“Our first day in the classroom not only gave us an idea of the challenges we would gladly face in teaching, but we were also fascinated and excited by the opportunity to spend time working with students from not only Singapore, but also China, Malaysia, India and the Philippines, among other places. Our six-week class was a learning experience for both the students and us, as American teachers: some parts of certain stories or poems stood out to the students that might usually be glossed over or ignored by American student readers. The second focus of the class was obviously helping the students to work on their own original poems or stories. This, again, was fascinating as a teacher to see because although the students were writing about life from their own cultural or ethnic perspective, everyone’s work dealt with many of those larger, abstract aspects of humanity that all human beings, no matter their background or ethnicity, strive to understand, ponder, and, as Kafka would say ‘…break the frozen sea inside us.’
“I have always heard it said that writers get a lot out of travel. I wasn’t sure what exactly. I thought maybe being in Singapore would inspire me to write about those surroundings, the wonderful and memorable people I met there, the stunning landscape. But it hasn’t yet. The tremendous gift to my writing that Singapore has given me was one I couldn’t anticipate: that leaving my home was the only way to examine it; putting physical distance between myself and what I have always known creates profound perspective. For the first time in my life, what I wanted to say was perfectly clear because I wasn’t surrounded by it. I could name the thing. I didn’t know what it was I was looking for in travel, but it found me. The gift of the Piper Fellowship in Singapore is measurable in terms of teaching experience, adventure, excitement, cuisine, beauty and passport stamps. But what is immeasurable is the change it brought to my view of my life, the world and just exactly what I want to say about it."