Tag Archives: Singapore

Don’t Pinch Me

I have died and gone to the JW Marriott in Dubai! If this is a dream, let me slumber.

With my king beside me, my kibibi underfoot, and my blessing inside me,  I’ve seen the sunrise and moonlight dance together over the vast view of ornate mosques, galloping horses dark as midnight, African goddesses in stained glass windows anchored by the prodigious statues of African emperors, and a beautiful myriad of people from all over the world. As far as I can see, there are symbols of growth, transition, progress, and pride. The juxtaposition of opulence and reverence is intriguing as I’ve rarely seen these two sides on one gold coin.

After a seven and a half hour flight on Singapore Airlines, (If you’re going to fly economy, then Singapore Airlines is the best way to do it.), we were greeted by our hotel representative standing singly holding a large sign in a leather bi-folded frame printed with my husband’s name spelled correctly in a bold font. This in itself is somewhat familiar, but the fact that we were greeted in the area reserved for distinguished guests before being escorted through the hurried bustling throng of  taxi drivers and less exclusive greeters, as we were led to our private chauffeur of a smaller version of my husband’s dream car, the Mercedes S600, made it a little special.

On the journey from the airport, Salna*, our South Indian driver, was all too excited to boast of the historical and touristic treasures of Dubai. Having lived here for 15 years, he has adopted Dubai as home and donned himself the tour guide and information resource for first time visitors. We learned about the unique attractions like the world’s largest mall and musical water fountain, the Burj Khalifa, which is the world’s largest hotel or man-made structure, imagethe seven emirates that comprise the U.A.E., and how wonderful and safe Dubai is because of their beloved ruler, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed. Despite this not being his native country, Salna* clearly felt like he was an embraced part of it and proud to be so.

When we arrived at the dual towers of our hotel, we were warmly greeted by Khatasie*, a beautiful South African young woman who’s only lived here for three months. Our kibibi was immediately enamored with her. She too begin boasting of both her home country and Dubai, urging us to visit again and again. Now, of course, I attribute a great deal of their hospitality to the fact that it is the industry in which they are employed, but there was something refreshingly genuine and kind about them as well. The same could be said about Di*, our chef from Nepal to whom our little one was also drawn. She usually only speaks enough to be polite, if even, but she actually entertained a conversation with Di*, going as far as to mistakenly say she was from Abu Dhabi and “it’s fun.”

We’ve only been here for twelve hours, and it’s already made a significant impression. Now, we’re heading off to explore. The mall must be conquered!

Trust, SPEAK, Release

2014 has already proven to be extraordinary and divine! Every January, we meet as a family and outline our goals for the year. We prioritize them and plan for them financially. Of course, we know that the unforeseen will happen, but we try to prepare ourselves for those hurdles as well, at least in terms of having a financial cushion if needed.

This year we planned to travel as much as possible for leisure, to establish a firm educational format for our daughter, to continue developing our community here in Singapore and plan for the one we will join when we return to the states, to complete projects that have been on the burner for more than a year already, to step forward on entrepreneurial visions we’ve been given, and to conceive our second child before the end of the year.

It’s March, and we’ve already traveled to Thailand & Sydney as a family, and I’ve traveled to Bali (again) for a Girls’ Trip. Each venture was AMAZING!!  In January, I began home-schooling my daughter formally and she is thriving; already reading site words, using phonics to read basic words, counting and adding in English, Swahili, and Chinese (we’re working on subtraction), exploring the world around us through the lens of science, and learning more and more about our history and geography. She can identify every country we’ve traveled, the continent of origin of mankind, and all of the countries where her friends have families on a map.  And, she’s only 2 1/2.  (I have to say though, this is mainly due to her love of learning than anything I’m doing.  I have other students like this, and I have those who aren’t. Every child is different, and more specifically, learns differently.)

As an educator, I’ve been developing a curriculum for her since infancy, but this is the first time I’m implementing it on a schedule and with other participants.  She is also enrolled in dance and a drop-off Chinese class, so that I can have a much needed break a few hours a week.  The curriculum I use is African-centered and uses the methods of teaching to a student’s learning style rather than teaching in one uniform way.  The closest resemblance is a Montessori Model, but I implore lessons that are culturally enhancing as well. It is extremely important to us that our daughter knows who she is and what that means in the context of the world we’re living and the the global community-at-large.

One of the ways we ensure that she does see herself is by surrounding ourselves with a community of people that share our culture and desire for expressing and exchanging it with others.  Of course we also immerse ourselves in the truly rich and diverse cultures of which Singapore is replete. However, we understand the value of knowing and loving yourself first in order to fully embrace anyone else without the desire to emulate, imitate, or assimilate.

Before leaving the states, we prayed consistently to have a village, a true community built around the shared love of God and each other.  Who would’ve ever thought we’d find that in Singapore?!  We had to travel to the other side of the world to get it, but we finally do have what we’ve been searching for since we married. The unfortunate part is that we all know this is temporary because everyone is here on an assignment. Once it’s complete, the adventure here is as well and the community changes.  But, at least we have the prototype, and we’re growing. We see each other regularly, support each other in our respective endeavors, engage our children with one another, and empower each other to be great. We see each other for who we are in a world that has tried to make us invisible, criminal, or targets.

The community we’ve helped to build here has been an even greater catalyst to begin planning for establishing and creating what we desire whenever we do return to the states, where we are fully aware that every type of “-ism” exists and the love of guns exceeds that of  humanity. Hence, our development of the “The Back to Black List,”  a list of proposed solutions to help restore a thriving and healthy black community. Again, we know we have to build ourselves first before we can idealize and eventually obtain a world free of racism. (See “Wide Awake Parts I & II,” & “Why We Must Forgive.”)

As we’ve been checking off our goal sheet, I finally buckled down and focused on the many writing projects I have on my plate. I’ve started and almost completed several different works ranging from cultural critiques to marital and relationship insight for adults and teens. Almost doesn’t count when checking off the list, so I have to take the time and discipline to focus on each project. One is a series of children’s books, and though they are all written, the greatest challenge has been finding an illustrator and publisher. You wouldn’t believe some of the experiences I’ve  had in that process.  It’s been challenging and discouraging to say the least, but I think I’ve finally found the right match. Keep your fingers crossed, say a prayer for me, and get ready to purchase your book before the year ends.

We’ve always been entrepreneurial and we share the goal of empowering the disenfranchised throughout the Diaspora, so we’re still steadfastly working on expanding the Black Girl Speaks brand (www.blackgirlspeaks.com), as well as some other enterprises we’re developing. I think, aside from wanting to empower and employ others who have been marginalized, one of our desires is to avoid being in a position where someone else, “The Man,” is in complete control of our financial security. We lose sleep over the thought of it.

As expected, the unexpected has happened. After setting our goals for the year and finally reaching a place where we feel “at home,” we got the news that my husband’s company plans to move us to Hong Kong before our lease is renewed in June! hong-kong-Ed-meisterNow, we are absolutely loving the life we have in Singapore. Despite the restrictions, and there are many, it really is a wonderful place to live with a young family. Of course, this experience has been enhanced by all of the aforementioned, but Singapore itself is full of reasons to want to stay.  Our neighborhood is conveniently located in a cultural enriched area amidst shops, incredible restaurants, the only 24-hour shopping complex, all of the public transportation outlets, parks, and most of our friends are near.  You can understand why my immediate response was, “I’m not going. I’m staying here.”  I have since journeyed from refusal, to denial, and now I’m at a place of peace with whatever happens.  I didn’t want to talk about it at all, but I finally shared the news with friends of ours during my Bali Girls’ Trip.  I just didn’t want a long, drawn-out farewell.  Now, I realize by SPEAKing it, I released the anxiety that coupled it and I can just be tranquil and reassured that God will continue to shock us with blessings wherever we are in the world.

Baby Bwele in Bali

In fact, He already has! Shortly after discovering that Hong Kong was on the horizon, we found out the new addition to our family was as well. I’m elated to share that we are expecting Baby Bwelé aka Baby Blue aka Bean Pie in September!!  Now, any normal person would probably initially panic at the thought of moving internationally with one child in tow and another on the way to an unknown place where language and culture are barriers and without any reference for physicians. And, I did, because I have normal person tendencies.  Yet, I also have super-natural provision and the certainty that all will be well as it has been.  Wherever we go, we’re blessed. (But, I really, really, really want to stay Lord.) 

Why We Must Forgive

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I was walking through a parking lot today, and I saw a sign that read, “If reason is on your side, show forgiveness. If justice is on your side, show humility.”

At first, it rattled me considering the state of anger wherein I’ve traveled increasingly since the Trayvon Martin trial, and where I’ve resided since this past week’s Jordan Davis trial. Why must they, (justice and reason), be mutually exclusive? Why does the gift of justice come so sparingly to my people? Why must we always be the strongest and forgive? I had to pray about that thing.

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I was reminded of the power of and that comes through forgiveness. It’s not letting anyone off the hook. It’s stopping yourself from being hung by your own rope. It’s letting go so you can progress in healing. It’s the gateway to productivity, and now is certainly time to be productive.

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So, I am choosing to forgive for my sake and ours collectively.

I forgive those who lay in idle complacency and serve as spectators to our genocide.

I forgive those who offer no alternative and do nothing to aid in our collective struggle other than serve their own individual pool, but who feel authorized to criticize, denounce, and ridicule strategies that are devised for the very people they’ve chosen to neglect or pity.

I forgive ignorance.

I forgive those who are so entangled in their own emotions and feelings that they cannot understand our plight enough to even fathom the thought of a group seemingly excluding them to heal within themselves.

I forgive those who throw baseless accusations and antiquated insults because they are afraid and personally offended that we are personally offended by our plight in this country.

I forgive all who are in the position to do so, but fail to empathize.

I forgive all who are in a position to do so, but fail to help.

I forgive those who look like they are African, but offer no other indication of such.

I forgive our would be leaders who have chosen their comfort, status, and fortune over using their platforms to propel the progress of the disenfranchised.

I forgive those in our community who have fallen victim to self-loathing, and in turn hate and seek to destroy us all.

I forgive those who have had the audacity to take a life that they didn’t birth, love, understand, or embrace with little to no remorse.

I forgive the history of America, though it’s never acknowledged its fault or current effects or asked for or felt the need for our forgiveness.

I forgive myself for not being more forgiving sooner and for putting my faith in anyone other than God and the Spirit of God within us.

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I forgive, because I must; because I need to heal; because we need to progress; because you’re worthy even if you don’t believe it; because we’re worthy even when we don’t see it; because that’s what I’ve been instructed to do; because reason is a gift too.

Because we have work to do, I forgive you.

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#blackgirlspeaks #forgiveness #understanding #peace #progress #TheBacktoBlackList #EmpowermentExperiment #justicefortrayvonmartin #justiceforoscargrant #justiceforalfredwright #justiceforjonathanferrell #justiceforjordandavis #justiceforhadiyapendleton #justiceforjonylahwatkins #reasonforusall

A Message to White Privileged People Who Take Offense to “Black Power” Movements

At our nearby park, there is always a nice mix of people from all over the world.  Parents, mothers or fathers, accompany their children and watch from a distance while mingling amongst themselves. Usually, everyone finds their “own kind” and stick together. “Own kind” will change depending on who’s present. Sometimes it means the same gender, or home country, or expatriates vs. locals. Of course, sometimes it means the same race. That feels very familiar. But, when it comes to race, because there are very few of my “own kind” in Singapore in general, I must infiltrate if I want to engage at all, on the playground especially. home

One day, I happened to strike up a conversation with a congenial French woman, who has lived in Singapore for over six years. It began very mundane at first; how’s the weather here compared to our respective countries; how much more expensive is it here compared to home; where our children went to school and why, etc. We watched our daughters, very close in age, play with their toys in the sand box. One was more practiced in the art of sharing than the other, and one tried to take possession of all of the toys from the other.

Somehow the topic of race and white privilege ensued, and honestly I wasn’t the one to present the subject.

“I suppose I can’t help but have white privilege. I’ve never had to think about it.”

She stunned me with this simple truth. I’ve never heard anyone personally say to me that they were equally aware and ignorant of this benefit. She went on to share a story explaining when it first dawned on her that SHE was treated differently than her “African friends.”

A small group of them were on holiday (vacation) together, and went out for a leisurely night. Two in the group were of African descent, but all were French and none of them ever vocalized there being any difference amongst them. When they were denied entry into a pub most of them had frequented many times before, she initially thought that it must’ve been closed even though it didn’t appear so. It did not dawn on her that she had witnessed discrimination until her “African friends” brought it to her attention. They had been denied entry many times in many other locations, even France to her surprise.

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This sole experience allowed her to take notice of other instances where she’d taken her rights for granted and, you could tell, there were revelations happening even in our conversation. Perhaps this was just a French problem she pondered. I assured her it was not and adduced my own examples. She repeated her initial comment about it being out of her control, and expressed disbelief that there could be anything done about it by anyone. She said this as we observed her daughter continue to snatch my daughter’s toys from her. My daughter eventually took her toys and played somewhere else after all of the play negotiation tactics I’d taught her had failed.

I have come to see, even more blatantly here, that the intoxication of white privilege affords one an extensive list of rights or entitlements  far beyond the scope of those who lack such a luxury.  One of which is that it allows one to feel well within their “right” to comment on, analyze, criticize, and belittle the sentiments of those seen as the inferior (whether conscious or subconscious) , all while trying to impose their views upon the perceived wayward thinker. It goes beyond freedom of speech. It’s freedom of control and authority to admonish that which is seen as contradictory to the majority view. This gift of white privilege is inherent for anyone of European descent, even in America, (though it does not have to be consumed to the point of intoxication), and has also been dispensed sparingly to the “passers,” people of color who could very easily be mistaken for otherwise either in appearance, social status, self-identity, or parallelism in thought or actions of superiority. These are the white privileged people.(See Wide Awake Parts I & II)

This particular “right” has been exercised incessantly in the U.S., but much more noticeably in recent years. With the public upset over the disputatious verdicts in the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis cases, which really have crossed all racial lines, there has been an influx of contending commentary from offended white privileged people expressing their abhorrence of the vocalized disgust with the trial’s outcome. How dare anyone question, challenge, or protest the results of the U.S. justice system? The gall of any group to express disdain for the norm, (exonerating white privileged people), in America is unfathomable and met with great resistance.  (See aforementioned explanation of “white privileged people” as it relates to Trayvon Martin’s killer before you exercise your “right” here.) And, therefore, any discussion of making changes that could prevent such outcomes or such actions in the first place are seen as inflammatory, threatening, exclusive, “racist,” and vile. This idea of change and “black power” must be spawned from a spirit of hatred towards the unassuming white privileged people. It just must.

But alas, I must inform you, that pro-black does not mean anti-white. Black people also struggle with understanding this. Yet, I do understand your confusion. You are perplexed by this because, as historically evidenced, the reverse is not true. Pro-white has meant anti-ANYBODY else. When members of white supremacy groups bolster their views with the term, “White Power,” it is certainly laced in hatred and disdain for anyone other than they.

downloadThe implementation of “white power” in the United States of America has been and is systemically in opposition of any non-white person. It has been since the seizing of this country from the native peoples that already dwelled in and cultivated this land.  I certainly understand how and why many project the sentiments of their ethnic predecessors on the rest of the world, but it is simply inaccurate and false.

After posting “The Back to Black List,” we were met with a few comments of discourse. Some were well-meaning and sincere; some were malicious and irate. We were told this list would be viewed as “racist” if it were reversed, and therefore was racist because surely we did not have a right to avoid such a label when the privileged did not. We were asked if our list still included them; not that they wanted to be a part of it or help in any way because they were very content in the utopian land of equality and diversity as they saw it. They just wanted to ensure that no “right” had been stripped from them. Others expressed how hurt they were that we felt a need to “further divide.” There must be another way they admonished, but offered no alternatives or suggestions or assistance. They just wanted us to know that they were disappointed in us for hurting their feelings by developing an action plan without their permission that didn’t directly include them. Still others, and these were by far the most amusing because they looked “black” but were clearly intoxicated, expressed they had absolutely no interest in living among other black people, supporting black businesses, or  “helping black people because they don’t want to help themselves.” This was in response to our action plan to help ourselves. The list has been viewed as “racist,” unGodly, pretentious, and unattainable, and of course, “anti-white.”

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But, there’s that little thing called history. Our ancestors did not enslave, oppress, and enact genocide upon their European counterparts. The opposite is fact, and it was not so long ago in the context of world history. It is in your ancestral lineage to hate that which is different from yourselves. Those who do not, and there are many, are an anomaly. Therefore, I understand why you would want to project that reflection on others. But, that is not who we (most of us) are. The source of our declaration of “Black Power” is one of love and desire for such. You have always had power within this structure; there has never been a need for you to voice it or cry out for it. We’ve known. We’ve always known.

Your declarations of such were to serve as affirmations and intimidations, not demands or requests. And, they were always stemmed from your self-view of superiority and your disdain for everyone else. That is why a list in the reverse of “The Back to Black List” would be racist and unnecessary because it already has been written, but “The Back to Black List” itself is not. It cannot be. Wait for it…..here comes why.

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Only those in power,(economic, political, social, etc.), have the power to actually be racist. The rest of us are simply the pawn in the malicious enterprise of racism, and every other “ism” for that matter. Anyone can have prejudice, but only white privileged people can be racist because we were the prize, never the participants in the race. The only ones that benefit from racism are those in power. The only ones who are adversely affected by it are those who are oppressed. It is very clear who serves the former and latter positions in terms of race, this man-made divisive factor created long before we adopted “The Back to Black List.”

So, I denounce your baseless accusations that we are racists for having the audacity to love ourselves despite all that’s been done to teach us to do otherwise. I denounce the notion that we are racists because we recognize the importance of healing and restoring ourselves before we can fully and lovingly embrace anyone else. I denounce the accusation that we are racists because we decided not to wait for anyone to show up in a cape and save us.  I denounce the idea that we are racists because we have the brazenness to envision ourselves economically empowered. visions_of_black_economic_empowerment I denounce all claims that we, the educated and empowered few of us, will worsen the problem by restoring the economy, infrastructure, educational access in the already segregated impoverished black communities by moving there. They are actually quite humorous. It tells me that you actually feel somewhat threatened that we are empowered enough to SPEAK against the centuries old social structure that has been steeped in enmity and xenophobic practices in this country, and throughout the world.

Otherwise, you would show absolutely no interest in the messages of black empowerment. You would not engage in debate about issues that absolutely do not concern you or affect you and your general way of life. If you did not feel threatened or personally offended, you would not try to exchange racial epithets or hurl insults masked by the elocutionary critiques of your intelligentsia.

You would simply keep scrolling pass our posts, comments, websites, channels, etc., because you’d be confident in knowing that your quality of life will not be disrupted by ours improving, which is true. Yet, your privilege and fear make you feel a bit froggy.

So, jump, but after this post I will not be engaging in any further discussion with you on the matter, and I encourage other “Black Power” activists to take the same stance. This is a joint course in “How to Deny My White Privilege in Matters of Black Empowerment,” “How to Mind My Own Business,” and “How to Share in the Sandbox.” You either pass or fail. Class dismissed.

(I must state some of my “givens,” so it’s understood that I don’t take them for granted. We know that the term “white privileged people” is not a sweeping generalization to describe every caucasian person. Though, every caucasian person can and does benefit from white privilege, we are aware that not all adopt the mentality of the those who become intoxicated by it. We know “well-meaning white people” exist. This article was not to discredit those of you who support the cause of restoring the basic rights of humanity to all. No need to exercise your right in this forum by declaring your decency. We know you exist. We’ve always known.) 

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Wide Awake Part I

I went to sleep last night somewhat at peace with the fact that I I don’t live in fear (here) of someone taking my child’s life just because their hue makes them look “threatening.” But, I woke up to the sobering reality that I would have that very valid fear if I was still in the states.  I woke up to the sobering, but not shocking, news that a white man, Michael Dunn, could kill a black one (child), Jordan Davis, and we’re still the ones left hung for it.

Only in a country founded upon racial superiority and genocide and built by slavery like America, can a white man be found guilty of leaving three black young men alive, but left in the sea of uncertainty on the charge of actually taking the life of another. Being away from the states, and my home state of Florida particularly, helps me see from such a broader perspective. Being on the outside looking in, I am disappointed, not in the actions of the majority or the system, which is one in the same. Those are not surprising and the country itself was built upon them.

A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect.

One could even argue that America has improved in matters of race. I mean after all, we have a black president. Right? Haven’t we been pacified enough?  That seems to be the sentiment of many non-black Americans, and others I’ve met here. Yet, I am disappointed that we, the prey, the targets, the descendants of those who, without any recognition or compensation for centuries, physically and painfully built the land that houses so much disdain for us, have been lulled into apathy, complacency, and reticence; only using our voice to publicly lament, but not to demand or create the world we wish to see.

We are just as afraid of ourselves as the bigoted sentiment that drives our culture is, and because you cannot love that which you fear, our self-hatred is far more detrimental.  We know and understand that being black in America means you have to operate by a completely different and restricted set of ordinances. But, instead of creating our own haven for ourselves, we try our best to lose ourselves, adopt the majority culture, and denounce the rest of us for being the broken product of a hostile environment. There is no safe place, not even in the suburbs to which many of us have tried to escape. All of us, regardless of our zip code, have to teach our children, our sons especially, to:

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http://youtu.be/pWj0CXP05OY

Feeling Humble, Grateful, in Awe of it All

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Just landed in Thailand,

but still high on this incredible life we’re living.

Working to stay grounded.

Focusing on the purpose of it all.

Remembering much has been given,

and therefore greater works will be required.

Let my voice and spirit utter nothing but praise.

Let my heart be full of the joy that only comes

from The Spirit.

In my humble silence and reflection,

let my work SPEAK for me.

All that I am, all that I’ve done,

all that I have to give,

let it be for Your glory

and the progression of your children.

Asė.

#BlackGirlSpeaks 

 

 

Thinking Ahead

January 20, 2014

Singapore seems like that ambitious overzealous younger sibling desperately trying to crawl out of the shadows of its predecessors. It strives to excel in all areas, especially education. In terms of academics, just from my brief research and observations, Singapore far excels America in mathematics, reading (but, not necessarily comprehension), and knowledge and usage of elevated vocabulary in text. Students in local schools are indoctrinated into a highly competitive, rigorous, and rigid form of instruction from Kindergarten and are already sifted and categorized according to intellectual prowess by Primary 1, which is age seven.

Though I’m told there was a shift in focus from a “survival-driven education” system to an “ability-driven” one, the remnants of the survival instinct are still prevalent.  Students are (still) taught how to receive, respond, and recall quickly in a structured and disciplined environment. They are taught, in fact, required to operate within a very limited scope and set of boundaries. This was initially implemented when Singapore first developed its own economy and autonomy to ensure that graduates would be viable employees and “provide a skilled workforce” for its industrialization program while lowering unemployment; which overall last year was 2%! So, in those regards, it’s working.

On the other hand, because of this focus, there is little if any tolerance for failure or mistakes. Friends of mine here, both local and foreign, complain often about how their children are punished, scolded or “tapped” because they failed to answer a question correctly or hold their pencil properly.  In local schools, many “expat” (expatriate) children are viciously taunted for their lack of grasp of the Chinese language, though English is the official language and the most dominant one used for instruction.  I’m also told that often teachers are not willing to offer additional support or materials to aid in a student’s progression outside of the classroom. They only do what is required of them, no more or less. I have found that this carries over in every facet of service in Singapore. (see upcoming post “Can-Not.”) Though this form of rigidity may be beneficial in terms of the labor force, I have found that it can also be crippling in the aspect of developing the whole person.

ImageMany Singaporeans I’ve observed, especially in the service industry, lack critical and creative thinking skills. I have witnessed evidence of this repeatedly.  Everything must be in order, must follow the rules; no deviation or modification. There is no allowance for thinking quickly on your feet or spontaneity; no concept of thinking outside the box. If there isn’t a box, they will follow the set of instilled instructions and build one. They do not question authority, or anything. “We do things this way. That is all,” a native Singaporean once told me. He was almost offended that I inquired about the reasoning for such structure. 

I’m reminded of a recent Saturday when we went out for breakfast. My husband called ahead to make a reservation, but he was told there was a two-hour wait. I thought this was unusual and decided that we should go anyway.  When we arrived, as I expected, there were dozens of empty tables. The eager host greeted me with the question, “Do you have [a] reservation?” I scrolled the restaurant to bring attention to the abundance of empty seats. He asked again, completely missing the hint. “No, but we can just sit at any one of these empty tables,” I uttered through a patronizing smile.  Image

“These are all reserved,” he quipped.

“These are all reserved? For what time?” 

“12:30.” He leaned in to show me two reservations listed. 

“It’s 11. Pancakes won’t take long. We’re sitting,” I declared before marching to the table. Never in America, would a business turn away business for potential business. 

“If all you people just followed the rules, things would be better in this country,” an irate self-appointed condo security officer reproached when we took an alternative exit from our building. (That sounded familiar.) He became so agitated and disrespectful that my husband had to address him as only he knows how, and later took his picture to report him. There seems to be little room to color outside of the lines, and certainly very little encouragement to draw your own picture. Though controlled, or maybe because of it, the work ethic of many Singaporeans surpasses that of many Americans. In the U.S., people tend to “work smart” using innovation and technology to ease the workload. Here, they work hard.  And, that starts early as well.

Students that I’ve encountered are overburdened with hours of daily homework, extended school days, and private tuition. A little girl, no older than ten, once told me that she didn’t have time to play. “{Here}, you stop playing when you are 3,” she said so certainly that I almost accepted it and felt pity that my two-year-old would be ending her leisurely play in the park very soon. All of them must meet the pressure of excelling on their regular assessments. The results of which determine which track, academic or vocational, they’ll take throughout their educational matriculation.  Their futures are almost predetermined and there is little room for deviation from the structure. Think of “1984,” and “Fahrenheit 451.” According to the Washington Post:

                   “After six years of primary-school education, Singaporean students take a test that determines whether they’ll be placed in a special school for the gifted, a vocational school or a special education program, and another test later determines their             higher-ed options.”

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/12/11/heres-why-other-countries-beat-the-u-s-in-reading-and-math/

The heavy role of testing actually isn’t so different from that in America, where many students are tracked and even the number of prisons estimated to be built is determined by results from standardized tests administered when students are as young as nine-years-old. Just as in America as well, the disparity in the quality of education is vast, and mainly based on race, income, and resources. Once again, I’m seeing firsthand how the poverty line and color line intersect and merge, and how students are failed before they even start if they were born with an excess of melanin or a lack of pedigree. Here, however, Indian is the new Black, and the Bangladeshi are the “Latinos.” Image

In America, the coined phrase, “school-to-prison pipeline,” describes the most likely path for those who are disadvantaged academically because of their socioeconomic (lack of) status. Because of the extremely high penalties for crime and the lack of tolerance for such, I would say it’s more the “school-to-harsh manual labor” pipeline for those who don’t make the grade in Singapore.

It’s one of the reasons many expats I know enroll their children in international schools, which all have formal names, but are referred to as “The American School” or “The Canadian School.” It’s also one of the main reasons now and here was the opportunity to utilize my educational experience and passion and begin providing private tuition for other students and to open my own educational center for my daughter and other toddlers who like to paint their own canvas.  Visit http://www.isisgenius.com.

(Please post any comments and inquiries directly on the blog so that I can compile them.)

[Read :The Modern American, “Buying Into Prisons and Selling Kids Short.” http://digitalcommons.wcl.american.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1141&context=tma]