Saturday, April 15, 2023

Two last minute bookings at San Antonio schools

On 3/31/23, I finalized a trip to speak at schools in San Antonio the week of 4/10/23. Yes, only a week in advance.

But once I was in San Antonio, I topped that—booking a school for the next day.

I often assure schools that booking me is “easy like Sunday morning.” This is living proof!

The four schools I visited were warm and welcoming. One of them, Evers Elementary, had hosted me before, and may again for the third time when I return to San Antonio in September. 

The memorable week kicked off with some BBQ with fellow author Don Tate, whom I’d not seen since before COVID.

Two especially memorable aspects of the trip:

  1. Evers paid it forward, offering to cover my honorarium for a Title 1 school to book me as well. This gesture makes hearts soar…and I’ve experienced it before. This was the brainchild of the Evers PTA, whom I thanked/praised in person, and now again. 
  2. One of my hosts, Francie Ingram, and I determined that we hail from the same small-ish town in Connecticut, Cheshire, though we didn’t live there at the same time.

Another observation, at Folks Middle: they use higher chairs for the kids in the back. Seemingly obvious, but I don’t recall seeing this at a school before!

A brief opinion poll, hoping to show that being forced to attend an assembly could be a good thing:

Thank you again to Amy, Francie, Monica, and Rosa!

Friday, April 14, 2023

Places of interest I did not know I was near at first

Being geography-challenged, I have sometimes not known till I arrived in a particular place that I was close to a place of personal interest. 


Thursday, April 13, 2023

My history with history: visiting world-famous pop culture sites

Here's a quirkier companion list—select iconic pop culture sites I've tracked down:

The Dark Knight, 2008
building from which Batman kidnaps a criminal
Hong Kong

The Breakfast Club, 1985
school where kids spent Saturday detention
Des Plaines, IL

Groundhog Day, 1992
various Gobbler's Knob scenes 
Woodstock, IL (yes, not Punxsutawney, PA)

Star Wars, 1977
Rebel Alliance base on Yavin 4
Tikal, Guatemala

Super Friends, 1973
Hall of Justice
Cincinnati, OH

Back to the Future, 1985
Marty McFly's house
Arleta/Pacoima, CA

Abbey Road, The Beatles, 1969
album cover
London, UK

Sports, Huey Lewis & the News, 1983
album cover
Mill Valley, CA

Survivor, 2000
site of Tribal Council set
Pulau Tiga, Borneo, Malaysia

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, 1989
temple housing the Holy Grail
Petra, Jordan

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

An eventful six weeks: London, ghost town, Survivor Island, Angkor Wat

After a slow fall (only one speaking engagement), I made up for it with a whirlwind six weeks (home for only three single days in between trips):

2/17-24 London 
2/27-3/3 Las Vegas
3/6-8 Connecticut (not pictured, grew up there)
3/11-22 Taiwan
3/22-3/25 Malaysia (including Survivor Island)
3/26-4/1 Cambodia (including Angkor Wat)

This included presentations at 18 schools and one conference.

Beyond that, I was so fortunate to see so much wonder:

Big Ben, London

Rhyolite ghost town, two hours from Las Vegas
on the edge of Death Valley

Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
(wake-up for train: 5:15 am)

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia 
(coast of the South China Sea)

Pulau Tiga (AKA "Survivor Island"),
Borneo, Malaysia
(wakeup for planning: 6 am)

Killing Fields, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
(wakeup for flight: 2:50 am)

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia
(wakeup for sunrise: 4:30 am)

Side note: most of my shirts/tops are blue.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Angkor Wat and other historic Cambodian temples

After a heartening visit with the kids of Heartprint, I rested up for a big day at the biggest religious site in the world.

Angkor Wat, by the numbers:

(Not numbers you can find elsewhere—years built, size in acres, amount of structures, year abandoned, etc. Rather numbers of my personal experience.)

  • time I woke: 4:30 am for a 5 am departure
  • time we arrived at Angkor Wat: 5:15 am
  • time we left: 12:45 pm
  • number of photos I took: 752
  • number of photos I kept: 261
  • number of steps: many but unsure of the precise amount; I didn’t check that day and now that I’m home, the app recalibrated to my local time zone, which split the steps between two days

leaving my hotel at 5 am

Angkor Wat is not a single building but rather a temple complex. Built in the 12th century, it is the best preserved of the numerous sites from that era in the area, which includes dozens of other temples. 

The site was originally devoted to Hindu worship. Less than 100 years after its construction, it transitioned to Buddhist. Today it is regularly referred to as “Hindu-Buddhist.”

Nearby sites I visited:

  • Angkor Thom, a fortressed royal city also built in the 12th century; home to the Bayon temple (known for its many faces) and the Terrace of the Elephants
  • Ta Prohm Temple (sometimes called the jungle temple and featured in the 2001 film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider)

As noted in my last post, my driver was Peng. My tour guide for all this stunning history was the supremely knowledge Huot. My mood was heightened. 

Hard not to be:

first glimpse of Angkor Wat main complex, 5:36 am

6:02 am

Hout, 6:20 am

first glimpse of sun, 6:24 am

view from one of two libraries (one for men, one for women) 
along path to main complex

7:02 am

view of entance to main complex from stairs of main complex

this was one of four pools (representing water, air, fire, earth)

one of many headless Buddhas
(heads were stolen after the fall of Pol Pot)

bullet holes from the 1970s conflict with Vietnam

view from level 3 (highest level of Angkor Wat)

balloon to give tourists a unique view 
(taken from level 3 of Angkor Wat)

view from level 3 to level 2

walking down from level 3 to level 2

rear of main complex, 8:53 am
(meaning I spent more than three hours there)

Ta Prohm Temple

Look closely...

Yup. A stegosaurus. A DINOSAUR. Depicted in a temple built
in the 12th century. 
Evidence that humans and dinosaurs co-existed?
Conjecture by people of the era about an animal unearthed bones 
could have come from? A cow or another animal 
with palm leaves behind it? Myth? Hoax? 

I think this is South Gate, one of five gates that stood around Angkor Thom.

Terrace of the Elephants;
I was standing in I was told what was once an arena for various
competitions and festivities

a pool that was apparently used for swimming

Bayon Temple

Khmer (long ears) vs. Chinese (short ears) cockfighting

arm wrestling!

back at Angkor Wat for different lighting; 12:35 pm

Angkor Wat comes into view from main entrance

Huot suggested I do this.

back at the hotel; 1:17 pm