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My dearest chickadees,
I only have one more week left on my trip! Can you believe it? It has been almost 13 months since I left Brooklyn and now I am almost home. I am having a lot of different feelings about coming back. Of course, I am excited to see my family, my sister, all of you, my friends, sweet Miss Polly and to be back in New York where I know my way around and I don’t have to ask for directions! But traveling has been really fun for me. I got to meet new people EVERY DAY! I got to go to places I had never seen before and eat things I had never eaten before and try new things! At first, this was the scariest part of traveling, but once I got used to it, it was my FAVORITE part! I love looking at maps and figuring out how to get to a new place. I love trying new things to eat and talking to people from places that are very different from what I am used to. In a lot of ways, I don’t want that part of my trip to end! So it is a happy time and a sad time all at once.
I am in Berlin, Germany, right now. It is the capital city of Germany and, boy, what a history! Only 20 years ago, the city was divided up and run by lots of different people! A country called the Soviet Union ran the East half of the city and the United States, France and Great Britain (England) ran the Western half. The Soviet Union (which doesn’t exist any more…they divided up their land and now it is Russia and a bunch of smaller countries) believed in running East Berlin and East Germany like their own country which was through communism. Communism is a little hard to explain. People let the government make a lot of the decisions on how to spend money and where people should work. Not everyone who lived in East Berlin agreed with this way of running things in their part of the city. So they started to leave! So many people left East Berlin for West Berlin, where things were more free with less rules, that the Soviet Union decided to build a wall to keep people from leaving the East! Now this was not a little wall. It was a HUGE wall made of concrete with barbed wire over the top so people wouldn’t think about climbing it! Buildings in the way of where the Soviets wanted to build the wall were knocked down so there was no place to hide. Here is a picture of the Berlin Wall when it was still standing. The wall was patrolled by soldiers with guns and they were allowed to shoot anyone trying to leave East Berlin for West Berlin. Scary stuff. Can you imagine a wall being built through Brooklyn and not being able to go visit your Grandma or your best friend because they lived in another part of the city? The idea is crazy to you and me!
The Wall was built in 1961 and stood until 1989. I remember when, in 1989, the governments of East and West Germany decided to unite because the people of Germany were sick and tired of not being able to visit each other and go back and forth whenever they wanted to (and for lots of other reasons, too). People were so happy that they could pass freely between the sections of the city that they tore the Wall down with whatever they had! Shovels! Picks! Their hands! You might have seen pictures like this and this on the news last fall because is was the 20th anniversary of the Wall coming down.
Now where the Berlin Wall used to stand, there are beautiful green parks! Some places, the Wall is still standing but people have painted murals on it and they are so colorful and beautiful! I love how the artists took a thing like the Wall that was built to keep people apart and used it for something to make people happy.
I have to run, I am catching a plane to Paris this afternoon for the last stop on my world journey! Yay! Can’t wait to see you all so soon!
Lots of love,
After my mommy left Thailand, the fighting between the protestors and the police got even worse, so I decided the safest thing would be for me to visit some other place for a while. I went to a country called Cambodia, which is right next door to Thailand. In Cambodia, people speak a language called Khmer (pronounced: kuh-MARE) and the letters in Khmer are not the ones that you or I use. Khmer writing looks like ribbons to me, it is so pretty (but hard for me to read and recognize!).
Cambodia has a really sad history. It used to be a huge and powerful nation. Kings and emperors built huge temples to their gods to show their love and the land used to stretch into what is now the countries of Laos and Thailand, too. Eventually, Cambodia was taken over by the French and became a much smaller country.
In the 1970s, soldiers that were following a man named Pol Pot took over the capital, Phnom Penh. Pol Pot believed that Cambodia should be an “agrarian” society, which means that everyone should be farmers and work together for the common good. Sounds, pretty good, right? But what would we do if there were no doctors or business people or teachers or people that did anything other than farming? And what if not everyone thought that being a farmer would be a good idea? Pol Pot made everyone living in the capital move to the country and forced them to work in the rice fields. Everyone had to wear the same color clothes and there was not a lot of food to go around. It was kind of like being in prison since people weren´t allowed to make their own decisions about anything. People had to work in the heat of the fields for up to 16 hours a day. They often got only one meal a day. Lots of people died and it was a very bad time for the people of Cambodia.
Eventually, Pol Pot and his soldiers were kicked out by soldiers from Vietnam. Even then, life was not easy for Cambodians! The soldiers from Vietnam stayed in Cambodia for years and years and the Cambodian people didn´t get to rule themselves until 1993! The country is still recovering from the war: there is lots of countryside where people can´t go because the bad soldiers buried bombs there called land mines and it takes a lot of time to find all of them and blow them up so they don´t hurt people accidentally.
You might think that because of all of this sad history, Cambodia is a really bummer place to visit. But Cambodian people are in general very happy and helpful! I think that they are glad to see people visiting their country and eating in restaurants and giving money to businesses that they are very hopeful about the future. Almost half of the people in Cambodia are under the age of 16, so there are lots and lots of young people and I think when a history of a place is really sad, sometimes the only thing you can do is look ahead and try to make the future better.
Modern Cambodia is very different than New York. Lots of people have motorcycles instead of cars and sometimes you will see four or five people on one motorcycle at one time! There are also lots of Buddhist monks in Cambodia. Buddhism is a religion and a monk is kind of like a student of the religion. You can tell a person is a monk by his haircut (very very short!) and his clothing (monks wear beautiful orange robes instead of pants and shirts). Monks are all boys. They don´t have any possessions or belongings and people give them everything they need like rides around town or food. People in Cambodia live in houses that are raised off of the ground like they are on stilts! The part under the house is used to hang out during the heat of the day, most people have hammocks set up in the shade. A lot of times, little kids in Cambodia don´t wear clothes at all. I´m not exactly sure why this is but I think it might be because babies and little kids grow so fast that it is hard to find clothes that fit for a cheap price. Maybe it is just because all the other little kids don´t wear clothes or because it is super hot in Cambodia.
Have I mentioned that it is hot hot hot??? It was so hot that sometimes I would look down at myself after walking just a little ways and the tops of my arms would be shiny with sweat! I don´t know about you, but the tops of my arms only sweat when it is hot hot hot with HIGH humidity.
The best place I went to in Cambodia is a place called Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is the biggest religious building in the the whole entire world! Really! The temple was built around 900 years ago and it is still standing. Angkor Wat is surrounded by lots of other temples that are even older and you can climb all over them and take pictures and imagine what it must have been like to live all those years ago.
I spent three days exploring the temples at Angkor Wat. To get from place to place (the whole area is HUGE! If you walked, you would waste a lot of time in transit) I took a thing called a tuk-tuk which is kind of like a golf cart. There are benches in the back and it has a covered roof and is pulled by a motorcycle! Here is a picture!
I think this brings me to my announcement. After seeing how little money Khmer people have, I wanted to do something to help. A lot of people in Cambodia don´t have money to go to the doctor if they are sick or are going to have a baby and sometimes there is no doctor to go to! Remember, a lot of the doctors and teachers and professional people died when Pol Pot was in charge and it takes a lot of time for people to become doctors and for people to teach other people who want to be doctors! Cambodia is not the only place where the lack of doctors and nurses is a problem. A lot of places in the world don´t have the universities or teachers to help people become doctors or nurses. So I have decided to change that! I think I can really help other people by becoming a nurse and traveling to other countries to teach other people to be nurses as well! I am really excited about doing something new and I know I will miss working with kiddos like you every day, I think I can do a lot of good helping people with their health and (eventually) teaching people in other countries how to be nurses, too. The other part of this is that the school I want to go to for my nurses training is in……Portland, Oregon. Remember, that is where Ramona Quimby is from! My cousin lives there, too, so we are going to be roommates! Polly is coming with me, she will like living in a house rather than an apartment.
Portland is a long way from Brooklyn, I know. I am going to miss being able to see you at school and check in on you every day. But we have gotten so good at talking over the computer and Skype that I think we will still do well with keeping in touch. I will keep writing the blog and you all still have my email address (email@example.com). PLUS! I will be coming home a little earlier and I will be in New York for the whole month of August! So if you want, we can have a little party or I can come say hello at your house and you can show me your room and all the cool things you worked on during 3rd grade.
Speaking of which……HAPPY LAST DAY OF 3RD GRADE!!!!! I am so proud of all of you for working so hard! Who will your teachers be next year? I am excited to find out! Write me to tell me how the last day of school went!
Lots and lots and LOTS of love,
I know, I know, I know….there hasn’t been an update in LOOOOOOOOONG time. That is my fault, I’m sorry. I have been doing so much traveling that it has been hard to slow down and find the time to write! Also, in a lot of the countries I have been in, the wordpress website has been blocked and people aren’t allowed to use it, even if they are writing a blog for their beloved students! Harrumph!
But a big new post is on the way. I have finally made it to Europe! I’m in Prague, in the Czech Republic and boy is it beautiful! Since I last wrote I have had TONS of adventures to tell you about so I have a lot to write down and organize. I also have a big announcement to make and I’m thinking of you all during your LAST WEEK OF 3RD GRADE!!!! Can you believe you are a whole year older than when I left? The time goes by so quickly!
Have a great last week of school! I am writing a big post now and I’ll be ready to put it up once I get to a place called Slovenia, which is next on my world tour!
Lots of love,
Did I tell you that my Mom came to visit me while I was in Thailand? She did! She came for a whole week and we had lots of fun traveling together! We went to an island called Koh Chang which means “Elephant Island”. Here is a map to show you where Koh Chang is.
The BEST thing we did on the island was…..see elephants! There are lots of Asian elephants in Thailand, it is considered a national symbol for the country. Elephants do lots of work in Thailand like hauling heavy wood and helping with construction. The place we went to (here is a website about it) is a park where retired elephants live. They have a pretty good life here! In the morning, they have a bath in a little river that is nearby their camp. Then the elephants walk back to their home area to have a snack and then people can ride on them in a basket on their back. The basket doesn’t hurt the elephants since they are so big. The trainers also put a blanket underneath the basket next to the elephant’s skin so they don’t get blisters. The elephants take a walk in the jungle (with people riding in the baskets) and then they get a snack of bananas. The elephants all look really healthy here, they have enough to eat and their trainers treat them really nicely, which I was glad about.
The coolest thing happened while the elephants were getting a bath. People were invited to get in the water to help scrub the elephants. I was one of the last people to get in. My elephant’s name was Shirley and she is a girl. The trainer told me to climb up onto the Shirley’s side to scrub her head. Since she was laying sideways in the water this was easy to do. THEN, the trainer said, “put your leg over her neck.” I wasn’t sure why he would say that so I put my leg on the other side of her neck since he was the expert. The next thing I knew, the trainer yelled something to Shirley AND SHE GOT UP OUT OF THE WATER!!!!! I was not expecting this! Then, Shirley walked all the way back to camp which took about 10 minutes WITH ME ON HER NECK!!! NO BASKET OR ANYTHING!!!! It was so amazing, it was just me and her. She knew the way and went really slowly so I wouldn’t fall off. Whew! The best part was, my mom got it on video so I can share it with you! Here is the link to the footage she got! Wow! She even asked me questions once I got down from riding on Shirley, it was great!
Also…..I know you all have your big third grade tests coming up and I want to say GOOD LUCK!!!!!! You all were the best 2nd graders in the world and I know you are the best 3rd graders now! Just do your best, you will make me proud if you DON’T GIVE UP! 🙂
Lots of love,
Today I am leaving Thailand for 3 weeks to go to a country called Cambodia which is right next door to Thailand! I’ll be coming back to Thailand for 2 weeks on the beach once I’m finished. My “visa” is about to run out for Thailand! Remember, that a “visa” in this case is like a permission slip to be in the country? When I first got to Thailand I had 28 days to spend here and since that time is almost out, I need to go somewhere else. Once I leave for a little bit I get another 28 days whenever I want! While I’m waiting in the airport, I wanted to share something interesting with you.
Have you heard of the volcano in Iceland? Here is a story about it from today’s New York Times. Because of the ash from the volcano, there are no planes going in or out of Europe! The plane’s engines can get damaged from the volcanic ash (made of silica, like little bits of glass) so the safest thing is to keep the planes on the ground.
Now, am I going to Europe? No, I’m not, Cambodia is still in Asia. Thank goodness! But there are hundreds of people at the Bangkok Airport waiting to go home to Europe! I feel so bad for them, all of the flights to their homes are cancelled! I can hear people talking to each other in line for new tickets; they are speaking French, German, English and even languages that I can’t pick out! The line stretches aaaaaallllllll the way down the big airport terminal, I think it must be hours of waiting for them. Everyone around me in the internet cafe is talking to one another about how to get to different places by a shorter plane flight and then buses, trains or by renting cars. 😦 I hope they don’t have animals waiting for them at home!
Lots of love,
P.S. The cool thing about the links to the maps I put up is that you can zoom in or out and see the cities up close or from far away! Cool!
I don’t have a lot of time to write right now (ha, ha, “write” and “right”!) but I wanted to share my photos of China with you! I’ve written captions on all of them describing where they were taken and why I took the picture. I hope you enjoy them!
China was such an interesting place! I’m not sure I would want to live there but there were lots of great things. The food was AMAZING! Chinese people are really big on snacking so people are always carrying around food and buying food and eating food on the street! My favorite street foods were probably roasted sweet potatoes (people make a fire in a big metal barrel and then roast potatoes right on the street!) and steamed pork buns with spongy bread on the outside and a pork meatball in the middle. Yum, yum!
I will post pictures of Thai New Year next. It was my favorite of all the holidays I have seen in Asia. To represent renewal and new beginnings, people splash each other with water. It turns into a big watergun fight over the whole city! It was especially nice since the weather here is hot right now: over 100 degrees! Being splashed with water felt really nice!
I miss you all and I know you are doing great in 3rd grade! Let me know how you are by writing to me!
Lots of love,
Just a quick update to let you all know that I am safe! I am in Thailand now and in one part of the country there are lots of protests going on. Some people in Thailand want the government to change so they are telling others that they are unhappy and about their new ideas by all wearing red shirts (they are being called “the Red Shirts”), gathering at public places and standing in the street to shut down traffic and make speeches. At first, the protests were very peaceful. I walked through one a little more than a week ago that was outside of the hotel I was staying at in Bangkok, the capital. People were giving speeches and listening to others talk and sitting in the streets; there were 55,000 people on the day that I saw the protests.
But a few days ago, the police and the protestors started getting angry with each other and things weren’t so peaceful any more. There was lots of pushing and shoving, some people fell down and couldn’t get up and got stepped on. Some people even were shot with guns even though the police weren’t shooting real bullets, they only had rubber pellets in their guns. About 20 people died and almost 1,000 were injured from the fighting. People here are shocked because usually, Thailand is a very peaceful place and there hasn’t been fighting like this in more than 20 years.
But I am fine! The day of the bad fighting, I decided that it was time to leave Bangkok! I went to the train station in the morning and waited all day long for a train to take me to a city in the north called Chiang Mai. There is no fighting in Chiang Mai (thank goodness!). There was a big TV screen in the railway station in Bangkok and clips of the fighting kept coming up in the news, I think people were glad to be leaving the city. I got on a train two hours before the fighting got really bad and now I am in Chiang Mai, safe and sound!
There is a Thai New Year festival happening here that I didn’t even know about! People spray each other with water guns since it is so hot! I will write all about it soon.
Just wanted to let you all know that I am alright. I am writing a post about my time in China now and it will be up by the end of the week!
Lots of love to you all!
I’m in Hong Kong now! What an amazing city! It is on an island, like Manhattan, so everything is built UP instead of out. Huge skyscrapers, laundry hanging out of windows to dry, immense stores, wonderful smells! It is like Chinatown where we went on our field trip but EVERYWHERE! I love it so far, it reminds me so much of New York. I have had an adventure though, just in the short time I’ve been here.
My first day in town, I went out to lunch with people I met in the hostel where I’m staying. A hostel is a place where a traveler can stay when they are visiting a new city. It is usually like a hotel (but not as fancy) where there are bunk beds in all the rooms and you share things like a computer room and a kitchen with the other travelers. It is a wonderful place to meet other people who have been places where you want to go or who have suggestions for places you are going (like, “THIS town was great and I had a great meal at a restaurant down a little alley way” or “Don’t stay at this other hostel, there was a funny smell in the kitchen.”). Anyways, I met some people who were also traveling and one of them speaks Cantonese, the dialect of Chinese spoken in Hong Kong. We went to a restaurant where he ordered for us in Chinese so we got wonderful food that wasn’t even listed on the English menu we were given!
My plan was to walk to a place called the Visa Office after lunch. A visa is a pass from the government that means you are allowed to travel there and you need one to go from the island of Hong Kong into what is called “Mainland” China. This pass is put into your passport which is an official booklet that your home country gives you if you want to travel to other places. When I got to the Chinese visa office and started to fill out the application for a visa, one of the questions on the application was “What is the number on your passport?”. I reached into my bag to find my special wallet where I keep my passport and……it wasn’t there! I looked and looked! I took everything out of my bag twice and still I couldn’t find my passport!!!! I started to get a little upset since a passport is the most important thing to keep with you while you are traveling and without it, you aren’t allowed to go into other countries. I have 6 whole months left of my trip and SO many more countries to visit.
I took a deep breath and looked on a map of Hong Kong to find the U.S. Consulate. A consulate is like an office for a government and in a big city like Hong Kong, there are consulates for several different countries. A consulate will help people from its own country if they need it, like if a person lost their passport! I walked there and I was pretty calm, I went into the waiting room and I was pretty calm and when they called my name to come to the counter, I got pretty upset! I was even crying a little because I had not planned to lose my passport and I felt so silly that I had lost it on the first day I was in Asia! Plus, without a passport, I couldn’t leave Hong Kong and I didn’t want my trip to be ruined.
Do you know what the lady behind the counter said to me when she saw me crying? She said, “Don’t worry, we’re here to help you” and that made me feel so much better. She gave me some forms to fill out (asking questions like my address in New York, my birthday, stuff like that) and told me where I could get a picture of myself taken (a passport has to have a picture of you in the front so nobody can pretend that they are you) and when I came back from getting my picture, I got a brand new passport. The lady was right, they did help me!
I still had some running around to do to make sure I could leave Hong Kong. I had to go to a government office and explain to them that I had lost my passport so they could put a special stamp in my new one to prove I was here legally and only THEN could I go back to the Chinese visa office to get a permit to go to Mainland China. I’ve had to put off going to a new city for a few days since it has taken so long to run around everywhere.
Through all of this, though, I have been really calm. I am really proud of myself that I am getting everything done and being a responsible grown-up! I also keep reminding myself that I’m okay. I have a place to sleep at night, I’ve met nice people and Hong Kong is so interesting to me that I could be stuck in a much worse place! I am really proud of myself that I haven’t let it ruin my time in this city! I could have been really down in the dumps about it but I’m choosing to see the bright side of things and I feel really great! Plus, all that walking to different offices has made my legs really strong! 🙂
I’m leaving for a city called Shanghai tomorrow on a train. The trip will take me 10 hours! I am bringing a good book and lots of music to listen to! More updates as soon as I can!
Lots of love,
Can you believe that eight months have gone by since I left Brooklyn? My trip is more than halfway over and NOW comes the fun stuff!
I’m leaving for Hong Kong in two days! All of the stuff I’m going to need for the next 6 months will be in a really big backpack. Holy cow, I hope I picked the right things, I will surely be sick of my clothes by the time I get back home!
One thing: the government of China doesn’t always let people use the internet in the way that we get to in the United States. Sometimes they “censor” stuff which means that they block out websites they don’t think people should see. I’m not sure if wordpress (the site I run the blog from) will be allowed or not. If not, don’t worry! I’ll be in Thailand at the end of March and I’ll have a million things to tell you about!
I’m going from Hong Kong, up the East Coast to Shanghai, over to Xi’an, to Lhasa in Tibet and then to Beijing. There are almost ONE AND A HALF BILLION PEOPLE IN CHINA!!!! I am so excited, I can hardly stand it! I thought I would be nervous, too, like when I left for New Zealand but I am really proud of all the things I’ve done so far on this trip. I think I am going to be just fine, it will be a great adventure!
I love you, chickadees! I miss you bunches and bunches, I hope you had lots of fun on your week off from school! It might take me a while to get back to you if you write but I will get to it as soon as I can!
Lots of love love love,
I have just picked and paid for all of my transportation for the rest of my trip! It was a lot of money, I am glad that I have been working so hard to save up!
I’m flying to Hong Kong on the 25th of February and then I’m going to take trains all through China to see lots of different things (Shanghai, Tibet, Beijing, the Great Wall and all sorts of other stuff!) and then I’m flying to Thailand! In Thailand, I’m going to see my mom (Yahoo! I miss her!) for a week and then I’m traveling by myself to a country called Cambodia where there are a bunch of incredibly old and incredibly big temples called Angkor Wat. I go back to Thailand and then I will take a flight to visit my friend Elinor in Israel for two weeks. After that, I fly to a country called Hungary in Europe and then I’ll take trains through 6 different countries: Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany, then a flight from Berlin to Paris and then a flight from Paris back to New York!
Whew! I will be exhausted by the time I make it home! My arrival date is August 19th and I am really happy to know when I’m going to be back in New York. It seems like a long time from now but when I think about how fast the past seven months have gone by, I figure that the next six will go even faster!
I wanted to give you an update, I miss you all so much!
Lots of love,