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Sevilla
Jun 14th, 2010 by Tessa

When we were in Malaga, my Nana and her best friend, Greta, came out to visit us for over a week! We went to the town called Sevilla, where we honestly had the best tour guide yet. Her name was Concepcion and she showed us around the town everyday.

Phoebe and Greta at lunch in Sevilla

Phoebe and Greta at lunch in Sevilla

It is sad to say that the overall vibe of Sevilla is extremely touristy. Even as we walked around to all of the churches and cathedrals or road the big red bus around the city (which is a touristy activity no matter where you go), the city appeared to be one large tourist trap.

Walking around the churches was wonderful though. The main attraction appeared to be the church in the main part of the city, known for being the second largest church in current existence. A giant minaret spiraled up to the top

View outside mineret tower

View outside minaret tower

before opening into a large belfry where you can see over the whole city. It is really an amazing must-see site that should be on anyone’s list when they visit.

Minaret tower from town square

Minaret tower from town square

Church towers in Sevilla

Church towers in Sevilla

But after seeing multiple churches and cathedrals, we decided to pack up on the last day and hit the “big red bus tour”. There were just so many things to see that you lost track of the “Exposition” buildings, churches and famous factories that flew past. It was simply a relief at the end of the day to stumble back into the hotel and watch the flamenco dancers that were performing in the courtyard.

I think that the city would have been utterly delightful, possibly one of my favorites on the whole trip, if every single store front, booth, and sign was not dedicated to the tourism industry. Storefront after storefront had ridiculous flamenco-dancer-aprons and snow globes featuring the famous cathedrals. All the newspaper booths sold big red bus tickets and “I was in Sevilla” buttons, and it’s easier to find a sign pointing to the nearest tourist sight then to find an actual sign with the street’s name.

Phoebe and I watching dancers at our hotel

Phoebe and I watching dancers at our hotel

But Sevilla, none the less, was overall a very pleasant city and I loved sharing it with Nana and Greta! It would be a definite suggestion for anyone going to Spain.

The pyramids
May 2nd, 2010 by Tessa

tessa w big pyr

Camels are very terrifying creatures. Especially when you step out of the van with one 10 yards away, which is about as close as I ever wanted to be to a camel. Or will ever want to be. They have two knees, look like they’re skin is too big for them, have a jiggling lump on their back, and their pelt looks like if you go up and pet them you’ll get a handful of grimy, sweaty and possibly snotty fist of sand. They constantly seem to be staring at you as if your fingers are a kind of vegetable, that they know will taste horrible, but deep down must be good for you. They also stand much taller then you’d think. Of course, their 12 feet tall, but when they say 12 feet tall, you don’t except that that’s probably tall enough for a horse to walk under. The camel was so disgusting you couldn’t look away from it, which of course caused the guy holding it’s reins to walk over to our little brigade and ask multiple times if I wanted to get on and ride the camel to take a picture (Not trying to follow Jay Staats example, So I shall NOT ride the camels at the pyramids). I had to wrench my eyes from the monstrosity to look at the pyramids.

They looked- different then I was expecting… They didn’t seem to be the correct size, although I couldn’t remember whether they were smaller then I thought they’d be or larger. They also didn’t look the same size if you stepped forwards. 20 yards away from a dog, you can tell it’s about the size of a coffee table. If you walk 10 yards towards it, it still looks the size of a coffee table. 10 yards back from my current position, I would have said “It looks small,” where as, at my current position I was thinking “Huh that’s strange it suddenly seems larger now.” Within ten more yards I would abruptly stop, look up and have to rethink my whole perspective of it once more because it was now MUCH larger then it had seemed earlier, as if the dog that looked like the size of a coffee table 20 yards away suddenly looked the size of a horse 5 yards closer, and then suddenly looked like a house 5 yards away from it; maybe it was the sand dunes playing tricks on the eyes.

I also expected it to be somewhat smooth. They looked so much different from the ones in the movies, that I think they might have photo-shopped the imagery in the movie. Surprisingly, the best comparison I could come up with for them was the picture on the dollar bill. All I could think of is that someone could make a fortune selling tickets to rock climb those. It’d be a huge seller and would make enough money to repair any damage to the pyramid and more. They’re the perfect size and even a total beginner really couldn’t fall off of them.

On our way to the next pyramid in the famous chain, we stopped by the sphinx. The sphinx has a very long history as our guide informed us. It was originally a cliff that one of the pharaohs decided to carve to make his pyramid’s front look more beautiful. Turns out the nose is missing because napoleon decided to blow it off as a joke. The guide let us stop and offered to take our picture kissing the sphinx. Who can say no to that?

At the next pyramid, my dad and I decided to go into the tomb. We went down a very small hole in the side of the pyramid at a steep decline. The experience was very good practice for crawling through vents, which I one day might need to know as part of my ninja training.

We went down, through a small corridor, up to the chamber, where we were in a very stuffy room. Knowing I could be cursed, I took off my bracelet and waved it around me in a circle before putting it back on. It’d have to do.

We walked back through and emerged into the light, where our guide pushed us along back to the van.

Isn't that just great? You can see up its nose...

Isn't that just great? You can see up its nose...

girls w pyr

Tessa’s take on India
Apr 15th, 2010 by Tessa

India.

Where do you start?

New Delhi

We started in the capital, New Delhi. A city of cows, honking cars and assorted laundry boiling under a haze of smog- a virtual assortment of chocolates from a brand that my mom doesn’t like.

“AND THIS IS THE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT!?!”- Kate Wells.

It is true that their largest, and in fact, capital’s airport seems to be in the middle of a mass of tented houses and slums (for lack of better words). The parking lot was, in fact, a dirt parking lot and we were all in a somewhat temperamental mood after having to haggle and yell at the taxi drivers.

Now, it is very well to keep in mind that I have a VERY strong dislike of Indian food. And when I say dislike I mean that I seriously dislike it. So we set off into the world of India with our 4 backpacks, some tea, and a large container of peanut butter.

We passed Indian food restaurant after restaurant, and eventually came to our “Pearl Plaza” hotel. We hiked up the first floor with our back packs -then the second, then the third, then the 4th until we arrived panting on the 5th floor, where we dropped our backpacks into the room with a sigh. No phone, no pool, no pets (and no internet) had me feeling like King of the Road.

Agra

~See car accident post.~

Jodhipur

We stood at the “from Delhi” carousal a couple days later in Jodhipur. I had gone in 9 months from looking at the sidewalk and thinking “that is Japanese ABC gum” to thinking about how we had ABC gum at home and how I missed the sidewalk in front of our house. It’s strange what you start to miss. I could also look at the bottom of my flip flops or keens and think about how the ABC gum there was like the ABC gum at home.

It didn’t help much that the thing I was looking at on the floor was probably not ABC gum, so I followed my parents out the door with my backpack over my shoulder.

One of about 20 old temple buildings in the garden - pretty cool!  There were a bunch of drunk guys there that kept trying to get us to have barbeque with them - it was just like Hance Park back in Phoenix!

One of about 20 old temple buildings in the garden - pretty cool! There were a bunch of drunk guys there that kept trying to get us to have barbeque with them - it was just like Hance Park back in Phoenix!

The garden was CRAWLING with monkeys.  It freaked Phoebe out a little after "the great monkey attack" in Kyoto, but they had little babies so Phoebe mellowed out.

The garden was CRAWLING with monkeys. It freaked Phoebe out a little after "the great monkey attack" in Kyoto, but they had little babies so Phoebe mellowed out.

Eager to get on with our tour of the city as soon as possible so that we could go visit my Aunt’s relatives in Idar, we jumped to-it and wedged in a trip to a garden on the first afternoon before going to our hotel.

Getting a tour guide is like picking a straw. You could end up with the short end of the deal or you could end up with the longest piece. I now understand why our family is not a tour group family. After just a day of going to three sites and being told everything three times, I was only a straw away from strangling the guide. I found that nodding enthusiastically and smiling usually got me points for good behavior though.

Me in front of the Jaswant Mausoleum.  I will refain from further comment.

Me in front of the Jaswant Mausoleum. I will refain from further comment.

And now I will address the "caste" system in India.  Cultural tradition or not - its is just plain STUPID.  These little boys should have been in school, but they aren't allowed to go to school because they were born into the "musician" cast.  Ah, whatever!

And now I will address the "caste" system in India. Cultural tradition or not - its is just plain STUPID. These little boys should have been in school, but they aren't allowed to go to school because they were born into the "musician" cast. Ah, whatever!

The Majahrah back in the 1930's made a "poverty prevention plan" by building the largest palace in the world.  Now a third is the current Majahraj's house, a third museum, and third 5-star hotel... hum...

The Majahrah back in the 1930's made a "poverty prevention plan" by building the largest palace in the world. Now a third is the current Majahraj's house, a third museum, and third 5-star hotel... hum...

This is a picture from on top of the fort (that is really high up on a mountain).  Johipur is also called the "Blue City" because of all the houses that are painted blue.  They say that the blue houses are for the Brahmin class, but our tour guide said that's a rumor.

This is a picture from on top of the fort (that is really high up on a mountain). Johipur is also called the "Blue City" because of all the houses that are painted blue. They say that the blue houses are for the Brahmin class, but our tour guide said that's a rumor.

Udipur

By this time, I liked India’s hidden (possibly buried under the rubble and trash) charm and mom was starting to get used to it. Our hotel was a small, surprisingly stylish building down a small alley. We loved the Kaeser Palace!!!!! It was owned by a man, his wife and his little brother named Lucky. Lucky was probably one of the first people who was eager to help us who we didn’t know of before the trip in India. He gave my mom the right amount to pay for camel shoes, helped us tremendously with our room arrangement, and directed us to the nearest internet café when the internet was down.

In that city we also met some children. Their father worked at the shop down the way and their house was a three room apartment(ish) down the alley closer to the lake. One of the girls was 9 and the other was 15. Bittu and I did henna, walked around town and folded origami.

Our friends in Udipur

Our friends in Udipur

Udupur is also famous for its palace on the lake that you can see from our hotel. Mom had big plans to go and eat lunch there like it advertised on their website. So we stalked off to where the tuk-tuk driver told us the ferry was. Chaos rolled out like a nice carpet onto the floor. Mom got in an argument with the guards who wouldn’t sell us tickets to the island, we stalked off to a tourist-information to figure out what was going on, and found that we couldn’t go to the island because it was hotel guests only. From there we stalked back to the guards to find that we could buy afternoon tea on the palace that went up to the water. We bought the tickets for high tea, went up to the palace and were told that high tea was full and that we should go to the pool to be served. We went to the pool to find that there was not high tea, or anything vaguely like high tea, going on. The waiter who spoke English pointed out to us that there was no high tea anywhere in the palace and that we had been over charged by 500 rupees (approximately 30 rupees to the dollar) for our admission fee. We called the manager; sat in an office for a half hour while we argued with the guards over the fact that we had been overcharged 500 and that there was no extra money in the cash box. Mom screamed (editorial comment from “mom”… I did not scream, I spoke to them firmly!)  at them for pocketing the money off of tourists and after sitting in the office for another hour and a half waiting for the top manager (and reading a very interesting article on Alice and Wonderland in the news paper) we decided just to leave. Mom had to go over and “yell” at the guards on our way out one more time about the principle of the thing before we left.

(caption by Kate)  We didn't really want to go their dumb ole island palace anyway, we found a perfectly lovely place to have dinner and watch the sun set that was WAY better than the palace.  AND they didn't try an rip us off for $60 bucks!  So there!  :-)

(caption by Kate) We didn't really want to go their dumb ole island palace anyway, we found a perfectly lovely place to have dinner and watch the sun set that was WAY better than the palace. AND they didn't try an rip us off for $60 bucks! So there! :-)

The road to Idar

So from Udupur, we sardine packed back into our car and set out for the Jain temple halfway in between.

It was better than the Taj Mahal and it deserves more recognition.

One hundred and forty four pillars of intricately and uniquely carved white marble laid out symmetrically house small statues of Jain gods and large 600 year old trees. An aura of peace falls over the place in the sunlight and the high priests come to give free tours and practice their English.

The Jain Temple.  It was AWESOME!  Every single inch of the entire place was intricately carved, and it was massive.  Our tour guide was the head priest and we learned so much about their religion, it was really interesting!

The Jain Temple. It was AWESOME! Every single inch of the entire place was intricately carved, and it was massive. Our tour guide was the head priest and we learned so much about their religion, it was really interesting!

Later on that day, our driver was so pleased that we had enjoyed the wonder of the Jain temple, that he brought us to another one, unaware that today was a holy day and that there was going to be a giant throng of people going to this green temple which was still in use. We were followed by a giant mass of people until gawking citizens cleared a way in our path for our giant parade. We had small boys following us with arrows*, a group of guys about 20 who were making kissy faces at my mom and I, a little group of beggars and a small group of giggling girls that wanted to pet our hair. We went in to the temple, and I tried my best to avoid the people blessing you with the wet yellow bindies (the smell makes me nauseous) as we were shoved and pushed through the crowd.

*WHAT WERE SMALL 8 YEAR OLDS DOING WITH ARROWS?

This is at the green marble temple.  She how my dad and Phoebe have yellow dots (blessings) on their foreheads?  One, the yellow stuff stinks (gag!) and, two, they ask you to tip them - what's up with that?  Eveyone wants a tip in India!

This is at the green marble temple. She how my dad and Phoebe have yellow dots (blessings) on their foreheads? One, the yellow stuff stinks (gag!) and, two, they ask you to tip them - what's up with that? Eveyone wants a tip in India!

Idar

So we arrived at Idar late in the afternoon. I didn’t feel good and was sick for the rest of our stay there. I had a fever and the sniffles. Where does all the snot come from? It’s a mystery to me. Poor Metoo, Jeshal, Raj, and Dolly had to deal with me being sick and not wanting to go to temples the whole time we were at their house. They dragged me around with them in the car and I had a strange craving for only fruit. So I ate watermelon for the week we stayed with them.

They drove us to Ahmadabad the day we were leaving so that we could go to UAE. In the time before our flight we went to the malls and tried to find a DDR machine without success.

We left India with a sigh the next day.

Spray it with bug spray, tuck it in, and pray nothing gets in!
Mar 19th, 2010 by Tessa

“Who has the key?” Phoebe asked automatically as she stepped onto the wooden porch, that really didn’t deserve the right to be called a porch. It was really a bunch of wooden planks nailed to the underside of our cottage with a railing on the edge that would probably drag you down with it if you touched it. The house was on stilts and overlooked the sea. The builders must have been pressed for space because they had decided to build our cottage over the rocks leading into the water. We were IN the rocks to the point that one of our walls was half of the boulder that the right side of our cottage leaned on. Dad, leaned against the boulder and mom sat on the chair on the porch. We spilled into the room like a wave of water spills onto the sand. Dad quickly flicked on the fan and I climbed up into the loft that was serving as our room. I grabbed my book off the ladder on my way up.

My mattress was on the floor, so I took a special care in tucking in my mosquito net in to keep the cockroaches out. I stuffed the mosquito net farther under so that the mattress weighed the sides down. I was not tolerating any bugs tonight. I folded the mosquito net neatly behind me so that the entrance overlapped. I swung my legs under the covers. I paused just long enough for a seven inch brown rat to bolt out from under the blankets, run up my arm, over my shoulder and into the mosquito net behind me. I watched it flailing in the net from across the room.

“Wow,” Phoebe said from the top of the ladder, “You just FLEW across the room.”

The Royal Palace of Thailand
Feb 18th, 2010 by Tessa
Skyline inside the Wat - the golden onion and it's friends

Skyline inside the Wat - the golden onion and it's friends

One would expect people to be flouncing around in fabulous, flowing silks and feathered hats with their dainty toes in fabric shoes as they gamble around the cobblestone entryway to the Grand Royal Palace of Thailand.  A white wall skirts the outside of the palace grounds.  Not even reaching 10 feet tall, I doubted that it would withstand an attack from even the olden times when the palace was in full swing.  If we hand not walked all this way to see this specific site, and if it had not been so vast an area (not to mention the fact that there was a golden- onion like thing in the middle of the grounds), I would probably have assumed it a simple Holiday Inn enclosed in white walls with a very well tended garden.

The giant, onion-like figure glowed like a light bulb to our left.  I only had enough time to glimpse intothe small shops lining the walkway on the way to the temple (golden onion?) before I fell down the stair in a mess of a skirt. Mom constantly adjusted her new polyester jacket (and by new I mean new to HER) as if it would somehow make it go away. I pulled up my skirt, not really caring if my ankles showing was disrespectful, and hopped down the stairs, mumbling about borrowing the “appropriate” (and very hot) clothes from the “room for people who had forgotten to wear clothes that covered their shoulders or passed their knees.”

Lonely Planet did me wrong!  I was not allowed to wear my stylin' capri pants into the Wat, and instead had to "borrow" this awesome skirt...

Lonely Planet did me wrong! I was not allowed to wear my stylin' capri pants into the Wat, and instead had to "borrow" this awesome skirt...

The throngs of people bustled about and we eventually found ourselves in a museum displaying amazing works of gold and silver, studded with diamonds and other rare gems. The carpet looked like it needed some major vacuuming and the wood was a scratched chocolaty brown. Our little troop of four was herded into a corridor, passed the room displaying the clothes that the Emerald Buddha wore at different times of the year, and were eventually deposited in front of what, from afar looked like the golden onion.

To my surprise, the giant structure wasn’t painted gold, but was covered by hundreds of thousands of little golden, reflective, glass tiles. And up close, it gave me the impression of a giant salt/pepper grinder instead of an onion. True, it had the bulbous shape of and onion at the base, but then its long neck shot up skywards to be topped by a little flourish. And behind it was another building, with patterns sewn onto it in the same sized, mirror like tiles. The building, sparkled, glimmered and rippled in the sun like the green tail-feather of a peacock. Purple and blue and yellow and green appeared to move and dart to and fro on the walls like tropical fish.

The hordes of people seemed to all converge on the building’s tall doorway and the basin of water and flowers in front of it.  With both hands, they would firmly hold the flower between their palms as if preying, would dunk the lotus head into the water, and quickly dab their head with the flower before the water ran off in small, cold trickles. The doors were white and painted elaborately with dragon and flower patterns, crossing and crawling and weaving their way up the door.

Bajillions of tiny gold tiles, yes bajillions!

Bajillions of tiny gold tiles, yes bajillions!

Teeny tiny tiles everywhere

Teeny tiny tiles everywhere

My bare feet pattered on the floor boards as I entered from the doorway that seemed most quiet. I knelt down, imitating the others all around me. In front of me was a large display of what looked like a mountain of stacked furniture (although, very symmetrical stacked furniture).   Every object that wasn’t a painting, the wall, or the floor was covered in golden paint.  The tables were covered in golden paint and sparkled as if they were really solid gold.  Giant six foot statues were painted gold down to their shiny bare toes.  The lampshade-like contraptions that “levitated” around all of the golden statue’s head were  gold and the wooden clouds were gold as well.  It didn’t take very long for my eyes to be drawn to the one non-golden object in the whole room (except for the donation box of course, which a monk rudely placed in front of me while I was looking at the statues).

The Emerald Buddha sat in the middle of the heap of golden furniture.  He himself wasn’t gold (he was obviously green) but the statue was cloaked in robe made of pure gold.

I suddenly felt very uneasy standing in the large, beautiful room with all the golden statues looking at the little crowd of people kneeling with their foreheads touching the wood, so I got up and quietly left the room to go find Phoebe, mom and dad.

Us with one of the Emerald Buddhas giant guards

Us with one of the Emerald Buddhas giant guards

Don't know what her job is, but we thought she was pretty

Don't know what her job is, but we thought she was pretty

Sitting buddha outside of the temple

Sitting buddha outside of the temple

Skydiving.
Jan 23rd, 2010 by Tessa
The jumpers suited up!

The jumpers suited up!This is the extent of our "safety" training - "put your hands up like this when we jump, and when your insturctor taps you on the shoulder, put them down. Also, make your body in the shape of a banana." Seriously?Cool sign, but it would have been so much funnier if his head would have been cut off!

Us walking towards the perfectly good plane we are about to jump out of!

Us walking towards the perfectly good plane we are about to jump out of!

I have a theory. It may already be proven, but my theory is that the human brain releases a chemical to numb the “common sense” portion of our brain to make death easier. I have come up with this theory because of the fact that for the 20 minutes before we were jumping out of a plane, we were all giddy and happy like we were going to some special event. I have to admit though, the only thing I can remember that didn’t seem like a dream was the instructor telling me to sit on his lap so he could properly strap me in. I’m not sure if everything was echoing because I was light headed (not in the sick way, in the OMG what the HECK am I doing way) or because I had something strapped to my head that covered my ears.

I remember looking up at around 6000 feet and thinking, “There is no way in the world I am jumping here”- but after we got to around 10000 feet, and the squares of farming land melted together like a bunch of chocolate squares, I thought “huh. I can’t even see the ground. I’m glad we went to 12000 instead of 6000”. I watched as my Dad crawled to the edge of the plane. The plane was traveling so fast that I didn’t even see him falling, only him zooming out to the left as the plane traveled away from him. Olivia had a more dramatic fall and I could see her falling out of the plane before flipping backwards. I remember STARTING to crawl towards the whole in the side of the plane, but I don’t remember the actual crawling itself. I do, of course, remember dangling over the side of the plane 12000 feet in the air right before we jumped.

"Ah, the serenity"

"Ah, the serenity"

OMG - what have I done!

OMG - what have I done!

My stomach felt like it was in my throat as we lunged out of the plane, but was gone in an instant. I wouldn’t have realized my mouth was open if my teeth had not instantly felt cold and my mouth dry. It felt like I was standing in a very cold wind on the edge of a cliff EXCEPT for the fact that my feet weren’t touching the ground, and I was plummeting to the earth. It was oddly discomforting to have someone strapped to my back- and if I ever go again, I want to take a solo course so that I can go by myself.

Lisa Barrett - this one's for you!

Once the initial shock was over, it was AWESOME! Lisa Barrett - this one's for you - peace sister!Our cameraman was below us falling like he was dead! My "free fall" lasted for about 45 seconds and was my favorite part of the jump.Still in free fall - about to go through the clouds which I didn't even notice!

I swear that my cameraman was dead (or at least unconscious). The camera man had originally been my back up plan if our parachute didn’t work (that if my instructor fainted, the cameraman could probably rescue us) but now I was afraid that we might have to rescue him. He was sitting there so peacefully and it looked like he was either savoring the moment, or was knocked out cold. I decided to go for the savoring the moment assumption and continued to smile at the camera strapped to his head. Then he pulled the shoot and we were drifting. It was kind of awkward having a guy strapped to my back.

“So… Those things that look like little grains of rice down there… Are those sheep…?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Wow. They’re like…really small…”

“Uh-huh.”

“And…Um… Where are we landing this thing?” Suddenly a hand came over my shoulder and pointed at a small green patch with larger rice grains on it (planes, not cows. You can still tell the difference 6000 feet in the air).

“How cold is the lake…?”

“`Dunno…”

I gave up trying to make conversation with the guy strapped to my back after a couple more efforts at small talk. I don’t know how high we were, but at some point, he explained how to land to me, and we landed. Olivia and my dad were already inside getting unsuited. I wasn’t aware of the fact that I had a huge grin on my face until my mom ran up and hugged me.

Back to earth - check out my perfect landing form (the instructor told me what to do about 10 seconds before my feet touched down!)

Back to earth - check out my perfect landing form (the instructor told me what to do about 10 seconds before my feet touched down!)

Thumbs up!  First thing I said to my mom... "that was AWESOME - they have a $50 off coupon for my next jump!"

Thumbs up! First thing I said to my mom after landing... "Oh my god that was AWESOME - they have a $50 off coupon for my next jump!"Post jump reunion - we're all ready to jump again - solo next time!

I loved the whole thing! Even drifting with the instructour was great! I’d go again in a heart beat.

Adventures
Jan 11th, 2010 by Tessa

Everyone enjoys stories, because when you share a story, it’s like giving someone a piece of your life or a piece of your memory. And, we all know that the best stories always are exciting- and the main characters are brave and valiant- and theirs always something BAD going on, or some PROBLEM that needs to be fixed. I didn’t realized how boring my everyday life was back at home until I went to Asia, and my parents actually let me do things without them. Things seem rather mellow in Australia and New Zealand, now that there are no crazy taxi drivers and running across the street isn’t life threatening (not to mention we speak their language). Don’t get me wrong- we’re having a wonderful time, just not the exciting things you’d write about. Our days are full of driving past fields of sheep and contemporary art museum. Sometimes there are other kids too! But I tell you, everything that IS fun is risky, and might involve being really embarrassed about it. So, in other words, we haven’t been kidnapped, left for the wolves, been almost hit by cars, or fallen into a boiling pit of mud (which didn’t happen to us in Asia either, I just wanted to add that). Some of the things we’ve done:

I have though, almost been chased by an ostrich (You could tell by the way it glared at me). We also got to go into the enclosure with the kangaroos to pet them and feed them. Kangaroos are amazingly graceful and bouncy at the same time. I have to admit though; I was envisioning them being big enough to ride on. I was very disappointed to find that they weren’t much taller then my stomach.

Of course, the thing that every 13 year old wants for her birthday is to be stuffed into a giant hamster ball so that they can roll down a hill. Investing in giant hamster wheels might just make you a billionaire.

You’ll also never know the charm of a pool of boiling mud until you’ve been to one yourself. I personally, don’t see the big deal about coloured pools of water, but mom thought they were pretty cool. The boiling pits of mud were cooler by far.

Aussier/Kiwi Lingo
Jan 11th, 2010 by Tessa

Hotty- Hot Water Bottles

Breaky- Breakfast

Macker’s- McDonald’s

Chrissy- Christmas

Boardy- Board shorts

Rashy- Rash Guards

Chips- French Fries

Cupa`- (a cup of something- used as a pronoun)
Tomato Sauce- Ketchup

Thongs- Flip Flops

Jandals- Flip flops (NZ)

Eskies- coolers

Aluminum (pronounced AL-oo-min-ee-um)- aluminum (uh-loom-in-um)

Gum- Eucalyptus

Chewy- Gum

Reckon- think (they use think too, but they say reckon more frequently)

Boot- Trunk of the Car

Tubbers- Bathing suits

Knickers- Undies

Servets- napkins

Lolli- candy (fruit flavored)

Jelly- jello

Jam- jelly/jellow

Fear the fork!
Dec 11th, 2009 by Tessa

Well, back when we were in Canada, (I know, it seems like forever ago-) we went to this really neat store that was eco friendly and everything. Knowing that we were going to Asia where utensils were hard to come by, and also in desperate need of spoons, we bought the most ADORABLE miniature set with a fork, a spoon and some screw on chopsticks that all had pretty little rounded tops. We used it all through Canada (and got it through security in both Canada and the US) and then got it through Japan’s security, as well as China’s and Vietnam’s.

We were switching planes in the Philippines when we were pulled over by the security guards (even when you know you don’t have anything- you still get nervous…). My mom’s bag- so I didn’t have to worry about anything. The man took her backpack, took out the little canister and pulled out both of the forks (which, may I remind you have rounded prongs)- and throws them into the garbage. Mom- was mortified.

“THEY’RE FORKS!”

“Yes, pointy, can stab.”

“THEY’RE CHILDRENS’ SAFETY FORKS!”
The guy made a motion as if stabbing himself and then said a quick no while scowling.

A group of people looked over from across the terminal as my mom’s voice wafted they’re way. She walked away with a “humph” and stormed towards us.

“I was so mad at him I was about to throw the fork at him.”

“Uh, yeah mom! That really wouldn’t have helped your case…”

I was interrupted by Phoebe; “Oh look they have forks over there at the café! We could kill the pilot with THOSE forks!” A couple of people sitting down looked up for a second and looked at us funny.

 

After a couple of days we had to fly out of the Philippines from the same terminal. My mom stuffed one of our food bags with forks from the café right outside the terminal and then didn’t dump out the liquid and told us we should see if they stop us again. If they did she was completely ready to throw the fork at them. We got through security with both the liquids and the forks and mom had to go to the nearest security guards and demand her forks back. Sadly, they send the confiscated material weekly to the dump. They offered to search the garbage cans for her, but she shook her head and walked off triumphantly with her stash of plastic forks.

What are you talking about? That water is BELOW freezing!
Dec 9th, 2009 by Tessa
Dad and I diving "Rico's Wall" at about 12 meters - check out my awesome 5mil wetsuit - I was STILL FREEZING!

Dad and I diving "Rico's Wall" at about 12 meters - check out my awesome 5mil wetsuit - I was STILL FREEZING!

I was in debate on whether I should write about my scuba diving adventures or not- because, frankly, scuba diving doesn’t make for the most entertaining subject. But due to lack of ANYTHING ELSE super funny happening in the last couple of weeks, (besides the fork episode, of which I will post next) I will proceed to inform (and hopefully mildly entertain) you on the vast array of scuba diving equipment.

To start off, they give you a book. In the 3 hours I had before I went to bed, I had to read 175 pages of- not exactly the funniest book I’ve read (but the dive instructor did complement me on my artistic talent that I displayed on the margins- he also commented on my notes arguing with the ways they explained the laws of gravity and my notes saying that liquids, could indeed be solidified under extremely high pressures that caused them to compress. He responded by saying we were not going anywhere that was near absolute zero, so I would have no need to worry.). I then went back to the dive center and watched 3 hours of factual “how to take off your mask” videos that were periodically interrupted by a tourist on the screen (obviously an ignorant American ^_~) doing all of the WRONG things.

In the afternoon I was told to do 200m of straight laps and then tread water for 10 minutes. After passing both of those, they tossed the mass of equipment into the pool and had me demonstrate the skills I had learned on the tape/reading the book.

Finally on the second day we (my dad the instructor and I) headed out to the REAL Ocean. The sea churned the in the same way someone would imagine a witches pot to. The gray sky started to drizzle, and everyone moved to the back of the boat to avoid the spray of the waves that lashed out like arms over the front of the boat. Everyone suited up in there 3 millimeter wetsuits, and I got into my 5millimeter. My dad informed me on more then one occasion that 5millimeters weren’t for tropical oceans, they were for places like; quote: “I don’t know CANADA?” I told him that if I was ever going to go diving in Canada, I would have a custom made arctic dry suit. The dive instructor thought that was really funny. He also laughed at my habit of eating butter right out of the container or having butter, a can of tuna and a bushel of leechee nuts as my lunch everyday.

On the dive trip (once I got used to how COLD the water was) we practiced dive routines like filling up my mask and clearing it, The CESA, and calculating how long we could stay underwater without freezing too much nitrogen in our blood so that when we go up to the surface it doesn’t boil in our veins (charming- isn’t it?). We didn’t see much because we were practicing our emergency routines.

The next day, we had to get our equipment read ourselves. So I got all of my stuff (fins, goggles, snorkel, BCD, butter, leechees, wetsuit, etc.) and put it on the boat. If yesterday the witch was churning the ocean, today she was whirling it with a mad passion, laughing hysterically at the poor little people on boats. The sea frothed and I suddenly felt bad for the people who had to stay on the boat while we dived… And for the 20 people sitting on, what looked like a small bamboo raft that was being paddled out to the sea. Well… that was Vietnam for you.

The visibility was horrible that day, and my dad says we passed by him quite a few times before we actually SAW him. Never the less, the ocean was very beautiful (and cold, but also beautiful). Plus, we weren’t actually scuba diving for pleasure; we were more scuba diving to get me certified so that in better places (in BETTER weather) I could go scuba diving with my dad- which is exactly what we did in the Philippines.

A coral head in the Philippines - check out all the zillions of little tropical fish in the background!

A coral head in the Philippines - check out all the zillions of little tropical fish in the background!

"I shall call him Squishy, and he shall be mine!"  (a sea slug really, but isn't he cute!)

"I shall call him Squishy, and he shall be mine!" (a sea slug really, but isn't he cute!)

The Philippines was wonderful! The sea was clear- the locals had a fishing law so the reefs were protected! Boulders of brain coral anchored themselves to the sandy plains. Fields of anemone like animals thrived over table coral and colorful fish meander across the sun like swift silver clouds. It was almost as wonderful as hanging up silk curtains of every color all right next to each other, and then standing right behind them while the wind picked them up and swirled them around you.

There were this many fish (sometimes more!) everywhere you swam.  The colors were insane!

There were this many fish (sometimes more!) everywhere you swam. The colors were insane!

At some points I just wanted to lay down in the water at the bottom of ocean, feeling weightless and fall asleep, but I knew that that was one of the signs of multiple illnesses related to diving, and that everyone would freak out if I just stopped moving. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the Philippines hanging out on the boat and laying in the sun. It was a good day.

A Frog Fish.  These apparently are really rare.

A Frog Fish. These apparently are really rare.

This was eely eely cool

This was eely eely cool

Lion fish:  Pretty and DEADLY (dun dun dun...)

Lion fish: Pretty and DEADLY (dun dun dun...)

A good day on the water!

A good day on the water!

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