Belgium

BELGIUM:  BRUGGE  We traveled to Belgium from Paris.  Belgium is a very small country in between France and Holland, it borders Germany and Luxembourg.  The people in Belgium know a lot of languages.  It is amazing. If you live in South part you know French and Flemmish (the Belgium language 0f 55% of the population). In the North part you know Dutch/German and Flemish.  And everyone also knows English. They are the best English speakers in all of Europe, perfect dialect and all.  They must have to process a lot of languages through their head.  We visited a Mid – Evil city named Brugge.  It was INCREDIBLE.

 FUN FACT:   BRUGGE: Bruges, the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium, is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings

These are our first sights while walking to our hotel.

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We walked from the train station to our hotel with our wheelie suitcases and all. 15 minute walk and every sight was cool on the way.  Instantly we could see this city is very old and different.  Nothing has changed and it is World Heritage site so they are not allowed to change things. Even in the MacDonalds it was in an old building with no “M” on it.  The buildings cant change but the stores (what they sell) have obviously changed with the times . Every street looked very similar to this. It was easy to get lost but just as easy to find our way back. We just looked up at the big tower and headed that way.IMG_2604IMG_2557

So many canals and bridges and cobbled streets.  We rented bikes for 2 days. The city is small and everything is in biking and walking distance.  We even went out to a small town called “Damme’ that was 6KM away by  bike. We passed windmills, canals, horses, fields and very old houses. (This is mom’s favorite picture of us) Just after this, iIMG_2558t started to rain so we went into the first restaurant we saw and had our first “BELGIUM WAFFLE”  Yum. They put whipped cream, fruit and chocolate on it . No maple syrup (that is a US and Canadian thing).  IMG_2562IMG_2566Belgium is known for its Chocolate and Waffles. We saw so many chocolate shops and I even went to a “Chocolate Story Museum.”  I learned how chocolate is grown from a pod and made.IMG_2603

Basically The Cocoa Pods grow in Central America, they grow on low hanging trees,  they pick the Cocoa pod, get the beans out (about 30-40 per pod), dry them, ship them over to factories in Europe where they crush, and mix them with spices and sugars to make chocolate drops that are packaged and shipped all over the world. Then the factories that receive the chocolate drops melt it and form it into whatever they want.  For example, Hershey’s may melt them into chocolate bars or Hershey kisses.   I learned a lot about Chocolate and it was interesting. In ancient times they grinded the cocoa beans by hand.IMG_2585

Fun Fact:  Cocoa was once considered a drink for the “rich” only. In Europe they had Cocoa establishments (like bars) and people went to get a cup of chocolate water or milk. Cocoa beans were used as currency in South America by the Aztec’s .  For Example: One cocoa bean was traded for one egg. 13 cocoa beans were traded for a squirrel.  Even for clothes.

We got to see how the Belgium chocolate molds are used and we sampled a lot of chocolate. So much that I couldn’t eat anymore of it (So we took it with us).

Riding in the city was cool. They had bell towers, great streets of cobblestone and not many cars at all, and they all looked after the bikers. The canals had swans in them. A lot of swans. A chocolate or candy shop on every corner giving free samples.  I tried all of them. Sawyer too. He was in heaven. We purchased some too.  Check out the old buildings in BRUGGE.  IMG_2597IMG_2608 IMG_2529 IMG_2576There were not many tourists at all during the time we were here (off season) so we had the main square practically to ourselves.  Something that would never happen in summer. We rode around and around. IMG_2574 IMG_2581 IMG_2598

I liked Brugge a lot and glad we chose this city to visit instead of the Capitol , Brussles. We went here on advise from someone we met in Paris who told us about Brugge.  So glad my parents took his advise.

If you have any questions I can be reached at rileymeckley@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Holland.

Holland is also called “The Netherlands” Before coming to Holland the only thing I knew about this country was that they were AWESOME in the last Winter Olympics , especially in speed skating, and that ORANGE is the color of the Netherland’s uniform ( I am a big fan of the Olympics). Beside speed skating, Holland is famous for its tulips that  grow in the spring.   Now that I have been here I really love this country and the people living here.

Located in Northern Europe, between Belgium and Germany, the Netherland’s has a lot of coastline and 1,000’s of Canal waterways. We arrived in Amsterdam , the Capitol, from Belgium by train.  (I will post on Belgium in a few days).  It was practically empty and we did some school work and looked out the window.  The ride was about 3 hours. IMG_2514

My favorite part of Holland is the time I spent at the ANDERSEN SCHOOL in Woerden, Netherlands.  My family met a woman named Afke while we were in Australia.  She also volunteered in South East Asia as a teacher too just like Mom did. She invited us to her classroom if we ever made it to Amsterdam.   (I talked about her in the blog on the Great Barrier Reef).

Afke speaks great English and Sawyer and I  were very excited to go to school with her.  We had to take a 30 minute train from Amsterdam to get there and then walk about 10 minutes to get to the school. We had to leave at 7am. My parents would meet Afke at the train station with us and she would take us to the school with her.  How cool is that….

IMG_2647  IMG_2685 IMG_2645 IMG_4479My parents came to visit the last half hour one day so we got some great pictures.  IMG_4474These were the girls I met. I know if I could have stayed at the Andersen school more days we would have been great friends. During the day Ms. Afke taught the kids a lot of things, even English and a Math lesson and a History video on the stone age. It was in Dutch (their language) but I still got it. They did Math with computer tablets and I helped with the problems.  IMG_4433Some of the word problems were in Dutch but I looked at the numbers and figured out the problems.  My partner and I  got a lot correct.  I also was asked to present THIS BLOG to the class. IMG_4446IMG_4450I only had time to talk about The Great Barrier Reef, the kids asked questions in Dutch and Ms. Afke translated to English and then back to Dutch again.  I was impressed with how much English some kids already know.  In Holland they learn from Kindergarden English and Dutch.   IMG_4451 IMG_4425IMG_4429Ms. Afke has a very nice classroom. We eat lunch and snack in there and did our lessons also.  My favorite part about the school is playing with the kids at Gym (they call it Gymnastics) and outside at recess. The Gym was at another school which was a 5 minute walk away.  We played really awesome games with cool obstacles involved. I played “tic” at recess which is the Dutch word for “tag.”  We met a boy from the USA, he was from Baltimore, Maryland and has been living in Holland for about a month. He was the same age as me and learning Dutch too. IMG_4460

This was the class. Ms. Afke is a great teacher, I can tell the kids love her.  Try and locate Sawyer and I.  Unlike the schools we went to in Cambodia and Thailand, here we blend in!  We had a lot of fun and enjoyed learning and playing with all the kids.  I will keep in touch with the class  by email….Class…. when you read this please e-mail me. I say Hello to everyone and miss all of you.  Thank you Afke, we will all miss you. Hopefully we will see you when you come to New York.

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AMSTERDAM: What a great city! 

First thing we all noticed when we got off the train was the number of BIKES in the city.  OMG!!!!! IMG_4419People ride everywhere and there are dedicated bike lanes next to the road that are Only for bicycles. Very cool. I learned the central train station has 2,900 parking spots for bikes but 9,000 people leave bikes there. They have double decker bike parking. IMG_4380 Of course WE had to get in on the action and rent a bike for the day. The bikes don’t have gears because it is really flat . IMG_4404 Our friend Afke gave us great suggestions on where to go in the city.  We took her advise and rode by VondellparkIMG_4393 .IMG_4397 (2)We saw tons and tons of canals and I really liked seeing all the Houseboats. It is not really a boat, most can not even be moved, they reside in the water though. Some boats can be moved. They were all different. Some were even made of brick, some 2 stories, and the Houseboats have their own parking space in the water and park the bikes on the street. They have their own address and mailbox.  I would like to live on a houseboat for a month or two, I think it would be fun. You can see the Houseboats on the sides of the canals….

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Most are rectangular shaped and look like a trailer but in the water. We saw families in them and some have wood stoves for heat.

We rode around a lot of bridges that go over the canals. The houses are all narrow and skinny, they all have different “gables” some are triangular.   You can see the differences in the houses here.IMG_4389It was very scenic to ride around and just get lost through the streets and over the canals.

IMG_4374IMG_2630  IMG_4390It is winter here and I can imagine how beautiful it would look in summer time here.  One day it was raining out so we took a Canal boat tour along the canals.  It was interesting to see the city from the water.IMG_2708

Fun Facts about Amsterdam:

Dutch people are the tallest in the world (maybe that’s why we felt so “short”)

86% of Dutchies speak English as a second language

All Dutch kids learn English in school and visitors to Amsterdam are often impressed with the fluency with which the Dutch speak English.

The Nederlands is the largest beer exporter in the world.  In 2001, Dutch beer companies exported an astonishing volume of 1.3 billion liters of beer abroad. Half of that was shipped to the U.S.!

 

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Another day we went to THE ANN FRANK HOUSE.  It is the most visited site in Amsterdam.  I read the book earlier in my trip and looked forward to visiting this.  Here is a short summary of the story.

FUN FACT: Ann Frank was a 13 yr old girl born in Germany and moved to Holland. During the WWII invasion of Holland by German Nazi’s  her family and a few others went into hiding at her fathers warehouse….she writes in her diary about the things that happen everyday and her thoughts.  She is a great writer and includes lots of detail. They were in hiding for 2 years (1942-44). Eventually they get found and were moved to a concentration camp and Ann died there.  The story is amazing. 

It must have been hard being in a house for 2 years and never going outside.

We studied up on Ann Frank before going to the museum. Use this link to learn a lot…http://www.annefrank.org/en/

IMG_2690 You are not allowed to take pictures inside the house, this is from the internet.. The bookcase that was the entrance to the hidden part of the house.

Seeing the actual house was interesting, I got to see all the rooms and the book really came to life. The secret annex can not be seen from the street.   If you are in Holland and you know the story you will appreciate it.  All the rooms are now empty because the Nazi Army took everything!  A museum has been built next to the original building now. Her father was the only one to survive. Her real diary, and lots of notebooks are on display in a case there.  I would include more facts but my mom is telling me to “shorten it up” and get ready for bed!  I suggest you read the book.  Sawyer is actually reading it right now!!!

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VAN GOGH MUSEUM

There is an entire museum dedicated to Vincent Van Gogh. I loved his paintings. He includes tons of short brush strokes to make beautiful pictures.  He also did many self portraits of himself.   the museum is small but it tells his story and how he taught himself to paint , moved from Holland to Paris. How he went crazy with mental illness, cut off part of his ear and then went to a mental hospital. In the last 75 days of his life he made 75 incredible paintings.  He died from shooting himself. IMG_2710

At the museum we did an art project where we had to locate certain paintings, read about them, sketch them, and use facts. It was a book we completed and then got gifts from the museum for doing it.  It was cool and we learned a lot. Mom and Dad thought Sawyer would be bored to death but he was totally into it.IMG_2714 IMG_2715IMG_2718I really wanted to see the famous “starry night” painting but it is actually in a museum in NEW YORK.  This museum even  had cool images projected of his famous work. if you have any questions about my travels my email is rileymeckley@yahoo.com      I will love to here from you and will get back as soon as I can

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Karen “long neck” Hill Tribe

I went on a multi day  trip to the Karen Hill Tribe Village in northern Thailand.

It was very fun  and tiring.  The fun part was riding the elephants and playing with the kids.  The tireing part was the 6 hour hike….let me explain

First up was hiking.  It was very hot and was through fields and woods in the hills of Thailand.  Our guide showed us all different kinds of plants, trees and fruit.  IMG_1878 (1)  this is a loofah sponge plant.  It grows with a leaf around it and you have to peel it off.  It also has seeds inside that I banged out.  Loofah sponges are used for your skin when you take a shower and they do make sponges out of the loofa plant. These were all over and we collected some.

IMG_1879We past a couple of cotton plants.  Reminds me of the song that my school sings in music class. “and we jump down, turn around, pick a bail of cotton.” very cool and I never knew cotton grew on trees or plants too.

IMG_2882 This is a bee hive. You may not notice but there are a tons of bees crawling on the hive.  This was probably the most interesting things I saw on the trek and you can click on the picture to make it bigger. (my dad couldn’t go close to the bee hive because he is allergic to bees).

IMG_2941 IMG_2881We passed lots of farm land on the trek.  They mostly grow lettuce and rice.

IMG_2875 Me walking through all the banana trees. The hike was 6 hours long!!!!!!!!!!! the hardest hike I ever did and it involved a lot of up hills and steep down hills. We stopped for lunch and had  a quick swim in a river.

IMG_2900Me sliding down a rock slide into the coldest water I have ever been in.  FREEZING cold.

IMG_2920IMG_1888 (1)we past through some small villages with only a couple of families living in each one. I learned that many of the villages in this area are all related with each other.  One village has cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles ect…

IMG_2905We past a lot of other things on our hike and I got to see coffee beans and lots of different fruit trees.  It was very educational and out tour guide told us a lot.  Some trees had single leaves that were 6 feet long. no joke! I also saw big tarantula’s.  Did you know they shed their skin just like a snake does. And the shedded skin looks like another tarantula. There were other bugs in the forest that shed their skin too and the guide pointed them out to us.

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After a very long hike we finally reached the Karen Hill Tribe village.  Unlike all the “tours” that only come in for a couple of hours by bus…., snap a few pictures, buy a souvineer and leave- we actually came here for a multi day trip and slept in the village that all the long necks live in! In a bamboo hut and everything.

IMG_1978 (1) IMG_1975 (1)This woman cooked our meals of rice and vegetables for us.

In case you don’t know ( which you probably don’t) the “long necks” are a tribe that live in the northern parts of Thailand. They are called “long necks” because the women in these tribes where rings or “brass coils” around their neck.  It is an ancient  tradition and they also wear rings on their arms and legs. Some say the rings were first used for “beauty” and others say it was to protect them from tigers.  Only the women wear them. The Karen Hill Tribe is only about 30 families in this area.  There are other village hill tribes but they all live separately from each other.

FUN FACTS:  The long neck people have been arriving in Thailand for the last 100 years.  Most are from Burma (Myanmar).  Many people consider  the Karen Hill tribe illegal immigrants, however, the Government of Thailand lets them stay in Northern Thailand because they attract tourists and bring in money (taxes) to this area. At any point  they can be told to leave Thailand and go back to Burma (Myanmar)!!!!

The Long Necks are not the only tribes in the hills.  There are also Lisu, Lahu, Meo and Akhan and others.  Each has their own language and there is no written language and most of the kids do not go to school.

The longest neck in the world is 15 inches by one of the Karen Hill Tribe women. Most people THINK it  is the neck that grows but it is actually the shoulders getting pushed down and the chin pushed up, which makes the neck appear longer.

The rings are a symbol of wealth, position and beauty. 

Research shows there are about 10 different Hill Tribes in Northern Thailand. What makes them different is the clothes they wear and their language.

Life in the hill tribes is very simple. Men work in the fields, farming or as Elephant Mahouts (handlers) or sometimes in the city if they can arrange a job there. Women stay home, take care of the house and kids and weave and cook. They live in bamboo huts, one room , they cook outside.  Nowadays, a lot of kids are choosing to NOT wear the neck rings.  Some women only continue to wear the neck rings because of the tourists who want to take photo’s and then the right thing is to purchase something they sell.  Some say that the Karen Hill Tribe is like a “human zoo” when large groups come and just take photo’s of them.  My family did not see this as we were there for overnight and no other tourists were there at this time except my family and 2 other people who were exploring this area also. They were on our hike too. Hello Emily!!! Sawyer and I were the only kids staying over and that is why the kids in the village loved playing with us. They don’t see too many foreign kids coming to their village. THe parents were interested in “us” and funny thing happened on the way to the village….a villager took a picture of Sawyer and I eating lunch.  We let him.  IMG_1953 (1)

These are only the basic facts.  I researched and did a repot on this and it is a very interesting topic.  (I want to write more facts but my mom is telling me to shorten it up).

IMG_1972 (1) I like playing with the kids from the village. They ALWAYS wanted to play with me and Sawyer.  We had to use a lot of hand signals  to communicate with each other.

IMG_1945 (2) IMG_1952 (1) IMG_1923 (1) we all played together and there was kids of all ages. We played tag, ball games, soccer(they did not have a ball and used rolled up paper) and jump rope. (as a jump rope they used tied up rubber bands)

IMG_3137here is the long neck women and one man playing a game of checkers. They drew the grid on a board and used bottle caps as the pieces. I even joined in…

IMG_3143  I  guess checkers is literally known ALL over the world! Even in the hill tribes of Thailand.  They also knew rock, paper, sizzers.

IMG_2971 Some houses of the village.  There were only about 20 bamboo  huts and the whole family slept in one room and cooked and ate outside.

More pictures of the women with the rings…but please be aware that we NEVER were obtrusive taking photo’s. Everyday life was going on and they said it was OK.  They were more interested in watching their kids playing with us anyway.

IMG_2944 IMG_2987 They sat on there porch all day. There were community showers  and toilets that they all (and us) shared. They were located in one building.

Thoughts on the Karen village: It must be hot, annoying and heavy to walk around in those neck rings.  I was very lucky to see the village because maybe in 30 or 40 years, there will be no Hill Tribe village.  The government may tell them to finally leave!!!  I saw a lot of kids not wearing the neck rings.  So I guess the population is declining.  For all I know the hill tribe may one day become extinct!

The kids  that live in the hill tribes have lives that are SO much different from my life and the life of anyone else reading this.   I realized that they only stay about a few miles within their own village most of the time.   All they know is their own village and famliy because that is the only language they speek.  Imagine your whole life being 20 families!  I came all the way around the world to see how they live, but they will never see or especially experience how I live. Totally different worlds. I could tell the kids were sad to see us go.  I went and said goodbye.IMG_2982

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ELEPHANTS

Part of the Hill Tribe is the living they make from giving Elephant rides and time spent with the Elephants.   I got to bathe some elephants.  it was SOOOOOOOOOO much fun and a great experience too. The men in the village were the Elephant Mahouts.

FUN FACT: A mahout is an elephant rider, trainer, or keeper. Usually, a mahout starts as a boy in the ‘family profession’ when he is assigned an elephant early in its life.

IMG_3116giving the elephants a bath was so cool.  I’m sure you know but elephants are HUMONGUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

the ones I bathed are Asian elephants and they are about 8 feet.  The African ones are even bigger!

FUN FACT: elephants eat 20 hours out of the day and sleep for 4.

Elephants can live as long as a human so 100 years.

Healthy adult Elephants have no preditors.  But, lions are known to attack babies.

Elephants are herbivores and eat grass, plants, branches, tree bark, berrys, mangos, coconuts,  and leaves. They drink water by using by using their trunks and can drink about 200 liters of water a day!!!!! they can survive 4 days without water.

The Karen hill tribe has about 10 elephants chained up next to there village We woke up and the Elephants are literally 100 feet away.  You may think it is sad that they are chained but that is the ONLY way possible you can keep elephants.  If you let them roam free they will destroy all the farm land and rip up the bamboo huts like we rip paper.  I think they would be able to destroy a lot of things because they are so strong and massive.

We bathed the elephants in the river next to the village and used tree bark sponges.  The skin of the elephants was very hard! I could see how a preditor wouln’t be able to kill the elephant because the skin is very thick and wrinkly. You really had to scrub the elephant hard.IMG_3072IMG_3110IMG_3107

I was on the elephants back scrubbing it and the elephant STOOD UP and started walking out of the water. IMG_3082

it was the coolest thing ever! being on an elephant is really high up and you don’t relies till you acully ride one! The elephant walked up a little hill and Sawyer and I held on as best as possible, but it was hard!  An elephant trainer had to CLIMB up the elephants trunk and onto its head, and steer us back in the water! It was so much fun to bathe AND RIDE the elephants.  They are cool animals and are now my 3rd favorite animal. I love the elephants.

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FUN FACT: There are no more wild elephant tribes in Asia.  They are all owned by people now.

Visiting and staying in the Hill Tribe was fun, especially playing with the kids.   My favorite part was riding the elephants.  They are so BIG its crazy. I will never forget my time at this Village.

I can be reached at rileymeckley@yahoo.com       feel free to email me

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

   CHIANG MAI, Thailand

  SaWaDee”…..Hello in Thai

Located in the North part of Thailand, Chiang Mai is filled with hundreds of temples, big and small and a huge Night Bazaar where you can find everything you need.

Fun Fact:  Chiang Mai was built in 1296 as a walled city surrounded by a moat. The old city was roughly 1.5km square. There are still portions of the city wall dating back 700 years.  The original moat is still in use to this day. Chiang Mai city is basically made up now of the old city (within the walled area) and the new city which has grown up around it. 

We all HAD to touch the old city wall. And go through the Gate to the City, Tha Phay Gate, which we went through each night. Here we are walking toward the Gate.. IMG_2699The temples in Chiang Mai are extremely interesting.  They are still used today and people pray at the all the time.  There is a lot of detail inside and outside. There are a lot of monks here…old and young. The younger monks are there for school for a period of time and the older monks are lifelong monks.  Here is some younger students walking around the old city…IMG_1808 (2)IMG_1813 (2)IMG_2816Sawyer and I would always smile and they would smile back. As we were exploring the Old City there were students on a “field Trip” and they came running up to us asking if they can talk to us in English… They were all so excited to see us (not many kids speaking English here) and their teacher even spoke to us. These are 2 different groups of students we saw at 2 different temples on the same day. They probably had some sort of school project because they gave us an interview and asked some questions.   They took OUR pictures too and had us write our names in their notebooks.  IMG_1775 (1)IMG_1764 (1)

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There are very old and newer temples in Chiang Mai.  So interesting. The gold is very polished, shiny and tiled floors, the old temples are brick and stone with carvings. Of course there are Buddha’s in everyone of them. Not just one Buddha, but sometimes 100.  I noticed that the Temples have so many statues (unlike the Church’s at home where there is “one” main focus point, the alter). IMG_2809IMG_1793 (2)The older temples are great and walking around them you see a lot of carved detail and Buddha’s at every corner and also up on top. Some of the newer temples are shiny and polished with rugs and paintings on the ceilings and walls and you can enter and look around, even when others are praying. IMG_1778 (2)All of these temples are different. Each one is pictured with the Buddha’s image and statue inside but they are all from different Temples. IMG_2791 IMG_2769Mom and Sawyer. chiang mai thailandtemple Wat phra Singh. IMG_2778IMG_2783They really are amazing to look at. IMG_2770This temple had jade and other gem carved Buddha’s in it.  Different from the gold ones.

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Buddhism is NOT only a religion, it is a way of living your life.

•FUN FACT:   Is Buddhism a Religion?

To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or ‘way of life’. It is a philosophy because philosophy ‘means love of wisdom’ and the Buddhist path can be summed up as:

(1) to lead a moral life,
(2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and
(3) to develop wisdom and understanding

I have been learning a lot about Buddhism during my travels to Cambodia and Thailand, and it is interesting.

Fun Fact: there have never been any wars fought in the name of Buddhism. That is why Buddhists do not preach and try to convert, only explain if an explanation is sought.

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In certain temples there were Monks (lifelong Monks) who were in some sort of trance, they sat all day, just staring and meditating. Barely blinking and very , very still.  At first you really believe they are not real, but if you look long enough you will see them breath or move so slightly.  Their hands are all different because each pose means something different. One monk was even in a glass box.  It was unhuman -like.  I don’t know how they do it??  They did not even notice the people in the room or the flashing pictures. IMG_2746These monks were also so still and seated together.  There were 4 more in back of them. Some had their eyes closed but still they were completely still.  IMG_1770IMG_2836This Monk is in a glass box, he looks like a statue.  He was completely still and I didn’t see him blink not once! I couldn’t even stay still while watching him.  It was crazy it’s hard to describe how still he actually was. What do monks think about when they meditate?

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We took the next photo’s outside while going through the Night Market, It was a different atmosphere at night, hearing the bells and prayers over the loud speakers.  Mom caught these boys playing video games at the entrance to one Temple…..Sawyer said they were probably playing Minecraft…IMG_1696IMG_1692IMG_2732We are putting Gold Leaf on to a newly carved statue.  Soon it will be covered in gold and placed in a temple somewhere in the city. The Night Bazaar was fun, we got foot massages every day.  I tried a Thai massage too, it was nice they do a lot of stretching and massaging.  We ate here every night and loved it.

IMG_2702IMG_2718 IMG_2715IMG_1781 (1)The bells are outside many of the temples and you can ring them if you want.  IMG_1789 (1)

We stayed in Chiang Mai for a week BUT we did not stay in the old city. We stayed 20 minutes away ($4 Tuk Tuk ride into town , free one way) because it was on a river and quiet and we rented an apartment with bicycles to use. It was cool. IMG_2853IMG_2691IMG_2697

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VISIT TO THAI SCHOOL:  We got to spend the day at a local Thai school in Chiang Mai.  The director of the school, spoke to my parents and he took us into each classroom to say hello to the different grades of kids.  They all asked us questions and some spoke to us in English. Their teachers were taking pictures of us.  Just like in the Cambodian school I attended, everyone was looking at us and interested in us.  We were the only American kids to ever go here.  It was cool.

IMG_1720The school was much newer than the one I went to in Cambodia.  They even had a computer lab and a teacher office.  It was still one room for each class, open air classrooms, and a field to play gym two days a week. Their desks were newer and they kept their supplies in them. Just like Cambodia, they still rode their bikes to school.  In this school in Chiang Mai there were mixed grades , different ages of kids in the same grade.  I guess it was because some kids start school later or don’t go every year.  There was a 16 year old in the 6th grade class I was in.  They all wore uniforms that were sweat suits. IMG_1730 (2)IMG_1729 (1)Here we are meeting the kids in grade 4.  IMG_1737the older kids asked us more questions.  On the board they had posters of the Months of the year in English and Thai.  IMG_1758 (2)Sawyer and I  got to play outside with the class. They played Dodge Ball. It was a good experience. Now I have been to school in 3 different countries….and hopefully more on this trip.

If you have any questions or comments you can email me at rileymeckley@yahoo.com        I will be happy to here from you and will write back when I can.

 

THAILAND -BANGKOK

 

BANGKOK THAILAND

Welcome to the Kingdom of Thailand

Thailand is a Kingdom in South East Asia.

Fun Fact: King Bhumibol Adulyadej has been in power since 1946. He guided his people through the tumult that was the second half of the 20th century until today. His death will shake Thailand like nothing has in its modern history, and the Thai military wants to be firmly in charge when that happens. The people love him. 

Imagine that…..A country “loving” its leader.  See original image

So much that they want to show him everywhere, especially with local people when he visits a town or city.

He is on cars, on billboards, in all the stores, all over the airport and  in Hotels etc.  The people like him and they wear shirts saying “long live the king”   in  Thailand.

imageHere we are in front of the many pictures of the King.  There were  lots of cool stuff to see in Bangkok.  It sort of reminded me a little bit of New York city because it is so crowded and there is tons of cars and motorbikes in the streets.  My famliy coughed whenever we were on the streets because the air had tons of car smoke in it.

A lot of nights in Bangkok we went to the night markets.  They sell all sorts of stuff there and everything is really cheep.  They had a lot of “knock off” items.  A knock off item is where they make a jacket and put a company slogan on it like “GAP”.  People might belive its made from the real company and buy it. People sold everything imaginalble:  food, bags, wallets, clothes ect… these markets are different from all the shops in Bali, Indonesia because here everything had a set price and little haggeling.  In Bali, you had to bargain for every single thing and it is such a pain.  Plus in Bangkok no one is screaming at you to by stuff. It’s actually enjoyable. We walked each night at 5:00 and always ate street food here too.  It’s everywhere and its awesome and great prices.  Fruit, juices, chicken, hot dogs, fish, Thai food, waffles, and even bugs. Sawyer had to have his banana and Nutella crepe every day. image our favorite thing was the sliced pineapple in a bag for 50 cents ( 20 Thai baht) the exchange rate is very good for the US dollar.  imageimageimagePhad Thai made on the street for 40 Tahi Baht a plate.  That’s about $1.05  My parents ate this every day!IMG_1534

Mom and dad say that this country has progressed a lot.  They were here 14 years ago and they said that the roads were filled with moter bikes and Tuk Tuk’s .  Now there are more cars, hardly any Tuk-Tuk’s and little haggling for street merchandise.    It’s a very modern city in most parts. High rise buildings, traffic, shopping malls.. There is still the “old city” and most older, historical parts of Bangkok are located along the Chao Phraya RiverIMG_1469See original image

Fun Fact: The Chao Phraya river is called the RIVER OF KINGS because for thousand years every King has traveled the river from up North (where the Old Capital used to be) to the Grand Palace in Bangkok to be Coronated. It is Historical for Thailand. 

The We took the local ferry to visit the sights. Only 13 Thai Baht (about 15 cents per ride). It passes Temples and old neighborhoods and the Grand Palace. This was a nice ride with all local people. Of course, many people starred at us and took photo’s of Sawyer and I, especially the older people, and they still want to “touch” Sawyer on the shoulder and say “handsome boy.” This happens all the time.

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THE RECLINING BUDDAH

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The reclining Buddah was by far the best thing I saw in Bangkok.  In case you don’t know, a reclining Buddah is laying down on its side instead of standing up.  The reclining buddah I saw is the biggest in the world.

The reclining buddah is made out of gold leaf.  gold leaf is almost like a sticker that you stick on to things to make it look like its real gold when its not.  The recling buddah is HUGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sawyer and I got to put gold leaf on to a smaller Buddah in another Temple we visited.

FUN FACT: the reclining buddah in Bangkok is the biggest in the world.  The buddah is 46 meters long and 15 meters high. ( That is 150 feet long and 49 feet high. pretty big right?!)  the reclining buddah in Bangkok is located at the wat pho temple and people still pray to it today. 

I was really amazed at how big the buddah was.  Its ear was bigger then me! speeking of the ear, I noticed that on all the Buddah there ears hang down really low and they have a piecing on it.  the weird part is that I just noticed that now while I was looking al the pictures.  LOL.  IMG_2534

I still don’t know if the reclining Buddah is a boy or girl? I wonder how the ancient people built something so big? Did they climb on top of the Buddah and put the gold leaf on? I also wonder how long it took to build?

FUN FACT: All reclining Buddahs in the  world have the Buddah lying down because it represents the Buddahs last illness before it dies.

FUN FACT: we do not know when the reclining Buddah ws built but resurchers say that it was founded during 1788 and reconstructed by King Rama. 

They said that the buddahs feet are one of the best things.  I did not get to see the feet because it was being reconstructed but I heard it has a bunch of jewels, opals and gems and some drawings of other buddahs. Here is a photo from the internet of the feet.

 Aside from the awesome reclining Buddah, there were other interesting things in the temple of Wat Pho.  The room that the reclining Buddah was in had beautiful paintings on the walls.  Every inch of the wall was painted over and the pictures went up all the way to the ceiling! The paitings had pictures of people and they were incredible with detail.IMG_2545

You can tell that the paintings have been re painted over because the paint looks new.

FUN FACT:  there are 1,000 buddahs in the whole Wat Pho temples.

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The rest of the Wat Pho temple had lots of miniature and large Buddah statues.  there were SO many!!! Most were covered in gold leaf and some were painted over in black and some had gems and more detail.  I wonder why there is so many buddahs? here are some pictures…IMG_2623IMG_2605IMG_2617Can you see Sawyer looking at the black Buddah statues?IMG_2637

IMG_2552Here we are putting coins into the wishing pots in the Temple. IMG_2639Look at all the Jewels…IMG_2641

 

I learned  the reason some of the buddahs have one hand up.  here is the story…

One time there were 2 neighboring towns and they had brothers living in them.  They were both Buddists and honorerd the lord Buddah.   One day the river that they used for water was drying out and there was almost none left.  The 2 towns that were once good friends were now enemies and went to war over the water.  Lord Buddah did not like what he was seeing and he knew that if this continued, one of the towns would be destroyed.  So the Lord Buddah walked on to the battle field and everything stopped.  He said “whats more important,  water or relatives?” He raised his hand, palm facing forward, and the 2 towns decided to share the water.  So, when you see a Buddah statue raising his one hand, it is a symble of peace!IMG_2582

We spent 5 days in Bangkok. We also took a small motor boat  one day to an Island in the River to bike around. Bang Krachao was the Island.  It is referred to as Bangkok’s “Green Lung” because of the scenery.   It was so hot this day, mom felt the heat the worst. The people here live a very simple life compared to the residents of the city. Here is something I found by the NY Times( June 13, 2013 paper) describing Bang Krachao.

Falling coconuts, papaya groves, Buddhist temples, nine-foot-long pythons and miles of bike-friendly elevated sidewalks snaking through the jungle:  Welcome to Bang Krachao, a smog-free, government-protected oasis of green that the mighty Chao Phraya River wraps around.IMG_2666

if you would like to email me feel free to do so at   rileymeckley@yahoo.com

Angkor Wat Temples

Before I get into the INCREDIBLE temples in the Angkor Archeological Park .  I learned a lot about this region of the world.  South East Asia.  I find it interesting that in the US schools we learn all about the Holocaust and how it affected world but “nothing” about the Cambodian Genocide that happened in the 1970’s.  My parents were about my age when this was happening here.  All of the people we meet are very familiar with those horrible times and have family members who have died during this time.  ( It was actually worse than what is going on in North Korea right now).  A few months ago I did a report on North Korea and long story short, the dictator does not allow anyone to leave or visit the country. Computers and radios are banned or only have Propaganda in them. Only books and TV channels that the government makes are allowed to be shown.  Everyone has to have a picture of the dictator in their home. If you are curios to learn more I suggest that you resurch it. It I a very interesting topic.)

Anyway, back to Cambodia…

FACT:

The Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979, in which approximately 1.7 million people lost their lives (21% of the country’s population), was one of the worst human tragedies of the last century. The Khmer Rouge regime headed by Pol Pot combined extremist ideology with ethnic animosity and a diabolical disregard for human life to produce repression, misery, and murder on a massive scale

While in the US and everywhere else no one knew what was going on in Cambodia because they shut down all communication with other countries. I wonder what happended to the travlers that were visiting Cambodia at the time???

FACTS:  All political and civil rights were abolished. Children were taken from their parents and placed in separate forced labour camps. Factories, schools and universities were shut down; so were hospitals. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers, scientists and professional people in any field (including the army) were murdered, together with their extended families. Religion was banned, all leading Buddhist monks were killed and almost all temples destroyed. Music and radio sets were also banned. It was possible for people to be shot simply for knowing a foreign language, wearing glasses, laughing, or crying.

Cambodia has a fascinating history, it was a pretty tough time in the 70’s. Being here now, according to my parents, would be like in 30 years my children going to Afganistan or Iraq.  Places where we wouldn’t imagine going to now. Especially for families.  The reason that Pol Pot killed so many was because he wanted to take over and have a self sufficient farming country,  meaning that the country prouduces its own food and doesn’t rely on any other countrys for importing goods.  He killed all teachers and professors and banned schools because he didn’t want anyone smart to figure out a way to defeat his plan.

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ANGKOR WAT TEMPLES

This place is so awesome it should be considered as a wonder of the world.  The Cambodians are proud to have these temples in their country because they have the temples on their Flag. These temples are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites. the only other country to have a monument on there flag is Afganistan.

FUN FACT: Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 km2, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century.

We spent 3 full days exploring the ruins, temples, and monuments of Angkor and still didn’t see half of what is there.  Getting around by Tuk-Tuk is the way to go….$12-15 for the entire day, they drive you from temple to temple and stop anywhere you want. Very convenient.  We ate lunch in the Tuk Tuk too. IMG_1917This is the way to go!!!

IMG_1840 I will not write about every temple (or this blog would be 20 pages long).  I will only give what I found most impressive.

IMG_2110the carvings are absolutely extraordinary!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and just about everyone that’s been there can agree.  If you click on this picture to make it full screen, you will see a painting of hell, heaven and the life. The picture is trying to tell that if you live a good life and honor the buddah’a beliefs (Buddism is the religion they belived in back then and even now ) then you are destined to go to heaven and always be happy.  But “hell” is entern punishment.  By the way this the only time I’m ever allowed to say ” hell”.  this is a carving.  I bet you wouldn’t even know unless I wrote it.  That just proves how amazing the incredible detail is!!!!!! It must of taken a really long time for the ancient people to carve because they had no modern technology tool and had to chip away at the stone.  Must of been very time consuming.  These carvings are on 90% of the temples. IMG_1319 This is a special language called Sanscrit. It was common during the ancent times but now only a few people in the entire world know how to read it! Some Modern forms of Sanscrit is still written in India today.  I wish I could read it to see what it says. We researched some figures on the internet.   I found it cool how the Sanscrit was carved in the walls.  I did a rubbing on it.  That means that I held a piece of  tissue paper to the wall and rubbed a crayon back and forth to have the Sanscrit carvings on the paper.  It is kind of hard to explaine but I will frame them when I get home and show my Art teacher.IMG_1968

I will keep these pictures of the rubbings forever. Sawyer and I did 6 of them. All different.

There were carvings of all sorts of things.  Mostly buddahs and flower designes.  I found it interesting to see a carving of horses pulling a charriot with elephants in the back round and dancing monkeys! That goes to show that they had all those animals back in the 9th century.  In fact there was a lot of statues of elephants and a temple called the  “elephant temple”.

FUN FACT: it is estimated to of took 6,000 elephants and 300,000 workers just to build the biggest temple. 

IMG_2119 This is the biggest temple and the most famous.  The 3 large spires are the ones shown on the Cambodian flag.  This is the temple known as Angkor Wat. When people refer to all the temples in this region,  they mostly call it all  “Angkor Wat” because well, I don’t know its just the name. There are names for every temple of course and I took notes on what I saw at each one.  The Angkor Wat temple has 2 huge moats around it and walls.  Iis known as the death temple because king Suryavarman the 2nd ( who was in charge of building Angkor Wat) ashes are burryed here.  A lot of funerals took place here.

To be honest I think the Angkor Wat temple itself  is over rated (compared to all the other awesome temples surrounding it)  sure its big but there is a lot of empty hallways.  I personally like the outer temples better.  But that’s my opinion.

IMG_1979This is called Angkor Thom/ or The Bayon Temple because it has over 400 faces carved into it. Can you spot the face???? this was Sawyer’s favorite temple.

IMG_1982 It’s easy to get lost in here. IMG_2180

This type of stuff was all over the temples.  There were a lot of fallen rocks, doorways, windows, collums, carvings and satues and every single temple that I went to had an entrance gate.

IMG_2273IMG_2020  People still decorate and pray at the Buddah statues in some temples. I learned that back in its hay day these gates were guarded  to make sure no intruders came in.  You can see the picture of me taking  notes.  I would bullet all the things I saw and then when we got back to the hotel, I copyed them down in my journal. I did that for every single temple.  I felt like a real archeologist.  I think that would be a cool job.  IMG_2157 This temple was differnent because unlike the ones that are made of all stone,  this one is made of only brick.  This temple had a bunch of different little “houses” as I call them that the people must of lived in. They are shown in the picture above.  Each temple is different and I noticed that some had separate “houses” that people lived in and others had really long hallways that I guess everyone shared.IMG_2522Here is Mom.

Its kind of hard to explaine but I picture each temple as a town.  Like my home town Port Jefferson, and everyone plays and lives in the town.  ( Maybe some of the kids play with other kids from other “towns” near by. LOL) All the temples that are in the same area as one another make up a little community.   And if you consider every single temple in the whole park, that makes up an entire state, like NY, maybe the Angkor Wat temple is the capitol.

Anyway it may be confusing to you but that’s how I look at things. I wonder what it was like to live in one of these temples over 1,000 years ago.

FUN FACT: the whole Angkor Wat park is known as the city of temples.

There is so much to say about Angkor Wat.  I only wrote half the stuff that I wanted to.  Look again in a few days to see more of the temples.  Remember to scroll down and you will see more what I wrote about the temples. Come back to this very post and I will include lots more picture, and fun facts. Tune in soon…for photos of the MOST COOL temple in the entire place.  ******************************************

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There were 2 temples with these really large trees.  Look at the picture closely and you will be able to tell that the tree is actually grown from the TOP of the roof and the roots hang down.  I think its pretty cool.  The trees are about the size of a 4 story building!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and it is very thick.  We couldn’t even get the whole tree in the picture.

IMG_2286 I think this is a nice famliy shot. You can really see how big and thick the roots are.

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This is an aerial view of only ONE temple.  You can see how there are walls surrounding the temple and so many rooms.  We visited about 8 temples in 3 days and explored a lot of area with our Tuk-Tuk and driver.

FUN FACT:  Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world. Larger than any Mosque, Church, Cathedral, or Synagog.

 

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I noticed that ALL the temples had very steep steps.  Most people including my mom were afraid to fall and didn’t climb up.  Sawyer and I had to climb up like a bear.  We used all our arms and legs.  the stairs were not only steep but they were also very small.  The stairs had only 6 inches of surface.  It wasn’t even enough to put my whole foot down!

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Sawyer and I doing the spider climb in a door way. Another thing I noticed about all these temples is that they always have the praying area at the highest point.

. IMG_1982 This is the temple of faces as I call it.  everywhere you looked there was a face statue .  You cant tell this from the picture, but there was a face in each side if the stone.  The 4 faces were in each direction.  North, south, east and west.  The idea is that the faces watched over the land to see that everyone is doing good things.

IMG_2246IMG_2221IMG_2412It was so cool to walk around here. IMG_1449

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LAND MINE MUSEUM

The land mine museum was very educational and I learned most land mines  were planted by the US  during the Vietnam war to keep the North Vietnam people to not go through Cambodia to get to South Vietnam. It did not stop them but harmed many innocent people, mostly children.  The US left this area in 1973, then …. What people do not know is that during that time the Khmer Rough Army  (Cambodian) Army planted millions more  landmines in the North part of the country as well.  The Khmer Army planted MORE landmines than anyone else.

Now there are millions of landmines left over, and through out the years, many kids who were playing in the fields accidently stepped on a landmine and got there legs blown off,  or they would get there arms blown off if they picked it up.  It is very sad to think that so many innocent people had to suffer, and the numbers were in the thousands!!!!!! We learned that in the 1980s, about 2,000 people were injured due to the landmines every YEAR.

The founder of the museum, AKI RA,  used to be a war soldier so he knows how to work with the landmines and disable them without setting them off.  He has a book and he has won a lot of Humanitarian world wide awards.

FUN FACT: Aki Ra is a former Khmer Rouge conscripted child soldier who works as a deminer and museum curator in Siem Reap, Cambodia. He has devoted his life to removing landmines in Cambodia and to caring for young landmine victims.

He goes around to all the villages that are expected to have landmines in there fields and takes them apart.  It must be working good because last year about 150  people were injured from the landmines.  That is still a large number but not as much as 2,000! no one knows for sure but there is an estimated 3 to 6 million land mines left.  This was a very interesting place. WE learned a  LOT. Mom and Dad read every picture comment.

If you want to learn more about the landmines you can go to this website… There was a chart on the wall listing the money from foreign Governments given to the Landmine Relief Efforts and the US gives the most per year.  Almost a million.

http://www.cambodialandminemuseum.org/

 

IMG_1445these are only a part of the landmines that Aki Ra  collected. They are all different shapes and sizes, some as small as a tennis ball.

Come back to my blog in a few days when I will be posting about Bangkok, Thailand…….our next stop!

if you have any questions or comments you can email me at    rileymeeckley@yahoo.com

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CAMBODIA

Welcome to the Kingdom of Cambodia.

this is the first kingdom I have ever been in.

I will keep updating on Cambodia so please scroll down to see the newest updates as I post them every few days. This page will look the same when you log on but scroll down to see when I added more. 

Cambodia is a small South East Asia Country bordering Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. The Capitol is Phnom Penh. Before going to the place where Mom will be teaching English we wanted to explore the Capitol.  I got to visit the Royal Palace.

Fun Fact: The Royal Palace, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is a complex of buildings which serves as the royal residence of the king of Cambodia

imageimageThe Royal  palace was very impressive with its amazing architucture.  Unlike the palaces you see in the movies this one had a bunch of different buildings.  Each building served a different purpose.  Some are for meeting and shows and others are for living and eating, some are for displaying things, some for burial of ashes .  I did not get to see the building where the Royal Famliy lives because that is private.  The roofs of all the buildings were very pointy.

image  One room I liked had a bunch of statues.  The statues were carved from the ancient people of Cambodia.  I found it cool that they were made from SOLID GOLD, silver and jade.  There must of been about 200 statues in this room.  There were statues of mostly Buddah.  A lot of the statues had diamonds in them, there were over 6000 diamonds and one 25 karet diamond.  Some if the statues were bigger then me and others were the size if my hand.  We were not allowed to take pictures in this room.  By the way the WHOLE floor of this room was made of pure silver tiles.  I wonder how long it took to build this, and where did they get all this gold , silver and jade from?   The Royal Palace was cool, I wonder how the Royal kids like living there? I personally wouldn’t like it. imageBuddist Monks are boys that go to school to learn about religion and enlightenment.  They wear orange robes.  The monks have a lot of rules that they have to follow while they are in the monestary. I researched the rules..  image

RULES OF THE MONKS

Only boys are allowed. Most boys in Cambodia go into the Monestary or school at least once in their lives. Usually for a year. Then they go back into their old life. A monk can be any age!  Monks have to keep a simple life, they are not allowed to use luxury items (beds or chairs or drive) or electronics or TV. They only can receive their food early in the morning until noon from going out in the villages and cities collecting “alms” (which are donations of food, water and medicine from people). Lots of people give food , so do restaurants that donate to the school.   They are not allowed to talk to women unless a man is there also. They can not sleep in the same room as another boy for more than 3 days at a time.

I saw Monks walking in Phenom Phen city and at the Royal Palace also.

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These are photo’s of Street life in Phenom Penh. This is Sawyer riding in  a Tuk-Tuk. Which is how we got around all the time. They are motorbikes with attached cart that fits 4 people in it.  Rides are $1 or $2 around town.  Motorbikes are everywhere!!!imageimageimage

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CPOC Center:  Center for Poor and Orphaned Children

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Located an hour form Phnom Penh in a very rural part of Cambodia is the CPOC center. Founded in 2012 by Mr. Kim… this is a place for poor and orphaned children to live.  I interviewed Mr. Kim and he told me all about the center. image

If the Family is too poor or has no parents  to care for the child they can come here for a while. 12 children ages 8-17 are here now.   They go to the local school also. The Center is also a place where ALL the children from the Village can come to learn ENGLISH for free . Many families take advantage of these free lessons , taught by volunteers!  This is where Mom taught classes at 9am, 1pm, and 5pm.

imageMr, Kim is a very smart man to start this Center. He is working on another center 50 Kilometers from CPOC to help kids in another village too.  I  learned about his life and how he really loves the kids here. It was Mr. Kim who arranged for us to come to the CPOC center, he arranged a ride and everything for us.  We are one of the first “Families” to come here with children. So this was very exciting for us and for the kids living here.

The kids go to school at all different hours of the day. Some as early as 6am some late in the afternoon.  Village kids are sent here by their parents for free English lessons . Some kids don’t go to school when there is work to be done in the rice fields. Especially the boys.  This happened during the first week here, many kids missed school because the fields needed to be tended to.  Kids walk or ride  bikes everywhere. There are rice fields surrounding the village and small family owned shops selling fruit or food items.   The living conditions are basic.  There is little fresh water. The drinking water is imported from the city in huge plastic containers for drinking only and for brushing teeth. (not showering). There are chickens, ducks, pig, turkeys, and Oxen all over this area.  The shower water (if you want to call it that ) is the river water. Most bathing is done in the river and the toilet situation is a “squatty potty” that ALL 12 children share.   Despite all of this…It is a fantastic place… Volunteers come here for anywhere from a day at a time to months at a time.  We met 2 volunteers from Holland who have been here 3 months already and 1 from Italy who is planning a month stay. We arrived the same day with 2 girls from Israel also.

Please go to this website to read and see video’s about the CPOC center.

http://www.cpocfoundation.com/

There is so much to say on the CPOC center but I will only give the highlights….

I really like playing soccer with the kids from the center and the village kids. We play 2 hours a day. We scrimmage . Some of the boys are very good players.  None of the girls play, but they like wearing the jerseys. Girls would stand and watch ME play with all the boys, they weren’t used to that in Cambodia, the idea of girls playing football (soccer) was unusual.  I told them how I play on an all girls team in the USA.

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I would like to say thanks to everyone on Smithtown and Stony Brook  soccer teams who donated these jerseys.  The kids really liked them and there was enough for 2 or 3 jerseys  each. Now they have real uniforms!!!! First time ever. We shipped a box from New York before we left on our trip with Pens, notebooks, school supplies and 30 shirts.

Some photos from the Center.

imageimageA typical house in the Village. imageThey didn’t have TV, but they had a VCR with Cambodian Movies to watch.  imagethe Cambodian people are small. A typical 13 year old boy looks like 9 or 10.  We were very TALL children here.  The boys in this class are 10 (except the little guy who Sawyer is helping, he is 5 yrs old…seriously….!!!IMG_1751image        imageMom helping to prepare the Vegetables while Dad helped clear the garden and do some raking around the center.imageTeaching kids about Continents. imageThe River , which we used to play in and cool off.  Before dinner dad would take kids to the river and throw them  they loved it!!!image

imageHere we all are watching a movie on a laptop computer. It was an American Movie in English with the subtitles in Khamer so the kids understood.

Mom volunteered  to teach at the school in the center.  She taught English to all  kids of different ages.  She taught the little kids numbers, colors, and how to introduce themselves in English.   She taught the older kids about the Continents and Oceans and Geography.   I help out in the morning lessons. I went to school at 12:30 (more on that later)

The river was fun.  I like having a splash fight with all the kids.  From the pictures you might think that it looked disgusting.  and it probably was. I go in the river 2 times a day because it is so hot and I had to cool off.

imageThese girls are 13 and I went to school with them.  I followed the girl standing next me, Mania, in her classes.  The girl, Nary, in the yellow shirt is my friend, she invited me to sleep in the girls room and she speaks good enough English. I gave her a lot of my clothes and we gave out 25 Rainbow Loom Bracelets Sawyer and I made before we left. They were a big hit. Each kid wearing 3 at a time. image imageHere we are showing how to make English letters in the sand.

My family slept at CPOC in one of the volunteer rooms.  Actually Mom and Sawyer slept outside in the hammocks, Mom said she gets about 2 hours of sleep because the animals are so loud all night.   Dad slept on a mat on the floor with a mosquito net over him. Very basic….image IMG_1103imageimage  IMG_1081This is where Dad slept, his back hurt and he said he didn’t sleep well at all.  There is no screen on these windows either. What the CPOC center needs is decent beds for the volunteers and screens on windows to keep out the flying insects.  Money and time and volunteers are needed for this. If there were decent wood around Tom would have built a make shift bed.  But this has to be ordered in advance.

I was invited to sleep in he girls room because they had room.  the girls room was very small.  It was about the size of a dinning room  that 6 kids had to share with bunk beds.  so don’t complain if you think your room is small.  Everyone gets up at 4:30am and did all there chores! They have 2 main meals a day and that is lunch and dinner. They cook for all the volunteers also. The girls cook the rice and vegetables for each meal.  (I even went with them on a bike to pick up the food).  breakfast is left over rice from the day before (they just put in a Tupperware container) and leave on a shelf.   They have no refrigerator and they prepare the meals and cut the vegetables on a board on the floor. The center has electricity and even spotty wifi connections that work most of the time. imageThese are the Volunteers eating together.

The food was good but there were some bugs crawling on it.  The only snacks are if Volunteers give some (but this is not junk food) only , breads, and ice tea purchased in town.  We brought Nutella and Jelly and shared it with the kids on bread purchased locally. This is me signing the ‘Volunteers’ Wall…IMG_1213

Mom and Dad could not get a good nights sleep at all so we had to explore staying in a guest house in town…not at the center anymore. The guest house has decent shower and toilet and bed.

Stay tuned to see my posts on the Cambodian School I attended.  THE FIRST AMERICAN TO GO TO THIS LOCAL SCHOOL in a Cambodian Village.  I’ll post in a few days**************************************************

I’m sure you been wanting to here about my time in the public Cambodian school.  Well, a girl from the CPOC center named Mleah asked if I wanted to come to school with her.  Of course I said yes.  It was a s simple as that.  If I was a visitor from Cambodia going to a NY school, you would have to call, arrange an appointment, show in ID card go through security, ect….. it would be a whole day process just to arrange a visit.  But here, all you had to do was show up.

All the kids from the center and from the village rode bikes here.  The bikes were kind if old fashion and the brakes didn’t work.  you had to jump off the bike if you wanted to stop.  The bikes didn’t have any gears but that was ok because everything here is flat.   IMG_1843imageThis is the road to school, Mom took this picture one afternoon when she came to visit me at the school.image

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Pictures of me riding my bike to school with all the kids.

You may notice that in the picture I am carrying a backpack.  it is moms and I packed it with pens my journal and a Social Studies workbook I brought along on my trip.  I had to bring something to occupy myself for 5 hours while I  listened to lessons being taught in another language.  The language in Cambodia is “Kamai” it is the language of the Khemer people.

imageThis is typical house I passed on bike ride to school

imageThis is me in front of classroom  it was sweltering hot outside

As I rode my bike to school all the local people looked at me.  Now that I think about it, it must of been pretty funny to see a line of school kids and then this white blond haired kid in the mix.  I can only imagine what the local people thought.  The bike rode to school was 30 minutes long.  I liked looking at all the oxes and the rice fields along the way.  The kids in the school yard noticed me right away.  They all starred whispering to each other and looking at me.  A lot of kids tried to touch me. That is very common around here with foreigners.  It happens to us all the time. Many adults want to touch Sawyer and I.  They always smile when doing so and mean no harm so we just smile back.  Most in this Village have NEVER seen a child from the western part of the world.  Some adults pass by the village but NO children.  So they loved us. Some practice English and ask “how old are you?”  “Where are you from?”

The school yard was filled with bikes.  It was the size of a gym and there were fields and a swing set and jungle gym.  Not much.  There were also vendors outside selling food.

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The school itself was not like the school I go to called Minnesauke.  It was a long building with doors on the outside leading into the classroom.  There was probably 10 classrooms each with 25 kids in them.   Mleah took me to her classroom and sat me down at a desk.  The classroom was kind of like a one room school house.  the desks sat 2 people in them and you did not put your school supplies In them.  You brought what you needed for the day in your backpack.  there was a white board, a desk that the teacher sat in and a couple of posters on the walls and lots of Khamai writing.

Sawyers teacher was absent one day and when the teacher is absent there is NO CLASS for the day.  So the boys just played in the river. image

Once I sat down in the classroom all the kids from outside started pouring in the classroom and crowding around my desk.  There must of been 30 kids in the room and 20 starring at me from the windows.  It was kind of weird to have about 50 kids watching your every move.  I mean,  how would you feel if everyone was silently watching you?  They all wanted to know about me.   I just waved to kids, said hello and flashed a few peace signs.  All the kids said hi to me and asked how old I was.  I found out that most of the kids were 11 and 12.  My age.  The youngest one was 9 and the oldest 13 . All the kids wanted to meet me and I felt like a big celebrity.  They told me there names but it was hard to remember all of them because all the Cambodians kids look the same to me with their uniforms on and the dark hair. If they saw my classroom at home we would all look the same to them too.

Class starred when the teacher got there.  Before the teacher came it was like a zoo! Everyone was screaming and yelling and running around the classroom and schoolyard.  They played games and I joined in.  When the teacher came everyone stood up and bowed there head.  I followed along.  The teacher must of been surprised to see a blond haired kid in the middle of her class.  She didn’t speak that much English but she said hello to me and asked what my name was and how old I was and where I was from.   The teacher brought her baby with her to school!  That would never be allowed in NY but I thought it was cool. She carried the baby around during lessons and then sat him down at times.

You will never believe what the class was learning………..  FRACTIONS! I understood the lesson which is pretty weird considering I didn’t understand the language.  They used English numbers so I could solve one of the problems in my head.  They were multiplying fractions and that’s what my class was teaching when I left.  Mr. Pettrucci and class, if you are reading this I say hello.  Can you please email me.

The class also does silent work in their notebooks.  It was cool to see how they write the Cambodian charachters.  During this time I wrote observations in my journal.  Sometimes  this class was very roudy and was always talking out of turn and fooling around.

Reeces time!!!.  No matter what school or country I’m in I always love reeces.  A lot of the girls did this jump roping game.  Some of the boys were playing soccer with an out of air ball.  I wanted to play but it would be kind of hard to join a game when the kids only know a few words of English.  I stayed by  Mleah and did whatever she did.  because like I said, all the girls  looked alike and they were all wearing the same uniform so I did not want to lose her.  I did the jump roping game and went on the swings and climbed the jungle gym.  I noticed that all the teaches left on a motorbike and went home.  some of the kids were eating lunch that they bought from the vendors.

How many of  you know the game rock, paper, scissors? Well that game is played all around the world!!!!!!!!!! Mleah and some of her friends were playing it and saying the words in Cambodian.  I joined in.  I cant belive that game reached all the way around the world! At one point during reeses I was drawing inside the classroom.  I was copying words from the posters onto a piece of paper.  It was hard because the Cambodians use characters,  kind of like the Chinese language but more squiggily. It must  have been entertaining because all the kids crowded around my desk again. These are Cambodian letters and their sound.  Try saying these letters. I copied them all and learned a few sounds.  I can TOTALLY relate now to a foreigner coming into the USA who cant speak, read or write any English.  I had the reverse here in Cambodia.

It was hard to concentrate with everyone starring at me.  I brought out my SS workbook and showed them a map of the world.  I pointed out where Cambodia was and where I was from in the United States.  They loved this.

One  day mom came on a motor bike to visit.  she took these pictures.

image image imageimage Even in the pictures you can see the kids starring at me.  it was like this everywhere I went.  it was kind of funny.

As you can see I had a great time going to the local school.  It was an experience I will never forget.  I can also relate now to a new kid who enters school in the USA and how difficult it must be for them.    I’m so glad I had a chance to go.  It was cool to see a different way of school and living at the CPOC  center.

I enjoyed meeting everyone in this part of Cambodia. Their lives are completely different from mine.  Here is an interesting fact :

Cambodia

In Cambodia the average income is about $950 per year. Eighty-percent of the population lives in the countryside, and fifty-seven percent of the labour force is engaged in agriculture, which is dependent on the monsoon rains and irrigation from the Mekong River. In recent years the timing of the spring and fall monsoons has become more sporadic and unpredictable, making rain fed rice growing more risky due to prolonged drought periods.
Cambodia is a very poor country relative to the USA.  It is what we call
“third world” country.  Prices seem very cheap to us, but it is expensive for them. If you shop and eat locally and NOT in the tourist hotels, you can stay for little money here.
 For example. buying from street venders of local grocery . (money  been converted to US money so you understand)
Loaf of bread:  10 Cents
Bottle of water: 10 Cents
plate of rice and vegetable: 50 cents
Bicycle:  $5-10
new shirt:  $2, pants $2, socks 50 cents
One hour massage:  $5
fruit (pinapple 20 cents) banana bunch 30 cents, local fruit even cheaper
Renting a top notch apartment with laundry, pool, air conditioning, kitchen in the capital of Phenom Phen. $30 per night.
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Here are photos of our apartment when we stayed in Phenom Phen.
If you have any questions about Cambodia or any part of my travels, feel free to email me at     rileymeckley@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bali , Indonesia

BEFORE  I get to post on Bali, I have to say MERRY CHRISTMAS and Happy New Year to everyone who is reading this blog.  This is how I spend Christmas Eve day. While driving in the Outback we got a flat tire. Dad had to change it in 101 degrees.  Thank god he knew what to do or we would have been there for hours. Only 4 cars passed us in an hour. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my Dad who just turned 50. (he is so old! LOL).We love you Dad. He said it was the best birthday ever.  We drove back to ALice Springs, got a nice hotel and went to a local Church.  The Priest came up to us, welcomed us and asked us where we were from and we talked to him a bit.. imageThe hotel had a resident Peacock, he loved us.image imageWe spent Christmas Day in the hotel Pool and left for Bali, Indonesia that evening. I was very surprised to see a couple of Christmas gifts left for Sawyer and I. We were not expecting .

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BALI – INDONESIA

FUN FACT: Indonesia is an ALL ISLAND NATION.  The biggest island Nation in the world. Most of Indonesia’s Island people are Muslim.  Indonesia is an Islamic country and home to the worlds largest Muslim population (85%) EXCEPT for the Island of Bali, which is mostly Hindu.

FUN FACT: Indonesia has thousands of Islands (17,000), know one knows how many exactly because some are so small.  Only 6,000 are inhabited and even fewer than that have names.  There is one President who rules all the Islands.

Indonesia is (supposed to be) known for its beaches, but from what I saw, the beach in Bali was gross. Literally garbage all over the place and in the water.imageimageI never saw an ocean so discusting, there was logs, wrappers, and trees floating in the shore. I learned from a local resident that most of it comes from the island of JAVA because that is mostly poor and they just pollute the sea and the current takes it away from Java, over to Bali at this time of year. Mom and Dad didn’t let us swim in the water most days because they said it was “dangerous” my mom said ” I would be a bad parent if I let you go in , you could get impaled with a tree branch or knocked out!” I was looking forward to going surfing but could not.  ONe good day we got to go in the ocean, (no trees floating around that day, only garbage) it was rough waves for playing.

imageGoing at Sunset was nicer, we got to eat by the beach and enjoy watching the men play soccer on the beach in low tide.

By the way, The beach, KUTA BEACH,  has a ton of people trying to get you to buy things, they literally walk right up to you and shove in your face what they want you to buy.  (bags, bracelits, sun glasses, scarfs, hair braiding, ice cream, fruit, beer, toys, wood carvings, kites, massages, basically everything. ) its annoying to say NO Thanks all the time. Mom and Dad know how to deal with this, they have been to South East Asia before.  They would sit right next to you and stay until finally you ignore them and they move on. imageimageTypical street in Kuta, all the streets are small.  You have to walk single file. The streets are so crowded around Kuta square. There were a lot of motorbikes weaving around cars and people. The streets are all narrow and you have to walk on the side avoiding the motorbikes coming every direction.  PLUS, each street is lined with stalls and the owners sit there yelling for you to buy their stuff.  Nothing is listed as a price, you have to bargain for everything, even food.  Its annoying and takes a long time to settle on price.  My mom is the master she sets her “final price” and askes the store owner if they agree.  If not, she walks away, they always say YES and come to get her.  She got the stuff we baught for less than half of the original price.  Yes, things here are cheap compared to the US dollar but its a pain to bargain for everything.

imageHere in Bali, you can not escape Religion, it is everywhere.  The Hindu Religion is practiced here. every single shop, home , business, restaurant , hotel, etc has a shrine , some small some big, they leave offerings everyday in front of their business or home.  It is very pretty, the decorations on the shrines and temples are nice. Sawyer stepped on a few offerings without realizing. The offering usually has flowers, food, money, incense and fruit. Some shrines are very nice, even McDonalds had one. Offerings are made throughout the day.image

We were not that impressed with Kuta, Mom and Dad say it reminds them of Vietnam and getting crazy.  It is not a relaxing place to be at all!  IT’s actually stressful, the walking, the beach, the bargaining, BUT we did meet some great locals who showed and helped us learn things. We rented an apartment for the week and the ladies there were great helps. Even asking a friend of theirs to take Mom by motorbike to the post office to mail home a box.IMG_1637I learned that everywhere in Bali is crowded, there are some open spaces up north on the island but all the roads to get there are similar, lined with shops and just wide enough to fit a car or two. We went on a 10 hour day drive($40 for car, driver, and gas)  one day to see and explore other parts of the island, hired a driver because NO ONE should be driving here if you don’t know your way around. Nothing is labeled , few signs, and more traffic than the LIE at rush hour (according to Dad). No lights, stop signs, lots of stray animals,  its every man for himself We couldn’t believe the Miles and Miles and Miles of wood carving store fronts.  Carvings of shrines, and furniture mostly.  The day was actually a great day.  Here are the highlighs….and photos we took on our adventure.

RICE TERRACES: Bali is known for its Rice Terrraces.

FUN FACT: The Rice Terraces in Bali are Man Made and are 2000 years old, originally carved into the mountains with hand tools.IMG_1599

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FUN FACT:

Importance of Rice as a Crop in Bali

Rice is considered to be the most important crop for the Balinese and traditionally it has been viewed as a gift from the gods that needs to be honored as such. It is a key ingredient of the local cuisine. The value of this crop to the local population is demonstrated by the fact that the villages surrounding the rice fields will have shrines devoted to it. The cycle of rice planting, irrigation, maintaining, and harvesting sets the tone for much of the traditional island life. The Balinese have created their own system for rice cultivation, and it is one of the most effective ways of managing this crop in the world.IMG_1624I think it is smart that the people carved terraces into a mountain so the water would be able to run down.  it must of taken a long time to make.  when I was on the rice terrace trail, there was very narrow paths.  mom ended up stepping into the mud twice! Her sock and shoe was drenched. This is what the rice  plant looks like when fully grown,,  If you want to see how rice is made, click here , it is a link to a very educational video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT6gjb48_N0

I thought the rice terraces are cool. If you watch the video you can see how much work is involved, whenever I eat rice I will think about my time at the rice terraces.

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HINDU TEMPLES

My famliy and I saw a lot of  Hindu temples.    In the temple the adults had to where this skirt thing thatimage coverd their knees.  Sawyer and I got to wear this scarf that was tied around out waste.  I thought dad looked hailarous in his skirt.image

IMG_1640   the temple had a lot of stautes.  I have no idea what they mean.  The temple had tables that you are supposed to put an offering down and pray.  You can tell from the picture below that the temple has a lot of golden color.  And some red.

 

IMG_1635  what I found funny ws that a lot of the tourist here were from China and others were Hindu or Muslim   and they got all exsited when they saw Sawyer and I so a lot of people took our picture and posed with us.  They took pictures with us because they do not see much blond hair kids in there country so we kind of stood out.  If I ever go to China I would have to wear a hat or else it would get pretty crazy!

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MONKEY FOREST TEMPLE/  THis is a temple located in a forest that has been taken over by these monkeys. 

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The monkey temple was so awesome.  you get to walk through a path and see wild monkeys.  I don’t just mean a couple of monkeys.  I saw a  whole colony of thousands!!!!! Monkeys are my 3rd favorite animal and they are Sawyers all time favorite.  So we were really looking forward to this. IMG_1692I saw SO many monkeys I seriously cant count them all! I saw monkeys grooming each other, playing, stealing bananas from people, climbing on people, climbing up trees, chasing each other, eating, almost everything a monkey does!  I do not know what kind of monkeys they are but they were small.  about 2 feet.

Out of all the monkeys I think the baby ones are the cutest.  I saw some climbing on there mom.  Baby monkeys are like humans.  very curious and  play full.  Some of the monkey famlies would get together and let the kids have a play date.  It was really cute. IMG_1663in this picture the mom is grooming the monkey and the baby is playing with a red ball he found. IMG_1691 remember how I said the monkeys act somewhat like humans?  Well, this one is using a rock as a tool to rub against the stone and create white marks.  you can click on all the pictures to see it better.

In case you are wondering how close we got to the monkey the answer is about 2 inches from them.  Some actually climed on us!!!! and let me say again that this is NOT a zoo. These monkeys are wild. IMG_1679this is my favorite picture out if all of them.  I was just standing around and before I knew it a baby monkey was tugging on my clothes.  and then he put his hand in my hand.  let me just say, that the monkeys hands are very soft.  I think the monkey was acully studying me like I was examing him.imageIMG_1683

Another thing a baby monkey did to me was pull on my band aid.  It must of saw that the band aid didn’t mach my skin color so it started ripping it off.  I do not have a picture of this because it happened very fast and my parents weren’t ready with the camera. IMG_1658I’m sure everyone knows that monkeys LOVE bananas.  Well they were stealing bananas from people.

If someone had a banana in their hand the monkey would climb on the person and snatch the banana away. this happened to me and sawyer and you can look on sawyers page to see the picture.(when he updates his blog post) image I was surprised to see a bunch of monkeys playing with plastic water bottles.  They really liked them.  In fact a monkey jumped on dad and stole it from his backpack. He did it so easily. Climbed on the back pack, reached for the bottle , then took it an jumped off.  After some struggling with the cap he got it opened, spilled the water and drank from it > Look at this , isn’t it hilarious? We watched him.

imageimage my dad is not an animal person so he was very nevers when the monkey was climbing on him.  I had a great time at the monkey forest.  Monkeys are great animals.  if you look on Sawyers page you can find out his experience at the monkey forest and  how he got bit by a monkey! (don’t worry, it was nothing serious).

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LUWAK COFFEE PLANTAION

My famliy and I visited a coffee plation where this Bali coffee is made.  It was very educational and I learned a lot.

The coffee plantation was OK. First we walked through a forest where this creature called a ‘”civet” lives.  We saw Big Cocoa Beans hanging from trees, pinapple plants (never saw this before, they are cool) . We saw first hand how the beans are collected, dimageried, roasted and crushed up.

We got to taste test a bunch of different drinks.  Dad tasted coffee, mom tasted Tea and Sawyer and I had hot chocolate from the beans that grow right on the plantation.  I tried Tea for the first time and liked it.  The cool thing about the Tea is that it had color to it.  I tried a red tea and Mom tried the yellow, orange, red, brown and some other kinds.  I think the red tea tasted a little like fruit punch without the sugar.  (I personally think fruit punch is better). they also grow tobacco plants here and we saw what goes into a cigarette, we actually got to roll the tobacco into a cigarette (which of course we would never smoke).

                            THE STEPS TO HOW LUWAK BALI COFFEE IS MADE

#1-  first, a cat like animal, called a Civet, eats a cherry fruit  that grows on trees in this forest.      . 

#2-  the animal poops the seeds out and the poop looks like the picture belowimagethat is Sawyer in the backround of this photo.

#3-  people find and collect the poop from the forest floor. They extract the seeds out of it.  the seeds are then washed and dried (the digestive process does something to the seeds)

#4-  after the seeds are washed and dried they peel the outer later off and find a bean. (we got to peel off the outer layers, it was easy)

#5-  they roast the beans in a big frying pan , crush them up, then you add hot water to it.  No sugar or milk is needed.

BOOM!     you got Luwak Bali coffee.  I laughed at dad for drinking animal poop.  but it is not the poop only the seed.  (not all coffee is made like this).

FUN FACT– This is the most expensive coffee in the world.  It can be sold up to more then $25 dollars a cup!  In Europe it is $35 a cup.  Some of this kind of coffee is made in factories.  they keep they animals captive and feed them the cheeries so they can poop it out.  the factory kind of coffee is just as expensive then the real kind, but the real kind is said to taste better because the animals are not “stressed” and it is all natural. Look for the label on the bag if you buy this.

The coffee plantation was interesting. It was all natural and a  nice place to visit.  imageimage

 

We all enjoyed visiting these cool places, but ….To be honest Indonesia was not as good as I thought it would be. So crowded,   even 2 hours outside of the major city, Kuta, it was still crowded and a hassel to get anywhere or walk in peace without being harassed for one minute.  I expected the beaches to be a whole lot better.  Mom says she is “underimpressed” with Bali and especially Kuta .  It is a word we made up for not impressed.   Perhaps years ago when the backpackers discovered this island in the 70’s it was more relaxing but now (according to Mom) it reminds her of Saigon, a complete mess and only getting worse!!! We will never be returning to any of the Islands here. But learning about the Hindu religion, Luwak Coffee and the Rice Terraces in Indonesia was cool.  Don’t let the guidebooks fool you on Indonesia.

I can be reached at rileymeckley@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Australian Outback

The “Australian Outback” refers to the remote, interior of this continent.  Also known as the “red center,” “the desert” or “the bush.”

FUN FACT: The term “outback” is used to describe the emptiness, remoteness and huge distances of inland Australia.  The Outback is 2.5 square miles with less than 60,000 people living here, mostly in the “Northern Territory” of Australia.

Look how big the Outback is, most people live along the coast.

FUN FACT: Australia is made up of 6 states and 2 territories.  The difference between a territory and a state has to do with the government influences in that region.

Whatever you call it, it is remote, hot, full of wandering animals like horses, dingos,  kangaroos, and especially camels…lots of bugs ( ants, flies, mosquitoes) and lizards.  Does it sound like a place YOU want to go?  It is very cool to visit but I would not live here.  I can see why it is not that populated.  This is desert that is made up of red sand, HUGE rock formations and lots of vegetation (that the wild animals live on).

IMG_1512We took these photos to show the desert. What you cant see is the flies and the heat. It is actually quite nice to look at.  I will highlight a bit of what we did and where we went. We flew from Cairns to Alice Springs (look on the map above , its in the center of the country). From there we drove to 3 different places over 8 days. IMG_1443

Alice Springs: The most populated city in Northern Territory. We stayed at a campground that had awesome things for kids. Pool, games, etc.IMG_1449We met a lot of kids on this slide, we went down a lot! Even Mom and Dad got in on the fun.  Met other home schooled kids from Australia, they call homeschooling “distance learning” and I played with them.

imageIMG_1447This is the cabin we rented at the campsite, we had to walk across the way to use the toilets and showers. We visited the “West MacDonnel Mountain Ranges ” for some short hikes.  This is me on a “dry” river bed, since it is the summer time here there is a drout, but in the winter the river runs. IMG_1492IMG_1501Here is the only water I saw left in the river. IMG_1482IMG_1484This is the Stanley Chasm. We walked in between the rocks and I yelled a lot to hear my echo.

We went to a Desert Walk, which was like a wildlife center.  We got to walk around and see them on a trail.  I saw my first Kangaroos.  This guy was the leader of the bunch. He was the biggest and taller than me.  Here he is resting under a tree because it was hot.

IMG_1459IMG_1465Baby.IMG_1473Here is a little “joey” drinking from his mom’s pouch. I thought it was cool to see.

FUN FACT: Kangaroo’s legs can only move together and not independent of each other. That’s why they hop.  They only hop “forward” not up! No matter what you see on cartoons, they don’t hop up. A bunch of kangaroos is called a MOB.

I got to see them hopping.

ABORIGINAL Learning:  I sat through a presentation which a woman aboriginal was talking about how her ancestors used to live and survive in the desert.  Aboriginal’s are native Australians.  I learned about the food they found in the desert and what tools they made to survive.  They did NOT plant anything in the desert (too hot) or build shelters, they slept outside. They wandered around a lot and their whole life was survival.  There were different men’s jobs and women’s jobs in the unit.  The men would make and use tools like boomerangs and spears to hunt and the women would dig in the dirt to find grubs and pick berries and seeds. Here is me demonstrating what an Aboriginal Woman wore to go out and find food. They had a bowl of water on their head, which was hard for me to balance. THe wooden basket I am holding was to carry a baby. All of the tools and supplies were from wood.

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CAMEL’s. IMG_1514

FUN FACTS:

Camel do not store water in their hump, they store fat, which they can live off of.

Camels are not native to Australia. They were brought here from Pakistan in the late 1800’s and now there are so many that there is half a million camels roaming around the outback. WE SAW THIs ONE while drivingIMG_1519

Camels have one baby at a time, if they have twins the mom dies.

One hump and two hump camels are different kind of camel. One hump camels live in the hot weather, and two hump camels can live in the cold weather. We rode one hump camels.

You can eat camel burgers.  I tried one and liked it, it was more juicy and a tad spicier than cow burgers.

When I rode the camel it was a bumpy ride and I liked pretending I was an early explorer adventuring into the outback.  Getting on the camel was cool, it had to kneel down and then it jerks you up fast. I learned a lot about Camel’s and I’m a camel expert now.  The picture of the small camel is a baby at 3 months old, and its as big as me!!! THe skeleton bones are of an adult male. HUGE>IMG_1573IMG_1578

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KINGS CANYON WE drove from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon (4 hours) On the way we saw wild horses (yes they do roam the desert) and 2 dingo’s and a dead camel on the road.imageIMG_1523The horses were beautiful, It’s hard to believe they are wild. They were in group of 6 or 7. The photo of the dingo mom took is for her friend lisa M  image

FUN FACT for Lisa about the Dingo: Their ears are always up straight

The Kings Canyon reminded me of the hike at Grand Canyon, we had to walk at least a thousand stone stairs and on rocky ground for 3 hours.  The first day I was sick with a fever so Mom and I stayed in. I slept and walked around the campsite, there was hardly anyone there.  I saw a lot of weird bugs that you wouldn’t see anywhere else . In the bathroom ( that was in a separate building) I saw a preemantis 8 inches long . And a ton of big moths. Lots of ants and one time a large grasshopper landed on me. I freaked out. IMG_1531 IMG_1530This is the campground that is usually filled but it is summer so LOW season and hot. We had a room at the site. THe next day we all went on a hike, it started to rain and the hike was harder , it rained so heavy we had to find shelter when we could. We pretended we were Aboriginal’s and took cover in the caves. image

The cave had slippery rocks , towards the last hour there were waterfalls falling over the rim of the canyon, we were drenched!!!! Felt like I went swimming. This picture is taken from the internet because we were in a rain storm.  The canyon is so steep and when you get to the top this is what you see.  No barriers, just huge cliff.  Of course, mom only let us go no where near the edge. 

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The Olgas:  Kata Tjutu National Park

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The Olgas are made up of 36 Enormous rock formations in the middle of the desert.  IMG_1557Up close they have a lot of caves, holes and indents in the rock.  I think they were formed from rock falling off and erosion.  What I find weird is that this entire park had only 2 trails, we hiked both of them, we kept looking in the rock crevices to see a “rock wallaby” but did not see any. It is really impressive that these rocks are in the middle of nowhere. IMG_1566We had to wear a fly net over our hat because the flies are so annoying in summer. Dad had at least 100 on his back. the fly nets are very helpful to keep flies out of your face, if it weren’t for the fly net we couldn’t do these hikes.imageimage

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ULURU:  Ayers RockIMG_1549

FUN FACT: What we see is actually on the tip of Uluru. The rest of the rock goes down under the ground for 5 Kilometers.  ITS HUGE. Geologists study it.

Uluru, I was very excited to finally see Uluru. I’ve seen the pictures and was excited to climb it, only to find out that as of last month you can’t climb Uluru anymore.  There is a temporary arrangement between the Aboriginals and the Australian government to close it for a while, (they consider this a sacred site). So for now, no climb. IMG_1585This is the path up that when opened you can take . But not now. On the path there is a rope and it is steep. My parents climbed this in 2000. I wish we could have climbed it. They were here in the Australia winter (July) and it was way more crowded and cool breezes.  Its deadly hot now, empty,  and they said they would never return to the Australian desert in  summer again because of the heat and flies.  BUT, they are glad they got to show us these amazing sites.

Uluru is so impressive. The biggest ROCK IN THE WORLD.IMG_1584There are fallen rocks, caves and you can really see the erosion. There is water hole but totally dried out in summer..  I personally like the view better from a distance but was cool to see up close and touch it. The rock is really RED.IMG_1539IMG_1545The black lines are from where the water falls down after a rain storm. IMG_1549

We walked a little around it (it is 9.4 km) and 100 degrees so we did not walk the entire thing, only a little, we drove around it and stopped to look at the massive size.  I wish we got to rent bikes but there was a problem with our reservation and we were told the wrong time so we couldn’t rent the bikes.IMG_1581We are a day ahead of NY so we want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

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The Southern Hemisphere: Sky

Our trip to the Outback was very educational. We learned a lot of things. On the last night we did a night time Astronomy Lesson with 2 Astronomers.  We walked into the desert, had a talk about the constellations, the southern sky , the stars, planets and moon.  Then, we got to look at the moon, certain stars and nebula’s with the high powered telescopes they had.  We looked for an hour. We saw stars that shined like a rainbow, The planet Mercury, 2 stars that circle each other, constellations and how to navigate using stars as reference points.  I learned a cool thing about the moon that I will do a project on. I asked a lot of questions to the Astronomers. My Mom’s cousin , Russell, would have loved this presentation.imageTHis photo of the moon was taken with Mom’s I phone through the telescope lens.  the last photo is taken from the internet of the southern hemisphere sky from the Outback in Australia.

I can be reached at rileymeckley@yahoo.com

Overnight sailing-Great Barrier Reef

This is an ariel view of only part the Great Barrier Reef taken from the internet.

  you can see how big the GBR is.  It is located off the north east part of Australia.

The reef is huge. I will quote again how significant this place is…

Great Barrier Reef
Coral reef in Queensland, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Queensland in northeastern Australia, is the largest living thing on Earth, and even visible from outer space. The 2,300km-long ecosystem comprises thousands of reefs and hundreds of islands made of over 600 types of hard and soft coral. It’s home to countless species of colourful fish, molluscs and starfish, plus turtles, dolphins and sharks.
SIMG_0432  Sawyer and I on the Sailboat heading out in the Coral Sea to visit the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). This excursion was a 2 day sailing that stopped at 6 different reefs.  All of them better than the next.  I saw a lot of cool things, like GIANT CLAMS that were 4 feet long,  black tip sharks, tons and tons of beautiful coral, Blue sea stars and fish of all sizes and colors.  On the boat there were people getting certified for Scuba diving and they were taking a class, I listened in and learned everything ,I can identify all of the coral and fish that they can.  I learned a lot about oceanography and marine biology and the life of the reef.    I cant dive until I’m old enough…..but….Dad let me try his breathing regulator (the one that the Oxygen comes out of) while in the water and I used it while connected to him for 5 minutes under water.  So technically, Sawyer and I got to scuba dive.  Cool. Unlike snorkeling it was fun not to always have to be on the surface.
Just so you know, MOM took all of these pictures with an underwater camera we rented.  They are NOT from the internet.
IMG_0447I saw a lot of Plate coral, most of which were 2 feet or more long.  Not many fish feed on this type of coral. I wonder why? IMG_0473I also saw broccoli coral, Elk coral, spaghetti coral, elephant ears, honeycomb coral, plate and brain coral and more. IMG_0533IMG_0600This is a GIANT CLAM. it is over 4 feet long. If you read my blog earlier, you will know I saw hundreds of smaller clams in French Polynesia that i touched so I was REALLY excited to see these Giant Clams of the sea.  the biggest clams in the world are in the Great Barrier Reef, they are really one of a kind, HUGE> I lost count of how many I saw but I liked spotting them from snorkeling, IMG_0643I wonder how old these clams are? I will research this and do a report about it for my school work. IMG_0628look at the awesome color in this clam.
FUN FACTS:
The shell is extremely thick and lacks bony plates; when viewed from above, each valve has four to five inward facing triangular projections. The mantle of the giant clam is visible between the two shells, and is a golden brown, yellow or green, or a combination of colors.
The giant clam inhabits warm tropical waters on reef flats and shallow lagoons to a depth of up to 20 metres
The Giant clam never moves from its location.
I think it would boring to be a clam. Imagine the same position for life??
IMG_0672IMG_0558Sawyer and I going down to look at something. We spent hours in the water coming back to the boat to eat and sail to the next reef.  You will never believe what happened to me at the GBR.  I got stung by a “blue  bottle” jellyfish.  Twice.  That’s why I finally put on this wet suit.  The first sting wasn’t that bad, just itchyk.  The second sting was worse, I got stung on MY HAND, a centemeter from where the wet suit sleeve ended, just my luck.  I saw the blue stinger right on me . It was a long blue thread with a ball at the end. Dad picked the stinger out of my hand and threw it into the water. IMG_0707This is part of a BRAIN coral and it was as big as a truck.
FUN FACT: Brain coral only grows 1 centimeter a year….imagine how old this one is.
THe boat we were on was not a luxury boat at all.  It was basic and had 4 crew members and 15 guests.  All backpackers from all over the world, Japan, England, Belgium, France, US, HOlland.  My mom and dad were the oldest and we were the only kids.  IT was really cool though because it was fun to meet them and see where they are traveling and what country they are from.  I met this nice lady from Amsterdam named Afke and she is teacher. She told me a lot of interesting things about places she has been and said if we make it to Amsterdam she will let me visit her class.  She speaks great English and said kids learn English there from Kindergarten.  HELLO Afke, I hope the rest of your trip is going well.imageimage
The boat had bunk beds and a small kitchen underneath.  You can sleep on the bunk  or outside on the foam mattress, which Sawyer and I did. We slept in between all the diving tanks.  A perfect spot for Sawyer and I.  Mom and Dad were “chumps” and slept inside.  I liked looking at the stars and I had a great sleep.imageIMG_0567We would go in the ocean from the back of the sailboat. Sometimes Dad would throw us over the side for fun.  The rest of the group on the boat were surprised how good swimmers we were and how we would often be the first in and the last out of the water at each stop we did.  Sawyer and I could do this all day.  The boat crew prepared food for us and we ate it on the deck.
Words to describe the GBR: massive, grand, undescribable, beautiful, amazing, wild, majestic, awesome, outstanding, colorful, big, extrodinary.  It leaves you saying …”wow”  This was one of the prettiest things I ever saw. All of coral grouped together were like  countries and cities, and the fish were the people. I hope to be back here one day.
Please email me at rileymeckley@yahoo.com