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.

Social

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.

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

 

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I’m Back!

Hey guys! How’ve you been?

So my long absence has been for good, trust me. A couple of days ago I returned from over 2 weeks of traveling Thailand. I got to see Bangkok for the 3rd time, before heading on over to the lovely, infinity beach-infested Hua Hin. It was a pretty crazy trip, which meant that I wasn’t able to get a whole lot of writing done. But I did take lots of videos and photos for me to look back on, and also share with you guys!

So while I’m writing my new article for Friday, I hope I can offer this little video as a peace-keeper!

Until then,

James

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.

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Our view a year ago.

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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.”

RainForest-Rescue.org

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?

Over THREE THOUSAND.

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 news.mongabay.com

 

 


 

 

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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.

 

Sources

 

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Fried Rice and Refugees

I was talking to my mum this afternoon over lunch at Cafe Sim, a 10 minute walk away from home. We go there at least once a week, though just a couple of months ago it was 2-3 times. The little, homey Thai restaurant with creaky yellow fans and plastic tables stained with dirt from years of use. This is my favorite place to eat.

And no, not just because they started to serve my lime juice in a pint-sized glass after a couple of months (mkay fine maybe that’s why). But it has the simplicity of where I live, Penang, etched in the concrete floor, and the ease of a close family brunch on Sundays in the air. So after ordering two plates of Bee Hoon, a fried noodle dish, and a couple of Te Ices, we started a conversation of the utterly devastating trials that countries are going through in Europe and Middle East. Italy, Germany, France, all are being affected by the constant overflow of refugees, human beings who are running from handicapped countries for safety, for opportunities, and to just live.

*Edited* The United States accepted less than 2,000 Syrian Refugees this year (Recently upped to 10,ooo for next year ), even Malaysia houses 3,000 a year. In total the United States has accepted 70,000 refugees, when countries 1/50th our size are accepting 30,000 over 2 years like France.  Millions of people are pouring out of Middle Eastern Countries, searching for some place to survive. But what can we do about it, those who aren’t burdened with life threatening occurrences on our front doorstep or a government who doesn’t give 2 cents about us? What are possible solutions?

One topic that surfaced was the amount of money invested into housing people and providing food, jobs, and hospitals, could instead be put into the source of the problems. Why don’t we invest the money into the war-torn countries directly, to try to achieve peace before they’re left barren and wasted? While some may say that Middle eastern countries have been fighting for a very, very long time and could never achieve peace, Western European Countries were fighting amongst themselves not even 80 years ago. No, Europe can’t hold millions of new refugees estimated to be coming over the next few years. 1,500,000 more refugees are estimated to go to Germany alone just this year.

What we’re doing right now seems like a temporary solution to an ever-growing problem. 

We then moved onto Refugees who, well, aren’t exactly refugees. Some people unsatisfied with opportunities presented in their own countries, applying for refugee status in another, more promising country. Knowing that as a “refugee” they can be let in as their documents are processing and stay illegally when they aren’t actually legal. Even those that are accepted seem to be misusing the system, taking advantage of it.

One opinion to acknowledge was the fact that these people could be seen as lazy, that they should stay where they are and work hard to succeed there instead of running to someplace easier.

But I don’t agree. It sounds too entitled, as if being born in a country that is well-developed is “destiny”, and as if we are not all human beings. The moment we start saying who deserves what is when we start judging people for not who they are, but what they are. Why are places like the United States, started by entrepreneurial dreamers, trying so hard to keep dreamers out? People came to North America when it was the Land of Opportunity, yet too many people who live there now act as if the privileges were something they personally worked hard to build over centuries, not handed to them through chance of birth. Not a gift, given by people who spent their whole lives creating a nation for the hard workers, for the dreamers. Not for just Americans, not just for people who live on the same plot of land, but live on the same Earth, breathe the same air, and need the same things. Food, safety.

Love.

Sometimes you need to appreciate what you have, and then look at someone without it to really understand what it’s worth. But so many people are telling those with nothing already, what they shouldn’t have.

Hopefully this stops. Hopefully we help each other instead of ourselves. Hopefully, one day, I won’t need to hope about it. But until then, let’s work towards it until we achieve it.

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Cambodia

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Some Pond-Pondering time

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(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

Through Singapore (1/2)

I’ve been to Thailand and Indonesia. I’ve living in Malaysia. Believe me when I write that in the South East Asia I’ve explored, Singapore is what you find in the back of a magical wardrobe beside Narnia. Sleek silver brilliance striked with elegance and class, the most expensive country in the world was a shock to my system after 8 months of living in cabins in the jungle, trekking through dusty crowded cities, and crossing bridges into developing islands. All these massive buildings that cast their long shade down entire roads, all the international people, and all the cameras. The country where chewing gum in public is illegal was where I stayed for almost a week, and where I saw the lifestyle of the wealthiest class that exists mesh with those who sell Wanton Mee out of carts and hang their laundry off bamboo sticks. Singapore is a pretty cool place though, and I’m going to tell you all about it.

I arrived with my parents after an overnight bus ride from Malaysia, where getting into the country was easy (Though a few Arabian men were held back, most likely Singapore being cautious about Murrs). Hotel was an easy walk away from the bus station, and by the time we were checked in we were back out again. The main downtown area of Singapore is small, so walking we found an MRT Station and bought Easy-Pass cards. This turned out to be one of the best things we would’ve done, as the MRT was crazy-easy to use and got us everywhere we wanted to go for our complete stay for about 14 Singaporean Dollars each. We walked around downtown a bit once we were in the center of it all, and as luck would have it a free walking tour was starting and my Mom was more than excited to join it. Somehow we had missed the fact that the annual Olympic-Tier sports tournament was happening in Singapore for that week, and 2 free walking tours covering Little India and China Town were cancelled. But as luck would have it we were able to join the last Walking tour of the week through the business Centre and beyond. So not even 6 hours off the bus we were walking around Singapore with 3 college girls explaining this building and that fountain and this hotel. While I do enjoy these types of things, it was a major walk-athon after a short, abrupt night’s sleep. 2 and a half hours later I was more than happy to go eat do I could sit down.

But touching on Singaporean History, the nation used to be apart of Malaysia but broke off for a couple of reasons. One being that the main leader Lee Kuan Yew wanted full control, and after centuries of British Rule he wanted to grow Singapore to be free of corruption. Having a thriving trade port, Singapore was able to finance itself and grow steadily. With a strong set of rules, Singapore never as much as stumbled. One particular bump that it had to get past though was the multiple ethnicities within its borders. 60% Buddhist and just under 20% Muslim, along with Hindus and Christians flourishing abundantly, religious discrimination was something that couldn’t exist for even a second if Singapore were to reach its full potential. So intense rules stating that not even a word of hate against any other religions were put in place, and massive fees were placed upon those who broke them. This greatly discouraged everyone else, and from it the country remained peaceful. Though those were not only the intense rules to exist. Jaywalking, chewing gum, and most recently publicly drinking alcohol after 10:30 at night are all prohibited with the threat of tall looming fines placed on all of them. And I’m only mentioning a few. It’s so common to have to pay a fine in Singapore that stalls are placed across the city for easy access to those who have to pay them.

But luckily I never broke the rules while there (Actually I should rephrase that: Never got caught. I may or may not have jaywalked there but I’m not tellin’ you nothin’.). After the walking tour my Mom and I met my Father at the Crazy Elephant in Clarkes Key, a main night-time area in Singapore. Situated alongside a river, the Key is crawling with tourists. My Dad being the musician he is was invited a week before to jam there, so as he played music I played pool and watched a light show coming off of Marina Bay Sands. You know, that hotel with a ship on the top of it.

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57 stories? Yeah, I think so. 57.

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Scenic place, but damn is it expensive.

It was a fun night, and believe me when I say that I crashed hard that night. In the morning, we were off to China Town, Orchard Road, and the top of Marina Bay Sands (The super cool hotel I told you about. Yes. To the very top.)

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Singaporean Buisness Centre

Interviews and thoughts of growing up with travel

Hey guys, how are you?

Diving right in: I’ve been thinking about travel recently and its affects on me for the past 10 years. At 16 I’ve been to 20 different countries, and I haven’t lived in one place for longer than 5 years. Its been exciting, and always different. Recent events have made me re-evauluate my life, a life without travel.

What would that have been like?

I think I would be a very different person if I hadn’t always seen places and met people as a foreigner. Sometimes I forget that always being the new guy in a place isn’t supposed to be a yearly event. I’ve grown up looking at a side of life that allows failures, lives off passion, flourishes in the bad times, and will always appreicate the good times. And now I can’t imagine living in a different way.

So I guess a little self-exploratory is this weeks blog :). Who in your life inspires you the most, and what effect do you think you might have on people in your life? For me a professional donut tester is probably the most influential.

Frosted? Yes please.

My Mom was interviewed by An Epic Education talking about our whole life adventure from the start a decade ago. So if you would like to learn a bit more about me, from leaving normal life in the U.S to sailing in the carribean, from a different perspective you can listen to it here.

Thanks for reading guys! Until next time,

Sincerely, James

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Home from Singapore

Hey Guys!

After 5 days away I’m home from Singapore, an amazing futuristic city that I can’t wait to tell you guys about. It was a long bus ride home, but crossing borders into Malaysia from Singapore was super easy. Making it across borders is the most important part to me, so the fact that I barely slept for the 12 hour ride in the ice-box of a bus “just don’t matta'”. Time to catch up on sleep, then to writing about my adventures!IMG_20150607_151920

Here are some photos of my favorite places (With myself and family snuck in). Have you been to Singapore or close to it? Any places to recommend? Comment below!

Till’ tomorrow,

Sincerely, James

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The ship laying on 3 towers is over 57 stories high, and a hotel! Marina Bay Sands boasts an infinity pool on the very top. Yes, an INFINITY POOL. Over looking “Allll” of Singapore. Situated below its 2,000 rooms is a giant shopping mall (mostly underground). It has one of the only casinos in Sinagpore, along with the largest Louis Vutton store and a skating rink!

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“Sea Games” is an olympic-like tournament hosting over a dozen countries from across Asia. We had no idea before we left that this yearly event was going on, but I gotta say it was pretty cool catching some of the events! While on a walking tour I took this photo of a race on water.

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Some pretty awesome nightlife can be found at Clarke’s Quay. My Dad got a gig at one of the restaurants there, and we ended up playing pool while watching the boats float up the river until midnight! This main river, though murky, was actually loads dirtier back in the day. But 10 years and a 170 million dollars later the government got rid of the pollution that corrupted it half a century ago.

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Though a more costly city than we’re used to, my parents and I were able to see the majority of Singapore, by day and by night! Besides a Free Walking Tour, we paid around 24 USD per person for a 24-hour hop-on, hop-off bus that took us around the city. On the top deck, I squeezed in a Selfie with my Mom, though you can see my Dad’s ear peeking out from the side also.

In the Indonesian Jungle – Part 3 – Revenge of the Orangutan

At 7 in the morning rain on our tin roof had stopped and I was out of bed and getting dressed, ready for breakfest. Today was Trek day, and jeans and a long sleeve shirt were the ideal clothes to fight the bugs, though not the heat. We were heading out at 8, so we made sure to go get breakfast as soon as we could to beat our guide, and just when we finished, he popped up, his afro visible first as he climbed up the steps.

The guy that had brought us in from the bus terminal was guiding us, along with another worker from the hotel who couldn’t have been 4 or 5 years older than me. They would be bringing us through the jungle for the next 4 hours.

When we had eaten and were all ready to go, we followed our guide out of the hotel and between the stores, cabins, and restaraunts down the river. We ended coming up to one of those really dangerous, unsafe looking bridges that I mentioned, and without batting an eye we started to cross it one by one. Okay, in reality maybe they weren’t that unsafe. Though the one next to use consisted of single pieces of wood and no guard rails. But it didn’t help that it had rained the night before and the river had risen and was going very fast.

It was a beautiful day, just a bit overcast so that we wouldn’t be soaking with sweat a few minutes in, and when we got to the entrance  I realized I didn’t have to worry about the sun. Jungles pretty much cover you on their own.

The entrance to the jungle, which was a national park, was a simple arch way, and a few signs explaining what some different trees and plants are. But before we could even get to see that, another guide with a different group pointed out a Vine Snake in the trees next to use. Absolutely still and poised on a branch, in was probably about a foot and a half long on a vivid leaf green that made him blend in perfectly. Our guide explained what it was, and the only reason it stuck with me was because Vine Snakes generally pick a branch and stay there, for about 3 months. They don’t move for 3 months, besides for when an unluky critter climbs up the tree (not the monkey!) or a bird flies down onto the branch where the snake gets a meal.

When we finished taking photos, we finally went through the entrance, passed by a restaraunt-area  and by some houses until we got to the bottom of a hill, where we crossed a wimpy stream of water on a wobbly board and started to climb. Walking up a trail, we passed by Rubber Trees (A whole valley) which hold little halves of coconuts midway on them to collect the draining tree’s rubber. After spotting jumping Thomas Leaf Monkeys in the trees, we discovered coffee beans, and glowing blue spiders. We kept our eyes peeled for orangutans, but it wasn’t until an hour and a half in we spotted some.

They were in the trees, a Mother orangutan and her child, probably a couple hundred feet up. Too far up for our Iphone 3 to take photos, sp onstead we “Ooohed” and “Ahhed” from the ground, taking a step back every time the baby would try to throw something at us (luckily he didn’t have a very good aim) After a several minutes of that, we kept on walking. My dad had made a sling shot out of dried pieces of Rubber from the trees and with a perfect branch. As we walked he picked up different nuts and aimed a certain rocks, the more he shot the more flexible the slingshot became. We also had walking sticks and small crowns on made of leaves, so you might say we had become one with the jungle just waiting for the perfect vine to swing off of.

After a couple of more sightings of orangutans far up in the trees above us, we finally spotted orangutans close up.

There were a group of people hanging around our red-haired furry friends, a mother and her 2 children. They were so close, hanging out in trees arms-distance away. Some people were grabbing their hands when they reached out, others were busy taking selfies (Hi, I’m James, and I take selfies when I travel and see mokeys)

We watched them jump, swing, and play. While I didn’t agree with the way people crowded them (A decent 10 to 14 people were there) or how they thought it was okay to touch them, but it was really sweet seeing the orangutans in their natural habitat.

Again, after a spree of photos, we were off, going up and down, grabbing onto roots and sometimes reaching points so steep you rather were climbing up or sliding down (usually on your bum)

We passed by a small waterfall at some point where we got to cool off, and after a couple of hours more we were on the last leg of the trip – River Rafting.

Now I mention earlier how the river was looking quite menacing that day, so one can only imagine how it looked a couple of feet away, as I sat in a tire tube barely fitting in it with my mum sharing it with me. But our fearless guides had long, strong sticks in the back and front (we were 4 tires connected front to back) and they heaved us off into the river wielding them around, slicing through the river water was they pushed us off of rocks.

The whole rafting-adventure lasted about 15 minutes, as we passed waterfalls, and really, really, really menacing rocks. But over all, the worst that happened was that we got soaked – which was also the best thing that could have happened.

So overall, our time spent in the Indonesian Jungle was spectacular. We ended up spending the rest of the day not really doing much (besides whining about how achy we were) and the following day we ended up doing a bat cave, which was an hour of sliding through dark caves with 2 flashlights that worked (in a group of 5) on slippery rocks, trying not to smoosh crickets or the cricket-look-alikes that were really spiders sometimes the size of half my hand. Besides a countless amount of bats, I got to see swallow-nests at the very back of the cave, wading through over-ankle deep water.

After a nail in the foot (trying-on shoes injury) and the revelation that we’d been living with a rat for the majority of our stay (cookies were our casualty), we headed out on our 5th day to do 3 and a half hour of riding in a van, quite comfier than our buses, and hopped on a plane back to Malaysia.

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS”
Oh, wait. What was that?
Damn!

No Photographers were harmed in the taking of this photo.

No Photographers were harmed in the taking of this photo.

Rubber tree for Slingshots, Croxs, Cond- ... Er, and other certain rubber products

Rubber tree for Slingshots, Croxs, Cond- … Er, and other certain rubber products

Vine Ssssnake thinking of something. Three months with nothing to do. I wonder what it thinks of?

Vine Ssssnake thinking of something. Three months with nothing to do. I wonder what it thinks of?

Thomas Leaf Monkey just chillin'

Thomas Leaf Monkey just chillin’

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Sadly, I didn't pass the exam into their clan. Something about lack of

Sadly, I didn’t pass the exam into their clan. Something about lack of “orange” and “…Banana-Eating Apetite”

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'Art thou' King of the Jungle

‘Art thou’ King of the Jungle

Taking a dip was the main thing on my mind

Taking a dip was the main thing on my mind

I resisted the feeling in me trying to convince myself to steal his spot.

Malaysia vs. North America (United States and Canada)

So around this time, 7 months ago, I had just arrived in Penang, Malaysia. I didn’t know anyone here, and could barely order food from a restaurant. Now that I’ve had enough time to get used to it here, I’ve been keeping stock of a few differences between here, and I thought putting some of the few differences down now would be a good idea.

1. Holidays

Nowhere that I’ve been has been more multi-cultural than Malaysia. Boasting a strong Chinese and Indian community (Just take into account that over 40% of citizens are immigrants down the line due to importation of cheap workers from a recently as the 1950’s) Because of this, and adding on a very strong Christian community aswell, people are always celebrating something. Some examples would be Chinese New Year, a month-long event, Thai Pusam, and Indian celebration of a fallen hero. And in some cases, I don’t even know what’s being celebrated but see parades or extreme water wars happening Downtown (A Thai Holiday) and just know its some sort of Holiday.

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Thai Pusam 2015

2. Bathrooms

I’m used to a choice of a Urinal or a toilet when I go to the bathroom. But here in Malaysia, there is also a 3rd option, which is the most common. A simple, cut out hole for you to squat over. Yet that’s not all, because there isn’t usually any Toilet Paper, even in regular toilets. Instead a hose is in the stalls, which you use to er, uhm. You get the idea.

3. Light Switches

One of the most minor differences on this list is this one – To turn off a light you flick the switch down, and to turn it off it goes up. Something so simple through me off funnily enough, and it took me months to know if my bathroom light was on or off by looking at the switch (Which is on the outside of the door)

4. Ease of Eating out

Fast food isn’t “Fast Food” unless it’s always a 5 minute walk away no matter where I am and served to me in under 5 minutes from me ordering. Penang, Malaysia isn’t one of the most popular destinations in all of Asia for nothing, and the little stalls that are everywhere could serve you Sushi, to lasagna, to Pad Thai, to Mie Goreng. Typically under 2 USD for a meal.

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Mie Goreng

5. Multi-lingual people

So because 40% percent of Malaysians have come from different countries at some point or another, Penang is a place swirling with languages. On average, people know English, Malay, Hokkien ( A Chinese Dialect). But very diverse families end up provoking their kids to learn a 4th and 5th language aswell, rather an Indian Dialect or maybe Thai. I’ve never been to a place where so many different languages can be spoken in just one restaurant by locals.

These 5 are just a few of the differences that I’ve noticed. But how about you? Have you ever been a place and been completely thrown off by something as minor as flicking a switch the opposite direction?

Until Monday,

James