just a mythical creature that can never be true and even the legends that it came from are not proven true yet. I do not think that will affect how special the Merlion is to Singapore because it is created based on a legend of how Singapore was founded. Although the legend may not be proven true yet, many people believe in it and know that Singapore was founded by an Indian Prince, Sang Nila Utama.

The Merlion has a lion head because that was the first animal Sang Nila Utama saw when he came upon the island of Singapore. And the fish body of the Merlion came from the fact that Singapore was a small fishing village that mainly depended on fishing as a source of income because it is an island and there are huge areas of sea all around it. I think that these two pieces of information which makes up the Merlion is very likely to be true. And the fact that the Merlion is built upon it means that the Merlion has historical value to all Singaporeans because it shows how Singapore was first founded and how we started off as a small fishing village.

The Merlion is also known widely across the globe to be a representation of Singapore as it is a very unique figurehead of Singapore and has also become a place of tourist attraction. If you ask any tourist who has been to Singapore, they would definitely have had visited at least one of the 5 Merlions in Singapore. When Singapore is mentioned to tourists, they would immediately associate it with the Merlion because it has become a national icon of Singapore that is recognized all over the
world and in Singapore itself.

The Merlion has also created a special identity all Singaporeans can assume and carry proudly with them around no matter where they go. It also gives all Singaporeans a sense of belonging whenever they see or hear of the Merlion. When the Merlion is seen in other countries, it most slightly would mean the partnership that country has with Singapore.

Some may think that the Singapore Flyer or Marina Bay will be a better national icon to represent Singapore as compared to the Merlion. But I do not think so as these infrastructures are only built in recent years when Singapore has already modernized and become prosperous. It lacks the historical and cultural value behind the Merlion. Other countries can also build exact same infrastructures like the Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay Sands but tourists will not recognize it as representations of Singapore as these buildings have nothing to do with how Singapore came about. They are only built recently as an act of modernizing Singapore. And there is nothing else that can hold the same historical value and give Singaporeans a stronger sense of belonging other than the Merlion. Thus, I can conclude that the Merlion is the best national icon to represent Singapore.

Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was called "Golden Age" during the history of China because it was when China had the most land area and was very prosperous. The emperor and leaders of China back then did a lot for China to prosper and be in its "Golden Age" during the Tang Dynasty. Education was one of the components that was emphasized upon during the Tang Dynasty. And I believe it was also a very important reason why Tang Dynasty was able to become the "Golden Age". Because more educated children will grow up to be more capable adults who are able to do more for the country to prosper.

What the leaders of China during the Tang Dynasty did for China is very alike what Mr Lee Kuan Yew has did for Singapore in the past 50 years. There were some decisions which Mr Lee made that was not very popular amongst Singaporeans, but he made them anyways because he did what he believed to be the best for Singapore in the long run and he was right. Every right choice he has made for Singapore in the past contributed to where Singapore is today. And because of Mr Lee, the Singapore today is very prosperous and is a beautiful home to all its residents. Like in the Tang Dynasty, Mr Lee put extra emphasis on education and stating that all children growing up in Singapore has to be educated. As the children grow up, they are able to become efficient businessmen to boost the economy of Singapore, making Singapore prosperous as it is now and that is why Singapore can be viewed as in its own "Golden Age" now.  

Reflection on Suzhou Industrial Park
The Suzhou Industrial Park is built up after an agreement between the Singapore and Chinese government. Even though Singapore made quite a profit at the start, it turned into a huge loss when the Chinese took advantage of the blueprint they had of Suzhou Industrial Park and built Suzhou New District beside it, which was exactly the same as Suzhou Industrial Park. But they charged tourists lesser money at Suzhou New District so many people went there instead, since it was exactly the same thing.

Singapore government was very honest and did not do anything out of the agreement. But because the Chinese government worked in another way, Singapore suffered a huge loss. I think this really gave the Singapore government a warning that even though we worked the right way, some other countries might be trying to benefit themselves. So in the future, Singapore should be more cautious when dealing with other countries.

Reflection on Speech
I think my presentation was alright except some parts of my script I forgot because preparation was not done ahead of time. And I was not familiar enough with the script. On the paper which I brought up, I only wrote down the main points and I ended up stating those points only and forgetting to elaborate. I think I can do better if I come up with I my script earlier before the presentation so that I will be able to elaborate very will on each point I am going to talk about.

As a class, I think we did quite well because most of us had very different ways of representing Singapore and we all managed to make our point across to the class clearly. And only a few exceeded the time limit. But many of us stuttered and there were things like "ummm" and "then right" that we always use in out conversations so we tend to say them very often in our speeches and it makes us sound unprepared and lacking confidence. If we can avoid saying these phrases too often in our daily lives, I believe our presentations will be better. There are also some of us who particularly need to be better prepared. But overall, I think we all did our best and a good job.

Comment on Group 4's Presentation
Group 4's product is called "Octopus Broom". I think that their presentation was quite good because it was clear that Xin Yue was introducing the broom, she introduced the price and uses of the broom thoroughly for us to understand the broom well. And the other group members were in charge of showing every function of the broom after Xin Yue explains it. The acting done by the other group members were interesting and made us understand how to use the broom easily. But a few of the group members did not really act while the others did more than their share. If everyone could act an equal share of the presentation, it would be better.

China's Economic Growth
I think that China's economic growth and opening up their country to international trade will benefit Singapore economically. Even though China is experiencing increasing amounts of GDP, the average amount of good and services each Chinese can consume is low, because most of the products produced are sold to other countries. Most countries prefer to get supplies from China as compared to the Eastern countries because their goods are cheaper. Singapore will benefit from China because products can be bought at a very cheap price and when they are sold at a much higher price, more money can be made.

Since China's corporate tax rate is one of the lowest in the world, it will attract many foreign investors because it requires lesser money to start up a business in China as compared to other countries. And because of the large land space China has, lots of businesses can be set up and a lot of money can be made. When there are more businesses being set up in China, there will be more job positions for the large Chinese population, and the unemployment rate will decrease. Singaporeans can also apply for the new job positions offered and it will help in Singapore's economic growth. These job positions will benefit the unemployed people in Singapore the most. It will cause Singapore's unemployment rate to decrease and Singapore can boost economically. The future generations of Singapore can benefit a lot too because if their parents hold a manager position in any of the businesses, it will be much easier for them to get a job in the future.

Future of Singapore
The population in Singapore is decreasing and there are more people who are getting older and lesser young ones being born to support them. Because of the rapid aging population, the younger generations in Singapore are under a lot of stress because they have more elders to support. To encourage more people to give birth to more babies, the Singapore government has offered cash for families who have more than a particular number of children. This is not working very well because the population is still decreasing. Parents do not want to have too many children because it will cost a lot of money to raise them and they might not have so much time. So I think the government can give financial support for families with 2 or more children, a fixed amount for each child each year. This might give some parents the reassurance that they will not face financial difficulties when raising their children.

Poverty in Singapore
I think poverty in Singapore means that families are unable to support themselves due to low income or unemployment. When the money earned is lesser than the amount they need for daily necessities such as food and water, they will be faced with hunger and if most of Singapore's population starts to face this problem, there'll be poverty in Singapore. Even today, when most of us are living comfortable lives in Singapore, some of us are still facing financial difficulties. It is very hard for any country, even very well developed countries like Singapore, to totally prevent any poverty. Because there will always be people who cannot find jobs or have very low income jobs and they cannot earn enough to support the family.

In Singapore, schooling is compulsory for all children, even those who are very poor or facing poverty. It is a heavy burden for the parents of those from very low income families to send them to school. The Singapore government has provided these children with financial support such as subsidizing much of their school fees and providing them with an amount of money for the daily lives of the children in school. Any magazines or newspapers bought in school will be subsidized as well.

These children are suffering because their parents have low paying jobs or are unemployed. The government has also tried to help these unemployed citizens by limiting the number of foreign workers coming to Singapore, so more job positions will be left available for the poorer citizens in Singapore. With all these measures taken, I hope Singapore's poverty rate will decrease as much as possible over the years.

My December Holidays

During this December Holiday, I went to China. I visited many places and enjoyed myself very much. But what left the most lasting impression on me was actually the bullet train I took there. The first picture was taken in the train station, while waiting for the gate to open to board the train. What I found really shocking was that it looked so alike an airport; it had all the procedures we had to go through before boarding an airplane in the train station. And the second picture shows the inside of the train. It resembles the inside of an airplane very much as well.
This bullet train only stops at a few places but it can travel a very long distance in a short amount of time. 1 hour of travel by car could by reduced to 30min on the train, its speed is the main reason for its creation and why so many people prefer to take the train than drive even through driving is more private. The leg space in the train is more than that in an airplane as well so it’s more comfortable. Just like on the airplane, there is an overhead compartment which allows us to carry some luggage along with us when we take the train to another city and plan to stay overnight. With all these advantages of the bullet train, it has really made the lives of the people there more convenient.
During my 5 weeks stay in China, I attended school there for 3 weeks and I really had the experience of a lifetime, it’s something I would never get to experience in Singapore, a well-developed country. As compared to Singapore, China is not as well-developed, and so are the schools there. Due to the large population, every school has much more students than the schools in Singapore, and that also means that there are more students in every class, the class I joined has 54 students. In RV, the average number of students is around 30 to 35. Even in primary school, I’ve never encountered any class with over 50 students. Every class has more students, but the size of the classroom is smaller than the classrooms in Singapore. So the tables and chairs there are much smaller than the ones we use. The tables are really small and low there is no place to stretch out my legs and it’s really  uncomfortable, but the students there have long since gotten used to it. Our whiteboards and markers have been replaced with blackboards and chalk in their classrooms. While we have projectors in every classroom, they don't even know about such gadgets, at least the students don't. Overall, their learning environment is poorer than ours, we should treasure what we have and make good use of it instead of taking all that we have for granted.

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