Orchids, NParks, and U.S. Embassy….Oh my!
by By Talia Buenrostro -- March 15th, 2017
This morning we started bright and early at 8 a.m. We headed to the botanical gardens using the MRT. Our first destination was the orchid gardens, which was across the gardens from the MRT stop. On our walk over to the orchid gardens, we were surprised to see an Oriental Hornbill. While we had seen one before, this one was very close. We continued walking and beside the walkway, we also saw a monitor lizard eating a turtle for breakfast. We were lucky to see so much diversity in just a short walk through the gardens.
The National Orchid Garden has over 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids. It is the largest display of orchids in the world. It has different sections, such as the VIP Orchid Garden which features orchid hybrids named after visiting state dignitaries and VIPs. My personal favorite was the Papilionanda william catherine, which was dedicated to William and Kate, the royal couple of England. There was another flower dedicated to former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
After we explored the National Orchid Gardens, we went to speak with Chen Pei Rong, a NParks representative. She presented on “The National Parks Board and Conservation in Singapore.” We learned about the biodiversity and what their action plan for Singapore is. The 5 strategies were:
- Safeguard and enhance biodiversity
- Consider Biodiversity issues in policy and decision-making
- Improve knowledge of biodiversity and the natural environment
- Enhance education and public awareness
- Strengthen partnerships with all stakeholders and promote international collaboration.
Due to Singapore being a city-state, they plan their conservation strategies differently than other larger countries. They are better able to focus in on specific areas and use their resources to improve those areas because they are not a large country. This allows for a clear and defined approach to conservation for the future. The NParks representative also spoke about a new program that she started last year called the “Intertidal Watch.” It is a program that reaches out and depends on the community to survey and preserve areas in Singapore.
The next class event we had planned was a visit to the U.S. embassy. Three representatives spoke to us about their jobs. The first was Camille Dawson, Counselor of Public Affairs. Her job is one that is meant to create connections between American culture and the local culture. This can be planning programs such as concerts, which will allow for a better understanding between the locals and the Americans living in the area. She also works as a liaison between the media and the embassy. The next was Chunnong Saeger, Deputy Consular Chief. Her job has a bit more variety. She may be working on birth certificates for U.S. citizens, processing visas or arranging death certificates. The third was Jerrod Hansen, Political Officer/2nd secretary. Mr. Hansen had a generalist job, which means he could do any sort of task but the majority of his tasks were related to cybersecurity and antiterrorism. The three representatives allowed us to ask them questions. Two questions and answers are below:
Q: How do you handle a situation when your personal values differ from the national values?
A: “You have to do what you have to do,” said Jerrod Hansen.
He went on to explain that when working at the embassy, the representatives have to focus primarily on doing what is best for the United States. While at times their views can differ from the policy they are working on, their primary job and focus is being a liaison between the United States government and the local government.
Q: Have the Singaporeans ever resisted the influence of the western culture?
A: The Singaporeans have not resisted a program that the U.S. embassy has planned but they have raised concerns about other programs. For example, there is a protest called “Pink dot” that is about LGBTQ rights in Singapore (homosexuality is illegal in Singapore). The U.S. and other companies supported the event financially and this caused the Singapore government to make a new law. The law stated that foreign organizations could not financially support free speech rallies in Singapore.
While this response did not exactly pinpoint one country, it had a direct affect on a free speech rally.
Overall, this day was full of different types of experiences related to the environment as well as the government. It was great to receive input about the way that Singapore functions from people who live in the country. While we learned about different subjects, we gained valuable perspectives about Singapore.