This time last week I was in Singapore, visiting the Tanglin Trust School - an enormous British school run on the National Curriculum. There are about 720 children in the Infants and 760 in the Juniors. They are building up the Senior School which has about 800 pupils now. That’s a big school!
I sometimes complain about the paranoid security to be found in some British schools these days, but I’ve not come across armed guards before! My taxi drivers, in the mornings, had to open their boots for bomb inspections while all the time being watched by the unflinching Gurkha Guards cradling machine guns close to their chests. ‘m not sure what message it sends to the children – I’m sure I would have been thrilled as a child!
I was looked after by Barb and Ben, both Australian and both Teacher Librarians – a qualification that does not exist in the UK. They each have their own Library, Barb the Juniors’ and Ben the Infants’. Both Libraries are enormous and wonderfully stocked with acres of shelves, all groaning with an amazing collection of children’s books. Most small cities would be proud to have such facilities!
The whole week seems like a bit of a dream now. I hardly slept on the plane over, so got myself horribly jet-lagged. I also picked up a cold or re-invigorated the one I’d just got over, so I felt quite disorientated for most of my stay. By the time I got home, I was sneezing and coughing like mad. I think the air conditioning in the hotel and airplane didn’t help.
I became a bit obsessive about hydration. The hotel provided two bottles of complimentary water a day. This was the remarkable Doctor Who Brand. It didn’t taste different nor was it fizzy, as I had expected it to be. It turns out that is has ozone blown through it to act as some sort of bactericide to make it extra safe to drink. It sounds as if it ought to give you extra oxygen while you drink it.
It was the end of Chinese Lunar New Year, and the festivities were still in full swing. A walk down Orchard Road, the Oxford Street of Singapore, was constantly punctuated by the sound of drumming as a Lion Dance brought peace and prosperity to the doors of shops and businesses. These were very entertaining but extremely loud in marble clad shopping malls. The shoppers all hurried past with their fingers in their ears.
On my last day at the school the Lions came visiting. I didn’t get down to see close up but had a bit of a view from the balcony by the Junior Library. As you can see, the children are wearing sun caps. Singapore is right on the equator, so it was hot and humid, but I don’t remember seeing the sun. It was hazy and overcast and rained a bit.
I did lots of creative session with years two and three and came up with the germ of two ideas which might be worth working on. The children were great. Their parents are world travellers, and each class had a mix of nationalities, mostly Commonwealth, but I found a few Norwegians and Danes to help me out with Viking stories! I manged to keep myself awake on Thursday afternoon, by visiting the extensive Botanic Gardens, a haven of peace and tranquility, punctuated by wedding photo sessions – the photos are not taken on the day of the wedding but posed in the best places – and Tai Chi practitioners weaving their slow dances in the shadows of the banyan trees. The orchid collection went on for ever. I’ve never seen so many types or seen them growing so profusely. they had even got an orchid on display named after Margaret Thatcher.
As I said before, a very disorientating week, but I’m sure it will come back to me as I recover from this blessed cold. I’m off to the Pacific Island paradise of Guam next month, as the guest of the Guam International Literacy Association. I’ve started reading up on jet-lag to see what I can do to prevent it happening quite as badly again.