Todos Somos Um- “We are All One.”

  Todos Somos Um. We are all one.  The famous Brazilian graffiti artist Kobra choose this mantra as the title for the masterpiece he created for the games.  His brilliant and gigantic mural depicts 6 different people groups in a stunning display of culture, color and beauty.   It portrays the unity, peace and feelings of community that perfectly sums up my feelings for my time at the Olympics.   We are all one. I have never felt that more than this week, here at the Olympic games.

You can’t understand this strange Olympic community until you experience it for yourself.    We have all watched the Olympics on TV.    We have all witnessed the athletes compete and heard their stories.  Every four years we all cheer on the American Team and yearn for Gold with lustful anticipation. The media describes and perhaps ignites feuds between athletes and countries and at home everyone focuses on the competition and rivalries.

But when you are here at the Olympics in person the rivalries seem to melt away.  It feels completely different.  What you don’t see through the TV is the community of spectators, athletes, volunteers, families of athletes, and media personnel who have all united under shared passions.  From home it is impossible to understand he bond and friendships being built in the little Utopian Bubble that is the Olympic Games. 

This past week I got to live my dream.  I got to attend several Olympic events including the Opening Ceremony.   I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to see Kerri Walsh-Jennings absolutely dominate the Beach Volleyball court in person. I was also never so proud to be a Boilermaker than when watching Steele Johnson and David Bodia dive for Silver and give God all of the glory. It was also thrilling to watch US men’s basketball and Gymnastics.   I found it fascinating and enthralling to be there live with an energetic audience.

However, the events themselves, while thrilling and fun, were not my favorite part of being here at the Olympics.

What I loved most about being here during the Olympics was the COMMUNITY. The Olympic community is smaller than I ever imagined. Most events are all spaced out together in the Olympic park and it is fascinating to see people go around the massive park bustling off to their various events from water polo or  tennis to  handball or diving.

I kept running into the same people. I met these people on the bus going to the Olympic park, on the street, at the Boulevard or in line for different events.  It is thrilling and exciting to see people you recognize again and again.  It is fun to check in with each other to find out what they have seen and where they are going to next.  We shared stories of the games and gave each other advice.  Here in the Olympic Park, Rio suddenly felt small and familiar.

I saw athletes on their way to their events, duffle bags in hand and concentration on their face.  I met the families of the athletes with their nervous smiles and hopeful energy.   I created a group of friends from around the world and we all started sharing a common purpose.  We found ourselves suddenly rooting for each other’s teams, not just our own.

 The Host city’s intoxicating excitement compels everyone to root for every Brazilian competitor along with Rio’s  vibrant crowd.  I met many family members of athletes while roaming the Olympic Park and I found myself cheering, not just for the Americans or even the Brazilians, but also for the daughter of the Chinese woman I met in line of the diving event.   And I cheered for the son of the guy from Mexico and for the friends of that sweet couple from Argentina.  While at the Olympics in Rio, I started rooting for the world- not just America.


 When  I walked around the Olympic village I couldn’t help but feel a sense of camaraderie and joy. There are several tables set up in the Olympic Park and I saw  different groups mixing together sharing meals and hopping table to table to swap pins and collectible cups.   One evening I even joined a Danish Family in their game of 500 Rummy at one of these tables.

Here in this strange and magical Olympic bubble, smiles and kindness break language barriers and patience and understanding seem to be the normal mode of operation.  This utopia of peaceful cohabitation is why it is essential to visit the games in person.   It was here that my heart felt completely at peace and full of joy.  During all of the fun and love and celebration I started to fully understand Todos Somos Um. “We are all one”.  



I’m going to the Olympic Opening Ceremony!!   Today!!   

God is so good and so faithful.   He worked everything out and gets all of the glory!   My good friends drove me out of town to get the tickets from the FedEx shipping center. I am so thankful for them!  

  I am so beyond blessed and full of JOY!   How good is God?  He loves me so much even though I don’t deserve it- but that is what makes him so great!  We don’t deserve his love, but he loves us anyway!   Check out the emotional moment I had when I got my tickets.    I still can’t believe I’m going to the Olympics tonight!!! 

The Teacher’s Harvest: A letter to my teacher.

264536-harvestA year ago today a great teacher passed away.  Mr. Wiatt was a self proclaimed simple man.  He was a teacher and a farmer, yet he meant so much more to those who knew him.  He taught me to understand and appreciate mathematics, the subject I now teach and love.

I was able to send him the below letter for his birthday last year.  He received it a few weeks before his passing.  I am so thankful that I was able to express my gratitude for all he had done for me.   I was not able to attend his funeral because I was living in Finland at the time, but the family read the below letter at his services.  I wanted to share it with you today as I remember a great man and teacher.


My Dear Mr. Wiatt,

I am sorry I cannot be here with your family and loved ones today as we celebrate you and the great man, father, teacher and friend you were in our lives.   However, I want you to know what a difference you have made in my life.

I am a math teacher and I cannot imagine doing anything else.   Like you, teaching math is my life’s calling and I find so much joy and contentment from it. And I owe it all to you and your skillful example and kind instruction.   I would not have had the courage or the ability to pursue a math degree without first being your student.

You made a profound impact on me in school. You were able to explain math in a way that just made sense. Your teaching was so simple, so logical and without frill. You were able to cut to the chase and simply teach. I gained so much confidence from taking your courses.

You are a foundation of Southmont High School. A legacy. A legend. You were everyone’s favorite teacher. My parents loved you, my brother and friends loved you, and I loved you. And while, you sent many of us to the Hallway for various reasons (I think you sent me once for apologizing too much….I’m still sorry about that by the way.) you did it with love and often a trace of a smile.

Your stories and ironic wit made us all laugh and enjoy your math classroom. I, like so many others throughout the years, looked forward to math everyday. I thrived in your class and began to see that I could be successful in math. With that confidence came the realization that I wanted to become a math teacher just like you.

And I did. You, not my university education, taught me how to teach and love math.  I truly mean that. Those fancy education courses didn’t teach me a thing about actually teaching math- you did. Everything I know about good solid math instruction came from you. I use your crazy sayings and explanations with my students every single day I teach.  

Like you, my teaching is simple, logical and to the point and I also color it with funny stories and silly sayings that add life and fun to the classroom. I know now, just as you knew then, these silly sayings are not just for show. It allows us to really remember the special tricks along the way. I still can’t subtract a negative integer without thinking “Bam Bam”. I also always think “plus a blank-a, plus a blank-a” when I am trying to complete a square. And NO ONE will ever be able to add two unlike terms together because you simply cannot add Pumpkin Pies to Pumpkin Rolls! And the list of Wiatt-isms goes on and on.

What I am trying to say, your teaching legacy continues. You are teaching a whole new generation of students through me, and several others who have followed in your footsteps of becoming math teachers.

But your legacy continues and reaches beyond the math classroom. Your teaching legacy continues in the hundreds of engineers, doctors, nurses, businesspersons, electricians, farmers, accountants, construction managers, lawyers and other professionals you taught in your 40+ years of teaching.  

Our collective success is due, in part, to the math and life lessons we learned in your classroom. You knew math education isn’t about the math. It is about teaching students to use their brains. That is what you trained us to do, and for that we are forever grateful.  

You always talked about being just a simple farmer. And you were just a farmer, but not in the traditional sense.   What you planted in all of us was far more valuable than the corn and beans you planted in the ground.

We, your students who love and cherish you, are your crop. We, the students of Southmont High School, are your harvest.   We are your life’s work and we are so thankful for your years of dedication, love, kindness, wit, humor and service.

Southmont would not have been the same without a Mr. Wiatt.   Our lives would not have been the same without you. I love you Mr. Wiatt, and I am so thankful for you and what you have meant to my life.

Love Always,

Kelly , Your faithful math student.


” Yes I can! I’m Clover Anne! I can be an Engineer!”

I can’t describe how much I LOVE the below book series.  The  “I can be an Engineer” books are all about empowering young girls to be mathematical thinkers and problem solvers!  I know the author, who is an engineer herself.  She is dedicated to helping inspire young girls to become engineers.  We need more messages and books like this out in the world!  Please check it out!  I recommend having a copy of this book in all classrooms!  It is a great book for all boys and girls!

New Zealand: The World’s Mosaic

Picture 31Imagine all of best travel destinations in the world.  Got them?……All of them?  Now, compress them to create one magical island full of awe-inspiring beauty.  This small country has everything you could ever want. It is a mosaic of all the best parts of the entire world.  It has the rolling green hills of Scotland, the volcanic mystery of Hawaii, snow capped mountains of the Swiss alps, palm treed beaches of the tropics, the majestic lakes of Minnesota, the ethereal quiet of the Pacific Northwest,  Alaska’s sparkling glaciers,  the rain forests of south America, New England’s harbors and Midwestern hospitality.

IMG_0716Can this place be real?  Every corner I turn and with every bend in the road I find myself in another world completely unlike but as equally stunning as the previous destination.   It feels as if this much beauty should not be allowed to exist in one place.   I have fallen in love with New Zealand’s beauty, I’ve been seduced by its variety and enchanted by its hospitality.

New Zealand is unlike any other country because it is like ALL other countries.   Everyone can find a piece of their home, and yet it is so majestically alien at the same time.  I think, like hobbits,  You can learn all there is to know about New Zealand in a month, and yet after a hundred years it can still surprise you.    Just when you think you are starting to understand this incredible land, there is another jaw-droping landscape that takes your breath away.   I felt truly blessed to have the opportunity to see and discover this land.



Like most Americans, I knew very little about New Zealand pre- Lord of the Rings.  I had a vague idea of it being a small country similar to Australia, but not one I had a burning desire to visit.   However, from my first glimpse of the quaint green Shire in the movie the Fellowship of the Ring I became captivated by New Zealand’s beauty and innocence.   As the film series progressed  I became mesmerized by its variety and splendor to an almost obsessive state.   I knew that I had to visit this land that could be both Shire and Mordor, Rohan and Gondor, mountains and beach, winter and summer.  J. R. R. Tolkien never visited New Zealand, but I am certain that New Zealand was/ is Middle Earth.


2013: A year of Adventures


The first of the year always brings with it reflections of the previous year.  I started to get down on myself for not accomplishing everything on my lofty “to do” list for the year.  I may not have lost the weight I wanted, wrote a book, or learned a new language…but as I reflect on the things I did accomplish I realized it might not have been as unproductive as I originally thought.  It turns out I had quite the year!

Things I Accomplished in 2013




1)  I finished my Master’s Degree and Graduated from Purdue University, ( I ran a race the day after I finished my degree.)


2)  I ran a two 5k races, two 10k races and my second 1/2 marathon!   13.1 Miles!


IMG_29923)  I returned to Spain….and it was even more beautiful and meaningful than the first visit. I visited my favorite parts of Madrid and we were reunited like the old dear friends that we are.  I also had the chance to make “New Friends” of the enigmatic Granada, the majestic Alhambra, and the leisurely Mallorca.  Most importantly, God spoke directly to me during this return pilgrimage to Spain, and I learned how to Abide in His love and through that, my joy was made complete.  This return to Spain last April was one of the most spiritually rewarding experiences of my life.  I will always treasure this trip, as I will always treasure Spain.


4)  2013 will be the year that I lived with my brother.  We shared an apartment this year and on top of being the best brother anyone could ask for, he has also been a great roommate! I respect and admire him so much for the incredible man he is. it has been great fun living together!   I will be forever grateful for the this time we spent together here at Ashley Place.  Derrek is more than my brother, he is one of my best friends.


5)  I attended my first professional soccer game… a Quarter final championship league game at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium in Madrid.  I  wanted to go but I couldn’t afford even the cheap tickets.  However, God provided above and beyond my expectations!  He took the opportunity to show off and I was GIVEN 14th row VIP tickets!  It was an incredible once-in a lifetime experience!



6) I was awarded the Lilly Grant witch funded my summer research trip to Asia. I planed and organized this massive 2 month expedition.  I found the schools, teachers, and translators necessary to complete my research, as well as plan all the travels, get my visas, and arrange all my 19 different flights.  It was a massive undertaking that included 15 different cities.  In two months I didn’t spend more than three nights in a row in the same bed. A large part of my year was dedicated to planning and implementing this project, but I learned so much about the Asian academic systems and the unique Asian Culture.   This trip also allowed me to add seven new countries to my map which include; Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, China, South Korea, and Japan.  It even extended my total country count to 25!  (I only have 5 more to go in my whole “Thirty before I’m Thirty” plan!)


7)  It has been an amazing year of adventurous firsts! I walked the great wall of China and I explored the ancient temple complexes in the Cambodian Jungle.  I got a real Thai massage in Thailand. I navigated seas off the coast of Phuket in my Cave Canoeing adventure.  I rode (and fell in love with) an elephant named “Sabo”. I saw the most beautiful orchids in the world at the Singapore Botanical gardens and I journaled in front of my hotel room window that displayed the mighty Petronas towers of Kuala Lumpur.  I saw an epic light show dance across the Hong Kong Skyline,  I stood in attention with the ancient Terra-cotta warriors of Xi’An,  I explored the streets of old Beijing, ran to the birds nest and visited a real silk factory.  I attended both a dumpling feast and a tea ceremony.  I sailed down the river Li and witnessed its glorious 20,000 peaks!  I met the kindest people I will ever know in a South Korean coffee shop.  I ate a black egg that had been boiled underground in the sulfuric waters under Mt Fuji.  I attended a festival in Kyoto, saw the Golden Pavilion, stayed in a traditional Japanese Ryokan (inn) by the sea where I slept on mats on the floor and bathed in (public) natural hot springs.  I also visited a real Ninja House!




8)  I also dated someone for the first time…it turns out I am not really good at that sort of thing. I really prefer my independence it seems.  However, it was a great learning experience and I am glad that I went on my first real date in 2013…..finally!

9)  I had a student teacher teach in my classroom. (I know! When did I become old enough to be the one imparting wisdom to future teachers?!)   I did not enjoy this experience as much as I had expected as it was more difficult for me to give up control of my classroom than I had anticipated.  Maybe there is a theme here and in 2014 I should work on being less independent and more collaborative.

10)  This year I also took a chance and applied for a Fulbright Fellowship in Finland.  This is perhaps the biggest adventure I have dared to pursue.  It would mean me leaving my teaching position in Westfield for a few months to head to the Nordic Country of Finland for a 4-5 month research project.  I will not know until April if I will be accepted into the prestigious Fulbright community, but I put myself out there and dared to dream.  Who knows what the next year will bring, but I think I can content that 2013 was an amazing year.       Image

HERE is to another great Year!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Why Asia?

IMG_7549Ancient shrines, elegant arch bridges, divine cherry blossoms, artistic pagodas, spiritual temples, and breathtaking landscapes are all images one congers of the Asian continent.  Beyond these captivating and soul stirring landmarks, there exists a delicate culture based in beauty, honor, tradition, and a quiet strength that gives this unique society its understated power.   This culture, who highly values discipline and educational development, has lead the world in scientific and mathematical discovery for thousands of years.  Asia is still the champion of academics today.  According to international educational studies, Asian students out perform all other nations in their understanding of mathematical concepts.    As a math teacher, I proposed a grant to visit several math classrooms across Asia, meet with teachers and learn about the rich Asian culture in order to gain insight on how we can achieve similar academic success in the United States.  I proposed and was awarded a large sum to fund a six-week journey across seven Asian countries which helped me gain insight and develop an appreciation for the Asian culture and heritage with which I can share and inspire my students.

1002861_792807057756_1214827841_nI teach 7th grade and I know how first hand accounts and personal experiences have helped my students gain perspective and broaden their understanding of the world in which they live.  This age group does not connect to mere facts listed in a book, but are easily engaged with authentic accounts and personal reflections.   Asian history is a major standard of the 7th grade curriculum.   Throughout the year they will learn about all of the countries I visited this summer.  I have already had the opportunity to share my prospective and experiences with them on the subject.  I cherish opportunities that help me use my knowledge of various civilizations to teach my students and make them more informed and aware citizens of the world.

1010822_786267198686_1042957626_nAlthough I have traveled extensively in the past, this trip was my first experience in an eastern culture and it challenged me personally as an explorer.  It literally broadened my horizon and helped me realize that, with God’s amazing grace, love and provision, I can accomplish even more than I could ever imagine.   I relish the growth and experience this summer provided.  I tell my students that if your goals don’t scare you a little, then you are not thinking big enough.   This summer I took this motto to heart!  This summer was the definition of intimidating.  In the course of 7 weeks I visited 7 Asian countries, 15 cities, slept in 18 different hotels/ hostels, took over 19 different flights, and experienced 22 custom check in/ outs.   I accomplished all of this with ease without knowing the language or the traditions and customs of this incredibly unfamiliar  land.  Most importantly I loved every  minute of it.  This summer, I overlooked the incredible skylines of Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai.  I explored sea caves in Thailand.   I rode an elephant in Cambodia and explored ancient temples at the Angkor Wat complex.  I hiked up The Great Wall of China, and visited the ancient and mysterious Terracotta Warriors of Xi’An. I visited Guiline, and its awe-inspiring 20,000 peaks along the River Li.  I experienced true hospitality in Korea, and saw the tranquil golden pavilion of Japan.  Instead of staying in my comfort zone, I dared to dream big,  I aimed high, I sought out opportunities, and God provided in each and every way!

1045135_787561360176_517422190_nThis summer was both intellectually stimulating, professionally motivating, and emotionally renewing.  It not only provided  me with new teaching tools, concepts and applications for my classroom, but it also developed my understanding of the world.   This project gave me inspiration, direction and a renewed enthusiasm for the mathematics content that I love so dearly.  It also challenged me as a world explorer and transformed me into a more informed, well-rounded person and teacher.  Overall my goal is to inspire my students to be productive, informed citizens that feel connected to the world around them.  This project helped me accomplish that goal.  In the next few weeks I hope to share some of those lessons and experiences with you.  So stay tuned!

Top 15 Things About Asia that Surprised Me.

1. ASIA- The Land of Hot Dogs, Corn on the Cob, Ice Cream and KFC?????
Be it Thailand, Cambodia, China, Korea or Japan, what did I find on every street corner, in every market, cafeteria, street vender or convenience store? Hot Dogs and corn on the cob! Ice cream cones were always nearby as well. Top that with the fact that KFC’s are more common than McDonalds and Starbucks combined, your mind just might explode. But it is the truth. For every 1 McDonalds there was at least 4 KFC’s My cambodian driver had never even heard of McDonalds or Starbucks, but there were 2 KFC’s in his small city! A month ago I would have told you nothing screams US of A to me more than Hot Dogs, Corn on the Cob, Fried Chicken and Ice Cream. I mean, all of them are literally dripping with so much American tradition it is ridiculous. However, I would say that more Chinese eat Kentucky Fried Chicken than do Americans. I mean, when was the last time YOU went to a KFC? I am not even sure if there is one in my city. Now I understand why they are on the demise in the US. KFC is concentrating all of their efforts on the Billion people in China! And don’t get me started on the number of Ice cream shops in Asia. They LOVE I mean LOOOOVVVE Ice cream over here.

2. Where’s the Sauce?
I have yet to find Soy Sauce on any restaurant table. It is nowhere to be found. Apparently adding more salt to already salty food is just an American phenomenon. As are Fortune Cookies. I have had amazing Chinese meals, and not a single one of them ended with a cookie telling me helpful advice like “He who does not drink is thirsty.”

3. A Red Light does not mean Stop
Well… It does, but not for long. I found it surprising that a culture that is so trained to follow rules and not question authority have NO problem violating every traffic rule known to man. Crossing the street in Shanghai was always a life and death type of experience. And there were several moments in various Chinese cities where I felt like I was Frogger. The red light on a stop light apparently does not mean stop. It means slow down, check that no one else is coming and then keep going. But, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. If I grew up in Red China, maybe I would think Red was “go” as well. (Too soon?) Also, they have trouble with waiting in line. I don’t know how many middle aged Chinese women pushed right in front of me in various types of what I assumed to be line situations. Apparently a line is of little significance. I finally learned that you have to just respectfully push your way in. If you try to wait politely for your turn, you may be waiting a long time.

4. The Happy Room- Not so Happy.
The guide at the Forbidden Palace kept calling the bathroom the “Happy Room”. And with such a cheerful nomenclature, how could I not go utilize its services. However, this was my first experience with the public bathrooms of China and I didn’t find it quite so happy. There are two things you should know before you enter a public restroom in China. The first being that there are no toilet seats- they are all squat style toilets.


This seemed shocking to me at first, but I can see the logic behind these types of public toilets. There is no contact with the actual device- therefore in a way it is more hygienic. You just aim for the hole in the ground. The problem is that I am a westerner who is not accustomed to such a system and there are other westerners here as well and the floor was COVERED with…well lets call it “happy” water. The smell was quite over powering. The second thing you should know is that public bathrooms are BYOTP. Thats right. Bring your own Toilet Paper. If you are used to that system it isn’t a problem. You come prepared. However, if you are not used to this system you are kind of left in the lurch. Thankfully before I entered the stall for the first time,a Chinese woman gave me some of her tissues. In the rare event that you did run across a western style toilet seat there are helpful (illustrated) instructions on how to use such a device!


PHEW! I am so glad those were there. I almost forgot that you are not supposed to stand backwards on the toilet seat. That would have been embarrassing. Not to mention difficult! I don’t think I am that talented. I got use to the Chinese bathrooms….kind of. But I was really glad to see the Happy Rooms in Korea and Japan. Their seats not only existed, but were heated! However they had so many bells and whistles on them I found them quite intimidating.

5. Chinese prefer Blonds
For a bit in Asia I was traveling with a family from Australia. They were all blond and caused quite the stir amongst the Chinese tourists. Those who were traveling from the Chinese countryside were especially fascinated with the family’s daughter because of her light skin, blond hair and blue eyes. They would run up to her, grab her and take a photo with her. At first she was quite scared, as you understandably would be, then she got use to it. However, about 100 pictures later she got annoyed. My friend Karyn once had a lady come right up to handed her baby over to Karyn and took a picture of the two of them. It was quite funny! My friend Karyn was like…she just handed me her baby! He was the cutest little happy Chinese baby you have ever seen. ( side note, this trip has really made me want a chubby little Asian baby!). This reverse photo bombing never happened to me because I don’t look Western enough.

6. They are scared of the Sun
If the sun is out, the Asian Women are under umbrellas. Their culture loves fair skin and they go to great lengths to stay pale. The hotter the weather the more covered they are. They wear long sleeves, hats, gloves, sunglasses, scarfs, even face masks to protect their skin. I almost got the feeling I was living amongst a community of vampires. The truth is that they think white skin is beautiful and that darker skin means that you are part of the working class. Therefore they will go do almost anything, to stay pale. I even saw a woman wear a full face mass and cover every inch of their body while going on their morning run. They carry their umbrellas everywhere. Some are even very talented at holding the umbrella while riding their bike, with two kids in tow. This aversion to the sun is not just for vanity, but also helps them improve their station in life. It is harder for a tan woman to get a good job in China. This is very different than the American philosophy that views tan women as relaxed, healthy and vibrant. While this Chinese practice seems to be painfully warm, perhaps this is much healthier than those who spend their summer frying their skin in an effort to look like an Oompa Lumpa.


7. “High” Style
Fashion was very interesting and varied from city to city however there was one common thread. The girls wore: high heels, High collars, and High skirts. Seriously. Everyone wore high heels. I mean my feet ached just to look at some of these shoes! And the skirt and shorts were very short, but the neck lines were ULTRA conservative. I mean It was very rare to see a collar bone and absolutely NO cleavage. Almost every man in Korea dressed and looked like a math professor (Nice slacks, shoes, button down shirt and big glasses)- It drove me wild!

8. The half shirt compromise
In contrast to the women who cover up to avoid the sun, when it was hot it was very common to see men, especially old men, in China roll up their shirts up to their armpits and walk around the city, eat dinner in a restaurant, or ride the subway, fully exposing their stomachs. Up until 2008 it was not uncommon for men to go about their day without shirts. When the olympics came to Beijing, the government, in an effort to appear westernized, made it law that men had to wear shirts at all times. Therefore, this half shirt on-half shirt off is a way for the older men to cling to their past without disobeying the government. I call this the half-shirt compromise.


9. Remove your Shoes!
I now know why it is very important to remove your shoes before you enter a house, or restaurant or school. Between the squat toilets, the poor drainage systems, and the fact that it is culturally accepted in China to spit anywhere at anytime (I mean, big honking spits right in front of people. I think I almost got spit on a couple of times.) your shoes get quite filthy. I still forget to take of my shoes sometimes and I hate when I realize how rude that is to their culture. The school I visited in Korea requires its students to remove their shoes when they enter the building and wear special slippers around the school complex. And the hotel workers where shocked when I entered my hotel room before first removing my shoes. One of the spas I visited in Thailand made us leave our shoes outside of the store before we entered. It is very important to them and after living here I see why.


10. It’s not the same.
The Letters and Characters of Thai, Khmer, Malay, Chinese, Korean and Japanese all look VERY different. Below is the same sentence (They do not look the same.) translated into the different languages. You can see how different they are.

Thai: พวกเขาไม่ได้มีลักษณะเดียวกัน
Malay: أنها لا تبدو هي نفسها.
Chinese: 他們看起來不一樣的。
Korean: 그들은 같은 보이지 않는.
Japanese: 彼らは同じように見えません。

Khmer- The Language of Cambodia is my 2nd favorite ( only after Thai). However, it is not easily translated. Below is a sample of its beautiful writing. I have no idea what this says.


11. Which side of the road?
There is a major discrepancy on which side of the road is used for driving. This caused me a lot of difficulty. I never knew which side of the side walk, stairs, escalators to walk on or which way to look before I crossed the road because it kept switching on me. In Singapore and Thailand they drive on the left, but Cambodia was right. Hong Kong was left but Mainland China and Korea were right. And then Japan was left again. It is probably a good thing I wasn’t driving.

12. Breakfast is just a meal in the morning.
The breakfast buffet at my hotels were always interesting. They put a mix of “western” breakfast food in there for the tourists, but the rest was filled with Chicken Terriaki, Salads, Noodles, Soup, Sautéed cabbage, fried rice, sushi, ect. I am sure it is strange to them that we have to have a “special” kind of food in the morning. To them breakfast is no different than any other meal…it is just the first one of the day.


13. The Cost is the Same.
The prices may be different due to the conversion rate, but overall I have noticed that the cost of items in China and Korea are fairly similar to the costs found in the US. This was shocking to me. If something is inexpensive, it is usually made in China. Logic then follows that all of the products in China would be inexpensive. This is not the case. If you go into a mall in china and factor in the conversion rate, the price of ordinary items are pretty much exactly what they would cost in the US. Now,I will concede that food is less expensive. You can go out to eat with your friends and the cost of the meal is less than what you would pay for one meal in the US. But, products are not as cheap as I thought. In the markets I was able to barter a bit and get some prices down, but I think I was still paying the tourist price for most items. However, some items I found more expensive in Asia. Coffee, for example, is much more expensive in many parts of Asia. (And not very good. Seoul was the exception.) And EVERYTHING was expensive in Singapore and Japan.

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14. Seoul- The Seattle of the East
There were more coffee shops in Seoul than just about any city I have visited in the US. Almost every other building was a multiple story coffee shop. It was wonderful! Mix that with the fact that it was drizzly 4 of the 5 days I was there and you can see why I kept forgetting that I wasn’t in Seattle. However, I found out that it isn’t usually customary to have friends over to your house in Asia. You don’t often entertain guests at home- you get together at a resturant or in this case a coffee shop! Also, people are so friendly in Korea. I actually met a few people while I was at a coffee shop. I noticed a guy wearing a cap with the American flag on it. I am sure I said a cheesy joke and we started talking, I helped him with his English lessons and we became instant friends! We met up for dinner the next evening and they even brought me a gift of special Korean cookies! I was quite touched! They are great people and I am so blessed to have met them!


15.Soap Operas- the Universal Show.
One day in Shanghai I took it easy and stayed in my room. I ended up watching a bit of a marathon of a Chinese Soap Opera. To my amazement, after only 30 mins I pretty much figured out the entire plot-line without understanding a word of what they were saying. I also realized in about the third epesoid each one has exactly the same plot with only subtle variations. I found out that there about three things on the television in China; very dramatic soap operas, Old time China period shows or really, complicated and hysterical game shows that seemed pretty random and therefore impossible for me to follow.

Wandering in Madrid

Screen shot 2013-03-25 at 6.22.32 PMMost of my days in Spain were spent aimlessly wandering around the streets of Madrid.  I liked living in a big bustling city.  Everyone always had somewhere to go, see and do….but not me.  I just sat, watched and walked.  I walked from Plaza to Plaza, bistro to bistro, and museo to museo.  I ate more olives (aceitunas) than one could possibly count.  Green olives, red olives, black olives, reddish brown olives and I swear some were even purple….. This olive based diet was not a product of my obsession with this vegetable-fruit (although I do love them), but rather because every café, restaurant, bar or bistro in Madrid supplies its patrons with a deliciously endless plate of complementary olives.  Couple that information with the realization that the wine was quite literally cheaper than a glass of water and you have discovered my daily lunch menu.

Screen shot 2013-03-25 at 6.32.02 PMMy first few days in Madrid I explored all of the big tourist spots.  I visited the Plaza Mayor, The Royal Palace, The Opera House, Botanical Gardens, The Soccer Stadium and The Bull Fighting Ring.  But after a week or so I settled down into a routine of exploratory leisure.  I woke up late in the morning, got dressed, walked to the Metro station and started my day in front of the Banco de Madrid.  Here I would get some breakfast, which usually consisted of a chocolate croissant and a café con leche.  I would sit outside and eat it while I watched the businessmen and women hectically go about their day in this bustling city center.   When I was finished with breakfast and people watching I would start my daily stroll through the city.

Screen shot 2013-03-25 at 6.37.56 PMI always took the Metro Line 9 and then I always transferred to line 2 at Principe De Vergara station even though there were other stops that were just as easily accessible and direct.  I choose this particular exchange because of a street musician who’s violin filled this station with sounds of Vivaldi , Mozart and Chopin.  Sometimes it saddened me at the number of people who took his presence and talent for granted.  Everyday the same thankless crowd would walk by without a single glance or indication on their daily commute to their busy jobs.  Yet I suppose I was just as guilty.  I justified myself by the fact that I often stood and listened and give him an euro each day.  Yet I did nothing more than wonder what had led him to this life.  Did he know how much joy his notes brought me everyday? Did he know that I organized my daily commute so that I could hear him play?  I wonder if he is still there playing, providing a beautiful and consistent service for those who are too busy to listen or care.  Yet I am sure he will be missed once the station falls silent.

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My stroll varied each and everyday but generally consisted of the same elements in different variations.  The best route would start at the Peurta del Sol to visit the infamous bear of Madrid Statue.  I did not stay here long because during my tenure in Madrid this plaza had become a makeshift tent city full of thousands of  “angry youths” protesting the Spanish government.  It was a sort of precursor to the Occupy Wall Street movement that would happen a year later in New York.  I could understand their plight.  Spain had a 24% unemployment rate at the time, yet most of these “angry youths” looked pretty content with their jobless career of getting high and making a mess of the beautiful city square.

Screen shot 2013-03-25 at 6.30.31 PMI would continue my journey  from the crowded and somewhat shady Puerta de Sol to the Plaza Mayor.  Here I would stop and look at the street artists and visit some local shops.  This ancient City Square is beautiful and full of rich history, yet it is also a tourist trap.  The restaurants surrounding the Plaza are inauthentic and drastically overpriced so I would stroll onward.  I’d get lost in the cobbled stoned back streets of the old city to find a cozy little restaurant off the beaten path.  I would finally find a place away from the expensive tourist restaurants filed with English menus.  And I would sit and eat my free plate of olives and drink my seemingly perfect glass of wine while I journaled, wrote post cards and reflected on a perfect day strolling around the city.

Screen shot 2013-03-25 at 6.27.34 PMAfter I had my fill of wine and reflection, I would continue my promenade through the city.  I strolled past the Gran Villa, the Plaza de La Cibeles, the most beautiful palace/ government building in Spain, the triumphant archway of Puerta de Alcala and on to El Parque del Retriro, which is one of the most enchanting and peaceful parks in the world.  I could spend the entire day just in this big city park watching the boats paddle in the pond in front of the Monument to Alfonso the XII.

Screen shot 2013-03-25 at 6.24.12 PMThe best part of my Madrid Wanderings was that I never knew where I was going to end up.  Each and everyday was different and I simply followed all of my whims and fancies.  Inevitably I would stumble upon some festival of some sort either at the park or the Plaza Mayor.  My favorite day was when I happened upon a used book festival.  I spent hours combing through the giant outdoor library.  That is the beauty of an unplanned day, each new café or park or monument becomes a little gift.  You can take the same path the same day for 20 days in a row yet each day has its own little discovery or gift. Each day can be a new adventure if you only allow yourself to open your eyes and truly see the world around you and if you are not afraid of getting a little lost along the way.