Monday, August 17, 2009

The animals we got to pet

Knowing my dad & his love for the zoo, why does it surprise me that we went to three different animal-themed places during our two week trip to Canada?

We visited:
-the African Lion Safari in Toronto, where you drive through the first portion, then get out and see even more animals.
-the Toronto Zoo.
-Marineland in Niagara Falls

I don't have pics of ALL the animals we got to pet and ride, but here are some of them.

Here are the kids riding a camel at the Toronto Zoo.
From 2009 August

You'd like a video of the camel ride, you say? Just click the picture below!
From 2009 August

This is also at the Zoo. This Kimono Dragon was a very popular photo spot for all the kids.
From 2009 August

Unfortunately, Merani became the keeper of the dragon and didn't like anybody else to have a turn. Actually, we had walked away from the dragon and were moving on to the next exhibit. But Merani was throwing a fit b/c she loved that darn dragon so much! So, I finally agreed to walk back to the dragon with her while the rest of our group moved ahead. She & I sat there by the dragon for probably 30 minutes while everybody else saw other animals. She would sit on there until another kid came along for a photo opportunity, then I would suggest that she come near me so that they could have a turn, but I often had to pull her away against her will. As soon as they were done, she would sit back on the dragon until another kid would come 1 minute later. It was a trying 30 minutes, for both of us. :)

We had brought walkie-talkies, so we could meet back up with our group afterwards.

This next one is pretty cool. The zoo had a special stingray exhibit - and we actually got to pet them! You can't actually see them too well in this photo, but there is one there that you can see in the water in front of Jacob. Some of them seemed very friendly, flapping their fin up along the side of the pool so that you could pet them easily. They were really soft & smooth. Jacob says they felt slippery.
From 2009 August

At Marineland, we paid extra for the kids to have the chance to pet and feed a Beluga Whale. Here are a couple of pics from that.

First, Erin, Jacob, & Merani next to the trainer.
From 2009 August

And Jacob having his turn to pet the whale.
From 2009 August

If you'd ask Merani about feeding the whales, she would probably tell you that she got to feed them fish that were dead. Then she'd ask why the fish were dead. All day, she wished she could feed them fish that were alive. When we saw some that were alive in a pond elsewhere, she wanted to bring one to the Beluga Whales.

Also at Marineland, they had a Deer area. Yes, they branched out from just marine animals. Here's Merani petting a couple of deer.
From 2009 August

From 2009 August

I don't have pictures of it, but at the African Lion Safari, they had pony & elephant rides. Merani rode a pony. I walked along beside her, and when she was done, she wished that I hadn't walked along next to her. She wanted to go again to remedy this, but I couldn't justify the price for that. :) Jacob initially wanted to ride an elephant but changed his mind later. They also had a small petting zoo area there, with goats and alpacas. Merani fed the goats lots of grass and loved the soft feel of the alpacas' heads.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Our Trip to Canada

Another trip - another reason to blog!

Not that I had caught up with the last trip or anything, but... well, I guess I'll work on both simultaneously. :)

The kids & I went to Canada to visit my sister Erin for two weeks. I've got lots of pictures and stories to share. She lives in Waterloo, and we visited Toronto & Niagara Falls as well.

I'll start with the lobster story. We went to a grocery store, and they had an aquarium of live lobsters for purchase. I pointed them out to Merani, and she wondered why they were here. I explained that some people eat the lobsters. She asked why they eat them. Erin & I laughed, since she & I are both vegetarian (and even before I was, I was never a fan of seafood anyways). We told her that Joe likes to eat them, and we took Merani to Joe to ask him why. But when we got to him, she asked him this question: "Why do you like to eat the hamsters?" Haha! Whenever we talked about it that week, she usually forgot and called them hamsters instead of lobsters!

Monday, June 22, 2009

EscĂșchame hablar en aleman.

Listen to me speak German. (I wrote that title in Spanish though - cause that's what I can do better. haha)

Nate's house

From 2009 May

Here are Nathan & Merani in front of Nate's house - #34 - and van. You can see that it is connected to the house next to it. It's the same way on the other side; I'd say there were about 10 houses all connected in one building. Each one had a one-car garage too. We loved their house (as you can see by the excited looks on their faces)!

Their doorbell cycles through a bunch of different songs when rung. One day, they noticed that I was humming the German National Hymn. I don't know the German National Hymn, so I'm quite certain that I must have heard it from their doorbell, but they claim that it is not one of the tunes! Who knows where it came from!

We also love their windows and patio doors. They all have three directions you can turn the handle: if it's down, then the window is locked/closed. If it's horizontal, then you can open it like a regular door. If the handle is upwards, then you can tilt in the window/door from the top. I'm not sure if I'm explaining it that well, but I like it! And I love the built-in shades too.

The front door is tricky to open (even with the key, which is required). I learned that one day after I had walked back to the house alone with the kids and couldn't get in. Of course, I didn't bring my cell phone b/c international roaming would have been quite expensive. So we just sat on the step and waited.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

So many stories to tell... and I'm not keeping this going as well as I'd hoped!

The least I can do is link you to the pictures of our trip that I got uploaded to our Google Picasa site. So here they are!

Maybe I'll just go through and explain the pictures to you.

From 2009 May

From 2009 May

These first two pics are of Merani holding Mystique - Nate's family's cat. They have two cats - Mystique & Beguira? I have no idea how to spell Beguira's name! That's how I'd spell it in Spanish, but I doubt it's correct. I think it's a name from some book or movie or something. Neither cat was particularly cuddly with us, but Beguira was especially shy. I say shy, but perhaps I should say bothered by us! Anyways, Merani doesn't mind. She loves all animals and wants to hold them all in her hands. If the animal happens to be slow enough, then she gets her way for a bit.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ich sprechen Deutsch

I can speak German. Well, kinda. I'm not even sure that I spelled that title correctly. But I'm not going to proofread any of my German - that wouldn't be an accurate depiction of how well I learned it.

Somebody mentioned on Facebook that they are curious as to how well I learned the language. I had been trying to learn it (crash-course style) the last few months before we left. I tried using the Tell Me More! program, which was available to use online free through a local library. It seemed like a neat program, but I felt like I was going through learning lots of vocab without really understanding any grammar. It's supposed to be similar to the Rosetta Stone, but I haven't tried that, so I can't compare.

A couple of days before leaving, I frantically tried to learn some last-minute stuff. I watched a bunch of youtube videos aimed at teaching german called Learn German with SpeedyConKiwi. For example, here is one teaching some basic conversational stuff. One of my favorite ones, which I thought was quite useful, was her Pronunciation Guide. Unfortunately, when I was explaining some of it to my sister Erin (who is fluent in German), I apparently mis-remembered it and told her some things that were not accurate. So she wasn't impressed with the videos, but looking back at it now, I think that the video was right and I was just not a good student. :) (Check it out Erin, and tell me what your impression is now.) I also really liked this video, and the song was in my head lots while in Germany!

I also signed up for LiveMocha, which is great. You create an account and fill in details regarding what languages you speak and what languages you are learning. Then, you are part of a community of people who are helping each other learn languages. There are lessons, which I've enjoyed, and when you do some of the writing and speaking "homework", then you can have them be reviewed by people who are fluent or experts in your target language. You can also chat with people who speak the language.

Anyways, I had lots of great resources, but I didn't really start in enough time. I could say some very basic things, but never really had much of a conversation in German.

Here's some of my best work (and I am disregarding the umlat for ease of typing):
Die Frau ist klein und dunn. = The woman is short and thin.
Der Mann ist alt und arm. = The man is old and rich.
Die Madchen ist jung und dick. = The girl is young and fat.
Der Junge ist gross. = The boy is tall.

Really impressive, no? Well, while in Germany, I played Guess Who? with Katy. You remember that game, don't you? I had it when I was a kid. So... I asked Katy to play it with me IN GERMAN! So, I learned how to say things like:
Hat die Frau brille? = Does the woman have glasses?
Hat der Mann auchen grun? = Does the man have green eyes?

While in Germany, I logged in to LiveMocha a couple of times and learned a few more important sentences:
Die Haus ist rot. = The house is red.
Der Auto ist schwartz. = The car is black.
Das ist gelben. = This is yellow.

Unfortunately, I found no opportunity to embark in a real conversation with a German person using my limited vocabulary. I did say "Ein stille wasser, bitte" a number of times (which means: "uncarbonated water, please".)

I was able to use the words for "left" and "right" a few times while we were going places --> "links" and "recht". That was exciting.

But usually, my conversations with Germans went like this:
Them: Hallo, blah blah blah blah.
Me (apologetically): Ich sprechen Englisch.
Them: blah blah blah blah
Me: Englisch??

In one instance like this, a woman later told the rest of the family that I didn't remember her from before. I DID recognize her! I just couldn't say anything of value!

I also found that when my brain was trying to tell my mouth to speak in German, my mouth only got the message that it should use a foreign language, so Spanish would come spilling out. That wasn't very helpful. Although, with strangers, it would probably be better so that I can pretend I'm a Spaniard rather than an American. ;)

Jacob learned a bit too. He can proudly tell you "Hallo" and even "Nein!" (which means "no")

Perhaps my title should've been Ich sprechen keine Deutch... :(

Monday, June 8, 2009

Speaking of water...

Let's have a poll.

Do you think Jacob is on a water slide?

If so, are those swimming trunks, or just his normal clothes?

(By the way, this pic is from our time in Spain.)

Post your answers in the comments.