Back to Learning: Cambodia

Ponheary Ly believes that education is important for the future of children, of families, and of the nation.  Ly lives in Cambodia, an Asian nation on the Gulf of Thailand.   Her father was a teacher, and she became a teacher, too.  She didn’t earn a lot of money, but she and some other teachers used their pay to help create libraries and support extra educational programs for children.

When Cambodia opened its borders to tourists, Ly, who speaks Khmer, Russian, French, and English, became a licensed tour guide.   Tour guides make more money than teachers. While conducting tours, she noticed many children spent their days selling souvenirs to tourists instead of going to school.  Even though Cambodia provides free education for its children,  parents often do not have the money for school uniforms and supplies.  Ly began using her tips to help children go to school.  She recommended that tourists donate to education programs rather than buying trinkets from the children, as school would give the children a better future.

Lori Carlson, a tourist from Austin, Texas, was so impressed with Ly’s work that she went home and started the Ponheary Ly Foundation to help Cambodia’s children go to school.  Carlson became so involved that she quit her job, sold her home, and moved to Cambodia.

The Ponheary Ly Foundation buys uniforms, shoes, and school supplies for children in need.  The Foundation also provides a healthy breakfast, medical care, and bicycles for children who need transportation.  Teachers in Cambodia are not paid well, so the Foundation gives a stipend to teachers who work hard.

People who like to travel to foreign places and volunteer are welcome to come volunteer with the Ponheary Ly Foundation and help teach English.

In June of this year, Ponheary Ly became a CNN Hero for her service to Cambodia’s children.  Ly isn’t out to win awards.  She serves for the love of children and in honor of her father, who inspired her love of learning.

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Back to Learning

All over America, children are ending summer break by going back to school.  Some will attend a public school.  Others will attend a private school.  Some will be taught at home by their parents.  Still others will take classes online or with a private tutor.

Although school isn’t always in session, learning takes place all the time at all ages and in all sorts of ways all over the world.

Photo by Kate Monakhova, iStockphoto.

What did you learn this summer?

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New Neighbors for Spongebob?

Canadian and Spanish researchers made some amazing discoveries last month as they explored the ocean floor off the coast of Newfoundland.  The scientists used a remote-controlled vehicled called ROPOS — which stands for Remotely Operated Platform for Ocean Science — to explore areas that were once beyond reach.    In the very deep waters, they found eleven species they were unable to identify.   One of the most delightful discoveries was this purple octopus, which looks very much like a Japanese animé character.

Purple Octopus

Purple octopus photo taken from ROPOS off coast of Newfoundland, photo courtesy of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The researchers, working with the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Canadian Hydrographic Service, did more than find new species. They collected information that might help them better understand the relationships between the living things that inhabit those waters and their cold-water ocean floor environment.

You can read more about their discoveries and see other photographs in this article by National Geographic.

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Bowling is cool!

Japan is experiencing a heat wave.  With temperatures in the nineties, people are looking for ways to get cool.

The Bowling Proprietor’s Association of Japan came to the rescue last week with ice bowling. They created the 16-foot lanes in the middle of Tokyo’s Shimbashi business district.

The pins, the ball, and the lanes were all made of ice.  The ice pins shattered after being hit once or twice, and the ball melted in the bowler’s hands, but there were smiles on the faces of the bowlers and the spectators.

Ice Bowling a Hit in Tokyo
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What is your favorite way to beat the heat?

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A Kiss Hello

How do you greet someone?  Do you shake hands?  Hug?  Give a high five or a fist bump?

In France and many other countries, a kiss on each cheek is the common greeting.  My friend Anne, who lives in the French region of Brittany, says that the common greeting there is  two kisses on each cheek when you say bonjour (“hello,” literally “good day”). This is especially true when greeting children.

“French children expect to be kissed by anyone they meet,” says Anne.

In the United States, an adult may show affection for a child by ruffling hair or patting on the head.  In China, the head is considered sacred and should not be touched.  A gentle pat on the shoulder or cheek is an acceptable way to show affection to a child.  A handshake is an acceptable way to greet an adult in China.

In Thailand, touching is considered an intimate act.  Instead of shaking hands, Thai people greet each other by putting their hands together in a prayer position and bowing their heads slightly.

If you want to make friends from Bangkok to Bucksnort, you should learn the local customs so you will know the best way to show friendship and respect.

What is your favorite way of greeting people?


Photo © Xavi Arnau, Arnau Design. iStockphoto.

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Japan’s Big Pictures

In Japan, rice is an important food.  In Inakadate (pronounced ee-NAH-kah-dah-tay), a village in Northern Japan, it is also art.

It began with a village clerk, Koichi Hanada, who was asked to come up with a way to attract tourists to the farming area.  When he saw school children planting rice plants of different varieties — some with purple leaves and some with green leaves — he got the idea of creating art with the plants.

Since 1993, the village has been creating art in its fields.  Using a computerized sketch provided by a computer science teacher, villagers plant rice of different varieties in a specific pattern.  When the rice grows, the different-colored leaves form huge, intricate pictures in the field.  Genetic engineering has provided new colors to use — red, yellow, and white.

This year, they have planted a picture of a samurai battling a warrior monk.  The scene is the size of a football field.  Now that’s a big picture!

Every year, people all over the world admire the rice paddy artwork in photographs, and thousands of tourists flock to the little town to see the art up close.  More importantly, the people in the community are proud of the art they make together.  The pride lasts after the fields have faded and satisfies as much as the tasty rice on the table.

Read more about it and see photos on these websites: The New York Times and CBS Evening News .

Have you ever tried planting a picture?

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Christmas in July

It’s 150 days until Christmas, but campers in the province of Québec, Canada, celebrate Christmas in July.  It’s called Nöel du Campeur — Camper’s Christmas.  The tradition has been around for over forty years and is celebrated in campgrounds all over Québec.

Folks decorate their campers, trailers, and campsites with trees, decorations, and lights. Père Nöel, (literally Father Christmas  — the French name for Santa Claus), visits and distributes candy.  Sometimes there is a parade of floats made by the campers.

Have you ever been camping?

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Message in a Bottle

There’s a message in the 12,500 recycled plastic bottles that make up the 60-foot boat called The Plastiki.  The message is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rethink.

The Plastiki, named in honor of Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki, is the brainchild of expedition leader David De Rothschild.  De Rothschild got the idea after reading a United Nations report on how plastic pollution threatens the world’s oceans.  The Plastiki is fully recyclable.  The catamaran is made with plastic bottles, organic glue made from sugar and cashews, aluminum irrigation pipe, and other recyclable materials.  It is powered by solar cells and windmills.

De Rothschild and his crew sailed The Plastiki from San Francisco, California, USA, to Sydney, Australia.  The trip covered 8,000 nautical miles and took 130 days to complete. At any one time, there were six people on board, but some of the crew members alternated.  Along with the expedition leaders and skippers (all from the United Kingdom), there were filmmakers, photographers, and divers who participated in the voyage, whose nationalities represent Canada, France, Italy, Norway, and the United States.

You can read more in this article by Kristen Gelineau.

What do you do to reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink?

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Spain’s Contador wins Tour de France

Every summer, cyclists from around the world compete in the Tour de France.  From July 3 to July 25, cyclists  braved mountain passes and bumpy cobblestone roads on the course that began in Rotterdam, in The Netherlands, passed through Belgium, then traveled throughout France.

The total course length was 3,642 kilometers.  One kilometer = 0.621371 miles, so the course length was about 2,263 miles.  That’s a lot of pedaling!

This year’s winner, Alberto Contador, is a cyclist from Spain.  This is the third time he has won the Tour de France.

Do you like to ride a bike?  What’s the longest trip you have ever made on a bike?

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A Car that Flies

Well, not exactly.  If you ask the folks at Terrafugia, they will tell you it is really a plane that drives.  Actually, they call it a “roadable aircraft.”  Whatever you call it, it is very cool!

Terrafugia is a company in Woburn, Massachusetts.  They have been working hard to create the Transition®, a light sports aircraft that can be driven on roads and parked in a home garage.

Recently, Terrafugia was granted a weight exemption for the Transition® by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  Because the Transition® will be driven on the road, it needs to meet highway safety standards.  The added safety equipment causes the plane to weigh more than a traditional aircraft.  The FAA has allowed the Transition® to have a maximum takeoff weight of 1430 pounds — 110 pounds more than other light sports aircraft. That’s another step toward the goal of the people at Terrafugia — their name is Latin for “escape from land.”

Terrafugia Flying Away

A view from the back as the Terrafugia Transition® flies away from the camera.

Terrafugia Transition and chase plane

The Terrafugia Transition® and chase plane flying in formation.

The aircraft seats two — sorry, kids, but the flying family car is still only a dream. In airplane mode, the Transition® will fly up to 450 miles at speeds over 115 miles per hour. Once the pilot lands, he or she can transform the plane into a car in less than 30 seconds. In car mode, it will drive at highway speed. The aircraft has a twenty-gallon gas tank and gets 30 miles per gallon on the highway. Need fuel? Just fill ‘er up with unleaded gas, then drive home to park in your garage.

Transition at the gas station.

The Transition® Roadable Light Sport Aircraft Proof of Concept runs on premium unleaded auto gas. Carl Dietrich, CEO/CTO is shown with the Transition®.

You’ll need more than a driver’s license to operate the Transition® — you’ll need a Sport Pilot certificate. Oh, and about $200,000. The price tag hasn’t discouraged some people — seventy of the aircraft have been reserved. The Transition® may be available for sale at the end of 2011.

Photos and video used by permission of Terrafugia.  All photos and video are the property of Terrafugia and may not be used without permission.  Ask nicely — they may give you permission, like they gave me.

Would you like to fly in a flying car?

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