Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Blog Title Will Be Changing Soon

I've long dreamed of visiting 100 countries.  So far, I've made it to 67.  At the end of July, during the week between summer/regular school, I'll be visiting Bangkok and Siem Reap.  That means Cambodia will be my 68th country.  I'm excited about going there and especially seeing Angkor Wat.

I have three weeks off at Christmas and while my plans aren't firm, I'm planning to visit Malaysia (#69) and Laos.  If I can get good deals on air, I'm also hoping to visit Sri Lanka.

If you've been to any of these places and have suggestions about what to see/do and where to stay, please let me know!

More Photo Updates - Playing Tourist Around Mandalay

And the fun continues...
Still in Pyin Oo Lwin, we headed to the famous waterfall.  Having lived in the south Pacific it was quite a let down.  

This guy was enjoying the cool water, though.

These folks saw me taking a photo of the man in the water and came up to take my photo - they're all related and live in Mandalay.

View of Mandalay from the road coming down the mountain.  POL isn't far but the road is all switchbacks as you climb to a much higher elevation.

I cut these roses down so they'd fit in my mug.  They cost a whopping $.80 for a dozen.

My assistant teachers are awesome and made this bulletin board.  First grade has come a long way from Dick, Jane, Spot and Puff.

We celebrated Sally's birthday with a cake her mom brought.  She also provided balloons and hats for the kids.  She brought a bunch of bananas and rambutan for the teachers and I and a beautiful piece of amber for me.  It's believed to bring good health when you wear it.

I needed something notarized and shipped back to the USA.  I was told only the highest ranking attorneys could do it.  I had an appointment and expected an office but the attorney works out of his home.  The man working/kneeling is a junior attorney.

This is the 81 year old married attorney.  He asked me out as he notarized the documents.

The process included a seal.

Friday night I had the best meal I've had in Mandalay at Mr. Barbecue (on 71st at 31st).  You choose a table then walk over to select what items you want.  The food is then grilled and brought to your table.  I thought it was ironic that the dishes were sealed while there were flies crawling all over the food.  I didn't mind since I figured it would be cooked.  And, I ate a lot of flies when living in Samoa.

I enjoyed dinner with Glenn.  We met when he and his mom visited Samoa in 2012.  We've stayed in touch and finally reconnected.  He came to visit me in Mandalay for 4 days on his way to vacation in Phuket with his family.  He's originally from Taiwan and attends Michigan State.  We ordered a ton of food and ate it all.

In the foreground are grilled green peppers - similar to poblanos.  At the top of the photo is a plate with (from left) potatoes, a type of nut and mushrooms.  It's a bit ironic, the first time I tasted these large nuts was in Salelologa, Samoa, with Glenn.  They're delicious, by the way.

Chicken stuffed with vegetables and grilled.

Two giant prawns.  Unbelievably good.

Did I mention we ordered a lot of food?  This is a list of items we bought.  All the food, two draft beers and 4 large glasses of freshly squeezed fruit juice (grape, orange, watermelon) came to a whopping $21.  I'll be going back to Mr. Barbecue frequently!

On Saturday, Glenn and I enjoyed breakfast at a tea shop then headed to the monkey pagoda.  We drove past rice paddies on our way.  

We stopped on our way and bought bananas and sunflower seeds for the monkeys that live at the pagoda.  A monk said there were over 1,000 of them.  To get to the pagoda, head out of Mandalay on 35th and turn right onto the Pynn Oo Lwin road (35 dead ends into it).  Take the first left toward the rice paddies and follow it to the pagodas.  It's about a 10 minute drive from the main road.

The monkeys loved the bananas and took them from our hands. 
Saving his banana for later.

In addition to the monkeys, there are pagodas, built on a steep hill.

I don't speak enough Myanmar to know exactly what she was saying but the gist was clearly that she wants Glenn as her boyfriend.  Several people spoke to him in Myanmar, assuming he was a local.
I met these kids at the monkey pagoda.  We now have photos of each other.

Very close to the pagoda is a monastery.  Our taxi driver took us there because I'd said I was interested in mediation and they offer classes there.  I was quickly surrounded by kids and discovered they're orphans who live at the monastery.  I plan to go back and take crayons and puzzles and teach them some English.  They seem to have a good teacher already and all knew how to count and the abc's.

After our morning at the pagoda and monastery, we headed to Diamond Plaza.  We decided to try VIP Korean Barbecue, which is across the street from Diamond.  It was good but not what I'd call authentic Korean food.  This fish was delicious.

Speaking of Korean food, I bought this package of "ramen-like" noodles recently.  Couldn't resist the description.  Glenn said he's had it before and it's good but a bit on the sweet side.

After lunch, shopping at Diamond and a break to have some fresh fruit juice, we went to get pampered.  We went to a typical local beauty salon (although salon is really stretching it).  I think Glenn was a bit leery but he was up to give it a try.  We both had the hour-long shampoo/massage combo that is typical here.  In this case, while one person (woman for me, man for Glenn) shampooed us and massaged face, head, neck and shoulders, another person massaged the rest of us.  That included walking on us (after the shampoo was over and we could lie on our stomachs) and doing some serious stretching stuff.

Next came the foot and leg massage, which was heavenly.  The two hours of pampering cost $9 each.  We were having so much fun we forgot to take photos.  At one point during the foot massage I was laughing so hard I almost wet myself.  I'm really going to miss Glenn.

Our next stop was the Yandarabon Hotel, where Glenn was saying.  It was now after 8:00 p.m. and we were going to the rooftop restaurant for a drink, dinner and the free puppet show.  The food was only average but it's a lovely setting and the free puppet show was terrific.  At sunset, they offer free run sours to enjoy as you watch the sunset.

After the show and dinner, Glenn walked me out to our waiting driver.  It was sad to say goodbye but I look forward to seeing him again.  With any luck he can meet me in Malaysia at Christmas.

Update in Photos

I've been slow in posting lately.  Partly because I'm lazy and I've been busy, but mostly because the internet has been even worse than usual lately.  Rather than boring you with a long narrative of my recent adventures, here are some photos of what I've been up to.

Mickey D. at Don Mueang airport in Bangkok, giving the traditional sign of respect.

Taro isn't just popular in the South Pacific.  It was sold out at the MacDonalds in the Bangkok airport.

I sold my chairs to a new teacher and replaced them with these.

I've gone all uptown.  Bought this microwave from a teacher who moved on to China.

This was the start of a powerful storm.  The view from my kitchen window.

My Saturdays usually start with breakfast at a typical Myanmar tea shop, followed by grocery shopping and a shampoo and massage.  Life is very good in Mandalay. 

Made a day trip to Pyin Oo Lwin, about 1 1/2 hours away.  Up in the mountains, it's cooler and absolutely beautiful.  The town is small and lovely and I plan to spend a lot more time there.

View from a pagoda in Pyin Oo Lwin.

People in Mandalay take my picture occasionally but it was crazy in POL.  This family took my photo with them as a group and with each individual.  It was fun. 
Between photos, I admired this Buddha.  Made of marble, it is covered with gold.

Outside the pagoda.

At the caves, which felt like part amusement park and part shrine, this guy was trying to sneak a photo of me.  I noticed him and smiled and motioned for him to take my photo while I took his.

Nuns on vacation, posing in front of the cave.

The cave is filled with religious statues.

My POL traveling buddies.  From left, Cat (USA), Kannaki (Singapore) and Rialda (S. Africa).  Fellow teachers.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Great First Week of Summer School

Maybe I'm counting my chickens before they're hatched, since it's only Thursday night, but so far the first week of summer school has been great.

I think we're in the honeymoon phase.  The kids are excited about all things new and so well behaved.  Or maybe it's because they're technically second graders, more mature and know the rules.  In either case, we're all having fun.

The daily schedule is different than the regular school year and focused on reading, writing and speaking in English.  And fun.  While a few kids have vacationed and spoken no English for a couple of months, many have continued to study.  It was gratifying this morning when we were talking about parts of speech that most of my students from last year remembered the difference between nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.

One challenge is that it is hot.  Triple digit, humid hot. All staff but the foreign teachers do not have the luxury of air conditioning at home.  That makes it hard to sleep.  And yet, they continue to smile and work like crazy.  The rainy season was supposed to arrive in June and help cool things off but we're still waiting.

Another challenge, for me, is Justin Bieber.  I'm not a fan but the kids are.  And, before school, I play a variety of classical and popular music while the kids work on puzzles and homework.  The Biebster is very popular with the younger set.

I started Monday morning with a cold and am happy to report that I'm feeling much better. Did you know that first graders move constantly?  They are filled with energy.  They talk, they fidget, they sing and dance.  That's a lot for a senior citizen to keep up with.  The cold didn't help.  But I held my own, even dancing along to the Biebster.  And One Direction.  And a couple of other groups I don't know the names of.  I don't dance well but I have great enthusiasm.

One change for summer school is that one day a week I have lunch with a team of kids.  We "dine" in the classroom and I remind them of their manners.  The first group went really well.  They were fascinated by the leftover tuna casserole I'd brought for lunch.  They agreed it looked and smelled disgusting.  That was an opinion delivered by kids eating tiny fried whole fish, heads and all.

On Wednesday, I opted to go shopping in a taxi right after school rather than waiting for the bus to leave later.  I'm glad I did.  I was able to stop and custom order a stool for my classroom ($18), buy my groceries and get frozen food home still frozen.

Sadly, the mind games at the grocery store continue.  We had cheese, then we didn't.  Then we did.  Now, it's very limited again.  Mozzarella but no cheddar.  We had pasta but now we don't.  We had bacon but now it's gone again.  But there were lots of olives.  I didn't buy any because I have an unopened jar but what if they're gone by the weekend?

In any case, the week has been a success.  The kids and I have a new schedule which seems to be working.  In my cards and games club, I have kids in both groups I teach who are addicted to playing Uno with me, which I think is great fun.  Just one question.  Is it bad to teach first graders to talk smack about playing cards?