Friday, 11 January 2008

Momentous Days In Many Ways

It has been a momentous couple of days.

Towards of the beginning of the week came the totally unexpected news of my appointment as an Associate Director at NUS. I felt very humbled to be acknowledged in this manner, especially as I have been at the university less than six months.

Singaporeans live and work by the creed of meritocracy. In other words, should a person demonstrate ability then this will be noted and rewarded.

Such recognition makes very pleasant change from hierarchical structures and political correctness that I left behind in New Zealand.

In Singapore the reward is not confined to an elevation in the ranks, but can also be reflected in the pocket, through the annual bonus scheme. This applies within government and universities as much as it does in private industry.

Performance bonuses are usually announced in January, so the canny Singaporeans do not leave their current employment for another company until they have the have banked their bonus cheques.

The other excitement has been our two day 'advance' (a 'retreat' is deemed too negative) on the island of Sentosa which concluded today. A most enjoyable couple of days staying overnight at the Sentosa Resort, which is extremely well appointed.

Yesterday we went to the nearby Spa Botannica for a choice of 'East West' or 'Swedish' massage. The 'East West' is purportedly more vigorous than the 'Swedish' so I opted for the latter.

Given the vigour of my masseuse and the fact that I am finding it rather difficult to walk downhill post-treatment, I would hate to think of the side effects of the 'East West' application. Presumably they try to align your body to all points of the compass, hence the title!

Several of my colleagues also revelled in the spa's mud bath but having lived in Rotorua I felt no such inclination.

We went to a beachside restaurant for a buffet evening meal and followed this up with a performance of Sentosa's Songs of the Sea (video below). While the screen play was somewhat corny the laser light, pyrotechnics and water display were spectacular.

Other events in Singapore this week included the rather embarrassing revelation that Singapore Airline's show piece A380 has been 'cast' on the grass verge of a runway and had been extricated after a day of effort.

On matters aeronautical I should also mention that Changi's Terminal 3 has opened and it was outside this spanking new structure that the A380 came to rest.

On a sadder note came the news today that the quintessential New Zealander and conqueror of Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, had passed away.

Non-Kiwis may not even have heard of this laconic and unassuming man, but to most of my generation he epitomised everything that was best about being a New Zealander. Peter Calder of the New Zealand Herald wrote a fine tribute to him. His work for the Nepalese post-Everest was also the stuff of legend.

As Calder records "He was the New Zealander most admired by New Zealanders".

It is sad to end the week on such news, but a joy to reflect on Sir Ed's contribution to mankind.

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