Friday, July 13, 2007

My Next Adventure...Washington, DC!

Hi everyone! I am SO excited. My friends Keith and Kristin are going to Washington, DC on Sunday and they want me to come with them.

Kristin says she and Keith will be having meetings with different people, but then they are going to a special dinner to get the award their radio program won. I am so glad they are taking me.

Kristin says we will leave on Sunday and the dinner is Monday night. I promise to post pictures when I can.

Bye for now!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Home Again!

Hi everyone! I wanted to send you a short note to let you know that I am back in Muscatine.

I still have some adventures from my trip to share with you , but I was having problems getting onto the blog in Bangkok. And now I have LOTS of that jet-lag stuff. So it may take me a few days to get everything posted.

I want to thank Kristin for taking me on another one of her great trips. I also want to thank Kristin's friends Michael, Elaine, and Debbie for being so nice to me.

I'm off to get some sleep.

Bye for now!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Bangkok Review

Hi everyone! I must have really had lots of that jet-lag stuff, because I keep falling asleep before I can finish the story of my adventure in Bangkok!

After we got to Bangkok, Kristin and her friends Michael and Elaine from the foundation decided to go to a place called "Chatuchak Market" or the "Weekend Market." Traffic is very bad in Bangkok, so Kristin and her friends decided to take something called the "Sky Train." It's one of those really cool trains like the Metro in Washington, except it is above ground. Kristin says it reminds her of the little trains we took to get around Las Vegas. I agree! Here you can see one of the Sky Trains arriving at our stop.

The train was very clean (and air conditioned!). We took one to the very last stop and then walked a few blocks to the Weekend Market. Can you guess what it is? If you guessed it is a place to shop, you guessed right! But this was a very different market than the ones I have visited with Kristin in the past. There are THOUSANDS of little stalls under a series of metal roofs. It is hot and REALLY crowded. It was so crowded that sometimes Kristin couldn't even walk I decided to stay in Kristin's bag most of the time. I was worried I would get lost of I didn't stay in Kristin's bag!

I did come out a few times to look at a few of the little shops. Here I am with my new friend Michael while we were taking a break from the heat.

Kristin let me buy a nice gift for Aunt Lynn. I also picked out a wooden frog that looks just like the frogs I saw in Siem Reap. My frog even sounds like the frogs in Siem Reap when I run the wooden stick across the back of the frog. How cool is that? Thanks Kristin for my gifts.

There were lots of places to buy food at the Weekend Market, but most of it smelled really strange and didn't look good. But there were a few sellers that had these interesting metal drums full of ice and circle pipe-like things. Kristin said the people were selling Popsicles. I've never seen Popsicles sold like this before, have you?

Kristin, Elaine, and Michael didn't stay at the market very long because they had to get back to work. :( But Kristin told me that if I was really good, I might get to go out again the next day. I promised to be good. And, Kristin bought me a book about Bangkok so I could learn more about the city.

The next morning, Kristin and Michael decided to explore the city. First we took the Sky Train, but then we got off and walked to a dock along the "Chao Phraya River." The river runs right through Bangkok. I noticed there were lots of boats of the river.

Guess what? Kristin says lots of people take the boats to get around Bangkok. It's like a taxi, but on the river. How awesome is that. Here I am on one of the boats.

Here are a few more photos Kristin took while we were on the boat.

After we got off the boat, Michael and Kristin walked to a section of Bangkok called "Chinatown."

There are lots of little shops there too, but the stores Michael was hoping to find were closed. :(

We walked back to the river and took another boat so we could see the National Palace. That's where the King of Thailand lives!

It was really hot outside and Kristin told me the King probably wasn't home. So we decided to leave and head back to the hotel to get out of the heat. It was SO hot outside that by the time Kristin got back to the hotel, her clothes were soaking wet! She looked like she had fallen into the river (Shh...don't tell her I told you, but she looked pretty funny!).

The next morning, I looked at all of the books Kristin got me while she went to another meeting. Boy, she sure had a lot of meetings to go to on this trip!

After the meeting, Kristin and her friends Michael and Elaine walked a few blocks to look at a place called the "Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand." Kristin says it is a place where journalists meet to eat and talk to important people. I was not impressed with the journalist club, but I did like one of the buildings we walked past on the way back to the hotel. It was McDonald's!

Do you see the interesting lines and squiggles on the sign? Kristin says that's McDonald's spelled in Thai, the local language. Who knew?

We didn't have time to eat at McDonald's :( but I did get my picture by the Ronald McDonald outside of the store (with my new friend Michael).

Do you see how Ronald is standing with his hands together? I noticed throughout the entire trip that people would put their hands together and take a bow when Kristin would walk into the hotel or buy something at a store. Kristin says this this is a sign of respect. She says it is also one way people say "thanks." I had no idea!

Whew! I sure got to see lots of interesting things during my short stay in Bangkok. No wonder why I am tired.

That's all for now. Again I want to thank Kristin, Michael, and Elaine for taking me on another great adventure.

Until my next trip...bye!

Highlights from Phnom Penh

Hi everyone! Kristin has been SO busy working that I haven't had time to update you on my trip until now.

Kristin and her friend Elaine from the Stanley Foundation arrived in Phnom Penh on July 5th. Elaine helps organize conferences for the foundation. She is very nice.

Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia. It is a very busy city. The streets were full of motorbikes, mopeds, and cars of all kinds during our ride from the airport to the hotel.

Just after we got to the Raffles Hotel, Kristin and Elaine met a woman named Debbie from the Asia Foundation. Debbie is very nice. Debbie was there to help Kristin with something called a "press conference." A "press conference" is an event where lots of journalists sit in the same room to get and update on important news. I had no idea! The press conference Kristin and Debbie worked on included a number of journalists based in Cambodia. People who organized the conference that Kristin attended talked to the journalists from a table at one end of a big room at the hotel.

I really didn't understand what the people at the press conference were talking about. Kristin told me they were talking about the politics in Cambodia. She also promised that she wouldn't give me a test afterwards. Whew!

The people at the table spoke in English. But then the person standing in the photo above told the reporters what the people at the table were saying in a language I didn't recognize. Kristin told me he was speaking Khmer, the local language. Very interesting!

I'm still not sure I completely understand what the "press conference" is all about, but I did notice that many of the journalists were taking notes.

Kristin was so busy working on this "press conference" that she didn't really have time to show me around Phnom Penh. She was worried I was going to be bored, but I told her not to worry. She bought me lots of books about Cambodia to read (thanks Kristin!).

Plus, some of the people attending the conference brought their children to Cambodia. So Kristin let me go with them to the cool hotel swimming pool.

Did I mention that it is REALLY HOT in Cambodia. It is so hot...and full of that humidity stuff...that Kristin's camera (and glasses) kept fogging up when she first walked outside from the air conditioned hotel lobby.

Kristin did take me for a walk around the hotel so I could see a small part of Phnom Penh. Can you see how busy the traffic is?

Kristin told me she was sorry we didn't have more time in Phnom Penh, because she says there are many interesting things to see and do in Phnom Penh. I told her not to worry. I like Cambodia and I am going to add it to my list of places I want to visit again.

That's all for now...

Siem Reap Recap

Hi everyone! I hope all is well with you. Kristin has been working very hard and I haven't had time to work on the computer until now. Don't tell Kristin...but I've been having so much fun that I haven't really wanted to work on the computer anyway.

I promised you I would send a note about my final days in Siem Reap. Kristin spent most of the day working at her conference and it rained a TON, so I spent a lot of time watching TV in Kristin's room.

On one of our final days in Siem Reap, Kristin told me to get ready for a special dinner. I thought we were going somewhere special to eat, but we just went to the hotel's restaurant. Kristin must have seen the look on my face, so she explained that the dinner was going to include some special dancing. I wasn't so sure I wanted to see people dancing, but since it was raining outside, I decided to stay and see the special dancing.

Don't tell Kristin, but the dancing ended up being kind of cool. Dancers in brightly colored costumes performed on a stage in front of all of the guests. Kristin called the outfits "traditional" and she said each one of the four routines we saw represented a story in Khmer history. Here are a few photos from the dance performance.

The next day, the people attending Kristin's conference went on a tour of some of the Angkor temples. They visited Ta Prohm, Bayon, and Angkor Wat. I had already visited Ta Prohm and Bayon but I really liked them, so I was happy to see them again. Here is a picture of some of the people at Kristin's conference at the Ta Prohm temple.

Kristin told me Ta Prohm is her favorite temple at Angkor and I agree. The trees growing on the rocks of the temple are so cool! It started to thunder and lighting and rain just as we were leaving Ta Prohm. Oh no! I was worried we were going to get soaked. But, Kristin packed an umbrella just in case it rained. She is so smart!

It wasn't raining too hard when we stopped at Bayon. It was so hot the first time Kristin and I visited Bayon, that I didn't get to see very much. This time, Kristin took me to see more parts of the temple. We had to climb some very scary stairs to get to one of the levels of the temple.

Don't worry...Kristin made sure I was in a safe place in her purse before she climbed the stairs!

Once we got up the stairs, I started to notice there were other carvings in the rocks besides the big faces. And guess what? The carvings looked s lot like the dancers I saw the night before.

Kristin wasn't kidding when she said the dancers I saw were performing traditional dances. Bayon was built hundreds of years ago!!

Here are some of my favorite photos Kristin took on our second trip to Bayon.

Just before we left Bayon, our guide stopped to show us a wall near the base of the temple. It was totally covered with carvings of people, animals, and boats. The guide said the carvings told the story of what was happening in Cambodia when the temple was built. Who knew? It's like a story book, except the story is on the wall. This is my favorite part of the wall...because of the big elephant!

I saw some elephants on our way to Angkor Wat and it looked like people were riding on them! I asked Kristin if we could ride an elephant but she said we didn't have time. :(

It started to rain again as we were leaving Bayon. Kristin told me we were going to visit Angkor Wat next. I really wanted to see Angkor Wat because Kristin told me it is the most famous of the Angkor temples. But, I was afraid Kristin's group wouldn't go out in the rain. Kristin told me not to worry, she was going to make sure I saw some of Angkor Wat, even if it was raining really hard.

It was raining really hard when we got off the bus at Angkor Wat. It is a good think Aunt Lynn bought me a rain coat a few years ago, or I would have been soaked! It looks like lots of other people brought an umbrella like Kristin did.

Angkor Wat is surrounded by water. Kristin says the water is called a "moat" and the "moat" was originally built to keep bad people from attacking the temple. I had no idea! I thought we were going to have to take a boat to get across the water, but there is a large stone bridge that crosses the moat.

I couldn't really see a temple from the road, all I could see was the water and a tall stone wall on the other side of the water. Once we got to the other side of the bridge and walked through a stone hallway, I could see three of the five towers of Angkor Wat. The towers look pretty cool, don't you think?!

Here I am with Angkor behind me. It was raining so the picture didn't turn out perfect, but at least you know I was there!

Some of the walls around Angkor Wat are covered in carvings, kind of like the ones I saw at Bayon.

And guess what? I saw more dancers carved in the stone!

I noticed while we were looking at the stories on the walls that some people were climbing up the really steep stairs to the top of Angkor. I asked Kristin if they had permission to do that. She said yes. She also told me that she and Keith climbed to the top when they visited Angkor a few years ago. I told Kristin I wanted to climb all the way to the top, but she said no. It was raining and she was too afraid that we would slip and fall. :( She was right, but it still would have been cool to climb to the top!

Kristin did manage to climb one set of stairs so I could see another level of Angkor Wat. While we were there, I noticed some teenage boys wearing what looked like bright orange bathrobes. Kristin told me they were monks.

Kristin says many people in Cambodia believe in a religion called "Buddhism." She says people who are Buddhists don't go to a church like I do, instead they go to a temple or shrine. Kristin says the monks help take care of the statues of Buddha inside Angkor Wat. I had no idea!

We had to leave soon after Kristin took the photo above because the rain started to fall even harder and I saw lots of lighting bolts in the sky. Lots of other people decided to leave the temple when we did.

By the time we got back to the hotel, it was raining so hard that I couldn't see across the road. Plus, many of the roads were flooded. Kristin says it is a good thing we decided to leave Angkor Wat when we did, because it kept raining really, really hard until long after I fell asleep!

As we were walking through the hotel lobby, I noticed there were LOTS of little frogs standing near the lobby windows. They were making lots of noise! Kristin said they were probably trying to stay out of the rain.

That's my wrap-up of my trip to Siem Reap. I am really tired and Kristin needs her computer again. So I am going to head to bed. I will write more about my stay in Phnom Penh tomorrow.

Until next time....