Monday, January 30, 2012

Seasons- 3 in 1

This is such a colorful time of the year in Laos! We are experiencing the last of the cool weather and for a short period of time, we get (in my opinion) the best of three seasons:

Spring Blossoms
Something's always blooming in Laos! But this time of year is especially colorful. 

                                        Summer Fruit                                    

Though it's not the best time of the year for fruit, you get to see it beginning to ripen. These trees are in my neighbor's front yard: a Jackfruit tree and a mango tree. There is a pink hammock strung in between. (My house is the light one in the distance.)
Watermelon and Jichama (man pao = coconut potato) are quite easy to find.

Autumn Leaves

There are only a few kinds of trees that change color here, and one of them happens to be right outside of my house. I love green, but Autumn leaves are definitely my favorite kind!

Now if only we could get a bit of snow...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Baci- A Lao Tradition

The Baci (pronounced bossy) is a staple of Lao culture. It is a ceremony and party for anything that needs to be blessed: a new house, a baby, a marriage, someone who was in an accident, etc.

First, the family sets up a Baci tree (Mak Beng) made out of marigolds and candles.

Oranges, tamarinds, and other food may be placed at the base of the tree to attract any spirit to come and give blessing. The family then ties strings to the tree and invites a monk to come and bless the strings.

The monk chants for about 30 minutes, then takes a string off of the tree to tie around the wrists of the family members who need blessing. Others are invited to tie strings to their wrists as well.

This Baci was for a new baby girl, so I tied a string on her...

...and Hong tied a string on her grandmother. They leave the strings on as long as possible to receive the maximum amount of blessing. 

Then they dance.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Lions or Dragons?

On Tuesday, a troupe of performers came to KIS to do the traditional (what the kids were calling) "Dragon Dance". However, I'm fairly certain they were lions.

What do you think?
Either way, it was a lot of fun!

Along with the animals, there were two guys in plastic heads and a bunch of percussion instrument players.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Small Reminders of Home- Blueberries for Sal

This segment of the blog is dedicated to the small surprises that are lovingly placed in my day, reminding me of home.

At the beginning of this week, a strange backpack appeared in my classroom. It did not belong to any of my students, so I put it on top of a bookshelf, assuming that the owner would come looking for it. A few days later, it was still there, so I decided to look through it to find out who it belonged to.

There were only three things inside: A notebook, a pencil, and one of my favorite children's books of all time. Honestly, I got a little teary when I saw it (and I'm getting a little teary now remembering it!).

 I absolutely love well-written, beautifully illustrated children's books, and this is one of the best!

A ripe mango made this nostalgia quite delicious.

How delightful that the Creator of the Universe hid this for me to find!

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac

10:30 on the 24th of January 2012 found 14 of my 5th graders performing in a play about the Chinese Zodiac. After the performance, they graciously allowed me to use their masks to re-create the story! Enjoy!

The Cast of Characters: Monkey, Rooster, Horse (unicorn?), Boar, Rat, Goat, Dragon, Tiger, Rabbit, Cat, Ox, Snake, Dog, and the Jade Emperor.

  Long ago, in China, the Jade Emperor decided there should be a way of measuring time.

On his birthday he told the animals that there was to be a swimming race. The first twelve animals across the fast flowing river would be the winners and they would each have a year of the zodiac named after them.
All the animals lined up along the river bank.

 The rat and the cat, who were good friends, were worried because they were bad swimmers. Being clever they asked the strong ox if he would carry them across the river.
'Of course' said the kind ox. 'Just climb on my back and I will take you across.'
The rat and the cat quickly jumped up and were very excited when the ox soon took the lead in the race.

 They had almost reached the other bank when the rat pushed the cat into the river leaving him to struggle in the water. Then just before the ox was about to win the race the rat leapt on his head and on to the bank to finish first.

'Well done,' said the Jade Emperor to the proud rat. 'The first year of the zodiac will be named after you.'
The poor ox had been tricked into second place and the second year of the zodiac was named after him.

 Shortly after, the exhausted tiger clawed his way to the river bank to claim third place. Swimming across the river had been an enormous struggle for him against the strong currents.

 The Emperor was so delighted with his efforts that he named the third year after him.

 Next to arrive was the rabbit, who hadn't swam across at all. He hopped across on some stepping stones and then found a floating log which carried him to the shore.

'I shall be very happy to call the fourth year after you,' the surprised Jade Emperor explained.
Just then a kind dragon swooped down to take fifth place.
'Why didn’t you win the race, as you can fly as well as swim?' the Jade Emperor asked.
'I was held up because some people and animals needed water to drink. I needed to make some rain,' the dragon explained. 'Then when I was nearly here I saw a poor little rabbit on a log in the water and I blew a puff of wind so that the log would float to the river bank.'

 'Well that was very kind of you and now you will have the fifth year of the zodiac named after you.'

 The next thing the Jade Emperor heard was the sound of the horse’s hooves. Just as he was thinking the horse would be the next animal to arrive, a sneaky snake wriggled out from around one of the horse’s hooves. The horse was so surprised that he jumped backwards giving the snake a chance to take the sixth place in the race. The poor horse had to be satisfied with seventh place.

The horse was so surprised that he jumped backwards giving the snake a chance to take the sixth place in the race. The poor horse had to be satisfied with seventh place.

 Not long afterward, a raft arrived carrying the goat, the monkey and the rooster. They explained to the Emperor how they had shared the raft that the rooster had found. The goat and monkey had cleared weeds and pushed the raft to the shore.

 The Emperor was very pleased that the animals had worked together. He said the goat would be the eighth zodiac animal, the monkey the ninth and the rooster the tenth.

 The next animal to finish was the dog.
'Why are you so late when you are one of the best swimmers?' asked the Jade Emperor.
'The water in the river was so clean that I had to have a bath on the way,' explained the dog.
His reward was to have the eleventh year named after him. Now there was one place left in the zodiac and the Emperor wondered when the last winner would come.

 He had nearly given up when he heard a grunt from the boar.
'You took a long time to cross the river,' said the Emperor to the boar.
'I was hungry and stopped to eat,' explained the boar. 'After the meal I felt so tired that I fell asleep.'

 'You have still done well,' said the Jade Emperor. 'The last year of the zodiac will be named after you.'

As for the cat who had been pushed into the water by the rat, he finally crawled out of the water but was too late to have a year named after him. He felt very angry with the rat and since then cats have never been friends with rats.

The End!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Unique Treats- Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year is on Monday, and some of my sweet students gave me some traditional treats.

 1. sugared, colored coconut strips; corn, strawberry, taro, and banana candy; candied pineapple, papaya and ginger; one prune.

 2. extremely sticky rice tightly wrapped in layers and layers of banana leaves.

3. spam-like meat (made with lots of MSG) wrapped in layers and layers and LAYERS of banana leaves.

Guess which one was my favorite!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why I Love Teaching The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

Not only do I get to hear students say wonderful words like "inquisitive" and "Rumblebuffin", but I get to have a bulletin board that looks like this:

Narnia post-spring

...and I get to write my own test questions and read outstanding answers like this:

I love fifth grade!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Denininzed Jeans

I don't know if you noticed, but during my country outing, I was wearing denininzed jeans.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the tag:

When I saw these at Home Ideal, I thought "Hey! I'm a cool trendsetting girl! I can get myself some denininzed jeans."

When I got them back home, though, I experienced a bit of buyers remorse. What should I wear with such a statement piece? Something that obviously has a fantastic stary? In my experience, polka-dot socks seem to be the answer for everything. (Red shoes are always fun too.)

So what will you wear with your denininzed jeans?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

January- Part 1

For the past 15 days, I’ve been taking part in this photo-a-day challenge created by FatMumSlim.

Here are my pictures for the first part of January!

1. You- Drawn by a 5th grader.

2. Breakfast- This is what I did to my breakfast burrito when a tourist asked to borrow my computer for ‘just a minute’ which ended up being about 30 minutes. I like to sort things. Like Babe.

3. Something you adore- This Christmas box! I’ve been saving things that my family has sent me as well as presents from friends. I’m excited to open it again in December!

4. Letterbox- Laos doesn't really have mailboxes (it's all about the P.O. box). I think this little house is for bills.

5. Something you wore- This pineapple necklace was given to me by my Oldest and my Best.

6. Makes you smile- This baby mango!

7. Favorite- Pumpkin Pie and Earl Grey Tea. Yum.

8. Your sky- Outside my window.

9. Daily routine- Our 5th grade Monday schedule.

10. Childhood- Lifting up your skirts and dancing.

11. Where you sleep- In this bed. With this fish. (Maybe THIS should have been the childhood picture.)

12. Close-up- A single Oatmeal Square. Perfection.

13. In your bag- Tangrams book in Lao, wallet, planner (that tree stump seems to be radiating math equations...), pen (with fashion colors) phone, keys, USB (on a keychain that was given to me by my pineapple necklace friend.)

14. Something you're reading- 'Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

15. Happiness- A belly-up nap in the sun.

So fun! I look forward to the next 16 days of photographing January!