We passed through the grand Blue Gate, into the medina. We were in Fes, Morocco, just starting our time and getting to our hostel. The owner, Aziz, was so nice and hospitable. He even invited us to his house to see his family. He has a toddler, whose name is Adam, and an adorable little baby. Aziz has tons of live chickens upstairs. I tried to approach them and scare them, but something went wrong. Five chickens left the room, and ran all over the house! Three of them were chased back into the room, while the I picked up and carried the other two, one at a time. It was quite an adventure for Adam! Aziz also helped us get a tour all around the medina, or old quarter.
We saw loads of things, including a tannery, and some beautiful courtyards. A tannery is a place where they make leather. And from what I’ve seen, they STINK! I’m not kidding. The tannery we visited smelled like a massacre. It was so strong, I had to go back into the shop. Ew, ew, ew, ew, EW!!! I’m normally not the one to be grossed out, but that place REEKED. There’s nothing to compare it to, the death-smell was so strong. I saw them scrape the skin from fur, and… it was just so gross. But the grossness didn’t last.
We saw one beautiful court that belonged to a madrasa, basically a high school, but in Arabic. Tiled mosaics were everywhere. We also peeked through a door on the side of the street to see… an absolutely stunning mosque. It was so big, and covered in lavish quartz. The light bounced all around and dazzled our eyes. Wow! We had a fun time in Fes!
We scrambled up the muddy slope, trying to avoid spiky branches. We were in the Rif Mountains around Chefchaouen, taking a long hike to see a waterfall. As it turned out, there really wasn’t much of a waterfall, but it did lead to a pond with a lot of caves in the surrounding cliff. It was a beautiful place. In fact, it influenced my writing. I hope to make a whole story based on it. On our way back, we saw some monkeys. I didn’t even know that they had monkeys in Morocco! Did you? Well, turns out they do. Mom got some great pics! One baby monkey was on top of a tree, kinda far away. He was so cute, though! The monkeys got closer and closer, until they were right above us. We were worried they were going to attack us, so we continued back down the trail. When we got back to the village below the waterfall, it was like a party. Haha. 😄😄😄😄😄😄😄😄😄. Fooled you so hard! If you read my post Terrific Tangier, you probably didn’t fall for it. As I said, I’m not that famous. People continued on with their days and lives, just as we did. We hopped on a shared taxi and away to Chefchauen!
In Chefchauen, we didn’t really do much, but we did walk around and eat new foods. Chefchauen is the bluest city I have ever seen. In some streets, even the streets themselves are blue! Wow! One night, I tried meatball tajin. Yummy! It’s very good! It’s my favorite Moroccan meal! Meatbaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalls! I also tried pigeon and rabbit. The pigeon tasted a bit like chicken, but not just like chicken. I don’t know how to describe the rabbit, but it sure was tasty. Savory. Yum, yum, yum!
One day, we went to the countryside near Bab Taza in the Rif mountains. There, the main crop is cannabis, a crop used to make marijuana. Don’t worry, we didn’t smoke any marijuana. We went hiking in the nearby mountains. It was a good, long hike. At night, we all gathered around and read some Moroccan folk tales. A lot of them have to do with death and marriage. Yuck!
We stepped into the maze of pathways, the Kasbah. Suddenly, the attitude changed. It rang out, ‘Everybody Dance Now’. Haha. No. Just kidding. The attitude didn’t change. I’m not that well-known. We eventually found our way into a courtyard. One building held a few men who make local music and mint tea together. The music was magical. They used a violin and a fat, guitar-like object with a bent neck. I got to try playing the guitar-like instrument. I made a couple of tunes up. I didn’t quite match up with the violin. Okay, in truth, I was doing something completely different from the violin. Pretty good for a first try, though. We then listened to some more music, watched the sunset, and had some more mint tea, as if my mom and dad hadn’t had enough. Then, we went back home, and later explored the town of Tangier even more.
The American Legation was an interesting place. It mainly talked about how Moroccan history and American history interconnected. As we first walked in, I saw a poster that said, “Keep mum; she’s not so dumb.” I was a little confused. I thought that when they said ‘keep mum’, I thought they were saying ‘mom’ like the British. This made me shout out, “That’s so sexist!” My parents explained to me that the poster was really saying, “Be quiet. She might be a spy.”
In 1777, Morocco became the first country to recognize American independence, and establish diplomatic relations. In 1822, Morocco gave a legation to the United States. A legation is basically like an embassy. Mark Twain once wrote, There is no job worse than working for the legation in Tangier. If a man were to commit a horrible crime, then his sentence should be to be working for the legation in Tangier. Only one day would be torture enough for the average man. While in the legation, we learned about pigsticking. Pigsticking is an indigenous sport. A bunch of people ride on horses, hunting down a wild boar with spears. It can be dangerous, but it is only fatal to the boar.
Below the terrace, there is a small patio with a tortoise the size of my little head. The tortoise basically had the whole place to himself, but his area wasn’t blocked off, so I came to say hi. At first, he was scared of me, but seemed to forget about his fear. I was able to scratch his hard little head. He clearly didn’t want any scratches under the chin, though. Every time he was going somewhere, he would go very fast, but then stop, seem to forget what he was doing, and then head in a different direction. Finally, he ended up hiding among some plants. Tangier was terrific!
The ball flew from the player’s foot, past the goalie, and – was it really? Yes! It was!
Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal! Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooal! The stand was filled with cheers. Some people sang the Sevilla FC anthem. In my view, at the top, was a section of people wearing green shirts. These people were supporting the other team, the rival, Real Betis, and were silent with anger. The Real Betis fans had been escorted into the stadium before the Sevilla FC fans, to prevent fights. Throughout the match and their entrance, the Real Betis fans were guarded by police, also to prevent fights. That moment, when the cheers rang out for Sevilla FC, it felt like everyone was united. The stands roared, no one sat, and all other activities, such as smoking, had been paused. It was a beautiful moment. Everyone was united. Sevilla FC ended up winning 1-0. Go Sevilla!
Quickly hopping out of the bus, we arrived in the very historic town of Carmona. Originally a Carthaginian colony, it was taken and incorporated into the Roman empire in the 2nd Punic War, about 200 years before Christ. We even got to see the Alcázar, though not for long. It has been turned into an expensive hotel. Sweet! We then strolled around. We found and explored a Roman necropolis, which you could also call a city of the dead or a freaking ancient cemetery. Yes. That’s right. A freaking ancient cemetery. Most of the graves were in clusters. This was evidence of the Christian impact on the site. Wow! Carmona was crazy!
When you visit Spain, you’ll find that Spaniards go out and eat tapas, which are sort of like mini-versions of larger dishes, part of the Spanish cuisine. We tried these many times in Seville. They are delicious, cheap, and small, so you don’t eat too much. I’m sure everyone likes food like that. Well, these people certainly like food like that!
Playing Pokemon with a new friend.
The view of Sevilla from the cathedral.
Inside one of the tombs of the necropolis.
Christopher Colombus’s tomb.
The catherdral in Sevilla is HUGE! The third largest cathedral in the world.
Flamenco is a Spanish dance originating from the Gypsycountryside in Andalusia. The original song is of despair, but it has been adapted to be more happy. There are three main pillars of flamenco: guitar, singing, and dancing, but for me, there’s a forth pillar: clapping. Without a certain kind of clapping, flamenco collapses, just as it collapses without guitar, singing, or dancing. In a lot of places, a good dancer is only Gypsy, but in one small town, anyone can be a be good dancer. “A good dancer could be Portuguese!” someone once said. In the 1960s, José Monge Cruz started singing. He was an amazing singer from the start. He is called La Camaron de la Isla. In 1973, however, he became a hippie. Hence, he made an album of the pop version of flamenco music. This became very popular in the world in general, especially among Spanish Gypsies. There isn’t a Spanish Gypsy without an album from him. One night, my parents and I went to a flamenco festival. I didn’t get to see much, because I fell asleep, but what I did get to see was amazing. In my mind, the dances each had their own story. One dance, a woman was pulling off some impressive moves, and one man tried to copy her, but didn’t for long. One at a time, three other men showed up and did the same thing, before exiting. Flamenco is Andalusia. Flamenco is Seville. Flamenco is… magic.
The amazing Alcázar stood there before us, looming over us like a mountain looming over a couple of shrubs. My dad and I were at Real Alcázar in Seville, also called the Alcázar Seville. Which name do you prefer? I prefer Real Alcázar, because it sounds more Spanish and beautiful. Real Alcázar was ordered to be built in 1340, commissioned by King Alfonso XI, a Christian king, in Mudéjar style, a blending of Spanish Christian, and Moorish architecture, and used as the capital. Well, today it’s one of the Spanish royal family’s many houses. Yes. That’s right. One of the many. We got to look at some of the rooms used by the royal family. They all featured elaborate furniture and marble floors.
I had a lot of fun sliding my feet on the marble floors. Slide, slide, slide, slide! All of the rooms had the same carved wooden ceiling. One of them had an amazing view of the gardens. Another of them featured lots of tapestries, mainly of the the Don Quixote series. After exploring the rooms of Real Alcázar, we explored around the gardens and caught Pokémon. We really didn’t catch any new or good ones, but did manage to get lots of Pokéballs. Definitely a good place to stock up on Pokéballs. While we were in the gardens, I managed to catch a Machop, and evolve it into a Machoke. Awesome! It was obvious that at Real Alcázar, we had a very fun time!
The van was chased by loads of cattle as we drove by. We were in the Spanish countryside, visiting a bull farm, which breeds bulls to fight. This was one of the places were cowboy culture originated. The ranchers also had horses. They rode on the horses to help guide the bulls because guiding them on foot is too dangerous. Twice a week, the bulls run three kilometers. That’s far. Okay, okay, I know what you’re going to say. “It’s a bull farm. Shouldn’t you be talking about breeding bulls?”. I’m getting to that.
There are six very lucky bulls on the ranch, not to go to a bull ring, but to mate. Each of them have 20 mates. My dad says, “That’s a lot of headache”. No offense, women. The cows, once they reach age 2, are tested by a torero, for strength and aggressiveness, to show which cows to breed, so they can have fierce babies. Only 20% of them pass the test. The other 80% go to other farms, for other uses, such as dairy. The ones that stay get to mate… and share their mate with 19 other cows. Would you rather pass or fail the test, if you were a cow? I would rather fail, so I won’t have to share my mate with 19 others. However, I would rather be human, and out of all the humans, I would rather be… me.
Real Alcázar garden
Courtyard of the Damsels – Real Alcázar-
Ceiling in Real Alcázar
Walking on the Bull Farm
Ranchers hearding some cows.
This is a cork tree. They are native to this part of Spain.
All these bulls have grown up together so they get along.
Breathing hard, I reached the other side of the pool. 14-year-old Jamie had already tagged his sister, 10-year-old Felisha. My parents and I were in Valencia, meeting up with podcaster Jason Jenkins and his family. As you can tell, I had an amazing time with Jason Jenkins‘s two kids, Jamie and Felisha. We played Sharks and Minnows in the pool, zombie tag, and Pokémon Go. We caught many Pokémon, including some new ones. The most powerful new Pokémon we caught was a Growlithe at level 527. That’s almost at the end of spectrum! We also took down a gym, through hard work, perseverance, and many potions. We also put another Pokémon in a different friendly gym. I had so much fun with Jamie and Felisha!
There was the courtyard, covered in medieval stone with orange trees every six feet. There was a fountain roughly in the middle of the place. We were outside theCórdoba Cathedralin Córdoba, Spain. Built by many Moorish rulers from 784 to 987, the center was converted into a church in 1236. The interior of the cathedral was much grander than the exterior. The floor and the pillars are marble, and the arches red and white. What I found interesting was that there were two levels of arches, instead of one level. It was beautiful, but very plain. Until we got to the main church. Glorious Christian elements covered the altar and the area around it. Mary was portrayed on one of the walls; colored glass panes filtered the light into colored light. The most obvious Christian element was the big cross in the middle. We explored all around, gazing up at the miraculous wonder, and before we knew it, there was the exit door.
A Roman ruin inside a parking garage!?
The Roman bridge
Inside the mosque with the catherdral in the background
The Christian cathedral with elements of the Islamic mosque visible..
The fountain sprayed water delicately into various places. We were at a light show, with a couple other travel families. Some of us had managed to get amazing seats at the front. I was sitting at the far left, next to Katelyn, one of the three kids older than me. Liam, her younger brother, was sitting on the far right, next to another new friend of ours, Bennet. In front of us, the water changed colors as it changed its position. They switch from pink to orange, red to yellow, and even some of the sprayers pointed towards the middle, then towards the crowd, back to the middle, and rested, pointing straight up. Don’t think that the fountain only did that. It did a whole variety of complicated things, played pop songs, had tons of different colors at once, even spraying us a little. As you can tell, the fountains were pretty cool. So beautiful!
Casa Milá is an engineering feat designed by Antoni Gaudí, a famous Catalan architect. Because of that, it’s quite an astounding building. It has these amazing courtyards reaching up past the roof, to let in natural light. It has freaking elevators! In the early 1900s, when Casa Milá was built, elevators were pretty new, so it was quite something to have them. Also, the building is very, very wavy.
The roof is also incredibly well-done. It’s got tons of sculptures, mainly looking like abstract knights and serving as chimneys. Awesome! Check It’s made of marble, too, a beautiful material that’s very nice to slide your feet on. The staircases go straight over the courtyards, too. I find that one of the most impressive and advanced things. What do you think? Say, “👍” or “totes true” in the comments if you agree. Casa Milá is some pretty impressive stuff, right?
I stepped in, and gasped in astonishment. It was as if I had stepped into a forest. The tree-like pillars branched apart and held up the roof, which resembled the canopy of a jungle. Light was dappled all across the basilica. Colored light filtered in at the back of the place, warm colors from the west, cool colors from the east. We were at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, another amazing engineering feat designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. Even today, it’s still incomplete. The main entrance hasn’t even been finished yet! Also, only 8 of the 18 towers have been built. The main tower, which is also called the Tower of Jesus, will reach a height of 170 meters above the ground, just a little shorter than the tallest hill in the area. La Sagrada Familia has been built to look like a forest. La Sagrada Familia certainly continues to be built just as Gaudí intended.
It is covered in sculptures. The sculptures are used for telling bible stories. The main altar was, unfortunately, closed off, due to construction, but the crucifix hung in the air, supported by a chandelier. Up at the far end of the church, way up, was a triangle, made of smaller golden triangles. This symbolized god the father. Below it, but above the crucifix, was a hazy collection of light, staying near its source. This symbolized God the holy spirit. We explored the whole place, end to end. Every detail was amazing. Even the doors! It was obvious that an immense amount of effort was put in to create the basilica. What a wonderful place. What a wonderful world.
The sun beat down as we walked past the Ancient Roman coliseum. We were in Nîmes, a town in southern France roughly halfway between Spain and Italy. I was confused as to why we walked past the coliseum, instead of going in, but I held my tongue, and soon learned why we had passed the coliseum. We were meeting up with our friends from Amsterdam.
You’ll remember from my post Amazing Amsterdam Part 2 that Asher is a lot like me. Really, if you ever got to know him, you would believe me. We talked for hours about various things: about a game I recently started playing called Civilization Revolution, about a game that he’s addicted to called Kerble Space Program, about my drafts for sci-fi novels, etc, etc. In fact, Asher even helped me make my stories more like real life. The big thing we discussed is that we agreed to both write half of a realistic, scientific comedy. Most of the time we were talking, we were waiting for dinner, but before dinner, we visited the coliseum from the beginning of the day, Maison Carrée, a former temple, and other old, cool sites.
The coliseum, built in 70 A.D, was almost intact, though not at its former glory. We learned a lot about gladiator fights. First off, gladiators went to schools to learn their skills, and represented their schools in their fights. Second, gladiators were rarely killed. When a gladiator fell, the crowd would scream out, giving their input. The guy in charge would then decide whether to give the signal for killing the fallen man, pointing his thumb at him, or to spare him, the sign being to clench his fist with his thumb inside it. If a gladiator was killed, the guy in charge would have to pay a large fee to the gladiator school.
Maison Carrée, which, as I said, had once been a temple, now has another use. It currently houses a short film of some of Nîmes’ history with the Romans. The short film was very interesting. It told of Nîmes’s founding, and then of how its culture changed, back in Roman times. At first, the area of Nîmes was very Gaul. They worshiped Nemausus, and then they became more Roman, made wine, worshiped Roman gods, etc.
After watching the short film, we went to a small, cute little park, and to another temple, this one mostly in ruins, the Temple of Diana. It was very small, so there wasn’t much to see there, but it was still pretty amazing. It’s amazing that it’s still there.
After visiting the wonderful, yet small and ruined Temple of Diana, we climbed up a hill, and then to the top of Tour Magne, an old Roman tower which was one of the eight towers that used to be part of the city walls. There wasn’t much room at the top. In fact, there was more room at the bottom than at the top! The top was basically a balcony. However, the view was amazing. We stared off into the distance, our gazes sweeping across the whole town… to the horizon.
The car stopped, and we got out. We made our way to the sidewalk, gravel crunching under our feet. We treaded up the hill to the courtyard in front of the Baume abbey, in central France. Then… we entered the abbey that had been built in the 9th century. After that, I wandered off on my own. From what I saw, the abbey was made up of three public courtyards, and various private buildings surrounding each of the courtyards. The first courtyard had a public church on the side, which I visited briefly. I strolled through the other two courtyards. When I exited the third and final courtyard, I found myself on a road outside the abbey. I followed it back to the parking lot. Climbing the hill again, I stumbled into a ceramic shop. I spent a good 15 minutes or more admiring the cute, little clay works. When I found mom and dad, we were back in the car and on the road to Saint-Étienne!
Worn out and exhausted, we finally arrived at the house of our friends, Antoine and Amélie. We talked for a bit, then went to bed. The next day, my parents, myself, and Antoine, went to the nearby Saint-Croix-en-Jarez abbey, which was still in use, as a village. It used to be a monastery, but was converted during theFrench Revolution. The bathroom was truly one of the worst I’d seen since Myanmar! The toilet was a squatty potty, and stank multiple times worse than a zoo. I would have never expected to see a toilet like that in France! However, I remembered from Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, that you can’t judge a place by its toilets. The same rule applies for the Saint Croix-en-Jarez abbey and village! It is cute, small, and wonderful, with adorable courtyards, complexes, and sculptures around every bend. No Pokémon, but 1 or 2 Pokéstops! We turned one bend, and it had an old courtyard with a fascinating statue. Why was it fascinating? We turned another bend, and found a cute complex. It would have been nice to stay the night, but Saint-Étienne was calling us back, so back to Saint-Étienne we went!
The food came, not looking very appetizing, but at the same time, it didn’t look that disgusting. We were at L’escargot d’or in Saint-Étienne, a small town in Eastern Central France. Now, you might be wondering, “What is it? What was the food?” I’ll answer your question. Our meal mainly consisted of… snails and frogs. Sounds pretty disgusting, doesn’t it? I am seriously not kidding when I say that frog tastes just like chicken. Snails though… both taste and feel like squid. They’re good at first, but the aftertaste, combined with the texture, makes them gross. France was full of fun. It wasn’t full of just any fun, but French fun.
I stepped into the opening. A vast cave system stretched before me, as far as the eye could see. These were the Baume caves. Stretching roughly three kilometers (around 2 miles) and consisting of many rooms, the Baume caves were a spectacular sight so see. The first room, like all the rooms in the cave system, had circles at the top, caused by swirling water, roughly 20,000 years ago. That’s a long time! All along the walls and the ceiling where black ovals, each about the size of my fist. These… were caused by bats. Good thing it was summer, because in winter, that room would have been full of bats. I nicknamed that first room “The Bat Room”. The next room was covered in veins, and had a loud, yet comfortable echo. The echo in the second room was similar to the echo in most auditoriums. Hence, I nicknamed the room “The Concert Room”. There were a couple more rooms, such as, the Lake Room, which I called, “The Picture Room,” because the rock formations could be used to create imaginary animals. The next and final room we saw was the Tombstone Room. I didn’t give this one a nickname, because the name it had suited it very well. It’s called the Tombstone Room because the rock in the center looks like Napoleon’s tomb in Paris. We walked back, through the amazing Picture Room, the booming Concert Room, and the fascinating Bat Room, to the open… and breathed fresh air.
Dambach La Ville was our first stop in Alsace. We stayed there for three nights. We rented an adorable apartment. The owner of the apartment had a pretty, brown, black, and white cat, who was very sweet and nice. The cat really liked her ears scratched.
One day, there was a dance performance at the weekly summer market, where five different pairs danced to various songs. They even danced to Cotton-Eyed Joe. It was a big surprise. I wasn’t sure they were dancing the Cotton-Eyed Joe, but I was plunged into memories of when I was nine, before the trip or even this blog had started, I was to learn how to dance the Cotton-Eyed Joe with my class. Back then, I took it for granted, and didn’t really like the song, but at the moment I watched the dancers spin around, I had a strong desire to return to those times. Oh, the memories.
You know how much I like cheese, right? If you’ve been looking at my blog a lot, you’ll remember that in my post De Dutch Diet, I declared that I would buy my whole weight in cheese. Well, that’s right. Especially if it’s Munster cheese. In Munster valley, we were shown how Munster cheese is made. Believe me, cheese looks gross when it’s just getting started. After it’s processed, it turns into water with disgusting milk curds floating around inside it.
Once it’s stirred, it turns to smaller curds. In fact, if you added salt at this point, you’d have cottage cheese, which, from when I was 6 to when I was 8, used to be my breakfast. But the goal isn’t to make cottage cheese. The goal’s to make Munster cheese! After they get the small curds, they filter the curds, and put the cheese into a small wooden bucket. After a few hours, it hardens and takes its circular form. Finally, it’s stored for at least 3 weeks, and there you have it! Munster cheese! What a fascinating process!
Also in Alsace, we took a trip to Colmar, were we saw an Alsatian folk dance performance. Some of the dances they danced were similar to some of the dances I did for my music class performance, back in fourth grade. In the performance, many of the dances were circle dances, and in a few of those, the dancers jumped into the circle. In another dance, the dancers held strings of fabric in their hands, and entwined them.
On the way to Colmar, we stopped by a gorgeous and cute town called Kayserberg. It had stone buildings in German architecture, something hard to find in France, but easy to find in Alsace. There, we walked around and saw a vineyard. We also bought and ate a chocolate bar. Alsace was awesome!
Tried Tartes Flame (Alsation Pizza) in Colmar
Trying honey at the summer market in Dambach la Ville
In 1844, the Christilles family left their home town, Lampertsloch, in Alsace, a province in France. Jean Pierre Christilles, my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, left, with his father, wife, and four children, by boat, and landed in Galveston, Texas, back when Texas was a republic. Eventually, they received land southwest of Castroville. They are my ancestors.
My great-great-great-grandmother was a Christilles. Roughly 172 years later, me, my mom, and my dad came back to Lampertsloch. As far as we know, no descendants of the Christilles family had came to Lampertsloch for over 150 years. It was a very cute town, in such a rural place that no Pokéstops even existed. At the end of the road, Lampertsloch looked more like a German town than a French town. The houses were much shorter and much wider than most French buildings. Trying to go even farther than most, we even visited a graveyard. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any of our ancestors there. It was too new. What really helped us was an e-book that mom had found online. It stretched back generations and generations, to our ancestors in Alsace. Then, it stretched all the way forward, and didn’t miss a single person. Well, not exactly. Since it had been published in the 1960s, it was very outdated! In fact, it was missing two whole generations! The book was missing my mom’s generation, and my generation! How dare you! Whatever the case, tracking down our ancestors was both fun and exciting!
There it stood, in all its glory, the Palace of Versailles. The shining gold, the towering walls, complete with a massive courtyard. Built in the 1600s, the Palace of Versailles contained just as much glory as it had in the 17th century. The inside museum was a little boring, but don’t get me wrong! It was still amazing! The best part about the palace was that we got to rent a golf cart to drive around the gardens with. Even better, I got to sit on the back and catch Pokémon. I evolved an Eevee named Joan D’Arc into a Vaporeon, at combat power 1034. It’s our new best Pokémon! I found the golf cart tour really cool. The gardens were so big, the palace could have easily been called an estate. It even includes a small forest! Wanna guess what that was used for? Hunting! King Louis VIX, who built the palace, really liked hunting. That’s why he incorporated a forest into his palace. At the Palace of Versailles, we had an amazing time.
The graves stretched down the hill and into the distance at the Normandy American Cemetery. Such a sad graveyard. Down below us was Omaha beach, where many of the buried American soldiers fell and died. The countless rows and columns of crosses were dotted here and there by Stars of David. On each of them showed the soldier’s name, when they died, and which state of the United States they came from. I shuddered at the ones that said “Known But Unto God” because the idea of being blown to bits or burnt to death gave me the creeps. No one deserves to go like that. All of those soldiers deserve Medals of Honor. However, being buried in the land they helped to liberate might be even better than a Medal of Honor. We all give thanks to our soldiers. If Nazi Germany had won the war, more horrible and more terrifying things would have happened. The only things that stopped Nazi Germany were the Allied veterans and fallen soldiers. We thank you with all our hearts.
Omaha Beach Landing Monument
Omaha Beach Infinity Pool
Omaha Beach today – just a normal beach where people enjoy themselves
There it stood, rising up into the air like a mountain, sloping up on one side and down the other. There it stood, its tip scratching the sky and splitting the clouds as they blew by. There it stood, with its dozens of visitors going up it in elevators and taking cheesy pictures. Can you guess where we were? If you guessed the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, you were right!
In Paris, we went all over the place. We caught Pokémon, saw sights, and walked around. We even caught 7 new Pokémon: Pinsir, Cubone, Tangela, and others. We even hatched a Mr. Mime! It was funny, hatching a Mr. Mime in Paris, because miming is a form of French art. Interesting, right?
We went to the Rodin museum, which was pretty dang cool. It was a museum on Auguste Rodin’s works. Rodin was a sculptor in the mid-1800’s to early 1900’s, whose works were like a version of impressionism in sculptures. His two most famous works are the Thinker and the Kiss.
Notre Dame, a large, stone cathedral first built in 1163, was beautiful, but a little boring. Climbing to the top was hard, but the view was pretty good. We saw the bells, and they were huge! We took silly pictures with them.
We also saw the Arc de Triomphe, which was a Pokémon gym. The Arc de Triomphe is a monument, a huge arc with carvings that commemorates the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. I noticed someone fighting it, and waited. I was waiting for a while. All of a sudden, the gym leader was down, and the gym lay unclaimed! Quickly I assigned my best Pokémon, a Golduck at level 705, to the gym, claiming it for my team! Two Pokémon joined mine. I knew we would hold the gym for a while. All I could think as I proudly watched my Golduck spin around and around at the top of gym was: Go Team Instinct!
Pokemon at the Arc de Triophe
Mom and Dad bought me an awesome mini verion of this racecar!
Desserts are everywhere is Paris!
There it is!
At the Gates of Hell
Put a lock of love for mom and dad on the Pont des Artes bridge!
As you may know, my dad is a huge beer fan. In the Netherlands, my mom also came to like beer. We decided to drive down to Belgium through the Netherlands to Ter Dolen castle in the small town of Houthalen. On the way, we stopped by two Trappist breweries, which are run by Trappist monks, who are separated from society. They have to find a way to support themselves. Some of them do this by making bread, others by making cheese, but most of them support themselves by making beer. Most of the beers we tried were bad, in my opinion. However, there was one dessert beer (who even knew they existed!) that I would have been able to stand, if only it wasn’t so yeasty! It tasted sweet, like cherries.
At the La Trappe brewery, there was a beautiful garden to walk around in. Also, it was full of Pokémon. Just to let you know, our new best Pokémon is a Golduck at level 705.
The Achel brewery was walled in, and gave me déjà vu. On the outside, it looked a lot like Old Dubai. On the inside, however, it looked like an outdoor café. After eating a whole sandwich, I had a whole ice cream, and got a bellyache. At least I wasn’t hungry!
The Ter Dolen brewery was where the dessert beer was from. I met another kid, whose name was Alec. Alec and I shared our builds in Minecraft. We had a wonderful time.
Back in Alkmaar, Netherlands, rows and rows of cheese covered the courtyard. Slowly they were carried to the scale, then to the carts, where they were bought via auction. This went on for hours. The cheese wheels were slowly taken away, until at one point, they were all gone. Believe me, I would have bought my whole weight in cheese!
To end our time in Amsterdam, we went to De Taart van M’n Tante. We had some delicious Dutch Apple Pie. What a way to end Amsterdam!
Did you know that I am very interested in space? If you do, you’ll know where to find me in 20 years! If not, you don’t know me yet! At the Space Expo, I was all around amazed at all the close-ups of planets, the International Space Station, and the projects that are going on. Galileo is a project by the European Space Agency. It is supposed to be Europe’s version of GPS. That sounds amazing, doesn’t it? The European Space Agency is also working on a moon base. They’re planning to use moon dust to 3-d print blocks to use. However, they don’t want to use actual people to create the base. Rather, have robots do the dirty work, while the humans in the International Space Station control the robots. The European Space Agency also wants to send another rover to Mars. This project is called ExoMars. Its goal is to find life on Mars by drilling a couple yards under the surface. Who knows what will happen? Maybe they’ll find life like humans on Mars! It’s possible! Scientists have found evidence that proves the fact that liquid water used to exist on Mars! Perhaps by the time I follow my dreams and become an astrobiologist, they’ll already have found life on other planets. Whatever happens, I will dedicate my life to finding, studying, and preserving life on those other planets.
One great day, we met a family of three at the NEMO Science Museum. Lily, 8; Alex, 6; and Maya, 3. We explored the entire museum. Alex and Maya got very hard to keep track of. We saw a short video on the ‘life’ of a hydrogen atom named Harry. He appeared after the big bang, drifting through space, all alone, until the first star was born. Right before his eyes, two hydrogen atoms collided to make an oxygen atom. She introduced herself as Odette. After a few billion years, the star exploded. Harry was on his own again. However, he couldn’t be alone forever. He met another hydrogen atom, named Huis. He and Huis combined to make a hydrogen molecule. They were drifting along happily when Odette crashed into them, combining to make a molecule of water. Suddenly, they were swept away by a comet, which took them to the nearest planet in sight, our planet Earth. They were in the water cycle. At first, it was fun. However, it got annoying after a while. Eventually, Harry became part of a different molecule. The molecule combined to form one of the first cells. Eventually, these cells combined to create a coral. After multiple years, the coral turned into a fossil because the level in oceans decreased. The fossil rolled into the water, and Harry became part of the water cycle again. Harry rained down, and was absorbed by a tree, becoming one with it. When the tree rotted, Harry turned into petroleum. The petroleum was pumped up, Harry turned into gasoline, and was released back into the open. He fell into a wheat field, and was ground into bread. Then, a boy ate the bread, and Harry became part of the boy’s bones. All of us liked Harry’s story, but none of us were more intrigued than Maya. We ended by making cars that ran on air. I’m not kidding! They really did run on air!
Boat after boat floated by, and I’d started to dance a little. On top of the chair, I got a great view of the parade, which was a celebration of gay pride. At first I was nervous, but I started to get into it. We spent an hour or two, watching one of the coolest parades ever. The floats were drifting by on the canals, though it was more like partying by than drifting by.
On the beach in Zandvoort, we saw our friends, Asher and his mom. If you searched around the world for a clone of me, Asher is about the closest thing you’ll find. He doesn’t look or sound much like me, but we have almost the same personality. We both like science, we both like video games, we both are creative, so on and so forth. I got to meet some of his friends, Sam, Zane, Saskia, Nate, and Mia. We had a great time building a stable sand-fort, and burying each other in sand. First was Sam, then Saskia, then Asher. However, they’ll have to wait until next time to bury me! We had a wonderful time!
The windmills in the distance spun around and around. The smell of chocolate in the air drifted around the block and across the street. It was so strong, I could taste it in my mouth. We walked on and on, over the bridge. We finally poked our heads into a chocolate shop. We were told about how chocolate was made. First, the beans were taken out of the pod, which was harvested from the trunks of chocolate trees. Second, they were roasted. Third, the roasted beans were ground into powder. This is how cocoa powder is made. Once you get the powder, you can make a lot of chocolatey things. I made hot chocolate, using a spoonful of cocoa powder, a spoonful of sugar, and about an ounce of milk. Honestly, the heaping mound of cocoa powder on my spoon was probably enough to fill two spoons. I might’ve added a little extra sugar. Also, we took a dress up picture. It was unbelievably boring, but Mirjam was very nice.
The Rijksmuseum was a sight to see. Painting after painting after painting after painting. It got ridiculous. The two paintings that were singled out were The Night Watch by Rembrendt and The Battle of Waterloo by Jan Willem Pieneman. I preferred The Night Watch; how the light fell on the men in the foreground, how the faces of the people portrayed looked so serious. I caught a Pokémon right in front of the thing. Really! It was amazing.
Pokémon update! We’ve been catching a lot of Pokémon lately, and gotten some advice. If you catch a Pokémon that’s not your best, hand it to the professor! He’ll turn in into candy (not my own doing)! Also, our current best is a Seaking at level 539!
A huge clock that tells time with water by using gravity!
An activity about keeping cities from flooding
A scale that measured amounts of different elements in your body
Building a car that runs on air
Making electric currents light up a bulb
Mom and I learning about The Battle of Waterloo by Jan Willem Pieneman
They got a plane in the museum!
Lifting really heavy bags!
Climbing the stairs in a windmill
It was cold, but I didn’t care!
So much cheese in Amsterdam!
So much bread in Amsterdam!
Look at this ship in the Rijksmuseum!
A huge library at the Rijksmuseum
The Battle of Waterloo
The original units of measure for the metric system! I just studied that in science!
Mmmm…Omlette with Bacon inside!
I got to play the accordian in Zaanse Schans
They have huge feet in the Netherlands!
Watching a wooden clog making demo
What else am I going to do when they hand me a huge block of chocolate?!
The wind flew past my ears, yet my bike seemed to know that we had reached our destination. It locked up, and I couldn’t move my bike! It crashed into the curb and flew me off. My arm was scraped in the crash, but nothing too serious happened. Because we had the museum card we got to skip the whole line to the van Gogh Museum. That was lucky, because the line was very slow and backed up.
We spent a good hour or two at the museum. We saw a crazy amount of paintings by van Gogh. My favorite was The Potato Eaters. I liked it because the figures in the painting looked very extraterrestrial and goofy. They were very distorted and dark. I also really liked Wheatfield with Crows. I liked it because it was wavy and yellow.
There was also a Munch painting in there, which I did not expect. That was probably why that painting wasn’t in a Norwegian museum. After all, Munch and van Gogh’s art careers overlapped. Also, they used similar art styles. However it was a van Gogh museum.
There was also an exhibit about his mental instability. One night, he cut his ear off. And then in 1890, he shot himself! Had his mental instability gone that far? Or could it have possibly been local teen? These are both questions still have not been answered yet. Mentally sick or not, Vincent van Gogh was an amazing artist, today is regarded by some as the best in the world.
Looking below the frame athe canvas edge
Listening to a letter from Theo, Vincent’s brother
Touching a “van Gosh”. Not the real one! They had an exhibit for hte visually impaired. Pretty cool!
Recently I finished reading The Diary of Anne Frank, which is about Anne’s time in hiding during World War II in Amsterdam. It taught me that in times of trouble, try to enjoy life to its fullest. Whether it’s painting or doing what she did and writing a diary, get your feelings out, and express yourself, in your own way. Don’t keep it down or, like Anne said, you’ll suffocate. The diary fascinated me, how she was in a bad situation, but never gave up hope. Times got hard, but she pulled through, and showed that effort pays off. Always.
I’ve learned from Anne Frank’s story that no prejudice is a right one. After all, we’re all just people. Anne Frank’s story is like a thorn, piercing straight through my heart, and I would give my hand… to change it.
**Note photos were not allowed in the museum. All images used in this post are taken from internet searches.**
The scientist changed out the case. He explained how the light made the tardigradeshot and inactive. We were at Micropia, the one and only microbiology museum in the world, which is in Amsterdam. It was all about microbes, from unimaginably tiny to relatively large and even visible. My favorite microbe, as you probably already know, is the tardigrade (also known as the water bear and the moss piglet). They are one of the larger microbes, yet not quite visible. The fresh set was incredibly active. They were squirming around. I already knew a lot about water bears*, but I learned even more while the scientist placed the tardigrades under the microscope.
Even though they can survive in temperatures ranging between 300 and -458°f, in my opinion their most fascinating feature is their reproductive cycle. The females grow eggs inside their bodies. Then, they shed their skin, and squirm out of it. The skins of water bears are completely transparent, so through the microscope, I could see a female trying to squirm out of her skin, which held an egg. The egg seemed to take up half her lower body! I could see also males looking around for something, probably the skins of females, containing eggs that needed to be fertilized.
Microbes on a toothebrush
Microbes under a microscope
Microbes under a microscope
Lots of microscopes to look into!
Got my body scanned to see all the microbes living on it!
The roller coaster started moving, and we plunged into darkness. The ride went around and around, slowly descending. Then it climbed up and descended again. Finally, it ascended, and we were back where we had started. Beforehand, we had ridden an incredibly goofy ride, which was kinda annoying, and a dizzying one that spun and spun and spun, and didn’t do much else. We ended with the Bobsled and an ice cream. The Bobsled was really fun, but the wait was long. We also went all over the park catching Pokémon, with the Pokémon Go app. We even caught a female Niordian, which are really, really rare. It was pretty exciting.
As you may already know, we are renting an apartment for 5 weeks. We got a good deal on it, so now we are here! Catching Pokémon on a daily basis! Our best is a Fearow at level 439. Isn’t that powerful?
We also saw the botanical gardens. It was dense with plants. It had a huge, spiky water lily the size of a bunk bed. I’m not kidding. Its huge pads looked as if you could step on them – of course, I didn’t want to find out the hard way. That would probably end up with me getting spiked to death. I wouldn’t want that.
Finally, we went to the palace and Rembrandt’s house. In the palace, we learned about the rulers. William III became the King of England, since England’s former king had died, not leaving any heirs. Luckily, William’s distant cousin took the throne. Soon, Dutch independence was recognized by the Spaniards, a whole 69 years after it had been declared! Not cool. Although, the Dutch still have a king to this date. Cool, huh?
As I mentioned, we also went to the Rebrandt house. They had some of his artworks in there (mainly reproductions). They also had diverse and interesting items in a large display room. The whole house looked just as it had back in Rembrandt’s days. Click here if you want information on Rembrandt’s life. They had been able to do this, because Rembrandt had to sell everything he owned. Interesting, isn’t it?
A Short Biography of Rembrandt van Rijn:
After years of good money off of his paintings, and marrying his beloved Saskia, the mayor’s wealthy daughter, he bought a lovely little house right on a canal for 13,000 guilders (a lot of money!), but the money came from the bank, not his pockets. Instead of spending his money on mortgages, he spent it on purchasing exotic goods. His social life was no better. Saskia had lost three babies, and each loss tormented her health. Fortunately, Titus would survive infancy. It all ran down to 1642, a disaster year for Rembrandt. In June, Saskia passed away. Also, Rembrandt plunged into debt, everything he owned being sold away, but that still didn’t cover Rembrandt’s debt. Somewhere in the mess, Rembrandt remarried and had a girl, Cornelia. He and his two kids, 17-year-old Titus and 4-year-old Cornelia, moved into a smaller house, bankrupt. Rembrandt painted until he died, a poor man with nothing but his clothes and art supplies, at the age of 63.
At the science museum, Vitenfabrikken, I placed my hand on the plasma ball. All the plasma shot to my hand. An employee held a light bulb out to me. I grabbed it, and it lit up. She explained how the energy moved through my body to the bulb, which lit up. We also watched a space presentation in English (which was really more of a presentation on how space exploration has changed our everyday lives). I also tried to break a glass with my voice. I was close, but not successful. It was so hard!
We also went to the viking museum and farm, Avaldsnes. At the museum, I had a sword fight with a Norwegian boy. We learned that the vikings mainly used spears, instead of axes or swords, because they were cheapest, and had no horny helmets. There used to be a woman from Siberia, Ljufvina, who had married a Norwegian king, Hjor, became queen, moved to Avaldsnes, and had two sons. One of the sons, Prince Geirmund the Black-Skinned, was supposedly the most successful settler of Iceland. However, when he came back home to claim the throne, he found he was too late and the kingdom had already been taken over by Harold Fairhair. That must’ve sucked! He went back to Iceland for good. We also saw the model farm, and I got to do some archery. I even shot the rubber warthog in the neck!
Finally, we went on famous hike, to Kjerag Rock. There were three sets of climbing chains. Each of us slipped on the chains. When I slipped, I landed on my back with a thump. However, I felt no pain. At the top, it was incredibly foggy. There was still snow on the ground, too. I played in the snow, but got wet, cold, and miserable. Then we took pictures of Dad on Kjerag Rock with a 3,000 foot drop below him. What a way to end Norway!
The train rode through beautiful, white, snowy mountains. It rode through beautiful green valleys. It rode into the Bergen train station, coming to a stop at the end of the tracks. We had to navigate through really cute alleyways to get to our place. We liked it, too. We rested for the rest of the day and for the next day.
On our third day, however, we went on a fjord cruise. I was not happy. I was bored! I couldn’t really focus, because I just didn’t click, and I wasn’t really interested. I did like the earthy waterfall water. I loved how earthy it tasted. I also played with the baby in front of us. I traded her an extra map for an empty water bottle. She seemed to love the water bottle.
The next day, we went to Mount Fløyen. I had such a good time at the big kids’ playground. It was a very good anti-zombie base. There were many emergency escapes, and it was hard to get to. There were three watchtowers, and one watchtower had communication with the lowest level. We also canoed and went for a short walk. I played a zombie game with two German boys and a Norwegian boy at the playground. I caught two of them. I had a wonderful time.
The boat skimmed over the water. It was so fun going fast! We whooped for joy. It was very fun. The wind flew past our faces and felt very nice against them, even if it was cold. I was so happy that my dad’s friend Bjørn took us out on his own rubber boat for a ride in the Oslo Fjord. Then I looked behind my shoulder… at the upcoming storm. The waves got big and soaked us. What a relief it was to get back on dry land!
The rainy weather during our time in Oslo didn’t stop us from going out and enjoying the city. We were out and about every single day. While we were out, we walked around the city.
On our first day, we saw some epic viking ships. At first, I was astounded. There was a ship there that used to sail the open seas. The skeleton of its owner had a dagger cut in one leg and a sword slash in the other. Ouch! As we headed back, I saw an epic axe. AWESOME!!! I wanted to grab it. I wanted to hold it. I wanted to USE it. Sadly, though, it was locked up.
Finally, we went to the Vigeland Park sculpture garden. We laid in the grass and had ice-cream. Dad dragged us up the hill to a pillar covered in carvings. After that, I walked around in a very shallow area of the fountain and played zombie. I think I was a little too graphic, though.While I played, I caused a little kid to cry, and a man whom I guessed was in his fifties gave me a hard stare. It was just a warning, though. I had tons of fun.
Enjoying a cafe stop
laying in the grass
A threating storm over the fjord
enjoying the sun on the boat. We had lunch at that restaurant.
Night and I continued grazing silently. Finally, she looked at me and asked, “How’d you sleep? Fine?”
I looked back at her and said, “No dreams. How ‘bout you.”
She replied, saying the same, then our softhoof (human) came and fetched us. It was time to walk around so that herbs could grow so softhooves to eat. It was another simple, peaceful day. In the distance, we heard the sharpteeth (dogs) chase around the sheep. After the trail had been walked, we settled down in the stable to have a midday nap. I relaxed to the sound of horses munching on there food. A few softhooves came in with strange items dangling around their necks. The softhooves would grab their strange items. Whenever the softhooves wanted, their strange items would shoot out a dazzling light; then the softhooves would point their massive, bulky light-guns (cameras) at a different horse. I didn’t want to get shot by those evil-looking things! My breath was getting heavy. I flinched away, crashing into the wall. The stable shook. I kicked the wall and it started crashing to the ground! My haunches were pinned down. The softhooves screamed in pain, agony, fear, and distress. The lucky horses clippity-clopped away, leave the stable in dust.
“This is the end,” I thought.
Before I could moan my thoughts, the boards shifted. I was free! I dashed into the woods, one of the softhooves yelling at me. The woods were a scary, barren place at this time, but they were the only place to refuge. Here, I would lie safe from the strange, light-gun-carrying softhooves. As I walked through the forest, sprouts and late snow crunched under my hooves. I heard a growl and stopped dead in my trackes, breathing heavily. I heard the sound of sharptooth-like animals fighting. My heart stopped. Then I heard…another scared horse! I ran straight to the sound, it was Night!
She cried for joy, and yelled my name. “Spring!” she cried.
I cried for her and we nuzzled eachother. Then, all of a sudden, the vicious beasts that looked skeptically like wolves ran at us – and they were not happy. Silently, Night and I ran to safety. We ran and ran – straight in to the arms of our owners. They hugged us. We were given a new home and a good meal.
It was another normal day.
This was an assignment included in RTWkid’s Art History curriculum in which Edvard Munch was studied:
Pick one of the paintings other than The Scream or The Storm and write a short story, ideally 2 pages, definitely no more than 4 pages. The painting becomes the illustration and/or book cover of the story.
The taxi stopped, and we got out. The Guven family was at their front door, waiting for us. How nice it was to see old friends again! I had such a fun time with Guy and his little sister, Coco! We played Minecraft and with toy cars. The cars would have tournaments on two different tracks – the stairs and the special track. On the track, two cars would be launched out like complete bosses into a cell of their own. Then, they would spin to a second piece of track. It was very easy to tell the winner because the loser was flung to the side. About once a day, the Horn siblings, Gavin and his little sister, Hayden, would come over. While they were over we stuck to some rules. For the first hour, we would refrain from playing video games. For the next hour, however, we could play video games, and were all over Minecraft. We started building a Minecraft wipeout map. We built a creeper face next to a little bit of parkour. Some blocks on the creeper face were in front of sticky pistons, and if you hit their levers once, the blocks shot out. If you hit them again, they went back to their former positions, waiting to strike. Somehow, we split into boys and girls. Guy was not allowed onto the girls’ world, because they thought he would grief them. So I joined, and did exactly what they feared: blew up their house! Then I joined their other world, and burned down the heart they had built! Later, when Coco joined my world, I disconnected her. Other than that, we had an amazing time.
Our time in Peachtree City was also amazing. Kayli and I played Minecraft, too, where we made an even better wipeout map. We made two creeper faces and added redstone, making them almost automatic. We also added a maze of paintings and a boat race. We added a jumper, ladder parkour, and a dropper. We’re not even done yet! We went on several golf cart rides. On the last one, I spilled melted ice-cream all over myself and the golf cart. Now I know: golf carts and melted ice-cream DO NOT mix. They ruin each other.
Honestly, some of the most fun I had was at my pool party in Atlanta. The Hellengas, Jack and Parker, were there. So were the Guvens and the Horns. James Hester III (aka. Tripp) and his mom were also there. We had pizza for lunch. After we had pizza, we played a game where we had to push everyone else into the pool. A girl that lived in the building was swimming around, and Gavin pushed me in backwards. When I resurfaced, she was crying, and said her earring was missing. My theory is that when I fell in, my foot smacked her face and her earring flew away. Everyone looked for it. Turns out, it was at the edge of the pool. That girl never got back in the pool. Then, we decided to play chicken. It was Jack and I versus Gavin and Guy. Tripp kept interfering. I splashed him in the face and it proved to be too much. He never got back in the pool. Later, Dad and Mr. Horn were throwing all of the kids into the air. Flying was so fun! However, Dad threw Coco a little too hard. She bonked her head on the bottom of the pool. That proved my doubts about the pool being deep enough. She was fine, though. She was back in the pool swimming her heart out in a few minutes. Weren’t we all?
In Savannah, we stayed with our friends, the Parish family. I made a zombie movie with Brownyn and Ivy. Click here to see the trailer for our movie!We also had a tour of the city. We went to Leopold’s Ice-Cream. The line was insane! No wonder! They’d been around since 1919! Also, they are the official inventors of the Tutti-Frutti ice-cream flavor. I ordered a triple chocolate ice-cream. Oh, BOY it was good. It was really chocolatey. There’s nothing more a boy would want.
“Pawpaw!” I yelled, hugging him. He greeted me, mom and dad. Then we drove to Aunt Brenda’s house. She’s not actually my aunt. She’s my dad’s aunt. We stayed a little past lunch time. Then we said our farewells, and then drove to Uncle Jeremy and Aunt Keren’s house. We greeted them in the same manner we’d greeted Mita, Aunt Brenda, and Uncle Rick. Of course, I gave Andy, the family puppy (who is now 2), lots of love and attention. When I got tired of that, I played board games with Victoria, my slightly younger cousin. Later, I played Catan with Victoria and Pawpaw, a game which Pawpaw won. Victoria and I also played Dungeon and Munchkin. It was very fun. Also, for once in my life, I felt normal. However, nothing was better than Stuffed Animal Wars! It was epic. Victoria and I split the stuffed animals with our other cousin, Kirsten. We used pillow pets as shields, and other stuffed animals, preferably round and fat, as swords. Others, which were too oddly shaped or to small to be used as swords, were projectiles, which we threw at each other. Sultan was one of the projectiles, for two reasons. We had tons and tons of fun.
The tube fell away, and I went flying over the humps on the slide. No, not in midair. At the bottom, I slid past Aunt Colleen and my cousin Elia! I knew I’d won. However, not five seconds later, my other cousin, Kyla, came down next to me and barely got ahead. There went my victory! I later learned that the winner was the one who reached the bottom first. My favorite ride had a long drop. I remember Uncle David yelling a cuss word, and when it was my turn, I screamed, “God, dang it!” three times. Elia had to push us, because we’d stopped. Aunt Colleen and Kyla came down fine. At Splash Town, I had the time of my life.
I also played Minecraft and swam with my cousins. During mine and Elia’s joint birthday pool party, I was playing by myself when my dad said that everybody had ganged up on him and he needed my help. As he was saying it, Uncle David, Kyla, Elia, and my other two cousins, Cooper and Lilly, were shooting Dad with water guns. I told him that I was busy and he shouldn’t have been so aggressive towards them. Later, when I was simply minding my own business, he came, picked me up, and used me as a shield against my own will. Now who sounds mean?! I said that if he put me down, I would fight for him. (Spoiler alert: I always win). I found a water gun, and shot at Dad! I joined my cousins instead. We shot him till he got out of the pool. There was still a problem, though. One of the adults was still attacking us, with three two-year-olds as his comrades. On his side were Harper, Carson, and William, the triplets. They are Lilly’s siblings. It was a vicious battle, with water and toys flying all over the pool. We sprayed each other until cake time. After that, the triplets left. Also, Cooper’s little sister, Lexi, joined us. We had so much fun, with custom missions designed by Uncle David. It was enough fun to last a week!
As you may know, I have been collecting coins during the trip. I have African coins, European coins, Asian coins, and Latin American coins. I’m pretty sure my collection is worth at least $5. I enjoy collecting coins. They are like souvenirs to me. I do have some special souvenir coins that are simply priceless. My favorite coin is an old Bolivian coin. It’s massive, and still squeaky clean. It’s also very shiny. It has a great, big 5 in the middle. It was made in 1899. When we were in Bolivia, a nice man named Jorge gave it to me. I also have a golden one from the Acropolis, and a silver medallion from Italy. I love coins. Coins, coins, coins.
The bus stopped, and we got out. During the walk to the place where we were staying, I noticed that the coastal town of Nueva Armenia felt very Caribbean because everyone was very dark-skinned and spoke Spanish. When we reached the hotel, we were shown around. It was a pretty rough place. A bucket was needed to flush the toilet, and the shower was a cold bucket shower (but it was so warm, it didn’t really matter). I still had a good time. I played cards with a couple kids, and we shared a delicious fried chicken (No, not a Chicken Fried, a fried chicken*). It was a perfect night.
When we woke up, we took a boat to Chachahuate, a teeny tiny island completely covered in huts, with barely any breathing space. That village belonged to the Garifuna people, a mix between a group of West Africans who had never been enslaved and the Carib indigenous tribe. On the first day, I had some fun. I swam a little, and found a conch shell. However, we didn’t exactly feel very comfortable there, so we left early.
We really hit a home run with our plan B. No, not the band**. We had an amazing time on Roatan. We went to a village called Punta Gorda – which translates to “Fat Point”. This village was also Garifuna. There, they have a festival every Sunday. At the festival, they dance a very unique dance called the Punta. It’s basically just a ton of butt shaking. It’s also very, very fast. I tried but in less than a minute, I had to stop because my abdomen was killing me.
We also snorkeled. My favorite fish was a long and skinny fish that was a about three to five feet long and possibly half a foot around.
Finally, we watched the sunset on the beach. It was so beautiful, I called it “The Tropical Lights”. A spectacular way to end RTW1!***
*Say “Loolz” in he comments below if you laughed. Say “Wacka Wacka Wacka” if you didn’t get the joke
**Read the following if you didn’t get the joke: Shabadadoo!
***If you don’t know yet, we’ll be going around the world again. The second trip will consist of Europe, Southern (not just South) Africa, and South America
I scrambled onto the old rock wall and looked down. There, right in front of me, was the residential zone, where the Kings of Copan had lived. We were in the ruins of Copan, and the majority of the ancient city was probably still hidden by jungle and earth.
Copan is an ancient Maya city. It was very important – especially during its peak in the early 9th century, when it contained about 20,000 people. Along with Palenque in Mexico and Tikal in Guatemala, Copan was one of the most important Maya settlements to have ever existed.
We learned a ton. One of the most interesting things we learned is about human sacrifice. People would play a soccer-like game. They were organized into two teams. The goal was to hit macaw heads that were carved in various places around the pit. This scored a point; the number may vary. Whichever team had the most points at the end of the match was the winner. The captain of the winning team would be taken away and never seen again.
He laid on his back on an altar carved like a turtle. Then his head was cut off. His heart was placed in a ditch made for hearts, still beating. The blood would pour out of the cracks in the rock and was collected in seashells. Then it was poured on a piece of paper that was then burned. This was an offering to the gods – to bring rain during a drought, to bring a good harvest, etc.It was considered an honor to be sacrificed to the gods. I, though, would try to lose to spare my life.
On top of that, the Mayans thought that after death, the soul would begin a dangerous journey through the underworld to paradise, thus being reborn. So they buried their kings and nobles in fetal position.
One of my favorite parts was the tunnels. From the heart of the ruins, they ran three miles into the countryside. They hadn’t been dug by the Mayans. Archaeologists had built them to show the underground parts of various temples. We could only go in a small fraction of the tunnels, but they were still amazing. We saw the mask of the sun god, the detailed, colorful carving of a macaw head, and much, much more.
After we got out of the tunnels, we were shown the true ground level, which was 25 feet below the ground level in the city of Copan, and five feet above the water table. There, it was easy to see the five layers of the ruins. However, there had been 16 kings. Why weren’t there 16 layers? Well, because only some of the kings built whole new layers. During king #14’s rule, he decided that he wouldn’t build on top of the previous king’s work, which was normally how the city developed. Everyone else after him followed his example, leaving king #13’s work shown to the world.
Copan was gorgeous. If you ever get a chance to go, you should.
The carvings are amazing!
Carvings showing the dynasty of the kingdom
Stairway that tells the history of the Mayan people
The beautiful, green birds were very noisy. The males, unlike the females, had a little bit of red on their wings. We were at Macaw Mountain, a place where birds were rehabilitated and possibly released back into the wild . Right afterwards, we saw the macaws. They were beautiful! They were majestic. One of them even dropped a feather. It would be perfect to make a pen out of it.
Next, we saw the green macaws. One, previously abused, wanted to attack us. Another one was curious. We also saw toucans. The difference between males and females was obvious: the males had massive beaks, while the females’ beaks were much smaller. We also saw some owls. One cage contained some Great Horned Owls. Disappointingly, they were a smaller subspecies than the ones that we were used to. Another five very small, brown owls.
Near the cage, on a post and chained in place, was a baby owl, even smaller. His huge pupils took up most of his eyes. He was chained up so that he could get some exercise while not walking off to dangerous places. His wings had been clipped by the previous owners. However, his wings had only been clipped once. We saw some macaws that had been separated from the others. These former pets had been kept outside, but the previous owners had clipped their wings over and over again. Well, by the time they’d escaped, having clipped wings was natural to them. The mutilated their own wings. They would also chase around other birds and try to mutilate their wings. If their victim was caught, it wouldn’t fly.
Lastly, we saw the showcase birds. I got to take pictures with macaws. What a way to end our time at Macaw Mountain Rehab Center!
Left, right, left, right. It was very hard kayaking up the river, because the current was so strong. I simply couldn’t do it. I had to strap my kayak to mom’s. Once we got to the lake, however, I was kayaking around and swimming. We had to race back to the docking point, because it got dark very fast. I liked that trip.
Also around Lake Yojoa, we hiked to a mountain with two humps. It was called “Cerro Las Nalgas”, which translates to “The Butt Cheek Mountain”. That’s funny! It was a long and tough hike that was very steep. Your legs would collapse on the way up and you would fly off the mountain on the way down. We, of course, were way too overpowered for that. Hahaha. I do have to admit, though, that I nearly fell off the mountain several times. The other hike we did was much easier. It was in a protected coffee plantation/nature reserve . There was a hotel in the middle of the reserve, which had a swimming pool. The reserve also had the remnants of ruins of the stadium where they played a game like soccer hidden below the earth. While exploring, we saw some really funny lizards with thin crests above their heads. They ran on two legs, with the other two flailing about in midair. I found them hilarious. Who couldn’t?
Don’t assume we didn’t have anything to do at the hotel. I swam in the pool, but it was icy cold, so I couldn’t stay in very long. Dad taught us a new game. In this game, there were no jokers. We each got 17 cards. Whoever started could play whatever card they wanted, as long as it wasn’t a spade. The other players had to play a card in the matching suit. Whoever had the highest card won the book. Then they put down a card from their hand. Pretty simple. Although, if someone was to run out of a suit, they had to put down a spade. If there was a king and queen of hearts with a two of spades, the player who had put down the spade would win. How is that possible? Well, spades are like jokers. The only thing that can beat a spade is a higher spade. Thus, the ace of spades is unstoppable. We played for hours. What a way to end our time at Lake Yojoa!
Honduras is full of magical, memorable experiences. One of these experiences was when we had a vacation with Tío Alberto, or “Uncle Beto”. We were going to a town called Amapala, on an island called Isla del Tigre. We were going because Tío Beto’s son, Albertito, had to run in a marathon on the island. Things didn’t go as planned, though. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the place that Beto normally stayed at. Although, we did get a nice hotel with a swimming pool. We did explore the island. The short trip was really more like a road trip – an enjoyable one, though.
We didn’t do much in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. It was mainly about being together with family. One day, though, we went to a beautiful village close to Tegus called Santa Lucia. We’d been there before, when I was a baby. My parents talked about how much it had changed. We also saw a church there. It was beautiful.
Another day, the whole family got together, and my great-grandfather was talking about his grandparents, his parents, and his childhood. About 75 years ago, my great-grandpa’s aunt’s dog was used to carry messages . Sometimes, the messenger dogs would travel very long distances. But there was something very special about that dog. The family would crank on the music, and that dog – and only that dog – would dance like a human. Also, the aunt could talk to lots of animals, even snakes. It is very funny to imagine.
On almost our last day in Tegucigalpa, we saw an art museum. It wasn’t just an art museum, because it also contained a fascinating history of the country. Like all other Latin American countries in the Cold War, it had a terrible dictatorship supported by the U.S, just because it wasn’t Communist. Also, there was a horrible display to educate the public of a local problem that was simply terrible: the killing of women for simply being women. It was a series of sculptures of women that had hands instead of heads. Basically, they had no voice. Each woman had a sign in Sign Language on the hand on their neck. There were lots of paintings, too my favorite painting was a replica of graffiti. It looked like something I would have drawn. It was an animation of a DJ in a spacesuit. Nothing cooler than a DJ astronaut!
We didn’t do much in Lima, but we did walk around and see some amazing fountains.
The walk was special. We saw many, many dogs, some of which had twins. Below us, in the ocean, we saw lots of people surfing. Most where still paddling out, but some where riding waves. When we reached the mall, we found a place to eat and had our meal. The mall was open air and really cool. We got ice cream and walked around. I was amazed.
Also we saw some colorful fountains and a laser light show. During the day, a couple of fountains were free for kids to play in, but we didn’t have my bathing suit, so I couldn’t play with them. There was also a tunnel made purely of water in the park. There was also a statue of Sucre, one of the South American men who had helped defeat the Spanish, in the park. The park was amazing. It was so beautiful.
We just happened to walk around town at about the time when the presidential guards would switch at the presidential palace. They had a big ceremony, and I was kind of bored. It was still kinda cool, though.
We got out of the bus, crossed the street, and climbed the tower. The Nazca Lines were amazing! The lines were very shallow, very thin. They were shaped into animals we know of. More or less. They were created about 2,000 years ago. But why? No one knows. They could have been made as a calendar. They could have been made to honor the local gods. But they were too perfect too have been made using a regular garden shovel or anything similar. I personally believe that aliens created them using their little lasers. They were trying to depict the creatures they’d seen during their travels around Earth. The pictures did look like animals found on Earth. A monkey, an ant, a condor, a shark, a frog… however mysterious they were, they were amazing.
Next, we were in Huacachina, a village built around an oasis near the city of Ica. My favorite activity was sand boarding. Imagine flying down a dune at a speed that feels like 100 mph. Would you scream your head off? Of course you would. We did, too, for the first few times. But after we got used to it, it was freakin’ addictive. We had two races. A young woman from our group won both races. Both times, I was ahead of Dad, who was last. As we took a fun, roller coaster-like ride back to Huacachina, the four women screamed their heads off as if a lion had jumped in the dune buggy. I closed my eyes tight, and one young man yelled, “Please! No! Make it stop! Make it stop! Please!”. Then, after watching the sunset, we took pictures of the village below. It was great.
In Paracas, we took a tour to some smelly islands off the coast. It was flourishing with life. Thousands, perhaps millions, of birds were either flying around the island or resting on it. Though most of these birds were seagulls, there also were some tiny penguins and pelicans. Also, the islands were home to sea lions. The guide told us about the bird poop, which was so plentiful that it formed thick rocks, was harvested for fertilizer. Years ago, they used yo harvest 10 feet of the poop every year. Now, they still harvest about the same amount of the poop, but because there are fewer birds, they don’t harvest as often. Now, they harvest the poop every 5 – 8 years. Enough talk about poop. But, man, talk about birds! There were more than you’d ever seen in your life here! There were even some small, black ones I didn’t know the name of. What a sight!
Hacienda de San José in Chincha was a huge mansion with lots of rooms. Today, it is a hotel with a small museum. One part of the museum were tunnels. The family had a business in agriculture, but the indigenous workers weren’t quite strong enough for the jobs. So they imported slaves from Africa. 70% had to be male, while the other 30% had to be female. Once they got there, they were hidden in the tunnels and waited. They didn’t have any candles, so the ones who tried to escape simply hit their heads on the ceiling. Down there, it was pitch-black and very dusty. Some slaves even died.The doctor would come and pick out the strongest and healthiest slaves, keeping in mind how many should be male and how many should be female. The rest would be sent on their way. We were in the tunnels in a group of about 10 and still a little cramped, but many groups of slaves were 4 or 5 times the amount. When the other South America people came to free Peru from Spanish control, they told the slaves that if they fought on their side, they would be freed. The slaves agreed to help. When Peru was free from Spanish control, the South Americans didn’t keep their promise. However, slavery ended 33 years later in Peru. Without a civil war. But the owners of the Hacienda de San José house didn’t want to free their slaves. So they kept them completely hidden from the outside world. No one from the mansion could go to the city, and no one from the city could go to the mansion. If anyone knew about the slaves hidden in the tunnels, they would lose their tongue. However, the slaves learned, after 2 years, that they were free. So then, they killed the son of the owners, and ran off, feeling free as birds.
So many birds!!!
Checkin out the red sand beach
Ready to ride in the dune buggie!
These dunes are in the driest desert in the world!
During our time in Colca Canyon, we did lots of things. I played with four kids. Two were Peruvian. Their names were Diego and Santiago. The other two were German. All of the kids lived in Lima. The German kids had moved there two years ago. We played a lot (i) of foosball. The Germans had a special trick: to pass the ball back, then kick it even harder. Once, I was playing with Santiago against the two German kids. The older of our two opponents, the German boy, kicked the ball from the defense to the back offense. In the middle of pass, I gave it a good whack. The ball curved and went straight into the goal. The boy stopped with that trick after the costly interception.
My favorite thing in Colca Canyon was the observatory. It was a place where we looked at stars and planets. We peeked at Jupiter. The gas giant looked about the size of the tip of my pointer finger in the microscope. Below it were four dots of bright light in perfect sequence. Each were a little smaller than my pinky nail through the telescope. They were Jupiter’s largest moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. They were a spectacular sight.
Also in Colca Canyon, we rode horses. My horse was a little naughty, but she was very gentle. Once, the reins got tied around her front leg. I didn’t notice. Instead of doing what other horses would have done, which would be to buck me of, she laid down. Thankfully, I hadn’t been balanced, but neither had I noticed, so only the flap of my shoe got stuck underneath her. If I had been properly balanced, my whole leg would have been stuck beneath her. I think that I would rather keep my leg.
We also saw condors while overlooking the canyon. There were so many of the majestic birds. They put on a spectacular show I will never forget. What an amazing creature.
One of our first days in Arequipa, we saw the Santa Catalina convent. We learned a lot. We learned about how the second children of a family had to become nuns or priests. We learned about how, for the first four years, the nuns, sent to the convent around age 13, saw no one but their teachers. We learned about how they lived and much more. We were informed about an important nun named Ana de los Angeles. She’d been sent to the convent for education at age 3, but permanently pulled out 10 years later, to be forcibly married to a man who was much older than she was. She ended up running away and permanently joining the convent. Her parents refused to give her the donation she needed, but her brother helped. She died at age 80. Centuries later, in the 1900s, a woman very sick with cancer mixed tiny portion of the ash of Ana de los Angeles with her medicine. In only a few days, she was completely cured.
After seeing the convent, we head a nice lunch overlooking a plaza with music in the background. Later, I fed the birds. So many! So aggressive! It seemed as if a literal sea of pigeons was swarming me. It was amazing.
The next day, we had a delicious lunch with the family we were staying with. I had cuy. It came with the claws, bones, head and all. It was actually kinda disgusting, but it was good. I liked it!
Also, we saw bulls fighting. This was not the Spanish style, where the man with the cape kills the bull with a spear. Instead, in this Peruvian style, bulls head butted each other, and when one was too hurt to continue and ran, the other won. During the last fight we saw, one bull pushed another into the barrier. There was an explosion of people as everyone rushed to avoid the danger. It was a little scary. Eventually, the bull with the bloodiest wounds, the one obviously losing, chased away the other and won the match. Woo!
We also stayed with a wonderful family in a beautiful house with lots of space. They were family of a friend of ours. Their names were Carmen Sr., Pepé Sr, and Carmen Jr. Pepé Jr, my parents’ friend, got in touch with us, and he wanted us to stay with his family.They were so nice and so welcoming! Hospitable, too!
I took another bite of the meat. It was tender, and was easy to cut and chew. I looked at the remaining meat on my plate. It was round and flat. It was long and skinny. I was suddenly suspicious. I flipped it over, saw the tiny bumps, and my suspicions were confirmed – the meat was tongue.
That’s not the only crazy food we had in Ollantaytambo. On our first day, we had an assortment of vegetables. I found one vegetable that felt fatty. It tasted like meat. Later, after we were done eating, my parents surprised me. They told me the truth: that the tasty vegetable wasn’t a vegetable at all. It was cow stomach.
We entered the ruins. We got a guide for an hour. She told us many different things. For example, at the Princess Baths, she explained to us that once a year, every June 21, the sun would rise up over the the mountain and a single dot of sunlight would appear where water trickled in from a hole in the wall. Another fact was that for palaces and other important buildings, they would use giant stones made of granite. They would be cut with high precision, niches and notches connecting, and stuck together like LEGOs, no mortar needed. Also, the windows and doors were shaped like trapezoids. In an earthquake, the building would shake, but remain standing. We loved our tour. It was amazing.
The family we stayed with was amazing, too. They were so nice. They greeted us like family. I played with their niece a lot, and it was simply amazing.
We also loved the old town. It was full of beautiful Spanish colonial and original Inca architecture. Beautiful. Beautifully mysterious.
The sun burst above the mountains, and bathed everything in beautiful morning sunshine. The early morning rays washed everything in golden sunlight, including the ancient city below the mountain on which we were standing. In the midst of all the foundations of all the unused buildings was a giant field… with llamas in it! We spent lots of time at the lookout before finding the Inca bridge. It was a bridge across the valley, connected to the side of a mountain. It was made of stone and wood.
When we got back, we went nuts exploring Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu means “Old Mountain” in Quechua, the language of the Incas. Machu Picchu was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca empire, because the Incas needed a outpost in the holy area considered to be the border between the Andes mountain range and the Amazon jungle. It was abandoned around 1570, shortly after the Spanish conquest. We saw every room, making our way to the giant field, and noticed small ditches in the rock where clean water would flow. There were two different areas, the urban area, which we were in, and the agricultural area, which was behind us. We continued onward. Soon, we reached the field. We were standing on the edge of the field, watching the llamas as they grazed and grazed and grazed. We kept on going. Not long after that, we passed the way to Wayna Picchu which means “Young Mountain”, a neighboring mountains with a couple of little sights on it. We passed through a long building, with lots of neat cuts in the walls, perfect for storing things. The whole rest of the time, I thought up a story. We were all wearing out, and fast. It seemed like only seconds before we were walking out the door, ready for the mysteries of life to overcome us once again.
I reached out to the smallest guinea, which was also the closest. It was the size of a pet guinea pig you would find in the States. Only it was a baby. The guinea pigs all scattered. Some of them were absolutely huge, maybe even more than a foot long. The were so cute, but they weren’t pets. They were food.
Soon after our visit to the guinea pigs, we strolled around the Písac market. The square was full of fruit stands. It was a very colorful market. They also had a arts and crafts section. We bought a strip of natural powder-like colors for some friends. As we made our way to the shared taxi station, we saw a girl about my age with an adorable lamb. I loved on it and got a photo. But, as I’d said earlier, guinea pigs were food. And soon, they would be food for us.
For my parents’ anniversary, we had a special order of Cuy (guinea pig) in Cusco. Mom was feeling adventurous, so she decided to take it as her meal. She let me have a bite. It tasted like duck. I should have eaten it instead. Mom was crying as if a family member had died. Apparently, all she’d been thinking was, Poor Linny! Linny is a guinea pig in Wonder Pets, an American TV show for little kids. Eventually, after eating most of it, she let the waiter take it. But no one could take the Inca like they had taken Mom’s cuy.
The museum of sites of the Qoricancha talked about Pre-Inca settlements as well as their technology. Then they talked about the Inca, going into a lot of depth about their empire’s holdings, including the cities, and then the Spanish conquest. The Spanish conquistadors came and crushed everything in the Incas’ society. Terrible. Just terrible. Chinchero was just up the road.
We went to Chinchero, a village near Moray. We soon got a brief demonstration of the different things used for cleaning and dying wool. Then they died the wool, pointed out a couple of nearby women who were spinning the wool into thread, and lastly wove the thread into a beautiful blanket. Soon, we’d visit the site that Chinchero was very close to.
Moray was a very interesting Inca site. It was made up of 21 different terraces, going down instead of up, used to make 3 different ecosystems. It was also used to experiment with crops. The bottom terrace was the wettest and hottest. This system of terraces was dedicated mainly towards potatoes. At least in this place. What’s Pre-Inca and involves salt water? You’re about to find out.
Next, we saw the salt mines. In was an intriguing, Pre-Inca site with loads and loads of pools. They were filled with salt water, and when the time came, after the pool turned from brown to yellow to white, all water entries were blocked off. After the water evaporated, they had a pool full of salt. What a spectacular process! Read on to find out about the spectacular gift I got in Cusco.
As we were about to leave Cusco, I got an adorable stuffed guinea pig for a present from the owners of our AirBnb apartment. I played with two really little kids, before leaving. What a great gift!
Colorful Stains for painting and dying
Colorful yarn with the natural material the colors are made from
The boat stopped, and we got out on the floating island of Uros in Lake Titicaca, Perú. The ground, made of reeds, was very peaty. The ground gave way a little when you stepped in it, but bounced back up. A couple of locals explained how the village was built from blocks of reed and compost. Then our guide told us of the activities in the village, which included fishing for food. Our group didn’t get to fish, though. We also dressed up and got our pictures taken. I was put in a shirt and hat against my own will that made me look like I was five years old. We took a local boat to the next floating island, which was empty. Then we got back on the tour company’s boat, went to the next island, bought some snacks, and headed to a real island.
The climb up to the plaza was exhausting, and during, when I had something to say, it was barely audible. Though, the Snickers bar I’d had gave me a boost, but not for long. We bought a few bracelets, and by the time we started walking again, we couldn’t even see the back of the group. When we finally reached the lunch place, I was ready to pass out from exhaustion and take a nap. The food gave me renewed strength, and we bought a bracelet for a friend.
We passed a sheep surrounded on one side by the spikiest bushes you’ve ever seen, and on the other was a steep climb. With it was the tiniest black lamb you’ve ever seen, which had to have been newborn. It was black as night, with a white splotch on its head. We tried to get a little bit closer, but the mom made a horrible noise. The message was clear: Stay away from my baby! We took some pictures, and when we got back down, we headed off towards Puno, watching the waves lapping on the side of the boat.
A belt made from alpaca and women’s hair
Suma Pacha Village
The president of the village, Walter, showing us how the islands are made.
The cable cars rode up, up, up, but finally stopped as we reached the station in El Alto. I could have easily renamed it “El Altura”, because even without doing anything, we were all panting hard. Dad asked if we wanted to walk around town, but because of the altitude, we didn’t want anything to do except get back down. We ended up taking the line all the way down, then had a snack at the bottom, then took it to up to the station we’d gotten on at. It was amazing! The views were astounding! Also, it wasn’t a cheesy tourist thing. Most people riding it were locals, getting to their workplaces. Awesome!
In La Paz, we also saw Bolivian Cholita wrestling, where traditionally-dressed women get in a ring together and beat each other up. My favorite match was when Margarita, a small, 17-year-old girl, who we had met on the bus to the stadium, faced a big woman, and won multiple times. It was obvious that they were fighting their hardest. Oh, how wonderful! I’d never had a better time in my life.
We got out of the boat, and I started walking around the sandbar. Soon I steeped into some mud, and started sinking. I tried to escape. However, I only sunk faster. I had fallen into quicksand! I wiggled my legs, gave them a good yank, and finally they came free. But where were my sandals? I reached down with my hands and pulled them out. They were covered in mud, but not damaged, so they were fine. I put them on. After giving myself a much-needed rinse, we headed into the little settlement. Whew, I though, that was a close one. Gotta be more careful in the jungle, James!
The settlement was full of pitifully scrawny dogs. We looked at the crops, and squeezed sugar cane into a delicious juice. Then we were off toward our lodge again.
When we got there, we had lunch, then took a hike. When we got back, we rested, then had dinner, then I, discovering Mom had brought her nook, read for a little while before going to bed.
The next morning, we got up bright and early (you can imagine how grumpy I was), hiked to the campsite, and the sky opened up. It was rain like you’d never seen before. It was as if the oceans had overturned, like someone grabbed the whole river and threw it all on us. This is what it must feel like being an ant when the lawn sprinkler points your way, I thought.
Finally we got to the campsite, and I read. Soon I was pulled off my book to do arts and crafts (not the best thing when you’re reading a good book), but one of the guides made a caiman-tooth necklace for me. I read until dinnertime, then we took a night hike through the jungle. We saw lots of bugs, including some ants that were a little more than an inch long. They were called 24-hour ants, because if one bit you at twelve o’clock noon, the pain didn’t go away until twelve o’clock noon the next day. Basically, the pain didn’t subside for 24 hours. Ow! Also, hearing the strange sounds spooked me a bit.
The next day, when we got back to the lodge after a combination of swimming and floating down the river on a raft, which we’d had to build from scratch using tree trunks, we rested for a couple of hours. Then, us and our group mates headed off to a stream that fed to the river to fish.
First, Trent, the Australian man, pulled up a silvery two-and-a-half footer. It flapped so hard it escaped the hook, and was sent flying through air. It landed with a wham! on the ground halfway up the hill. Trent tried to hold the slippery fish in place with his foot, but it slid right down into the pond. It must have told its friends, because we didn’t catch anything else in that water. Although, in another pond, we managed to catch two tiger fish, which were about a foot and a quarter each, and one catfish, which couldn’t have been bigger than a foot. We ate well, and slept well, too.
We woke up, and found ourselves heading to town for our short break before the Pampas tour. We took a long drive (stopping on the side of the road to admire a sloth), saw a massive bird, and suddenly, the road was filled with water. We got out of the car, boarded a tiny motorboat, and rode the rest of the way to the lodge via the river. At one point, we came to a spot where two rivers met, forming a large pond. As we sped by, dolphins jumped up out of the water and fell back in again. I’m not kidding! Though, unfortunately, we were so fast that we only had a few moments to cherish the beauty of the memory. After we reached the lodge, we ate and rested before going on a “short” tour.
We swam with the dolphins, which was pretty cool, then went around looking for monkeys and birds. At first, I didn’t want to get in the water. I was in the pond already, though, wishing I could be in the boat. Then Mom jumped in, and called a dolphin over. It came right up to us and made a big splash. After what seemed like ages, I headed for the boat, but stopped when I heard a dolphin heading after me. I tucked my feet below my legs, but I still felt the dolphin nosing me playfully. It was quite an experience.
Finally we ended up floating in a flooded field watching the sunset. At about that time, we saw a caimans in a couple of different places. We were thoroughly spooked, though amazed, and went straight for the lodge. We had dinner and got a relatively ‘good’ night’s sleep.
The next morning, we had breakfast, toured around, and finally ended up in a horse ranch that had a kind of bus stop attached to it. Finally we rode off to Rurrenabaque, ending our tour of the Pampas and the Jungle.
I got on top of the old, useless train. Mom wanted me to get even higher, but I didn’t because it looked too dangerous. We got some awesome pictures, and soon we rode back to town to buy things like sunglasses and pick up lunch. As we drove across the salt flats, we stopped at places like the salt triangles, big piles of salt, before eating lunch.
Afterwards, we took our silly photos, messing with the perspective. We continued on to Fish Island, a small area of land in the middle of the salt flats with dirt, rock, and strangely enough, coral. Millions of years ago, the Pacific Ocean had reached even the salt flats, and the whole island had underwater, but when mountains had risen far into the ocean, gigantic, salty lakes were created. These lakes eventually dried up, creating salt flats. We explored around for a little while.
I found a cool cave and a small but awesome pit safely guarded by steep rock walls and spiky plants on almost every direction. After about an hour of driving, we escaped the salt flats and after about another hour of driving, we arrived at the salt hotel, a hostel made of entirely of salt bricks. While it was chilly outside, the salt kept us very warm.
The next day, we saw a bunch of lagoons with flamingos in them. One was even red! Our guide said it was because of the microorganisms that the flamingos ate, but one of our companions joked that it was red from blood. Human blood…
The sun just peeked over the mountains as the geysers continued their endless spraying of mist. It smelled eggy. Even though it was warm, it had a way of getting us away. Next we went to green lake. It earned its name, but because we were too early, it was not green at the time. Then we relaxed in the hot springs. By the time we ended our tour, we were ready for the next place.