Friday, 7 July 2017

It was the best of times...It was the worst of times...

Some guy wrote a novel that began with the phrase ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ Dickens could have been referring to the start of the Kearsney College Choir Tour to Singapore to take place in the Orientale Concertus International Choir Competition. Few descriptions could be more apt.

And we are off!
To cut a long and anxious story short we left King Shaka Airport with a full choir. By the time we arrived in Singapore five of our soldiers had been felled down by bureaucracy. The Shabalala brothers' passports were safely in their mom’s handbag, Ganas and Mqedlana’s passports were due to expire in five months and Buthelezi’s passport went missing somewhere between the boarding gates in Johannesburg and arrivals in Singapore.

Our tour leader, Mr Botha, has only just returned from spending two days at the airport and embassies trying to make sure Buthelezi didn’t get deported. He and Buthelzi’s patience and resilience, when faced with the utter horror of cross continental admin, are to be commended. As too are the tireless efforts of various parents who have ensured that nothing short of a miracle has occurred. Ganas and Mqedlana will be arriving tomorrow morning just in time for our Folk music competition tomorrow night. And the Shababla brothers were able to join us this morning after some swift couriering of passports to Johannesburg.

This tour has not been for the faint hearted. Luckily our full battalion will be back in action in time for the most important day of the whole tour.

But we are also having the best of times. While Mr Botha and Buthelezi have been familiarising themselves with the benches in Changi Airport we have been having a grand old time.

We arrived at 6:00 am Singapore time while it was midnight at home. There is something truly ghastly about being served an airplane ‘breakfast’ of scrambled eggs at 10:00 pm. After a hasty collection of luggage while clutching our passports in the deranged manner of meth addicts, we pummelled our way into the humid world of Singapore.

And what a country. I will go into more detail throughout this blog, but my goodness the human race can accomplish something if they really want to.

If I could I would start a slow clap for the Singaporeans. They truly are a visionary and fearless society and so with bleary, sleep-starved eyes, we gazed out at this new world as our tour guide, Bryce, pointed out the major landmarks.

We arrived at our hotel, ate breakfast (again), unpacked, showered, rested and then headed to lunch at the local mall. It is at this point that I would also like to mention that the dreaded Kearsney Stomach Bug of 2017 also came along for the trip and the introduction of foreign foods, smells and tastes only made the bug happier. We’ve had a few victims on the trip but they’ve managed to soldier on like brave Kearsney boys.

If you are a Kearsney parent, it would have been our entry into the mall that alerted you to the fact that your son is now officially in Singapore. I have no doubt that many phones started beeping at the same time as ‘emergency’ credit cards, travel wallets and any form of financial bartering equipment were hastily swiped in the frenzy of virgin shopping mania. I have been at great pains to remind the boys that they are here for another nine days and they really don’t need to buy the whole country on the first day.

After the hysteria of our first jaunt of shopping was over we returned to our hotel for supper and the Grade 8s and 9s went to bed. The seniors were allowed to paint the town red until 10:00pm. I will be keeping an eye on the institution across the road, as the name, ‘House of Condoms’, doesn’t really paint a cosy picture of what goes on inside, or it might in fact be a little too cosy.

Day two heralded another day of airport-dwelling for Messers B and B. But we were off on an amphibious adventure with Duck Tours. We got probably the most unusual tour of a city one could ever have on remodelled WWII amphibious Vietnamese warcraft. We were thus able to see the city by both land and sea.

There is something very unnerving about launching a moving vehicle with turning wheels into a body of water. But it was an awesome way to explore the city. We were told many facts about Singapore during the tour but something which really stuck out for me was the way criminals are dealt with in this country. Singapore still has great British influences including the maintenance of capital punishment and, despite the fact that the death penalty is no longer a means of punishment in Britain, it is very much in full swing in Singapore. So too is caning…

If you have done some form of misdemeanour, you will have to face a certain number of canings. And they are seriously bad. To add salt to the wound (I just had to), once you have had a certain number of canes, a doctor will help to assist in your recovery…so that they can cane you again! And this goes on for as long as it has to.

Needless to say keeping the boys in line on this tour is probably going to be a lot easier than other tours. This incredibly strict punishment regime has also meant that every boy has received Panado from me no matter the ailment as I really don’t want to be arrested for drug-trafficking.

After our city tour, we headed for the Marina Barrage. This is a dam built at the confluence of five rivers and is one of the major supplies of water to the country. When the Singaporeans realised that in order to build the city and economy of their dreams they would need more water, they came up with the ingenious idea of damming up the rainwater that would ordinarily flow into the sea, pump out all the remaining water and then allow the dam to fill up with fresh water. And so now one of the most beautiful aspects of Singapore is also one of its most life-giving.

We then partook in a wonderful traditional lunch where boys were encouraged to eat local cuisine. I was most impressed with their willingness to try new things.

It was then off to the Sky Park. Undoubtedly one of the most impressive buildings in Singapore the Sky Park at Marina Bay Sands is phenomenal. The building is an incredibly stunning work of architecture with a surf board-like structure on the top which is the Sky Park. It contains one of the most breath-taking infinity pools in the world but sadly only guests can swim in it. After an hour of loitering around, taking pictures and trying to avoid sunburn, we were off to register at the competition venue.

The SOTA (School of the Arts Singapore) is fortunately a short walk from our hotel. We spent the afternoon registering and were then given the opportunity to rehearse for our public performance tomorrow in a shopping mall.

It was then a quick dash back to the hotel to shower and change and have a quick bite to eat. Most of us, unfortunately, fell into the fast food trap due to lack of time, but the sophisticated Matrics managed to find some delicious local cuisine, although Nhloso Zulu messed up his order and was left trying to stomach incredibly spicy green noodles!

It was then a long sweaty wait for the opening ceremony to begin. It was made more pleasant with the appearance of Luke Peinke (2011), a passionate Kearsney Old Boy, who has flown with his parents all the way from Australia to support our boys. It really was such a proud moment for our wonderful school and stands testimony to the incredible bonds that form when music brings people together.

During the opening ceremony we were treated to the mind-blowing vocality of the Raffles Choir. It was an excellent opportunity for the boys to be exposed to such a high level of vocal clarity and control. The choirs were then all warmly welcomed by the chairman of the Orientale Concertus International Choir Competition despite a fairly awkward faux pas where he greeted all visiting countries in their home language and for ours he said ‘welkom'. We returned 'home' for a last-minute rehearsal in the parking lot and some much-needed rest.

Tomorrow we take on the world with our Folk music. Wish us luck!

Photos from Days 1 and 2

1 comment:

  1. Carol,I read your comments with great interest. I believe Singapore is the cleanest city in the world. It is probably more than a decade since I was there but it seems nothing has changed. However, I am not a believer in capital punishment - or flogging - but who am I to judge? What a great experience for the young lads who had the opportunity to visit such a well run city.


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