Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Medieval Festivities

Over the past few weeks Grade 4 has been learning about Medieval Times.  This is a huge unit for them and hopefully one they will always remember.  They did lots of research on their own and shared lots of things they learned.  In order to celebrate the learning we had 2 fun events.  The first was a Craft Fair in preparation for our Medieval Feast.

The Craft Fair had 7 stations where the kids made something at each station.  We had AMAZING parents volunteer to help out and run each station.  I was able to enjoy watching the kids work rather than run a station. It was beautiful.  The stations were:  Candle Making, Soap Carving, Mosaics, Stained Glass Windows, Calligraphy, Potpourri Making, and Castle Making.

Here are some pictures from the day.  Most of the students loved it!!

Then on Monday we had our Feast.  We used the crafts to decorate for the feast.  Plus in Art the students all made coat of arms that we hung up as well.  We invited the parents to attend as well as some of the administration.  It was a great event.  The meal was as medieval as we could get.  Bread plates (that were sadly a little frozen), thick vegetable stew, chicken pieces, water (no wine for this event), and pies.  The students got/had to serve their families before themselves.

Each kid had to research a role/job of Medieval Times and become that person for the day.  They had to dress up and some presented speeches explaining what a daily routine would look like for that person.  The costumes were so fun.  I myself dressed up as a peasant or farmers wife.  My class was a little disappointed in my costume though, for some reason they thought I was going to be a queen!

Here are some more pictures.

OH I also have to say that the workers at our school are amazing.  They did so much of the prep work for both events and cleaned EVERYTHING up for us.  They are truly amazing and such a blessing! 

We now only have 10 days left of school!  I am pumped. I can not believe I am almost done with my first year of teaching!!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Life Happenings

I finally blogged about Vietnam so now I need to cover from April break until now.  Oh, I forgot to mention that Vietnam was COLD.  And by cold I mean coming from 100 degree weather every day to high 60s low 70s everyday.  I only brought a light jacket and was cold.  So coming back to the 100 degree weather was a shock to my system.  I got sick right away. I wasnt able to go to school the first day back after break.  That was no fun for me or my class.  I felt better enough to go the next day and managed to last through the week.

BUT Sunday my body had different plans. I woke up in the middle of the night with extreme pain in my ear.  I went to the hospital/doctors office in the morning with the help of some friends.  I almost passed out while there but got to see the doctor, got drugs and went home and slept.  I went to work on Tuesday... bad decision.  Came home, ate dinner, and slept for the next 30/35 hours (I had my class figure it out for extra credit!) I was out of work for the rest of the week.

Whatever got me, got me good. I was miserable.  But am thankfully healthy now!  I feel great. Other than the fact that it is still 100 degrees every single day. I am sweaty ALL the time taking multiple showers a day, feeling disgusting all the time.  But welcome to the tropics.  I am hopeful for rainy season and am considering changing my attitude toward the rain.

School has been crazy.  My kids are ready to be done and so am I.  We are doing a Medieval unit which is apparently what Grade 4 is known for so it is a huge deal.  We have been trying to have fun with it and learn lots.  Part of the process is to have a castle in my room.  It takes up a lot of space but the kids love it.  This was taken while some kids were still working on the castles they were making out of cardboard.

Thurdsay we had a Craft Fair and Monday we are having our Feast.  I will share pictures and explanations then.  Hopefully it will all go well.

Moe has been staying busy with subbing, grad school things, and cooking!  He has officially applied to school at Chiang Mai University.  He had an interview with them a couple weeks ago and we are waiting to hear back from them.  He did find out that they are switching to a Western schedule this semester so he will not start school until August like me!  This means that we will have our summers off together and hopefully get to travel some more!!

He has also started cooking bacon from scratch with the help of a friend and is quite excited about it. He is becoming a pro at the market and loves finding hidden treasure places to eat.  He is living the life and loves every minute of it.  I am so blessed by him.

I got my phone working so now have a working phone in Thailand. It only took me a whole 10 months to do it.  I have been practicing motorbike driving but still not confident to hit the roads alone.

I have 3 weeks of school left!!! I cant wait.  But I am also a bit sad. I will probably maybe cry to see these kids leave.  They will always have a special place in my heart, no matter how many days I have left feeling defeated.  They are precious to me.

I will have one week of school off to relax.  I will then be teaching Summer School.  I am teaching about 15 3rd-4th graders.  Its not summer school for kids that failed, but for kids who need some activities and structure in their summer.  We will play games, practice math and writing/reading.  In the afternoons they will have P.E. and other fun things.  We will go on some fun field trips too.  I hope it will be a great time.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Vietnam Reflections

I just posted our events from Vietnam, but I wanted to also share our reflections on the trip, not just what we did. I learned so much during these 4 days and my perspective on things changed too.

First, let me say, Vietnam is NOT Thailand.  Sure they are neighboring countries, but that is the extent of their similarities.  I guess to be fair, we did go from a semi-small city to a large bustling city, but still. VERY different places.  I assumed that since we have been in Thailand for awhile Vietnam would not be that bad/different... WRONG.

As soon as we stepped out of the airport we knew we were no longer in Thailand.  People were honking their horns (never happens here), yelling (not here), and traffic was flying.  We also noticed that people drive on the right side of the road rather than the left, and drive much faster.  Immediate culture shock.

Hanoi, and Vietnam in general, is a mixture of French and Chinese culture.  There were dragons and Chinese architecture mixed in with European colors and arches.  Baguettes were sold almost everywhere.  The variety of food was amazing.  And the buildings were beautiful.

Also, USD was commonly discussed which was bizarre for us.  People would give us prices for things in USD and we would have no clue what that meant.  We had Vietnamese Dong, which is crazy prices.  1 USD = 21000 VND roughly.  Since USD was used things would actually be in American prices too. So a bottle of water would be 2 dollars, whereas in Thailand it is like 20cents.  We were spending 400,000 dong on dinners.  That is almost 20 USD.  We are NOT used to this.  So that was a change and a challenge for us.

Motorbikes were everywhere, again because the city was so much bigger I understand that. One of our tour guides was explaining that cars cost significantly more in Vietnam than elsewhere because the government does not want people to own cars.  The motorbikes do not have rear-view mirrors because they stick out and get in the way.  People park and drive very close together so there is no extra space.  Plus, most drivers do not wear helmets and those that do only cover the tops of their heads. A lot of people in Thailand wear whole face covering helmets.

People on the streets were haggling us and following us trying to get us to buy their things. One man tried to pull Moes shoe off his foot to fix it.  The pressure and nagging is definitely not done in Chiang Mai.  It was new to us, but again, might be a result of the large city.  It was yet another reminder of how different the world is.

For me, I realized that no 2 places are the same.  Sure every place has similarities. Some of the people we met in Vietnam were amazing just like the people here.  Our tour guide in Ha Long Bay, and our hotel man at Hanoi were both amazingly kind, helpful, and generous.  I was truly amazed at how different the places were.  I guess I was ignorant about it but my desire to travel has only increased because of this new perspective.  I now cant say well Laos is right next door so I dont want to go there because it is the same.  Even in America, each place has a uniqueness of its own that is waiting to be shared with visitors.  I hope to continue to explore the world and learn from each new place that I visit.

Vietnam April 2013

I am finally getting around to writing about our Vietnam trip.  We had a blast in Vietnam and very much enjoyed travelling.  We were in Vietnam for 4 days.  We spent 2 days in Hanoi, the capital city, and 2 days in Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Both places were fabulous.  Here is a run-down for what we did and our favorite experiences.

Day 1:  We arrived in Hanoi at 8am and had a driver pick us up from the airport to take us to the hotel.  I can not imagine having to get to the hotel on our own.  Traffic was crazy and it was quite a drive (50 minutes).  Our driver was nice and we got safely to our hotel and checked in (they allowed us early check in!).

We then spoke to a staff member who helped with tours and site-seeing.  He suggested a few places to visit and places to eat lunch.  He was wonderful and very very helpful.  He made the trip much more enjoyable and safer for me! Anyway, we looked at our room briefly and went out to explore the town.

We had lunch at a French restaurant, which reminded Moe and I of France!  We explored the tiny roads and walked around Hoan Kiem Lake.  We then took naps as we were quite tired from travelling.  Later we went and saw water puppets, which is one of the things Vietnam is very famous for.  We had dinner at a fancy Vietnamese place that was delicious.  I had beef in a red wine sauce with rice of course.... mmmmm-mmmm, it was good!

Day 2:  We got up very early for the 3 hour bus ride to Ha Long Bay.  The countryside was beautiful.  Rolling plains of rice fields, small villages and towns, mountains here and there, were beautiful.  When we arrived to the port we got onto a small boat, put on life jackets, and then rode to our cruise ship.  I was joking with Moe pointing at the largest boat saying, I hope that one is ours.... and IT WAS!!  It was so fun to board the ship.

First we got served lunch, settled into our room, and explored the boat.  The rooftop was the best with lounge chairs and beautiful views of the scenery.  I will never be able to fully explain how beautiful the limestone islands are.  It was majestic gliding on the water through these enormous islands of rock and trees.

Just like any cruise, we got off the boat at a few places to explore.  We explored Surprise Cave, which was truly a surprise for how vast it was. It started very small and then opened up to this giant chamber. It was beautiful.  Then we went to Titop Island where we climbed to the top, 430 stairs :(, to see another panorama view.  Again, beautiful, but tiring.  By that time we were ready to head home for dinner, a 9 course Vietnamese dinner.  It was a nice thing to experience but definitely not our favorite meal. We played cards and went to bed.

Day 3:  We woke up early again for an amazing international buffet breakfast. Moe ate until his heart was content and found a new passion for buffet breakfasts.  We got off the boat again and went to a small fishing village.  People actually live on the water, in the middle of no where.  We got to ride in a small paddle boat past houses and see how people lived.  We rode under arches made from the islands and got to feel how large these islands really were.  Again, breathtaking experiences.

We then got back on the boat, packed up, and went back to the marina.  We boarded our bus for the long 3 hour drive back.  I read, Moe slept, per usual.  We got back to our hotel safely ready for another nap!  When we woke up we went souvenir shopping and explored the town some more.  We had dinner across the street from the hotel, recommended to us by the hotel.  We ended the night with hot stone massages at our hotel.  It was glorious!

Day 4:  Moe woke up with food poisoning :(  It was awful.  We went upstairs to the 8th floor for continental breakfast and Moe got sick again up there.  The staff was all so kind to him constantly asking if he needed anything or bringing him their concoctions of fixes.  We went back to the room and waited to see if he would get better.  

By 11 he was still not better so I ventured out on my own (in the area that I knew) to shop a little more and find some lunch for me.  When I got back to Moe he was sleeping but seemingly not much better.  He insisted that I continue to explore the city, because we had saved a lot to do for this last day.  I was nervous about exploring without him.  I talked to the amazing staff man (I dont know his name or position) and he said I would be fine and ordered me a taxi.  He gave me a phone number to call for a new taxi and told me to show them the map and they could get me here. He made all my fears go away.  

So, I went to the Ho Chi Mihn Mausoleum and the Temple of Literature.  I saw the Flag Tower, the One Pillar Pagoda and other places that I forget.  I felt brave and adventurous for doing this alone but truly enjoyed my time.  I wish Moe could have seen it with me though.  The Temple of Literature was by far my favorite.  Maybe because I am a teacher, but still. It was the first official school in the area and had relics of clothing and tablets and all kinds of things.  There were statues of Confucius and other gods.  It was also very much Chinese which was new for me and fun.  After the Temple, I grabbed a cab that was right outside the entrance and headed back to my love.  We had a small dinner and went to bed. 

Day 5:   We woke up early again for the trip to the airport for our 8am flight.  Again, the hotel took us safely.    We were so blessed by them.  Because we scheduled our 2 flights at different times we did not end up home until 9pm.  It was a long day of travel but we enjoyed it.  

Our trip was great.  We will never forget it!  Thank you for all who thought of us and helped us on this journey.