Friday, December 13, 2013

14 Hours in Riyadh

The problem with choosing the cheapest flight when flying around the world is that they also tend to have the less desirable routes and times. Case in point, my trip back to Virginia for Christmas. My first leg was an 8-hour flight, nothing too crazy or eventful to report. As I write this, I have been at the King Khalid Airport in Saudi Arabia for 10 hours (with 4 more to go!!). My last leg is a 14-hour flight, hopefully ending with at least one family remembering I'm coming home today and picking me up at the airport! ;) While it isn't the ideal schedule, I just keep reminding myself of how blessed I am to be able to go home at all and that there's a chubby little nephew waiting for me when I get there. I'm sure all of my travel woes will be gone the second I set my eyes on him. (Don't worry, my family already knows they've taken a back seat to him!)

While trying to help pass the time here, I started thinking about some things I've learned during my stay. Without further ado, and in no particular order. 

1) I'm so thankful my parents raised me to be independent, a skilled traveller, and to have common sense.

2) I can't wait to use a dry toilet and not have to provide my own toilet paper.

3) Arabic food is yummy, but my tummy sure is craving some Chipotle, Outback, 5 Guys, Chick-fil-a, and every other American goodness you can think of. :)

4) It's hard to get re-hydrated after an 8-hour flight in which they only provided juice once and a small water with each of the two meals. It's harder still when said small water cups are all you have to work with. Thankfully they were free because, yes, I did have 10 of them.

5) I never want to be homeless or a refugee. Because of my long layover, they provided free dinner. To get it, all I had to do was stand in a long "line" (some cultures define this word differently than America), show my ticket, get my hot meal in a box, and go eat. It was loud. It was crowded. But I was thankful for food. :) That was instance number one of feeling displaced. Then it got worse when I realized it was technically midnight (5 a.m. on my body) and I should probably sleep. The only chairs around were the metal ones with a centimeter of cushion and bars in between each seat. This did not look comfortable. Neither did the marble floor, but for whatever reason, I chose the latter. Obviously I couldn't take a picture of myself passed out and probably drooling, but I imagine if I had asked around, a few people would've had one. If I had seen someone else doing what I was doing (believe it or not, I was the only one!), I probably would've taken a picture. I had my little throw blanket under me, my backpack as a pillow, my scarf as a blanket and big, puffy, pink socks on my feet. Surprisingly, I think I actually got almost 4 hours of (very choppy) sleep! It was painful waking up because every nerve was pinched and every limb was asleep. 
A real life "Would you rather...?"

6) I am thankful for technology. I've checked email, been on Facebook, written a blog, played games, found exchange rates, chatted with friends, taken pictures, and more. It's amazing. I don't know how people survived beforehand. Playing games with each other? Talking? Reading? What is that? Haha.

7) Don't forget to bring toothpaste. They don't always sell it at the duty free shop. :) thankfully they give it out on the flight, so I'll be hitting that up as soon as I board. I forgot to grab my little travel kit on the last flight before I disembarked. Oops.

8) I'm thankful for comfy sweatshirts and jeans. 75% of the men on my last flight were wearing what looked like towel/blanket togas. Now, you might ask what that is. It is a piece of material that looks like a towel, is the size of a blanket, and is wrapped around them like a toga. They all had matching rolling suitcases (that had to be confusing considering there were >200 of them!) and name badges, so it was clear they were part of a group. I've seen people wear similar attire in various countries I've visited, but this was definitely the most I'd seen in one place at one time. I'll let you draw a conclusion about what happens when they raised their arms up to put their luggage in the overhead bin. 

I'm sure this list is not conclusive, but it will hopefully give you some idea of what goes through one's head during a 14-hour layover. If you've never had one, try to keep it that way. If you have, anything I left out?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rules of the Road

Well, that title might not be exactly appropriate. I think it might be more accurate if it said "Suggestions of the road... but really, do whatever you want." I've officially been driving in Malaysia for 2.5 weeks. Before I started I would go back and forth daily about whether or not I REALLY wanted to risk it.

Good days: "Yeah, I got this. I know lots of Americans who drive here without any problem."
Bad days: "I just heard about 3 people hitting motorcyclists or buses. Taxis aren't that bad are they?"

I decided it needed to happen, and so I did it. It was actually surprisingly easy to pick up! I was most nervous about the other side of the road thing, but that seems to be the least of my worries. Mom just kept reminding me that the driver is always in the middle of the road. I think learning to drive in the DC Metro area was actually extremely beneficial to driving here. You learn how to drive with an 'aggressive defense', as my co-worker explained it. I told my new roommate it was like driving in Fairfax and she, also having lived in Fairfax, (and even graduating from my high school... what are the chances!?) said... "Maybe a little worse." Haha. True. Very true.

Without further ado, here are some of the "rules" I've learned of how to drive properly in Malaysia.

1) If you want to park there, just park there. Seriously. Anywhere. Behind a car. In front of a car. In the middle of the road. Next to the fire hydrant. You may get honked at if other people can't get out or through, but if you're not there to hear it, they'll usually find another way around. Or find a way to call you or have you paged (at church you always here announcements about such-and-such license plate needs to move his or her car).
2) If you want to merge, merge. Don't use a blinker. Don't feel the need to speed up to the moving rate of traffic. Don't worry about cutting me off in the middle of an intersection as the light is turning red leaving me nowhere to go. Just get over whenever you feel like it and maybe if you're having a good day, give a little wave behind you.
3) If you want to make a new lane, make a new lane. In the middle of an already 3 lane wide round-about? Sure, why not. If you want to exit from said inside lane, do it. You'll only cause crazy traffic and a bunch of horns honking, but at least you'll be on your way. At a light next to two turn lanes turning onto a two lane road? Do it. It will only prevent 75% of the cars from getting through the light, but no big deal. 
4) Honk. All the time. No matter what the problem is, that will solve it. 
5) Red lights are suggestions... if that. As long as there are no cars coming, or at least any coming quickly, you can go through the intersection... you and the three cars after you. I'm not even really sure why they have yellow lights.
6) Don't pay attention to the arrows painted on the road. They'll most likely tell you incorrect information. I drive past two daily that have a straight arrow connected to a turn arrow.. if you continue straight, you quickly discover the lane is a turn only entrance to the highway. There's also one that has a right turn arrow (which I later discovered is actually their 'merge' arrow) in a left turn only lane. I'm still hoping to get a picture of that one. It's just too good. :) 
7) There will be a motorcycle within 10 feet of you at all times. Usually more like 6 inches away. Even when you don't see them, they'll be there any second. They just pop out of nowhere going way too fast and weaving way too much!
7) Be ready for anything. ANYTHING.

I'm sure there are plenty more to come. Let's just say, driving here has definitely strengthened my prayer life and made me just a teeny bit homesick for driving the back roads back home.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Great Car Search

Two weeks into our school year, we moved locations. We knew we would be doing this going in, but it didn't really make the transition any easier. Since the location we moved to is about 10 extra minutes away (at the 'right' time of day... 15 minutes - forever longer at the "wrong" time) and kind of in the middle of nowhere, I felt my life would be so much less stressful if I had my own car. At the other school it was very easy to walk to the mall, restaurants, or even home, and very easy to get a taxi as well. Not the case with the new place.

So, my search started over the summer with me emailing a few families here to ask if anyone knew of a budget car for sale. For whatever reason, cars in Malaysia are incredibly expensive. Like, ridiculously. Multiple times when I told people my price range, they looked at me with a strange "are you joking?" sort of look. I figured I only needed the car for a year and it only had to get me around town. I didn't need anything fancy, just something that runs. Also, since I know absolutely nothing about cars except how to turn them on and drive them, I was thinking it'd be nice to go through a trusted source. The only other car I've bought in my life was in America, with my parents, test driven by my car-fixing uncle, and inspected by our family mechanic before purchase. As you can imagine, that is not how it went here.

Enter Car #1. One of the families from our school has a business and said they had an extra car they could sell me. The price was right, I waited until they could bring it... and it was a manual. Oops. I guess I should have clarified, I don't know how to drive that. And I'd prefer not to learn on the other side of the road in a country that doesn't really follow traffic laws. But, it was ok. They said they had another one that was automatic. So, I waited another week, they brought it out to me and...

Yes, yes that is a cassette tape player.
Yes, yes that is 417,493 KM on the odometer (259,418 mi).

But, no big deal. I said I didn't need anything fancy as long as it ran. Right. Except it didn't. For the first day, everywhere I drove it would shake, make weird noises, check engine light flashed, etc. On the second day, it had a flat tire. On the third day, it wouldn't start in the morning. Prayed. Tried again. It worked. Got it to school and it didn't start that afternoon. I texted our friends and told them I so appreciated their help and effort in getting me wheels, but I was going to look for something with a few less miles.

Thankfully, mom showed up for a short visit the day it didn't start, so for the next two days we were checking websites, making phone calls, visiting dealers, and eating lots of yummy food. After one other test drive that just didn't feel right and a few other "Malaysia" moments, we found "the car."

It's a 1998 Kia Sephia (yes, I understand that that is more than twice as old as my students, but I told you I had a budget!). It has less than 150,000 km on it. It's purple and has a CD player. What more could I need? Oh yeah, and it works... pretty well. It's definitely not the 2005 Altima that I had in VA, but it's perfect for what I need it for.

I couldn't get that 'dead yak' (as my co-worker called it) off my dashboard quickly enough! WHY would that ever be put there?!
I'm so blessed by and thankful for this car! It's been amazing having the freedom to go wherever I want whenever I want without having to rely on taxis or friends. The driving itself has been interesting, but that's a blog for another day.. :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Friendship Salad

I am not and will never claim to be a true Kindergarten teacher. You can spot those teachers from a mile away with all their cuteness and bubbly-ness and creativity. They can tie shoes, wipe noses, and sing a song about anything and everything all at the same time... while smiling. They are incredible. That is not me. Moving here, I was the only one with any semblance of little-kid teaching (I student taught in 1st grade way back when!), so that's the role I got. Thankfully, this year we hired a full-time Kindergarten teacher, so I am only doing 1st and 2nd. But, they're still little.

I taught 4th grade for 3 years and during that time I thought THOSE kids needed a lot of help and training in things that I always took for granted as being 'everyone knows that'... not the case. Kids actually do have to be taught how to take turns talking, how to solve their tiffs with words and without pouting or fighting, etc.

One of the standards for the First Grade Social Studies curriculum is, "Understand that good citizens work hard in school and play fairly." When I read that, it was kind of a 'Duh!' moment for me.. as in "Duh! Everyone knows that!". But, wanting to do my job well and make sure I taught what I was supposed to teach, I headed to the internet to find some ideas. One of the first ones I found was for Friendship Salad and I remembered making this when I was student teaching. I thought it was ridiculous then, and I thought it was just as ridiculous as I wrote it in my lesson plans. Summer brain has made it quite difficult to once again put myself in the place of a six-year-old to think about what is funny or cool or too hard. Alas, we made the salad and they loved it and I think they might've actually learned from it. Ha ha.

The idea behind Friendship Salad is that you build a fruit salad with each piece being symbolic of something in the classroom.
Grapes - Students. (I told my kids they were the closest fruit I could find to looking like a head). These stand for smart, tidy, helpful, and kind students.
Strawberries - Hard-workers. Students who try their best and finish all of their work.
Mini-Marshmallows - Sweet, nice words that we say to one another.
Yogurt - The happy, good feelings we get when we are using these words. The bond that holds our class together.
Mix it all together and talk about how beautiful and yummy it looks. Then, you pull out a rotten banana and act like you're going to put that in. The kids all say, "Ewww. Don't put that in. Why would you do that? Etc." Then we have a little discussion about what kind of "rotten bananas" we can have in our classroom (fighting, mean words, disrespect, selfishness, laziness, etc) and we all agree that we don't want that. Then we eat the yummy salad.
"Show me your best "Rotten Banana Face'"
You may think this is the corniest thing you've ever heard of, and I would agree wholeheartedly. It was clearly thought of by someone way more Kindergarten-y than me. However, it does provide a good reference point for the future when kids are showing 'rotten banana' behaviors and gives us something to can refer back to.

Oh, and did I mention it was super yummy?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

You Know You Teach Overseas When....

We've started our second year at the Learning Center in Malaysia. Our school has grown to 35 students (K-12). After the world's longest summer (literally! It was 94 days!!), it's been fun to see all the returning kids and meet all of our new ones. I'm pretty sure my brain is still in summer mode, while at the same time it feels like we've already been teaching 130 days instead of 3. This could be a problem!

I have 4/6 of the same students as last year and I'm loving it. It's so nice to already know their levels and what they were taught last year, to know each others' personalities and quirks, and to not have to spend so much time on rules, routines, and expectations (although we have been doing quite a bit of review!).

Over the past couple days I've had a couple moments where I just had to step back and say, "Yup, I'm definitely not in America anymore." Here are some examples...

1) We did a "get to know you" math activity on the second day. The students each got a little pack of M&Ms and were asked to sort them by color (sorting is a first grade skill, they aced it!). Then, they had to count how many of each color they had. On the board, I had questions corresponding to each color. We went around first and whichever color M&M each student had the most of, he or she had to answer that question. For example, if she had the most blue M&Ms, she had to answer the question on the blue paper. Then we did the same thing with least. (Comparing numbers is a first grade skill, again, aced it!) After we were done answering the questions, each student had to create a bar graph with their M&M data. (Graphing is a first grade skill.. we might need a little more time on this one!) My questions were:
a) What was your favorite summer activity? Why?
b) If you could be any animal, what would you be? Why?
c) What are you most excited about in school this year? Why?
d) What is your favorite school subject? Why?
e) If you could go anywhere in the world for one day, where would you go? Why?
(There are actually six M&M colors.. I forgot about brown! Oops! If I do this again next year, I'll add the question, "If you had $1,000,000, what would you do? Why?")

Question #5 is the one where I realized that some of my students might be American by nationality, but definitely are not AMERICAN. :) I imagine my students back in Virginia would've said they'd go to Busch Gardens Amusement Park or maybe Washington, D.C. or even something as crazy as California. Not the case here. My six-year-old student said, "China. They have dumplings everywhere and I love dumplings."
Then, one of my boys said, "I'd go to Russia."
Me: "Why?"
Him: "No, maybe not. I think I'd go to Thailand or Indonesia because they have good food and beaches."
Ok. Point taken. You already know more countries than most adults in America. :)

2) I sent home an "All About Me" form with them on the first night to fill out with the help of their parents. One of the questions was, "Who is your favorite celebrity?" One of my students answered, "Miss Wacek". Ha ha! Clearly 'celebrity' doesn't have the same meaning over here.

3) We were doing a "Math All Around Me" quilt for our lesson today. I asked them different places in the 'real world' that we use Math. They started off with answers like "if you're a teacher" and "when you give us homework," but we were finally able to get to "points in a soccer game," "prices at the store," "what time gymnastics starts," etc. For the quilt, they have to make 8 different squares related to numbers and math in their life. They started off with easy ones like how many siblings? What time is your favorite subject in school? When is your birthday? The last one of the day was "What is your favorite restaurant and what is their telephone number?" Instead of McDonalds, Golden Corral, and Taco Bell, I got answers like "Nasi Kandar" (Malaysian food), "Din Tai Fung," (dumplings) and "Thai Thai".

I love my little international babies. Here's to a great year! :)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Science Experiments

It's no secret that I LOVE Science experiments! I think the main reason I love them is because the kids love them, get so excited for them, and remember the learning from them so well. That being said, I was super excited when "Scientific Method Week" came around in my classroom. A week full of science experiments with the sole purpose of teaching kids how to do a science experiment. This meant the options were endless... well, sort of. I live in Malaysia, so don't have Walmart next door to get anything and everything I could possibly need for 1st grade science, so my options were a little limited. But we made it work.

Monday we made "baking soda bombs". Looking back, I realize I maybe should have called it something different. Haha. It got the kids more amped about it, though, so I guess it works. Basically all you do is put water, vinegar, and baking soda in a Zip-loc bag, seal it and wait until it explodes. To make it a true experiment and not a demonstration, we had to choose a variable to change. I figured the easiest was water temperature, so we did that.
Note to self: try experiments first alone before attempting them with students.

As soon as we poured everything into the bag, my students started running away and hiding behind boxes to avoid the explosion (See pictures below: I'm not exaggerating! Haha). One student put a pencil near the bag to 'see the force of the explosion'. But, let's just say the "bombs" were more like the watched pot that never boiled. :)When it did eventually "explode" it was a muffled 'pop' that only half my students heard. Since I didn't have enough baking soda to do a second trial with increased proportions, we scrapped the original experiment and decided to see if the amount of baking soda made a difference in the speed of the pop. It was actually quite useful in teaching students about a fair trial (only one variable, everything else constant) and a botched experiment.

Tuesday, I came prepared with lots more baking soda and vinegar and the snack size Zip-loc bags for attempt #2. It was much more successful, although, the pops were still sort of anti-climactic. :) In case you're wondering, the hot water caused a much faster explosion than the cold.

On Wednesday we did the homemade helicopter experiment. Does the length of the propeller make the helicopter fall faster or slower? We got differing results, so we must've not done something right... Maybe because we made them out of paper instead of cardstock? Maybe our drop height wasn't high enough? Maybe our timing was semi-inaccurate since some of them didn't actually drop their helicopters till like 3 seconds after I said "Drop"? :)

Finally, on Friday we did my all time favorite Science experiment: The Soda Fountains! Let's just say... Malaysia 1, Ms. Wacek 0. First of all, I didn't have Danielle with me as my 'professional Mentos dropper-inner". Secondly, I didn't have the handy Mentos dropper-inner tool Nate got for us last year. Thirdly, Malaysian soda is apparently not the same as American soda. While they still got the picture and enjoyed it, the experiment was wayyy less exciting than the 12 foot fountains we've made in years past!
I definitely need practice at getting all the Mentos in more quickly.. Both for the experiments sake and so I don't end up covered in soda!
All that to say, I still love Science experiments. Granted, they're way more exciting when they work right, but I guess that's all part of it being an inquiry-driven subject!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Batu Caves

I love to get out and explore new places. Thankfully, I just moved to a new country, so there is ample opportunity for such things. A few weeks ago, two of my co-workers and I took a Saturday to visit the Batu Caves.

Going into the trip, just about all I knew was that these were formerly giant limestone deposits and had since been turned into a world-renowned Hindu temple... and that there were vicious monkeys. :) The caves are only about an hour away by train, so we left about 9 and got there before the weather got too hot. This was good news because in order to enter the cave, there are 272 stairs to climb. I'm pretty out of shape. It was not fun. But, we just pushed through it without stopping because we knew that would only make it worse. Needless to say, my calves were on fire when we reached the top. That is, until I looked around and saw women three times my age making the climb, and guys wearing huge headdresses practically sprinting up the steps, and people with serious health issues crawling up the stairs. Then I realized I had no right complaining. :)

The caves themselves were actually sort of anti-climactic. I guess? I don't really know what I was expecting, but apparently it wasn't that. :) They were just really tall caves? We did see some monkeys. Lots of monkeys, actually. They did not try to steal anything from us, but we also made sure to keep our distance! As we were getting ready to leave the caves, we heard some really loud chanting and saw a processional of men performing some sort of ritual or initiation that ended at the area to offer sacrifices. We kept saying we wished we had done more research or had a tour guide so we could have some idea what was going on, but we didn't, so we just had to make up our own versions. :)

They weren't even "spelunking with a headlamp" type caves! Haha.
Part of the ritual we observed. Imagine lots of loud chanting and crazy amounts of emotion.
We were definitely ready to run.
There were so many baby monkeys around. But, don't let their adorableness deceive you. We still kept our distance.
We took the long way around to get back to the train. To do so, we walked through a street market at the base of the caves/temple. Loud music, dirty, smelly, trash all around, people trying to sell cheap goods for a way inflated price... all I could think about was Mark 11:15-18. The story of Jesus clearing the Temple. Granted, the Batu Caves are not a house of The Lord by any means. Actually, quite the contrary, there was a very dark and evil feel to the whole place. The looks on people's faces were just empty and painful. We mentioned multiple times to each other that we just wanted to go up to all the people who were inflicting self-harm on themselves or doing other painful sacrifices and shout to them, "Jesus already died for you!" or other such remarks. We didn't. But we did pray... a lot.
Anyway, I digress. Through this experience, it was so clear to see why Jesus reacted the way he did at the temple. Turning something so holy into something so gross and wordly and a "den of thieves." It's hard to even explain the feeling, but it was definitely eye-opening. I said that before any pastor tried to tackle a sermon about that passage, they should definitely visit the caves!

Only one small alley of the rather extensive market directly at the bottom of the caves.

During our Bible lesson at school the other day, we talked about this story. I think it's so important for us to remember and children to learn that getting angry is not the sin. It even says over and over again in the Bible, that we should "be slow to anger" and "the Lord is slow to anger". It doesn't say "don't ever get angry." It goes on to say, though, "In your anger, do not sin," (Eph 4:26) which is what I tried to stress to my students. We need our motives to be right, our anger to be justified, and our responses to be appropriate. Perk of being a teacher, learning from your own lessons. :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

100th Day!

I've only taught 4th grade before this year. While I loved planning special events for my kids, I always had a little jealousy for the cutesy things the Kindergarten/1st Grade teachers got to do with their classes.... Until this year. It was then, that I realized all of those teachers are saints and they deserve a party every day in their honor!

One of the most special days for a Kindergarten student is the 100th day. Don't ask me why. Don't ask me who decided on this. It's just a thing that you do in Kindergarten nowadays. :) Having never planned a 100th Day party before,  I was ever so thankful for the internet and crazy, over-achiever teacher blogs who supplied me with way more than enough ideas.

Being that I teach in Malaysia, things never seem to go quite as they should. 100th day was no exception. It fell on a Thursday, which is our 'off-campus' day. (The church where our school meet has a Women's Bible Study on Thursday morning that uses up all of the classroom space, so per our agreement, we're required to meet elsewhere!) Usually we go to another church, but once a month we take a school-wide field trip. This particular Thursday (the 100th day of school) was field trip week, so we spent it at the Science Museum. (That's a post for another day!) I explained the situation to my kids a few days in advance so there wouldn't be any panic attacks and they took it well.

So, Friday, March 2nd, the 101st day of school rolled around and brought with it a party! We started with our regular morning meeting and read 100 Hungry Ants. This helped them see some different combinations to make 100, and since our focus for the day was 10 sets of 10, it was a good way to kick it off! From there, we made our 100th day of school crowns. Students decorated them and then added 10 strips with 10 'objects' on each (fingerprints, dots, stickers, etc)  to make it a true 100. As they finished their crowns, they began writing 100 words. Looking back, this was probably an activity that should've been done over the course of the week. Live and learn. Haha. They had to write 10 words in 10 different categories (girl's names, boy's names, colors, summer words, numbers, school words, winter words, animals, foods, and calendar words). Most of them got through about 50 words before their hands wanted to fall off, so we took our snack break.

For snack, they each got to eat the number 100. Never miss an opportunity to talk about place value, right?

I have the cutest class ever. And they were sweet enough to appease me by wearing their hats for most of the day! Except of course, Mr. Too-Cool-For-School hiding in the background.
After snack, we moved to Writing. This was my favorite activity of the day. We brainstormed and made a bubble map about what life would be like if you were 100 years old. At first, most of them had no concept or ideas, but eventually the ideas started flowing. My favorite was, "You'll shrink and have a crooked back"! They then had to write a story that started, "When I am 100 years old..." To accompany the writing and give them some inspiration, I had used the Old Fart Booth App on my iPad to age each of them and printed out the pictures. They were HILARIOUS. The stories turned out to be less stories and more descriptions, but still funny. See for yourself. :)

"When I am 100 years old, I like my grandchildren. I have gray or white hair. What will you want to look like when you are 100 years old?" - Naomi, age 6
"When I am 100 years old, I will eat grapes. I will go outside and I like my grandchildren." - Carolina, age 6
"When I am 100 years old, I will rest. Watch TV. I will get help. I will die." - Josiah, age 7

"When I am 100 years old, I will wear glasses. I will have grey hair and wrinkles." - John, age 5
"When I am 100 years old, I will play with my grandchildren. My back will be crooked. I will bake cookies. I will shrink. I will stay inside." -Elissa, age 6
"When I am 100 years old, I will have grey hair and have kids. I will have wrinkly skin and a cane. I will shrink and be a lot older and a lot wiser." - Andar, age 7   

For Math, they each got a checklist of 10 items that they had to put on a poster (their name 10 times, 10 friend's names, 10 stickers, 10 words, 10 q-tips, 10 shapes, 10 numbers, 10 stamps, 10 paperclips, and 10 thumbprints).
One of the 100 posters!
 After lunch, they had PE and then we made our second set of 100 snacks. For this, they again, had to count out 10 sets of 10. They had a nice little assembly line going, so they got it done quite efficiently!

I don't know how anyone would plan one of these parties for a full-sized class!!
We then took our trail mix up to the library and finished out the day watching 101 Dalmatians. None of them had seen the movie before, so their responses and questions were so adorable. They were so confused why it was called 101 Dalmatians when there were only 15 puppies... then when there were only 99 puppies. They were on the edge of their seats when the puppies were escaping Horace and Jasper. They were ordering the puppies not to get splashed by snow when they were covered with soot. Haha. There's actually a lot of inferring and predicting that can be done with the old Disney classics, who knew? It was an exhausting, but very fun and successful day! Now to start planning for next year's party since I'll likely have a majority of the same students and can't use the same ole tricks... hmmm. :)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sights of Malaysia

 I've learned to have a camera on me at all times. Sometimes it's something beautiful. Sometimes it's something that makes me laugh (usually out loud, by myself. But, it's ok. Everyone's already staring anyways, might as well give them a show, right?). Sometimes it's something that makes me think, "Only in Malaysia." Here are some of those moments:

A "beautiful" moment. If we leave at the right time, we get to see a gorgeous sunrise view of  the city every morning from our 19th floor of condo!
A "beautiful" moment. They're so magnificent all lit up and shiny.
A "beautiful" moment. This was a display outside the Petronas Towers. Don't know the occasion, but it was beautiful! They were doing all sorts of neat water tricks and various fountain patterns!

A "laugh out loud" moment". Is this the sequel, prequel, or actual Stomp the Yard? Why are they stomping ON the yard? Molly Wacek almost received this for her birthday present! :)
An "only in Malaysia" moment. I came home from school one day and saw all this caution tape. Didn't take me long to figure out why! Apparently the lady driving (surprise?) ;) thought she was in reverse and laid on the accelerator. Why you would push it that hard in a parking garage in the first place, I'm not sure.

A "laugh out loud, only in Malaysia moment". A full-sized suit of armor. On sale for 20% off. At ACE HARDWARE! Why is Ace Hardware selling this?! Why? Peter Kuhr almost got this for his birthday present!

A "laugh out loud" moment. The "Western Food" and "Personal Care" aisle at the grocery store was 75% alcoholic beverages and 25% fatty junk food. Good job, America. You've really made a name for yourself. :)
An "only in Malaysia" moment. I can't think of any restaurant I'd like to eat at more than "60s Teow Chew Fishball".

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dragon Fruit

I've already told you about my grocery shopping escapades. They're intense. One reason being there are so many new and unusual items for sale. Case in point: Dragon Fruit. I've heard of these, seen them at the store, and I think my favorite smoothie at the local food court is Dragon Fruit/Mango. I've been eating a lot more fruits and vegetables lately and I think it's been making me more adventurous. So, after living here 6 months, I decided it was time to take the plunge and see what this Dragon Fruit was all about.

I cut one open tonight (why I even bought two in the first place is beyond me!) and here's what I found:

First thought: "Wow. Not all Dragon Fruit is pink." Below is a picture of the smoothie I mentioned. Based on the color of the skin of the fruit and the color of the smoothie, I'm sure you can see why I might have assumed that it was.
But, no. Apparently, there's white Dragon Fruit, Red Dragon Fruit, and Yellow Dragon Fruit.

Second thought: "It tastes kind of like nothing." It took me more than 6 bites to decide if I liked it or not. I'm still not really sure. I don't not like it and it's supposedly pretty good for you, so I'll probably end up eating it again.

Third thought: "So THAT'S what they've been trying to serve me at restaurants all this time!" I always thought the slimy fruit with all the black spots was lychees, but apparently I was way wrong. Lychees are just slimy and white. No black spots.

Fourth thought: "I don't want to throw this fruit away since I kind of like it. Let me make it into a smoothie instead because then I won't be able to taste it too much, but can still get the health benefits (anti-oxidants, high fiber, low calorie) and not waste it." Making smoothies is my new thing. They're so refreshing. So easy to make. And so hard to mess up. Case in point: The one I made tonight was mango, dragon fruit, banana, flaxseed powder, and coconut milk... and scrumptious. Who knew you could randomly thrown 10 things into a food processor and come out with a yummy dinner?

It may not look quite as beautiful as the one above, but I definitely wouldn't turn it down!

Tomorrow's 'new food' adventure: kale, banana, and pineapple smoothie. I'm not kidding. Haha. Here's to hoping!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

I think Valentine's ranks up there with my favorite holidays. And considering I've not had a Valentine more frequently than I have, I guess that's saying something. :) I just love the opportunity to remind people of how special they are to me. I'm a firm believer in showing it all year round, but let's be honest, that would be expensive. Haha. This year's Valentine's Day was spectacular.

Now, I was a little concerned, because it's not a huge thing here. When I sent the letter home to parents regarding our party, I made sure to tell them not to stress about it because I had a feeling Valentine's might be difficult to find here. When I finally got out to the store on February 13th, that feeling was confirmed. :) Out of three stores I visited, this was the largest Valentine's Day display that I saw....

ALMOST as many options as at Walmart, right?! ;)
Needless to say, we had a lot of homemade cards and creativity for treats! However, the day was still superb. Before school even started, I was given a cupcake from some of the high school students. Then, my students came in all adorable as ever and super stoked for the 'holiday'. We read a cheesy Valentine's Day book for reading, did Valentine's themed activities for literacy work, and made our "Valentine Mailboxes". While making the mailboxes, I was complimenting one student on how proud I was because he was taking his time and putting in so much effort (not his usual when it comes to art projects). He smiled and said, "I know. Did you know that today is the first time I ever even cared about or liked Valentine's Day?" Aww. That made me smile. :)

They all got very creative and crafty! I was impressed!
At snack time, my co-teacher handed out homemade chocolate chip cookies. When I got back to my classroom, I found a dozen beautifully wrapped roses on my desk! A COMPLETELY unexpected surprise from my momma! This alone was enough to keep me smiling for the rest of the day, but of course it just kept being amazing. 
It may have taken me approximately 10 minutes to finally get all the wrapping off.
Around this same time, my sister received a bouquet that I had ordered for her and had nothing but the sweetest things to say. Of course, this made my heart extremely happy, too. :) During chapel, we had a good lesson on God's love and what that really means and should look like in our lives. We followed this up with a brief history on how Valentine's Day actually started (which apparently is all just legend?) and then went downstairs to have  our little celebration. The kids had been looking forward to the party all day (I swear it's like they smell the sugar in the room and get instantly hyper!) and when we got to the cafeteria before the other classes a few of them turned to me and said, "Where's the party?" Haha.
I replied, "We are the party." But they didn't like that much and could hardly contain themselves while they waited for the other kids to arrive. While they waited, they handed out their valentines and candy. It went a LOT more quickly having only 5 students than it did last year with 26! But they still ended up with way more than enough sugar and extremely happy. When the other class showed up, we enjoyed cookies, brownies, strawberry soda and chips.
Carolina and Naomi. So much cuteness.
Josiah and Elissa. Up to no good, of course. ;)
Naomi and Andar. Such sweethearts.
It's chowtime.

Within approximately 4 minutes, everyone had finished eating and I thought the room was going to explode with energy, so we took them outside to play "Steal My Heart".... the Valentine's version of Steal the Bacon. :)
I tricked them into thinking I was going to call a number when all I actually planned to do was snap this picture. Suckers.
So, yeah. All that to say, the day was exceptional. Full of love, happiness, and wonderful reminders of how blessed I am. After school, I worked with a 4-year-old girl to help her learn English. She's adorable, so just more sweetness.
When I finally got home at 6:00, I called up Papa John and asked him to be my Valentine. He was prompt, hott, non-judgmental and always just a phone call away. Quite a perfect date, if you ask me.

I hope each and every one of you had a Valentine's Day just as special as mine. It's a terrific special occasion and I hope if you're one of the "Singles Awareness Day" celebrators that your

I asked a co-worker if wearing heart earrings and necklace for V-Day was the same as wearing snowflake or pumpkin earrings on other holidays. She assured me that yes, I had officially become "that teacher". I am perfectly fine with that. :)

One other highlight from my day is that we took a class picture and it actually turned out reallllly well! (Minus the fact that it's missing one student! Haha). What a bunch of cuties I've been blessed with!