Thursday, 28 February 2013

Field Trip

I am now an established teacher. I have taken my students on my first field trip ever. Now I realize I have a tendency to take far too much credit than I deserve, but I don't care--I found the event, planned the trip, hammered out all the details, and managed to get thirty-five students to the Horrible Histories: Ruthless Romans roadshow and back to school, all within a matter of hours. Take that, feeble cannon restraint rope.

Mr. McMath, history teacher and fellow chaperone. It's a pity his name isn't McHistory.

Lacy, Kelly, Hannah, and Christina, hiding underneath her long hair. They are all giggles. 

Jung Min making bunny ears on Bailey 

Seventh grade chaos 

Hyperbole is the WORST thing EVER!

Today we discussed hyperbole in my sixth grade class. I give them examples: "My mom's going to kill me for being late again!"
Debbie speaks up. "How about, 'I'm going to die of boredom.'"
"Yes," I say, "very good. Has anyone anywhere on planet Earth ever died of boredom? No."
"That's not true, " David Han, a small, bespectacled man of surprising interests, protests, forgetting to raise his hand. "Legolas Greenleaf's son did."

Somedays I don't even know.

Sixth Grade

I barely remember my sixth grade. I hope they do.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Around Singapore

They tell me rainy season is drawing to a close, but I don't believe them. It's still raining as much as ever--just an hour ago it was thundering above my head. Thankfully, the heavens withheld their torrents while I took time to explore Singapore with my friends.

Henna in Little India. Sometimes it's okay to look like a tourist.

A lion dance inside Far East Plaza on one of the last days of Chinese New Year. 

Chinese New Year decorations inside the Paragon. 

And jazz. We musn't forget jazz. 

Hanging at the Starbucks in Somerset 313 with Elaine. 

Mandolin photobomber in the background.

Traditional tiling outside Peranakan Place on Orchard Road
 A cool pub

Friday, 22 February 2013


This is Elaine. She is currently curled up on a corner of my couch, watching the pilot of Burn Notice. We took a poetry class together in college but not much else, and she has been living in Korea for the past year and a half, working as an ESL teacher at Kosin university.Elaine has been traveling in New Zealand, and the above picture was taken on a trail near Mount Cook. On her way back to Korea, she took a flight here to Singapore, and though we are not terribly well-acquainted, us world travelers have got to stick together. We shall be getting along splendidly. 

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Fungus Amung Us

And I'm not even kidding about the mold. It's been raining for almost two weeks--great, torrential downpours which work well for keeping me inside coffee shops, but that do absolutely nothing for my little place next to the nature reserve. As much as I like living near the rainforest, it does mean that the humid air stays humid, despite my attempts at running the fan at all hours of the day and keeping the windows open. I have had to wipe mold off my white heels and my leather belt, throw away a pair of shorts, a backpack, and a pair of shoes. The musty smell is beginning to settle into my cushions. I feel like I am in a Hitchcock movie. What do you want from me? You gonna take the curtains next, huh? How about the carpets? My closet?

 If I do not report back in within two days, assume that I have been overtaken by killer fungus and send out a recovery team. 

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Another Story

My Long Skirt

I haven't worn this skirt in a very long time, and I thought it was about time to dust it off. My black top has a spiderweb design to it, which reminds me very much of Morgana's dresses in the Merlin series (worth a watch), though hopefully I am more capable of keeping my rampant madness under wraps. Can I just say that I am especially pleased with my red hair at this point in time?

Thursday, 14 February 2013


For the most part, Facebook tries to be helpful by recommending people I may know, if we are connected vaguely by a friend or two. Sometimes the recommendations are a little less than helpful. Alastair Dunsmore-Rouse appeared in my People You May Know column with absolutely no mutual friends attached to his name, and of course, there was only one thing to do.

I sent him a message, saying something to the extent of "Dear Alastair Dunsmore-Rouse, you do not know me, but I just wanted to let you know I think you have a wonderfully imaginative name; it makes me think of classic literature and Charles Dickens."

He never wrote me back. I still feel the sting of rejection to this day.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

How to Tell a Story

 Storytelling is necessary for my well-being, whatever form it may take. I have been finding more time to write, but today Pat and I found other ways to tell a tale or two.

What stories can you see?
What adventures can you imagine?

Monday, 11 February 2013

Home Improvements

 I finally put up my curtains. It actually feels like a room, significantly reducing the previous fishbowl feeling! More pictures to follow, but this will have to do for now. What do you think?

I dyed my hair. I am quite sure I pointed to a less vibrant shade (I was thinking of school dress restrictions), but my hairdresser apparently took matters into her own hands. Hence, I cannot be held accountable for the final result. 

This was an accidental shot, but I quite like it. I bought the bag at Bugis Junction for five dollars.
Nothing like a little patriotism to brighten up the day.

Red Is for Prosperity

I bought these pants in Chinatown for ten dollars. I like a good bargain. These kinds of pants, however, can very easily make me look like the next backpacker, shuffling around in worn-down Havainas and an olive green tank top; and as I don't want to look like a tourist in my own homeland, I purposefully avoided wearing either.  It's a good thing I'm not much for sleeveless pieces anyway. I like the contrast between the white and the red--I've always liked crisp colours--and seeing as it's Chinese New Year, I thought the red was especially appropriate.

I realize these pants are supposed to be worn on the hips, but that's highly unbecoming on my frame, and instead of despairing over the fact that I looked strange in this one-size-does-not-fit-all bargain, I just pulled them up--Steve Urkel style--and now I am happily channeling the spirit of Sinbad the Snappy Dresser.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Gotham City

There is a building here that must have been inspired by Gotham City. It has the same heavy, grotesque feel to it, with thick, dark detailing and morose statues that stand guard over the city. I keep expecting Batman to show up.

I imagine Bruce Wayne has a penthouse at the top for his international stopovers. He is a busy man.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Picture Day

I was at the Swedish embassy the other day to renew my passport where the lady behind the glass tells me, "Now stand on the yellow feet and look into the camera. No smiling. You have to look serious."
I look serious.
The camera clicks. I imagine the megabits of picture zooming through fibres to appear on the lady's computer screen.
A pause.
She finally ventures, "Maybe you should smile just a little."

Oh, really?

Errand Saturdays

Every now and then I'll have a Saturday completely taken up by errands. The morning began with me hanging up curtains in my room and nearly killing myself in the process, after which I packed my two long skirts into my bag and took the bus to Arab Street to look for similar fabric. I am pleased to say I found a royal blue cotton that I hope will make a fine skirt. I also bought nine metres of maroon velvet to make into stage curtains for the back of my classroom.
"It's fifteen dollars per metre. But thirteen for you, because you're pretty."
Yeah, I am pretty--pretty sure thirteen is double the production cost. But I don't mind paying for good service.

I have been meaning to get to Arab Street, but I had been putting it off because I am usually so intimidated by merchants and the general hipster vibe of the area, what with its jazz bars and hookah hang-outs and strange clothing stores. I just don't feel cool enough to be there legitimately.

It fascinates me that they have taken old Chinese shophouses and remade their fronts to look like European candy stores from the 1800s.

This reminds me of my friend Bj√∂rn Sparrman. He loves both bikes and Japan. 

Expensive tacos. 

This was by far the best store I encountered. I wanted to buy almost everything in sight--a pencil case treasure map made out of leather, a box made to look like a stack of books, a clock with a frame made out of classic literature. There was a particular clock I wanted to buy for a friend, but it was a bit expensive, and I'll have to put aside some money in the future.

For those of you who do not know, Singapore was once a port of some significance in South East Asia, during which people from all over the world settled on this tiny, tropical island. The Brits obviously left their mark--Sir Stamford Raffles was the one who founded Singapore in 1819--and the Dutch East India Company left behind Holland Village. The Arabs, known for dealing in fabrics, left an entire street that still specializes in the sale of fabrics and carpets, which is now also host to the aforementioned bistros and hookah bars. I like that Singapore is such a collection of people and places, influences and cultures.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Small Victories

I am sitting on my couch at ten o'clock in the morning, listening to the wind buffet the palm trees. A windy day here in the tropics. I think back upon this last week, and how much I love my work. It can be completely exhausting, and certainly there are moments when my lessons have suffered from lack of creativity from my own inexperience. But I have had many other victories.

Jason Joo, this easy-going eighth grader, fist bumped me when I was leaving.

Chloe told me my cheeks look like apples when I smile.

My second grammar class was particularly quiet for a Friday.

I made my seventh graders bring a scarf to class for homework (it was vaguely related to the literature we were reading) and then they wore turbans for the rest of the period. They were very enthusiastic and called for a turban day to be instituted.

Nagisa and Yuko, two eighth graders, shyly told me they loved my dress as they passed me in the hall. Jung Min, was hanging by my elbow, waiting for the next class to begin. He overheard and regards me meaningfully. "Yeah, Miss Gabriel. I love your dress too."
I couldn't help but laugh at his expression.

Little Katherine, the spitting image of Lucy from the Narnia series, asked me if she could possibly have four body paragraphs instead of three in her upcoming paper on Christian imagery in The Cay ("Ms. Gabriel, I was planning my paper, and I realized there was a lot to say about baptism. I was wondering if I could write another paragraph?" Could you? I wanted to say. Could you?! Of course! Can I do more than the expected amount of work? Yes, yes, by all means! Go forth and prosper!)

On the whole, my sixth graders are impossibly bright. So far we have discussed the literary concept of the microcosm, parallel events, the recurring element of blindness and second sight in literature, allusion and imagery as seen in the baptism and crucifixion scenes in The Cay.

It has to be one of the best places to work. High up on the fourth floor, I am close to the skies in next to the tops of the trees. I have high ceilings in my room. I have friends and colleagues who love what they do and strive to bring the most creative aspects to class to teach their lessons. Brad, our resident history teacher, is using the school handbooks to teach the idea of the legislative process and how change has to go through a series of channels before the new rules are finally put into effect. The class has even elected a President.

As much as I enjoyed history, I do not remember having such things available to me as a child, but then again, we are in a new age and education looks different. The current push is for Project Based Learning where learning takes place through a sustained project, during which the students can discover and use concepts for themselves. It helps that I have no experience whatsoever. Seeing as it's all Greek to me, I have no need to 'unlearn what I have learned.'


There are pleasures that come with the tropics and in Singapore particularly. It is such a green city--even in the middle of Orchard Road you can find massive trees that provide beauty and shelter from the sun.

A pair of dogs pushed about in a tram 

A carefree monitor lizard in the Botanic Gardens 

Peranakan shophouse 

Three men on the phone 

Lauren McKnight, my friend from Australia, reading a book in Swedish