A view of the French Quarter

Last week I was able to check another city off my list of places to see before I die. That city was New Orleans in the state of Louisiana. V.C. Andrews’ Ruby took place in Louisiana and after reading that series in high school, I was hooked. After 20 years of dreaming, I finally set foot in Ruby‘s world. I did several tours which I will tell you about in upcoming articles but for now, I’d just like to show you around the French Quarter; the heart of New Orleans.

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The Quarter is New Orlean’s most popular place to hang out, thanks to the food, music, entertainers and locals. There are sights to see on every corner from live music and buskers on the street to hot sauce-tasting and voodoo dolls in the shops.

A man stands frozen in position on the street, a bucket in front that reads "Tips for Pics."

A man stands frozen in position on the street, a bucket in front reads “Tips for Pics.”

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Throughout the French Quarter you can see different styles of residential architecture. This is because many cultures have left their footprint on the streets of this town and the whole state. Louisiana fell under ownership of the French when the explorer Robert de La Salle claimed the land in 1682. It remained French-owned until 1764 when Louisiana came under Spanish rule. The Spanish had control for only 36 years, when it was sold back to the French in the year 1800. Three years later Napoleon sold Louisiana to the USA and so it has remained since 1803.  Today visitors can enjoy the mix of French, Spanish and Creole designs which makes for one breathtaking city.

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Jackson Square is a famous park in the French Quarter. Built in 1721, it sits right in front of the beautiful Saint Louis Cathedral. The Square actually became a National Historic Landmark in 1960, for being the location where Louisiana was made a part of the USA in 1803.

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Old-fashioned streetcars run through the French Quarter (and beyond) for a nice scenic tour of the town. One-way fare is $1.25 (USD) and an all-day pass goes for $3(USD).

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Night life is hopping in the Quarter as well! With or without Mardi Gras, the streets come alive in a whole new way once the sun goes down. Buskers pack up and go home while bars pump live music and sell drinks for here or to-go. It’s very common to see patrons grab their drinks in a big plastic cup and take it out to the streets. The downside to this culture is that the streets get a bit rowdy as the night goes on so for my friend Bal and I, we bailed on the night life pretty early.

Live blues at the Funky Pirate.

Live blues at the Funky Pirate.

Yours truly with a funky pirate.

Yours truly with a funky pirate.

Enjoying a "hurricane," the famous drink in the French Quarter.

Enjoying a “hurricane,” the famous drink in the French Quarter.

This is just a glimpse of the various things going on in the French Quarter. Whether it’s art, fashion, antiques or people, I promise you’ll never run out of things to see in this part of town.

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The Land of 2,000 Temples

The central city of Bagan, Burma (formerly Myanmar), about an hour southwest of Mandalay by plane, is known as the land of 2,000 temples. The locals however argue there are closer to 4,000 and even if you lived there it would be hard to visit every single one. People travel to Bagan to watch a sunrise or sunset from the tops of the many ancient pagodas. Many temples and pagodas have steps you can climb, although the Burmese government recently banned tourists from doing this as of March 1st, 2016 (read more on the ban here). Luckily I got there in January and managed to catch a sunrise from one of the smaller, lesser-known pagodas.

Waiting for the sun.

Waiting for the sun.

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To get around to the many temples and pagodas most travellers rent a regular bike, an e-bike (a bicycle with an electric motor) or a moped (like a slower, battery operated motorcycle with no license required). Mopeds were the most preferred since the side roads needed to get to said temples and pagodas are often sandy and uneven which makes adventuring with a bicycle difficult. Moped daily rentals cost between 5,000-8,000 kyats (approx. $5.50-$8.80 CAD) depending on the size of the bike. Most rental places expect the bikes back by 8pm or whenever it gets dark out so it’s a fair deal for a whole day of exploring.

My first moped rental. A little scary but I did it!

My first moped rental. A little scary!

What often happens when heading out to find the big famous temples is you get side-tracked by some random and often unmarked pagoda or temple that looks interesting. So off you go down a sandy path towards the temple that caught your eye and the next thing you know it’s been an hour, you’ve found nothing on the map but you’ve explored about a mile of ancient roads. This is why they say you need at least 3 days to look around. You need time to wander. Below are some pictures of the ancient unnamed pagodas I stumbled upon.

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Eventually I did find my way to some of the more well-known temples but with great fame comes a great many patrons and tourists. Here are some shots of the bigger temples. The huge white temple below is called Ananda Temple.

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Htilominlo Temple was one of my favourites because of the markets at the entrance to the temple. It was busy and pretty much a tourist trap but I enjoyed the bustling atmosphere amongst the devout.

The walkway to Htilominlo.

The walkway to Htilominlo.

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Htilominlo seen from the top of a neighboring pagoda.

Htilominlo seen from the top of a neighboring pagoda.

Thatbyinnyu Temple was another I liked, partly because I found it by accident. Many of these temples are the same inside with big buddha statues, cool stucco walls and old cement floors. Often times the architecture from the outside is the best part and the insides are more plain.

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For those who don’t want to bike around to the temples and would rather the safety of a car, it is possible to rent a driver and a car for a day. The cost is around $60 USD so share the fare with 3 people and it’s not so bad. Keep in mind that the drivers rarely own their own cars. Drivers usually get $2-$4 USD for an 8 hour day while the car owner keeps the remaining money. If you do rent a driver be sure to tip them well!

I will leave you with some sunset pictures to end our journey through Bagan. No matter how limited your time in Burma may be, I highly recommend you include Bagan in your itinerary. Until next time Dear Readers, be well.

Sunset from a temple-top.

Sunset from a temple-top.

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A Tour of Mandalay

The next part of my journey led me from the southern city of Yangon, Burma (Myanmar) to the northern city of Mandalay. My hotel offered city tours through their connections so I signed up for one heading out the next morning. I had a great time as our group was small and our guide was passionate. I traveled with 2 other ladies, one from Shanghai and one from Hong Kong. Our first stop was a teak woodworking shop to see the craftsmen at work and obviously, to shop.

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After the teak shop we went to the Maha Gana Yon Kyaung monastery that is still active, housing over 1,000 monks of all ages. We were told that often times joining a monastery is the best chance at a good education since most kids come from low-income families and education is free while studying there. We caught a glimpse of young monks waiting to enter their eating hall for lunch. They traditionally bring their pots outside into the street in the morning to get offerings from the locals who gladly oblige. At this time, some tourists put snacks on the lids of the passing monks’ pots but they went into the eating hall where food was already cooked and waiting.

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Next up was a short boat ride across a lake and onwards to a horse and carriage ride waiting to take us around the town of Ava, also known as Inwa. Ava was an imperial capital city from the 14th-19th century and the remains of decadence are notable. We saw an old teak monastery called Bagaya Kyaung. It’s too old and dilapidated to use as an active monastery so it remains as a historical landmark for tourists. It was too dark inside to get any good shots but here are some from the outside:

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Ava (Inwa) is also home to some beautiful temple ruins. The ones you’ll see below are called Yadana Hsimi pagodas, built in the mid-1800s. There are also “stupas” which look like little mini temples with long pointed tops and no entrance.

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These ruins used to be an actual temple but due to earthquakes, most of the foundation has crumbled.

These ruins used to be an actual temple but due to earthquakes, much of the foundation has crumbled.

Just before the sun got too low, we went to see one more ancient place called the Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery. Although this pale yellow monastery was built in the traditional way architecturally, this one is unique because it was built with brick and stucco instead of the traditional wooden pagodas and temples of the times. It was completed in 1822 but earthquakes over time did some damage. It got repaired by each successive imperial family as needed and today it is still used as a place of worship among monks.

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Young female monks pray to the Buddha statues inside.

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Myself, my two tour-mates and our tour guide, Lynn.

Myself, my two tour-mates and our tour guide, Lynn.

To top off our adventure we went to U Bein Bridge in Amarapura to catch the sunset. This is the longest teak bridge in the world, built in the 1850s and legend has it that couples who walk the 1.2 kilometer (3/4 of a mile) bridge together will have good fortune in their relationship. I walked a few feet out but the lack of railings mixed with the volume of people had me turning back mighty fast. I was still able to get a few shots and after that it was back to the hotel.

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Lynn was a wonderful guide who worked hard to teach us about his country’s history. I hadn’t thought much of Mandalay until I took this tour and I’m glad I did. For 24,000 kyat (approx. $26 CAD) We got over 9 hours of adventure plus lunch and good conversation all day. We met lots of locals, many who were eager to have a chat and take our picture.

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Stay tuned next week when I’ll share my most favourite part of Burma – adventures in Bagan!

Pagoda Hopping in Burma

You can’t do Yangon, Myanmar without seeing the beautiful golden temples. Smack in the middle of downtown Yangon lies the temple known as the Sule Pagoda. This was the first one I explored upon arrival in Yangon.

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Next up was the Botataung Pagoda, known for housing a piece of Buddha’s hair as well as the temple’s inner gold-plated walls, secured behind glass.

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Nap time for some locals inside one of the outer shrines.

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Yours truly attempts inner reflection within these gold-plated walls.

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Ancient relics kept safe behind bars.

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Beyond the glass, above the mound of money, apparently lies a piece of Buddha’s hair.

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A temple employee sweeps up money, folded into little triangles and tossed into the table by local worshipers.

On my last day in Yangon, I couldn’t respectfully leave without paying my dues to the most famous, most elegant temple, the Shwedegawa Pagoda. I met a monk there who approached me based on the Canadian flag on my backpack. He told me how each gold leaf hammered into place in this temple was donated by the Burmese people who devoted much of their savings to the construction of these pagodas back in the day. He told me the best places to watch the sunset and told me he was happy I was enjoying his country and his temple. I wanted to shake his hand but it’s not proper to touch a monk so instead, I bowed low and thanked him for his time.

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The entrance to the temple, surrounded by young children out of school trying to sell items related to the temple.

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Whatever your degree of spirituality, one cannot help but feel a sense of awe at the site of such devotion from a humble, modest society who gave their few spare coins to the building of these great monuments. Next week I’ll take you on my tour of Mandalay, Burma so get ready for some picturesque shots of the beautiful northern city!

Yangon Circular Train Tour

The Yangon Circular Train tour is open to anyone who can find their way to a train station in the southern city of Yangon in Myanmar.

Inside the main entrance of Yangon train station.

Inside the main entrance of Yangon train station.

Taxi drivers outside the station, waiting for a fare.

Taxi drivers outside the station, waiting for a fare.

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Three ladies; two with cell phones and one lost in thought.

Three ladies; two with cell phones and one lost in thought.

I went with a friend I had met the day before, a lovely lady from Holland who turned out to be a fantastic travel buddy. We met at Yangon station, grabbed our tickets for only 200 kyat (approx. 0.23 CAD) and waited for our train to arrive. The route goes around the outskirts of the city of Yangon in a leisurely 3 hour circuit.

The main circuit shown is the route of the circular train.

The main circuit shown is the route of the circular train.

Locals board the train as well so this isn’t some ritzy, bedazzled tour. It’s simply an inexpensive way to see the countryside and enjoy some time observing your surroundings.

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A view from behind: local housing.

A view from behind: local housing.

The backside of a local cemetery.

The backside of a local cemetery.

Passengers are free to jump on or off at any stop on the circular train. If you buy a ticket for the round trip, you’re covered all the way around so you’re welcome to take off and explore whenever you like. There are passenger control officers strolling through checking tickets though so make sure to keep it on hand. Some stops are busier than others. Some have roadside restaurants next to the platform, some have vegetable markets springing up and some have nothing but a gate and path that leads into a village.

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Even the locals like people-watching on the train.

Even the locals like people-watching on the train.

If you’re curious about this train ride, I say give it a go. You can always get off when and if you’re bored and it’s a relaxing afternoon out of the sun. There are local vendors selling pre-cut fruit and cold drinks throughout the ride, so you’ll never go hungry and the views are unique compared to what you see in town.

The Killing Fields of Cambodia

***WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT***

In 1975 Pol Pot, a Cambodian national who dreamed of a utopian peasant society, brought his politics to a boiling point. He and his communist party, the Khmer Rouge, took control of Cambodia and went after intellectuals, killing doctors, scientists, students and anyone who disagreed with his vision of a communist Cambodia. Cut-off from the media, the outside world had no idea of the extent the Khmer Rouge’s quest for total submission had gone to until it was too late. 

The skull memorial from the outside.

The memorial of skulls at the killing fields.

Inside the memorial: floor to ceiling skulls of those who were murdered in the killing fields.

Inside the memorial: floor to ceiling skulls of those who were murdered in the killing fields.

Different coloured stickers on the skulls denote the method of murder.

Different coloured stickers on the skulls denote the method of murder.

During Pol Pot’s four-year rule (1975-1979), records show at least 1.5 of 7-8 million Cambodians were killed under his command. Many historians say the body count is much higher as more bones resurface every year after heavy monsoon rains wash away the dirt. Most prisoners had no clue why they were being arrested and when they didn’t follow the rules (shown below) or admit to treason, the torture began. Some were held for days and weeks, until they confessed to things they didn’t do in hopes of reprieve. Once confessions were gained, they were shipped off to the killing fields.

Rules of conduct for prisoners at S-21.

Rules for prisoners at S-21.

Cloth and bone protrude from the earth still today in the killing fields.

Cloth and bone still protrude from the earth today in the killing fields.

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Recently unearthed bones. Victims unknown.

The most infamous detention center from the reign of the Khmer Rouge was called S-21 where locals say only 7 of over 20,000 prisoners lived to tell of the horrors. S-21 was a high school-turned-prison. The security center got its code name from S for Santebal, the Khmer word meaning “state security organization” and 21 for the walky-talky number of former prison chief Nath. Today it remains as a tourist attraction where travellers can see the terrible fate that fell on Cambodia during those 4 years.

One of four buildings in the former school grounds, this one used for interrogation and torture.

One of four buildings in the compound, this one used for interrogation and torture.

Former classrooms used for torture and interrogation.

Former classrooms used for torture and interrogation.

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After early prisoners jumped to their deaths, all windows and corridors were laced with barbed wire.

After early prisoners jumped to their deaths, all windows and corridors were laced with barbed wire.

Another of the four buildings; this one used as holding cells.

Another of the four buildings; this one used as holding cells.

Soldiers broke down the walls between former classrooms so they could see straight through and keep a better eye on prisoner.

Soldiers broke down walls between former classrooms so they could see straight through and keep an eye on prisoners.

Some may think it’s morbid to want to visit a place like this but I believe that if you want to understand a country and its culture, you need to know where they come from. A people can be most appreciated when you can see their darkness and their light. 

All S-21 tours offer a trip to the S-21 detention center and then out to one of the many killing fields where the bodies of Cambodia’s finest minds were murdered and dumped into mass graves.

Craters left in the ground from dug-up mass graves.

Craters left in the ground from dug-up mass graves.

Another mass grave, not fully excavated yet.

Another mass grave, not fully excavated yet.

"The Killing Tree." Soldiers beat children against this tree before throwing them into a mass grave, on the right.

“The Killing Tree.” Soldiers beat children against this tree before throwing them into a pit, on the right.

This is called "The Magic Tree." It was used as a tool to hang loudspeakers playing music to cover the moans of those being executed.

“The Magic Tree,” used as a tool to hang loudspeakers playing music to cover the moans of the executed.

Bullets were too expensive so various tools were used to murder Pol Pot's victims.

Bullets were too expensive so various tools were used to murder Pol Pot’s victims.

If you have read this far you can see that this is not your average tour. It’s horribly sad and quite frankly, physically sickening. The gravity you feel walking through these buildings and fields is thick with sorrow but gives birth to a new perspective and respect for a nation that is so emotionally scarred. If you’re spending a few days in the capital city of Phnom Penh I highly recommend this somber historical tour.

~Bus fee with hotel pick-up and drop-off = $15USD

~Entrance fee to S-21 = $6USD ($3 entrance + $3 English audio guide)

~Entrance fee to the killing fields = $6USD ($3 entrance + $3 English audio guide)

Adventure Angkor: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Seeing the Angkor temples in northern Cambodia is something I never thought I’d get to do. Angkor is made up of multiple temples and former capital cities of kings. The grounds were built between the 9th and 12th centuries, according to archeologists. They were mostly Hindu but later leaned towards Buddhism. To this day Angkor remains the biggest religious monument in the world although little is left compared to its former glory. After some preliminary research, it seemed that this dream of wandering the forests of ancient gods and giant trees could actually come true. Fast forward a few months later and I’m arriving in Siem Reap to kick-off a three week vacation in two countries and five cities.

The very first morning of my stay in Seim Reap I had a tuk-tuk driver arranged and was off to see the remains of the temples of Angkor. You can rent the services of a tuk-tuk driver for $15USD, plus tip. That covers him for an 8 hour day of work and allows him to wait for you to poke around at the different temple locations and drive you from spot to spot. You will need a tour bus or tuk-tuk, as the distance between sites is quite large.

My ride for the day.

My ride for the day.

En route from Angkor Wat to Angkor Thom.

En route from Angkor Wat to Angkor Thom.

A map of the grounds of Angkor.

A map of the grounds of Angkor.

The first stop was the site the grounds are known for; Angkor Wat. It’s the first stop once you pass through the admission gates ($20USD for one day or $40USD for three). I was told that the word angkor means “city” in Khmer and that the entire complex was the former capital city of the Khmer empire. Here’s a look at Angkor Wat:

I thought this was a swimming pool. Turns out it was a pit for human sacrifices.

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I thought this was a pool. Turns out it was a sacrificial pit.

I thought this was a pool. Turns out it was a pit for human sacrifices.

My next stop was the majestic Bayon temple. This spot known for the many-faced towers that keep watch over the former capital city of Angkor Thom. When we pulled up to the Bayon temple, it took my breath away. I couldn’t see the stone tower faces at first due to the tuk-tuk canopy but once I was able to look up, I had to take a moment to appreciate what stood before me. Here’s a look at the beautiful temple of Bayon.

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The final place in Angkor I’d like to share is perhaps most famously known for being a shooting location for the 2001 action movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.  This temple is called Ta Prohm and is known for the huge trees that erupt through stone in a slow battle for dominance over the land. Some researchers say that these powerful tree beasts will someday erode the foundation of Ta Prohm and leave what’s left in further ruin once the forest has claimed its throne. This was one of the reasons I wanted to get there sooner rather than later. Without further ado, I present to you the temple of Ta Prohm.

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I do not know this man, but he would not leave the tree.

I do not know this man, but he would not leave the tree.

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Seeing these three main temples and a few other smaller ones took me 6 hours to walk through. If you’re planning on heading there and want to see a longer tour of the grounds, I suggest the 3 day pass. It’s really busy around sunrise and sunset at most locations since tourists are hunting down that perfect temple picture. Starting my trip in a place like this was incredibly humbling and hard to top. That being said, there were more adventures had and they’ll be published over the next few weeks. Thanks for reading and be well!

My Last Camp: Harry Potter Drama Camp

Happy new year Dear Readers!

Last summer I told you about English camp, a one or two week special program most public school English teachers must plan for and teach once a semester. I had mentioned that my favourite camp of all was Harry Potter themed and I had hoped to do it again. Well, I did! This year I turned the camp into a Harry Potter drama camp, where I wrote a five-act play that comprised of 14 characters, 8 different scene backdrops and costumes too! Our play was based on the second Harry Potter book, The Chamber of Secrets.

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I must say, my kiddies made me proud. We had two groups: one comprised of all grade 3 students and one with a mix of grades 3-5. This camp was also the biggest I’ve ever taught, with a headcount of 34 kids compared to the usual 20. The first couple of days we made our magic wands, reviewed the script and held auditions for the cast.

Table reading with our actors.

Table reading with our actors.

Making wands.

Making wands.

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We even had a basilisk! (That’s a magical creature – a super serpent if you will.)

The fight scene between Harry and the basilisk (Ginny Weasley is on the floor.)

The fight scene between Harry and the basilisk (Ginny Weasley is on the floor.)

The basilisk death scene.

The basilisk death scene. So dramatic.

The following two days were all about practicing lines, stage positions and making the scene backdrops. Both groups got really into designing the set and many wanted to get into costume before starting their creative process. It was too cute.

Headmaster Dumbledore and Hagrid.

Headmaster Dumbledore and Hagrid.

Dobby the house elf.

Dobby the house elf.

Background scenes in the making!

Background scenes in the making!

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The last day of camp we invited parents to come and watch our final presentation and they did a fantastic job! Most students memorized all of their lines, no scripts needed. Both groups were super pumped once the play was finished. They all clambered on stage for some group photos and bowed to the audience in true theatre fashion.

Final practice before heading to the auditorium.

Final practice before heading to the auditorium.

Final show for group A. Bravo!

Final performance for group A.

The final performance for group B.

Final performance for group B.

And just like that, my final camp was over. As the last kids ran off I was left holding 9 wizard capes, 4 wizard hats, 2 beards and a pair of glasses in my arms wondering where the time went. I must confess I had doubts about this camp. I’ve had failed camps before and I worried that a camp based on so much reading would intimidate the younger students who were not strong readers. Despite my concerns they all stepped up to the challenge and nailed it! I was one proud teacher that day and also a little sad that the fun was over.

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If camp planning could be a job, I would probably do it. I’ve gotten pretty good at it and I really enjoy the change of atmosphere compared to regular class time.

I’ll be on holidays starting Monday so I’ll be in Cambodia, then to Myanmar over the next 3 weeks. You may not see much action on karliinkorea.com but I’ll be posting pics on my facebook page so look me up and like my page to follow the adventures!

To read my previous article on English camps, click here:

A Day in the Life: English Camp!

Canadian Misconceptions

When traveling abroad, one often becomes an ambassador of their country, whether they want to or not. I’ve found some great Canadian friends since arriving in Korea 3 years ago and we’ve had many laughs over the random things people say about Canada. I gave a shout out to my fellow Canucks on the facebook community group “Canadians in South Korea.” I asked my countrymen to share the most common or outlandish questions they have been asked about Canada. These questions could be from anyone – not just from Koreans – and the results were hilarious.

Here are my top 10 favourite (and most common) responses:

1. I often get asked if we hike in the mountains in Canada. Many people I know believe that Canada has many mountains and assume that, as in Korea, we all live near them.

Ok, fair enough. A lot of people outside of Canada have no idea how vast our land is.

2. I was asked last week if I lived in an igloo.

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Seriously, I was asked this as well when I went to New Mexico.

3. I was once asked if I had a polar bear as a pet.

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Ok ok, this guy actually lives in BC, but he’s the ONLY person who has a polar bear as a pet and he’s been a bear trainer for over 40 years.

4. An American recently asked me if we have an army and was shocked to find out that we have a very well trained military.

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5. Over the summer I was planning to go home to the GTA and my Korean boyfriend was trying to convince me to land in Vancouver instead of Pearson (in Toronto) because “it isn’t that much further.”

"Hey I'm in Vancouver, just gonna pop over to Halifax real quick. Brb."

“Hey I’m in Vancouver, just gonna pop over to Halifax real quick. Brb.”

6. I had a coworker say, “I don’t mean to be racist but I’m going to ask you because you’re Canadian (he was an American guy) but do goats have hooves?” I guess he figured because I’m from Canada that we’re just overrun with goats or something? He also obviously thought that Canadians and Americans are different races…

Wow. I’m just gonna leave that one there.

7. I had an elaborate “4 seasons” presentation by a woman who thought that I must’ve been misunderstanding the concept when I said Canada had 4 seasons. She said “no no no” and proceeded to draw a series of diagrams (poorly) that represented the 4 seasons. Then she drew (again poorly) a picture of snow and said “This Canada: 1 season. These are Korea” and held up 4 fingers. I replied that Korea actually has “different seasons” than Canada: winter, yellow dust, rainy and humid, and fall. 

Good burn! Haha, but in all seriousness, this was the most popular answer I received and I’ve been through this myself. For some reason, many Korean people think that Korea is unique for being a country with 4 seasons and also believe that Canada only has winter.

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This is the yellow dust being referred to above. It's bad in both China and Korea.

This is the yellow dust being referred to above. It’s bad all year-round but tends to increase during winter in both China and Korea.

Another expat said, “Whenever I say something like, ‘It’s so cold today!’ I’m asked if it isn’t colder in Canada and why I’m not used to the cold. I have to explain each time that we use central heating to regulate the room temperature so we don’t need to wear coats and mittens indoors. Also that we keep windows and doors closed during the winter!”

As an example, here are some students from my winter camp last year. It's common for kids to wear their jackets indoors all day due to open windows and cold hallways.

As an example, here are some students from my winter camp last year. It’s common for kids to wear their jackets indoors all day due to open windows and cold hallways or classrooms.

8. I’m from PEI so I get 1 of 2 responses when I tell people I’m from PEI:
“Is that part of Toronto or Vancouver?” and “OMG Anne Of Green Gables! *gasp*”

anne

A lot of my east-coast friends get the Anne of Green Gables thing. That story is huge in Korea and in Japan, no idea why.

9. Why can’t we build buildings more than 4 stories? A local told me he saw a piece on Canada on TV and they said it is too windy in Canada so we can’t build buildings more than 4 stories high or they will blow over.

I don’t even know what to say about that one.

10. I always am kind of shocked when Koreans assume I don’t like spicy food. I’m like duuuuudde Canadians drink Caesars! Then I tell them how to make a Caesar (I teach adults) especially because I assume Koreans would love it (I mean a mix of alcohol, spiciness, seafood and sometimes Pickled beans!) and them I’m surprised again when most of them tell me it sounds weird and disgusting.

The classic Ceaser: Running through the veins of most Canadians nation-wide.

The classic Ceaser: Running through the veins of most Canadians nation-wide.

This one really makes me shake my head because I find it strange that someone could think that their nation is the only one with a corner on the market on spicy foods. When I tell Korean people we have Jamaican, Indian, Thai and all kinds of other culture’s spicy cuisine in our country, they seem surprised. I have been defending the fact that I like spicy food since I got here and know many others who would say the same. Why is it so shocking that another culture may also be into the hot sauce and chilli flakes? Maybe it’s the power of kimchi, which is a pretty magical thing I must say.

Me at a kimchi making class in the fall of 2013.

Me at a kimchi making class in the fall of 2013.

You can’t really blame people for not knowing about our great nation but what you can do is educate them. As long as people have the courage to squash their ignorance with honest questions, we should have the patience to answer kindly. Slowly but surely, people around the world will know that Canada has 4 seasons, a military, only one man with and pet polar bear and skyscrapers too!

My Favourite YouTube Channels to Rock the Classroom

Greetings Dear Readers!

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been travelling much lately. Since our academic year is wrapping up, t’is the season to hunker down and get through these last weeks which means mostly – controlling the lunatics the best we can. As part of the year-end clean up I find myself strolling down memory lane more and more. Part of those walks have taken me through my files and have reminded me of the awesome videos I’ve found through YouTube that have helped me in the classroom. I noticed there are some great YouTube channels that I’ve come to rely on and I’d like to share them with you. Even if you’re not teaching ESL, these are fun songs and videos for young kids in general.

My favourite youtube channels for teaching English are as follows:

#1: Pancake Manor

Two of my favourites are the “Big and Small Song” and the “Seasons Song.” They have well-produced videos with great puppets and catchy tunes.

#2 Maple Leaf Learning

These guys also use puppets but look a little more low-budget. They’re still cool though! The songs are quick and easy and kids love them.

Two of my favourites are the “What Time Is It?” and “How’s the Weather?”

#3 Have Fun Teaching

This channel does ridiculously catchy songs and most notably make awesome videos for vowels. They have really helped me to explain long and short vowel concepts to my lower-level students over the years. Honourable mention goes out the “Days of the Week Song” and the “Letter A Song.” Seriously guys, you WILL bust a move listening to these tunes. You have no choice. The rhythm is gonna get you.

#4 Kids TV123

My grade 3 kids got a great jump start on learning the alphabet sounds with their video the “Phonics Song.” It’s got a mellow tempo and leaves room for the kids to repeat after the singer. Highly recommended for low-level learners just starting out with ABCs and phonics. “The Big Numbers Song” is also pretty cool because the kids can count to one hundred with the song.

#5 Busy Beavers

This channel uses these weird animal characters in all of their videos and sometimes the animation looks robotic and creepy, but the songs are fantastic. They do full verse-chorus-verse songs so these guys are good. The kids don’t seem as freaked out by the creepy animation as I am so I’ve learned to co-exist. Two of the most requested songs from my kids are “In, On, Under” and the “House Song.”

This is my life guys! I don’t get pop songs stuck in my head anymore, I get the “Phonics Song” in my head now and I don’t even mind. I made this post for new teachers who may need a lead on some ESL songs but also for myself as a reminder of all the fun I’ve had with my kids over the years :) I’ll be traveling to Cambodia and Myanmar in January so keep an eye out for more adventures in the new year!