Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Monkey Mia - dolphins!!!!

By Jamie

Monkey Mia is one of the places we stayed at in Australia.  When we got to Monkey Mia, the first thing we did was to swim in the ocean!  The next day we went to the dolphin interaction area and went to three feedings.  We even got to feed fish to the dolphins.  The dolphin I fed was named Nikki.

4 dolphins swimming close to us
Dolphin close-up
Me feeding Nikki
It was awesome!  Dolphins are my favorite animals.
During the dolphin feedings we also saw a venomous sea snake.  It came right up to the shore in very shallow water.
Sea snake
We had a car with a pop-up roof-top tent.  It was actually built to fit 5 people, so we fit in well.  We really liked the tent!

At Monkey Mia we also went on a boat tour.  On the tour we saw turtles, dugongs, and dolphins.  There were two dolphins that were racing the boat!  You can see them in the video below.  We also saw two manta rays and fish.  On the front of the boat they had nets that you could sit on.  At one point on the tour, off the back of the boat they put a different net that touches the water when you sit in it.  The boat moves its normal speed and the water splashes you in the net.

Dugong (related to a manatee)
Dugong close-up
Me on the front net
Us on the boom net...
The boat's moving!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Vietnamese New Year

By Jason and Mama

Jamie and Jason have learned about Chinese New Year at Peter Hobart, and we wondered how the New Year is celebrated here in Vietnam.

Vietnamese New Year is called Tet, and it’s celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year.  Tet is in January or February, depending on the lunar calendar (which is based on movements of the moon).  This year, Tet is on January 31.
Decorating a street for Tet
Making a New Year sign for a building
New Year’s is the most important celebration of the year here in Vietnam.  Did you know that the Vietnamese don’t celebrate birthdays on the day they are born?  Instead, when Vietnamese children are born, they are considered 1 year old.  They turn two on New Year's Day, regardless of when they were actually born.  Everyone celebrates their birthday on the same day!

We wondered if there would be parades or festivities in major cities, like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City (which used to be called Saigon).  But although there are some parades, New Year’s in the cities is quieter than we expected.  Instead, many people go home to their families, many of whom live in the countryside.

We’ve seen lots of people preparing for the New Year – workers hanging decorations over the streets, for example.  Many buildings and businesses have signs reading “Chúc Mừng Năm Mới” – or Happy New Year!  People prepare by cleaning their homes, decorating with kumquat trees and yellow flowers, and perhaps buying a new outfit for the celebrations.

Yellow flowers for sale in Cai Rang floating market
Kumquat trees for sale in the park
Kumquat tree on a motorcycle (with 2 people!)
Kumquat tree on a truck
Red and yellow decorations are everywhere!  According to one local person we met, red signifies happiness and yellow signifies luck for the year to come.

New Year decoration store
Many Vietnamese families believe in "kitchen spirits" that protect their family.  The week before Tet, they send these spirits on a journey to visit the Jade Emperor in heaven.  On Tet, they celebrate with noisy drums, gongs and fireworks to scare evil spirits away and welcome back the lucky ones.

Like Chinese families do for Chinese New Year, Vietnamese parents give their kids red envelopes with lucky money called li xi.  Families also believe that the first visitor of the new year will help determine their luck for the coming year.  They try to have a successful, lucky person be their first visitor.

Vietnamese red envelope
Courtesy of Phan Ba at vi.wiki
Happy New Year, everyone!!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stromatolites - an ancient form of life

By Jamie

Stromatolites are limestone rock formations that live in the ocean, made by a kind of bacteria called cyanobacteria. These cyanobacteria were one of the first life forms on earth. They have existed for 3 1/2 billion years. Stromatolites also produce oxygen. If there weren't stromatolites we probably wouldn't be living as they produced oxygen that allowed life to evolve. They were the major life form on earth for more than 2 billion years! Living stromatolites are only found in Western Australia and the Bahamas. They were so cool!

Stromatolites in Shark Bay, Western Australia

Us looking at the stromatolites

Close-up of stromatolites