I woke up in my bed today. Looking through the window I see Finnish summer at its finest. Without realizing, my three months in Singapore were gone. Now is the time to sit back and recall over things that happened during those months.
I had always liked Asia. We had travelled to Thailand with my family for many times since I was in the elementary school. I grew up to love the heat of it. As it happens, Asia is also a big thing in the game industry. We had a small presentation/info about student exchange in January. Singapore struck my eye as my mother had already recommended me that for more than once. Within a week or so I decided to go for it to see what happens. The arrangements were mostly done by school. Leaving some things to be done at the last day seems to be a trend when it comes to exchange preparations and our exchange school Nanyan Polytechnic was no exception. Either way things got settled in the end and the day came. At that moment I was expecting three months of learning game development in a team and a new game engine, Unity. However…
Arrival At Nanyang
We spent the first weekend in Little India, you can read more about that in this blog’s first posts (in Finnish). To sum it up, we saw a couple of cool things but got scammed a few times when it comes to product pricing. Overall the morale was high on that faithful Tuesday morning as we crawled out of our hostel and headed towards Nanyang. Upon arrival the locals pretty much laughed at us since we had been carrying our luggage underneath the sun for a kilometer or so and our clothes had already turned on the darker side from the excessive amount of sweat. Our contact, Victor gave us a break to have a shower and time to change a new set of clothes. After that he showed us how to get around the school and what services were available at where. Soon after the introductions we were thrown straight into work. Each of us were shown seats and we were told that our team members would arrive soon. From my seat I could see my three engineer friends, all in different groups than the one that I was in. I didn’t know it at first but from this point forward I’d say that my path got seperated a bit from the other Finnish students, atleast for a while.
There I was, sitting in front of the computer screen, waiting. After some while a girl arrived and had a seat at the given work station. She had a bearded dragon clinging onto her and by the looks of her she was clearly an artist. I went up to her and introduced myself as best as I could. ”Hello, I’m Teo, you must be one of the ’project mango’ members, right?” I recall saying. She kept quiet at first and eventually nodded her head and smiled. I backed away slowly and sat down back to my seat, defeated as I was unable to recall the name she just clearly pronounced. The only logical conclusion was to call her The Bearded Dragon Lady. Not long after a second local student arrived, he was more talkative than the girl, actually even more talented speaker than Victor. Also, he was quite The Joker I’d say. I was told that the group consisted of four people, me being included there. One was still missing. The Joker and the Bearded Dragon Lady had a quick chat about him being late. In succession to that Joker and I discussed about the project itself. He told me that the team consisted of two artists and one programmer, he then asked whether which one was I. I told him I was a programmer and as a result he was more than happy about it. I also mentioned that I had little to no experience with the Unity game engine but that didn’t seem to bother him at all which was a pleasent surprise for me. We kept waiting for the fourth member and soon he arrived, wearing an elegant suit. I took a good long look at his presence and concluded that without a doubt this man was an influential Family Man. We shook hands and introduced ourselves to each other.
The Team was assembled and we were ready to get to work. We spent the next few days discussing on numerous matters and generally inspecting each other. One week in, the locals had put together a rough picture of what the Finnish people were like. They were depressed drunks who for some strange reason loved to embrace the sun and drink mango juice, if not beer. I on the other hand was struggling with my English as I haven’t really spoken it this intensively before. I quess my English wasn’t that bad since Joker asked me once whether English was the official language in Finland. Sometimes however understanding the local accent caused some misunderstandings. The daily routine started to take shape. Joker would lead the group, Bearded Dragon Lady was listening and working alongside with him, me and Family Man had our own programming corner. We would also meet up with our supervisor who was checking on to us on a regular basis. Each appointment with the supervisor ended up pushing the final product further towards the goal as new gameplay features were being added by me and Family Man whenever the supervisor asked for it. And he asked for it pretty frequently. Needless to say, the art side was atleast as busy as me and Family Man.
3, 2, 1, Lunch
I have already told you all about the project that I wanted to say. Let’s go back in time, back to the third school day. That day was the first day when the locals asked me to go for lunch with them. At first I was a bit reluctant even though I immediately agreed on it. This became a daily routine for me. During lunch time it was difficult for me to hear what the locals had to say as it was usually very loud in the school dining areas. But after shouting ”Whaat?” a few times I usually got the hang of it. Over the following weeks more local students would come along with us and sometimes we would go out of school to eat. During these lunch hours we had many interesting conversations/debates which integrated us as a group.
Around Singapore at the back of the lorry
Family Man had a lorry. Having a car in Singapore is not very common, not for students atleast. He started to take us out, introducing me to the vast ocean of food available in Singapore. I don’t know what I ate most of the time but usually it was good, if not very good. Thus the Finnish food rating system started to take shape, it went something like this: ####ing awful, good, pretty good, very good.
Stories Of Local hospitality
Family Man took me out to eat with his girlfriend on a regular basis, this was usually after school and the place was outside our neighbourhood. Everytime, they would pay for the meal. It’s not that they would insist on it, its more like there was no question about it. Usually I got to pay back after a while but this was not always the case.
We went to eat at Joker’s Family coffee shop, located near the airport. His mother was very friendly towards us and she made the best curry that I had in Singapore. I was told it was a dish polished over many years.
In order to keep practicing my chopstick skills, I got a pair of wooden chopsticks from Bearded Dragon Lady. Not long after, I got a larger package from her in order to teach my whole family to do it, I quess.
A local animation student invited us for a dinner at her place. It was a memorable evening as we had many locals and Finnish students attending. We ate some delicious Indian food, played some games and we got to see the beach for once.
I tried to repay the hospitality many times but my actions were often countered. Generally I just made some pancakes, didn’t really ask whether people wanted them or not. But at the very least I was told that they were good.
Came looking for a dime but found a quarter
In the beginning I mentioned that I went to Singapore in order to learn about game development and such. During my stay it became clear to me that such trivial things could be learned back in Finland. More importantly, I got to learn things from various cultures, made new friends and became a different person in general. Apologies for my team if I was lazy at times, I had alot of things going through my mind from time to time.
These three months were the best of my life so far, but all good things have to come to an end.
Thanks Ze Ming, Minoru and Wen Xin for leveling me up! And thanks for all the other hospitable people that I had a chance to meet!