Singapore #8: The Lion City

Aviel ’25, reflects on what he has gained from the his experience in Singapore.

The fascinating country of Singapore. Albeit a small island city-state in the southernmost part of continental Asia, it is filled to the brim with a variety of wonders that span from architectural behemoths to ecological immersion to cultural blending through the main four races of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Eurasian. Since Singapore is very well known for all of these aspects, especially architecture, our group was very excited to be the first school-led trip from Deerfield to visit. Now that we are reaching the end of this life-changing trip, taking some time to look back and reflect on the good and bad events that happened along the way would help to provide some perspective on how and why things happened the way that they did.

As Isabella shared in her post, our first few days were a less than optimal experience, yet we were able to make the best of our time in San Francisco. We tried to look at activities in the foggy city through a positive lens. For myself, I just saw the short detour as the exploration of another new city before Singapore since I had never been to either. Being able to see the Bay Bridge and take the BART and Metro were all things that I pushed myself to be excited about. Having this little side-adventure also added to the fact that going to Singapore was beyond exciting and after a 16 hour flight we arrived at Changi Airport (at two separate times) on Tuesday.

Being in Singapore itself was far more enjoyable than I could have ever imagined, and I feel that other people in the trip cohort would agree with me. Being able to see the locations that are in movies and internet videos in person simply blows you away. Seeing the contrasts between Singapore and the United States, especially between the cities of San Francisco and New York (where I am from), just accentuated the marvelousness of the Lion City. While it is a metropolis just like SF and NYC, it has larger buildings, a great amount of affordable government housing, and a tremendous connection to nature. One of the tour guides that we had throughout the trip mentioned that Singapore used to be a garden city but now it is a city inside of a garden. I found that both really powerful and a great image for what other cities around the world should attempt to do (in their own ways since Singapore’s climate is very hospitable to many plants while others may not be). Outside of physical things, the different cultures of Singapore’s residents really shine through and everyone is so accountable and supportive of their neighbors. There is a street in Singapore’s Chinatown that has a Hindu temple, Buddhist temple, and Muslim mosque within about 300 meters of each other. This shows how much pride the Singaporean people have of their own cultures while still being under the title of Singaporean. Whether they are a Malay Muslim, a Chinese Buddhist, an Indian Hindu, or don’t fit into any of those categories, they are still Singaporean. I saw a poster that summarizes this perfectly with the words ‘different but equal’.

Now under more personal reflections, I think that this trip really helped shine a light on how Chinese culture flourishes in different environments. Since I am taking Chinese and I am going into Chinese three next year, having perspective on how my choice to learn a fairly difficult language will possibly affect how I am able to interact with people who are from different places and backgrounds, will definitely help to push me to continue to do my best in this language. Seeing various museums based on Chinese culture, both in San Francisco and Singapore, also helped me to see how the people that speak this language adapted to changes in location and neighbors. Learning about the contrasts between what Bruce Lee had to endure in Hollywood and how Dr. Sun Yat Sen was able to thrive in Singapore and helped portray the differences between the US and the area of Singapore fundamentally.

To conclude, I think that this trip has been one of my favorite travel experiences because of the many sights I was able to see, such as the Gardens by the Bay and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, as well as the resourcefulness I have now gained from having airline problems and being able to travel on a foreign transit system without a chaperone, and, lastly, the amazing desserts, like Ice Kachang, and sweet drinks, like Bandung Rose Milk.