Oct 112011

For a few reasons, I thought I’d jump into the meme that Kim Cofino, Clint Hamada, Keri-Lee Beasley and others got into. Firstly, I haven’t blogged since WayTooLong. Secondly, I did a similar commute-in-pictures thing when I moved to New York two years ago, inspired by Brighde Reed. Thirdly, I do like to compare my commutes not only with the people listed above (and others), but also with myself — compared to other places I’ve lived.

So here is Singapore!

I’ll start by saying that I rarely leave my apartment at the same time from day to day. Some mornings I am out the door at 7am, other mornings 7:15 and some (really rough) mornings, even as late as 8:00. I’m not good with mornings, or routines, so morning routines are really tough for me! It was for this reason that I struggled to keep the same taxi driver when I lived in Vietnam — I was never consistent (ehrm, reliable). Ooops. Anyway, On this particular Monday in Singapore — just yesterday — it was

I always leave the house with my travel mug full o’ coffee and part of my breakfast (the other part is usually in my bag, to be eaten after I finish the first part or when I get to school). I also have gotten into the habit of picking up the local my paper, which is a free morning daily here and it mysteriously appears outside my door without fail every morning! It’s been several years since I’ve had the opportunity to read an actual newspaper in English, so I think this is kinda fun.

As I got to the bottom of the building, I realized it was raining harder than it had been earlier and that I would need to dig this out of my bag:

Juggling my iPhone, coffee, breakfast, and now umbrella, I walk out the front gates of my building, and take a right. Directly across the street from my apartment building is Raffles Institution (RI), one of Singapore’s “premier” private secondary schools — many of Singapore’s presidents, prime ministers, writers, and most successful CEOs have graduated from here. It’s also Singapore’s oldest school, starting up in 1823. And, as you might imagine, it’s a ginormous sprawling campus that takes up several street blocks. It’s a new, modern, attractive campus and is hard to miss!

It’s about a 7-minute walk to the Marymount MRT station, and those RI students are usually streaming out of the mouth of the station (easily identifiable here– the girls are actually students of Raffles Junior College, affiliated with RI).

If I leave the house earlier there are normally more students, but on this particular day (did I mention it was a Monday?) I left at 7:40 which is a little late for RI and Raffles JC. Just before I enter the MRT station, I stash my coffee mug into my bag because NO food or drink are allowed on the MRT. (I’ve usually finished the first half of my breakfast by this point!)

Down the escalator stairs, through the fancy MRT gates with my FlashPay card, and it’s never too long to wait for a train. On this particular day things were a bit chaotic on the platforms because it was the first day that the Circle Line was going in “the other” direction, so there were some confused people milling about. Those of you who are familiar with other subway systems – note the glass doors on the platform. I like that Singapore’s MRT really works hard to minimize safety hazards.

Typically when I get on the train, it’s not too busy. This is one of the reasons I get on at Marymount, to be honest. My apartment is actually the same walking distance to Bishan MRT in the other direction — a station that’s only one stop away from school. However, I opt to get on at Marymount instead most days — two stations away — because the crowds are really crazy at Bishan (I mentioned I’m not good with mornings, right?). :) It’s totally worth the extra 10 cents in fare.

But by the time the train gets to Bishan, the next stop, the crowds pile on and pretty soon we’re all squashed in.

The next stop is Lorong Chuan and that’s where I get out. Out the station and up the escalator this time…

From here is my biggest “hike” — a 10 minute walk from the station to school. It’s an easy walk along a semi-busy road — not too bad at all. And I pull my coffee out of my bag, too! If I’m lucky I run into my colleagues on the way and so we chat and catch up. Today I didn’t see anyone I knew, though. Adjacent to the station is this big building: the New Tech Park. Most of the young working professionals who get off the train with me end up walking towards here.

I pass several residential buildings, including one under major construction, and another school. At one point I cross over one of Singapore’s (in)famous canals: (keep in mind it’s still pouring rain!)

At the corner I wait with a pile of our students and parents for the light to turn so we can cross the road. Normally the bus bay Gate isn’t open for us to enter — the pedestrian gate is another 200 metres ahead — but on Monday I think the guards felt sorry for us because it was such a downpour! We ran in — I tried to take a photo but it was raining so hard and I couldn’t stay still!

Under cover, I walk towards the school block where I work. Above me is the Senior School, for Years 10-12. The glass building is where I’m headed — that’s the Middle School block!

Through the doors… and up more stairs!

Third floor, where I round a corner and walk through the Year 8 pod area.

Ah, here we go — the Year 8 staff work room, where I currently have a desk. Here are two of my lovely and friendly year 8 colleagues to greet me on the first day back! Hi to Andrew and Bernadette! (Sorry about the photo, Andrew!)

And here’s my desk. Wow, still POURING out there — that’s the view from my desk. I got a bit wet. But despite that, am very ready to start the day!

Hmm, so who should I tag? I think Brighde Reed, Jessica Allen, and a new Twitterfriend, Melanie Shurtz.

**all photos are mine, unedited! be kind!

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 11 October, 2011  Posted by at 11:47 am On the Personal Side Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »
Oct 072009

Stay Warm by Erik Charlton
Attribution License

Frank gives us a few web resources now and then that he wants us to look at; whether for inspiration or understanding, I’m unsure. Whatever the case, they are usually interesting reading / viewing, and probably things I would not find myself were I surfing around on the ‘net. Communication Arts magazine has reviewed many different kinds of interaction designs, and given awards to a few. They’re worth checking out, if for no other reason than just to see some of the new, cool, hot designs on the market these days — everything from web design to physical spaces. I’ve been bouncing around their site, looking at different designs and trying to understand what makes them “good.” While sometimes that is obvious, what I find even more fascinating than the designs themselves are the responses to the question CA mag asks of the designer:

What was the most challenging aspect of the project?

Some responses: (emphasis mine)

  • “The most challenging part of this project was keeping it simple, staying true to the core ideas and avoiding ‘feature creep.’ . . . I had to stay focused on the original goal—not reinventing the wheel but rather enhancing it.” Sebastian Bettencourt, art director/writer/interface designer/information architect/project design and development, Beyond The Fold
  • “One of the primary challenges to designing TokBox was understanding and embracing user interactions that are unique to live video calling.” Chris Fox, design director, TokBox
  • For the Loudspeaker team, the big challenge was caring for the original idea—amplifying the voice of a great cause—as we built the site.” Scott Brown, creative director, The LoudspeakerSite
  • It was a challenge to keep each individual story entertaining and short (there were many ideas that were thrown out because they were too long or just not fun to watch).” Trevor Van Meter, creative director; Luke Lutman, Flash programmer; and Brian McBrearty, composer, Crappy Cat

And this question:

Did you learn anything new during the process?


  • “I learned that inspiration comes from experience. It comes from rethinking everyday activities and from reconsidering everyday interactions.” Sebastian Bettencourt, art director/writer/interface designer/information architect/project design and development of Beyond The Fold
  • “One of the first things we had to face was the huge risk of that transparency, and what it really meant. No approvals. No editing. In the end, it was actually freeing to give up all control to the audience.” Gary Koepke and Lance Jensen, executive creative directors, Modernista!

This has got me wondering about how design influences learning. How conscious are educators of keeping it simple, staying true to the original goals, giving students experiences (rather than instruction), and giving up control to the users? How would schools be different if we did all of this, all of the time? Would there still be schools? If so, what would they look like?

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