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Bugs, rain and floods

Calm water pools

I didn’t put my mosquito net down the other night while I lay on my bed to read a book.  At least not until I switched off the light.  That was probably a mistake.

The place was very quiet. Probably besides us, no one else was staying in the guesthouse. Quiet is a relative term, if there were a noise meter in the room it would have registered quite a bit of noise, but that was from the waterfall just about twenty metres from our chalet. It was a very different sound from the lively noises of the day – squeals and splashes and giggles very time my girls and the local kids jumped into the waters, and the sounds of Lao men gradually getting louder as they consumed the day’s quota of local beer.  As if the beer was operating or rather relaxing their volume controls. By six it was getting dark and the weekend people were gone. At seven the girls tumbled happy and exhausted into bed, And so it was that an hour later it seemed as if the only living things within earshot were the waterfalls, a few geckoes and me, reading my book.

I switched off the light, drew the net down and tried to fall asleep. I drifted away even before my guilt about not writing anything hit me.

Around midnight I was awake again.  The waterfalls seemed to be louder now, but more significantly something was tingling on my skin. I had that uncomfortable and unnerving sort of feeling that I was no longer alone under the net. Whatever it was wasn’t biting me but tickling and disturbing.  Disturbing like that annoying drop of sweat that runs down over your body sometimes. I didn’t have the energy to investigate properly if it wasn’t biting me.  So I tried to hide instead deeper under the quilt. I knew that wasn’t really what I should be doing, but I hoped the heavy cover would dispel the tickles.

This wasn’t working of course.  What was worse?  The old heavy damp smelling quilt or feeling that little buggers walking around on my flesh? And of course, despite hiding under the heavy cover I still felt them crawling, and now my head was itchy. Now I was scratching myself and I didn’t even know if they were still there and alive or not.

So now I was up and the light was on, and  . .  . Oh bummer! Yes I have small bugs walking around on my skin, and this after I had persuaded myself that I was imagining the whole thing.  Not many, maybe two or three on each arm, though another three seemed to appear from nowhere when I had killed the first set.  I started examining myself – no sign of bites, no sign of my blood where I had squashed the little brutes. They must be harmless other than having deprived of sleep and serenity.

I tried to take a shower. Luckily the place had hot and cold water, though the plumbing system delivered either very hot or very cold and didn’t seem able to give anything in between.  So I mixed both waters in a big pot which was provided under the tap especially for this purpose. And at last I used an old aluminium bowl to pour water all over myself.

It felt great.  Not only was I free of the little bugs but I felt refreshed. Now of course I was wide awake.  More awake then I wanted. Outside, a storm was gathering and the air was thick – as if the fan over the beds was slicing it or stirring it.  I didn’t realise it was raining at first as our chalet was sheltered under big trees so that the rain wasn’t falling on our roof, but I went outside to where the open-air bar had overlooked the calm blue waterfall pools during the day.  Now there was a storm and a swirling torrent, and part of the seating was already gone.

It started raining harder and I went back to the room. I wasn’t about to go back to the bugs in my bed so I jumped in with the girls and cuddled up to Tania.  At last I drifted away.

Flood

It was seven am before we were woken again.  The guest house owner was banging on the door telling us to pack and get out.  Her English was broken and I didn’t understand what she was talking about until I looked down to see she was standing in water. The flood water was brown now, and was almost reaching our house. The shoes I had left outside were afloat.

“How long do I have to pack?” I asked
“Fifteen minutes, car is coming in fifteen minutes.”

Ok, ok was almost packed already. We were supposed to leave that morning anyway so all was prepared. I just needed to wake the girls, throw the sponge bag and PJs into the luggage and we would be set to go. A few hours before time and in unexpected circumstances, but c’est la vie!

water rises by around the meter

Waking up girls wasn’t easy but it wasn’t so difficult either as we had gone early to bed. In fifteen minutes we were ready. My larger bag has wheels but it’s just about light enough to lift.  Luckily the driver came promptly and helped us over the wet ground with my bag on his shoulder. I took my own and Tania’s backpacks and Zoe carried her own. We were all half asleep and and amazed by the whole situation. The water had risen by at least a metre in the night. I knew it was raining but it was still a surprise.

We were now in the car. The driver read the questions on my face and told me he was taking us to their hotel in Luang Prabang.
“You can stay there or I can take you wherever you want.” He said.

He explained that the  bar gets flooded every rainy season but the chalets were usually safe. They were at a higher level.  “No one lives there.  It’s only for dry season holiday.”

“Okay thank you.  I sort of understand. Can you please take us to the airport? We can just wait there.”

So I was able to catch up with some writing at last as we waited a few hours longer for that flight than usual.  And now we are happily on dry land in lovely lively colourful Hanoi.

Cruising Mekong

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Mekong seen from Buddha cave

The Trip

When I posted on Instagram that we were going to Laos, I received lots of recommendations to go on a slow boat on the Mekong river. Ok then. If it’s a must, then we must. So I investigated.

I looked at the map and saw that it makes sense to enter Laos from the north of Thailand and then head south down the river to explore. And yeah – exploring on the boat should be fun, though probably stressful. However good my Monkeys are, both from experience and in my imagination, kids plus boat equals need for constant supervision.

Research

Checking on the net revealed a variety of slow boats and speed boats. Speed boats seemed dangerous since the Mekong waters can be unpredictably shallow and rocky, so despite Zoe’s protestations I excluded “speedboat” from the options.

Slow boats come in two grades – “regular” and “luxury”. The regular ones take up to 100 people sitting in old car seats, whilst the luxury grade like Shompoo Cruises which I chose takes up to 40 people. They also offered small stops to see hill tribe villages and caves. So a “luxury” cruise would replace both the crowded car seat boat trip and also supplementary cheap bus tours to the out of the way destinations. And with fewer people on the boat, it would also reduce my stress in supervising the girls. Did I had to think long about it ? Nope. Luxury Shompoo-style had my vote.

The Boat

And indeed the benefits started before we even saw the boat, when we were picked up from the hotel in the morning. Being used to organising everything myself, the relief from having to find our own way from hotel to harbour made for a refreshing start to the day – no need to find a bus route or haggle about the tuk-tuk price to the pier, no crazy running between the boats to ask which is ours, while the girls would have been minding the luggage. This time it was pure and simple. All of us and our bags were picked up and put on a boat – a very nice and easy start.

typical slow boat
our slow boat with open roof

Typical slow boat with car seats. In my head I had all those pictures of boats with dirty bench seats, probably smelling of fuel oil and of us sitting captive for two days. So the sight of the boat itself was a nice surprise. Teak seats with navy blue and pinkish purple upholstery and cushions, and loads of space – it was as if they were calling me “take a photo of me it will be pretty with colours and rhythm of empty seats”. And the boat was long – very long. I probably read somewhere that it was 35 meters, but I didn’t realise just how long that actually was until I saw it.

The long boat was really long

The Experience

 

When you travel with children you think how to prepare for them, if you have snacks, sun cream, insect repellants and so forth, but you don’t think much about yourself. And here was a lovely surprise the boat ride was long and instead of spending that time being chained to the need for supervision, it actually worked that I could have time for myself.

Lots of lovely lazy me-time. – mindless staring at scenery, writing my diary, reading books and even snoozing, all in fresh air with slowly passing green hills beyond the river banks. I felt blessed with this free time for myself while my Monkeys were exploring the boat, reading or playing. And when the moment came that they were totally bored, it was either time for lunch or time to stop for an excursion on land.

 

Beautiful Mekong

I wasn’t prepared either for the beauty of the river. I remembered the Mekong from our earlier trip in Vietnam as muddy dirty water ploughed by enormous noisy boats, but this upstream rural Mekong was something else. The river itself was still muddy browny color but it was lovely and quiet – besides the occasional fast boat passing by. And the scenery was stunning, I could and did spend hours just lazing on comfy seats looking at endless greenery.

 

Excursions

kids from village came to greet us

On first day we stopped in a small Khmu village. The Khmu are one of the ethnic groups in Laos. This stop was very joyful and sad the same time. The joyful part was to see the local kids running to see us and the boat. I joked that they were running to see white faces and it felt like that. they were happy, dirty and lovely children. Like the kids i remember from my childhood – running barefoot, jumping in the water, playing with sticks not with iPads. And my girls immediately bonded with them and ran barefoot to the village.

typical house in the village – no electricity, no water

The village was the sad part – it was very poor and I couldn’t see the way how you could help these people without turning them into us. Though I could see that they seemed smily and happy, and maybe even happier than the people I see in modern cities they were obviously very poor. Our guide spent half an hour or so, telling us about different Lao ethnic groups and their traditions and believes. We went back down to the boat with the kids following us, and in my head I wondered only how we could help them. Should I give them some of the girls clothes, t-shirts maybe? But then wouldn’t it look as if I am thinking that our clothes are better then theirs? I didn’t find the courage to ask our guide what would be good gifts. When we went to the boat, I rushed to our luggage and took out a few bags we got as gifts in Chiang Mai and extra pencils had for my girls. Before the boat left, I passed them to some of the children and as we were moving away, I could see them looking and them and dividing them between themselves.
That night we stopped in Pakbang. It’s an obligatory overnight break for river cruises. The village is neither pretty nor seems to have anything of interest – it’s just there mostly to serve tourists with very simple and not necessary clean accommodation. We went for a walk around but I only wanted to look away from the village and admire the surrounding Mekong scenery.

Sunset on Mekong seen from Pekbang

The Second Day

We started early since we had to travel 160 km. I didn’t mind – I was rather looking forward to this. We had time for school, and for some yoga in the cool morning air.

 

Thousand Buddhas

Almost at the end of our trip we stopped in Pak Ou – The Thousand Buddha cave. It’s quite small but lived up to its name housing so many sculptures of the Buddha. There is another cave, a bit higher but dark. You can’t see much but the steep steps are good for exercise. Again the “Luxury” benefit was that the entrance fee was already covered by the cruise cost. I don’t think these caves would have been worth making a special visit from Luang Prabang but as a break in the river trip on the way down to the town, they was ideal.

Zoe inspecting snakes in whiskey bottles

Just twenty minutes after the cave we stopped again in Lao
Lao village, known as “Whisky Village”. The stuff they sell there wouldn’t count as whisky in any decent account of that drink – it was more like rough moonshine – perhaps even rougher when containing a pickled snake or scorpion. If we were in the business of souvenir collecting I would have bought a bottle for its novelty value as a gift. Whisky with cobra can be apparently not such a good idea to try as the toxic effects might be more than just due to alcohol . . .

The rest of the village is very commercial with scarfs and other handicraft some looking like “made in China”. They all are priced at one dollar until you actually choose something which looks nice and then you are told that you have wonderful taste and actually that quality is more expensive. Anyway it was a good walk and our guide was with us, telling us stories about Laos.

The End

And after another forty minutes we were in Luang Prabang. Again the “Luxury” tag paid off. The other boats have to stop on the pier outside, but ours moored right in the heart of the old town. A slightly mixed blessing since the 20 or 30 steps at that point were very steep and I reached the top panting even with my small backpack. But I didn’t need to worry about our main luggage, since there were porters who were already paid. There was a car waiting for us and all the passengers were taken to their accommodation, all organised and paid by Shompoo.

It was perfect. And Luang Prabang was in the throes of some light festival. There were picturesque temples and we dined in a small restaurant. All was picture perfect until I was woken at 7am by a cockroach landing on my bed (in my not so cheap hotel) Then I just wanted to go back to the boat and keep going up and down the Mekong, but instead, we just changed hotel for the next night.

Oh and the girls reaction to cockroach? How sweet he is!

 

Chiang Mai and hostel life

Twins against twins playing UNO

Traveling for a year changes you. And it changes your budget as well. That is to say downward unless you become a millionaire in the meantime!

In Chiang Mai, where the best places to stay are in the old city, hotels are expensive – so we booked a family room in a hostel. It was the first time the girls had experienced a hostel on our travels, and it was different – lots of young people spending time together or just enjoying each other’s company.

Small people playing domino with big people

Games are played, random thoughts and travel advice are shared freely. I realised that the more stars a hotel has, the higher are the privacy barriers in the unwritten social code. Here in the hostel, young travellers accepted the twins as domino and card game partners, and my little people could hardly wait every afternoon to go back home from sightseeing to play Uno with their new “adult” friends.

Zoe chilling out

In the mornings, the girls were clearing and washing breakfast dishes just like everyone else. I watched on, happy and proud. They naturally took responsibility for their own parts in this new environment – so different from the hotel culture where a small contribution would have to be squeezed out of them and then might be politely commented on by a fellow guest as being cute.

Bottom line: Cheaper accommodation not only lets us travel longer – it will help the girls to learn a bit more about life

We were staying in Dozy House, which has great location – inside the old town but on quiet street and only few hundred meters away from Sunday night market.

Singapore and accommodation

We are in Singapore again – Yay!!!

Everything nearby was quite expensive. Yes we could have afforded but if you multiplied it by five nights then it comes to too big a sum. So for few days I was searching and searching thinking about a ratio of price, locations and other peoples reviews. And I found it. The cost for five days was as much as one night in Marina Bay Sands so it was a steal.

Singapore Bay

I don’t have written budget for our travel but I have some
rules. I always aim to book accommodation for less than $70, which what pay for rent at home in Muscat. Then I withdraw $250 – 300 which should last for a week for food, transport and cheaper activities. For moreexpensive activities use a card.

 

extremely small room – zoe could climb the walls

So our new accommodation in Singapore cost $80 and this is what we got for it:

Hmmmmm. A bedroom about the size of a massage cubicle, but with a double bed and just enough space for the masseur to get around and then add to it toilet cubicle which has a shower which you can take while sitting on the toilet. Yup that would be a description of our room.
It’s very clean and it has fast internet. So fast that I uploaded more than 5,000 pictures from my phone to dropbox in two nights. I hadn’t done that since we were in Thailand for want of fast internet.

 

 

And we spent yesterday evening in the Garden by the Bay. The light show was awesome – and we walked back home. I think today we will do it again

Mr Fox

Do you remember my Instagram post from a few weeks back about a fox who visited us and played tricks with our shoes? Yes we had a fox – past tense – now we don’t. I miss seeing him outside our window. He was visiting almost every morning and late night. But I caught him and took him away.

It was after I saw him sprinting out of our house for the second time. Yup, that cheeky fox came inside the house to rummage through my kitchen waste. Apart from making a mess it was a step too far. Since he showed up in our garden I felt that our behaviour was being determined to some extent by his.

Mr Fox decided to go through our garbage

Clean up the toys from outside or he will bite them or steal them. Take muddy shoes inside the house. Remember to close the compost. All of these could be considered just good tidy behaviour but now since he had penetrated the line of my threshold, that was a new level of disruption. We live in this lovely place so we can wander in and out freely and the fresh air can blow though our rooms and our heads. I wasn’t going to let Mr Fox force me to keep our doors and windows closed and challenge the very reason for living in this place.

After we left muddy shoes outside from 8 only 4 left

Our two neighbours were also starting to comment on the strange fox behaviour. Apparently foxes usually keep their distance. If he was coming so close, perhaps he was sick? Anyway he had stolen four shoes, and chosen one from each pair for maximum impact. They were so new that I still have receipts for them. A daydream came to me that he stole those shoes to use them as toys or cradles for his fluffy cubs. I imagined a cute baby fox with cuddly fur and big shiny eyes tucked inside one of Tania’s blue Crocs. But reality blew that thought away with the call to clean up greasy chicken bones from the kitchen floor.

 

Fox one meter away from our window

The Trap

One of my neighbours who used to have chickens lent me an old cage trap and showed me how to set it. I put meat leftovers inside, half hoping not to catch him. The next morning I ran to the cage as soon as I awoke – it was closed, empty but with the bait still inside, The trap had moved and there was a dead mouse. What had happened? An unlucky mouse had disturbed the trigger, and been killed by the impact of the jumping cage perhaps. I went for a coffee and to get some gloves to move the dead mouse, and while I was doing that, my friend Mr Fox came and removed the mouse for me! – the irony of Nature.

Next day I set the cage again. This time I arranged it differently to prevent it from being set off by a small animal, but I must have overdone it because it didn’t get triggered by a fox-sized animal either. On the second morning the cage was still open and the bait had become a free meal for my tormentor who gave me an unmistakably smug look of contempt as he passed by my window. Hmmm. Game on, Mr Fox.

So as in every joke and every story, day three was set for the climax. That was the day I picked Nick up from the airport. I was receiving advice and pity from my sniggering neighbours as I set up the cage for the third night. I was as determined as the three farmers in the story about Mr Fox by Roald Dahl. I even went down to the cellar to check if the wine was still there!

The Catch

This time a whole turkey neck and chicken back bone, wings and other bones lay in my trap. I checked three times that it worked and I went to bed dreading that I would be woken by screaming fox howls at 3am. But we slept through until the dawn awoke me at six. All was quiet – I guessed I must have lost again and I drowsed until eight when our little snugglers came to help us face the new day.

Outside in the fresh morning air, Mr Fox looked up at me from behind prison bars with big sad angry eyes. I felt guilty, but also I had won. So I jumped up with my fist up in the air screaming YES! and I ran back inside. “Guys you won’t believe it – I caught the fox”

The whole family ran out in pyjamas and nighties to look at him and observe how cute he is.
“Mummy he has such sad eyes” – said Zoe
Cute not cute. Sad not sad. I caught him and now, however mixed and confused my feelings are, we need to take him away from here. If I will let him out now I will never catch him again in the same cage and he will do whatever he wants. Was I explaining this to the girls or to myself?

The girls went back to the house. The fox stayed in the cage (not that he had any choice) and I went to the neighbour for advice on how to handle the transportation and release.

The Exile

Mr Marek, who had lent me the cage, and with decades of experience in protecting his own stock, counselled me to wear thick gloves for the sake of my fingers and to cover the cage in a black bag for the sake of the animal’s nerves. Nick and I would drive to the other side of the lake, to release him in the woods there.

The black bag trick worked once the cage was inside it, but by that time the fox had growled and snarled and peed and defecated. The smell was so terrible you could almost see it in the air. We lined the back of the car with polythene sheeting and opened the windows for the drive.

Even with all the windows open we were gagging and I was holding back on a vomiting reflex every few minutes. It wasn’t easy to drive with half closed eyes as the stench was stinging my eyes. Normally this drive doesn’t feel so long but 10 Km took forever on that trip. At last we crossed the bridge over the narrow point on the river between the two lakes and now we just had to find some forrest with no houses around. A few hundreds metres past a strict “no vehicle” sign, we stopped the car on a beautiful wooded winding track. We gingerly took the cage out, put it on the ground and opened it and the wretched animal didn’t want to come out.

We tried to shake him out of it but he didn’t want to go. The trap was quite difficult to open without risking being bitten but eventually we managed to jam it open with sticks. Now we peeled the black bag right away and Mr Fox came to life and darted out. He ran up the track ahead of the place we were parked about 100 meters, and in true Walt Disney fashion, he stopped and looked over his shoulder at us for a second to two and then disappeared. Then I threw up.

We went back home, cleaned the cage and returned it. The car wasn’t the same for a few days and I felt guilty and a bit down. Nick tried to cheer me up, saying that in England such a fox would be shot as vermin, but I still felt a bit guilty. We chose to live in his wood. He didn’t force us to come there or invade our city.

Deers came to graze on grass in front of our window

The Denouement

Two days later, when I looked out to where I had seen Mr Fox so often, two deer were grazing on the grass under the fruit trees just in front of the house. It was such a sweet sight. I seems that getting rid of the fox allowed other animals in.

I miss seeing his cheeky face through the kitchen window while making the girls’ breakfast. I half hope he will be so clever that he will find the way back. We sort of thought that he was back after a few days, when I found animal droppings in the same place where the fox used to leave them, and a neighbour found some holes under his fence – though it turned out to be a badger. Now I’m spending mornings hoping that the deer will come back again to graze on our fresh grass or eat windfall apples to get drunk on them as apparently they did last September after we had left.

I wrote this two weeks ago and left if unfinished. But yesterday when I was driving through the forest, I spotted a fox on “our” road. Was this Mr Fox? – I don’t know yet – but he wasn’t afraid much and he seemed to be giving me a strange look.

Doodle and coffee

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I ran away from my girls the other day … ok maybe I didn’t really run away. . . .

I felt tired of telling them what to do: “eat.” “don’t talk”  “sit nicely at the table”
And I just couldn’t shut up. They were children and I was a nagging mother.
I hated that.

I put on my trousers and saying, “Girls.  You eat your dinner.  I just need to go. I will be downstairs in the coffee shop having coffee, resting and writing.” I left.

Doodle

I ordered a long black with milk and sat at the table. I took out my diary and started writing and doodling. People used to doodle a lot, stilling on the armchair, with one hand holding the phone and with the other doodling on small piece of paper waiting for the operator or a signal.  Now no one is doodling, everyone is playing on the phone. The only remnants of doodles are books called things like Anti-stress Colouring for Adults. And we buy them seduced by perfectly drawn pictures which shouldn’t be perfect. And even then we never even colour them, we don’t have time any more.

I finished my coffee, thinking how one needs time away from one’s own children and how sanity comes with quiet, coffee and doodles. I finished my coffee and went upstairs.

I tried to open the door and it was locked – clever monkeys had locked the door. I knocked, calling out that it was me, while opening the door with my key. When I opened the door I saw Tania sitting on the sofa in pyjamas combing her wet hair. Zoe, also in pyjamas was sitting back with her feet on the desk reading a book. All the food was finished and the plates were in the sink. It looks as if sometimes it’s good to run away!

Two days later

And I did it again. This morning, I did it as wanted to do free writing – whatever came into my head for half an hour.  To do that I had to escape from children’s questions every five seconds “Mummy where are my undies?” – (exactly where they were yesterday and the day before), or “Can I stop brushing my teeth now?”  This would be Tania while leaning over and drooling on my diary. AAAaaaaaagh!.   Typical morning questions – questions which I wanted escape today. I served the girls their breakfast and prepared a list what they should do.

–  eat breakfast
–  take tablets
–  brush your teeth
–  brush your hair
–  write in your diary

The list had tickboxes  They were very happy to have their own checklist.  So I left. I left and I enjoyed my long black with milk. I spent 50 minutes enjoying adulthood and I went back home.

Should I have worried about leaving my babies on their own in a strange city? Axe murderers? fire? accidents? – that knid of thing. Well my auto-run-mother-risk assessment tool established that the lift lobby required card access, that there was no gas cooker in the place and my girls don’t tend to climb on wardrobes. Beyond that my feelings were more like an itch to know what they are doing, like the itch you get to open Facebook and see how many people like your photo, just for a second – you don’t want to browse Facebook you just want to check. I had to resist that itch. We can’t always wrap those we love in cotton wool.

When I came back the list was done.. Girls were writing in their diary, table was cleaned.  So once more it again felt like leaving them on their own was better idea then telling them what to do.

World schooling, home schooling and unschooling

english version – polska wersja ponizej angielskiej

Exactly one year ago, the only thing I was worried about was my girls’ schooling. I wanted to move them to a different school because I wasn’t totally happy with the school they attended.  The schools I called didn’t even want to talk to me as they said their waiting lists were so long that they wouldn’t even put children on a waiting list anymore. I was so upset. I really wanted them to go to a good school with all the facilities, such as swimming, gym, computer studies, and science so that they will grow up to be all-rounders. I don’t have, and I didn’t have any ambitions for them, but I wanted them to have the option of learning about everything. Moreover, all the schools, which were so expensive that it gave me a twist in my stomach, didn’t even want to talk to me about taking my money and teaching my girls.

One night, while sitting in front of the computer and doing some research about the school, I got distracted and started browsing properties in Costa Rica. Then I thought: “Oh, maybe we could go and live there; maybe we could live somewhere else”, and then I thought maybe we could go traveling.

“Yes, what a perfect idea; let’s go traveling for a year. We can travel for a year, and after that many things can change, and we will see how it will be.”

I asked my husband what he thought about it, and he said it’s a brilliant idea. Believe it or not, three days later, I booked our first Air Asia tickets.

The first plan was that if they will lose the year of school while traveling, then it really doesn’t matter. However, when I started talking to their teachers, they all told me that they would probably learn more while traveling than sitting in the school. At the same time, they gave me a few ideas about writing a diary and what kind of maths skills they should have at different ages.

Girls doing math during our stay in Sabah – Borneo

We started with the diary. The idea was to write, at least every second day, one sentence about what we have done with an illustration. And it was a struggle, especially for Zoe. She, with her food intolerance, couldn’t concentrate long enough to write one sentence about what she had been doing in the past couple of days.  She couldn’t even think about what we were doing; it felt beyond her capacity. I was scared, and I was torn apart because she should be able to do that.

Are all kids the same ?

I have twin girls.  People generally assume that they are the same, but they are not. If I give them some maths task like: “the monkey is sitting on a coconut tree, and around her, she sees three coconuts on the first tree, then five on the other, and four on the last one. How many coconuts does the monkey see?”  Then before I even finish the sentence, Tania is screaming “twelve” while Zoe, at the same time, is asking me “What did you say?”

Zoe is not slow, and Tania is not so quick; they are just so different it’s hard to believe, and in school, Zoe would be left out with her maths skills. All school reports were placing her very high with her grades. If the school were assessing her as satisfactory did it mean that they weren’t noticing what I was noticing or that are other children which have bigger problems and then how they all can benefit from same lesson.

How did we start ?

At first, I didn’t have any concept on how to teach them.  If someone asked me, I used to say that if they lose a year at school at this age, it doesn’t matter. At least, they will see the world and learn how to be tolerant towards others. At the same time, I knew they need to improve their reading and writing skills and learn how to count, and they should learn about the countries we are visiting.

In July we started with a small piece of paper where I was writing single words and the girls were reading. After ten months, they have read more than 200 books each. Most of the books were national geographic books; currently, I think Zoe has a broader and wider knowledge about different animals than I ever had. And all this has happened in the last three months. They learnt how to read in Polish, though they aren’t as fluent as in English.

They went from writing one sentence to writing a whole page and making their own books. They write their own stories, songs, and books – mostly Tania.  And Zoe tells me different facts about animal life. It’s all about them, not me. I helped them with reading at the beginning, and then it happened by itself – that’s unschooling, and it seems to work in the environment we are making for ourselves.

We have learnt a lot about countries, different religions, and food. We have visited endless  zoos, science museums, and playgrounds in different countries.

with Iban Warrior in Borneo

We have attended cooking classes in Vietnam and chased pigeons in Taipei. We walked through tunnels made by Vietcong  and inn Borneo we learnt how to use blow gun.  We have done small things and big things, and we have bonded more than ever when they went to school for seven hours and then attended all after school activities. I do worry if they missing on something by not going to school but I’m just trying not to care. why do i think they missing because, still deep in me, there is this belief that one should sit at school to learn about everything. Besides, I’m afraid that I won’t be enough as a

 

 

washing own undies while we were living in Ko Lanta – Pranie wlasnej bielizny podczas pobytu w Ko Lanta

Weeks ago, Tania went on her own to a shop in Koh Lanta and bought eggs for breakfast. On the one hand, I would say I did things like that when I was seven, but she was in a different country, in a place she didn’t know and she helped me when I was cooking. If we would stay in Oman, I don’t think she would go shopping on her own. They know how to check in, how to find the gate at the airport, or what to do if they get lost. They know as well how to hand-wash their own underwear or use Laundromats. They wouldn’t have all these life skills if we keep living a cozy expat life.

 

What we actually do regarding schooling right now is:

We listen to lots of Audiobooks, especially when we travel – this is a big help with our most hated question – are we there yet? Every day, the girls read using the Epic! iPad app. I don’t give them the whole time to read; I actually need to pull them away from books, especially Zoe.  For her, reading works as a calming therapy. We write, every second day, in the diary about what we did – at least, a few sentences. Every other day, we write some fun sentences with new words – to practice spelling. Almost every day, we do at least half an hour of maths using the Splash Math app. Beside this, we practice counting and arithmetic when we walk or go somewhere by taxi. We played shop, for which we made our own paper money.

We do many different arts and crafts all the time – Zoe loves sewing and does different stuff like bracelets, etc. Tania has her special book for drawings and another one for writing songs.

Audiotour in museum in Meleka

World schooling – we visit endless amounts of museums, planetariums etc – and the girls love them. Whenever we can, we do either guide tour or audio guide tour. We learn about different religions, cultures, and places we visit, and we have made movies about them.

Curriculum schooling – Polish school – I have signed the girls to Polish internet school designed for Polish children living abroad. It was always a plan that they would attend this internet school so that they will learn Polish well. There are weekly webinars and lesson plan for a week. We do all webinars if we can, or we watch a movie from it later. When my mother is with us, she does lessons with the girls every second day. The girls love them. In August, when we will be in Poland, they will have an exam; when they pass it, they will get a certificate that they have finished grade one.

Learning about the bees

Unschooling – as you could read above, this isn’t exactly in line with the wide definition of “unschooling”;  I feel very conscious all the time that I have pulled them out of school.  I am responsible for that decision and I care very much that by that choice I don’t restrict their futures.  In addition, I was brought up and strongly believe that if you cannot do something, you should keep trying to understand it (unless it’s Physics of course!  LOL). We do unschooling only in letting the girls follow what they want to learn more. One this is sure, my learning and approach will develop as we plan more adventures in unschooling.

Right now, as I’m writing this, Tania is standing in front of me and telling me a story about a monster who made the sea green (her own story), at the same time drawing the pictures for the story on the blackboard, and Zoe is with her nose in the book and i know she is planning to building mailbox. I’m sure normal school is overrated.

Tania in art gallery in Bali

All encouraging to travel and world schooling comments are more then welcome

 

 

 

 

 

Dokładnie rok temu jedyna rzeczą jaka się martwiłam była szkoła moich dzieci. Nie byłam do końca przekonana do ich szkoły wiec chciałam przenieść je do innej. Nowe szkoły  do których dzwoniłam nie chciały nawet ze mną rozmawiać.  Lista dzieci oczekujących na miejsce w szkole były takie długie ze szkoły przestały zapisywać dzieci. Czulam dzieci zagubiona. Naprawdę chciałam żeby dziewczynki chodziły do dobrej szkoły która miałaby pływanie, sale sportowa, klasę komputerowa – chciałam żeby miały możliwość nauczenia sie wszystkiego o wszystkim. Nigdy nie miałam i nie mam ambicji za nie ale chciałam żeby miały możliwości. A te wszystkie szkoły tak bardzo drogie ze myśląc o czesnym żołądek skrecal mi sie trzy razy nie chciały nawet ze mną rozmawiać takie długie były listy oczekujących.

Jednego wieczoru gdy siedziałam przed komputerem szukając szkół w Omanie, otworzyłam link z maila nieruchomościach na Kostaryce i pomyślałam może powinnismy sie tam przeprowadzić tam ale może powinnismy mieszkać po prostu gdzie indziej, a może powinnismy zacząć  podróżowac. Co za świetny pomysł, będziemy podróżować przez rok, a później zobaczymy co zrobimy, zapytałam mojego męża co sądzi o tym pomyśle. Nick zgodził świeże mną ze jest świetny. Możecie wierzyć albo nie ale trzy dni później kupiłam pierwsze lotnicze bilety.

Początkowo myślałam ze jeśli dziewczynki stracą rok w szkole to w tym wieku nic się nie stanie. Ale gdy porozmawiałam z ich nauczycielami wszyscy powiedzieli ze prawdopodobnie przez ten rok naucza się więcej podczas podróży niż siedząc w szkole. Równocześnie nauczyciele powiedzieli mi co dzieci ich wieku powinny wiedzieć, ile czytać etc. Poddali mi również pomysł pisania dziennika z podróży

Zaczęliśmy od dziennika. Założeniem było aby ci drugi dzień pisać przynajmniej jedno zdanie o tym co z robiły dnia poprzedniego i zilustrować to. I nagle okazało się ze to był ogromny problem dla Zoe. Zojka ze swoimi nietolerancjami pokarmowymi nie mogła się skoncentrować wystarczająco na tyle aby napisać jedno zdanie na temat co robiła dnia poprzedniego. Dla mnie to było przerażajace napisanie jednego zdania było czymś ponad jej siły.

Czy wszystkie dzieci są takie same?

Mam bliźniaczki. Ludzie zwyczajowo zakładają że są takie same, wiedza to samo. Ale tak nie jest. Jeśli zadam im pytanie ” małpka siedzi na palmie i widzi na pierwszej palmie trzy kokosy, na drugiej palmie pięć a na ostatniej cztery. Ile kokosów widzi małpka ?”  Zanim skończę mówić Tania wykrzykuje odpowiedz – dwanaście, a w tym samym czasie Zojka mnie pyta “co mówiłaś ?”

Zoe nie jest opóźniona ani Tania nie jest specjalnie uzdolniona są po prostu inne, ciężko uwierzyć ze Zoe nie zostala by “z tylu” w na lekcjach matematyki. Równocześnie jej oceny były bardzo dobre i plasowały ja wysoko w klasie. Jeśli szkoła oceniała ja tak wysoko, znaczy ze są dzieci które miały nawet większe problemy albo nauczyciel nic nie zauważył. Tak naprawdę to ńie jest ważne już teraz jedno co jest to to ze ciężko mi uwierzyć aby Tania, Zoe i inne dzieci wyniosly tyle samo z lekcji matematyki, ktoś zawsze będzie poszkodowany.

Jak zaczynaliśmy ?

Na początku nie miałam żadnego pomysłu jak uczyć moje dzieci. Jeśli ktoś zapytał mnie o to odpowiadałam ze jeśli stracą rok w szkole to w tym wieku to naprawdę nie ma znaczenia. Przynajmniej zobaczą świat i naucza się jak być tolerancyjnym wobec innych ludzi. Równocześnie widziałam ze muszę pomoc im z czytaniem, pisaniem i matematyka oraz ze powinnismy uczuć się o krajach które odwiedzamy.

W lipcu zaczelismy z czytanie czytając małe karteczki z pojedynczymi słowami. Teraz dziesięć miesięcy później każda z dziewczynek przeczytały ponad dwieście książek. Większość księżek była z serii National Geographic. Obecnie Zoe ma większa wiedzę o różnych zwierzętach niż ja kiedykolwiek miałam. A to wszystko stało się w ciągu ostatnich trzech miesięcy.  Dziewczyny również czytają po polsku choć nie tak płynnie jak po angielsku

Zoe and ducky in Palawan – Philipines


Z pisaniem przeszliśmy od jednego zdania do całej strony i do robienia własnych książek. Piszą własne opowiadania, piosenki i książki – głównie Tania, a Zojka opowiada mi różne fakty z życia zwierząt. Teraz wszystko w ich nauce kręci się wokół nich nie mnie. Ja nauczyłam je czytać, a teraz wszystko po prostu się dzieje samo, z ich inicjatywy – to jest unschooling (nieuczenie) pozwalanie dziecku na samodzielne odkrywanie tego co chce się uczyć. Wyglada ze u nas to działa.

 

Nauczyliśmy się dużo o różnych religiach, jedzeniu i krajach w których byliśmy. Odwiedziliśmy  niezliczona ilość zoo, muzeum nauki, planetarium i placy zabaw w różnych krajach.

Tania in Vietcong tunnels – Tania w tunelach Vietcongteacher for them.

Chodziliśmy na lekcje gotowania w Wietnamie i ganialismy gołębie na Tajwanie. Robiliśmy małe rzeczy i duże rzeczy. Jesteśmy teraz razem bliżej niż kiedykolwiek gdy dziewczyny chodziły do szkoły na siedem godzin, a później na różne zajęcia poza szkolne. Ja cały czas się martwię ze przez to ze nie chodzą do szkoły coś tracą ale stara, się tym nie przejmować. Dlaczego myśle ze coś tracą ? Myśle ze dlatego ze gdzieś nadal głęboko we mnie jest przekonanie ze aby coś osiągnąć trzeba chodzić do szkoły. Poza tym boje się ze mogę być niewystarczająca dla nich jako nauczyciel.

Tania doing dishes in Saigon – Tania zmywa naczynia podczas pobytu w Sajgonie

Kilka tygodni temu Tania na Ko Lanta (Tajlandia)  poszła sama do sklepu kupiła jajka na śniadanie. Z jednej strony można powiedzieć ze to nic takiego, ja to robiłam jak miałam siedem lat. Z drugiej strony byliśmy w inny kraju w totalnie nowym miejscu i bardzo mi pomogła gdy ja byłam zajęta gotowaniem. Gdybyśmy zostały w Omanie Tania napewno by nie poszła sama do sklepu. Dziewczyny wiedza jak się odprawić, jak znaleźć bramkę na lotnisku, co robić gdyby się zgubiły. Wiedza jak robić ręczne pranie swojej bielizny, jak sortować pranie i jak używać automatów do prania. Nie nauczyłyby się tego gdybyśmy prowadzili to samo wygodne życie expata.

Jak teraz się uczymy?

Słuchamy bardzo dużej ilości Audioksiazek głównie gdy się przemieszczamy z miejsca na miejsce. Jest to prawdziwe zbawienie gdyż nie muszę wysłuchiwać najbardziej znienawidzonego pytania w podróży – jak długo jeszcze? Każdego dnia dziewczynki czytają książki używając aplikacji Epic!  (biblioteka online). Nie daje im czasu jaki maja spędzić czytając. W zasadzie muszę je odciągać od książek – szczególnie Zoe – dla niej czytanie to terapia uspokajająca.

Co drugi dzień staramy się pisać a dzienniku przynajmniej kilka zdań, a każdego innego pisać kilka zdań aby trenować ortografie. Gdy piszą same koncertują się głównie na wyrażaniu siebie a nie ortografii. Gdy piszą zdania które ja im dyktuje koncentrujemy się na prawidłowym pisaniu liter i ortografi. Prawie każdego dnia pół godziny spędzamy ćwicząc matematykę – używając aplikacji “Splash Math”. Poza tym robimy różne zadania matematyczne gdy chodzimy, zwiedzamy, jeździmy taksówkami. Bawimy się w sklep, do którego zrobiłyśmy własne pieniądze – nasza jednostka płatnicza jest  Zollar”

Cały czas robimy “art And Craft” – Zoe lubi szyć i robić bransoletki. Tania ma specjalny zeszyt do rysowania a drugi do pisania piosenek.

“Worldschooling” – nauka podróżą – odwiedzamy niezliczona ilość różnych muzeów, planetariów – dziewczynki uwielbiają to. Muszę je wyciągać z takich miejsce w szczególności gdy maja audio przewodnika. Uczymy się o różnych religiach, kulturach i miejscach które odwiedzamy i staramy się robić filmy o nich.

Polska szkoła – curriculum – zapisałam dzieci do polskiej szkoły internetowej. Szkoły zaprojektowanej dla dzieci Polaków mieszkających zagranica. Od zawsze planowałam żeby chodziły do tej szkoły i nauczyły się poprawnej polszczyzny i kultury Polskiej. Co tydzień mamy webinaria i plan lekcji na cały tydzień. Staramy się uczestniczyć we wszystkich webinariach (mimo różnicy czasu) a jeśli nie możemy to oglądamy później film. Gdy moja mama jest z nami to co drugi dzień uczy je polskiego. Dziewczynki lubią te lekcje. W sierpniu gdyż będziemy w Polsce dziewczynki będą miały egzamin, gdy go zdają dostaną świadectwo ukończenia klasy pierwszej.

Unschooling – “nieuczenie” – jak mogliście przeczytać powyżej – za dużo robię z dziewczynkami żeby nazwać to nieuczeniem. Cały czas zyje w świadomości ze przerwałam ich naukę szkolna. I ze to ja jestem odpowiedzialna za ta decyzje i nie chce aby wpłynęła ona negatywnie na ich przyszłe możliwości kariery. Dodatkowo została ja zostałam wychowana w przekonaniu ze gdy czegoś nie wiesz, rozumiesz to powinieneś robić wszystko aby to zrozumieć (oczywiście poza fizyka). Nieuczenie – samodzielne uczenie – stosuje tylko w tematach które je interesują. Zoe czyta o zwierzętach a Tania sama uczy się rysować. Może z czasem bardziej zaufam konceptowi nieuczenia który powoli staje się popularny na świecie.

Obecnie gdy to pisze, Tania stoi przede mną i i opowiada i równocześnie rysuje historie o potworze który zmienił kolor morza na zielony, a Zojka siedzi z nosem w książce i równocześnie projektuje jak zbudować skrzynkę pocztowa. Jestem pewna ze normalna nauka w szkole jest przeceniana.

Wszystkie pozytywne dopingujace do dalszego podrozowania i takiego uczenia dzieci bardzo mile widziane.

Penang street art

English version – polska wersja ponizej angielskiej

We are in Penang. I didn’t have any expectations of Penang other than that I wanted a bit of civilisation – somewhere to shop for grocery and find a wider selection than eggs, chips and rice.

I only knew that George Town is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and that it was said to have some cool graffiti. I thought we can take it easy here and slow the pace of our travels for a whil We went to George Town in the afternoon and started strolling around the streets looking for graffiti. The afternoon sun was a killer and after some time our graffiti hunt began to drag. The girls were brave, but as often happens I began to feel guilty for hauling them around in the sun on a search for some imaginary pictures.

Bless the internet! I picked up my phone and in two minutes I had a Google Map download for “graffiti in Penang” showing all the locations of the street art. From that moment on life become much easier, and things improved with an amazing coffee shop where we had coffee and some snacks. Btw: Don’t order “tonic coffee” – unless you really want something that tastes like a mixture of tonic and coffee!

After coffee and cold water life seemed better. We found a bicycle for four for hire. The girls and my mum were ecstatic. Exploring by bicycle was crazy fun. In Malaysia people drive on the wrong side of the road which is always a bit of a challenge; and on those small roads it
seemed that if I stopped peddling even for a second, we were suddenly holding up a line of cars. Pressure!

 

 

There are a few different types of street art in George Town

– graffiti by Ernest Zacharevic – the Lithuanian artist – whose graffiti made Penang even more famous

– iron structures illustrating stories of George Town’s history

– graffiti by other artists

Over two afternoons we found almost all of George Town’s street art, not to mention two museums – the Penang 3D Trick Art Museum and the Wonderfood Museum

wersja polska 

Jesteśmy w Penang – miasto w północnej Malezji. Nie miałam żadnych oczekiwań w względem tego miejsca poza tym ze chciałam trochę cywilizacji. Chacialam pójść do sklepu gdzie bym mogła kupić coś więcej niż ryż i jajka.  

Wiedziałam ze George Town jest częścią UNESCO World Heritage Site i ze ma świetne murale. W planach było nieco zwolnić z tempem podróży wiec zarezerwowała Airbnb na tydzień i postanowiłam ze powoli będziemy zwiedzać i odkrywać to nowe miejsce.

Po południu poszlismy do George Town. Włoczylismy się ulicami szukając graffiti. Popołudniowe słońce było tak mocne ze poszukiwania murali przestały być przyjemnością, a zaczęły być katorgą. Dziewczynki jak zawsze szły dzielnie ale ja czułam się winna ciągające je za sobą w poszukiwaniu niewidocznych graffiti gdy pot sciekał mi plecach.

 

Błogosławiony internet. Wyciągnęłam z torebki mój telefon i ściągnęłam nakładkę na Google map ze wszystkimi lokalizacjami murali w Penang. Od tej chwili znajdowanie graffiti było dużo łatwiejsze. A całe zwiedzanie stało się dużo przyjemniejsze gdy znaleźliśmy coffee shop gdzie wypilam kawę a dziewczynki zjadły frytki ze słodkich kartofli. A tak przy okazji nigdy nie zamawiajcie “tonic coffee” jeśli nie chcecie pic kawy z tonikiem,

Po kawie, frytkach i innych smakołykach życie zaczęło być dużo lepsze. A nawet jeszcze lepsze gdy znalazłyśmy rowery do wynajęcia. Rower który wynajęliśmy był naprawdę specjalny – czteroosobowy. Dziewczynki i moja mama były bardzo ucieszone, może głównie dziewczyny – Babcia była nieco sceptyczna. Zwiedzanie na rowerze było super zabawa. W Malezji jeździ się po drugiej ( z mojego punktu widzenia złej) stronie ulicy co na tych wąskich ulicach było wyzwaniem. Głównie dlatego ze gdy przestałam pedałować nawet tylko na chwile zaraz za nami tworzyła się kolejka samochodów. To się nazywa ciśnienie.

W George Town mozemy znaleźć kilka typów murali.
 – graffiti wykonane przez litewskiego artystę Ernest Zacharevich – który uczynił swoimi muralami Penang jeszcze słynniejszy
 – Obrazy z drutu przedstawiające historie George Town
 – Murale wykonań przez innych artystów

W ciągu dwóch popołudni udało nam się znaleźć prawie wszystkie murale i zwiedzić 3D Trick Art Muzeum oraz Wonderfood Muzeum.

  

 

Good manners

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It’s a story from yesterday read and have a laugh (additional info Tania is 1 minute older then Zoe )
mannersWe did some small gift shopping and I got Zoe a frog which she took immediately but didn’t say thank you. I took away the frog and 10 min after when we were sitting with girls in a restaurant and I gave them a pep talk about good manners

Girls do you know what are good manners? …  When you enter new place you should say good morning or good afternoon. When waiter brings you food you say thank you. When you get something you say thank you. You respect your parents and you respect every one who is older then you because they are wiser.
Zoe says – mummy does it mean that I have to respect Tania
It will be long way with those manners .

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