Feng Shui Project

As a way to wrap up the first half of the semester and my unit on Confucianism and Daoism, I thought it would be fun to have the students do a hands on type project.  I mean, let’s be honest.  We all remember the week before spring break when all you wanted to do was be on spring break.  I knew my psyche couldn’t take the bored faces while I tried to lead group discussion, so I came up with a project on Feng Shui.  The students had to research the principles of Feng Shui for a day.  The next day they brought in a shoebox sized box and spent the day creating furniture and decorating their rooms using paint, fabric, yarn, magazines, and cardboard.   While I learned a lot on ways to improve the project for next year, including getting more books on Feng Shui for them to have available, it was awesome to see how engaged they were when they got to be creative and work with their hands on a project.

The photo at the top was one of my favorites because of the attention to detail.  They actually made framed pictures, a rotary telephone, bean bag chair, coat hanger, etc.  It was was awesome.  The photo just above comes from a group of guys who created this whole story about a man who lives alone and works as an astronaut.  The picture below was from a couple guys, one of whom struggles on tests and papers, but showed so much creativity and enthusiasm while working on this project because art is one of his strengths.  He actually sculpted the couch out of modeling clay before covering it in fabric and making cushions.

While a little part of me worries that the project wasn’t ‘academic’ enough, at the same time, watching the process of creating the rooms and seeing the final projects was such a joy and I like to think that it at least got them thinking about Daoism and feng shui and yin and yang and the flow of chi energy.


Breezy Belize, Part 2


beach chair on the pier

nervously awaiting our flight

The second part of our trip began a little rocky, with a flight on a very small plan from Belmopan to Placencia, a peninsula right on the Caribbean Sea in southern Belize.  As many of you know.  I get nauseous easily…really easily.  So the prospect of taking this flight on a cloudy day was daunting to say the least and let’s just say it didn’t go well.  I had two breakfasts that day.  So did David, but that’s was just to commiserate, he really enjoyed the flight.


the beach of our hotel from the pier

Our time at Placencia was much more laid back.  For two of the four days, we spent our time:

swimming in or walking along the beach,

playing cards during happy hour, reading on the beach,

and flying our kite from the dock.

It was pretty awesome.

On the other two days we had two more adventures.  The first is less exciting than the second.  According to our guidebook, our hotel was about 7 miles outside the village of Placencia.  The peninsula was really flat so we thought it would be fun to bike into the city.  We did not account for the direct sun, lack of wind going in, lots of wind against us coming back, and the miscalculation of the guidebook.  By seven miles it meant as a bird flew, not by road, which was about two and a half miles longer.  Let’s just say, that while the city was quaint and had some interesting looking restaurants and souvenirs, we did not partake in either after that trip.


people always look funny under water

Our second excursion was more planned and way more enjoyable.  I think it was David’s favorite day.  We went snorkeling.  After over an hour in the boat out to this tiny island that David thought looked like an island in a cartoon, we got to see a lot of awesome fish and sea life.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

a school of fish,

technicolor fish with coral,

seeing a fish that looked like Dory from Finding Nemo,

swimming with a turtle,

sunburned faces (wait that wasn’t a favorite moment…)

Spending our final day snorkeling was a tiring, but really fun way to end out our trip.  While we were bummed to leave the warmth and relaxation of vacation, I was excited to return to Calvin and to finally spend a day without having to use sunscreen.

Goodbye beach, goodbye ocean…

this shot took 10 minutes

Jump into Belize

sunset in the jungle

So this time I have a good excuse for not writing…David and I went on vacation to Belize.  David and I both knew that if we stayed at home, I would either work all break or go crazy sitting  around and knitting all day.  So we chatted with friends, looked up flights on Kayak, and then decided to book a trip to Belize.  Since I know David’s pictures are more interesting than verbose descriptions, I’ll let the pictures tell the story….

a glimpse at our tree house

Our trip began with a visit to Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch.  David likes to call this place summer camp for adults because its an all-inclusive place where you eat meals in common, sleep in tree-houses (ok, they were just called tree houses they were actually really nice), and then go on adventure excursions.  While the adventures were incredible (more to come in a minute), we really loved the community atmosphere the place fostered.  At the end of each day people would gather in the pool or around tables for dinner and talk about the adventures they had been on earlier in the day.  A couple nights we sat around for a good couple hours getting to know people.  It was really cool.

The Waterfall Excursion:

the entrance to the cave

the bats that greeted us when we entered the cave

To be honest, I was dreading our first excursion a little.  A major reason David wanted to go to Caves Branch was for a trip called the “Waterfall Excursion.”  Here’s the plan for this trip: you hike 2 miles into a pitch black – spider, crab, and mayan ghost filled – cave, then you risk your life climbing up

the cave's brain-sucking larva (or so our guide said)

seven waterfalls, varying in height from a couple feet to twenty feet.  Then when you reach the top of the last waterfall you turn around, jump down the waterfalls and hike out of the cave.  Now I ask you, with all this life-risking, etc. wouldn’t it seem smarter to just avoid the cave.  Turns out no…because it was AWESOME!  Probably my favorite day.  One of the best ways to grasp how crazy and awesome this trip is all at the same time, you have to watch the following videos of me climbing up and then jumping down the largest of the seven waterfalls.

Climbing up: In the first part of the video you see me listening as the guide explains how to get up the waterfall.  You’ll notice that I ask a lot of questions.  I think that’s my subconsious way of trying to get out of actually climbing the waterfall. Jumping down: In the second part, you see our other guide jump part of the way down.  Then I follow.  Next he instructs me how and where to jump.  You’ll notice that he does a lot of pointing.  What he is saying is, you see the white spots on the left and right and directly down?  Don’t jump there, that’s rock.  Then he points again, jump there.  I look at him and then ask, is this the only way down.  He then lies and says yes.  I count to three and then jump.

checking out the mayan ruins in the cave

The Black Hole Drop:

our rappel began at the end of the tree line above this cave opening

Our second excursion is called the black hole drop.  Here’s the plan for this trip.  You hike a couple miles into the jungle to this sink hole.  Once you reach the top, you rapel down the side of the cliff and into the hole.  Then you climb back out.  Going in, I was less nervous about the trip…until I got to the top.  Then I was really nervous.  But once I got the hang of it (no pun intended), it was pretty fun. Truth be told.  The guides did most of the work to get me down.  I just hung on the rope, trying to take in the view without freaking out.   The hardest part was probably the hike in up these really steep cliffs.

'rappelling' down the mountain


a mayan pyramid partly excavated

mayan sculpture

For our final trip we took a three hour trip across the border into Guatemala to the Mayan ruins of Tikal.  Tikal is at present the largest known and excavated site of Mayan ruins in central America.  Which is crazy given that of the 222 sq miles of land only a tiny portion has been excavated.  We got to see five temples, a pyramid, former lodgings, and much more.  One of the temple reaches over 200 hundred feet and has really incredible views of the entire park.  What I found most interesting about the site was how much of it was still underground.  We would walk by

pushing over temple 1

these huge hills and our guide would say, that’s another temple/pyramid/lodge/etc. that still needs to be excavated.  Above, David took a really cool pictures of one of the pyramids.  Only two of the four sides have been fully cleared.  One could probably wax poetic about the theological and ecological significance of this, but since I already bored David to death talking about it on the drive back to the Lodge, I won’t go on about it here.

david and i had a lot of fun exploring the ruins

Sadly, our trip at the Caves Branch had to come to an end.  But we weren’t too sad because the vacation continued…find out more later this weekend!

The Season is Upon Us

our table as a still life photo

Ranunculus season is here.  I first discovered this flower when planning my wedding.  Martha Stewart’s wedding magazine included some incredible bouquets of ranunculus and I fell in love.  Sadly, the Ranunculus season ends in May, three months before my wedding.  So it wasn’t meant to be, but each year around February and March, I keep my eyes open at the grocery, mostly Trader Joe’s for these little beauties.  And this week it finally happened.