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An orchard of shops

Our last day in Singapore. As I type this B is watching a "historical" Chinese action flick with lots of wire stunts. The television in this hotel is pretty good. Apart from the dreadful CNN and other US news channels there is NHK Japan and even the Australia Channel. I've heard that it's not popular (a shearing competition, oh the thrills), but at least it screens Playschool.

The Singaporeans take their kids education very seriously. It's not surprising as it was education that helped thrust Singapore into the high technology country it is today. The Roxy Centre, in which our hotel is located, houses not just massage parlours and beauty therapists but also a large number of tutoring businesses. One even advertises that it trains students for the Mathematics Olympiad. In Australia few would have heard of that competition.

Education is a competition in Singapore. The pressure starts at the earliest age, in order that students get into the best schools, then the best high schools, the best universities. At stake, future earnings, but also family prestige and boasting rights.

I could imagine living in Singapore for a year or two, but I find it difficult to consider raising Alex here. I believe that education is very important, but I would rather he learn because he loves to do so rather than to achieve a goal. Learning shouldn't be a competition, it should be fun. So rather than high pressure rote learning I would try to nurture his creative side and let him apply that to solving problems.

I have read that Singapore officially wants to be a more creative nation, but such creativity, the ability to independently question is a threat to the Confucian traditions of the country. The tradition that authority comes from the top - the government, the parents, the teachers. But true creativity is about questioning traditions and authority, taking nothing for granted.

I suspect that our stubborn baby would run afoul of his teachers. At least he can watch Playshool!

On our last day in Singapore we went shopping. First I bought more goreng pisang and we had breakfast at the nearby food centre. Then we caught the bus in to Orchard Road. We stopped, by accident, opposite a shopping centre devoted to children's goods.

Many of the clothes for sale were children's versions of major adult brands, with prices to match. We took a look at a kids book store, but the prices were about the same as Australia. When it comes to babies, Australian pricing is highly competitive.

The new Ion shopping complex is quite a sight to behold. Apart from the interesting architecture, one section has an overhead display that casts the shadows of simulated sea life swimming across the ceiling. The fountains out the front are also pretty interesting.

Most of the goods were branded and expensive, but we found the odd bargain here and there. What was interesting was the number of Japanese stores and restaurants. It took me back to Japan.

We returned to the hotel late. All I felt like doing for dinner was sitting in a kopitiam, not really caring what I ate, but enjoying soaking up the atmosphere. B agreed, so we walked up Joo Chiat Road, picked a place and enjoyed a final dinner in Singapore of pork hock and porridge in her case and satay for me.

I'm actually quite sad to be leaving. I will miss being on holiday with B and Alex. He has changed so much during the past week. More teeth beginning to emerge, he's started babbling consonants, rolling around everywhere, eaten new foods. I think he's really gotten into the rhythm of travel and now he, and the rest of us, have to return to our routine existence.

An early flight today (already past midnight). I had better sleep.


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