Monday, January 28, 2013

Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping in Malaysia has been one of the most trying experiences for me thus far. It's exhausting.

First, you have to find the items you're looking for. For the most part, it's decently arranged and the more I go, the easier it is to find things. I still don't understand why there are 4 different sections of refrigerated juices... and a whole aisle of non-refrigerated juices four aisles away. And other such questions. :)

Then, you have to find replacements for items you're looking for that can't be found or are super expensive in Malaysia. I've only found cottage cheese at one store. It's expensive and it doesn't taste good. I wanted to use it in quiche the other day, but had to substitute in yogurt instead. You can't buy frozen spinach, so I have to use regular spinach. The brown sugar is red.. should I still buy it?

While I grocery shop, I also am constantly doing all sorts of math in my head (or sometimes on my phone's calculator... haha). Divide the price by 3 to get the US $ equivalent. Compare to what I remember the prices being in the States. Is it WORTH $6 for a box of pop-tarts? No, probably not. Should I buy them anyways? No, probably not. Will anyone reading this send me a box of pop-tarts in a care package? No, probably not. :)

Did I also mention that if I go grocery shopping on Sundays, it's like an episode of Hunger Games: Adult Version? There are people everywhere, elbows flying to be the first in line at the vegetable weigh station, cart racing, line cutting (with or without machetes... to be determined), and pretty much just all out chaos!

Another thing that makes grocery shopping so exhausting and dreadful? White Fungus. Quail eggs. Fatt Choy. Corn-Flavored Ice Cream. That is correct. Those are real items I have seen at the grocery store while shopping. It's almost as if I live in Asia where they have really weird tastes or something?! See for yourself. Others, not pictured include, chicken feet, fishballs, and numerous items that I don't recognize or care to identify!

So, I make it to the check-out and this part has become less exhausting and more funny. Although, still ridiculous. As I'm checking out, if there's an item with no tag or veggies that I forgot to weigh, the cashier looks at me and says, "No price. Do you want?" In my first few months, I semi-freaked out each time and said firmly, "Yes, I want it. I'll go find a price. Now, let me ask you a question, WHY WOULD IT BE IN MY CART IF I DIDN'T WANT IT?!"  After living here 6 months, though, now my response is a smile and "No". Notice to all who are reading this: Do not grow attached to anything at a store in Malaysia until after you have checked out. Chances are as good as not that you will leave without it. :)

Finally, the MOST exhausting part of grocery shopping in Malaysia is going home. I don't have a car here. There is a service road blocked off by a barrier that separates me from the street with taxis. I may not have always been considered the strongest girl around, but let me tell you, I've learned how to carry some groceries! There has been more than once where I physically lost feeling in my fingers because the plastic bag handles were cutting off my circulation, but it comes back. :) So, yeah, carry them to the taxi, put them down while I negotiate a price, pick them back up and put them in the taxi (or carry them to the next taxi), ride home, carry them up the elevator and across the apartment complex until they finally find my kitchen. I sure do miss my garage that backed up to the kitchen on grocery shopping days!

Thankfully, I love to cook and love eating even more, so even a weekly grocery-shopping adventure is not enough to keep me away! And, the longer I'm here, the easier it gets. Maybe by the time I leave in a year and a half I'll actually like corn ice cream and fishballs. Or maybe not.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Past, Present, and Future: Addendum

Last week, I posted about how my students were learning past, present, and future. It's still a little difficult for some of the to differentiate, but given that they're only 5 years old, I think they have time to figure it out. Like when "last week" doesn't feel the same as a year ago in your short little existence.

As a culminating activity/assessment, I had them do a "Show Me" Quiz. Each kid had a little handmade booklet with 3 index cards inside. One card said Past, one said Present, one said Future. I put up a slide show with an assortment of pictures and for each one, they had to choose the correct card, put it in their 'Show Me Wallet' and hold it up once everyone was ready. It's a quick way to do a group assessment and easier to administer and grade than a paper and pencil test!

The part that really struck me as strange, though, was when I showed the kids a couple of pictures I had found of "the future". It was so weird, because as they were ooh-ing and ahh-ing over them, I mentioned that they'll very likely see these things in their lifetimes. Their first cars might be flying cars. Their first computer might be like the one shown here. It's crazy to think about. But, then, it's just as crazy for them to imagine their 26-year-old teacher not getting her first cell phone until high school, not using the internet until middle school, and not knowing how to use her iPad as well as they do! :)


These guys never turn out well in movies. I think we should delay work on them. :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Homemade Applesauce: Take 1

While writing my weekly menu (that's right, I do that. Be jealous!), I found a recipe for breakfast muffins that sounded delish! I've yet to check for Oat Bran, but you can get everything else here, so I was super stoked about making these. Of course, I won't be making muffins, but a "cake" because all I have to cook with is my teeny little toaster oven that can't fit a muffin tin. When I saw that the recipe used applesauce instead of apples, I remembered my mom had told me making homemade applesauce was super easy. Since it's about $2 US per little snack-pack size here, I figured homemade was worth a shot! I googled an easy recipe and stopped at the store on the way home from church and got the ingredients I still needed... apples and Brandy. :)

Butter, apple juice, apples, honey, cinnamon, Brandy... total cost: $5 US. (Don't mind our messy counter!)
The recipe said just stick everything in a microwaveable container in the microwave and cook for 10 minutes. I did this. Took it out, the lid of my 'microwaveable container' was half-melted, but the apples were still crispy. So, I threw it all in a pot on the stove and boiled it for 10 more minutes. I don't have a hand-mixer here, so after what felt like forever using the potato masher, I finally had my applesauce! I took a bite while it was warm. It's scrumptious. Never going back to packaged! (At least until I move to America where it's just as cheap and a whole lot easier!)

It's still a little clumpy, but it's as good as I can get with this utensil! Hopefully it'll just add some flavor to my muffins!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Past, Present, & Future

A few days ago, I blogged about how there were some things that I never realized needed to be explicitly taught, things I just assumed everyone knew. This week's Social Studies is another prime example. We're spending an entire week defining and exploring the terms Past, Present, and Future.

It's hard to remember that a) my students only have 7-years (max) under their belts, so the "past" doesn't mean a whole lot to them and b) floppy disks were SO long ago, I can't even begin to explain what a telegraph or beeper were! Haha.

To introduce the unit, I pulled up a picture from my past, present and (hopefully) future. I think it helped them understand the terms a little better. They have a project to do the same (bring in an object or picture from their past, present, and future), so I'm excited to see what they come up with.

Here's what I showed them:
PAST. (L to R: Tim, Molly, Steph, Stacy)... Not sure why I thought I needed to pick Molly up for this one. She's almost as big as me!
PRESENT. (L to R: Tim, Steph, Stacy, Molly.) At my cousin's wedding in Dec 2012
FUTURE. (Which is why I said hopefully! Haha!)
 I'll admit, it took a little explaining and reiterating that that was NOT ACTUALLY ME wearing the wedding dress, it just symbolized that I wanted to get married in my future. I think they finally got it.

Tomorrow we're talking about changes in transportation. This oughta be fun!

Friday, January 11, 2013

SunBear News

Our school has 22 students. It's not hard to pass around information and news, so we have no real need for morning announcements. In an attempt to build school unity and give the older students a creative outlet, though, the middle/high school students have produced a weekly Newscast for us every Friday. They're always semi-goofy, semi-informational, and all around fantastic. My kids LOVE going to the high school room every Friday to see what hilarious things will be in the morning show.

However, as the semester draws to a close, the older students are busy finishing up classwork and other responsibilities, and have decided to take a break from the Newscast for a few weeks. So as to prevent any heartbroken 1st graders, I said we'd take a shot at it. We teamed up with the 3rd and 4th graders to produce our very first SunBear News.

Here it is! Enjoy!

(P.S. The new student is in my room (bringing me to a whopping 5!) and he really is as hilarious, energetic, and adorable as he appears. More stories to come from him for certain!)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sour Milk Ice Cream?

Having taught 4th grade the past three years, sometimes I look at my new curriculum and say, "I really have to teach THAT?" Not because it's something I don't want to or is bad to teach, but because it's something you'd never think someone couldn't know. Haha. How do you not know how to read the words 'a' and 'I'? They're letter words. Also, how do you not know what money is? Teaching Kindergarten has given me a whole new appreciation for parents and other Kindergarten teachers. You wouldn't even believe the list of things that actually need to be taught.

Another example is solids, liquids, and gases. I understand that those are semi-big words, but explaining the definitions and concepts behind each was a lot harder than I was expecting. I thought I'd introduce it and the kids would just throw the vocab on substances they already knew very easily. I was wrong. It took about 3 days before they finally seemed to grasp the fact that liquids were liquidy and solids held their shape. (Even this is not a good definition because they keep finding exceptions like toothpaste and play-doh!) To try and provide real-life examples of the states of matter, I found an 'experiment' online for making ice cream in a bag. It looked awesome, had all the components of what needed to be taught and I could find all the ingredients in Malaysia.

Wednesday arrived. I got my kids pumped for our 'experiment' and even more excited for ice cream. And then, Malaysia happened.
Problem #1: I forgot vanilla. (Ok, so that was my fault, not Malaysia's, but still...)
Problem #2: Boxed milk. It doesn't taste like milk... probably because it's some processed nastiness that can sit in a box on a shelf for months on end. But, that's what we had to work with. Also, I bought low-fat, which a teacher later told me was dumb because we were making ICE CREAM.
Problem #3: Zip-loc bags. You can buy them here, but the selection is very limited and they're way over-priced. Ideally, for the experiment, you have a quart-sized heavy duty freezer bag and a sandwich sized regular bag. We just had two regular sandwich bags per kid. The ice kept puncturing them and water started flying all over the place.
Problem #4: I live on the equator. It's supposed to take 5 minutes to shake the milk into ice cream. My kids hands got frost-bite and we still ended up with a 'milk shake' texture at best. So much for the term 'solid'.

My first student to finish was too afraid to try it (Really? You had just watched me pour milk and sugar into a bag? What could POSSIBLY be scary about it?), so he gave it to a 3rd grader who happened to be observing our craziness. The brave soul took one sip (yes, it was still very liquidy) and got a disgusted look on his face. When asked to describe it he said, "It tastes like salty sour milk." Excellent.

One of my kids said he was never going to eat ice cream again. Doubtful. Another kid said, "Why would you make us do this awful experiment?"
To which I replied, "I made it in America and it tasted really yummy!"
She said, "Well, then can't we make the American version?" Sorry, dear. I wish we could. I wish we could.

We went upstairs to take a quiz after the excitement of the afternoon and they almost all aced it, so it must have been at least a somewhat productive experiment!

Their facial expressions are priceless. :)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Longest Layover

Visiting Saudi Arabia was never on my bucket list. But, since I spent 8 hours there yesterday, I might consider adding it and crossing it off. The past few times I've flown around the world, I've had my layover in Korea. Seoul has an incredible airport. Free hot showers, free massage chairs, free internet, nice lounging chairs, a mall, Starbucks, etc. Saudi has a sort of different feel.... as in, opposite.
The airport (or at least the part 'transfers' are allowed in) consists of one giant room with three tiny cafes. There are tables for eating at, or waiting room chairs for sitting. There are bathrooms and a duty free store. There are signs around that say 'Wi-Fi Zone', but I had no luck getting online. Here are some of the thoughts I had while enduring my 8 hour layover:

"Wow. There are only 2 other white people in this whole airport."
"Wow. There are only 2 other people wearing pants in this whole airport." (Apparently dresses are a "thing" here.)
"I've never wished for a traveling companion more than I do right now."
"Soggy chicken nuggets at (what my body thinks is) 6 a.m. is not my meal of choice. I'm glad it was free." (Props to Saudi Airlines for 2 free meal vouchers for my stay! That's a perk Korean Air doesn't provide!)
"Arabs have beautiful faces."
"I really wish I had someone with me to experience this."
"I'm back in the land of squatty potties, BYO toilet paper, and wet toilet seats."
"If you didn't know your gender before arriving, you will by the time you leave!" (There are separate male and female entrances for everything!)
"Is the peel tab top on my soda can more or less effective than the pop top on the cans in America?"
"What am I going to do for the remaining 7.5 hours of my layover?"
"The only thing worse than soggy chicken nuggets at 6 am is soggy chicken nuggets AGAIN at 10 am. At least they're still free."

Needless to say, although it was 3 hours shorter than my last layover, it was THE longest layover of my life to date! However, I survived, and of course, now have stories to tell!