Leaving “The Fine City”

It’s March 10th, 9am in Singapore. 

It’s March 10th, 10am in Japan. 

It’s March 10th, 8am in Thailand. 

It’s March 9th, 8pm in North Carolina, USA. 

By the end of today, everyone was going to be separated in these four places. But before we leave, we are taking a 20-minute uphill walk to the Tropical Marine Science Institute at the National University of Singapore for our main assignment of this course – a five-minute presentation on our findings in Singapore!

Here is the class in the Conference Room at TMSI, where Lexi Addison is presenting on Singapore’s usage of Shark Fins in food markets.

Each individual gave a five-minute presentation based on their observations of Singapore and/or the marine environment to give a nice summary of our 3-week course.

I was the last to give a presentation – and it was about “The Fine City” of Singapore. Yes, Singapore is a ‘fine’ city… but it is also known for its fines on its citizens. There is merchandise in every souvenir shop about its title of “The Fine City”, and so I have taken interest in the signs of associated fines in the environmentally-protected spaces of Singapore. If you haven’t already, take a look at Ariel Chukwuma’s blog post detailing our night eating the fruit, durian… stinky! No wonder there is a fine if you bring durian on public transit or in any indoor areas!

Here are several signs listing the fines at MacRitchie Reservoir. Including “No Playing of Music”, “No Releasing of Animals”, and “No Feeding of Monkeys”.

Tom had declared that class ended once presentations were finished! This was it. Our final day in Singapore. And for us, spring break had started! Many of us were traveling back to North Carolina – but others took the opportunity to take trips to Japan and Thailand while they were in Singapore! We went back to The Quay Hotel West Coast to pack our belongings before starting our ‘break’ away from paradise!

The Quay Hotel West Coast is the place we’ve been staying at these last three weeks! Below includes a picture of the entrance to the hotel, a view from my room on the top floor, and me getting packed up and ready to go!

A group of us were heading back with Gwendy Womble and TA of the course, Laura Givens, back to North Carolina. The bus was leaving from the hotel at 6:30pm for the majority of us to leave on our flight back to San Francisco, which was at 10:20pm. We said our goodbyes, and made our way to Changi International Airport.

 On this cloudy day, we were given a glorious goodbye from Singapore due to the environmental scenery around Changi Airport. One of Singapore’s biggest industries is tourism, and so it is important that they begin and leave tourists with a fantastic view so that they wish to come again. It is surely working on me!

We thanked Mr. Ko for the bus ride to the Airport, as well as our bus rides to plenty of places around Singapore – like Sungei Buloh and Pulau Ubin. We quickly got a group picture while we still had half of the class!

From left to right: Gwendy Womble, TA Laura Givens, Nick Kaney, Emily Prudot, Kaylee McKinzie, Magdalena Phillips, Grace Chung, Misaki Foster, Erika Berlik, and Sloane McGuire. 
 Behind the Photo: Prof. Tom Schultz!

Changi Airport was flourishing with nature. In Terminal 1 there is a waterfall with wondrous trees surrounding it. On many of the walls would be dirt pockets full of prospering plants. It was also interesting… as security is right in front of your plane’s gate. The group heading back to the United States made our way to gate A21 and quickly shuffled through security before heading onto our 15 hour flight. (I got an aisle seat!!!)

This was a long flight, in which preceded two other flights before I finally made my way back to Raleigh-Durham International Airport at 1:30pm on March 11th. This would have been 2:30am on March 12th in Singapore. During these flights, I had a ton of time to reflect on my experiences over these past three weeks. 

Singapore was an extraordinary place that not only gave me new experiences in Urban Tropical Ecology, but also brought me to a place of different languages, people, backgrounds, cultures, and religions. I had previously only had one other experience outside of the United States where I went to Baja California Sur, Mexico – almost exactly two years ago. This class brought me a world of firsts – first time flying over the Pacific Ocean, visiting a different continent… and I even saw California and New York for the first time during my layovers at Newark and San Francisco International Airports! This is a trip I will never forget, and I thank Tom Schultz, Katie Wood, Gwendy Womble, and Laura Givens for hosting this opportunity for undergraduate and graduate Duke Marine Lab students alike. To the next time I visit Singapore, and explore more of what the natural world has to offer!