Welcome to Japan!

Konnichiwa!

This past week was International Week at school. Each class chose a country and learned all about that country. My class chose Japan (Mostly because my TA had previously done this country and had a lot of decorations and activities all ready). It was a busy, crazy, stressful week of preparation. But we all had fun and everyone learned some cool things about Japan. On Thursday, the different classes visited other “countries” and also hosted some countries to share what they had learned  about their own country. My class visited Italy and India. Kids all came dressed in costumes from their country, we ate food from the country, then had all the parents come to our classroom to share our presentation (Talk about high stress!)  But then children all went home 2 hours early and I got to work in peace in my classroom on my paper that was due this weekend. Presentations went well, children remembered (most) of their lines, Parents were (almost) all happy and excited. It was a good day.

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My classroom looked amazing!

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Introducing Origami

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Counting in Japanese

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My little Japanese-Kuwaiti kids! Love them so much 😀


					
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Happy National Day!

IMG_2948Hooray for short weeks of school, and costumes, and parties, and dressing up. Seriously, I basically live for any excuse to wear a costume. And this week, I got one. Kuwait celebrated National Day on February 25th (independence from Britain in 1961), and Liberation Day on February 26th (liberation from Iraq in 1991). It’s more complicated than that, but there’s Kuwait’s history in one sentence.

Anyway, every year, 2 days are spent celebrating Kuwait and their independence. It’s like Canada Day or the 4th of July–a big deal. Remembering where they came from, and appreciating what they have as a country now. They celebrate with fireworks–I got to see fireworks over the Arabian Gulf from my balcony. They parade in the streets, and apparently they shoot each other with water and foam guns. People are up all night celebrating (which, I was up all night to, but not because I was out shooting people with water guns 🙂 ). People wear anything with the Kuwait flag on it and just generally have a good time. It’s a really big deal.

We spent about a week and a half learning about Kuwait at school. Actually, the kids taught me more than I taught them these past 2 weeks. They know a lot more about their country than I do. I can find it on a map for them, but they can tell me what it’s like to be Kuwaiti. What their culture is like and what their values are. It was actually really interesting. We learned together. They’d tell me what the words were, and I’d try to write them (hoping I spelled some of those Arabic-sounding words correctly). On Tuesday (the day before National day), we had a school-wide party day. Which was pretty legit. Everyone dressed up. Which, when I was told “Dress in traditional clothing”, I assumed that meant, “Wear traditional Kuwaiti clothing”. I.e., you’ll wear an abaya (black Muslim woman dress), which was fine–I have one. No. Traditional clothing means “dress like you’re a flag”. Some of these kids got really creative. It was adorable.

I had a cape skirt thing that had the flag in tassles on it. I felt very evil queen-ish in it. Basically spent the day with this huge power complex, which (I have one anyway) was a lot of fun. I painted some flags on my face, and we had a great time.

Parents sent in food, some of it Kuwaiti, some of it really not (like the Dunkin Donuts). My poor children ate so much food, most of it pure sugar. They were exhausted by the end of the day. But they were quiet, so I wasn’t complaining. We went to a ceremony in the gym with all the classes, but because of technical difficulties, as well as the inability of 5-year-olds to sit quietly for over an hour, we left before the end of the program. We then went back to the class and spent most of the day eating, watching a movie, and coloring some pictures of arabic culture.

I had the kids color pictures of what they would look like in traditional arabic dress. Women wear a Hijaab (the head veil), an abaya (the black robe), possibly a niqab (the piece covering the face), and also possibly a chador (a robe meant to disguise the curve of the neck and shoulders).  The picture below shows a hijaab and an abaya.

Men wear a dishdasha (the robe–white in summer and grey or brown in winter) and a ghutra, smagh or shora (the head piece–white or red checkered usually). The ghutra is held on by a egal (the black piece of tubing like thing around it), and underneath it they will wear a hat (looks like a skull cap thing to me) called a Kufi (looks crocheted, but I’m not sure).

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Here we are all ready for the parade and the National Day celebration!

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I’ve introduced my kids to selfies–they’re getting good at them 🙂IMG_3016

Some of my fellow KG2 teachers.

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I love these kids. They’re adorable. Sometimes they drive me insane. But they’re still awesome. And I still claim them as “my kids” (most days)  🙂

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Field Trip!

Not much to tell. Just an excuse to share adorable pictures of my kids at our field trip to Kidzania (http://kuwait.kidzania.com/en-us/). Basically it’s this amazing city built that’s child sized (inside that epic mall I told you about in previous posts). But it’s a 2-story city with so many different activities for kids to do. They can get driver’s liscences, ride a fire truck, make burgers or pizza, bottle water, earn money as delivery people, paint houses, etc. etc. etc. I’d say more, but you could just look at the pictures.

Waiting in line at the fire station

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working at Burger King: IMG_2491 IMG_2492  Learning to Bottle Water at Auqafina

IMG_2494 building a wallIMG_2498 IMG_2499 About to do some painting…IMG_2502 Remind me never to hire 4&5 year olds to paint my house….

working as a paramedic!  IMG_2506 IMG_2508 IMG_2512 My half of the class (the other half was with my assistant

IMG_2516 my kids love selfies 😀IMG_2519 ready to head home… after an awesome day 🙂

101 things I want to do…

This post has nothing to do with life in Kuwait. i just haven’t posted in a while, and felt like posting something. Feel free not to read if you don’t want to, just felt like sharing.

When I was in college, I made a “bucket list” of sorts–mostly just a bunch of pins on pinterest of stuff that seemed fun. But I was talking to my best friend yesterday about all the stuff we want to do, a lot of it together, and I decided to make a list of the stuff I want to do before I die. My bucket list, if you will. As my mother always says, “If you aim at nothing, you’re sure to hit it”. So here is 100 things I want to do in my life. (Crossed off ones are ones I’ve already done).

  1. Travel the world
  2. Grow my hair really long again (Yes, you were right—I miss my long hair.)
  3. Write a book
  4. Record a CD
  5. Own a yellow car
  6. Be completely content with whatever I have or wherever I am
  7. Be a teacher
  8. Road-trip across Canada and America with my best friend
  9. Own a house
  10. In said house, have a huge library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and big comfy beanbags (I already own enough books, just need space to put them J)
  11. Eat vanilla pudding out of a mayo jar in public
  12. Visit every continent
  13. Visit seniors at a nursing home regularly
  14. Go shopping at least once and not worry about the cost of anything
  15. Tour Europe (again with my best friend)
  16. Learn Sign Language
  17. Publish a book
  18. Run the color run or the mud run (or both)
  19. Go to Barnes and Nobles dressed like Belle
  20. Donate Blood
  21. Learn to Scuba Dive
  22. Make a quilt
  23. Get my conceal carry permit (and a gun)
  24. Reach and stay at a healthy weight
  25. Rule the world
  26. Read through the Bible once a year
  27. Spend an entire day doing a Disney marathon
  28. Get married
  29. Go to Disneyland
  30. Go on a Disney cruise
  31. Graduate college
  32. Get my masters degree
  33. Get a PHD (?)
  34. Learn to play guitar
  35. Donate my hair
  36. Teach speech/drama
  37. Tour every part of the Smithsonian
  38. Go skydiving
  39. Have my own kids
  40. Play messy paint twister
  41. Go on a missions trip
  42. Perform for over 500 people
  43. Read every book on the BBC Top 100 books list (44 done)
  44. Be in a movie
  45. Go to the winter Olympics (preferably figure skating or skiing/snowboarding)
  46. See all the “famous sights” in NYC
  47. See all the “famous sights” in Washington DC
  48. Have my own tree-house
  49. See Phantom of the Opera on Broadway
  50. See Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower
  51. Teach in a foreign country
  52. Walk the Great Wall of China
  53. Go to 221b Baker Street
  54. Be in Times Square on New Years Eve
  55. Ride a Hot Air Balloon
  56. Get a tattoo
  57. Buy a house that needs a ton of renovations and make it my dream home
  58. Have a wardrobe that I love everything in it
  59. Be in my friend’s wedding
  60. Get my driver’s license
  61. Visit the Titanic
  62. Go to a midnight movie premiere
  63. Tour Israel
  64. Float in the Dead Sea
  65. Visit all 50 states
  66. Dye my hair a crazy color
  67. Have a walk-in closet
  68. Package food for children who are starving (fmsc.org)
  69. Go make-up free for a month
  70. Live in at least 3 different countries (Canada, Kuwait, ________?)
  71. Make a difference in someone’s life
  72. Go to 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney
  73. Be an Organ Donor
  74. Throw a Surprise Party
  75. Burn some textbooks from college (and some old class assignments I still have)
  76. Swim with dolphins
  77. Be fluent in French
  78. Go to a drive-in movie
  79. Buy bird-seed, ask how long it will take to grow a bird
  80. Ski in Switzerland
  81. Take a picture with a famous person
  82. Or get their autograph
  83. Swim to a coral reef
  84. Shower in a waterfall
  85. See a Cirque du Soleil performance
  86. Mountain hike over 10 miles
  87. See the California Redwood trees
  88. Be CPR and First-Aid certified
  89. Have my own puppet-stage/puppet ministry
  90. Visit Madame Tussaud’s wax museum
  91. See the Nutcracker ballet
  92. Be an active part of a church plant
  93. See the Northern Lights
  94. Learn to like coffee
  95. Hit the target with a bow and arrow
  96. Throw a dart at a map and go wherever it lands
  97. Visit Auschwitz
  98. Guest-lecture in a college class
  99. Sleep on a water bed
  100. Complete my bucket list
  101. Have an amazing life

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What’s on your bucket list? Or what should I add to mine?

Sunglasses and headphones

If you’re ever considering moving to Kuwait, I have a tip for you:

Never leave your house/apartment without sunglasses and headphones.

Yeah, quite serious.

The other day, I went to the gym after school. Normally, i try to plan my time so that I don’t have to walk home after dark. I don’t know–I just like not being out after dark by myself. Call me overly cautious, whatever. Just me. But on this day, I had a meeting with a parent and some stuff I had to get done so I was running really late. On the way back from the gym, it was dark out, and traffic was literally stopping and people were staring at me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m white, blonde, have an un-covered head, or was in work-out clothes instead of a long skirt (or a combination of the 3), but people were stopping their cars and just watching me. This is in the city that never stops–literally I can look out my window at 3AM and see people driving by in a hurry. Stop signs here basically mean “slow down and yield”. People don’t stop. A few guys on motorcycles were yelling at me. They were speaking Arabic, so I have no idea what they were saying.

I could understand why people were staring at me when I walked to the gym–i was singing and sort of doing the dance from the movie Frozen–the song “In Summer” that Olaf sings (you are welcome for that mental image 🙂 ). But on the way back, I was just walking with my head down.

This is where headphones come in. There is a ridiculous amount of noise on the streets. Taxis are everywhere, and they all assume you need a ride, and just in case you didn’t see them, they will honk at you. Always. Also, if people see you, they may just yell at you. Like ‘hey look, strange white chick with non-dark hair! She would like it if we yell at her!”. So they will. I just put ear-buds in and turn my music up quite loud. I don’t want to hear it. If I want a taxi, I know how to get one and I don’t need them to honk at me 🙂 I don’t want to hear the people yelling at me. They won’t do anything, just yell. They really are harmless–so I’ve been told.

But if you make eye-contact with anyone, they may just approach you and try and talk to you. And to a Muslim man, “no” means “try harder”. So if he says “Do you want to ________”, and you say “no”, he’ll just keep asking. So the trick is to just not make eye contact at all. And I am way to curious of a person to walk around all the time with my eyes on the ground. This is where sunglasses come in. And if you know me, you know I love those sunglasses that are seriously tinted and reflective. Then I can stare at whoever I want, roll my eyes as much as I want, and look around and no one knows what I’m looking at. I haven’t had a problem with anyone pestering me. It’s perfect. People leave me alone, i get to see what I want, it’s a sweet deal.

If you’re worried–don’t be. I’m not a very friendly, inviting person. Some people will talk to anyone. I’m not one of those people. I’m not the type to sit on an airplane and talk to the person next to me for hours. I won’t strike up a conversation with the person ahead of me in line at the grocery store. I dont’ even talk to my neighbours. Usually. Believe it or not, I tend to be fairly anti-social. Until people get to know me, they think I’m shy, stuck-up, or quiet. (yes, I’ve been called all of those things). Of course, as you know, that changes once you get to know me. But people dont’ tend to approach me and try to talk to me. I’m not sure why–maybe the sunglasses and headphones scare them off. Or my thinking face looks to intense and “don’t bother me or else” going on. I’m not sure. I don’t care. I like being left alone when I’m on my own on the other side of the ocean 🙂

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Reading Week in KG2D

So this past week was reading week, which meant every classroom chose a book or an author and did all kinds of crazy things for the whole week relating to that book. My class read Mo Willem’s “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” (about 45 times) and other books by Mr. Willems.

We did fingerpainting, watercolors, pictures, a parade, crafts, read with 4th graders, had parents come to read to us, saw a play, and so much more craziness. As hyper as my kids usually are, not having a regular schedule with all the classes is worse. So thankful that after this coming week, hopefully everything will go back to “normal”.

Anyway, here are some pics and videos of my adorable childrens from this past week.

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Reading with a parent

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Dressed up for our parade. My kids have been introduced to the “selfie”IMG_2075 IMG_2079 IMG_2081

My assistant and I

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I think this is one of my favorite pictures from the week. This little boy loves books so much–and he knows if he finishes his work first and does it well, he can sit with all the pillows. So he works extra hard so he can read.

Censorship…It’s a reality

So for the most part, living in Kuwait is not as different as I was expecting it to be. I’ve been here for 6 weeks (ish–bad with dates….).

One teacher and I had this conversation a couple weeks ago:

Him: How are you doing with culture shock?
Me: It hasn’t been too bad at all. Except with my kids behaviour. But outside the classroom, not much is different.
Him: I found the same thing. In fact, the biggest shock was the fact that there was not much of a shock at all. It’s almost the same as being home.
Me: That’s a really interesting observation. And an interesting way to put it. Because I’ve thought the same thing.

We went on to talk about other teachery things, but the thought stuck with me. A lot of things are the same here as they are at home. People tend to be nicer, more respectful, stuff tends to be a bit more expensive (as a whole–there are definite exceptions), traffic is a bit busier (than the city I lived in–comparable to Greenville SC maybe?), I love living in a city where everything is walking distance, and I haven’t found anything I couldn’t get here that I could get in either Canada or the States. I could even get grits delivered to my apartment, hot. If I wanted to (which I don’t). More about the amazingness that is the delivery service in another post another day.

Things are pretty similar. Sometimes I forget I’m in the middle east. Of course, when I step out and it’s 32 degrees celsius (90 Fahrenheit) at the end of October, I remember. At home at this time, we planned our halloween costumes to go over our snowsuits. But again, I digress. Can you say ADD much?

There are a few major differences here. People smoke indoors. You go to the mall and the food court reeks of tobacco smoke. It took some time to get used to seeing literally everyone in disdashas and abayas (the Muslim outfits) and head coverings. Hearing the call to prayer 5 times a day is a little weird. Knowing that almost everyone around me is Muslim is different. There is no tolerance here, because there is no need for it. It’s “conform” or don’t talk about what makes you different. Your views aren’t accepted and seen as “equal” if they aren’t the norm. This works out really well for their culture and society. People grow up knowing what is expected of them, and how they should act. I think North American societies need to adopt this viewpoint a little more. Don’t get mad or think I’m a horrible person–it’s making sense in my brain, but I’m not sure if it is in this post.

However, along with the Muslim viewpoint and the lack of tolerance thing, comes a lot of censorship. So for instance, if I were to go the library, I may find books with pictures colored over with black marker (of either gender in shorts/sleevless, bathing suits, etc., people kissing, etc.) Some of the teachers have gone to the movie theater here, and all scenes with kissing (and beyond) are deleted from the movies. I use a VPN which allows me to go wherever I want on the internet without being detected/blocked by the government. One day, i forgot to turn it on and tried to go to Bob Jones website to watch chapel live. This is what I saw:

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Basically, “the government doesn’t like this site so you can’t see it”.

I sent home book order forms from scholastic this past week. I was given a master copy and told to go through and censor the book order form. If students ordered a book not on the “approved” list, the ministry of education could ban book orders from all schools.

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Students couldn’t order any books on magic (including Harry Potter), a lot of popular American YA fiction (Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.). None of “Captain Underpants”, a bunch of “teen-girl” stuff, (which IDK why you’d want to read that stuff anyway, but anyway….). There were a lot of books they couldn’t order–mostly beyond what my kids would read, but still… It was interesting. Because at home in the schools, we would never say “We don’t think you should read this book so I won’t let you order it”. Here, the parents are ok with it, and even expect it. It’s just a part of life here.

It’s like I’m back home!

So I went out this morning with a couple other teachers. We went to the Avenues, which is that wonderfully happy mall I told you about a couple (3?) weeks ago.

Let me tell you why this mall is even more amazing than I first thought. In addition to having at least 4 starbucks, it has this:

I literally did a happy dance in the mall.

I literally did a happy dance in the mall.

In case you are blind (or American–totally kidding, btw.) , that is Tim Hortons. I did a happy dance in the mall. Like for serious. I thought I was excited when i found a starbucks? no. Now, if I fail at teaching, like it sometimes seems like I might, I have a back up career right here! Or a weekend job. Whatever.

The question is: How come I can get this (see picture below) in Kuwait, but not South Carolina? that is a problem.

Happy day!!! Finally got my iced capp with Chocolate milk.

Happy day!!! Finally got my iced capp with Chocolate milk.

Anyway, the avenues is my new favorite place. OK, I loved it before. And I still think I like the beach more. But yes.

(And I did OD on caffeine today. because I have seriously cut back on my caffeine intake. But I had mountain dew for breakfast, and then I got a large Iced capp. Actually, that explains the migraine I have now. Hmmmmmm. That’s interesting).

Anyway. And yesterday, i went out for breakfast, to this place that was cute and adorable, called Over Easy. Or something like that. I don’t remember. Because it was early. But dear southerners, come visit me.  You can get biscuits and gravy here.

Here’s proof:

Yep. That says biscuits and gravy. Dear Southerners, come visit me. I'll take you out for breakfast.

Yep. That says biscuits and gravy. Dear Southerners, come visit me. I’ll take you out for breakfast.

What else did I do today? it’s been a busy day. I worked in my classroom for 5 hours. Then I went to the Old Souq and the Fabric Souq with another teacher (I needed fabric for my book corner). Old Souq is like this incredibly huge, overwhelming marketplace. You can get everything from a freshly slaughtered sheep to fish, to beads, to real gold, to clothes and trinkets, and anything else you can imagine. I got a few souveniers for people. Some clothes–a really nice shirt for $4ish Canadian. The prices range from quite cheap to super-expensive. Like I got this really nice hand-woven basket for 1.5 KD, but then I found this dress I liked and it was 17 KD. (1 KD is about $3.6 Canadian). It depends on the vendors. And, if you’re Arabic, you can get away with arguing prices a lot. Us Westerners really can’t. It’s basically insane, people everywhere, all kinds of things to see, hear, and smell. An experience I can’t put into a blog–you’ll have to come visit and I’ll take you.

We stopped and ate at this Iranian restaurant. Had traditional Iranian food. I tend to be very wary when it comes to putting stuff in my mouth. But there wasn’t anything on the menu I recognized, so I got Heather (the other teacher) to order and I decided I had no choice but to trust her. It actually wasn’t that bad 🙂

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In the front is sheep meat and hummus (with hand-made tortillas–not pictured), a chicken thing (that was really spicy), and a salad–not sure what the leaves were, but they were quite strong.

IMG_1888Saw this mosque on the way to the Old Souq–casually built in the middle of the round-about. Yep.

Anyway. It’s late, and I really need to lesson plan. Tomorrow. So I’m going to bed. Good night all!

And comment if you have things you want me to write about. I’m really bad with coming up with stuff. So yeah. What do you want to know?

Another week down…

I was wondering what to post–not much has gone on really. I taught the full week, and we have another full week of classes before the Eid holiday (a Muslim thing). I’ll be off from next Thursday after school until the following Sunday. Some teachers are traveling and stuff, but I’m just going to hang out, eat take-out, watch movies, and sleep a lot. That’s the plan, anyway. Probably hang out some with some of the teachers that are here.

Anyway–this week…

Oh! Yesterday, i totally stood in the Persian Gulf!

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Yeah. You know that “Give one interesting fact about yourself” thing they do in classes and stuff? When i go back to grad school, my “1 interesting fact” will be that I stood in the Persian Gulf. It was gorgeous.  Check out my FB page for more pictures. It was really beautiful. Let me see. How many more ways can I say it was beautiful?
OK, fine. I’ll move on.

There really isn’t anything else going on. I’m teaching. My kids are giving me fits on a daily basis. I have a few new weapons up my sleeve to try this week, so hopefully it’ll get better.

We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Shopping. It’s a necessity of life.

Yeah. Shopping. I tend to not be a fan.

Although, after you’ve eaten nothing but PB&J sandwiches for the last 3 days, you get really excited when you find a grocery store.

Also, I feel really intellectual with my reading glasses on, working on my laptop. Yep.

OK, that was random and free. Carry on with shopping Steph.

OK, back on track. Shopping. Groceries. (In case you haven’t noticed yet–I type like I talk. And I talk like I think. So welcome to my brain. It is a scary place. There is no exit. That I have found yet anyway).

So yeah. Today, I needed to get a biscuit. WHICH I TOTALLY FORGOT TO EXPLAIN IN THE LAST POST! I just googled “What is the battery life of a biscuit”, and it isn’t as weird as it sounds.

Everyone has one. I don’t know why we don’t have them in Canada yet, because they are absolutely phenomenal. Like seriously.

This is a biscuit.

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I was too lazy to take a picture of mine and upload it and all that (mine is purple). It’s a wireless, portable, mini router. Works up to 30 meters, has a battery life of 6 hours, and will support up to 8 devices at a time. Isn’t that the coolest thing ever? I’m officially in love.

Anyway, i needed one. So everyone told me to get one at Mada, and the easiest Mada to get to was at this place called the Avenues. So i got a cab and went to the avenues.

THIS MALL! OH MY WORD. I may never leave Kuwait. Have you been to a mall with valet parking? I hadn’t either until today. (http://www.the-avenues.com/index.html)

This mall has an 11 screen cinema, 5 spas, 3 stories, a ballroom (YES–A ballroom. I’m completely serious). and More stores than I could see in a week. I just walked on one floor about half the length and I counted 4 Starbucks. It took me 20 minutes to walk half the length of 1 floor. And there were multiple arms going off in many different directions. I’d get lost. But I’m directionally challenged. i think a lot of people would get lost. It has stores that I recognized from back home (H&M, Claires, Bath and Body Works, etc.). There was food I recognized (Starbucks, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Texas RoadHouse, etc.) So many stores. i didn’t even bother going into any, because i actually wanted to get home and get my internet set up. Then I found a grocery store.

I think I actually did a happy dance in the mall. I’m weird. But I was so happy to be able to get food. I went a little nuts. It was great. And I think the prices are pretty cheap to. I don’t know…  (all prices are Canadian)

A 2 litre of mountain dew: $0.87

8-pack of youghurt: $2.50

Loaf of bread: $0.57

Normal sized jar of strawberry jam: $1.35

Chocolate bar (they have every kind you can get in the states pretty much): $0.53

Box of Frosted Flakes: $4.82

2  large Green peppers: $1.75

I don’t know. I didn’t go grocery shopping much at home to know how the prices compare. But that seems pretty reasonable to me. And I needed food so I really didn’t care anyway 🙂

Anyway, that was my happy place for the day. Sometime I’ll go back once I have lesson plans done. And a friend to go with. A wonderful mall like that should not be explored alone.

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POTATO CHIPS! Because I am totally a salty over sweet type of girl.

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Not sure what this is, but it was for sale in the grocery store.

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Found Mountain Dew and Orange Soda. So this Caffeine addict is happy 🙂

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