Archives for December, 2012
Hello! This week in Jordan was just as amazing as last or maybe even more. We started it off in the desert of Wadi Rum where we stayed in a Bedouin camp. Our first night there we went on an epic sunset camel ride. My camel was only one year old and had quite a spirit about him. Later in the evening we rolled down gigantic sand dunes. The sand was so fine it was like powdered sugar.
In the morning we loaded in to a four-by-four and began our unbelievable tour of the entire desert. There were times when we were going so fast I thought we might tip over. All the rock formations were massive. There was even one that looked like an enormous mushroom (soup anyone?).
Has anyone ever seen Lawrence of Arabia? On our tour we saw where he lived and where they filmed the movie. After a long day of exploring we sat around the fire and listened to the Bedouins sing and play their drum for us. We had a private concert. Everest fell in love with the drum and decided it was what he wanted for Christmas. With the help of our new friends, my parents found an awesome drum so can have our own little drummer boy for Christmas.
After our extraordinary stay in Wadi Rum it was off to Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Our first night there we went to Petra at Night.
We walked through the winding sig that was lit up by thousands of candles. As we walked to the end we stood in awe of The Treasury, one of the most significant monuments in Petra. It really takes your breath away. We sat and listened to old stories and traditional music under the moonlight. We woke up the next morning and were off to Petra again. We wanted to see everything. We started on horseback and then walked through the Siq, which is kind of like a little canyon. Did you know a Siq is created by tectonics not water erosion? We approached The Treasury in daylight and again stood in awe. It was so different during the day. We then wandered for hours in this historic city filled with treasures, tombs and intricate carvings. Our final destination was The Monastery. We climbed hundreds of steps and all I could say when I turned the corner was “Wow.” It really made you feel so insignificant and miniscule compared to its scale. Now a few fun facts… Did you know that only 5% of Petra has been excavated? Did you also know that Petra was once home to over 20,000 inhabitants but no residential buildings have ever been found? Petra is AMAZING! Our last day in Jordan was spent at a castle, in a city, and in a village. Our first stop was Shobak Castle. Shobak was built in 1115 by the Crusaders. The castle complex was an entire town with a church, a jail, a school and much more. We then went to Amman which is the capital of Jordan and a blend of old and new. While we were there we visited the ancient Roman Theater, The Citadel and the Historical Museum. For dinner we shared one last mezze platter with our kind Jordanian friends and live music at a small local restaurant in a little village. Life doesn’t get any better. We all had tears in our eyes as we concluded this third leg of our world adventure. It has been the most incredible year and it is sooooo hard to imagine all the amazing people I have met and all the things I’ve done this year. Now we are off to Michigan to spend the holidays with all of my family. Merry Merry Christmas!!
BOOK NAME: Across Five Aprils
AUTHOR: Irene Hunt
9-year-old Jethro Creighton has lived on his father’s farm in southern Illinois his entire life. He is finally old enough to work on the farm and do his part to provide for the family. Jethro is proud to pitch in, and is extremely content with his boyhood. All seems peaceful to him, but underneath the placid mask lie turbulent times. The United States is being torn apart. Civil war seems just over the horizon.
Then the first shots ring out at Fort Sumter. The American Civil War has begun. As the men around him rally for war, Jethro doesn’t think much of the battle, just faraway gunfire on a faraway building. How could it possibly affect him?
As the battles rage on, his brothers begin to leave. Tom Creighton, John Creighton, and Jethro’s cousin Eb Carron, all leave to fight for the Union side. Jethro still doesn’t think much of war. His brothers will live; it will be the Southern Confederates, the enemy, who perish on the battlefield.
Then, Jethro’s favorite brother, Bill, quietly slips away to fight for the Confederacy, discreetly telling Jethro of his intentions. What if Bill is one of those Confederates who dies in battle? Could Bill die by another brother’s bullet, or will it be the other way around? How will a Union-favoring town react to the news of a Confederate in their midst? Most importantly, how long will the brutal war rage; will all of his brothers return home?
This book was not the greatest book I’ve ever read, but it certainly wasn’t the worst either. The storyline was a little dull. The beginning of the book, before the Civil War begins, is especially slow and boring to read. It does have its moments, especially during the war years. I found the recounts of the battles to be especially interesting. Still, there was one main characteristic of this book that I found somewhat annoying. To authenticate the Illinois setting, the characters speak with a drawl. All of the slang, improper grammar, and accented words made the dialogue difficult to understand. Still, if you like history, you should definitely give Across Five Aprils a try.
We flew into the Aman Airport and instantly the world felt more foreign. Everything was more gritty and exotic. Our days were packed with adventure. We visited some of the most amazing places I have ever been. Our first stop was Mount Nebo where Moses looked out to the Promised Land. Later we swam in the Dead Sea, the deepest spot on the face of the earth. The water is saltier than any ocean. Since there is so much salt you float to the surface. It is a feeling you have to experience to understand. While floating in the Dead Sea we could see all the way to Israel.
We visited Bethany and the River Jordan where Jesus was baptized. It is hard to put it into words how special it was. Knowing I was walking in the footsteps of our savior was truly unbelievable. Our final stop was the Ma’in Hot Springs. Playing in the waterfalls was a perfect way to end an unbelievable day. Hot water was spilling out of the rock cliffs above us and falling down our backs.
We began our second day at an orthodox church where a mosaic map dating back to 542 AD was discovered, the map was so accurate that it led to more archaeological discoveries all over the Middle East. Later in the day we hopped in our car with Arabian music blasting and drove to an eco lodge in the Arabian Desert. We went on a beautiful sunset hike and climbed to a peak amazing views that went on for miles. That night we gazed at the stars through and insanely good telescope. We saw Jupiter and its four moons, and a bunch of constellations. My favorite was Orion. The night sky was so incredible that we decided to sleep under the stars.
The next morning as the sun was rising we set out on a hike deep into the canyons. It could not have been any more stunning. There was even a natural rock that looked just like a tiger. Roar!
After our amazing candlelight days at the eco lodge we were off to the Red Sea to find some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world. We dropped our bags, ran to the beach and grabbed a snorkel and mask. There were hundreds of funky fish, urchins and all kinds of coral. The next morning we went on an underwater submarine boat to see even more of the fascinating fish and coral.
We even saw some garbage fish that weren’t exactly what we were hoping, but YOU can help stop this by saying NO to plastic! I just don’t know if anything could top this week, Jordan is full of so much history and adventure. I can’t wait until tomorrow … until next week, Aubrey.
Hi HOEC fans,
We’re sorry to report that there won’t be a 2013 Hands-On Explorer Challenge.
2013 is National Geographic’s 125th anniversary, so we’ll have lots of other fun projects and programs coming your way.
If you’re in 9th – 12th grade, you still have time to enter the student photo contest to win a prize to National Geographic Student Expedition London Photography Workshop. Otherwise, keep us posted about all your adventures by posting your pictures on My Shot.
Keep an eye on this space for announcements, contests, records, and ways you can help save animals and explore our planet!
You may know that some dogs like to bury bones, but did you know that they can also be trained to find bones? Gary Jackson, an Australian dog trainer with Multinational K9 has trained Migaloo, a black lab, to find bones! Now Migaloo helps archaeologist search for bones that are hundreds of years old.
Migaloo locates the bones, but she is not allowed to dig them up–that’s up to the human archaeologists!
BOOK NAME: Elephant Run
AUTHOR: Roland Smith
Nick Freestone is a young teen living in a time when the world is at war. Due to the fact that the city he resides in, London, is being bombed by German bombers constantly, Nick’s mother decides to send him off to Burma where his father manages a teak plantation. Nick feels that he will be safe in Burma halfway around the world and is ready to learn about the world of mahouts (elephant handlers) and teak harvesting. At the plantation, he befriends Mya, a girl his age, and the legendary elephant monk Hilltop.
Everything seems to fare well for Nick until the day the Japanese invade the country. Japanese troops overrun the plantation and hold the villagers hostage. Nick’s father and several other plantation workers are sent off to a labor camp while the rest (including Nick) are held in captivity at the plantation. As Nick adapts to harsh life in the Japanese-occupied plantation, he is forced to play the role of servant and suffers from the abuse of Bukong, the plantation’s former chef who is a Burmese collaborator with the Japanese. Eventually, he and Mya cannot tolerate the Japanese occupation of the country any longer and secretly plan to escape the plantation and rescue their imprisoned family members with the assistance of Hilltop. The two know that escape is nearly impossible. Japanese soldiers control the entire countryside and the jungle wilderness is an inhospitable place. Despite the risk of capture and punishment, nothing will stop Nick and Mya as they embark on a dangerous journey to free themselves from the Japanese.
Elephant Run by Roland Smith is one of the best books he has ever written that is intended for younger audiences. The book combines history, cultural studies, and nature, and is a unique book with something for everyone. Elephant Run takes an in-depth look at Burma during WWII and tells the story of Nick’s experiences living in a wartime Japanese-occupied Burma. I appreciate the fact that Smith examines an uncommon, “backwater” front of the war that is not as studied as the other famous fronts of the Second World War. The story’s background settings will allow readers to know what life was like for the Burmese as they were subjugated and dominated by the Japanese including labor conditions and the dangers of disobeying the military authorities. Roland Smith’s book also takes a fascinating look at the culture and wildlife of Burma. He accurately describes the clothes that the Burmese wear (skirt-like clothing known as a Longyi), the diverse wildlife of the country, the inside of a traditional Burmese home, the trade of a mahout (elephant handler), and other aspects of Burma.
I especially enjoyed the plot, which was fraught with suspense, action, and memorable characters. I’m pretty sure that Elephant Run could be made into a film, because the action never seemed to cease for even a moment! Elephant Run is an excellent read for any historical fiction fans, and I’d give it a 9.5/10. This book is simply brilliant and creative, and will not fail to satisfy!
This week we flew across the blue Mediterranean and onto the island of Cyprus. Can you imagine that Cyprus is in between the three continents of Europe, Africa, and Asia? Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean. Over 260 species of fish circle the warm Mediterranean waters around Cyprus, and most of them like to eat bananas. Everest tried to catch some but unfortunately even with bananas he didn’t have any luck.
We spent the week at a beautiful resort. There were all kinds of awesome activities. I worked on my tennis skills, but I still don’t have my stroke or my grunt down. We made mosaic Christmas cards in the craft center.
One afternoon we had fresh chocolates made by a chocolatier that has been making chocolate for years. He has even made a super healthy dark chocolate called Flava that is filled with antioxidants (tell your parents!). He told us that it helps keep your skin soft, maintains heart health, protects your brain, and keeps you young and fit. Wow. He was like something out of a story book with a jolly face and round tummy.
Another beautiful day we went into the mountains and visited an amazing waterfall and monastery. The monastery was gorgeous and full of tranquility. It was so quiet. We were up in the Troodos Mountains and you could hear every sound, from the monks praying to the birds chirping! One of the highlights of the week was visiting the birth place of Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Aphrodite was said to have been the daughter of Zeus (god of the sky) and Dodna (mother goddess.) The Greek myth says that she rose from the sea at Petra tou Romiou in Pafo.
At the end of the week we took an adventure to the Turkish side of the island. Cyprus is split into two parts the North is part of Turkey and the South is part of Greece. Visiting Turkey was crazy; even though the two sides are right next to each other they are so different. Turkey felt more exotic and foreign. We had a fabulous time in Cyprus but now it’s off to another continent… Africa!
NASA has taken some amazing pictures from space that show the amount of artificial light generated on Earth. The lights are brightest in the big cities where most of the population lives.
The photographs were taken from a satellite using a powerful new sensor, according to NASA. It’s sensitive enough to capture the light from a ship on the ocean!
Image courtesy NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC
BOOK NAME: Mockingbird
AUTHOR: Kathryn Erskine
When Caitlin Smith, a 10 year old girl who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, experiences the tragedy of her brother Devon being murdered in a middle school shooting, she is desperate to find closure. Yet as she looks for closure, she realizes that this is not something simple to grasp. Her father, a widower, is still in terrible depression and grief over the loss of his son. Although Mrs. Brook, the school counselor, has sessions with Caitlin and tries to help her through this tough time, Caitlin still feels like no one understands her.
Before his tragic death, Devon was an eagle scout. He was working on making a chest as part of this position. The chest remains unfinished in the living room of the Smith home, and Caitlin’s father even puts a sheet over it. Caitlin tries to convince her father to finish the chest, yet he is still not ready.
In school, Caitlin has trouble with friends. No one wants to befriend her because of her syndrome and because they do not want to create an awkward situation after the loss of her brother. Caitlin doesn’t think she will ever find a friend, until she meets Michael, the son of the principal of Devon’s middle school, who had also been killed in the shooting. Could Michael be her first friend?
Throughout the book, Caitlin tries to deal with the troubles of her life. She works hard to adapt to life without her brother. Towards the end, Caitlin begins to understand what finding closure is all about.
I really enjoyed this book. It is a little tough, so I would recommend it to anyone ages 10 and up. Caitlin’s story is inspiring. I learned so much from the way she deals with the challenges in her life.
Geiá sou [hello], readers, guess where I was this week… Athens. Athens is full of history and culture. We started in Delphi, the center of the world. According to Greek mythology Zeus released two eagles at opposite ends of the world and they met in Delphi and that’s why they call it the center of the world. We also had the chance to see the stadium where the first Pan-Hellenic Pythian Games took place. These were only second in importance to the Olympics. When these games took place they didn’t wear anything except grape vines, phew… at least they wore clothes when we were at the Olympics in London. The winners at the Pythian Games were awarded with a palm tree twig or a wreath of laurels. After exploring the wonders of Delphi we drove south to Athens.
Our first day we went for a serendipitous wander through the soulful streets of Monastiraki. My mom bought a pair of Greek sandals from the same man who made sandals for John Lennon. We also visited… dun dun dun dunnnn… the Parthenon! It is just as amazing as it sounds. When you stand next to it you seem so insignificant, the pillars tower over you.
The Parthenon was built in honor of the goddess Athena, who the people of Athens considered to be their Patron. They started building the Parthenon in 447 B.C. and it was finished in 432 B.C. It has survived all kinds of wars, invasion, and natural disasters for over 20 century’s. Across from the Parthenon is the Acropolis museum. It is one of the most amazing museums I have ever seen, even though most of the pieces from the Parthenon are in the British museum.
Next to the Parthenon is the world’s first theater, built in honor of Dionysus. They performed dramas and comedies over 2,600 years ago. Only boys were allowed to act in the plays and they had to wear large masks so the people in the audience could clearly tell the part they were playing.
For Thanksgiving we visited friends that we met during our first world trip 8 years ago. They invited us to their home and cooked a super yummy turkey lunch that had us stuffed just like the turkey. We had a great time with Sophia, Melina and their mom and dad.
Our last day my dad and I did something super special, we went on a Segway tour through the city. They were super fast and super duper fun. We explored every nook and cranny. Our guide Pluto even took us to his favorite restaurant to have a look. It was so awesome we came back there for dinner. They had live music, people dancing on the tables and throwing plates on the ground “Oppa” and delicious traditional Greek food. Antío [goodbye], from Aubrey!