Tips for Homeschoolers, from a Homeschooler: The Social Aspect

Homeschooling is tough when you’re first starting. I was a traveling homeschooler between the ages of 6 and 9, then went into a Schooling System for 10, 12, and 13. Now a couple months from turning 17, I’m a year and a half away from completing “High School”. But if you’re starting 1st grade, transitioning from Public School to Homeschooling at 14, or a parent thinking about homeschooling their kids, these are some things I’ve learned (with added wisdom from my parents) about homeschooling.


Its no secret that making friends and getting out of the house is the biggest challenge that a family can face when they’re starting to homeschool. The first thing you need to know for sure before starting is exactly how you’re going to fulfill your social needs. When pondering about this, don’t go crazy thinking that you need 7 hours of social life like in a “normal” school day. You don’t. Though different for every human being, the time we need to spend with people isn’t a ridiculous amount like that.

When I first arrived to Malaysia, my Mom and I looked up different things that were going on here. You can be surprised what you’ll find when you start looking online, because I didn’t expect to be able to take after-school classes at an International School 5 minutes away from where I live. Much less Debate, Acting, and Impromptu. In Malaysia. The classes were a great way to meet people, but this wasn’t where we stopped. After a couple months I was taking violin lessons weekly, in an exercise group 5 times a week, and had made friends to hang out with on the weekends. Now over a year later, I think I’ve learned a couple things that could’ve made it easier:

  • W H E N  Y O U first arrive to a new place, its a good idea not to be too choosy about your friends. That doesn’t mean take whoever will befriend you, but lets be honest, you’re not in a position to be up-ity. Without betraying you’re values (don’t do stupid things to get people to like you), you can find people you genuinely get along with. Maybe even someone you wouldn’t expect. Because honestly, a best friend isn’t going to magically fall out of the sky.
  • W H I C H  I S why you’re going to join every possible activity out there. Even if its a flute class and you’re more of a trumpet kinda guy. You’ve gotta suck it up (no pun intended) and give yourself a month or two. Even if it kinda stinks in the beginning, which it will because being the new kid isn’t easy. This is a good idea for so many reasons, but mine are that it throws you into groups of people that otherwise you’d never meet, and also lets you do something you wouldn’t normally try. But you can find people, who even if you don’t want to “hang” with them outside of whatever group/activity brought you together, you can enjoy them enough in the activity itself.

The definition of Homeschooling to me is Balance, on all sides of the spectrum. Which means that once you have your social aspect set up, you can’t be ignoring any important things because of it. Nothing new, but having lots of friends isn’t more important then paying attention and learning in your studies. So to help set you up beforehand, or when you first get there:

  • L O O K  U P anything and everything online. Not only should you look for other homeschoolers in the place you live or are going to live in, but check out the classes you’re willing to take and get into that look like they would be diverse and full of people similar to yourself. Then mix these with classes you’re really interested in, which will help get you out of the house.
  • A S K  A R O U N D when you get there. If you meet other homeschoolers, maybe they’ll know something that you’d be interested in. I volunteered at a Spay and Neuter Clinic twice a year for a couple of weeks at a time, and it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. And I wouldn’t of know about it if it wasn’t for locals, because things like that won’t pop up in Google.

And thats about it socially.  Homeschooling is complex, even if you aren’t traveling anywhere while you’re doing it. Just make sure you relax, be yourself, and don’t miss out on an opportunity because you’re nervous. You’re not the only one who has had to go through this, and you won’t be the last.

Trust me.


Or instead of making friends you could spend your time lamely posing in front of conveniently planted signs. Boston, U.S.A, 2011



A brief about me <—– Who even am I? (Existential crisis ensues)

Latest Article —> The biggest man-made  natural disaster you don’t know about 

Facebook page




One of the biggest man-made natural disasters you don’t know about

One of the biggest natural disasters this year started 6 months ago, and I doubt you know about it if you’re not from Asia. Because besides the fact that it affected several countries in South East Asia, the major media outlets haven’t bothered to even headline it.

“Not even kinda?”, you ask?

Yep, not even kinda.

Between July and October this has been going on, and the country I live in was suffocating in a thick smoke that traveled across the sea from Indonesia for 2 months of it. A haze, repugnant in look and smell, and in an absolutely god-awful taste rolled into Penang, Malaysia while I was away. I heard about it while I was gone, but nothing that was startling. Nothing about how devastating it really is. So after a month of travel, I came back to what I thought was a normal Penang. Almost exactly how I left it. And for the most part it looked so. I didn’t know the winds had shifted, sending it another direction. A few days after returning we were getting back into our routine. I was starting my school year. Everything seemed to be back to normal.

But then it began.

It’s a yearly event, something that was mentioned in passing by fellow expats who have experienced it for decades. But no one could expect that this would be the worst year since it started over 2 decades ago.The white smoke snuck in from below and above. It blocked out the sun, and covered the mainland before weaving its way along the bay outside my apartment, slowly covering everything in sight 3,000 meters away. Then 2,000ms. 1,000ms. Suddenly our gorgeus view was replaced by a smog so thick I could cut it with a knife.

But by then the view was the least of our problems.


Our view a year ago.


Our view in early October

Once it began to seep into our apartment we had to have our doors and windows closed at all times. We soon became the air-conditioning addicts we made fun of before, and avoided going outside completely. On Facebook, I could see people who had jobs outdoors wearing gas-masks. Schools were closed across Malaysia, and every outdoor acivity was cancelled without mention.

Everyone knew that the haze had officialy closed down a country.

So cooped up in our apartment, avoiding the outside world by ordering groceries online and calling for take-out, we looked up what this haze really was.

And this turned up.

Our country-neighbor Indonesia, one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been, is also one of the leading exporters of Palm Oil. Palm Oil is in 50% of the products you use, in case you didn’t know. And with fields across the nation, companies big and small manufacture and sell it internationally. But after a busy year, the fields that had once hosted their products barren, and are completely useless to them. The crops, after use, tarnish the field to an almost, un-reusable extent. They need to start again, and need fresh space to plant new trees. But how can they do this?

Well, it’s simple. Burn the soil, and replant, and while you’re at it expand a little.

Quick and easy, right?

“Today, rainforest area the equivalent of 300 soccer fields is being destroyed every hour.”

This year it started in June, and winds from El Nino (The big bad storm) pushed the smoke to Singapore, Malaysia, and even up to Thailand. Since the fires started aren’t properly contained AT ALL (Smaller businesses even claim not to start them), the fire doesn’t just stop in the counterfeit fields. It spreads into one of the most magnificent and beautiful jungles in the world, home to the ever-dwindling orangutans, monkeys, rhinos and tigers.

And to countless Indonesians.

And while most years these fires are put out relatively soon, this year the right winds and a very dry rainy-season provided the perfect opportunity for the fires to manifest. Unstoppable, they eat away the jungle into ash as they suffocate Indonesian children, women, and men. With over 500,000 documented respritatory tract infections this year, there is an expected 100,000 premature deaths for next year caused by the smoke. 

And while Malaysians complained about the haze, looking at the official Haze Index, the highest the smoke reached was in the late 200’s.  That was where schools closed. The highest it is in the U.S.A at the moment is 107 at a town in California (Who knows whats going on over there). But you know what the index was in Indonesia? A place where a large percentage of the population can only afford curtains for doors, much less air-conditioning? Where fires rage uncontrollably over 5,000km of their land?


Haze in Central Kalimantan

“These fires are a threat to the health of millions. Smoke from landscape fires kills an estimated 110,000 people every year across Southeast Asia, mostly as a result of heart and lung problems, and weakening newborn babies.” ~ An excerpt from





images (2)

While the flames have finally died last month, Indonesia is slowly recuperating from the devastation left. “Slash and burn needs to be put to a stop…” says, The Guardian, who also says that small buisnesses and the government are apart of the problem. The small buisnesses really can’t be held accountable until the government strengthens the laws on the fires killing their country.

But right now Indonesia needs everyone’s help. The corrupt government isn’t helping its citizens, calling the complaining affected countries (Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand), sensitive, and saying that it has done enough for its people by telling them to “stay indoors”. But when indoors isn’t even possible for most, what can the people do? And while the endangered Orangutans are slowly being rescued from the flames, it is more clear than ever that it just isn’t enough.

So how can we help?

We can help by spreading the word of the devastation. And we can help by donating to help kids and mothers and the Orangutans in Indonesia. If you didn’t know this was happening, your friends probably don’t either. So please spread the word by person and online.

Don’t let ignorance kill lives.





A brief about me <—– Who even am I? (Existential crisis ensues)

Fried Rice and Refugees <—- Latest Article

Facebook page




Some Pond-Pondering time


(From left to right) Me, my Mom, and Aunt Tiffany :)

I’m writing this on a small seated bus thats coasting past Cambodian countryside. The green luscious nature envelopes the stranded farms and houses, and as the various vehicles pass us they leave a floating trail of dust for the sorry soul behind them.
We’re exactly an hour into the 6 hour journey that unfolds itself for every traveler rolling their way towards Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from Cambodia’s capital Phenom Pehn. It’s been 5 days since I left my home in Malaysia with my Mum and headed to Siem Reap, Cambodia to meet
with a friend of ours from Mexico. After stressful months of planning, our intricate 30 day trip was taking us to Cambodia, Vietnam,Laos and Thailand. My parents wanted to take advantage of our ideal locationing to other South East Asia Countries to travel, yet this trip is almost the last
one for us (except for a quickie to Thailand in December) before we head to the U.S.A in April. So far I’ve been to Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia in this area, and Japan and Russia on the way over. Every place has been an experience (majorly a wonderful one). But this trip is almost an awakening to me
that I’m leaving so soon. I’ve been in Malaysia for 10 months! Where has the time gone?
But diving right in, arriving to Cambodia was a piece of cake. After getting checked into the country we went for a taxi, which unlike every other country I’ve ever been in we got in line without drivers fighting over us. There was no yelling or badgering, and we paid the people at a stand instead of the driver.
Siem Reap seemed dusty at first sight, and I wasn’t wrong to think so. But even though this was a con to me, everything about the city was natural and friendly. As soon as we pulled out of the airport I saw a girl no older than 10 driving a Moto, cackling mischievously while a boy not much younger pedaled on a bike behind her trying to grab on.
Talking to the taxi driver it was rainy season which was a good thing for us because tourists were few, and the ruins would be free of large crowds. We got to our hotel, and after finding a friend of ours we were meeting with who’d travel with us for the rest of the trip (All photos are from her Iphone :) ) we headed out to grab a bite to eat.
Tuk-Tuks were running rampant everywhere and we watched our step carefully as we made our way to the “main street” in Siem Reap, Pub Street. Pub Street is filled with restaurants and Massage Parlours, and the streets (already jam-packed with people) are lined with every kind of food vendor there is, from crepes to bugs. After grabbing dinner and a massage (An hour is
8 U.S.D) we headed back to get some rest for the next day of ruin exploring.
We booked a guide the night before, so after getting some breakfast we grabbed a Tuk-Tuk with him to start our “Ruins” tour. The plan was to see two different ruins consisting of palaces and temples, before heading onto Angkor Wat (One of the wonders of the world). They were all resting in the same general area, and after paying an entrance fee we rode down a long dirt trail surrounded on either side by thick forest. Meandering across the grass beside us
were pigs, dogs, and even monkeys. After watching these trios lazily peruse the ground for food, we exited the forest and road beside a moat. It made a circle around a large temple, partly covered by trees. This towering building turned out to be Angkor Wat. But we left it as soon as we’d first seen it, and we weren’t going to return until the end of it. We entered the forest again and drove on (If you can consider a clanking tuk-tuk drivable) until the trees cleared up. Tall, bold, and crumbling ruins towered ahead, and as we parked outside the crowds, elephants, with their creased grey leather skin, were feet away with their caretakers.
The first ruin was very much a ruin. It was beaten and battered, with tourist scattering along it like ants. One fine detail I took away from it was just that. All the details. It seemed as if no wall, no column, no step was left untouched, not unique. Gods, worshippers, soldiers, and monsters were depicted everywhere. Sometimes in complicated, 25 foot long murals, other times hidden behind door ways.
As we walked around, it was hard to not fall instantly into a world hundreds and hundreds years younger. Though the snorting elephants and clinking cameras were ‘delightful” anchors towards the present.
We soon left this ruin and moved on to the next one, passing by a temple so tall and steep it seemed it was meant as a slide rather than something people worshipped on. White Elephants were erected on each corner, the almost patriotic animal of this country. Our next stop was at the end of a long erected pathway that ended at another ruin, one which we didn’t bother to climb (Preserving our energy for Angkor Wat).
After more walking and tuk-tuk riding, we finally arrived to Ankor Wat. Surrounded by tall, strong walls that over the years had not lost a single breath of their bold bronze, Angkor Wat itself towered high above. Getting up there seemed to be the final chapter of our adventurous day, as the sides of it slid up with stairs steep enough to need railings. We did make it up to there though, and the view from the top offered a large pond in a backyard with two stone gate houses. The exit led an orange dusty path into the trees like a start of a maze.
In the center of the temple where we walked, there were 4 pools meant to represent the 4 main elements. They laid empty and dusty though, and for some strange reason echoing “Meows” every now and again. Oh, those were the cats in the pipes. The felines darted around, peeing on shrines (while eating the sacrifices laid out) and poking their heads out fo the ominous drains which led to who knew where.
How they got there, or why they stayed I have no idea. But before we left I made a mental note to bring catfood next time.
We left the ruins and the dark clouds that had begun to cry on us, and we were back to our hotel in time for Dinner (And a big one at that).
The next day we were off to Phenom Penn, and besides for a very bumpy 6-hour bus trip (Or was it 8?) we arrived to our hotel amongst some major construction. We didn’t end up doing much there, as the city just wasn’t our type of place. Nothing bad, but I would say that it was the least wonderful place we visited on our trip.
So after just a couple of days we were outta there, and Ho Chi Minh city is coming ever closer. My first communist country at that (Russia, to my surprise, isn’t communist. Who woulda thunk. Can you name the five which are though?).
Until next week guys! 11831718_10153224901154051_6366882561667215763_n 11855835_10153233574094051_3542447060279332511_n 11873408_10153233574959051_4618959260003439663_n 11880591_10153233574274051_5549898900376185942_n

Penang to Bangkok – A train ride through Malaysia and Thailand

Just a really-not-so-short 23 hour classy train ride away, Bangkok is Thailand’s riveting capital, overflowing with friendly guides, even more charismatic locals, and slightly too friendly swaying partiers. From Penang, Malaysia it’s only a quick ride of a taxi over one of the pair of bridges here, or a 10 minutes ferry ride that brings a traveler directly to the train station (A 5-minute walk up and down stairs cramming us into an almost safe looking lift)

I was headed to Bangkok for just 5 days, which coming with travel spontaneity turned it into a week-long roam of this Thai’s City’s streets. Our memories lined up on an old wooden shelf would show obscured pictures of me munching on scorpions, slicing up canals on wooden longboats, flowers hanging off its bow showering us as the wind blew them wildly around. Or even jamming out on acoustic 12-strings on the 1960’s modeled train on the ride there. I’m going to have to indulge in a couple of these, and I figure that where better to start that at the very beginning.

Let’s do this.

And then there was a beginning

My parents and I were off with our 2 backpacks, guitar, and of course violin before lunch. Grabbing a taxi with an app that works in the majority of SouthEast Asia by bringing reliable taxis to your doorstep, we piled in and passed the time away looking out the window as our Driver joked about troubles with his Pakistani Wife, 5 children, and pointed different buildings out. He obviously knew how to be  his job, and flowed conversation that ran the time away. As an Indian man, he married his wife when she was just 18 and he 27, their cultures having pushed them together unrelentingly. A striking point in our conversation was how much he adored, and thought so highly of the public education system. But not because they were effective, it was free and there for absolutely anyone. Growing up in Malaysia in the 1960’s, 70’s offered no opportunities for academic knowledge, and he appreciated the fact, and hoped his kids did aswell, they could just go to school instead of working construction jobs and a variety of others as they grew up instead, like he did.

When we arrived at the ferry, we headed straight on without needing to stop (Though we might have for some banana bread.) The ferry doesn’t charge to the mainland, Butterworth, only charging about 40 US cents on the way back to Penang. So we got on it, and since it was a car ferry expected to get to Butterworth in 20 minutes minimum. Plagued by experiences of a 50 minute car-ferry ride back in Mexico, I didn’t have high expectations for speed. And my mouth practically dropped when we pulled out, our boat sped up and reached the other side in just about 10 minutes. It was easy, plenty of breeze, and faster than I’d ever expected. We plopped ourselves down concrete steps once we got there, dodging the disembarking cars, and walked for only a couple of minutes while following the signs to the train station. We got there with our tickets in hand, and even got time to eat Mie Goreng and drink Te-Ice before boarding.


Mie Goreng

When we did get to our train, it was purple and the inside looked like something out of a 1960’s movie. Basic leather seats that turn into beds and slightly-smudged-in-the-corners window panes, along with hanging beds above them. No plugs or wi-fi were there, though on just a 23 hour train ride why would we ever need those?


My family, being the card game addicts we are, started a game of Jim Rummy before the train was out of the station. Then, along with a Train Security Guard’s Thai daughter, we watched out our little cabin’s view of Malay scenery. The train tickets one way were about 30 US Dollars, and completely worth it. Passing through the scenery was just a bit priceless, and while the food was just a bit too expensive you could get local, much cheaper food from walk-on sellers. You could literally get anything from full chickens to bags of nuts to mini-picnics from them. It was easy, and no jet lag. definitely a plus.


Scenery through Malaysia



Scenery through Thailand

Crossing the border was just as calm as the ride, and we were officially in Thailand after only 15 minutes of checking out and in for the three of us. There was a cafe, and a duty-free liquor store in the building also, incase you wanted to get caffeinated and a bit tipsy all at the same time at an immigration office. Though, I should mention, with the bathroom situation on the train you need your wits about you to conquer it successfully and still dry.


Everything turned into beds in the evening

Passing by the end of the train, to get into the bathroom a heavy door must be swung open, and if you’re (unluckily) a man in this case, you get the pleasure of a standing room of about 4 feet, 2 of them precise locations so you can squat over a hole.

We left at 2 in the afternoon, and reached Bangkok at about 12 p.m. fully rested from a really enjoyable train ride. We marched onto the streets, and we hunting for our hotel after Pad Thai and Green Curry just a little while after.

That’s it for now, see you Thursday.

Sincerely, James




Houses in the wilderness as we go through Thailand



Bangkok’s Train Station

Captured | Bangkok, Thailand

It’s been ridiculously fun in Bangkok. The past few days adventures have snuck their way up and coiled around our daily lives, from jamming out on 23 hour train rides to munching scorpions out on the streets. We’ve been able to see temples, ruins, and shrines. Monuments and praying monks. Rooftop pools and speeding tuk-tuk rides through packed and certifiably insane traffic.

So when this all ends and I’m back home, I think I’ll have some stories to tell.

But until then, enjoy some photos.

P1000783 P1000818 P1000926 P1000933 P1000950 P1000956 P1000957 P1000959 P1000961 P1000666 - copia P1000673 P1000676 P1000695 P1000697 P1000733 P1000734 P1000736

A brief “So Far”| Bangkok, Thailand

After 23 hours, our train from Penang, Malaysia arrived in Bangkok in the Afternoon, and our adventure began out on the streets in one of the most exciting cities of Asia. Our time here has already been amazing, and 5 more days will surely fly by. Once I get back I’ll have Articles on crossing the border, the biggest Reclining Buddha in the world, spectacular street-dishes, and what to expect walking down a single road here in Bangkok. Stay tuned guys!

“Human Lives are buildings under construction; how intricate the detail, how wonderful the message, and how high you are is up to you.” 

~Sincerely, James




These vases were hidden underneath stairs at the end of a temple – yet they have intricate designs of dragons and serpents spanning in golden color along the middle which are absolutely stunning.


In this river, wooden boats whizzing by, slcing through choppy waves are swarming around.


On the streets inexpensive clothes and food are guarenteed, even throwing stars and models of extra-terrestrials from the Aliens vs. Predator franchise made with wire and lightbulbs can be found.



A statue with a mournful face are everywhere along the temples, some with very toothy grins even.


Never ending, these golden statues have been here for hundreds of years – and will be for hundreds more.


A day in my life – An American homeschool student living in Malaysia

I moved to Penang, Malaysia 4 months ago with my parents. I’m in tenth grade, and I’ve homeschooled for the majority of my life. When I entered Highschool I switched from a home-planned curriculum to an American Correspondence School. This basically meant that I was given a set curriculum, with online exams to do for qualified teachers in the United States to grade, and guaranteed Transcripts at the end of the torturous 4 years. This would give me the ability to apply for American and International Universities.

At home, 8 stories up in an apartment complex, I have 5 subjects in my curriculum. On Weekdays, I wake up earlier than weekends, and do more “average” things. So let’s say today is Thursday (Which it is. But wait, keep reading)

I wake up at 7 and am up eating cereal in 10 minutes. School is started as soon as the last sip has been taken, and that’s my world for the following  4 hours. Each lesson is 45 minutes to an hour, one per subject, so around 11 I’ve finished. At that point I tackle Social Media and my Blog, responding to your guy’s lovely comments and interacting with the community. At 12-12:15 I’m out the door and down at the gym.

There’s a Half-Marathon in June which I’ve just started training for, so far I’m up to an average of 3 miles, working up to 4. I also do weight training, and bicycling on rest-days. After the gym and a shower, we’re off to lunch.

Lunch is usually in 1 of 4 places. A Malay restaurant 25 metres away. An Indian and a Thai exactly 1 block away. And a Chinese restaurant 2 blocks away. We have no form of private transportation except for our feet, so closer the better. Commonly, as we’re deciding on where to go the “Floating Mosque” is belting out the first of the Afternoon Prayers.

We choose Thai, and have navigated our way into our regular seats in a tiny building apart of a long strip that consists of a Pharmacy, Mini Market, Indian restaurant with funny – smelling soups (We, ah. We don’t eat there) and 2 Barber Shops. I’m going to quickly tally the costs for you:

A drink is 1.50 Ringgit, or 50 American Cents.

A Thai Rice, Yellow Curry Chicken, or anything on the menu for 1 person is 3 – 4.50 Ringgit, or 1 – 1.50 American Dollars.

So an average lunch for the 3 of us, with 2 drinks each, is 15 to 21 Ringgit or 5 – 7 U.S. If I ever want to eat by myself it’s less than 2 dollars.

These are average prices for all of the thousands of Stalls and local restaurants in Penang. Japanese, Chinese, Malay, Thai, Indian, or even Indonesian are included. Yet don’t get me wrong, there are still over-priced coffee in Starbucks on every other street. T.G.I.Fridays and Chillis is just a 15 minutes bus ride away, usually in giant malls that hold shops like Forever 21 and H&M. Also Italian, German, and really any Western restaurants will have a nice meal, just at normal or slightly above typical Western prices. All locals are rather fluent or know basic English. With our few words of Mandarin and Malay, it’s very easy to get around no matter what.

So now it’s about 3 o’clock. Usually I have after-school classes I participate in at an International School just a couple blocks away. I used to do mock debating every Thursday and watch a pair of talented actors practice a duet play for a Forensics Tournament.  But the Tournament has passed, and classes aren’t until April again. I also did Basket ball of 3 months, and am taking Violin once a week with a teacher. SAT’s are coming up soon, and studying can never come too early. But whatever I end up doing, I’m usually home or finished by 6.

At that time I work on Blog Posts, update sites, play cards and watch a show. (Suits!) Watch a gang of Monkeys from our balconey and work on any personal projects I want to pursue. (Like video editing or Fiction Writing)

The last prayer is uttered around 9 p.m. and I’m in bed with a book by around 10 that I borrow from a local library. “Little Women” is what I’m working on at the moment, with “7 years in Tibet” next.

For such a long post this is really a rare tranquil day. Georgetown holds sushi, street art, and life music. Batu Ferringi offers beaches, a favorite Indian restaurant, and one of the longest markets in Asia during the Evening. Gurney Plaza, a 7 story monstrosity of a mall has a cheap high – quality movie theater and Coffee Bean. We do 1 of each practically every week, along with a couple of days spent with friends aswell.

One day I’ll probably write about those.

Until then,

Sincerely, James


(Below are photos taken around town)

P1000395 P1000287 P1000615 P1000612 P1000601 P1000509 P1000490 P1000558 P1000530



Thaipusam | Penang, Malaysia

A Holiday was created during a battle, where one side prayed to one of their primary gods, Shiva, for a leader that would bring them to victory.  Shiva complied, and to recognise that victorious day the people created the festival Thaipusam. Thaipusam is one of the biggest Hindu Festivals. A yearly event, it is celebrated by devoted followers majorly in India and Nepal.

This celebration is quite cautioned for children of non-celebrators. Why? Well, as a way of appreciating their life, many Hindus put hooks into their bodies. Through thin pieces of outer skin on their back and chest, or penetrating not-so-thin pieces of their tongue and cheeks. This is happening throughout the night before Thaipusam, as preparation for a 5-mile walk from Georgetown, Penang, to a temple slightly hidden on the side of a mountain.

Now not everyone does this. Personally attending the event, climbing up the steps to the temple and back down again, thousands were with me. Everyone from Indian Grandmothers in their 80’s, to young boys being tugged behind them. Tourists flocked, taking pictures of the hundreds of stalls set up for the event. There was almost a small town with all of the wooden huts and stands set up, roaming left and right around the base of the temple endlessly. They offered Indian, Western, Malay, Chinese, and even Japanese food. Snake Whisperers and resting Ritualistic Dancers hid in their shade. Countless shrines of Hindu Gods are propped against every other stall, incense pouring out of them among scented candles and flowers set up on the plastic table.

As I said, thousands upon thousands  of people are rather celebrating, making way to the temple, dancing, selling something or looking in different shops at Indian clothing being sold at top-price. It is jam-packed no matter where you are. Except for when a hooked believer is making his way through the crowd. With a spike through his cheek, or his tongue, and a man holding a drink with a straw ready to serve the Hooked Man if he needs it along with an entourage of other supporters. Most of the men with something in them were dragging a cart behind them (With hooks in their back) or balancing a colorful, but heavy item on top of their head. With no shirt on, sweat pours across them as their group chants with a rhythm. They are making the ultimate act of thanks for their religion, and they are treated as if so.

The trip along the stairs, through the temple, and back down again was tiring. Yet competing with people 60 years older than me gets me a bit more sparked to walk. Free food was at the end, along with juice and sour milk. The temple had reeked of sour milk, where they poured it our glass after glass. Overall, I would’ve gone again if I could’ve.

Next year though.


A kid, about 10 years old, dances a traditional Thaipusam dance while holding a heavy flair of colors on his shoulders


Shrine after…




typical attire for Hindus


A rather large group sing and dance to the rhythm the drummers make


Free food is dishes out to hundreds upon hundreds from large pots like these. Note the large oar that they stir it with on top of one


After climbing back down from the temple, we’re in a different part of the festival, one with a rather large bathroom line


Slightly sour milk is served in tiny paper cups that later create a mountain over unsuspecting lonely trash cans


A film crew taking in the view, along with the long line of people to its right that are waiting to enter the temple


The view from the top


The best shot I can take of a man with hooks in his back is in the temple, where he is rushing through to finally get to the end after hours of walking


A lit shrine inside the temple


Entering the temple, beautifully intricate chandeliers are glowing above us


No shoes in the temple


There were about 4 on the way up – halfway up the stairs, 2 paramedics rushed past holding a boy no older than 8 years in their arms


So close! A man can be seen holding a golden canteen on his head. These are holding sour milk – a very popular drink and offering in Hindu Religion


A giant Shiva monument seen at the end of the walk, on the other side of the temple


Breaking of the coconut is a ritual – How do you do it? Buy coconut. Make sure to look out for the dozens of signs warning not to smash any coconuts in their area. Proceed to smash against ground relentlessly.


Such a nice, yellow, slimy scarf

P1000304 P1000299 P1000300 P1000293 P1000290 P1000288