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EDUCATION

pali school charter elementary school palisadesPalisades Elementary Charter School

Writing and Arithmetic.  More likely, the child will talk about computer lab, music class, or time spent in their school’s garden…the FUN stuff that integrates their core curriculum into real life experiences, and enriches their education and learning ability. Like any public charter school in LAUSD, Palisades Elementary is highly resource constrained.  Without fundraiser events like the school’s upcoming Online Auction, Palisades Elementary students would not have access to any of the FUN, enriching programs that kids love and remember, and help to prepare them for the changing world.

This year, the school’s Auction has more than 800 incredible items.  In a historic move , Palisades Elementary Charter School in Pacific Palisades is opening its treasured Online Auction with hundreds of items to surrounding communities and beyond.

Anyone can bid and buy one-of-kind travel opportunities under market-value.

thai 2Do you want a Seven Night stay in Private Luxury Villa with Staff at the Amanpuri in Thailand?

It truly is a trip of a lifetime! Spend a luxurious week in a fabulous villa at the glorious beachfront Amanpuri resort.  The Amanpuri is Thailand’s most spectacular resort, which has 40 pavilion rooms and 30 private villa homes interspersed throughout a secluded coconut plantation. Surrounded by the Andaman Sea, this beachfront resort offers the ultimate in resort facilities, including full water sports, two yachts available for charter, spa facilities and gym, executive services, tennis (including tennis partners), and world-class gold courses nearby.

Amanpuri resort, Thailand
Amanpuri resort, Thailand

The villa consists of 10 bedrooms with different configurations, 2 separate dining pavilions, 2 separate living pavilions, a private gym in the villa, a private swimming pool, several outdoor living areas, and is fully staffed with a gourmet cook and 3 housekeepers.

 

Video: The Compound at Amanpuri

 

ALL ARE WELCOME TO BID ON DEALS & STEALS!!

Palisades Elementary Charter School opens its Online Auction For First Time To its Community and the Country

Pacific Palisades, CA —

In a historic move, Palisades Elementary Charter School in Pacific Palisades is

opening its treasured Online Auction with hundreds of items to surrounding communities and beyond.

Traditionally, the opportunity to nab “Deals and Steals” from the school’s diverse compendium of

Auction items has been open to Palisades Elementary families only. However, the Auction’s quality

offerings have become so voluminous, that the Auction will now be open to shoppers everywhere at

www.paligala.com from March 6-16.

 

Categories for the Palisades Elementary Online Auction range from Worldwide Travel; to Fitness &

Fashion; to Children’s Classes, Camps, and Parties. Opportunities include Seven Nights in a Luxurious

Private Villa at the Amanpuri in Phuket, Thailand; Two VIP tickets to Taylor Swift’s August concert at the

Staples Center; VIP Behind-the-Scenes Experience for Two to the NFL on Fox; and a Limited Edition

Lithograph “A Sky Full of Stars” signed by Coldplay are all fair game to the highest bidder. A “Buy It

Now” option will be available for many items.

 

In addition to Auction items, raffle tickets will be available for purchase online at www.paligala.com.

This year’s raffle offers three amazing prizes:

One-of-a-kind 61 carat Tourmaline Necklace by Jaimie Geller ($10,500)

Own a complete original! This amazing necklace was designed by Jaimie and

Michael Geller, and is truly unique. A beautiful one-of-a-kind 61.44 carat tourmaline

is surrounded by .78 carats of pave diamonds, with a setting and chain made of

brilliant 18 carat white gold. Perfect for any occasion!

 

Four Night Stay at the Grand Wailea, Maui ($2,800)

A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, the Grand Wailea is situated on 40 lush acres, captivates

the senses, and boasts some of the best pools and water activities in Maui.

 

A Bicycle Built for YOU ($1,700)

The Brompton Folding Bike, from AIKA for urban cycling in Santa Monica, folds to a

compact package a little larger than its wheels in less than 20 seconds. It is the

smallest and coolest folding bike out there. Designed and manufactured in London.

Proceeds from the Palisades Elementary Auction support public education by providing funds to hire

teachers, reduce class size, purchase books, and provide access to computers, music, and physical education.

Online Auction begins Friday, March 6, 2015
and runs through Monday, March 16, 2015

 

The karst landscape of Gunung Mulu was inscribed in 2000 as Malaysia’s second UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. Among many natural sites already present in the prestigious list, Gunung Mulu easily stands out as it is one of the few that is inscribed on all four natural criteria set by the World Heritage Committee. These are: 1. it being an outstanding specimen for the study of geological processes, 2. it being a exemplary representative of ongoing ecological and biological processes, 3. it exhibiting a superlative phenomena of natural beauty, and 4.  it housing a natural habitat for in-situ conservation of biological diversity. 

How can something so fluffy be so deadly?! Some endemic insects in the park.
How can something so fluffy be so deadly?! Some endemic insects in the park.

Gunung Mulu National Park is very inaccessible, and going there really needs some effort. I arrived in Mulu on a plane from Kota Kinabalu, passing through Miri Airport in Sarawak first. This proved to be the most convenient — and expensive! :( –way to reach the site compared to the 12-hour boat ride through the Mesilau River, or the 3-day trek along the Borneo headhunting trail in the mountains.

Entering Clearwater Cave. The underground river is so strong that the sound its rapids make echoes through out the cave.
Entering Clearwater cave. The underground river is so strong that the sound its rapids make echoes loudly throughout the cave.

I managed to explore various walking trails within the park, visit the indigenous Penan nomadic settlements (Penan people have the exclusive hunting rights in the park in recognition to their tradition; some of them are even the descendants of the notorious Borneo headhunting tribes), experience the longest tree-based canopy walkway in the world, enjoy the Paku waterfall all to myself (trekking “alone” some 2km through the forest!), and climb the Tree Top Tower hoping to see some wild animals in action. However, the real highlights of my trip were, of course, its show caves.

A local Penan living in nomadic settlements surrounding Gunung Mulu. He was about to go out hunting.
A local Penan living in nomadic settlements around Gunung Mulu. He was about to go out hunting.

In my 5-day trip into the jungles of Sarawak, I stayed in the humble Mulu Homestay just outside the entrance to the park.

The first set of caves I visited are the Wind Cave and Clearwater Cave. These caves are in Mount Api, and to get there requires riding a longboat passing through the Melinau Gorge canyon, stopping by the Penan village, and finally trekking along the karst mountainside.

One of the cave shafts (around 60m high/deep) in the Wind Cave. So, again, we were way below the face of the earth.
One of the cave shafts (around 60m high/deep?) in the Wind cave. So, again, we were way below the face of the earth.

Wind Cave is a personal favorite. The story behind its name is interesting – winds channeled to the cave, through its numerous shafts (eroded holes in the earth’s surface), can get really strong; hence, it is also named as the Cave of Winds. Its grand King’s Chamber, gifted with some of the best stalactites, stalagmites and pillar formations there are to find, will indefinitely hold a special place in my heart. As it was my first time to see cave shafts (I’ve seen four here), seeing one that drops close to 80 metres below the ground  was a stunning experience. From where I had been, the ground that we know is already way above me – yes, I went that deep below the earth’s surface :)

The beautiful King's Chamber in Wind Cave. A killer!
The beautiful King’s Chamber in the Wind Cave – the ultimate heartthrob for me!

The Clearwater Cave, on the other hand, boasts the record of being the largest cave network ever surveyed. Also, as much as I love Palawan’s Puerto Princesa Subterranean River NPthe real record of the longest underground river system actually belongs to the Clearwater Cave that spans over 170km in total length. The biggest cave chamber – the Sarawak Chamber – is also said to be connected to Clearwater. This massive cave network also displays a unique habitat for a rare one-leaf plant that only thrives at the cave’s mouth. At the end of the trek, I did not miss the opportunity to take a dip in the Clearwater river. I realized later on that I was the only one who braved jumping into the ridiculously cold river.

Rare one-leaf plants in the mouth of Clearwater Cave.
Rare one-leaf plants at the mouth of Clearwater cave.

The next set of caves I visited is that of the famed Deer Cave and adjacent Lang’s Cave, both of which are in the southern limestone karst hills of the park. To reach this part, visitors have to trek a total of 3kms from the park’s headquarter. Lang’s Cave is really small. It is so compact that one can even touch its ceiling, and get a close look at some ‘ongoing geological processes’ like dripstone activities, living stromatolites, and limestone (dis)colourations. Despite its size, this one is the most extravagantly furnished in terms of cave ornaments.

Dripstones in Lang's Cave. See the ceiling? Told you it wasn't that high.
Dripstones in the Lang’s Cave. See the ceiling? Told you it was not that high.

The nearby Deer Cave has the reputation of having the biggest cave opening in the world at 170m x 120m. It’s not superbly decorated as the others, but the inside is home to a totally alien ecosystem that is practically deprived of sunlight and regular air movement. The cave houses around 3.5 million wrinkle-lipped bats, a lot of creepy crawlies, several cave snakes, some freshwater shrimps and fish (this was a big surprise!), and more than a metre-deep sea of guano (bat droppings). One of the highlights of the Deer Cave would be the Flight of the Black Dragon in the afternoon. In consonance to natural rhythms of the jungle, all the bats would fly out at dusk to feed on insects, forming what appears to be like a black ribbon dancing in the sky.

Deer Cave: the profile of Abe Lincoln in the opening, and the sea of guano.
Deer Cave: the profile of Abe Lincoln in the opening, and the sea of guano.

During my entire stay in the park, I never got to see the bats leaving the Deer Cave despite patiently waiting for 3 hours every afternoon and always getting heavily soaked in the rain along the way. It was only then that I realized that it rains “all the time” in a rainforest!

All in all, it was a very pleasant trip into the forests of Sarawak in Borneo. Cave visits are only handled by certified heritage site guides, entry permits can be hard to obtain, all activities in the park should be recorded, information posters are everywhere, trails are signposted properly, and the site is well and strictly kept and administered (if you snap a leaf off a plant, expect some fine. So, better behave). These measures are all cognizant to the sensitiveness and vulnerability of this fragile natural wonder.

Maria Easters Sylvester, a guide from Kuching I made friends with, and I in the picnic area beside the Clearwater River.
Maria Easters Sylvester, a guide from Kuching I made friends with, and I in the picnic area beside the Clearwater river.

After having visited five UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites  and several other natural parks in Asia, I have to admit that Gunung Mulu is one of the most well-managed and impressive natural sites I have seen.

Prambanan temple compounds came in as one of the first world heritage sites of Indonesia in 1991. This site was inscribed under two criteria: as a masterpiece of human creative genius, and as an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble that represents a significant stage in human history (i.e., spread of Hinduism in the East). It happens to be the biggest and most extensive Hindu religious site in the predominantly Islamic country.

The first glimpse of Prambanan. I enjoyed the fact that it has a wide open yard.

The first glimpse of Prambanan. I enjoyed the fact that it has a wide open yard.

How is Prambanan assessed?

On one hand, Prambanan may look quite similar to Angkor Wat. True enough, they are both intended as Hindu temples, and that both follow the pointed South Indian Dravidian styles. In closer inspection, however, Prambanan reveals itself as a totally different architectural masterpiece that is unique in its own way. In fact, Prambanan was built over 300 years earlier (9th century vs. 12th century).  On the other hand, Prambanan still faces yet another challenge as it is often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor Borobudur. Nevertheless, in ancient times, the former might have looked far more impressive in terms of lay-out, scale of construction, and even its setting as the construction of Prambanan is to be seen as a response of the Hindu Sanjaya Dynasty to the Buddhist Sailendra Dynasty‘s Borobudur.

Often really crowded throughout the day, I visited Prambanan late in the afternoon when most of the tourists have already left  (it turned out later on to be an uncalculated risk as it rained some few minutes after!). One thing that I noticed immediately upon entering the gate is its vast, well-manicured yard. Not far from there, and I started seeing the magnitude of the damages this site had to endure: endless — and now meaningless — piles of rubble scattered everywhere.

View of the smaller temples housing the vessels of the Trimurti. Shot taken just before it started raining.

View of the smaller temples housing the vessels of the Trimurti. Shot taken just before it started raining.

The Prambanan temple complex — or what remains of it — is pretty small and easy explore. It has to be understood that temples currently standing in the compound hardly make up 15% of what used to be there. Originally, more than 240 temples comprise the compound  yet only a handful remains today. Below is a photo showing the model of the compound’s original composition – thanks to Wiki! Several centuries of earthquakes (the last strong one being the May 2006 shake) and bouts of volcanic eruptions by Merapi further added damages to the already abandoned and neglected royal religious site since the early 10th century – yes, the temple was relatively short lived as an active place of worship.

A model of the Prambanan Temple Compounds (photo courtesy: Wikipedia)

A model of the Prambanan Temple Compounds (photo courtesy: Wikipedia)

Its central main towers are almost total reconstructions via anastylosis. Nevertheless, strict measures are still being observed such as prohibiting public access to the towers’ interiors. The management body no longer plans to reconstruct all of the temples – the tons of rubble are there to act as a reminder of the site’s painful history in confronting the destructive forces of nature. Moreover, some stones are already missing as locals used them in building their houses nearby, rendering massive rehabilitation a definite impossibility.

Ruins of the peripheral temples. There were about 220 of these minor shrines before.

Ruins of the peripheral temples. There were about 220 of these minor shrines before.

It being a Trimurti site, Prambanan is dedicated to the highest three Hindu gods: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The commanding 47-metre high Shiva temple (or Loro Jonggrang), the largest in the area, lies at the center. Here, a local myth is also highly intertwined with Prambanan: Loro Jonggrang is a legendary Javanese princess, and it is believed that she is depicted in a statue inside the Shiva temple; hence, the Shiva temple is often referred to by locals as Loro Jonggrang temple as well. This legend is worth knowing when visiting this temple.

The carvings and reliefs in the temples are quite different from those that I have seen in Angkor, though both depict Hindu characters,icons, and stories. I can say that the images and artworks there are more “pure” in the Hindu sense of the word; in contrast, Angkorian art is made in the image of the Khmers.

Carvings depicting Hindu celestial nymphs in the exteriors of Loro Jonggrang, the central temple in Prambanan.

Carvings depicting Hindu celestial nymphs in the exteriors of Loro Jonggrang, the central temple in Prambanan.

Prambanan never failed to enchant me. Despite only having a little less than an hour in seeing this site (thanks to the rain!), it definitely left a lasting impression on me: the temple compound is really simple  and it may not even boast much given the state it is in right now  but it never fails to assert its right as a ‘classic’ monument the world will forever be proud of.

Last man out. Guards patiently waited for us before they called it a day. I think they understood I was on a mission.

Last man out. Guards patiently waited for us before they called it a day. I think they understood I was on a mission.

On a separate day, I also went to  the nearby ruins of the 8th-century Ratu Boko palace. Actually, it happens to be on the tentative list of Indonesia for a possible inclusion to the WHS list, too! Ratu Boko palace — oh, I’ll be writing a separate note for this site as it deserves one of its own — is nestled in the Boko Hills, some 3km from Prambanan temple compounds. Given its altitude of 196 metres, the site offers a commanding view of the Prambanan plains and townscape with the Merapi as the background. In the evening, the beautifully glittering Prambanan temple dominates the skyline, subtly suggesting that it is there to stay and that it will never be forgotten again.

Prambanan fields as seen from Ratu Boko Palace ruins. Prambanan temple compounds shine like gold, dominating the view.

Prambanan fields as seen from Ratu Boko Palace ruins. Prambanan temple compounds shine like gold, dominating the view.

The challenge posed by this site is to make sense of the scattered remains of a former strong Southeast Asian empire’s capital.  The historic city of Ayutthaya gained global importance due to its strategic trading location and strong diplomatic networks that were highly prized by the Chinese, Indians, Japanese, Dutch, Portuguese, and even the British. Its inscription to the World Heritage List, however, is anchored on criteria (iii)to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.

The ruins of Wat Maha That.
The ruins of Wat Phra Mahathat, the most sacred temple in Ayutthaya as it once held sacred Buddha relics.

 

I agree with Els Slots (www.worldheritagesite.org) that ruins here are really ruins. It is a bit sad that nearly everything here was destroyed during the 1767 Burmese siege. To think that Ayutthaya even brought the downfall of the powerful kingdom of Angkor in the 14th century, the present condition of this site does not, in any way, give justice to how it used to be based on historical records and accounts, descriptions and praises, and even map renditions.  It is interesting to note, furthermore, that with the fall of Ayutthaya, the role of Malacca in Malaysia as the sole trade hegemone in Southeast Asia was eventually cemented and secured – traveling makes more sense if you can stitch stages in history all together, right? Nevertheless, I believe that this old city’s current state still holds a distinct charm and mystery for heritage enthusiasts and tourists alike.

Wat Chaiwatanaram: probably the most beautiful, but not WHS.
Wat Chaiwatanaram is probably the most beautiful temple, but it is not a listed as a World Heritage monument as this is located outside the island that makes up the core zone. Notice the Khmer influence on this temple.

 

Upon arriving Ayutthaya, my agenda there was not really clear: either I visit the World Heritage-inscribed sites only, or just choose some major ones and pay those other temples that didn’t make it to the inscription a visit as well. Eventually, I decided to do the latter. Much to my surprise, two temples that are not inscribed left me with really strong impressions: Wat Yai Chaimongkhol and Wat Chaiwatanaram. Interestingly, these two temples are even the most photographed ones used in advertising Ayutthaya!

Wat Yai Chaimongkol: rows of the sitting Outon style Buddha in the courtyard
Wat Yai Chaimongkol: rows of the sitting Outon style Buddha in the courtyard

 

I later found out that the WHS core zone is only limitted to the those temple-ruins in the island proper. I actually used this very useful website as my guide in understanding better the composition of the historic park: http://www.ayutthaya-history.com/Temples_Ruins_List_C1.html

 

Among the inscribed temples, however, Wat Rachaburana probably offers the most unique experience with its two-tiered crypts and few remaining old murals inside the principal prang. I also observed that not too many tourists climb the prang to see these! Maybe, they do not know about it.

Wat Rachaburana: ancient murals inside the chambers
Wat Rachaburana: ancient murals inside the crypts. Climbing the tower can be an arduous thing to do, but it definitely is worth it! Besides, not many tourists know what is hiding inside :)

 

Although the scales of Wat Phra Mahathat and Wat Phra Si Sanpet are impressively grand, these being largely in ruins, it was hard for me to reconcile the fact the these two sites were the most important — socially, politically, and religion-wise — during the peak of the Ayutthaya empire. There is obviously a big disparity between “status quo” and “history” in these two major sites. Nevertheless, seeing the Buddha head entangled among the roots of a tree in Wat Phra Mahathat was still among the highlights of the visit.

Wat Maha That: the iconic Buddha head
Wat Phra Mahathat’s iconic Buddha head eaten up by a Bodhi tree.

 

One can also not fail to notice the seemingly uniform and cohesive images of the Buddha all around Ayutthaya, though most have been mutilated. The style of the images is one of the signature exponent of the Outon style, which is a cross between the earlier Sukhothai architecture and to that of nearby Lopburi. Outon style is, thus, commonly referred to as the Ayutthaya style as well.

The picturesque chedis in Wat Phra Si Sanphet.
The picturesque Ayyuthayan chedis of Wat Phra Si Sanphet

 

I also managed to visit other temples such as Wat Phra Ram (its picturesque  late afternoon reflection on the pond was very calming), Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit (the only temple to be completely reconstructed), and Wat Chang complex where the elephant rides are being executed. If there is one thing I like most about Ayutthaya, it is how the temples and other monuments are really taken care of despite their conditions.

Elephant ride around  Wat Chang. The Elephant Village is near this compound.
I certainly enjoyed riding an elephant while exploring the ruins of Wat Chang.

 

Let’s face it: it’s really ‘just’ the best — and the only! — thing that they can do with whatever remains standing (or leaning, falling, collapsing).

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Peacemakers Voyage:  The trip to Lol Be

This Voyage is fashioned after the legendary First Nation Peacemaker. How the Great Peace was brought to the Six Nations. This story is about NOW.

Beginning on Sept 16 1997 we set out on a thousand day journey  culminating  in Greenwich England at an event that was a precursor to being invited to the founding meeting of the Foundation for  A Culture of Peace by Federico Mayor Zaragozza.   At that time we were carrying the following messages.

 Peace Messages:

1) the Golden Rule (the basic meaning of the ISO 26000)
2) stop feeding the warriors on a physical mental emotional and spiritual level
3) Learn the importance of breath and learn at least one breathing exercise
4) honour the sacred in everything
5) ask ones self – how does my activity serve a “Culture of Peace”?)

And this brings us to our current travels to Mexico.

As the Maya message comes to reality and the prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor coming together in Yucatan is expressed by more and more elders across Turtle island there are few that have actually been inspired by the enunciation of the name of Gidagaak Binesi.  Most might even ask – what the heck is Gidagaak Binesi.

The response is known by only those that attended a ceremony in September 2014 at the Curve Lake Nation Reserve.  A special guest, who is considered as the “pope” of the Indigenous people of Turtle Island.  This man, known as Edward Benton Benai the Elder of the Medoin community on Turtle Island.  It is his story as how he meditated on tobacco for 29 years before bringing the name to the man known as “the Last Warrior”  Murray Whetung, the now 93 year old war veteran that represented Canada in so many ways over the years beginning in his role in the Second World War.  Murray is now charged with the name of Gidagaak Binesi – meaning Spotted Thunderbird.  It is the role of the Baby Thunderbird to inspire the Eagle and the Condor to stop their quibbling and come together as prophecy has declared.

It was with this message that I attended Lol Be to meet with Elder Master Hunbatz Men who is instigating a spiritual conclave in the Heart of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Will we be successful?  Who knows.  Lol Be is located exactly in the middle of Chichen Itzah and Merida – 52 kilometers from each.

My visit was intended to inspire me and the prophecy of the coming together of the Eagle and the Condor.  To be honest – I do not know.  I am more inspired by the Sac Be which is closer to Playa del Carman – not because one is better located than the other, but moreso because of the feeling of spirit when you visit the different locations.

After all, I am a spiritual warrior and I ought ot know.   But I do not.  Yet.

What I do know is that world events are moving toward the work that we have done over the past 20 years.  The most important of which is actually the ISO 26000.  This little known Standard was drafted with the purpose of having organizations behave in a socially responsible manner.  It took Five years to contemplate, 5 years to actually get it into the UN and now it is in its fourth year of publication – with still very little world recognition.

But something happened.  The Pope has come to realize that Slavery is one of the main scourges on the planet today.  His holiness has not yet recognized that the ISO 26000 satisfies a strategy to eliminate slavery.  Using the supply chain mechanism of the ISO 26000 and renaming the ISO 26000 to mean International Spiritual Obligations –  obligations of the CEO of all organizations operating on our home planet.

Our homeplanet virtual university may be the catalyst to bring all these stories into the now in order to share the story and the process through a new tool for peace – the Omniberry – a secured platform designed to implement the ISO 26000 and already being used by most of the leaders of the world.

This is the meaning of the ISO 26000 – an expression of the power of intention.    We can use the knowledge and wisdom of the Maya and reshape humankind using our accumulated knowledge and the technology of our day.

It is now up to the reader to educate themselves in some of these ideas – to transform themselves from being part of the problem, to become part of the solution for all of us,

 Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Inspiration Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

ariana“Do you ever feel already buried deep?

Six feet under screams, but no one seems to hear a thing

Do you know that there’s still a chance for you

‘Cause there’s a spark in you?

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine

Just own the night like the 4th of July

‘Cause baby you’re a firework…….”

         My fourth and fifth graders practice their rendition of Katy Perry’s “Firework” while making hand gestures simulating fireworks exploding in the wind.  I chuckle softly, watching them through the mini i-camera on my iPhone.  It’s moments like these that I want to record.  Maybe I should show their parents.

“Louder, louder!  Boom, boom, boom,”  I mouth at the girls singing enthusiastically.

“Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon,” they respond loudly.

I turn off my iPhone mini camera just as the song concludes.

“That was so great!  I’ll check the video to study the gestures you guys made up,” I inform my students.

The bell rings precisely at 3:00 p.m., signaling the end of our music lesson.  At this time, we all have to clean as a class.  One child sweeps the hallway; others mop the floor; another one sweeps; another vacuums; and yet another cleans the whiteboard.  I supervise the kids, offering assistance when necessary.  Everyone works together and supports one another.

Which basically sums up my new life here in Ginowan, Okinawa, Japan.

I just moved to Okinawa from mainland Japan around three months ago, and thus far I am having a great time.  I teach a combination class of fourth and fifth graders at AmerAsian School in Okinawa, otherwise known as AASO, mostly serving AmerAsian children.  Even though we are living in Japan, the elementary school students are taught primarily in English.  I had been teaching English at an international school in mainland Japan prior to teaching at AASO, and so I was really impressed with my students’ near-native fluency in English.

Everything about this school is incredible.  Perhaps it is not fair to compare and the past is the past, but everything is in direct contrast to my previous place of employment.  Everyone is hard-working; my boss is open and available to discuss anything that comes up;  we have all of the teaching materials and resources we need at our disposal; other teachers are caring and help each other.  It just feels like a real team.  Even more importantly, my students light up my life.  I finally feel as if I have a real purpose.

My partner and I relocated to Okinawa from mainland Japan mainly for the many work opportunities.  We had been feeling unmotivated and disillusioned–stuck in the same place–for a long time.

But that doesn’t matter anymore.  I need to focus on the here and now.

“Ms. J, may I see the video?” my student Miuta asks excitedly.

“Are you finished vacuuming?” I double check.

“Yes,” she replies.

“Okay, then,” I answer as I start replaying the video on my iPhone.

Miuta, the D-class performer, sings and dances along with the video, and when it gets to, “Maybe you’re reason why all the doors are closed

So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road,” I also join in.

I just love that part!

By that point, the rest of my girls huddle around me, trying to sneak a peak at the video.

“Ms. J, Ms. J, I want to see,” Miuta whines.

“Wait, wait a minute, girls,” I say, laughing out loud.  I have so much fun teaching this class!

And that is what my days are like here every school day.  Starting from my first day of teaching, which incidentally took place in the middle of their school year, my students welcomed me with open arms; and I just knew that I wanted to stay here for a long time.

Welcome to D-class.

About the Author, Ariana Jauregui: A California native of Mexican-American descent, Ariana Jauregui has been living and teaching in Japan for over 10 years.  She enjoys reading, writing, meditating, walking, watching films, and just learning about EVERYTHING, including new cultures.  Having recently obtained her master degree in education, Ariana hopes to instill in her students her love of reading, writing, and lifelong learning.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter our next Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

huff post secure attachmentAfter reading Confessions of a Bad Teacher, I wrote an article called “Why So Many of America’s Teachers Are Leaving the Profession,” which had received over 1450 likes and over 50 comments in the HuffPost50. My next article in HuffPost Education was called Secure Attachment: Do Good Teachers Need It? about the same book and Matthew Hertenstein’s The Tell.

As my third period students filed in the door for physics class, one of the 8th graders whispered to me, “They did it again. Ms. Morgan (name changed) cried in class.” I wondered what happened this time. Ms. Morgan and I were both new teachers at the public middle school and shared nearly all the same 150 students who appeared 36 or so at a time in our classrooms. While I was older than her, we were both teaching in public middle school for the first time. How did a small group of students know what to do to crush Ms. Morgan and bring her repeatedly to tears? Why did they “go after” her repeatedly and why did a small math mistake ruin her whole day?

While reading Matthew Hertenstein’s The Tell “about the power of prediction based on observations of brief samples of others’ behavior,” I was thinking about teachers and classroom management. Some teachers can control a class of students and some cannot. Children seem to be able to size up teachers in an instant, just as adults can sense from laboratory studies and photos who is more aggressive, what is someone’s sexual orientation and other personal things in mere moments. Learning teacher’s tells could help them to do better in classroom evaluations from supervisors but could it also help with management?

READ THE FULL ARTICLE on the Huffington Post Education section.

Comment below about what you think about Teachers and Travelers and secure attachment!

George Rajna: The Chalkboard Champion Who Promotes Multi-Cultural Awareness

Many hardworking educators give unselfishly to causes near and dear to their hearts, and chalkboard champion George Kenneth Rajna is a fine example of this. George is an elementary school teacher, bilingual speech and language pathologist, Peace Corps volunteer, musician, and travel writer who has traveled to over one hundred countries across six continents around the world. He has worked tireless throughout his professional career to promote multi-cultural awareness.

George was born in Santa Monica, California. He graduated from the American University in Washington, DC, with an MBA in International Marketing. He has also attended California State University, Northridge, where he earned his master’s degree in science with an emphasis in communicative disorders.

From 1995 to 1999, George was employed as an elementary schoolteacher in both the Inglewood and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. George has also donated his teaching talents as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Paraguay, where he supported a government educational reform program used by teachers to engage students with didactic materials, hands-on activities, and multi-modal instruction. During his Peace Corps experience, George promoted programs improving dental hygiene in the local community, and he also facilitated workshops for teachers to assist them in creating and utilizing instructional materials for their classrooms.

After his return from Paraguay, George accepted a position as a speech and language pathologist in the Lennox School District in Lennox, California. He was employed there for six years, working with students who suffered from varying degrees of autism and children who exhibited articulation, language, and fluency delays. During his tenure in Lennox, George also mentored new clinicians on how to effectively treat children with speech and language disorders.

George met his future wife, science teacher Lisa Niver, online in 2007, and the following year the couple went on sabbatical together, travelling all over Southeast Asia. Their 2013 book Traveling in Sin describes their unique experiences on this trip, and how their sabbatical fostered the growth of their relationship. Together, George and Lisa founded an award-winning web site, We Said Go Travel, a global community of over one hundred writers who have publicly shared meaningful stories related to travel and world culture. George has also published travel articles in the Huffington Post, Jewish Journal, theHimalayan Times, Technorati, and The Clymb. In addition, George and Lisa are sought-after public speakers.

Here is a link to George and Lisa Rajna’s web site: We Said Go Travel.

Here is a link to George and Lisa Rajna’s book: Traveling in Sin.

George Chalkboard champion

huff post confessions 600 likesThank you to the Huffington Post for sharing my story: Why So Many of America’s Teachers Are Leaving The Profession

John Owens in his book, Confessions of a Bad Teacher, shares that “America’s public school teachers are being loudly and unfairly blamed for the failure of our nation’s public schools.” As a 2012 nominee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching and a veteran of public and private schools for the last twenty years, I have to agree but I was glad to hear someone else say it in print.

The vast majority of teachers are working overtime without the tools or budget to manage the plethora of issues inside and outside the classroom. On top of that, administrators who only compound the situation by micromanaging the wrong things make the lives of teachers completely untenable with their lack of support.

Most teaching preparation programs including the one Mr. Owens attended do not adequately prepare anyone for life in the classroom. For many beginning teachers, “It was as though I had just joined the circus as an apprentice clown and was immediately required to juggle plates, bowling pins, butcher’s knives, and axes all day long while walking along a tightrope in midair.” Teachers make more decisions per hour than any other job including what to do with a student who falls behind, manage students with learning or emotional problems, tailor each lesson every day to up to 125 students or more who are somewhere between illiterate and highly gifted.

Sadly some administrators, students and parents instead of partnering with teachers, blame “teachers which is easier than doing a massive system overhaul.”

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON THE HUFFINGTON POST (and read the comments!)

The article ends:

In Los Angeles, new teachers and old can find mentorship and engaging lessons with the Los Angeles Science Teachers Network. In response to an overwhelming situation in 2009, I created this network for professional development, support and camaraderie. Administrators cannot do everything and we all must participate to improve learning for the children. Do not listen to the blame. Do something about it. We are each responsible to do what we can. Write a blog, start a network, help a child and find a way to feel supported in the classroom. America needs you.

About the Author: Lisa Niver Rajna was a 2012 nominee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. She was the first teacher to appear on Career Day. She and her husband George are on a career break sharing their world adventures on We Said Go Travel.

exotic burma lunchtime learning

Join Penn grad Lisa Niver Rajna (C’89) and her husband George Rajna, founders of We Said Go Travel, for a special inside look at Myanmar travel. Myanmar holds a special place in the hearts of Lisa and George. They met online because Lisa told George, “The Shwedagon Pagoda is my favorite place on the planet.” In October 2012, the duo meandered in Myanmar for 27 days and now have 45 videos of their journey on YouTube as part of their 130+ video channel. Join them for a webinar on the highlights of this unique and unspoiled land. Learn what to do, what to wear, and when to go to see the magic of Myanmar. [Penn Alumni Travel will be visiting Myanmar in November 2014. Click here for more information.]

Our 45 videos in Myanmar from last October: Click here

View the Talk: Click here

George and I met online because of the magic of Burma! Want to know more?

Watch this8b He Said She Said at Shwedagon Pagoda Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) 


September 29, 2012. George and I met online because of the Schwedagon Pagoda. During my travels to over one hundred countries, I had visited the Schwedagon Pagoda in 2001 at sunset and it has always been one of my favorite and most memorable places. I mentioned that to George in one of our first online dating emails and he was hooked! A woman with exotic international travel in her blood that is what he wanted in a life partner. From the beginning, we talked about returning to Yangon together to see Schwedagon Pagoda at Sunset and now here we are!

Enjoy our story!