Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sometimes the classroom feels more like a zoo

Obviously you know that people in Japan and America speak different languages.
(Trust me. I still come up against this fact daily.)

But maybe you didn't know that the animals speak different languages, too.

For instance...
  • A cow in America goes "moo." But a cow in Japan apparently says "moe."
  • A pig in America goes "oink oink." But a pig in Japan says "boo boo." (in a low, grunting way, not a ghost-like way.)
  • A dog in America goes "woof woof." But a dog in Japan says "won won."
  • A cat in America goes "meow." But a cat in America says "neow."

    Hmm, the cat languages seem to be pretty similar. I bet that American cats and Japanese cats can communicate with each other just fine. But would they get along? Or would they fight like cats and....cats? ;)
I have a lot of fun doing lessons about animals/animal sounds at elementary schools. The kids seem to find it just as fascinating as I do that the animal sounds I was taught are different from the ones they've learned.

Second grade students at Taiyama Elementary on Monday. They had to act out different animals, and it sounded like a zoo!

After doing the animal lesson, I was thinking about how all pictures/sketches of animals in Japan are super cute! It's true. And then I started thinking about my lack of drawing skills, and how if I tried to draw a frog on the spot, it would look more like E.T. Sooo...I spent some time on Tuesday (more time than I really care to admit) looking at pictures of animals and creating my own style. Here are the final versions of nine different animals...

So now if you ask me on the spot to draw a monkey, I can do it. :)
(However, if you ask me draw a chicken--or any other animal that I didn't practice--I'm afraid it will still be unrecognizable.)

Looks like cats and dogs can get along after all.

Here's a little story involving the cute second grade student on the right, holding the cat picture:
(This conversation was all in Japanese.)

Second grade teacher to me (during lunch time): What will you do when you are done teaching in Japan in August?

Me: I love to travel, so I will go somewhere else.

Teacher: Ooooh, where will you go?

Me: I don't know. (Looking out the window at all the snow.) Somewhere with warm weather!

Cute second grade student (who I didn't know had been listening) pipes up: Mexico???

Me: Chuckling. Ok, sure. Let's go to Mexico together! How about right now!?

Cute second grade student: Sorry, I can't. My birthday is next week. *said in matter-of-fact voice.*


Monday, January 25, 2010

Fall down and get back up again

I feel like I was in a fight over the weekend. And I lost.

My body is so beat up from my attempts at snowboarding. My knees have bruises from landing on them so many times. My backside is in pain for the same reason. My arms are sore from having to push myself back up a million times after falling. My legs are yelling at me for over using and abusing them.

You'd think snow would be soft and comfortable to land on, but the snow on the slopes at APPI ski resort was packed down and not the least bit cushiony.

So was it worth all the pain (and money)? No, I really can't say that it was. I'll be honest. There were some fun -- even exhilarating -- moments on the slopes, but most of the time it was just frustrating. It didn't help that while I was wiping out, five-year-old kids were zooming past me. Probably laughing at me, too. They could have at least had the decency to fall.

Ok, enough complaining since I'm starting to sound bitter. I'll instead focus on the positive -- that's more my style. :)

The hot springs bath afterwards was awesome! Exactly what I needed after a brutal day. I could have slept in there.

The buffet dinner--a combination of Japanese and Western food--was also amazing. It had been a long time since I'd eaten a good steak. Dinner was included in the price of the whole weekend, so I loaded my plate full of steak in an effort to get my money's worth. :)

It was nice to see so many friends and spend the night at the resort. There were about 30 of us English teachers from around Iwate prefecture, so I got to catch up and share a few laughs with people I don't see a whole lot.

I have a few pictures from the weekend at APPI. The first two I took on my new camera...

Who knew that Spiderman (aka Julian) snowboarded?

Jarlath and Liz about ready to rock n' roll.

Hmm, I kind of look like a snowboarder here. This is such a lie.

Screaming loudly and getting ready to crash -- the story of my day. I did my best to dust myself off, get back up and try again.

Some of my friends were skiing instead of snowboarding.

I've never been skiing before, but I'm thinking that it should theoretically be easier/less painful for me since #1 I'd have two boards to balance on instead of one and #2 I could use the poles to help stop myself from crashing. (right?) Anyway, I'm really curious now to try it out.

I was invited to go skiing as early as this weekend. If I can go up and down stairs without wincing before then, I might just consider it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Part 4: Vietnam

I miss the beach of Mui Ne, Vietnam. I really do.

As I was curled up next to my kerosene heater last night going through pictures to put on this blog (I upload photos before I do any writing), I couldn't help but think, "I want to go back! And I'm ready right now."

Vietnam was definitely the most relaxing part of the trip. I enjoyed swimming, walking along the beach, getting cheap massages, and just taking it easy.

The photos I took were mostly landscape shots, in an attempt to capture on camera my gorgeous surroundings. I especially loved the sunrises and sunsets and have several pictures of both. Here are a few of my favorites...

So many people out fishing at 6 a.m.!

~Peace~ful sunrise

The sunsets were just as gorgeous. :)

As a sidenote: Today at Samuraihama E.S., the teachers were asking about my trip, so I logged on to a computer and scrolled through my blog to show them some pictures. One of the teachers asked me if she could print the sunrise/sunset pictures from this post, which I thought was pretty cool. :)

In addition to relaxing, we also did some sightseeing. One day we rented motorbikes and rode along the coast.

Another day we took a jeep to see the sand dunes, and along the way we passed this fishing port.

At the sand dunes, I felt like I was in a totally different country.

This really shallow stream led us to a small waterfall.

Another thing I really liked about Vietnam was the cheap & delicious food! Only $3 (about 60,000 Vietnamese dong), could buy you dinner, including a drink. None of the food I ate in Vietnam was spicy; a typical meal was some kind of stir-fry or noodle dish.

Enjoying some kiwi ice cream :)

Overall, it was a great trip made up of four very different parts. I didn't like being away from home for the holidays, but I had fun traveling around southeast Asia.

NOT to be continued. The End. :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Part 3: Malaysia

We spent our first day in Kuala Lumpur sightseeing -- starting with Batu Caves, outside the city.

Standing in front of the world's tallest statue of Murugan, a Hindu god, just outside of the caves.

The cave is home to one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India, so we saw lots of Indian people there worshiping. Climbing up the 270 steps leading up to the cave was a good morning workout!

Our attempt to get all three of us and the vaulted ceiling in one picture.

After the caves, we went to a history museum, where we saw the world's oldest Quran...

From just about anywhere in Kuala Lumpur, you can see the Petronas Twin Towers. From 1998 to 2004, they were the largest structure in the world; they are still the world's tallest twin buildings. Tourists can only go as high up as the sky bridge connecting the towers, which is about half-way up.

Jarlath and the towers (and a few leaves at the top of the picture)

In the middle of the sky bridge

The view looking down...

...and the view looking up. :) The towers are beautifully illuminated at night.

At the base of the towers is a gorgeous, modern 5-story mall, with many American and European stores and restaurants. Being in the mall really felt like being back in America! We spent quite a bit of time there. Kristen said she could spend days just eating her way around the mall, haha. I second that. :)

During one rainy afternoon, we saw the movie Avatar at the mall's cinema for only $4! (about 11 Malaysian ringgit.) By the way, I definitely recommend Avatar, and I hear it's even more awesome in 3D.

So happy to eat a fantastic BBQ chicken pizza at California Pizza Kitchen. :D

After walking around the mall with us gals, poor Jarlath needed a boost...

So that's what he got. :)

After four days of city life in Kuala Lumpur, we ventured to Vietnam for some rest and relaxation at the beach...

~To be continued. Again.~

Monday, January 18, 2010

Part 2:Cambodia

We spent nearly an entire day traveling from Thailand to Cambodia -- with two hours at the border, going through the process to enter the country.

Once we finally arrived in Siem Reap, we ate a wonderful buffet dinner and enjoyed a traditional Cambodian dance performance.

The next day -- the last day of 2009 -- was spent touring the Angkor Wat complex. By tuk tuk taxi, we went from one temple/ruin to the next of what's left of an ancient city.

Group shot at the entrance of the first temple

Wandering the halls

"Jarlath, strike a pose." :)

That evening, we did the touristy thing and walked up a big hill (too small to be just a hill and not big enough to be a mountain, so I'm calling it a big hill) to watch the sunset. It felt like a pilgrimage since we were part of a sea of people all moving in the same direction, to the same destination -- a temple at the top.

Once at the temple, most people (including us) climbed the steep stairs to the top and sat down to watch the sunset. I don't think I've ever been among such a diverse group of people before; we were surrounded by tourists from all over the world and heard several different languages.

A Buddhist priest sitting in solitude

It was pretty neat to watch the sun sink below the horizon as we were perched on top of the ancient temple.

Later that night, we joined another huge crowd to bring in the new year.

Needless to say, Pub Street was crazy!! We could barely make our way through all the people (again, from all over the world) partying in the street.
p.s. The silk scarf I'm wearing in this photo is a souvenir from Thailand.

After only a few hours of sleep, we woke up at 5 a.m. to head out to Malaysia...

~To be continued~

Friday, January 15, 2010

Part 1: Thailand

Even though I was in Thailand a couple of months ago, this visit was completely different.

I was in a different part of the country (Buri Ram, in the east) and this time I was there to volunteer. We arrived at Tree of Life Orphanage on Christmas Eve, just in time for a wonderful homemade dinner with everyone.

I took several pictures that evening of the kids opening presents after dinner and photos of the orphanage owners -- Roger and his wife Phongsi -- who all 15 kids call Dad and Mom. Instead of being in an orphanage, the whole time I felt like I was just doing a home stay with a really big family.

Although I took lots of pictures, I unfortunately left my camera in a taxi in Cambodia and was unable to get it back. So in addition to losing my camera, I also lost all the pictures I took in Thailand. I'm still bummed about it.

But I'm glad I have Kristen's and Jarlath's photos from the trip and can share those with you...

Christmas caroling with people from church.

On Christmas Day, we went to a local school where Roger dressed up as Santa. (Thailand is a Buddhist country, so school was in session.) After the children did a dance presentation for us, we gave each child two small Christmas gifts -- toys that had been donated from churches in America.

That evening, we went to a small Christian church, where six of the girls from Tree of Life Orphanage (TOLO) danced in a Christmas program...

We really enjoyed getting to know the kids at TOLO, who kept us constantly entertained. With only two boys, it's almost a completely female place. Some of the girls are teenagers who we didn't see very much because they were working or at school.

Kristen with Eileen, Dtoy and Taan.

Taan is such a character!

Hey, Fern, those sunglasses sure do look familiar...

Besides being there to love on the kids, we were also at TOLO to work. Our project was to reorganize the library...

We sure made a mess of it in the process.


It took us a couple of days to get straightened out, especially because we had the kids with us. They tried to help, bless their hearts, but were really good at distracting us!

One day while the kids were in school, Roger and Phongsi took us to an elephant show, a snake show and an area where silk is made....

So impressive! I think that's a better tree than what I could paint, haha. Later on in the show, I got to ride on the elephant's trunk, and I also got an elephant "massage."

This was scary! Even scarier was when I had a snake wrapped around my neck for a few seconds, yikes!

We saw some beautiful silk being made, and each of us bought a silk scarf.

I really enjoyed the day we spent sightseeing. Unfortunately, another entire day in Buri Ram was spent in bed with food poisoning. Not enjoyable at all, to say the least. The culprit?...

We believe it was the coconut milk (the evil liquid in the plastic bag) that came with this mango & rice combo we got from a street vendor. Tragic. If you remember, this was my favorite Thai food. I'm afraid it was my idea for the three of us to eat this. Poor Jarlath and Kristen can't even look at this picture without gagging.

All three of us hated the fact that we were at the orphanage to serve, but were confined to bed all day, moaning and vomiting. The good news is that it was just for one day, and we bounced back the next day, ready to go.

I guess you have to take the bad along with the good. That's life.

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Click here to check out my post in "Keep Shining."