Sunday, October 19, 2008

Paintball

Yesterday me and about 26 other teachers from many other schools went to play paintball at Orchid Country Club. It was fun. I lost both games but I got to shoot so many people and I only got shot once on the vest. It was so very close though... we lost by a few paces bringing the ammo box towards the home base. The day after the battle, my whole body aches especially my back and my thighs. It was a good exciting workout. Should have bought more ammo to continue the game.

Looking forward to next month's game. How are you guys doing?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Class Reunion 6-1'o7



Class Reunion 6-1'o7
Teachers' Day 2008
Cedar Primary School

Thanks guys. You are the best. Will write more later. Busy busy...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Australian Outback

We started the day early at 7.45. The bus came late and we were all waiting in the freezing cold. We had to pay an additional $20 for diesel tax. At about 8, the bus left Perth.

First stop was the town of York. Nothing much there except for some really run down buildings. I did find a very good second hand book shop which sold The Education of Desire: Marxists and the Writing of History, by Harvey J. Kaye, for just $15 bucks. Amazon selling it for US$161.60. Hah hah hah...

We then went to visit a really funny dog cemetery. Found many funny headstones there: Cindy, Bobby, etc, etc... Took some pictures and will put it up once I reach Singapore and can find the time. I'm afraid once I reach our tiny island, it'll be work, work, work!

Just before wave rock, we went to have this awful lunch at this pretty place. My son touched an electric fence and got the shock of his life. That was something he'll not forget.

When we finally reached wave rock, it was magnificent! I climbed all the way up to the highest point. Met some irritating Singaporeans who insisted that I should drive round Australia. I really felt like shouting, I DO NOT WANT TO!!! Instead, as usual, I let my charming charismatic self handle the situation.

Anyway, the Wave Rock is composed of good ol' granite with a beautiful pinkish tinge. Its rounded wave-like shape was formed by weathering and water erosion and most likely, according to our guide that the weathering started below ground level before it was exposed. I think it was an underground river exposed. Will check with Prof Teh on this.

We alos visited the Hippo's Yawn, a cave that resembles a yawning hippo. I don't think that there are hippos in Australia. Most probably a name given by the, what Thanjit calls them, the tall ang mohs. Anyway, the aborigines used to give birth to their babies in this cave, far away from their men.

We also visited Mulka's Cave, 18 kilometres north of Wave Rock. We saw some well preserved examples of Aboriginal art and hand outlines. Mulka is this guy who's mother had an affair with another guy from another tribe and ended up growing taller than the rest and ate babies as a hobby and got killed. Makes no sense to me actually...

We then headed back to Perth before eating some outback cakes made by two very old aussies. Pictures later.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Mandurah

Today, we went to this town south of Perth called Manjusri... er no, I mean, Mandurah, and once again by their train. The bus servise was once again free from the station to the front shore. We ate fish and chips at this restaurant and then went for a boat cruise where we gazed at the homes of australia's filthy rich. What was really exciting was when we saw some dolphins right by the boat that we were in and several times too! After that, we went to this 7-day market which really had nothing much.

Came back to Perth, again by train and ate some asian food at this restaurant called Ole-Ole, but not before going shopping at Woolworths.

Tomorrow, we're going into the Australian outback! I think the waverock is going to be more interesting than Mandurah. The Wave on Hyden Rock is one of Australia's most famous landforms, which looks very much like a giant surf wave of multicoloured granite. It is estimated to be over 2,700 million years ago, and has been there even before dinosaurs roamed the earth!

Orchard Glory Farm

We went to the Orchard Glory farm today, slightly more than an hour's drive from Criterion Hotel where we stayed. The rooms are cool! We fed the horses, the goats, the rabbits, the pheasants and the Llamas.

But the coolest thing we did was to bottle some real wine! I got to bring two bottles home, the ones my son and daughter bottled. That's going to raise some of my friends when they visit.

Anyway, the nights are super cold! I ended up spending most of my time surfing Australian TV channels infront of the fire place munching some Doritos and dipping them in some Doritos dip. I must have burned some three logs of wood.

The owner of the farm was from Singapore and he was kind enough to bring us to the Bindoon Town, which was really just a few shop houses, for some tidbits shopping. The town people were very friendly but I can't help but to be reminded of some ulu kampong in Malaysia. Instead of some pakciks, makciks and apeks, its all filled with ang mohs.

The next day, we went back to Perth Town and the driver, yet another ex-Singaporean, brought us to his restaurant and we ate some authentic Singaporean dishes. He was also trying to convince us to become Australians and keep comparing why the life in Oz is better than in the Lion City.

Of many of his arguments, many of which is interesting, he said that the government here has more heart. The bus service in Perth CBD is free. Parking is also free. The poor must be allowed travel and work, he said.

Hmm...

After that, we went to Kings Park, a beautiful place. Most importantly is that I found out from this trip to the park is that the Perth people were very friendly and kind. Whenever we looked lost, they would offer us help and pointed to us directions. It's a shame thought to see such a nice place full of graffiti.

But yes Thanjit, the best thing about Perth is still the eggs! They taste different.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Day 1 - Australia

I'm in Perth now. Yesterday, we went to this town called fremantle. The weather is nice and cool. The trains here are quite cheap too. about 18 oz bucks for an all day pass for a whole family to go anywhere.

We went to The Round House, the oldest remaining building in Western Australia, and explored the rest of Fremantle ourselves by walking. We went to the esplanade, basically a big field where kids play under some really huge trees and picnic people feed huge seagulls.

We went to the Fremantle Prison too. It is one of Western Australia’s cultural heritage sites. Imagine a prison as a heritage site! We in Singapore on the other hand, destroyed our old Changi in the name of development.

The EShed market is kinda boring and I think the Chatuchak market inThailand has more variety. In fact the stuff sold there really looks like as if there were from Chatuchak. Same goes for the Fremantle Village Art Markets.

What I really like about Perth, are the boiled eggs. They taste different.

It looks like the people in Fremantle and Perth are very relaxed and laid-back.

The queues in their Macdonalds are always super long yesterday and people are all walking very slowly. Maybe it is still their public holiday for yesterday was some Foundation Day or something...

Maybe today would be different. We'll just have to wait and see...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Science Videos

Sorry people. Busy past few weeks! The sports carnival was a blast... many of my students came back. They are all so big! Anyway... these are some interesting videos for Science! Parental guidance advised.

Feotus development

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48_fIOpkbfA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcQzZ_qMemA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCDaR4JT75Q

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkvl374liGs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MnQxiSJZ4Q

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHLG-Ari9NA


Digestion

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fff7xunqgtI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3986Yfl5cU

Saturday, May 3, 2008

JZ's Awesome Choir Performance, Sin's B'day and 4 lovely ladies

Sorry for the very late update. These last five weeks or so has just been so crazy! The only break I had was during JZ's choir performance! He was awesome. His choir group belted out many many nice song with some notes that were simply mind boggling. Well done JZ!

Another break I got was two days ago when Sin invited me to his house for his birthday lunch. My wife and I met Pearl, Eli and Jeremy there. Sin, I wish you a happy 13th birthday. May your teenage years bring you interesting and nice memories to last for the rest of your life.

I know this coming week is going to be another difficult week for me with the papers and all. How I long for my holiday. The last time I went for my well-deserved break, I met four unforgettable ladies. I can still remember them like it was just yesterday. It was at The Library of Celsius, in ancient Ephesus, in Turkey.

Built in 114 AD, and once hosted 12,000 scrolls, it sure has got to be the most appropriate setting to be introduced to "Arete" (Goodness), "Ennoia" (Thought), "Episteme" (Knowledge) and "Sophia" (Wisdom), four ancient statues that have existed since the ancient world.

Actually, they are replicas of the original, but hey, they are at the original site and that is good enough for me. Can't wait for inner Mongolia this June!


Saturday, April 19, 2008

National Museum Fieldtrip

We went to the new renovated National Museum yesterday. It was cool. I think it is even better than the one I went to, in Copenhagen, Denmark. Anyway, after that, some of us hang out at a place near the substation. It was cool. I had to go back earlier than the rest though. My marking is piling up and the exams are fast approaching.

Yes Carmen, there are many cats in this blog because I love cats. These cats though are the ones in Turkey. This lucky black cat here almost crossed my path while I was strolling in Topkapi Palace. It is therefore a palace cat!

Anyway, I just discovered that I'm featured in Ria's website. Sadly, it is true that I am swallowed whole, by my work. But that does not mean that my fight to raise environmental literacy and the awareness of Singapore's natural heritage has ended. I would also recommend you guys to visit the Brain Bits website, maintained by Mr Kua!

And please don't hate geography! It is only the best subject in the world...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Back Ache, Old Students and Random Thoughts

Hi all,

Sorry for the longest time since my last update. Have been very busy with work. I'm again on MC today. I should not be. There is just too much work that I cannot afford time off from work but the doctor said I should rest at home. She gave me two days but I think I'll go to school tomorrow if my back improves. The P5 camp at Sarimbun was a blast! I have never enjoyed camp this much. Sorry if you could not be part of it. It was just way too far away from school to have involved you guys.

Anyway, I met my very old student in the camp who is now a high-rope element instructor! When I was 18, I volunteered in this association and led a dozen from the youth group to Mt. Ophir. He was one of them.To think that his very first camp and very first overseas trip was with me and now he is a camp instructor! Moments like this is what make me realize how right I was to have switched my carreer to what I am doing right now.

To top that, my very old student in another school that I was attached to six years ago, whom I taught only for two months, contacted me! He is now living in India and have just completed his O's. He was so proud to highlight the fact that he took his six months ahead of everyone else! Eli and Leon came to visit yesterday. Sorry guys if I could only talk to you for a short time. I have to clear so much work! Please please sms me next time before coming next time so that I can confirm the best time to visit. Same thing happened to TCC. He came to visit last Thursday but I had to go to Grange Road for a meeting!

I'm so excited this Sunday! I'm going to see JZ's choir performance.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why I love my job

Today was special. Eli came in the afternoon to visit. I had an urgent meeting so I could only talk to her for a while. I should have told her to visit me after 430. I thought she would stay till evening but she did not. Would have loved to talk to her more. Next week Pearlyn is coming so Eli, if you can join her please do. Please check with me on Thursday so I can confirm the best time for you two to visit.

Then later on at about 5.30, Eve and Grace came to visit and bought me a cake! I took them on a tour and sat down to talk for a very very long time. It is nice to hear and be updated of their lives in secondary school. Please do not give up on Geography. It is your teacher's favourite subject. He got a first class honours in it ok. Through them, I learned about the other members of 6-1'07 and their lives. It was hilarious but at the same time sad that I am no longer a part of these new learnings of theirs.

To top it all up, TJ and Pam smsed me. Pam, I am so proud of your results!

What is sad is that only my female students visit and sms me. What happens to the boys? I hope to see them soon. I understand you guys are busy and please, school work must come first. Just remember my 6-1'o7, study hard and enjoy secondary life. These are not mutually exclusive.

May you live all the days of your life.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

To Love

Have you ever felt
Earth shattering stillness
Or heard your soul shout loud
As silence speaks…

Have you ever been at peace with anger
And not care any longer
Or blinded by seeing
As your senses are numbed
By feelings that you still despise

Perhaps…

I am too drunk with soberness
Too tired with eagerness
Too jaded with enthusiasm

I am not the Messiah of the world you say
Enjoy the passing clouds, you utter
If only I can have the strength
To name one after you

You make me fall in love
When I am already in love
When I am already in pain
When I am already insane

You make me rethink life
When I thought I knew
When I thought I am certain
When I thought I was already me

It is at last,
The shadow of a thought that I loved
And love, I realize now
Life shall never be able
To give me what I need

Monday, March 10, 2008

Very busy past few weeks

Hello people.

I'm back blogging after a very very long time. It has been a very busy week past few weeks for me. Danish meeting, Topical tests administration and analysis, Masters' Reading, etc, etc. At this rate, I think I'm going to wear out very soon. Especially the markings. I have never marked this much before. This round it is going to be a battle till the end. We're going to win no matter what. Whatever sacrifice it takes. The battle for honour has just begun. I'd rather die standing then to live on my knees.

Anyway, I enjoy the smses I still receive from my old students. It tells me that I am still remembered even after they have met other teachers in Secondary School. Keep the smses coming in you guys.

The photo is me in Turkey. Behind me is the Bosphorus. In the photo, I am in Europe and all the way behind is Asia.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Four Hour Nature Walk and A Cat At The House of Mary

This Sunday morning, Jabbar, Maimon, Anita and I went for a four hour walk from Macritchie Reservoir all the way to Bukit Timah Nature Reserves.

We started at 0700hrs and reached BTNR Hindhede Park at about 11-ish. Went straight to the row of coffee shops infront of beauty world shopping center to eat back all the calories that we lost.

The funny things was that this time it was not as tiring as I felt the last time we did this, which was last month. That time, we had Bobby and his wife, my wife, Kat's husband and his colleague joining us as well. Maybe this time I was already fitter fro mthe last trip, though I sincerely doubt so.

We took the same route as last time but today we included the tree top walk as well. I can't wait for next month's walk. It sounds crazy but I truly enjoy these walks.

The photo of the cat, if I remembered correctly, is of the cat that I saw at the House of Virgin Mary in Turkey.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I prefer radio


I went to Ubin for a camera shoot for a TV show, 'Once Upon a Tree 2' on Friday. I needed to raise the awareness of Chek Jawa being up for reclamation in four years time. I hate cameras but as usual, the cause was more important than me.

I prefer radio interviews. TV needed me to say the same thing again and again and again. Sometimes I cannot remember my lines and it was really painful to say them again and again and I am used to giving long boring lectures.

Anyway... here is a cat that we met at Mount Olympus. This cat was just below the snow zone. The temperatures were freezing and this cat was just cool. He does not seem to be affected by the temperature at all.

Look at that fur! If this cat is in Singapore, I bet it wont be a street cat.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

CNY Reunion featuring the Cats of Hagia Sophia

It was a nice Chinese New Year's eve. My students, about 22 of them came back to visit their Cedar. Let me see... there was

Shao Wei, Grace, Leon, Xin Yu, Eli, Eve, Jany, Jonathan, Zhen Yu, Yong Jie, Sharon, Pamela, Ras, Sendil, Sin Hao, TJ, CC, Paul, Jeanne, ZX, Fiona, Eugene. Did I miss out anyone?





They were all so big and grown up! What happened to all my cute little students??!! Hah hah hah.

Some really changed a lot. The most changed would be Brenda of my Panther House. I really could not recognize her. Even my other students could not believe that she was Brenda




Students from my previous 4-4 also came. Shengnan, Vincent, Zhixian and Chun Wee. Sorry guys if I took some time to recall your names. It has been a while since I saw you.


What I really need to say is that the most rewarding moments in my life as a teacher is not when they revise our pay (of course I always welcome increments)... not when I win awards or stuff like that, but when wonderful students like you guys, especially my wonderful P6-1'o7, come back and visit me, with donuts or without.


You guys serve as a reminder that teaching is meaningful, and that I must work even harder for my current and future students. So to all those who visited me, a big thank you. To those who did not and could not (like Aaron, Albin, Nancy, Anisha, etc, etc), we still and will always remember you.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ziya Gokulp


What's that? Well... that's the name of the guy whom I have been asked to study and present to the rest of my reading group. He is Turkish, of course, and I was asked to present his ideas because I went to Turkey. I cannot see how visiting sedimentary rock churches has got anything to do with Ziya, but hey... I think it is worth a study.

Like many other wise people, Ziya Gökalp was many things in one. He was a sociologist, a poet, a political writer, and a of course, Turkish nationalism. His work influenced the father of modern Turkey, Kemal Atatürk. Ziya was influenced by contemporary European thought and rejected Islamism in favor of Turkish nationalism.

What was interesting to me was that he was in a veterinary school. How cool is that! More of him when I have the time. Now, I have to prepare my Master's paper before I meet my supervisor on Thursday.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Of Beautiful Horses and Wonderful Students

Just found out that the name Cappadocia was probably derived from Katpatuka, land of the beautiful horses, in Hittite language. Though I did not see any horses in that region.

Anyway, my students came to visit yesterday. Eli, Pearl, JZ, Jeremy and Pam. It is always nice to see the gang, no matter how busy I am with markings and meetings. They have grown a fair bit... all becoming young men and women. All of their cuteness have almost dissapeared. Hah hah hah... I did not get to see Zhixin though and for that I was a bit sad. I am very happy that he got his appeal though.

I do hope I could join the gang on the 6th. I was just told that I have yet another meeting that day. The school might be closed half day and they probably have to find a new venue. I wonder where would be a good place?

Monday, January 14, 2008

More on pigeon poo


I did more reading on ancient people who used pigeon droppings as fertilizers, just like in Cappadocia. Apparntly many other civilizations did. The ancient egyptians too used them for their crops. Studies have shown that they are rich in nitrogen.


Basically, these pigeons will go fly around in the day, eat wild seeds and berries elsewhere, go home and poo. Farmers take these nutrients and concentrate them on the soil they need to cultivate. So what these pigeons do is really just concentrating available but scattered resources.

Some modern garden composters too recommend using pigeon poo as starters. Though most warn of the fact that these poo from pigeons might contain somewhere around 26 known diseases. But hey, tell me which poo might not?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Valley of the birds


These houses and holes for bird are in a valey called Valley of The Birds. According to my tour guide, pigeons have long been a source of fertilizer to the farmers here.

Many believe that Cappadocian fruits are sweet because farmer used pigeon droppings. I wonder how they handle the bird flu threat?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My First Sedimentary Toilet Break

I was looking for the rock type of these carved mountains. I found out that these churches were carved out from sedimentary rocks and ignimbrite deposits erupted from ancient volcanoes millions of years ago.

What are sedimentary rocks? Well there are the three main rock groups: (1) igneous, those that came out of volcanoes as lava and then cooled, (2) sedimentary, those that has been eroded washed away somewhere, settled down and then hardened, and (3) metamorphic rock, are any of the two that, under pressure and heat is changed into something else. Actually, it is more complex than this but you get the idea.

In this picture, you see how neatly you can cut the sedimentary rocks in cappadocia, goreme region. Here you see tourists getting into one of the caves, now converted to be a public toilet. The toilets in Turkey are ALL super clean. I am amazed. When I asked the tour guide why this is so, they say it is because, 'we are muslims.' How I wish they can tell the Malaysians to do the same.

The only thing about the public toilets that I don't like is that you have to pay 50 liras to get in. That's about 60 cents each time you go. That means if you have a weak bladder plus the very cold weather, you will be spending a whole lot of money on toilets a day.

T'was A Good Friday

First of all, I must say that yesterday was a happy day for me. Manda and Xinyun came to visit me and it was so nice to see them happy. It was sad though that I could only see and talk to them for about ten minutes of so and that was because I sneaked out of a meeting. It is also nice to see my old students, all taller and bigger now, coming to visit me. I do hope it happens more often and how I wish my meetings would be less frequent.



Anyway, this photo here is the picture of all the churches in a row in the Gorame Open Air Museum. The rock type in this region made this all possible. It is soft enough to carve but yet strong enough to remain intact as monolithic structures.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

IXOYE

Our guide explained to us what IXOYE meant. It means 'Jesus, Christ, Son of God, Savior'. According to him, it is all represented in the Maltese Cross. This picture here I took from one of the Gurame Churches. What happened was that during the reign of Emperor Nero in Rome, Christians living in that city were persecuted so they hid themselves. The cross became a secret code to mark this secret movements, where they had to meet secretly and practice their religion.

I believe forms of discrimination is wrong. I believe in the freedom to practice one's faith without being persecuted. As long as of course, your faith does not involve harming another. I think if you have the time, please read Gordon Allport on Prejudice. Worth the read.

On M.C. and Environmentalism



Today I am on MC. Have a chance to updte my blog. Strange thing is both my wife's and mine i-pod died today too.

Inspired by St. Basil's prayer, I have decided to look for some material about environmentalism in the catholic tradition. I found this:

In 1990, Pope John Paul II issued his World Day of Peace Message, Peace with God - Peace with all of Creation, in which the Holy Father announced, "There is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened not only by the arms race, regional conflicts, and continued injustice among peoples and nations, but also by a lack of due respect for nature.... Moreover, a new ecological awareness is beginning to emerge which, rather than being downplayed, ought to be encouraged to develop into concrete programs and initiatives." (source: http://conservation.catholic.org/background.htm)

More later

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My wonderful day...

Today, while I was in a very long meeting. Jeremy sms-e me telling me that he'll be visiting. I said I was in a meeting and it might end late. Nearing the end of the meeting, I sms-ed him and he said he was already on his way home and he LEFT ME SOME DONUTS!

After the meeting, I went back to my table and there it was... SIX BEAUTIFUL DONUTS! Beautiful because they came from 6-1'o7 *sobs* My very first lunch treat from 6-1'o7

Actually he gave 24 but the other teachers got to it before I did so they left me only six. I would not be able to finish all 2 dozen anyways. Then Sharon, Eli and TJ came to visit too!

We had a nice chat but felt bad because I they were already starting to lock up the place. At least I feel better now being able to meet my beloved 6-1'o7. I do hope such moments are more frequent.

Till then...

Monday, December 31, 2007

Turkey Göreme

We then went to the Göreme Open Air Museum, still at Cappadocia. There we saw several churches carved out by monks more than a thousand years ago. I lost count of how many churches we went to but there must be at least 7.


Let me see, there was the Church of St. Basil, The Apple Church, The Church of Santa Barbara, St. Onuphrius and some others whose name I cannot remember now.

St. Basil was the special one for me at least. He was the guy who wrote the Catholic 'Prayer for a Deeper Sense of Fellowship with All Living Things'. It goes like this:

"O God, grant us a deeper sense of fellowship with all living this, our little brothers and sisters to whom in common with us you have given this earth as home. We recall with regret that in the past we have acted high-handedly and cruelly in exercising our domain over them. Thus, the voice of the earth which should have risen to you in song has turned into a groan of travail. May we realize that all these creatures also live for themselves and for you - not for us alone. They too love the goodness of life, as we do, and serve you better in their way than we do in ours. Amen."





We were not allowed to use flash to take photos of the church's interior, and becaue I could not figure out how to switch my digicam's flash, I just the outsides. Here I show you some.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Turkey (Kaymakli Underground City)

We visited the Kaymaklı Underground City. It is this huge underground city that the ancients dug underground. The ground they dug should not be imagined like the one we have in singapore though. This one is made of rocks that are strong enough to hold the structures but soft enough to dig using anything sharp. I think even a pen can carve out a room if you are given enough time.

Only four of the 8 floors are opened to tourists. There are ventilation shafts to ensure that fresh air can get it. There are even underground stables, a church, toilets, kitchens, and bedrooms of course.

This picture below shows a stable. See how they have carved a place for the horse to eat grass, hay or whatever they feed their horses with?



This photo below shows how deep the tunnels can bring the inhabitants of these caves into the earth below. The labyrinth also allowed them to hide from the people that might want to hurt them.


The photos below shows a church. How did we know it was a church? They left signs all over. The picture on the right shows a cross. Can you spot it?


The grindstone below is used to grind grains into flour. I took these shots in the kitchen.

This is a huge heavy stone that they use to block some strategic entrances within the city so that their pursuers could not get them.




Last, but certainly not the least important... toilets! I really do not know if they just leave it there or what, for they did not have any flushing system.



Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Turkey - Caravanseray

At the end of day, we got into our tour bus once again and headed off to the area of capadochia. During the journey, our tour guide said something about giving us a surprise. What happened was that he brought us to this old 'caravanseray'. The caravanseray is not the surprise though, as it was part of the itenary. More about the surprise later.

During ancient times, long before globalization, when there were no planes, no large container cargo ships plying the sea routes wrecking damage to the environment and poorer countries with their conspicuous consumption, there was this famous route called the silkroad.

The silk road was not a road made of silk, my dear students, but a famous path where goods from the east was carried to the west to be sold and vice versa. These goods were carried on camels, who could travel long distance. For safety reasons, these traders and their camels travel in large groups called caravans.

These caravans look out for safe places to spend the night, refuel their camels and themselves with water and food and sheltered themselves, their camels and their goods from bandits and the weather.


The Ottomans and many other nations recognise the economic importance of these caravans and therefore made safe stop-overs for them. In the Ottoman Empire, these camel hotels are called 'caravanserays'. As you can see from the above photo, the Muslims were very proud craftsmen and are aesthetically inclined people, so even a camel resting place were nicely crafted.


It was behind one of the two caravanserays that we visited was the real surprise. A huge crater with super black water can be seen. According to the guide, it was a volcanic crater. I can just imagine the camels giong down here to drink. It was a nice surprise. As a geography student, I truly appreciate this humungous geomorphological feature. I don't think it is a volcanic crater though. It looks like either a mined quarry or an meteorite hit landscape. I need to check this out with my geog lecturer.

After that, we continued to travel to cappadochia. More of that later.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Temple of Artemis





From Ephesus, we went to see one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In case you don't know what the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are, let me list them for you:
1.

The Great Pyramid of Egypt
2. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
3. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
4. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
5. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
6. The Colossus of Rhodes
7. The Lighthouse of Alexandria


I went to number 4, The Temple of Artemis. From the photos, you can see that not much is left. In fact only one and one third of a pillar is left, out of a huge temple. How did it get to be like this? The temple was built probably around 800 BC. It was said that the temple took 120 years to be built. It was destroyed on one day, July 21, 356 BC by one madman by the name of Herostratus.


He wanted to be famous so much that he decided to burn down the temple. Today we call such need to be famous, as 'herostratic fame'. The ancient people there was so angry that they decided to remove not write his name in history records so as to not make his plan successful. They suceeded, well almost. One historian did recorded it and that's how we now know who this madman is.


The same night the temple was burned, Alexander the Great was born. Some ancient people believed that was why the god Artemis could not save her own temple.She was too busy helping Alexander's delivery.


The Youtube video below shows how it might have looked like and how it is now.



Saturday, December 22, 2007

Turkey (Hierapolis)



Just beside the hot springs of Pamukkale, is Hierapolis. Because of the belief that the springs could cure sicknesses, many sick people came here with the dream of getting better. Many of these dreams did not come true. We know this because there is a large necropolis (a large cemetery or burial place) in Hierapolis. The word 'necropolis' literally means, "City of the Dead".

Hierapolis ancient ruins can still be seen here. Huge blocks of rocks made up the still visible public baths, library and even gymnasium. One of these ancient buildings have even been transformed into an archaeological museum that tourists can enter.


According to the experts, at its best times, Hierapolis grew to have about 100,000 inhabitants (a big deal in ancient times) and many were wealthy. At some points in its history, it was also multi racial and multi religious. There were signs that there were Jews here. There was also a Christian church. Philip the Apostle was said to have spent the last years of his life here. He was also said to have been crucified and his body was buried here.


All these ancient ruins made me think: Will our modern civilizations one day be ruined like this only to have future more generations discovered them and made into a tourist attraction? It sounds preposterous I know, but I bet the inhabitants of Hierapolis, especially when it was thriving, with wonderful stone buildings, towers, libraries and thriving streets would have brushed away similar suggestions by saying that that thought too was preposterous.


At the rate mankind is wrecking havoc to the environment and weathers that are becoming more and more unstable, I think that thought might just be possible.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Turkey (Pamukale)

On day 4, we headed very early in the morning to a unique geographical feature in Turkey, the Pamukale, or 'Cotton-Castle' in Turk.

As we approach the site , we could see a long white cliff face along the mountain. At first we thought it was snow but the tour guide said it was not. It was actually white travertine terraces.

Pamukale is one of the most extraordinary natural wonders in in the world! I did Physical Geography in uni and so geomorphological activities excites me. Somehow, the natural volcanic spring underneath produced water so rich in calcite that as the hot water evaporated, it deposits calcium carbonate, which is white, onto the slopes. What I do noy understand is why it created large bath tub shapes, as if purposelly asking for us to take a deep within these very comfortably warm waters.


The government of Turkey no longer allows anybody to do that now and we have cops or gendarme that patrols the slopes. This is of course understood as Pamukale has been designated as one of the World's Heritage Site by UNESCO. A heritage site confered this title is considered by the international community to be extremely valuable and must be preserved for future generations of humanity.


This is only the third World Heritage Site I've been to, with the first site being the ancient ruins of Ayuthya in Thailand and the second just a few days ago in Ephesus.
We are allowed to get into the pools without shoes and that we did of course. At first, the water that touched my feet was so cold, that it almost instantaneously gave me a bad cramp! But as I walk nearer where the warmer water pools were, it became better.

Historians have discovered that many people during ancient time actually came here from all over the known world, including Roman Kings and other VIPs, to soak in these pools as they believe that the water as healing properties. This, I assumed, contributed to the economy of Hierapolis, which I will talk about in a later blog entry.


This healing property might not be just superstitious. I do not think the warm water from the springs (about 35 degrees celcius) is responsible for the reported positive effects on rheumatism, hyper-tension and any other form of diseases. Scientists has confirmed that there is some radio active gasses that escapes from the volcanic activity below. Or it could just simply be psychological. It is becuase of these healing properties that these pools have even been called as 'Sacred Pools' by the ancients.



My kids of course enjoyed themselves and so did their parents!





Monday, December 17, 2007

Turkey (Ephesus)



When I woke up, the and looked out of the window, the scenery that greeted my eyes was just magnificent. In the dark when we arrived the night before, I didn't know that the hotel was just beside a beautiful bay.



So I went out and with my digicam, took shots of the bay slowly being lighted up by the rising sun. The air was crisp and still cold. It will remain cold the whole day.

We then went on the bus and headed for the House Of Virgin Mary at the top of the "Bulbul" mountain near Ephesus. The cold air made my batteries go berserk. Three quarters of the time, my digicam showed 'low batt'. That was why I could not take any shots up there.

The very small house where Mary, mother of Jesus, had supposedly spent her last days was one of the highlights of my trip. There was a natural spring there and to many Catholics, the water that comes from the spring was supposed to be holy water. I cupped my hands to take some and wipped my face with it, much to the disagreement of some Muslims that were in my group. I really am not sure why I did that. Perhaps, it was just because I was so happy.

I supposed they forgot that Mary is a figure recognised to be special by not just Christians, but also Muslims. So is Jesus and Moses and many others. If Mary was really here, then I feel blessed, as a Muslim, to be able to visit her last place of dwelling.



It was after that when we went down the hill to visit the ancient ruins of Ephesus. Ephesus was a port that used to be the most important commercial centre in ancient times. It became later a religious centre of the early Christianity.



Ephesus was the stage of many important events that has helped shaped the history of mankind. It has been attacked by countless armies: the Cimmerians, the Lydians, the Persians, the Greeks and the Ottomans. Many important people have stayed here: from great poets to philosophers to geographers, from great artists to important physicians. The list of names of these famous ancient people are too many for me to list down on this blog entry.



To be able to stand exactly where many great people have stood, were born, and have lived is somewhat magical. I know all this does not make any sense but to me, it just does. To be able to touch the very same marble and stone pillars that they did, made the huge chunk of my savings spent on this trip, just worth every cent of it.