Thursday, February 21, 2013

Singapore: Day 2 of 2

Well, I didn't see as much of Singapore as I was hoping, but Matt and I still enjoyed our time here.  I woke up at 7:30am to go grab some breakfast on the ship and found Tendekayi of Solar Ear eating in the dining room.  I joined him, and we started talking about today's plans.  Our job was to follow our assigned entrepreneurs with whatever they were doing today or grab b-roll around the city, so I was up for whatever.

Tendekayi had a meeting with the Singapore Association for the Deaf, and he was okay with us following along to film it.  We found ourselves a taxi outside of the port and headed to their building.  We met some of the leaders of the association, two of whom were deaf, and had a great meeting.  They showed us around the school, and we got to meet a small class of deaf students.  They came out to the courtyard and showed us where they lived on the map of the world that was painted there, and then we showed them where we live.  All they know of the United States is New York City, so that's where we decided to be from.  No problem.

They showed us around past the primary school and to the vocational school where they train people with disabilities to get jobs in the Singapore.  Most of the work that's available for them is in hotel hospitality, so they are trained to cook, set tables and serve food in a beautiful kitchen and faux restaurant set-up, as well as trained to clean hotel rooms in a staged hotel room complete with a viewing room on the side to watch as others work.  It's fantastic!

They led us upstairs where they would like to put the Solar Ear lab where people with hearing loss would build hearing aids and solar chargers for sale in southeast Asia.  Right now, Solar Ear plants are in Botswana where it started, Brazil and Shanghai (where we visited - watch for that episode next week!) and they will be putting one in India and now they're planning for one in Singapore.  Go Solar Ear!!  Growing like crazy and changing the perceptions of people with hearing loss on an international level. Hopefully, this lab would become a source of income for the vocational school to help grow all of their other programs.

Matt, Shawna and Nizam chillin' at the Hawker Centre.
At the end of our tour, we did a quick interview with Tendekayi, then grabbed a taxi to the Fullerton Hotel in the downtown business district of the city.  The Fullerton is a beautiful place and was originally a massive post office for the port of Singapore before being gutted and turned into a hotel.

We were there to meet with Nizam, a freelance videographer that has worked for the BBC and National Geographic.  He was on the ship from Vietnam to Singapore doing a story for the BBC on Unreasonable at Sea.  He used to work for the BBC full time, but found that he didn't have as big of a variety of projects as he wanted, so he went freelance, but still gets jobs from them on occasion.  He's a very adventurous fellow, and he's covered things like the tsunami in Japan as it was happening.

Kaya toast and magic Singaporian coffee.
Earlier in the day, we had asked our cab driver where he would recommend we go with only one day left in Singapore.  He said, in his thick accent, something like, "Go hooker for abortion curry."  I had him repeat it a couple times, but couldn't quite understand why he was recommending we seek out the red light district...

Well, Nizam took us to the Hawker Centre where they had a huge food court full of separate stands of Asian food. It was a wonderful bouquet of smells and tastes and things to see.  AAAH!  It was wonderful! turns out that you can get single "portions" of the curry at the "Hawker" centre.  The cab driver was trying to tell us that we didn't have to order the family portion, just the small portion of it.  Makes for a funny story later.

We had to get another cup of coffee to go, and
it came in these convenient dangle carriers.
We had Korean BBQ, a smattery of Indian dishes, a plate of random breads and veggies that we dipped in bright red, sweet and spicy peanut-tasting sauce, and finally, the grand finale of foods, kaya toast with coffee.  Kaya toast is a magical concoction of butter and kaya (a green, sweet, jelly-type substance made from a leaf, I think) smooshed between two pieces of toast which you dip into thick, sweet coffee.  They have the BEST coffee in Asia.  It's a dark roast, brewed like espresso and not watered down except for with sweetened condensed milk.  Magic.

After lunch, we made our way back to the ship, so that we can embark to Myanmar this evening.  It sounds like Matt and I will get a little bit of time off in Myanmar, and I'm very much looking forward to that.