Friday, April 11, 2014

Cookin' Up Some Math

Fact: Every lesson is better if it involves food. Students are engaged, motivated, and really well-behaved because they know they don't get to eat said food if they act otherwise! :) I try to find every excuse I can to use food or candy in my teaching, and I've gotten to be quite good at it. My most recent under-taking was making Slow Cooker Brownies for our fractions unit. (I originally called them Crock Pot Brownies, but didn't want to send the wrong message if somehow they were telling their parents about it and forgot the "crock" part.) Since the kids are only in First grade, the fraction knowledge that they have and need to know is still basic.. how to read a fraction, how to write a fraction, and how to compare basic fraction visuals. Since my students are very gifted in Math, I took it a step further and had them adding and simplifying basic fractions (ex: 1/4 + 1/4 = 2/4 = 1/2). Most of them have a really good number sense and know their doubles/halves and were really impressing me with how quickly they picked this up!
To do this activity, I found a slow-cooker brownie recipe on line and then just modified it to add in Math.
Since not all of my students are advanced or at the abstract number level yet, I included blank fraction pictures for visual representation. I made them write all fractions in simplest form and explained that it was easier to only have to measure once instead of twice. Some got it, some didn't, but at least they've been exposed to it for future instruction!
I don't know how to upload a Word Doc or a PDF. If you'd like a copy of this, just let me know and I'll email it to you! 
Once they had done all of the math, we went to the cafeteria to mix up the brownies. I love when they can see Math (or any subjects) being used in "real life" and they had some great student-led discussions about making sure the measuring cups were all the way full, the importance of following the proper sequence, etc. The hardest part was the two hours we had to wait for them to cook! But boy, oh boy, did that cafeteria ever smell yummy!

My crock-pot is pretty small, so they came out a little more cakey than brownie-y, but they were still SUPER tasty! We had no problem finishing off the whole pan... of course, we did share with the whole elementary and all the teachers! :) 
The next week week we learned about measurement and for a review of capacity we made Rice Krispie Treats. It's the end of the 3rd quarter.. don't judge me. :) I'm also responsible for teaching them life long skills, and this is definitely one of those.
Like I said, they're always FULLY engaged when food is involved!
A little taste of home.
Aside from doing these yummy lessons, the best part about teaching 1st grade is that all of the pictures they take come from such a flattering angle. :)  
We demolished those.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

School Spirit Week

One reason I don't think I'll ever be able to give up teaching is Spirit Week. For those of you who are not used to American school craziness, it has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. The "spirit" we're referring to is School Spirit. Believe it or not, this is a real point of confusion to international families. :)
Our spirit week was the week before Spring Break. This was a perfect time for it because students' brains are typically not right this week anyway, so might as well give them a reason to be crazy. It was also perfect, because Spirit Week is exhausting and it gave us a whole week to recuperate!
I was blown away by the participation we had this year! Usually there's a good portion of kids who forget or are "too cool", but we had almost 100% participation each day! It was so fun!

Monday was Storybook Character Day. I was excited for this because I LOVE storybooks. If you teach elementary for more than a day or two, you will understand. I love reading storybooks aloud to my kids. It's like magic. They're enthralled and silent the whole time... with a few giggles thrown in every now and again. I originally was going to be Little Red Riding Hood because I figured that would be a pretty easy one to throw together. Then I heard my students talking and like half of them said THEY were going to be Little Red, so I decided to get more creative. My next idea was Amelia Bedelia, but without thrift stores in this country, I didn't have the necessary costume parts. I finally decided on Camilla Cream from A Bad Case of the Stripes. All of my students knew instantly who I was because we've read this book more than once, but no one else in the school had any idea. 
The teachers (L to R): Max from Where the Wild Things Are, Viola Swamp from Miss Nelson is Missing, Camilla Cream from A Bad Case of the Stripes, and Leopard from How Leopard Got His Spots
My class did not disappoint! (L to R): Princess Leia, Fancy Nancy, Camilla Cream, Fancy Nancy, Stevie from The Sister's Club, boy from Wacky Wednesday, and Tin Tin

Tuesday was Crazy Hair Day. I wasn't as excited about this one because I figured there's only but so much you could do, but I was pleasantly surprised! Again, my class did not disappoint and there were some crazy hair styles school-wide! Plus, it was a free day to wear jeans, so... win win? In case anyone is wondering or wanting to try my hair style.. all it takes is 2 pens and a bunch of hair ti

One of my boys went ALL in and shaved his hair into a mohawk! LOVE it!
Wednesday was International Day. I had no idea what to do for this one. Although I've lived over 10 years of my life in Asia, we've never really been the kind of family to wear the traditional clothes and so I have none. I looked at the store and considered buying a kimono or an Indian saree, but figured the number of times I would wear it did not justify the time I would spend finding one I liked and/or the cost of it. Then I remembered that I'm REALLY good at being American and so went to work with that. All that was missing were some cowgirl boots to complete the look I was going for.. as my co-worker described it, the look of "America threw up on you". 

South Korea, America x3, Malaysia, Cowboy, Thailand, 'Murica

One of the amazing things about teaching internationally.
Thursday was Superhero Day. If you know anything about me, you obviously know how excited I was for this day to finally arrive. I love superheroes. I love spirit week. I love wearing spandex to work... It was perfect. Since I have more than my fair share of superhero shirts to choose from (it's seriously a little bit overwhelming.. I'm mildly addicted), I had to figure out which one I could turn into a full outfit with the least amount of cost or effort. (Like I said, no thrift stores makes spirit week way more difficult!) I decided on Batman.
My SUPER class (L to R): Catgirl, Spiderman, American Girl, Lasso Girl, Batman, and 2 Super Babies

The SUPER teachers (L to R): Captain America, Ironman, Elastigirl, Batman, and Black Widow

My little bat family. :) 

Friday was Sunbear Spirit Day! We had school t-shirts made and handed them out on Thursday for the kids to wear Friday! 
Such a neat group of students and teachers!

And at 2:30, I bid my kids farewell and began my Spring Break! Another successful Spirit Week in the books and a well-deserved, much-needed vacation ahead of me! 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Valentine's Day

You know you're a little behind in blogging when you blog about Valentine's Day in April. Oops. :) But, seeing as it's one of my favorite holidays (I'm beginning to think I over-use that term "favorite holiday".. but I just love them all!), I couldn't at least give it a little shout out. The day, as expected, was busy, loud, fun, yummy, and full of love and laughter.
We took this picture at snack time... before any sugar had been consumed. I've always said they can smell sugar into their bloodstreams. I think this serves as proof.

Wouldn't be an elementary school Valentine's Day without making "mailboxes". 

Cupcakes, brownies, cookies, candy, soda, and Valentine's Bingo. Pretty much every student's dream come true.
We set up the cafeteria for the joint K-4 party while they were at PE. 
 The noise level got progressively louder throughout the hour long event. 
Real Funfetti cupcakes with real Pillsbury icing. These kids don't even know how lucky/spoiled they are that I share my American goodies with them! 
Sweet little Avagail Grace.  My Valentine. :) 

I ended my day babysitting this sweet thang and then sorting my loot! Yes, that is a FULL bag of real American Valentine's Reeses PB Cups.... And lots of other yumminess that I definitely didn't need. It is hopefully clear to see why Valentine's Day is one of my favorites.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Needs and Wants

I came across this activity while I was writing lesson plans for our Economics unit. I thought it looked like a fun way to introduce Needs and Wants. The quick version of it is:
1) Divide students into groups.
2) Give each group a list of 40 or so items (see page 3 of the activity) - including things like sunglasses, fertile soil, a cow, a car, toilet paper, forks and knives, a good bed, a toothbrush, a pig, etc.
3) Tell students their group is being sent to a brand new planet and their spaceship is only big enough to take them and 15 of the items. (Thankfully in 1st/2nd grade they don't draw the conclusion that a toothbrush weighs differently than a car so this logic is faulty!)
4) Give them a few minutes to narrow down their items.
5) Then, bring them all together and make a master list of the items they kept. (I only have seven students, so we jumped immediately to whole group. If you have a bigger class, they suggest pairing up the groups first and slowly working up to whole group.)
6) Tell them that now the space company is limiting your supplies to only TEN items and have them discuss which items to bring.
7) Continue narrowing down the number until they decide on the top 3-4 crucial items.
8) Tie this into the vocabulary of 'wants' and 'needs'.

Half of my students were in my class last year and we studied needs and wants then, so I figured they'd pick up on the lesson right away. Surprisingly, they didn't. I think one boy did, but his group members were two girls that are new this year and so he had a rough time convincing them of what they actually needed to bring. One group of all girls couldn't possibly figure out why we would bring a pig or cow, and in the original elimination they only chose to bring luxuries (a bed, toilet paper, a car, a full set of dishes, etc). Once we came together whole group and the other kids started explaining why they brought certain items, it seemed to click that they wouldn't probably last too long and you could see looks of "oops".

We ran out of time the first day of the lesson, so I put the list on the board and told them we would finish narrowing it down during Social Studies the next day. Social Studies is our last block of the day, so all I heard them discussing on day two was this activity. Some of their reasoning was hilarious, some of it a little scary. Haha.
For example:
"We need sunglasses, because what if the new planet is right next to the sun?"
"Then you'd be dead."
"Oh yeah. But, we should still pack sunglasses."

The activity results and discussion were fascinating to watch. As we narrowed down the list, the kids had to take turns defending the items they felt were necessary, weighing pros and cons, assigning values and rankings to the items, and learning how to respectfully disagree. It was really clear by the end who actually understood the terms 'wants' and 'needs' versus those who still thought that a camera and sunglasses were more important or useful than a pig or seeds.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Something Fishy

Since I've recently developed a major love-hate relationship with Jillian Michaels (trainer from The Biggest Loser, for those who don't know), I decided to subscribe to her daily newsletter. She gives advice on workouts, debunks health and exercise myths, sends recipes, and other helpful info. I'm not a huge fan of daily subscriptions, but I've read hers almost everyday since they're short, applicable, and interesting! But, this is not an ad for her newsletters, so I digress.
Last week, one of her emails included a recipe for Chili-Rubbed Tilapia with Asparagus and Lemon. I am not a big seafood fan, but Tilapia is one type of fish that I actually like. Plus, I love asparagus and everything else in the recipe was easy to find in Malaysia, so I figured I'd give it a try.
And then THIS happened:
Now, I love going fishing. But, my idea of fishing is usually someone else baiting my hook, me casting and reeling, and then someone else unhooking my fish. Then, if we choose to keep it, someone else preparing it (and usually eating it) for me. [Read: The only part of fishing I like has nothing to do with the actual fish.] I've never bought fish in America, so I can't say for certain, but I'm pretty sure this isn't how they sell it, is it? Also, whenever I've bought salmon here, it's already nicely filleted. Needless to say, I wasn't sure how to proceed.
There was one man already at work dissecting what I think was a baby shark for another customer, so thankfully a friendly employee came over to help. He, of course, didn't speak much English, thus the conversation that ensued was half charades and crazy facial expressions and half overly-emphatic and shouted words.
Me: "Can I have one fish?"
Him: "Yes."
Me: "Can you cut it for me?"
Him: "Yes. Which one?"
Me: "I don't care."
Him: "Which one?"
Me: "I have no idea."
Him: "Big or small?"
Me: "Small, I guess?"
[He picked looked at two and then chose one. I'm pretty sure the looking at the first was all for show. I saw nothing different about them.]
Him: "This one?"
Me: "Yes. Can you cut it for me, please?"
Him: "How many pieces?"
Me: "Ummm. Two?" [Thought going through my head: "Isn't there a protocol for this? Like, can't I just say "Cut it for me, please" and have you present me with a couple of nice, fresh fillets? Why is this so difficult?"]
Him: "Do you want the head?"
Me: "Ew. No way. NO." [Remember what I said about charades, facial expressions and over-emphasis? There were lots at this point.]
Him: "Stomach?"
Me: "Nope. No stomach. Just the fish."

He was actually the beef and chicken grinder, so he gave the fish and instructions to the shark guy and walked away. A few minutes later, I walked away with...

Right. So.. Now what? The recipe called for a few fillets, not a whole fish tail. How exactly is one supposed to get from one to the other? Thanks to my friends Google and Youtube, I figured it out. And, 30 minutes, fish guts, cracking fish bones, a couple of almost cuss words, and some disgusted facial expressions later, I had 3 minuscule pieces of tilapia to fry up. Haha. By this point, I was borderline between "THIS IS NOT WORTH IT" and "I WILL EAT THIS FISH IF IT'S THE LAST THING I DO." And since my momma didn't raise a quitter, I went ahead and cooked up the recipe. Here is the final result:

Yes, it was delicious. Yes, that is a salad plate. The recipe was supposed to make enough for 4 adult servings. Mine made 1/2. However, it was delicious, so I went to the import store, bought 4 huge frozen fillets for $5 and plan to make this again soon...the right way (why I didn't do this in the first place, I'll never know). At least now I can say I've filleted a fish...kind of, at least. :)

Here's the recipe if anyone else is brave enough to try it. (Chef's note: Buy already filleted tilapia.)

Chili-Rubbed Tilapia With Asparagus and Lemon
  • 2 pounds organic asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 1" pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 pound tilapia, Pacific sole, or other firm white-fish fillet
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

1) Bring an inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Put asparagus in a steamer basket, place in the pan, cover, and steam until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large plate, spreading out to cool.
2) Combine chili powder, garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt on a plate. Dredge fillets in the spice mixture to coat. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook until just opaque in the center, gently turning halfway, 5 to 7 minutes total.
3) Divide among 4 plates. Immediately add lemon juice, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and asparagus to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until the asparagus is coated and heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve the asparagus with the fish

Sunday, March 16, 2014

CSI: Malaysia - Part 2

Hopefully you read part 1 of my saga. If not, you should read that first, as it will explain a lot of background and important info for this conclusion.
I woke up on Saturday, March 15 still pretty bummed about not having an iPad, but trying to stay positive. I again, lounged around for most of the morning. I was in the middle of a Skype call with a friend when my cell phone rang. I didn't recognize the number, but answered anyway. Here is the convo:
Me: "Hello?"
Guy: "Is this Stephanie?"
M: "Yes. Who is this?"
G: "Did you lose your iPad? I'm so sorry. A man sell it to me for 400 Ringgit ($130 USD). I don't know anything about iPad. I use for 2 hour and then it locked. Then it say your name and phone number. I'm so sorry.
M: "Oh, WOW! Thanks for calling."
G: "I want to give back to you. But, how about my money? I pay RM 400."
M: "Ummmm."
G: "I will give you back your iPad, but can you give me RM 400? I already pay for iPad. I do not know anything about iPad. It locked. It says your name. I cannot use it."
M: "Yeah, I know it is. I did that. I locked it."
G: "What about my money? I do not know what to do. This is such a terrible experience. Oh man, oh man. So terrible. What about my money? I want give you back your iPad."
M: "Ok, let me call my detective and I'll call you back." [For future notice: Don't say this.]
G: "What?"
M: "I will call the detective and see what he says to do. Then I will call you back."
G: "What?"
M: "The POLICE. I need to call the police. I had to make a police report yesterday when it was lost. I want their advice on what to do."
G: "What?"
M: "Okkkk. Where can I meet you to get this back?"
G: "I will give you back your iPad. What about my money?
M: "My iPad was stolen from me. I do not want to pay to have it back."
G: "But, that f***** man. I hate him. Oh man, so trouble. So terrible. That f***** man give me iPad stolen. I never do this before. I next time never do this again. Oh so terrible. What about my money?"
M: "Do you know the man who sold it to you?"
G: "No. Do not know. Just man."
M: "Yeah, next time you should probably only buy iPads from the store." [Apparently I watch too many cop shows. I was staying ridiculously calm and saying such brilliant things. Haha.]
G: "I give you your iPad back. You give me RM 400."
M: "No. I will give you 300. You give me the iPad. Where do you want to meet?"
G: "Where you live?"
M: Think fast. Think fast. "Uhh...SS12". It's a huge neighborhood, it'll probably be fine. :)
G: "Ok. Do you know the hospital there? In front, there is a bus stop. I will meet you at bus stop. You bring RM 400, I will give you iPad.
M: "I'm not going to meet you at a bus stop. And I'm only going to give you RM 300."
G: "Where you want to meet? Let's meet at bus stop."
M: "No. That's not safe. I want to meet somewhere public. I want to meet inside. Let's meet at Starbucks at Subang Parade." You should know where that is... you were there yesterday, jerkface. ;)
G: "Ok. Subang Parade have bus stop. I meet you at the bus stop."
M: "I will meet you at Starbucks inside Subang Parade in one hour."
G: "Why 1 hour? You going to call police. I don't want trouble. I don't want trouble. It is all mistake. I don't want trouble."
M: "I need to shower. I will see you in 1 hour." ...oh yeah, and I need to call the police.
Literally, this convo went on for about 15 minutes. Saying essentially the same things over and over. I kept assuring him that I wasn't going to meet him at a random bus stop that would allow me to be taken/injured/robbed or give him a quick escape. He kept saying no police/only bus stop/RM 400/etc. Finally, I said, "Ok. I will meet you at McDonald's at Subang Parade at 12:00."
G: "McDonalds on ground floor?"
M: "Yes. At 12:00."
G: "I come to bus stop. I do not know that place." WHAT? You just told me exactly where it was! Hahaha.
M: "Ok. McDonald's at 12:00. See you there."
G: "Ok. I will call you later to meet." Click. Ok, wait. Does that mean yes McDonald's or no McDonald's?
So, naturally, I called the detective immediately and gave him the lowdown. His first questions were, "How much did he ask for?" and "Where is he going to meet you?" So, apparently this happens a lot. I told him all the info and he said, "Ok, call me when  you have a meeting point. Bye." Wait, what? I just told you, McDonald's at 12! I texted the man again to confirm McDonald's at noon. His phone was off. Sketch. I hurried to get ready, sent a quick update email to my family, called my coworkers to be praying, and drove to the mall. At this point, I began to shake. Mildly, but shaking nonetheless. How in the world did I get in this situation?! Also, I hadn't eaten anything at this point in the day, so that probably wasn't helping. After I parked, I began to empty my wallet because I didn't want to chance anything else being taken. Apparently, though, all of my brain power was being used to stay calm and level-headed because I took the things out of my wallet and put them & the wallet into my purse. Then, took my purse with me to the meet-up. Oops. :) So, I'm not a pro at this crime-solving thing yet, and I'm ok with that.
I called the man back. He answered. I told him I was here. He said, "Ok. Come to bus stop." Ugh. Not this again. 
M:"Can't you come in to McDonald's? I don't feel safe at the bus stop by myself. I am a girl."
G: "I will not hurt you. I am by myself, too. I swear to God. I will not hurt you. I just want this to be done. So terrible experience. Come to bus stop." Ok, I can see this is not going anywhere. Just agree to it and pray, pray, pray. 
M: "Ok. I'm coming."
Before heading out to the bus stop, I called the detective to see his location. He assured me he was there.
He said, "You should make him come inside."
I said, "I tried. He will not. Are you here?"
Detective: "Yes. I am here. You are at Subang Parade bus stop?"
M: "Yes. Well, not yet. I am at the mall. I need to cross the street. I am in front of TGIF."
D: "Ok. Ok. Ok. I am there. Do not give him money. Make him keep talking. We will come over then."
M: "Ok."
I go stand outside, watching the bus stop. There is a little old lady waiting and a guy laying down half asleep. Not my guy. I call him. "I am here. Where are you?"
G: "Are you alone? Did you come alone? Did you bring police? I do not want trouble. Are you alone?"
M: "........yes." Jesus, forgive me. It's just a teeny lie.
G: "Ok. I am coming."
Called the detective to update him.
D: "Ok. I am here in the police car in front of you." I don't see any police cars. I don't see any cars with people in them. Hmmmm.

Guy called me back. This is where it got cray. Well, it was already crazy, but here it goes insane. Praise Jesus for a happy ending. Looking back, I should've probably done things differently. I pray that there isn't another time, but if there is, I'll definitely do things differently.

I texted the guy. He was past due. I asked him where he was and told him it was too hot to be standing out here. He called and said, "Look behind the bus stop. There is a carpark mission."
M: "What?"
G: "A carpark mission. It's yellow. Do you see it?"
M: For some reason, I thought he was talking about a car dealership, and I was therefore utterly confused. "Ummm."
G: "A yellow carpark mission. Do you see it? Your iPad on top there."
M: "What?"
This was repeated a few times before I assured him I had no idea what he was talking about. Then, are you ready? He said, "Walk to the right. Walk in front of TGIF." OOOOOOOK. So, you're watching me. This just got officially creepy. I did so. "Walk faster." No, thanks. It's 100 degrees and I'm already speed walking and internally freaking out. "Ok, now look across the street. Do you see the yellow carpark mission?"
Me: "No. I do not. Ooooooh, do you mean MACHINE? I still don't see it."
G: "Yes MISSION. Do you see? Take off your glasses, then you can see." You are FREAKING me out! I pulled my sunglasses to the top of my head and finally realized what "machine" he was talking about. It's a four-foot tall machine that manages people paying for their parking spot. It's similar to this, but obviously yellow.
On top of the "mission" was what looked like a blue bag. When my iPad was taken, it was in a bright pink case. Hmm.
Me: "Is it in a blue bag?"
G: "YES! YES! Blue bag. You see it? You come get the iPad, leave the money, and we are finished. Ok?"
Me: "Are you crazy? No way. I'm not coming over there by myself. Bring me my iPad."
G: "I don't want trouble. You get iPad, leave money, we finish. I don't want trouble. This terrible experience. Do you want your iPad back?"
Me: "Yes, I do. But, I don't want to die. I'm not coming over there. I don't know you. I don't know what you will do to me."
G: "No. You have baby. I have baby also. I not hurt you. You want your iPad." Well, that proves that he was on my iPad at least a little bit. My lockscreen and background are pictures of my nephew Ben (because he's the cutest thing ever!). I didn't correct him. I figured maybe him thinking I had a kid could play to my advantage.
Me: "I need to go the ATM to get your money."
G: "What? Why you not bring money to get iPad?"
Me: "Well, you told me to be at the bus stop in 10 minutes. I did not want to miss you. I do not have RM 300. I must go to the ATM."
G: "Ok. Go fast. 5 minutes. I don't want trouble."
So, I started walking into the mall and heard him over the phone say, "Go faster" and then hang up. As soon as I was inside, I called the detective to tell him what the new plan was... which I didn't actually know myself. I couldn't in my right mind imagine walking across the street by myself to do the 'drop'. But, I did want my iPad. I knew I couldn't convince him to come inside. I knew that if I took too long he'd spook. I was out of ideas. The detective said, "Tell him to come inside."
Me: "I told him that, he won't."
D: "Ok."
Alllllrighty. Thanks for your support? Went to the ATM, got 300 out, and called him again.
Me: "I don't think this is safe. Can you come inside?"
G: "No. It's safe. I will not hurt you. I swear to god. I will not. You have baby. I have baby. Bring the money."
Me: "Can I bring my friend?" I definitely didn't think this one through. My co-worker had originally volunteered to go with me, but thinking it'd be a quick and easy exchange at McDonalds with some po-po around, I declined. Little did I know it was going to turn into this. But, now, it was just me, alone at a mall, staring danger in the face.
G: "No." Oook. Then, this exchange is not happening. If 4 seasons of Criminal Minds has taught me anything, it's that they always want you alone when they have bigger plans.
M: "If I can't bring my friend, I'm not coming." What was I even talking about? I was at the mall by myself! Haha. One thought that seriously ran through my mind... should I pay some stranger to come with me? Hm. Nope, too much explaining necessary. 
G: "Who is your friend?"
M: "Someone I work with."
G: "Ok. Ok. Bring your friend. Go fast." Click.
I got the money from the ATM and started walking slowly back to the door. I called the detective. No answer. I called again. No answer. My thinking was, he could walk in to the mall, and then walk out again with me as "my friend". No such luck. I kept walking. Heart beating out of my chest. I had no more stalling methods. I couldn't get hold of the detective to go get the iPad or even go with me to get the iPad. I guess the only remaining option was to do it myself. [Again, I KNOW I did a few things wrong. I already said I'd do it differently next time. No need for a lecture! ;)]
I walk out to the curb. Push the button on the crosswalk and stand waiting for what felt like 10 minutes, but was probably 1. Malaysians never use crosswalks and after living here 2 years, I usually don't either. But, I was definitely not in a rush to get across this street. 
I crossed to the median. Looked around. Crossed again. Walked up 10 steps to the carpark 'mission'. Looked around. Didn't see a soul. Reached up and took my iPad out of a blue pillowcase. Made sure the iPad was mine with one eye will making sure I wasn't about to get shanked with the other eye. Tried to turn it on, but the battery seemed to be dead. I knew it was mine because there are some smudges under the screen protector in some identifiable locations. Put the money inside. Walked quickly down the steps and across the street (definitely didn't wait for a cross signal this time!!). When I was halfway up the walkway to the mall, I turned around and looked back. The bag was still there. I walked 10 more feet into the mall, turned around, it was gone. He's a quick, sneaky little bugger. I immediately called the detective to tell him I had my iPad back. This is where my faith in Malaysian PD completely disintegrated and my prayers of thanksgiving sky-rocketed. 
Me: "I have my iPad back."
D: "You have it back already?"
M: "Yes. I went and got it and left the money."
D: "Oh, really? What does the man look like? Is he Chinese?"
M: ..................... "I didn't see the man." WEREN'T YOU WATCHING ME THIS WHOLE TIME?!?!?!
D: "You gave him money?"
M: "Yes, RM 300."
D: "Ok. I will call you later to get your statement."

And that was that. I went down to my favorite smoothie shop and ordered the largest one they had. I continued shaking for the next 30 minutes or so. I tried the iPad again, it worked perfectly. It had just been turned off and in my haste of not wanting to be killed, I hadn't held the on button long enough. The case was missing, but those are a lot cheaper to replace. 

I've told this story to a few people. The first response is always, "Why did you leave the money?" Looking back, I probably didn't have to. I had the iPad. I could've just pretended to put something in or left a smaller amount. Here was my reasoning. He clearly knows what I look like. He's clearly done this before. I don't know what sort of weapons he is currently holding or what mindset he is in. He has my phone number. I don't know how he will react if he gets to the bag and it is empty. I'd prefer to pay the $100 and have my iPad back and be done with the whole situation than to fear for my life the remaining 3 months here. And now, knowing that I had absolutely no police back up, I'm even more glad that I left it. 

So, just another story to add to my ever-growing list of adventures. Not one that I ever would've chosen to experience, and one I hope I don't ever have to experience again (or anyone!). I don't know, and probably never will, if the man I was talking to was in fact the one who stole the iPad or a partner-in-crime. Based on the phrases he used, the voices he used, and the whole scenario, I'd be VERY shocked if we were to find out he was really an innocent man trying to buy a cheap iPad. I did learn some lessons... be more cautious with my iPad, don't do random ransom drops in foreign countries alone, and God loves me and protects me even when I'm being stupid. :) 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

CSI: Malaysia

I don't watch CSI, but if the producers decide to do a Malaysian season of the show, I will volunteer to be an actress. This weekend I had the scariest, most adventure-packed experience of my life. That's saying something because I've spent many years living in remote jungles, busy international cities, and Newport News. Haha.
It all began on Friday, March 14th. It started out as a glorious day. The night before I had gotten an email from our principal saying school was canceled because of unhealthy levels of haze in the city (due to forest fires). After sleeping in and lounging around the house, I decided to be productive and finally write the tons of blogposts that I've been storing up and waiting to write. I don't tend to get much work done at my house thanks to other distractions, so I showered, packed up and headed to Starbucks. It was a great day. I had plans that night to babysit a co-workers baby. I was rested. I was motivated. Things were going swimmingly.
I got to Starbucks at 2:30. Got my drink, sat in a comfy chair, pulled out my laptop and started it up, then pulled out my iPad and set it on the little stool next to me. I had most of my pictures for the blog on my iPad, but wanted to do the typing on my laptop. For the next hour and a half I was going between the two devices typing, sending pictures, trying to figure out the mystery of the missing Malaysian Airline, trying really hard not to be distracted by the security guard downstairs carrying a huge rifle, etc. At 3:50, I decided to just send the rest of the pictures to my laptop all at once. I did that, set my ipad down, and started hardcore focusing on finishing a post. Less than 5 minutes later, a woman came and asked if she could sit in the chair opposite me and share the outlet. I said, "Yes, I'm about to leave." I reached for my iPad and it wasn't there. I figured I had just put it back in my laptop bag or elsewhere, so started searching around. The lady looked at me like I was crazy. I said, "I had my iPad here, now it's gone." 
Her advice, "Maybe you put it somewhere." No, literally. I just had it and now it's missing. I checked through my bag 4 times hoping that it'd just appear, checked under my chair (how it possibly could've gotten there, I didn't know, but was frantic), and continued searching for a solid 2 minutes. When I determined it had been snatched, I immediately went to the desk to report it. Good news: there was a CCTV camera pointing right at where I was sitting. Bad news: Malaysia. The baristas all seemed very shocked and quickly said "We were very busy. We did not see anything." I assured them I definitely didn't blame them and took responsibility for being unattentive (darn you Kenny G and your smooth jazz that gets me in a writing mood!), but I just wanted to get it back. The manager came out and said that before I could watch the CCTV I had to have a police report. Red flag #1: I asked her where the closest police station was and she had to ask three of her employees before they came to a consensus. Um, isn't that something you should know? Actually, isn't that something I should know?! I told her I'd go get the report and come right back. It was already about 15 minutes after the theft, in my mind I was thinking that every single second was precious to the recovery, but apparently that was just me.
I had forgotten to bring my phone, but needed to call my friends to tell them I'd be late to babysitting, so I rushed home to grab that. While I was here, I decided to quickly log on and see if I could track my iPad using the Find My iPhone app. The first time it scanned, it said it was offline. I went through the measures of putting it into "Lost Mode" (which locks the device, posts your phone number on it when it is turned on, sends out a beeping signal when it is located, and traces it when it gets online). Then, I just quickly had it search again and this time it was online, but the location was unavailable. At least I knew lost mode had been activated, it was locked, and they had my contact number. Got my phone, sent a quick email to my family asking for prayer, called Jalah to explain what was happening, and went to the police station. I wasn't sure what to expect when I got here. Foreign law enforcement doesn't always have the best reputation, but I was pleasantly surprised. I had to wait about 3 minutes and then I got called up to the desk. I gave her a brief summary of what had happpened and she said, "Can you write the report?" 
"Yes? Sure?" I answered. She handed me the keyboard and mouse and let me type up the story. When I was done, she clicked around a little more, put in all my contact info (was dumbfounded that I didn't have my passport... I'm the VICTIM here! Why do you need my passport?! Thankfully I had a copy for her and that was enough.), and printed it out. She had me sign it and then handed a copy to one of the officers. He said, you go back and wait at Starbucks and my detective will come to you. I nodded and as I started to walk away, "my" detective showed up. So we exchanged phone numbers and he said he'd be over shortly. I hopped in the car, went back to Starbucks and gave the police report to the manager. She took it into the back room to call her boss. As I was left waiting, I talked to one of the baristas who had arrived in the time I was gone. She said, "Sorry it was stolen. My co-worker said he maybe saw someone with the iPad. He was a Chinese guy." 
I said, "Oh........" That was all I could get out because in my head were the following thoughts: a) Malaysia is 1/3 Chinese. b) almost all the Malaysian Chinese I've ever met have iPads. c) MAYBE he saw someone? That is not helpful!!! But, I maintained my calm and said, "Thanks. I just want my iPad back." I went and sat down to wait for anything further. A few minutes later, the manager came out and gave me the business card of the district manager. She said, "We cannot watch the CCTV right now. The district manager will call you within 24 hours." 
I said, "Ok. I'm going to wait for the detective." Mostly just because I had no idea what was going on. The battery on my laptop was now dead, and I had forgotten to bring an adaptor for the plug. I told them I was going to walk to the department store on the other side of the mall and get one. As soon as I walked into the store, the detective called and said, "Are you at Starbucks?"
Me: "I'm at Parkson, very close to Starbucks. Are you there?"
Detective: "Go to Starbucks."
Me: "Ok. Are you there?"
Detective: "Bye."
I hurried back to Starbucks. No detective. Waited 3 minutes. No detective. (Could've bought that darn plug after all.) A minute later, detective calls, "I am at Starbucks, are you coming?" 
Me: "I am at Starbucks. Are you coming?" Haha. Red Flag #2. 
Detective: "Where are you?"
Me: "I am at Starbucks at Subang Parade Mall."
Detective: "Ok. We are coming."
A few minutes later, he and his partner arrived. They asked for the police report. I said I had given it to the manager. They looked disgusted as if I should've known better. They walked over to the counter, flashed their badges and said, "We need the police report." The manager went and got it, brought it out and they talked in a little huddle for about 2 minutes. Then, the detectives came over to me and said, "The CCTV is sent to HQ and they have to watch it there. They will call you in one or two days when they identify the thief." 
REALLY?! I waited 20 minutes for you to tell me that?! But I maintained my calm, put on a sweet smile, and thanked them all profusely. I walked out of there not thinking I'd ever see my poor little iPad again. On my way to the car, the only thoughts I could think, besides frustration and sadness, were Bible verses about "Always give thanks," "Be joyful," and "Rejoice!". This is clearly not what I wanted to do. Then, the next thought was to a sermon I'd just listened to the day before. It was by Mark Driscoll out of James 1, it was titled "Know the Word, Do the Word." So, I got in my car and just sat to think, I know what the verses say, but how can I do them right now? I took a few minutes to list off a bunch of things I was thankful for. I was rejoicing that I hadn't been hurt in the process of the iPad getting stolen, I was thankful they hadn't stolen my wallet that was sitting in my bag right next to my iPad, I was thankful I still had a laptop and phone and car to be able to handle the situation, I was rejoicing that the police involvement had been painless and semi-restored my belief in their system, I was thankful I had just emailed myself most of my pictures from the iPad, and the list went on. I'm not perfect or even close, don't get me wrong. I was still upset and angry, but it did help to turn my focus to the positive. 
I headed home (took a rain check on babysitting!), spent some time reading, watched a few episodes of my favorite TV shows, and kept incessantly checking Find My iPhone. I realized that by locking the device, it was  near impossible for the perpetrator to connect it to the Internet, so my hope in it ever being returned began to lessen even further. I posted about it on Facebook, was reminded of all the love and support I've been blessed with, and then went to sleep, not knowing in the slightest what the next day would bring. To read about that, stay tuned til tomorrow. Trust me, you don't want to miss it. Ha. :)