Day 9

Today marks the end of our 10 day long journey in London. For the past 10 days, we have been blessed with incredibly good weather, not having had to use our ponchos and umbrellas at all. This would also be the last day we would be ‘enjoying’ the cold weather of London. 

The first visit we made today was to the National Gallery. As we exited the Charing Cross tube station, a breathtaking sight awaited us. Beneath the clear blue sky dotted with white, fluffy clouds was Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.

Trafalgar Square is surrounded by museums, galleries, cultural spaces and historic buildings. We had the opportunity to view Nelson’s column, a monument built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar, and the four bronze lions at its base. We saw people scurrying towards the four lion sculptures, which had their paws elegantly placed above one anotherto take pictures with it. We learnt that the paws on the lions are in fact more like cats’ paws because the sculptor who was commissioned to create the statues took so long using the dead lion as a model that its paws had decomposed badly. He therefore had to use cats’ paws as a source to copy them as inspiration.  In front of the National Gallery were numerous street buskers ranging from those who had painted themselves totally in gold and silver like statues, and artists who were drawing the flags of countries around the world on the stone floor in chalk. The vibrant atmosphere added on to our excitement

Soon we would soon be viewing artworks by esteemed artists including Leonardo Da Vinci, Claude Monet and Raphael.

Today was also the last time we would be meeting David, our Blue-Badge tour guide. Because our group was large we were divided into two. While David took one group around the rest were given free time to wander through the galleries, then we would switch. David through the various galleries and gave us a quick but detailed explanation of the paintings, on the background of the artists and the evolution of the style of the paintings they adopted. He had chosen to do this to give as a chronological overview of the painting from the religiously themed work of the Renaissance to the more elitist work of British painter Joshua Reynolds who specialized in historical works denoting the gentry as Classical subjects as the elites liked to be painted as mythical characters, which elevated their personality and the values or virtues they stood for in real life.

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One painting that captured my attention and lingered in my head was an artwork painted by Pierre-August RenoirBoating on the Seine. What was unique about this piece of painting was the way it was drawn – in the Impressionist style.  I was especially drawn to how he had captured light’s changing qualities on the water – the river in the painting seemed as though it was flowing right before my eyes.

With its massive collection of over 2,300 paintings, the National Gallery is very complicated. With its numerous galleries and many floors it would have been difficult to see everything so David’s tour was useful for us to get an overview. 

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All too  soon however it was time for us to move on to our next destination.

Our last stop before we bid our goodbyes to London was the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the National History Museum. As we did not have the time to visit both museums, we were given a choice, and were split into two groups. The museum that I chose to visit was the Victoria and Albert Museum, which displayed among many, many other things sculpturesjewelry and the evolution of fashion over the years.

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To me the most eye-catching attraction there was undoubtedly the copy of the famous sculpture ‘David’, by Michelangelo. Despite it being a copy I could not help but be awed by its massive size, and as it was my first experience of the work of the genius sculptor Michelangelo, I could not help but to stare in awe at its majesty even though it was a replica.

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Another popular attraction at the Victoria and Albert Museum was the exhibition of jewelry designed over the years. It was a pity that photography was not allowed in this exhibition but the glistening jewels have been successfully ingrained in my memory.

It was now time to bid farewell to the beautiful city of London. The past 10 days have been physically draining but we all had acquired valuable lessons, be it life skills or knowledge.

All of us on the trip seem to have the same ambition- we all want to return to London one day, to visit these places again but with more time to see even more.

It is my sincere hope that all of our wishes will eventually come true.

Till then, goodbye London!

-Yoon Young

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Day 8

We started our day by clambering onto the coach, exhausted from the amazing Alumni dinner we had the night before, but excited for the day ahead.

After a smooth ride, we reached the famous Epping Forrest. The sheer grandeur and rusticity of it left us in awe as we stepped of the coach. Like the past few days we had in London, we were once again blessed with good weather. Sunlight bounced off the frosted leaves littered on the ground, sending out shimmering rays of gold. Through Alicia’s sharing, we found out more about the history of Epping Forest. The forest stretches partly across London and Essex. During the Great War it was used as a refuge for civilians. Unfortunately that did not spare it from the incessant bombing carried out. As a result, some of the beautiful lakes are actually former bomb craters. This brief history of Epping Forest was impactful to me because Epping was no longer just a spectacular natural site, but also a living and breathing forest with a past and its fair share of historical memories.

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After spending some time frolicking about the forest, we made our way to “Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting lodge” nearby. The lodge was built in 1543 during the Tudor period (1485 to 1603) built under the orders of King Henry VIII as a base where guests or other royal members could hunt from. The upper level of the lodge provides a supreme view for the occupants of the lodge to look out of.

Through the displays in the lodge we got the opportunity to find out more about the lifestyle people had during the Tudor era. The lodge has many visuals to help us imagine what life was like then.  I’ve always taken an interest in all sorts of history hence learning more about English history was a real treat for me. For example one thing I learnt was that food was often served in large portions and paraded past less important guests at the dining table as a show of hierarchy and economic worth. We were also given the opportunity to dress up in Tudor-era clothing, which gave us a slightly better feel of how it would feel like if one were to jump straight into the Tudor era. Indeed we had a great time pulling on furry hats and large coats.

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Like typical tourists, we were all looking forward to the gift shop nearby, eager to grab trinkets that would allow us to take away a small part of Epping with us. At the shop, I noticed something quite encouraging and heart-warming. Much like many of the museums and historical sites we visited,  Epping Forest relies on donations and proceeds from purchases made at the gift shop to supplement its maintenance . There were various donation boxes placed round the shop – some directing funds to the protection of forests in the Greater London area, some directed towards the maintenance of Epping Forest and so on. Unlike most profit-based shops in Singapore, I also noticed how local artists were allowed to display their artworks for free in the gift shops. Any money collected from the purchases of these artworks goes directly to the artists themselves. England has successfully developed a culture of support and appreciation for the arts. Little gestures and practices like these show how more emphasis is placed on the value rather than price of things. Indeed, there is much that Singapore can learn from England in terms of cultivating social mind-sets. We need to teach our young how to take the initiative to preserve things that are important to our culture and existence as a Singaporean people.

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Before we knew it, it was time to head off to Cambridge. As pre-university students many of us were curious and elated at the prospect of having the opportunity to take a peek at one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

Along the way to Cambridge we passed by a small town called Thaxted, it was very different from the other towns we’d seen. Its thatched roofs, vintage cars, tiny shops lined along the street and traditional windmill made us feel as if we were transported back in time.

We arrived at Cambridge in the afternoon. We strolled down the entrance to the town, dwarfed by the grand and stately structures. After a few minutes of walking and gaping at the sheer scale of Cambridge University, we found ourselves at the market square where we were to have lunch.

The market square was filled with tents and crowded stalls. The stalls sold everything from scented candles to glittery jewellery to hot food. The smell of fresh meat being cooked on grills and steamy spicy paella being scooped out of the pan were enough to send our stomachs growling. While the ‘Ostrich Burger’ was recommended to us, I went for the ‘German Hamburger’ instead. Devouring hot food whilst walking the streets of Cambridge in the cold is just about one of the best feelings in the world.

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After lunch, we proceeded for a tour of Cambridge with our guides. Janet (our guide), was just about the most good-natured and passionate guides we had the honour of meeting. Through her sharing we learnt of the old feud between Oxford and Cambridge; and as Janet said with conviction, “Oxford is older, but Cambridge is BETTER!”

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Through my observations I realised that Cambridge still keeps many of its age old traditions and practices. The buildings in Cambridge are very traditional and gothic-Victorian in style. The cream coloured, water stained walls have intricate carvings of prominent figures and faces on them; a stark contrast to the smooth glossy glass skyscrapers that fill most of Singapore. According to Janet, tall, modern buildings are not allowed to be built so as to maintain Cambridge’s heritage. Additionally when new students enter the school, painters are sent to each college’s dorm to hand paint the names of the new occupants.

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If one were to spend enough time walking round Cambridge, you would notice various plaques on the walls around the campus. Each of these plaques commemorates notable achievements or alumni. For example, the splitting of electrons was first discovered by Lord Rutherford in the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University. Iconic scientists such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Alan Turing, that shaped the world of today studied behind the walls of the university. The importance and significance of the place left me a little intimidated, yet awe-inspired. It was almost surreal to be at the very site where geniuses were born.

Janet was also very eager to tell us more about student life in Cambridge. Students are provided with a beautiful, breath-taking campus where they have their own chapel, dining hall and library. But, of course like all good things, they come with a price, a price of hard work to be exact. Students have morning lectures six days a week and numerous tutorials to hand in to their Director do Studies to review. According to an alumnus who joined us later in the tour around Cambridge, most of the school year is very busy and packed with heavy workloads.

Before we knew it our tour with Janet had ended and it was time to bid goodbye to her and the picturesque city of Cambridge.

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The experience was both eye-opening and inspiring. It has made me want to work harder and find my way back to Cambridge based on my academic merit. Cambridge is so full of life and excitement, bustling with the greatest minds and talents. It is definitely a not-so-distant goal I wish to work towards.

We ended our day with dinner at “Toby’s Carvery” where we students were spoilt with a wide selection of meats from honey roasted pork to succulent British Turkey and mashed potatoes. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, talking about our hilarious experiences during the trip while devouring the delicious food before us. The best part about the restaurant is that the meat is sliced freshly on the spot for you. More importantly you get to choose the different types of gravy and sides you want to go with your selected meats.

Today was one of the best days of our trip in my opinion. As a city girl, the rich greenery of Epping Forest and the beauty of Cambridge city provided a sense of boundless hope, freedom and opportunity. I am actually quite upset that we are nearing the end of our stay in London, overall it has been such an enriching experience and a timely reminder of how there is a huge world beyond our tiny island nation.

-Joan

Day 7

Today, we started our London journey with Brixton as the first stop.  Unfortunately even before we began we had to reluctantly say goodbye to Mr Er, who was feeling unwell and had to rest at the hotel.

It was chilly when we set off.  However, as we walked to the Tube station, I noticed that the clouds were giving way to reveal blue patches of sky where the sun was peering through. This instantly lifted my spirits in anticipation of the clear day ahead.

Upon reaching Brixton, I was immediately drawn in by the vibrancy and diversity of the area. Upbeat music blared from shops and cars along the streets and the buildings were dressed in all kinds of colour and art. The whole area had a unique personality unto itself, nothing like the prim and proper side of London we had experienced the past few days.  But as we were to discover, itt was also a world apart from Brixton of the past, where violence and crime abounded and living conditions were poor.  I couldn’t wait to start exploring it.

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We met our music-loving Blue Badge guide, Angela, who took us around Brixton. Our first stop was the iconic mural of David Bowie, a famous pop culture icon of the late 90s. He was born in Brixton, and so the artist decided to paint a mural of him here in 2012 to celebrate his contribution to music, fashion, and sexuality.  Since he died earlier this year, many people from all around the world have been making a ‘pilgrimage’ to this mural to pay homage to him. Even though I was not very familiar with his work, I felt honored to be able to see the mural and the flowers people have laid for him there in acknowledgement of the influence he has had on pop culture.

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Moving on, we visited the Black Cultural Archive. Opened in 2014, it is the only place in the U.K. that documents black history. It was opened to help the Black British gain awareness of their roots and where they originally came from, as many of them only know what happened after 1948, the year their forefathers from the Caribbean came to Britain to work. Hearing about all this, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to Singapore. Being a Chinese Singaporean, I realised and felt ashamed that I didn’t know much about my family history in China either, where my forefathers came from. Hence, I feel that the Black Cultural Archive is a good initiative to help the Black British reconnect with their roots in order to move forward, and that Singapore should open such places for the various ethnic groups as well. As Walter Rodney says “to know the future we must know the past and present.”

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We had our lunch at Pop Brixton, a place full of life and diversity. There was a range of cuisines to choose from, and we bought an array of dishes to share, such as jerk chicken and cannon balls. Some of the food I tried included the arepa, a type of South American corn cake, and goat curry. These were things that I would not normally have eaten, but it was a good experience as I thoroughly enjoyed every bite!

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After the hearty lunch, we carried on with the tour of Brixton to Electric Avenue and Brixton Village, both full of local flavour. We were then given the opportunity to take a London bus for the first time! This would mean that we would have tried almost every form of public transport in London, from the Tube to the iconic red double-decker bus. It was interesting to note that the bus has three entrances, differing from Singapore’s, so everybody doesn’t have to crowd around the same entrance, making boarding more efficient.

As we reached the Imperial War Museum early, we were given time to take photographs in front of it. We obviously relished the opportunity and proceeded to take various jump shots and group photos, sealing our happy memories together in film.

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Entering the museum, the mood turned sombre as we headed to the Holocaust exhibition. Walking through the exhibits, I felt shocked at the atrocity of the German regime towards the Jews. I was aghast seeing the pictures of Jewish women being raped, Jews being led to their death at the gas chambers, and probably the most affecting of all, the picture of a huge pile of dead Jews in a mass grave. I ached to think of what the victims had gone through, and was relieved that I was not born at that time. Witnessing the result of extreme racial discrimination by Hitler, I am ever more appreciative of the racial harmony we have in Singapore today. I realised that everyone has a role to play in creating an inclusive society where everyone feels safe, and am determined to do my part in ensuring that history does not repeat itself.

Nightfall meant that it was finally time for the SAJC alumni dinner! This has long been touted as one of the highlights of the trip and I had been really looking forward to hear what my seniors had to say about higher education in the UK. As the seniors arrived one by one, they were met with a warm welcome from the current Saints, as well as embraces from teachers whom they had not met in a long time.

I myself had the privilege of talking to two seniors who had taken very different paths. One was studying classics and philosophy in the University of Glasgow, while the other was doing law at Oxford. I was intrigued by the former’s choice of classics and philosophy, and learnt that it was a result of the combination of her love for history and literature. This opened my eyes to the many courses that university has to offer that can cater to all kinds of interests, which I find reassuring as I am now more confident of finding something that I like and want to pursue.

They both also offered me valuable advice related to the application process for university and how to survive JC2, such as showing you are passionate about your desired course in your personal statement and having good time management respectively. Overall, I felt inspired by the many Saints who have achieved so much and are pursuing their passion after graduating from SA. I am now motivated to work hard in the coming year knowing that anything is possible if you just put your heart to it!

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It was a very eye-opening and enriching day. Even though the trip is nearing its end, I feel very blessed to have been able to gain so many valuable experiences in such a short time. If given a chance, I would definitely do it all over again!

 

-Janessa

Day 6

Today started off with a little sneak peak of one of the biggest and luxurious departmental stores in London – Harrods. We had afterall to pass it on our way to the Singapore High Commission. The minute I stepped out of Knightsbridge station, I was greeted by the dazzling Christmas lights that lined the streets of Knightsbridge, the latest collection of Burberry purses systematically organised behind well-polished windows and rows of high-end fashion brands seducing the eyes of the girls (and some of the boys too).

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We spent a few moments spazzing over non-existent retail therapy and said our reluctant goodbyes as we proceeded to walk around the red-bricked townhouses that are a feature of the Knightsbridge area.  Most of the houses have carved intricate designs of angels on their  front porch and christmas decorations placed across their small backyards. Along the way to the High Commission we passed by an old, green tea hut made of wood where in the past London cabbies would stop for their break. .

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Upon reaching the High commissioner’s place, we were honoured to have Mr Chai Wen Wai the Deputy High Commissioner talk to us. He explained the impact of Brexit on Commonwealth countries like Singapore,   the free trade agreements made across countries and even advised on the requirements needed to join MFA. Most of us didn’t even know that MFA also offers a limited number of JC internships.  At the end of our briefing most of us were enlightened via the  insights he provided us on the economic and social impacts of Brexit. We also had a better idea of Singapore’s long-standing relationship with the UK.  We left with a clearer understanding of what it meant to be a diplomat, as well as the difficulties foreign students might face.

His talk also gave me a sense of what  studying in London and getting a stable job here, after university, would be like. That it would no longer be as simple and straightforward as before.  I learnt that in previous years, foreign students were  given 2 years after graduating, to look for jobs but these days, unless the students’ visas are sponsored by companies, they are only given 6 months before they have to return home.

Despite this, many foreigners are not deterred as prestigious universities in the UK like Oxford and Cambridge offer appealing courses that may not be available elsewhere, this would mean that there is a greater competition amongst students in getting scholarships and positions in the universities. I guess I should start on my holiday homework if I’m to even dream about studying in London.

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After the High Commission we once again travelled by Tube as we made our way to lunch at Mother Mash. We had to pass through Piccadilly Circus (which sadly we were not given a chance to explore). Piccadilly Circus seems like a very intriguing place to be in as there were street performers like the woman dressed in a royal gown fully painted in gold, the “floating” Yoda and more. The streets were lined with shops and theatres.

After a hearty lunch of sausages and mashed potatoes (not forgetting the extra vegetables the teachers never fail to order for us) we visited Westminster Abbey, with intentions of touring the interior.  However, due to unforeseen circumstances we were unable to enter as they were holding a special service.

 

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Despite this, we still managed to attend Evensong, sung by the chorister of Westminster Abbey. I walked in expecting it to be a simple, humble setting but I was amazed at the extraordinary statues carved out in such excruciating detail, in memory of noblemen and others who have made a mark in history. Such figures include Winston Churchill, Isaac Newton and Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. The choir sang hymns with such beauty their angelic voices resonated against the towering concave ceilings and surrounded us with grace.  It was apparently relatively smaller gathering compared to the usual service, however, I can safely say that the passion displayed by the choir was brought forth in their songs of worship , gave everyone  goose-bumps. The congregation sat in silence while the officiants read out verses from The Book of Isaiah.  I have attended mass in churches before even though I am a Christian, the Evensong that I attended was different than what I had experienced before:  In Singapore, they do not have the choir singing the Lord’s Prayer and the responses, most churches just request the congregation to speak out the responses. Overall, Evensong was inspiring because the dedication that they displayed warmed  my heart to know that they find great joy in serving the Lord.

Later on in the day, we briskly made our way to the final stop for today – The British Museum (where Night at the Museum III was filmed ).

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Taking the tube in the evening proved to be rather stressful because it was crowded and people were all shoving and carelessly bumping into others. Nevertheless we got to the museum on time. The British Museum has so many displays ranging from philosophy to ancient Egyptian mummies. It  was certainly much bigger than I expected (think of National  Museum back home, multiply that by 20) and it is supported by a whole row of towering pillars.

Inside, we broke into smaller groups and were given the freedom to choose which exhibition to look at. My group decided to visit the Enlightenment exhibition where we saw statues belonging of Greek mythology like Apollo. We managed however to give ourselves a quick tour of the ancient Egypt exhibition where we learned the art of mummification, looked at real-life mummies of the people and cats, learned about artefacts  that were uncovered in Egypt. .

They say you learn new things every day, today was definitely insightful and entertaining as I managed to learn more about the history of   Westminster Abbey, learned about mummification and got to look at real-life mummies!

London has been a great experience for me so far, it is a place so rich in history, 10 days will never be enough for me to learn all about it.  I hope this will be a motivation to myself , to work harder so that in the future, I will be able to re-visit this city.  I want to continue exploring various parts of the world and continuously acquire knowledge outside the boundaries of Singapore and Indonesia.

-Gabriela Latip

Day 5

Just like the other day our itinerary was jam packed.

Our day began when we were brought back to the 1940s and World War Two when the British were fighting with their Allies against the Nazis.  But it wasn’t preparing for battle with bombers and tanks but revealing Britain’s best kept secret: Bletchley Park.

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Bearing up to the cold, we began our tour around Bletchley with a breath taking view of the frozen lake. The sunrays beamed down and lit up the lake like gold glitter. We were awed at the beautiful, movie-like scenery – a perfect opportunity for Tumblr snapshots.

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The company of some feathery friends, swans and ducks further made us bubble in excitement since many of us have probably never seen ducks and swans before.

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Our trip to Bletchley Park was to introduce us to how mathematics helped win the war. We were told how the Bombe, the codebreaking machine contributed to the end of World War Two. The machine was designed by Alan Turing and his colleagues to aid in codebreaking the German ciphers.  When the first machine worked successfully in 1940, it used the most advanced electrochemical technology available. Many of the routine Enigma enciphered messages were heavily stereotyped so clues such as the call signs, time of transmission and the length of message often enabled parts of the cipher text to be inferred correctly. Often, the deciphering of these codes required informed and logical guesses. Unfortunately, their informed guesses sometimes turned out to be wrong though they were generally accurate enough to be used as the basis for regularly breaking the German’s Enigma cipher with the aide of the Bombe. Standing at about 100 metres tall and the length of three Samsung LED screens put together, I was amazed to see the various wheels and wires connected together like a spider-web. Imagine how this huge machine was the key to Codebreaking in the 1940s! Just the thought of a hundred of these machine secretly stored in Bletchley made me wonder how much effort and hard work had been put in to end the world war. The direness and unrest that the world was going through at that time sent chills down my spine, and I’m glad that I was born a millennial.

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After the tour, we had a codebreaking workshop – a special treat for many of us who were inspired to unravel the secrets of code breaking upon watching the movie, The Imitation Game actored by Benedict Cumberbatch. From codebreaking activities to learning more about the various ciphers to getting down and finally to understanding about the billion permutations British intelligence had to go through just to break a mere code, it opened my narrow worldview to coding, discovering how codebreaking actually works and how difficult it actually is for the British in 1940s to break the Enigma code. Even though the workshop only lasted for an hour and a half, I can gladly say that many of us ended the workshop feeling fulfilled and inspired by the rich mathematical history left behind. Hopefully many of us will be motivated to do math justice when we return to school!

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Sadly, the man behind the triumphant achievement of breaking the Enigma code was largely forgotten – Alan Turing.  Condemned for being a homosexual, Turing spent his last days under medication to ‘calm his hormones’. Eventually, Turing died of cyanide poisoning when he ate an apple which had been tainted with cyanide. Interestingly Apple’s logo today was designed in remembrance of an unsung hero who created the world’s first computer. Perhaps even before judging individuals for their differences, I believe society should acknowledge the efforts they contributed?

 

After Bletchley we headed back towards London. It was a long drive to Stratford the venue of the British Olympic Village in 2012.

Stratford has come a long way. In the far past, Stratford was just a small village, a farming area, that remained rural for many centuries. It eventually became the site of many industries but by the 1970s the area was depressed with unemployment rife. Industries shut down and the area was poor and lacking in facilities and infrastructure. However the Olympic Games and the decision to use Stratford as the main site has proven its redemption.

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The Olympic Games provided economic opportunities first from the construction of the Village to the carefully planned in structure and services that would remain in the area which have been (post-Olympics) developed. There has been the construction of a mega mall Westfield as well as the start of a series of urban redevelopments to create financial and banking hubs which continues until today.

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Being an economically driven society, I was not surprised that London would invest nine- figure sums to the urban development which will ultimately contribute to Britain’s overall economic prosperity. What struck me was the countless bright red construction cranes found in almost all corners of the area,  the frequent sight of metal and white washed hard board barricades surrounding construction sites, a reflection of how rapid Stratford’s development. Economic success as a result of seizing the opportunity offered through the Olympic Games. It also taught me how important opportunities are and nothing in life comes by chance. If not for the Olympic Games, Stratford will certainly be vastly different from what we saw today.

Having seen more traditional plays at the Barbican and at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, our  last theatre experience was an example of Fringe Theatre. The play, Whose Sari Now? makes use of the sari as a useful metaphor to lift the veil on the oppression of women and the cultural rigidness of society . Through the actress Rani Moorthy’s animated gestures, the intonation and word stress that she employed, the shine and deep intensity in her dark eyes as she paced the small stage and said her lines, her attention and engagement with the audience transported me to another dimension, journeying beyond the surface to delve deeper into what society today is culturally and socially to explore women’s roles in a male dominated society.

Never did I imagine watching a play unfold in small, black room at the back of a restaurant could have such an impact. Never did I imagine that a performer would be able to perform a variation of characters and at the same time retain the raw and genuine emotions which makes up each one of them.  Never did I imagine all this time that I had wrongfully stereotyped plays and the different forms in which they are presented. I had been limited and uninformed I was about plays and dramas as a Literature student. Plays and dramas have so much more to offer to every one of us than what we may possibly assume.-

-Rui Shan

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Day 4

It was a cold winter morning. Everyone was buzzing with excitement as we all knew that this was the first time we would be taking the Tube, and on top of that, we would be visiting the Globe for a full day of workshops. Hence, all of us made our way to Ealing Broadway tube station, eager and excited  for what was in store for us this day.

When we reached the tube station, it was as if the train station had come straight out from a movie. We were a little tense, as it was full of people hurrying into the train cabins before they closed. Even though it wasn’t during the peak period, the train cabins were crowded and all of us squeezed into them. We literally felt like a packed can of sardines in the train! I realized that compared to the MRT in Singapore, the train cabins were much narrower and shorter, which surprised me as I thought it would be much higher to accommodate the height of Londoners , who are much taller than we Asians. All of us swayed and stumbled as the train moved, clinging onto each other in order to not fall down.

After about 10 stops on the Central Line, we finally alighted at St Paul’s and made our way to St Paul’s Cathedral. The teachers gave us some free time to roam around the cathedral and take photos. We had the opportunity to go inside the Cathedral, but we were not able to look around the entire interior because we had to pay for it. However, just by looking at a small portion of the interior, I could already see how intricate and detailed the design was, and feel the glory and magnificence of this place designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

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When we were done, we made our way to the Globe theatre via the Millennium Bridge. When we entered the Globe, we were warmly welcomed by our guide, Mary who used to be an actress and now lectured at the University of East Anglia.  She brought us into the Globe Theatre. But before bringing us inside, she gave us a brief overview about the history of the theatre and of theatre in London in general. I learnt that the original name for Shakespeare’s Globe was the Globe Playhouse, but Shakespeare’s name was added due to commercial purposes. Also, she explained how theatre was seen historically as an equivalent to brothels and casinos – entertainment that the church and government disapproved of.  When she brought us inside, the air was filled with our ‘ooh’s and ‘ah’s as everyone marvelled at the theatre’s unique and detailed architecture. It was as if we travelled back to the olden days!

Mary brought us backstage, where she further elaborated on the features of the theatre as well as the economic importance of theatre in London. She then made us walk onto the stage from backstage, to allow us to experience entering the stage from the actor’s point of view. She then made us carry out a few activities on stage, teaching us how we can attract the audience simply by the positioning of the actors on stage. She also further elaborated on the features of the theatre and answered all our queries regarding the structure of the theatre and plays in general.

After lunch, we had a workshop lead by Mary as well. She made us experiment with our body language to portray different types of behaviour and also made us act out scenes from the Duchess of Malfi. From this, I learnt that we could tell the character’s personality simply by from body language and language they use!

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I found it unexpectedly fun as I never liked acting. However it was an enjoyable experience trying to act out different characters and learning how to emphasize words. It sparked an interest in me to study plays and I hope explore this more when I have free time.

We then made our way to the Tate Modern. The Tate Modern is one of the world’s largest contemporary art museums with a whopping 5 million visitors a year! We were amazed at the structure of the building, formerly Bankside Power Station. There, we were given the opportunity to look around the galleries and choose a painting for one of our exercises in the workbook. I was surprised at the huge array of artwork. Of course I didn’t manage to finish seeing all of them in one visit! I hope I could come back next time to explore more.  As someone who is interested in artwork, I found it fascinating to see artworks of famous painters, such as Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, in real life!

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Before returning to the Globe theatre to watch a play, we ate our dinner at Gourmet Burger King. We filled our stomachs with delicious burgers and fries, and everyone felt satisfied and happy with their food.

We watched ‘The Little Match Girl’ in the Sam Wanamaker playhouse. It was really an interesting experience sitting really close to the stage, where the actors interacted with us a lot, breaking the fourth wall. I really enjoyed the play as I could relate the storyline of the various childhood stories I used to read, and it was interesting how they added the modern twist to all the stories, such as including jesters or using modern lingo.

Today was a tiring but enjoyable experience and I’m excited for what’s to come the next few days!

-Mikaela

Day 3

The weather has been getting colder and colder with the temperature dropping to -2 this morning, and there was a significant amount of frost we saw blanketing the countryside along the way to Sir John Lawes School.  Although it has yet to snow, all of us were fascinated by the sight as it is something that we never experience in Singapore, (and I have to admit, we were rather excited by it).  The thin layer of white frost on the green grass seemed almost surreal, and the dark red of  some flowers and berries that were still  surviving the cold stood boldly in contrast.

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It was our second day at Sir John Lawes and today the most memorable class that I attended was undoubtedly the Design and Technology class. The facilities of the Design and Technology classroom were impressive, ranging from wood cutting tools to a furnace to a laser printer. The teacher – Mr Maydom – was very patient and kind to the Singaporean students attending the class.

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The Design and Technology class for year 12 students surprisingly had a small enrolment of only 2 students so we had the opportunity to work on our very own designs using a 2-dimmensional programme on the computer, and transfer them to the laser printer to be printed. We put on our thinking caps and tried our best in coming out with the designs, and they ranged from snowflakes to an outline of the Big Ben, which we had visited on our first day in London. Once we had our designs laser printed, we would proceed on to the furnace room, where we got to melt a piece of metal and pour the melted liquid into a mould containing our laser printed designs.  The teacher was very detailed in his explanation of the process from the relation of the design to the viscosity of the melted liquid to the formation of air bubbles in the process.  We had much fun there as we made our designs – most of them turned out very nicely and we now have a memento that we can keep in memory of the lesson and our trip.

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After exchanging gifts with our buddies at Sir John Lawes School and bidding them farewell, we proceeded on to the Barbican Centre tom watch King Lear. Before the show began, we had the opportunity to dine at Wood Street Bistro located near the theatre. We were served appetizing dishes such as risotto and bacon and cheese burgers all which we enjoyed greatly. What made our mouths water even more was the desserts served there. The chocolate brownies were a great combination with the vanilla ice cream and the sticky toffee pudding served at the restaurant was a special dessert that we would all remember.

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Apart from the glistening costumes and the passion of the actors who performed King Lear for us, what caught our attention was the performance culture and etiquette of the audience. It was a pleasant surprise for us that the play was appreciated not only by the adults but also young people who were around our age.  Furthermore, the efficiency of the audience and the theatre left us Singaporean students in awe, as during the intermission, there was no form of announcement with regards to the duration of the break, but everyone efficiently returned in time, and as the door swiftly closed behind us, the play started immediately.

It had been a long day but satisfying day but we are all looking forward to what lies ahead.

-Kim Yoon Young