I am Chin-Ee – assistant professor at Wageningen University – and I come from the sunny tropical island-state of Singapore.
We are one rather stubborn, stressful and hectic city in what is a generally more easy-going, relaxed and laid-back tropical paradise called Southeast Asia (think: sandy beaches in Indonesia, giant turtles in Malaysia and parties in Thailand). We do not have Kings, Queens or royalty in Singapore and so we do not celebrate Queens Day.
We also do not have a steamship-sailing Sinterklaas. However, we do celebrate the season when the chubby bearded guy flies by on his reindeer-propelled flying sleigh (I wonder what propelled those reindeers?) and an array of multicultural, multi-religious festivals. We also have some rather fun campaigns and festivals created by the Singapore state. My favourite is the Courtesy Campaign and its loveable mascot, the unsurprisingly named Singa.
Of all the Dutch-endorsed modes of transportation – steamship, white horse, NS intercity trains, I have taken onto the two-wheeled ones most intimately. Having learnt the art of cycling from the ‘Master of Cycling’ in Singapore (my elder brother Chin-Wee Ong, see picture below), I took to the wheels with gusto and have since proudly registered one snow and one alcohol-induced mini-crashes – no humans (except myself) and animals were harmed in the process.
Prior to coming to this flat kingdom (the gentle gradient is very good for cycling I must add), I live and work in an equally flat peninsula. Connected to mainland China in the north and flanked on both sides by estuaries flowing into the South China Sea, Macao is a potent mix of sober cultural World Heritage and mind-swilling casino gaming. Unlike the bicycle-embracing Netherlands, Macao is a minefield for cyclists with its army of scooters jostling with automobiles of all shapes and sizes. There in very flat Macao, I have had early encounters with NHTV. The beautiful tourism school on Mong-Ha ‘hill’ I work for (named Institute for Tourism Studies) has an enduring and healthy dual-degree programme with perhaps the only tourism and hospitality school in the world with buildings named according to every alphabet in its acronym. Dozens of Dutch students have already suffered my warped sense of Singaporean humour when they unfortunately and foolhardily enrolled into my classes over the past six years – just ask former exchange students to IFT Macao, Nanja (Wierda) and Leoni (Wenstedt) who foolishly welcomed and orientated me in Breda a year after enduring my horrible classes! I am also grateful to the former IFT students Rico (Tang, our resident magician and jazz musician), Toby (Fang) and Mani (Chan) from IFT for making me feel at home in the Netherlands. I also received a lot of help from Programme Directors Sebastiaan (Straatman) and Jan (Philipsen) and NHTV and Wageningen colleagues (amongst others, Michael Marchman, Meghann Ormond, Rene Van der Duim, Monique Gulickx and Kasper Kok). I am also delighted to see Netherlands-based friends in the tourism academia, Vincent (Platenkamp), Greg (Richards) and Brian (Wheeler) again.
Despite the struggles associated with long travels from Arnhem and Wageningen where I stay and work mostly and everyday perils of a reliance on our snow-sensitive intercity trains, I am happy to work and teach in an exciting programme (The Wageningen UR and NHTV-joint Bachelor of Science Tourism Programme) as it fills the void for a more social and natural science focused tourism degree. The programme, I feel, is a timely addition to a world of tourism inquiry currently focused on business and marketing approaches. In this programme, I teach and coordinate the course Tourism Geographies and for the past two years, we had conducted fieldtrips the Efteling where we look at human and bio-physical aspects of a key European theme park neighbourhood. I am also very proud to have supervised the programme’s final year theses work of Jasper (Wentzel), Eva (Koopman), and Lena (Simanowski) – my very first BTO thesis students from the pioneering BTO class.