We thought it would be fun to compile a few songs from a handful of the countries we’ve visited as a way to celebrate the past 11 years. You’ll find everything from traditional Hungarian folk songs to contemporary music from Norway. Now turn it up and start dancing!
Horses have played a major role in the development of all cultures, maybe because they proved reliable creatures and friends. For the past three holiday seasons, we have featured horses on our girls’ tees. Take a trip down memory lane with us.
Our third Foreign Correspondenthas returned from her travels! Mary, her husband, and her two children traveled to Mexico this winter. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part four of their adventure. To learn more about her family’s adventures, check out herThe World is a Book blog.
While souvenirs are mostly associated with trinkets, I’d rather like to think of its other Spanish meaning of “recuerdo” – a memory. This is how we want to look at souvenirs – tangible memories of a wonderful family vacation. It was quite appropriate since our family visited predominantly Spanish speaking countries of Mexico, Belize and Honduras. My 9-year old daughter says a souvenir is special because “it helps me remember where I’ve been”.
Mexico was a treasure trove of souvenirs for all of us. We were a little bit more restrained in Belize and Honduras as our time was limited and shopping wasn’t as abundant compared to Mexico. Imagine the excitement with the variety of maracas they could play with and the number of sombreros they could try on.
So, what were the most popular souvenirs for kids when we visited Mexico? The typical maracas, small guitars, marionettes and sombreros were everywhere. But, the one with the most appeal to children, especially boys, were the Lucha Libre masks. These were the colorful masks of animals, heroes or pop culture items that Mexican wrestlers wore.
Souvenirs are not only about the shopping experience but also the cultural association with a place. Over the years, we’ve bought dolls and beanie babies representing each country or city visited. We’ve probably collected enough to assemble our own United Nations parade. My daughter found more dolls from three new countries during this trip, each wearing their traditional native costumes to add to her collection. I’m glad she’s still young enough to enjoy them. It’s a simple connection she has to a country and a culture.
Interacting with the vendors and practicing friendly phrases in the local language is among the joys of shopping in a foreign country for us. Our kids loved saying ‘Hola’, ‘Gracias’ and ‘Adios’. They enjoyed saying the minimal Spanish they knew and the vendors were more than happy responding with big smiles on their faces for attempting to talk in the native tongue. We’ve found through the years that a simple hello and thank you to vendors in their local language goes a long way while traveling.
When the vacation is over and as they go on their daily lives, souvenirs can transport the kids back to that special time and place. Souvenirs can represent the local people they met, the areas they explored and their experiences during the visit.
Our third Foreign Correspondent has returned from her travels! Mary, her husband, and her two children traveled to Central America this winter. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part three of their adventure. To learn more about her family’s adventures, check out her The World is a Book blog.
During our excursion, we visited the country’s only zoo despite our limited time in Belize. The Belize Zoo was established in 1983 as a haven for animals used in a forest documentary. In time, it became a refuge for animals that have been orphaned, rescued, or donated from private owners.
This is unlike any zoo we’ve ever visited. It currently houses over 150 different animals all native to Belize. Animals lived in thick landscapes much like their natural habitat instead of concrete cages. The enclosure fences were shorter. We were able to see most of the animals up close. On some exhibits, we could have reached in and touched them. Of course we were tempted, but didn’t.
The zoo was so large, we had to come back a second day to see the rest of the animals. There were no giraffes or elephants here – much to my kids’ disappointment at first. Instead, we were instead treated to animals we have never heard of or seen before. Ever heard of a tapir (Belize’s national animal that looks like an anteater), a Jabiru stork, a quash (racoon relative) or a motmot (bird)?
We also had the opportunity to visit a monkey exhibit in Roatan, Honduras during this trip. I was particularly nervous of letting my kids step inside but was assured the monkeys were safe. Once inside, the monkeys instantly clamored to find the nearest arm or shoulder to climb on.
These animal encounters were one of the trip highlights for our kids. They were introduced to new animals and learned about the importance of their native habitat. These were memorable experiences that certainly fostered their love and appreciation for animals.
Visit our Studio T blog tomorrow to learn about the family’s experience in Mexican markets.
Our third Foreign Correspondent has returned from her travels! Mary, her husband, and her two children traveled to Central America this winter. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part two of their adventure. To learn more about her family’s adventures, check out her The World is a Book blog.
In Kohunlich, the most impressive site was the pyramid-like Temple of the Masks. The center stairs were flanked on each side by three levels of sculpted stucco masks at about 6-8 feet high each. They were believed to represent the Maya Sun God “Kinich Ahau”. The diverse faces were also thought to represent ancient Kohunlich rulers.
The giant masks were magnificent and remarkably preserved considering they were built around 500 AD. Some of them still had hints of their original color. The faces were the only three-dimensional areas. There were many symbolic messages on the masks with many different interpretations. We saw the masks up close by climbing the steep staircase. It was worth the climb to the top for some spectacular views of the forest canopy.
In order to keep up our kids’ spirit of exploration, we engaged them in some activities. We asked them to identify items they saw around the masks and what its meaning could be. Travel after all is a learning experience.
My husband and I knew that visiting the ruins would be a challenge to hold our kids’ interest. They kept themselves occupied by looking for animals and exploring hidden corners. Sometimes, kids have more important things to discover.
Visit our Studio T blog tomorrow to learn about the family’s animal encounters in Central America.
Our third Foreign Correspondent has returned from her travels! Mary, her husband, and her two children traveled to Mexico this winter. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is the first part of their adventure. To learn more about her family’s adventures, check out her The World is a Book blog.
Mexico is expecting a record number of tourists in 2012. This is due to the myth of the December 21 apocalypse prophecy based on an ancient Maya calendar. While we’re not one of the doomsday tourists, our family did visit Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and the Maya ruins on a recent trip.
We chose the Kohunlich (pronounced KOE•HOON•LEECH) archaeological zone to explore. It was located near the town of Chetumal, about five hours from Cancun and two hours from Costa Maya.
To get there, we took a long tour bus ride that went through many small towns. Our guide pointed out schools and churches along the way. We also saw kids selling items on the streets. It was a good eye opener for our kids, at ages 6 and 9, to see how kids their age lived in this part of the world even if it was only a glimpse.
When we finally arrived, Kohunlich felt mystical and offered some of the region’s best preserved ruins. It was completely surrounded by a lush, tropical jungle where it was eerily quiet at times. It was remote enough that it wasn’t swarming with tourists. Its name was adapted from the name “Cohoon Ridge” after the abundance of Cohoon palms throughout the area.
The ancient city was full of fascinating religious and residential structures to explore – a sunken palace, an acropolis, a ball court, courtyards, temples and expansive plazas. Archaeologists believed this used to be a regional trading center between 300 – 1200 AD.
Kohunlich was elaborately planned with stuccoed buildings mostly painted in red. It was amazing to see how large they were and the effort it took to build them during their time. Even with trees and plants enveloping crevices of the structures, we could still envision the grandeur.
We also did an interesting exercise with our guide. He asked us to close our eyes and imagine being transported back to when this ancient city was thriving with life and visualize their daily routines. He then played instruments that imitated bird and animal sounds of the jungle. It provided a different perspective to experience the ruins.
While these ruins involved a lot of walking, the plaza was perfect for kids to run around in!
Visit our Studio T blog tomorrow to hear about the family’s adventures in the Temple of Masks.
The Feathered Serpent is a dragon-like deity important to many mesoamerican cultures. In Aztec culture he is known as Quetzalcoatl. Like many dragons in Asian cultures, the feathered serpent has a snake-like body, however it is not covered in scales like most other cultures’ dragons. The feather serpent is covered with feathers, which gives it the ability to fly, even though it does not have wings. [fun fact: the Korean Dragon can also fly and does not have wings] The feathered serpent appeared in many of Diego Rivera’s works (pictured above). Do you recognize the frog in Diego’s mosaic?
Many alebrijes take form as dragons or dragon-like creatures. I suspect since alebrijes are a modern Mexican craft, crafters were exposed to influences from many different cultures. A dragon is a logical choice for an alebrije since they are usually fantasical creatures.