Project Week: Creativity and Activity

Saturday:

We left for Chiang Mai around mid-day, meeting at Changi Airport with our parents for check-in. Since one of the group members bought the tickets together on one account, we all had to check in with the details from her flight details. We were using the digital check-in, and ran in to slight problems when only two of us could check in. While going to the counter to fix the issue, the two girls tried to get the printed ticket set. After completing check-in and immigration, we waved goodbye to our parents and went into the terminal. Some of us exchanged money to prevent having to worry about it later on, while others already exchanged money beforehand. We had lunch and then boarded our flight to Bangkok Don Mueang International Airport. Landing in Bangkok was confusing, as the airport didn’t have much signage for transfer flights and there were many people going in and out of the terminal. However, after going through a second immigration, we had around an hour to relax and get re-situated. Two of us bought Thai sim-cards in the airport, while the rest were going to use their Singaporean numbers with data plans. There was a slight mixup with our gate and our flight was delayed, but we landed in Chiang Mai International Airport on time. We arranged for a shuttle service to pick us up from the airport, but there was confusion with where they would wait for us as international passengers are divided from domestic passengers, even if the flight was domestic. Eventually, we found the shuttle and drove to the hotel. It was a short distance and checking in was very quick. After setting our things down, we went to the hotel cafe to eat dinner and went to bed not long after. Overall a successful journey 🙂

Sunday:

Bright and early, we scheduled our day trek with Wild Planet to begin at 8 am. Wild Planet came and picked us up, and we were informed that we would be driving for around an hour to a market to pick up supplies, before continuing up to the mountain area where we would be trekking. It started out fairly cool, but the weather eventually warmed up, and by the time we reached the base of the mountain to quickly stop for a break, it was already quite warm out. The temperature was estimated to reach 38 degrees, but humidity would make it feel like 42. As we drove up the mountain, I started getting a bit carsick as the road was very windy, but it was a beautiful location, forested treescapes as far as the eye could see. The top of the mountain allowed a wide view of the surrounding lands, and our guide pointed out our final destination, approximately 15 km away. That was our first issue, as we anticipated the trek to only be around 5-7 km. While I have done several hiking trips before, they have never been in such warm weather, and I knew this would be a personal difficulty. The initial part of the trek was slower going and also easier than the later parts of the trek as the descent was not as steep and we were not in heavily wooded areas. On this part of the trek, our guide showed us many local Thai plants, including coffee and tea plants, along with several different fruits and vegetables. He also showed us a particular type of wood that easily burns and was once used as torches by the local hill tribes. During lunch, we stopped in a small village. In my past hiking trips, we did not get the opportunity to interact with the local culture, so I found this to be a slightly different experience compared to what I have done in the past. After lunch, our trek because much harder. We were in much steeper sections of the forest, with many uphill and downhill changes. The path was only wide enough for single file walking, so we all took turns in the various positions. There were some parts of the trek where I was quite scared because one side would be the side of the hill and the other side would be straight down. I was concerned that someone in my group would slip and would be injured. It was also getting progressively warmer, especially as we exerted more effort, so we started taking electrolytes to make sure we stayed properly hydrated. One of our group members became slightly heat-exhausted over the course of the trek, leading the rest of our group to take initiative for various small tasks, such as periodically giving her water, ensuring she wasn’t the last person, fanning her if she needed, and trading bags so she was carrying a lighter load. This sense of responsibility and teamwork was the most important aspect of the 7 hour trek, and we gained not only an appreciation for the Thai landscape and Hill tribe culture, but also an understanding of our personal strengths and weaknesses, along with how we could support each other using these discoveries.

 

Monday:

I found and organized the cooking class that we went to on Monday for the aspect of Creativity. We decided on cooking because food is an important part of culture, and we wanted to be able to take what we had learnt back home through learning something practical. There are actually many different cooking schools in Chiang Mai, but I found a cooking school within walking distance of our hotel called Thai Akha Cooking School that looked interesting because we would get to experience going to a Thai market to buy ingredients before cooking a variety of dishes. It was only around 10 minutes or so to walk to the school, and after the other participants arrived, we went to a local Thai market. Our instructor showed us various different food dishes and ingredients that are important to Thai cooking. I noticed that many of these ingredients were familiar to me, as my mom grew up in Thailand and cooks Thai food fairly often. Additionally, Indonesian cuisine also uses similar ingredients. The entire cooking experience was nicely planned out by the cooking school, despite there being 10 different dishes to cook. We also learnt that the Akha in the name of the school refers to a particular hill tribe, which has their own cooking style that differs from traditional Thai dishes. This day was far less challenging than our trek, but more creative and interesting. The environment we were working in was friendly and inviting, and the situation 

was a very dynamic and animated one. I wouldn’t say there were any downsides to the cooking class, other than the fact that is was essentially outside, and therefore very warm, and the fact that we made 10 dishes and ate them all. I personally really enjoyed learning how to cook as I don’t cook very often, and I don’t often cook complex dishes such as some ofthe ones we made. It was an overall fun experience for everyone, and time passed very quickly through the “learning process”.

Kahaani: Show Week

I didn’t know that “Kahaani” meant “story” for the longest of times, but it truly lived up to its namesake.

From what I’ve come to learn about UWC, performances are intense and the amount of time that goes into preparing for the shows is far longer than anything I’ve done before. The week of Kahaani was very busy, with rehearsals until 8 or 9 pm for a few days. But, there was a large highlight to the preparations: people from Voice of World School For the Blind who are partnered with Kolkata GC came to UWC. We had an assembly and they presented to us how exactly the money and awareness that Kahaani brings is used, and they shared a humbling video of the goals that the school works towards. To actually see a physical manifestation of something that we dedicate our time and energy, there are very few words to describe that. I love the idea of actually seeing our efforts, because I think it became very easy to just think of Kahaani as another performance and event that the school has and forget exactly why we all dedicated ourselves to helping Kolkata GC. That was the most meaningful moment of the whole Kahaani experience to me, and made all the long rehearsals and other annoyances worth it. The people from Voice of World School also stayed the whole week to watch the performances, and I hope it brought them much pride and joy to see the amount of people that turned up.

Only since coming to UWC have I had such an immersion in a different culture, mostly due to the amount of different people from different ethnicities. Kahaani is only my second time doing Indian dancing, and it was so different from the first time. There is such a diversity in the styles of the dancings, costumes, and music that it is a constantly changing experience. Kahaani was still incredibly fun, there were so many people I knew in all the dances, and the show week was filled with so many fun memories. I hope to do Kahaani again next year, because it was only something to gain.

Dance Showcase: Show Week

Dance showcase was definitely challenging, perhaps not so much in the actual style of dancing itself, but in my own personal feelings about how everything was organized and how the week itself went. It was a busy week, with rehearsals and then the show itself all right on top of one another. I also had two tests that were supposed to occur that week, but that I ended up having to move to the next week. I’m not sure how I felt about that, because I personally feel that my academics are more important than my extracurricular, and that having to reschedule assignments because I wasn’t released to go home until 9 at night is a bit unfair. That is perhaps one of my main negative experiences about the show week, in that I felt there was a lack of clarify and order in what needed to be done, and that I had to be on the stage very last minute for the entire show.

However, Show Week was a true test of commitment and collaboration between everyone. My dance had to meet during some of the lunches to fine tune some aspects of our dance that we continued to struggle with, and we all put in time on the weekend before to meet and put together all the different components of the dance. There were some things that we had to change of the week of the show, but everyone relearnt the choreography and integrated it back into the dance. Everyone worked together and shared different resources for hair and makeup and costume, and there was overall a good relationship between all the dancers and the dance leaders. I know that it was difficult for some people in my dance who were in multiple other dances, as I myself was part of the transitions in the show and it was an added aspect, but I didn’t feel there was anyone who wasn’t committed to the dance.

Especially to my dance leaders, one of who had never choreographed or taught before, it turned out wonderfully. We kept to the theme, through our music and our dancing, and the end result was everything that we had spent the months working towards. And while this week was exhausting, there is exhilaration in dancing in a group, when you’re on the stage and the music and lighting is as it is supposed to be, mistakes don’t change that feeling of pride.


Science Fair: Finishing and Displaying the Project

I feel like it’s really important to reflect on more than just things that you enjoyed from, but to reflect on different activities or experiences that you were not necessarily comfortable with or enjoyed. I would say one of the experiences that I continued doing but wasn’t completely invested in was the Science Fair. Which is not to say that I am disinterested in science in any way, but I realized that the idea of our research project wasn’t completely something I was passionate about, and it wasn’t something that the rest of my group members were passionate about.

I did of course continue until the end, because I felt obligated to finish what I had started, and I didn’t want to let my group down by not completely any research at all. I would say this was more perseverance for me than many other activities, because there is usually more of a desire to persevere with an activity you really love. That’s why this experience for me was one where I really did persevere, because I forced myself to follow through with the plans we made and the research question we originally set out, and I did learn along the way. While personally fungal infections were not the highest on my list of things I find fascinating to read about at home, I did end up writing and editing the majority of the report. In the end, I’m rather proud of my personal achievement with this, because I spent a lot of time researching the different aspects of fungal infections and different drugs that can be used to treat fungal infections, and I worked with another group member to get all the information finished on time. I’m quite happy that her and I were able to pull it together.

Link to the Full Report

Wavelengths: Middle School and High School Music Concert

Wavelengths was a massive performance comprised of different instrumental and vocal groups from middle school and high school, including the middle school and high school orchestras and bands, middle school girls choir, Bersama, Sonos, three marimba groups, and percussion groups. This led to a really wonderful evening wherein all the hard work and new skills of the past few months could be displayed by a large group of students. The auditorium was packed with both family members and friends who were there to see the musical display and achievements.

Sonos choir sang one song from the upcoming HS musical Aida called “The Gods Love Nubia”, along with Bersama and the Middle School girls choir. This was actually rather shocking, because we didn’t know that we would be performing with the other choir groups until very soon before the concert, and this led to a large amount of adaptation while in rehearsal, in order to best fit the different vocal parts with all the new members, who had learned the song separately. It became absolutely necessary to focus on the way your personal voice and sound would interact and contribute with the other singers.

While Bersama does have tenor and basses, there were far more sopranos and altos as the middle school choir was comprised of girls. This led to a rather imbalanced sound, and the male parts were rather overwhelmed. This is a good area to focus on for any future performances that we do, to learn our strengths and which songs are fitting, and then work to make a performance with a solid and even sound throughout.

The Week of CultuRama

This week is going to be extremely busy. The schedule has been released and it’s very full; There is rehearsal on Monday and Wednesday from 4 to 9 pm, a dress rehearsal performance with an audience on Wednesday, and two full performances on Thursday. I’m worried about the long hours and managing other work at the same time, and I hope that everything will go as planned.


Monday: We’ve been modifying choreography and changing the music to the full version with a longer introduction than we have used before. We’ve changing the entrance of the dance along with the end formation, and we have to run through the show two times today. We also have to combine with India Garba at the beginning and end of their dance, which is uncomfortable and confusing for everyone. We only have around 15 minutes to figure out this new choreography before we have to head to the auditorium to begin the main rehearsal for the day. We practice one time before the official start on the stage, and there are mistakes from everyone. I’m really worried that we won’t be together, even though the new choreo is supposed to help with this.We switched the placement of the dupatta (scarf) so that it’s further towards the crown of the head, it sort of gets in the way of my arms when I’m turning. It’s a really long day and we ended much later than supposed to.

Extra notes: The other dances were amazing to see, I’ve never seen some of these dance styles before, and everyone is so synchronized and energetic. Seeing all the dances with the full lights and costume, and ours with India Garba, is really beautiful. It mimics the performance so well, the anticipation is building.


Wednesday: We have an audience today during the second rehearsal!! Very exciting but also extremely nerve wracking, we’ve practiced a lot individually and as a group: I listen to the music and watch the videos of the rehearsals on my way to school in the morning, and I feel like the music is really internalized to the point I know all the melodies and even some words. The first rehearsal went well but some minor mistakes, but we’ve fixed the entrance and the exit/entrance mix with Garba. Us reentering into their dance is still a bit messy with the turns but it’s much better than on Thursday. We’ve fixed the dupatta to be much further back over the bun, and everyone already knows what makeup/jewelry/hair needs to be done. No issues with the costume luckily, and much more synchronized. I still think of today as an actual performance even though it isn’t classified as one. Very late night again but more fulfilling to do.

Extra notes: Lots of congratulations from people watching the performance who said it went really well. Helps all of us to feel proud about what we’ve achieved in so short a time, but the real performances are tomorrow.


Thursday: Show Day!! We immediately have to start getting ready from after school onwards because there is only a few hours until the first show. We’re all running around very busy with hair and makeup, and all helping each other and helping the Garba girls as well. We don’t have any costume malfunctions luckily, although using the candles are stressful and some begin to burn out. We fit in a short practice of the end formation outside the auditorium while waiting for out turn, we’re nearly the last dance and have a lot of time. Poorvi and Mansi are very stressed, but we all are. Now is the time for fixing small mistakes that can make or break the dance. My candle placement is on the clear opposite side from where I need to be next, and I’m running across the stage every time to make it before the lights turn on again. It’s very hard to not be obvious side stage when holding bright lights. We’re all very tense but while dancing it is very freeing, it’s exhilarating for everyone when we finish our dance and wait to reenter with Garba. The circle was in the center and the ending was sharp, there were no large mistakes with formation or movement and the turning was synchronized. Poorvi begins the dance extremely well and we all end together, the ending with Garba is also very sharp even though there are a lot of us on stage dancing different things.

Extra notes: Many of my friends came today, and my parents watched the first show. A short break in between where there was food from different cultures, many things that I recognize. There was even pepernoten, a flashback towards being home.

After the Show: Celebration from everyone in the dressing rooms and scrambling to clean up before we all cram into a conference room to hear thank yous and to gives cards and flowers to the organizers and the dance leaders. Lots of cheering and clapping from everyone for a wonderful show with such a variety of dances.


In the end, it was such an amazing experience, and a very unique one that I would have never gotten the opportunity to do other wise. I met girls in different grades and different backgrounds that all worked together with me to produce an amazing dance. I learned a new style of dancing that I had never heard or seen before, and danced for the largest audience I’ve ever danced for.

The biggest takeaway of all? I would do it all over again.

HS Sonos: Introduction to Choir

For my main aspect of Creativity, I chose to participate in HS Sonos, one of the two main UWCSEA choirs, despite there being no requirement to have a year long creativity commitment. I previously participated in choir in two schools, and really wanted to continue with it when I moved here. Even though I take two sciences, and therefore do not have the ability to take any of the fine arts, I enjoy visual arts and music and wanted to be able to continue some form of art in addition to my studies. One of my friends in HS Bersama recommended that I try HS Sonos if I was interested in doing choir throughout the year.

Choir for me is really fun, an opportunity to sing together with friends and share that passion with others. Through choir, I’ve improved in not only singing, but in also working together and getting to know the different choir members to produce even better music. I hope to do that here as well, because it is an unfamiliar choir. This will be one of the challenges for me, my choir was much smaller, and comprised of many of my friends even outside of choir.

Collaboration is a really key part of choir that differentiates it from solo singing because the sound produced still needs to sound like it comes from “one” person even though there are many. You need to find a singing group within the choir (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) which then split into further groups. Once you find the group that you are in, you need to apply that to the individual people in that section, because each person has a different voice, and some voices complement each other better than others. This makes being new or unfamiliar a little bit difficult. I met the other girls in the Soprano section, and was able to talk with them a little bit about the way that things were done in this choir. I’m hoping that I’ll soon find my place with them and the other members, and that we’ll start learning some songs.

Goals for the Year:

  • A smaller scale goal: Get to know the other girls in the Soprano section and some of the other people in choir.
  • Another small goal: Have fun and practice singing.
  • A bigger goal: Learn new music and be able to perform the music from memory.
  • A big goal: Participate in a major choir performance/workshop/event, such as High School AMIS Choir.