Posts Tagged With: great memories

Flat Stanley : Seoul Man

This week was National Holiday in China and we had a weeks holiday. After getting some work completed and reports done we booked a short trip to Seoul, Korea. As I explained in my last post , my class was doing the Flat Stanley Project where each child would take a paper cut out of Flat Stanley with them on their vacation. I of course also participate. My class enjoys hearing about our adventures as much as sharing their own. Many excited 7 year olds left with Flat Stanley and  a journal tucked away safely in their backpacks, so they could embark on their own personal adventure. Their imaginations soared with ideas of what they would encounter and pretend to be a part of a story.

Thanks to Henricus for the idea for the title as our adventure began in Seoul.

Traditional Palace Grounds

My best score for a photo had to be getting Flat Stanley into a photo shoot with a woman in traditional garb. A photographer was taking photos of a woman and with motions and asking we had the woman hold Flat Stanley and quickly took a few photos. I snapped a few pictures and didn’t even notice that the photographer also started to get into it until Henricus pointed it out! How funny would it be if Flat Stanley ended up in a Korean ad campaign or magazine?

Posing for Pictures

Weaseling his way into a Photo Shoot!












I also had a picture of him taken with the military inside the DMZ. They posed for the photos, but with security warnings inside the DMZ I don’t think I should post the photo. Could it cause issues?  Regardless I am sure the Koreans think we Canadians are a little nutty! I don’t have children with me, nor look in my teens where I could get away with this stuff. I am sure I caused a few giggles and raised some questions around the dinner table that night!

Stay Tuned for more…

Visiting the DMZ

Flat Stanley at the “Underground River”

Categories: post a week, strange adventures, teaching overseas, travel, unique experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekly Image of Life: My Dream Day

Oh my dream day… I could make a list of ideals! I guess it would have to depend on my mood, energy level and what has been going on previously. Sometimes it can be as simple as just having the feeling of accomplishment and doing everything you set out to do that day and then having some time left over to relax. Island Traveller has asked this question for this week’s  photo challenge.

So in no particular order here is my Top 10 list of Perfect Days…

Sun, Surf & Sand – Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba

1. I love to have a quiet day where I can sit on the balcony and enjoy a coffee and feel the cool comfortable breezes… Nothing to rush and do, just pure leisure.

2. Spending time with friends and family. Playing with my nephews and listening to them and their funny take on life.

3. Spending the day on the beach. Listening to the waves and feeling the sun warm my skin.

4. Hanging out with my husband. With a busy work schedule it is good to hang out, go out for coffee or even do the daily mundane chores together.

5. Read… I used to enjoy spending a rainy day reading a good book cuddled up on the couch. I also love to browse book stores; old or new… in search of another great read.

6. Plan a vacation… the anticipation and excitement of going somewhere new.

7. Exploring a new place or city… I love to travel and being exhausted from traipsing around is worth it to make every minute count and see and do all you can in a place you may never get to see again.

8. Watch a good movie… just a mindless task to totally relax.

9. Go to the spa… it is an affordable luxury here and to feel pampered is nice something to do for yourself sometimes. Although I really miss my visits to the spa with my friend back home. Once or twice a year we would splurge and go together. It was our gifts to each other.

10. Watch a beautiful sunrise or sunset… need I say more?

What is your ideal day?

Check out Island Traveler’s page to see more or join in the challenge.

Stay tuned for more…

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Flat Stanley Leaving on a Jet Plane

I’m leaving on a Jet Plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again…

Well it is that time again. Flat Stanley is leaving Shanghai and heading to numerous parts around the world. Flat Stanley is a primary school novel and in it he goes to visit a friend in California via the postal system thanks to his convenient ‘flatness’. A fellow Canadian came up with the idea to do the Flat Stanley Project with his students. He took the novel by Jeff Brown and got his kids mailing the little guy to friends and family all over the country and world. It encouraged their reading and got them excited about it. In other adaptions, children take their own personal Flat Stanley and write a journal about his adventures.

World wide Stanley has been to most places in the US and Canada. He also has met the president of the USA and was on American Idol! With my Year 3 class 2 years ago I planned the unit and each student in Year 3 (as well as the other 3 classes in the school and some of our EAL classes) took their own Stanley and wrote about what they did on holiday. It was a great success and it really improved the kid’s writing. We also shared the journals and photos in class, made it into a class book and even did an assembly with him! Last year we repeated the project and I went to Xi’an with him. Other teachers, visiting Xi’an, spotted the “celebrity” and came over to ask about where we were from. You can read about that adventure here.  This year is no exception and in a few hours Flat Stanley, John and I along with another teaching couple from school will be heading to Seoul, South Korea for some more adventures!

This was a last-minute booking since the school just returned our passports Wednesday of this week! Yesterday was spent finishing report cards, which are due right after the holiday. All that work out-of-the-way we are ready for a short get-away and adventure.

Stay tuned for more adventures… with Flat Stanley too!

Update: Someone has added extra links to this post! The only links I have included are for the Flat Stanley Project and my post from last year. If anyone knows how to avoid this or remove the links please comment below. Thanks.

Categories: post a week, reading, teaching overseas, travel | Tags: , , , , , ,

Viva La Cuba: Critters!

Cuba seems so long ago and just a memory. Before all the stories fade I have one more fun one to share. We went to Cuba to relax. We had been before so we didn’t plan on doing the tourist trips; the beach and pool would be enough. I thought I would take a few photos and test out the new camera, but how many shots of the beach or palm trees did I need? Soon after we arrived I spotted the bright blue/green lizard and it was my mission to get a photo. They were elusive and camera-shy. We didn’t see them often and if you did they were gone before the camera was turned on. I managed to grab a few shots, but this had to be the most interesting 😉

Privacy Please!

One day by the pool John said what is this and bent down to see this teeny little critter, a lizard. It was pretty brave as it jumped right in his hand! John has spent a lot of  time trying to catch lizards and they usually dash away before they are caught. This one was the exception as it ran up his arm and across his shoulders. Within minutes it was on top of his head, the perfect perch on John’s hat. I just had time to snap this picture before it jumped onto me and my camera. I of course yelped and it fell into the grass. John found it again and held onto it for a while to show a few people. A few days later we were laying by the pool when something was crawling on John. He jumped up and brushed it away fearing it was a bee. Here it was another little lizard! What are the odds? This one was more of a brown colour. It crawled up John’s leg as I laughed hysterically. It gripped his leg hairs and used them as a climbing apparatus. After snapping a few pictures we let it go in the grass.

On John’s Hat

Now that is small!










The resort was large and there were about 5 cats that claimed different areas. Despite the “Do Not Feed the Animals” people fed them. This little kitten hung out near our building and would come when I called him. I named him Poquito, or small in Spanish. He was very friendly and would follow me until I left his area. Even when other people would call him he would stick with me, or run over to check things out and then quickly return. Sometimes he would even come up the stairs and wait for us outside of our room. After losing Holly a few months before I was happy to adopt this little guy, even if it was only for a few weeks.

Each morning this gentleman was out at the pool with a long pole and small net. He was always wet up to the waist or chest. I thought he was just cleaning the pool before most guests arrived. One morning we happened to be close enough and John noticed him fishing something out of the pool… crabs! The crabs would come out at night and fall in, or purposely, go into the pool. This fellow would fish them out each day.

Beware of Crabs!

There were a variety of birds and we would hear their beautiful songs early each morning. They kept hidden high in the palms or in the under brush along side of the beach. With the zoom on my camera I happened to catch a shot of this one.

The most colourful and interesting  had to be these caterpillars. We found one on the edge of the pool one day and John rescued it before it went into the deep water. When we brought it off to the side we noticed this tree that was covered in them! There had to be maybe a hundred or more. The caterpillars were about the diameter of my thumb and longer than my index finger! They ate at a rapid speed and in a few minutes you could see it devour a large section of leaf. Within the two weeks this little heard of critters thinned the foliage down and soon I am sure the tree would be bare. The caterpillar’s colours were vibrant and it was fascinating to watch them up close.

Colourful Caterpillar


Look Closely. How Many Caterpillars do you See?











Last week Island Traveller’s Photo Challenge was about Everyday Life. Taking time to enjoy life, but also enjoy the small details. Having the time to notice the unusual and watch the little things became a fun past time during this vacation. From this I learned this lesson:  to remember to sometimes change focus and look closely to what is right in front of you instead of just the big picture. As the saying goes sometimes we need to take time to smell the roses.

Cuba was an amazing adventure with time to relax, get up close to enjoy the finer details and have the opportunity of a life time. This is the end of my posts on Cuba, but the memories will last forever.

What did you notice today?

Stay tuned for more….



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Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary

Solitary… alone, lonely, isolated… This week’s photo challenge is solitary. Most photos we take are of friends and family together or in groups, so to truly find something to fit the definition could be tricky.

I saw this tire swing driving this summer and each time we passed it I wanted to stop and take a photo. It was interesting and a dying breed. Most children have swing sets purchased from a store, or go to the park where there is large expensive climbing equipment. This swing reminded me of those feel good movies and my childhood, but this one was in a big yard, alone… There were never any children on it as it rocked gently in the summer breeze…

Here is my entry for solitary… a lonely swing of days gone by in the setting sun.

What is solitary to you? Share your photos or see more entries here.

Stay tuned…

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Travel Theme: White

This week the challenge set by Ailsa over at Where’s My Backpack is WHITE. A few weeks back I participated in the Capture the Colour Contest and posted something white; a silk worm and cocoon silk threads.  I thought about using something different, but I also wanted to reuse a picture I posted for texture last week since it is one of my favourites and fits 😉 . I also added another of a beautiful summer sky taken when we were home this past summer.

White Sand & Surf… the perfect combination.


Cotton Candy Clouds

Ailsa talked about white as a symbol of peace since it was International Day of Peace this week. What better way to have inner peace then staring into the sky or relaxing and listening to the rhythmic lull of the sea. What is peace for you?

If you want to see more or have a great shot to share go here.

Stay tuned for more…


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Viva La Cuba: Off the Tourist Track

It has been busy since I came back to China. We got right back to work with full days. This year my workload will be even heavier since I am the only returning teacher in my year level, which means I have 3 new staff to help support and teach them the ropes. I also have a brand new co-teacher who is new to the school.  I don’t mind helping out since I was new once too and asked a lot of questions. This is my payback 😉 In addition to that I am also part of a committee to help learn a new computer system. I am supposed to be the master and show others how to use it and then trouble shoot any problems. This is going to be fun since we have had an intensive training session and SO much was covered I can’t remember everything. Fingers crossed it is easy or no one has any questions.

I have been trying to catch up on blogs, but I apologize I have been very bad. I haven’t been able to catch up as I would like. Posting and responding is the most I have been able to do most days and weekends. I promised I would write more about our holidays and I keep running out of time, so without further ado… more on Cuba!

Sun, Surf & Sand – Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba

This was our third trip to Cuba. In 2008 we made the trip twice within a few months. The second trip was spur of the moment since there was a great sell off. We loved the beaches, people and music. We explored the small craft markets in Varadero and did a few fun tourist trips off the resort where we swam with dolphins, snorkeled in a cave, rode a jeep, went to a traditional farm and had lunch on the softest, powdery beach I ever saw. This trip was taking us to Cayo Santa Maria which is relatively new to the tourist racket. The travel agents sold it as ‘quiet with little to do’. In comparison Varadero had night life at the many hotels, a bus into town for the craft markets and a variety of tours to take. Conversely, Cayo Santa Maria was a handful of resorts with few optional excursions and no one went into town. The closest town was across the 45KM causeway and wasn’t really equipt for tourists. People stayed at the resort. A few excursions were available and set up close by just for something to do. Some may ask what are you going to do for 2 weeks? Won’t you get bored? Well maybe, but it sounded like heaven after a busy school year. No schedules, a good book and a beautiful beach… R&R… this is just what the doctor ordered for this holiday.

After the excitement on day one with John’s adventure and trip to the local clinic we settled in to lounging by the pool each day. We avoided the beach since the trees were in full pollination and were a little worried about a repeat performance to the emergency. Near the end of the two weeks we did venture to the sea, but jellyfish kept us out of the water. John sailed a few times and went fishing.

Not a fish story… it was really this big! John’s catch a barracuda.

John is on the white sailboat.






I enjoyed watching the small fish that came close to shore and the occasional larger ones that came to feed. Some barracuda and long thin needle nose looking fish were most interesting. Mostly John enjoyed chatting to a few other tourists and I read. I finished book 2 and 3 of the Hunger Games. Luckily I tucked a third book in my bag; a mystery novel by Elizabeth Peters. Reading is something I really enjoy and don’t always get time to do, so this was perfect. Reading 3 books in 2 weeks was heavenly. It was funny as I looked around the most popular choice for reading just happened to be the Hunger Games series or Shades of Grey. When I wasn’t reading I was swimming or chatting to other vacationers. Everything was peaceful and not a shred of boredom crept in.

We didn’t make any plans to do any day trips since one was a flight into Havana (it was expensive and we had been already) and the other was to go and see a dolphin show. We were content with just hanging out and spending our days by the pool. John made friends with one of the hotel staff  (Y) and he offered to get some Cuban cigars cheap. The locals always have the connections and get the best prices no matter where you are. The catch was he couldn’t bring them to work. Y offered to show us around his town,  Caibarién, and we could have lunch before heading back to the resort. John went to inquire about renting a car or hiring a taxi for the day. For about the same price we could rent a car, so John thought that would allow us some more freedom and we would do that. When asked if we should book the car the answer was no problem, come back tomorrow. Of course if you know us, or been following our blog this is not going to go smoothly 😉

The next day we woke early and had breakfast. We went to the car rental booth and it was closed. Someone thought it was opening soon, so we hung around. The time came and went and no one showed up. Front desk thought he was in another location so the bell boy drove us in the golf cart there. No car rental guy. Next we went to their sister resort and found him. All the cars were rented until tomorrow. This was Y’s only day off before we went home so we had to go today. We also discovered they do NOT accept credit cards for car rentals, only cash for the large deposit. There are no ATMs so that would have also proved difficult. Back to the resort we negotiated a price for a taxi for a few hours. Finally, with a few hours delay, we were on the road.

The long causeway was very narrow and the only link to the main land. Cayo means key in Spanish and Cayo Santa Maria is a large sand key off the main land. Castro himself thought about developing this area for tourism and so the causeway was built in the narrowest stretch from mainland to key. A 50 minutes drive from the resort brought us to the small

The causeway into town

village of Caibarién. After we drove across the causeway we saw the locals on small horse carts loaded with items to be sold in town. The town itself is more of a village with no chain shops, restaurants or supermarkets. It appeared most things to buy were sold directly from someone’s home. People sat on porches while others were on horse-drawn taxi’s to get from place to place. A few cars were parked along streets  or driving the narrow, bumpy roads. What a difference from the flash cars in Shanghai, or even the modern newer models in Canada. Old Ladas and 1950 style cars faded with peeling paint were the luxury here. My eyes scanned every detail as I tried to commit it all to memory. This is the place where tourists don’t come, we were definitely off the tourist track. Fear didn’t enter my mind, but a sense of wonder and how lucky I was to be invited in to see something that few people ever get to experience. It was a strange sensation and the honour to be picked to see this first hand was overwhelming. My new camera was about to get a work out, but not before I asked if it was OK to take photos. I didn’t want to offend anyone or look like we were showing off or flaunting wealth. We exited the taxi and I knew this was going to be a day to remember… a chance of a lifetime.

Back in time?

Stay tuned for more….

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Weekly Image of Life: Summertime Blast

For me summer is already over and we have plunged right into work and getting ready for the new year. The last few meetings will soon take place, the finishing touches and materials will be readied for the students and the eager children will arrive early Wednesday morning  for a new school year.

My summer time blast was nothing big and brilliant, but slow and steady. After a very busy and stressful year I took a few weeks to sleep in and just sit quietly on the porch. We had a few visits with friends and family, which weren’t enough or a chance to connect with everyone we wanted. A trip to Cuba also filled our days with more relaxing a chance to escape emails and routines. Time went too fast and now just a memory. How I wish I was still at home or lounging on a beach chair as the pressures of everyday come flooding back all at once.

View from my Beach Chair in Cuba

Instead of a computer and a mountain of paper work I wish this was my view 🙂

Visit Island Traveller to see more images of summer or to join in the challenge.

Check out my posts I also wrote this weekend. One on Cuba and the other Sunsets (another photo challenge).

Stay tuned for more…

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Just a Taste of Cuba

Canadian travel bugs has been quiet the last 2 weeks since we were in Cuba. Our resort had internet, but it was extremely slow and therefore expensive, so they recommended to use it only for emergencies and even then the phone was probably better. We are back in Canada, but in a few days we are back on a plane to Shanghai via Dubai, so that is 2 days of flying! I have missed the photo challenges, reading blogs and writing, but all that will have to wait a few more days. When we get back to Shanghai it will be 2 days to recover from jet leg before returning to work. Hopefully I can get back into routine quickly and get back to blogging 🙂

So here is a taste of a few sites from Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba… I hope to catch up soon.

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Stay tuned for more next time on Cuba, Canada and China….

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As promised, I will write a bit more about Niagara and the wonderful attractions it holds; all here in my own back yard. As a kid I loved the merry-go-round at the local fair. It was fun to pick which animal you wanted to ride and your imagination would drift to the surreal and make-believe. I could be a princess on a beautiful white horse, or riding a wild animal on an African safari. I don’t think I ever went to this one in Lakeside Park, Port Dalhousie (a part of St. Catharines, ON) until I was much older, but the child in me quickly returned as I mounted my chosen animal and the old-fashioned organ music started up. Up and down and round and a round is not the most thrilling or adventurous of rides, but the smiles and joy it brings to many is priceless. Sadness fills your heart as the ride and music slows and your daydream is

Old Fashioned Charm

over. The best part about this old amusement ride is the price, still 5 cents a ride, just like the ‘good old days’ when these rides were popular. It is cheap and easy to get back in line for another ride and quickly return to your life of pretend. Today wedding parties come for unique photo shoots, summer day camps, tourists and local families come from all over for a ride. It is easy to buy a string of tickets and go on again and again.

In between rides you can walk out along the pier into Lake Ontario for a view of the water, or Toronto on the opposite side of the lake. You may enjoy exploring the marina, or watch the big ships pass by on their way to the Welland canal to traverse the Niagara escarpment and Niagara Falls between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Bring a beach chair, bathing suit or roll up your pant legs to splash in the water. If you forgot one enjoy one of the many benches along the pier and park. Feed the ducks or Canadian geese who are tame enough to get close and follow you as you walk by because they expect any passer-by has a handout. Slowly the kitschy shops and bars are closing up to make way for a new condo development, but if you are lucky the ice cream shops and few souvenir places are still open among the vacant properties.

Port Dalhousie isn’t a big flashy tourist destination that will tantalize and dazzle your senses, but it is quant, quiet and off the beaten path. If you want to learn more about the carousel check out this link. What rides do you like to go on?

I just got a new camera last weekend and I am learning how to use it. What do you think of the images?

As I said in my last post we are heading off to Cuba for a few weeks and we won’t have any gadgets or internet to keep connected, so I will catch up with blogging, comments and you all when we return.

Stay tuned for more about Cuba, Canada and China.


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