When Jenga travels

Hey there! It’s Frances here and I’ll be writing about the lifestyle in the United States of America. Basically we visited two different states, Los Angeles and San Francisco both of which are in California. Our trip was 11 days long from the 3rd of June to the 14th.

Team We Want To Go To USA in Changi Airport. From right to left: Xin Hui, Kar Yan, Frances and Marcus. 

 One of the things that stood out in US was the weather. We felt the cool breeze as soon as we stepped out of the airport. I would describe the feeling as ‘shoik’.  It was like being in an air-conditioned room wherever you go.

For us, a typical outfit would consist of a shirt, a jacket, jeans and shoes (with long socks if possible. In US, you got to make everything as long as possible to keep yourself warm).

Unlike Singapore where most shops tend to have air-conditioning systems, in America they have heaters instead. The average temperature is about 20 degrees (they call that summer).

The people we’ve come across in America are very friendly and are more than willing to take a picture with us.


Our inn-keeper for Dune’s Inn (the first hotel we stayed at) was one of them.

We also took pictures with police officers, security guards and sheriffs (who were on duty though).

And while we were waiting to cross a junction, our teacher took a photo of a bus. And guess what? The driver inside the bus actually smiled and even posed for the camera!

In America, their coins are pretty interesting.

They have quarters (25 cents), dimes (10 cents), nickels (5 cents) and the most common coin, the penny (1 cent).

  At first, it was difficult to spend the coins because of the unfamiliarity. As soon as we got the hang of it, we didn’t need to stand (awkwardly) in front of the cashier looking through your coins. Just so you know the smallest coin is the dime. The dime which costs 10 cents is smaller than the penny which is worth 1 cent (we couldn’t get the logic in that so it took some time to adjust). Pennies are so difficult to spend that there are machines that compresses your penny with a design turning your penny into a collectable item. These machines which I would call the Penny compressor (I’m sure there is an official name which I don’t know) are everywhere (from shops and museums to random places in the streets)! And each machine would have a different design. For example the machines along the walk of fame would have a different design from the machines inside the Madame Tussauds museum.

          The penny machine.

In Singapore, we have GST which is an additional charge of 7% of the item you are buying. However, in America their tax is 9%! Furthermore, the price you would see on the price tag of is usually not the final price. When you bring it to the cashier, they would press a button and boom the tax is added. You had to pay additional charge and that 9% makes a HUGE difference (well, most of the time). In conclusion…shopping in America is EXPENSIVE.

America has adopted this system where people work for tips (an additional payment given to the person who offered service to the customer). This means that people would be paid depending on how well they perform and that is why their service there is very good.  The waiters or waitresses in the restaurants would ensure that the customers are satisfied and whenever the customer is unhappy with the food, they would take the price of the dish out of the meal. That happened to us when we tried something known as the “Singapore noodles” in one restaurant. It was like eating Maggie noodles with curry powder (we got it of the bill so whoo hoo for us). Many people rely on tips for a living. There was a balloon sculptor we met in IHOP (international house of pancakes), a restaurant. The sculptor was so talented. He could make any balloon sculpture of your choice. I’ve seen him sculpt Cinderella, Rapunzel, Mickey Mouse and Donald duck. Xin Hui got a chip and dale balloon for herself. And he makes the money buy being tipped.

 Batman here works for tips.

Street art is also very common in America. There two kinds of street art; visual and performing. Visual art (which we consider graffiti) can be found everywhere. It is used for decoration purposes and even advertisements.

Street performers are also very common especially along the beaches and piers. There are many kinds of artists. Some do paintings, some sing, some play their own instruments (I’ve seen someone play a piano along the beach), some dance, and some have their own comedy shows.  These performers earn their money through the tips people give. These performances (which are not planned) makes the place we go (either the beach or the pier) so vibrant, lively and entertaining.

The trip was an eye-opener for me as I got to experience a culture and lifestyle so different from the one back in Singapore. It was also a dream come true as I never imagined walking along the streets of Hollywood, seeing the names of the stars in the walk of fame, soaking my feet in famous  beaches, riding long lasting extreme rollercoasters, being on real sets that were showcased in movies,  seeing the animators behind the big movies working, getting advice from experts who professionalise in animation, being behind the bars of a world famous prison Alcatraz, eating ice cream in -10 degrees Celsius  and the most physically demanding activity, cycling across the Golden Gate bridge (it was tough, but a worthwhile experience)!

Being in America has made me appreciate the cleanliness of Singapore (as you are bound to step on a piece of garbage along the streets in America) and the variety of FOOD offered in Singapore as the food in US is standard (western) but it tastes real good. Not to forget the security in Singapore is something to really appreciate.

In behalf of my team members, I want to thank all those who made this trip possible. Our family, the teachers, our principal and vice principals (for being very supportive), our friends, classmates, schoolmates, Ms Farah and Ms Shi Ling (our instructors who MADE THE ANIMATION POSSIBLE), Ms Liauw (for being a wonderful guide and teacher ), Ms Sharon (our motherly figure), Mr El (the man behind the ENTIRE TRIP) and Nexus (for SPONSERING our trip)! Thank you for everything!!! THE TRIP WAS AWESOMEEE!!!!

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