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    Hey look what we went to see! Who ever thought that throwing pumpkins with ancient castle siege technology would be so fun!

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    The Yankee Siege is located at the Yankee Farmer in Greenfield, NH.



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    Camping is one of my all-time favorite vacations. It's not because of the marshmallows, or the rock skipping or tent sleeping. It's because of the sweet, delicious, juicy bugs! If you go camping in a nice wooded area you won’t believe the variety of bugs you can find right around your site! Hundreds and hundreds! I know you might feel a little differently than I do about bugs, but if you're camping bugs are one thing you can't avoid. I thought I would walk around the campsite and tell you about the different bugs that I see.



    field cricket



    Oh, here's one right in front of me. See how easy this is? Well, this first one here is a cricket. At night I bet you’ve heard the chirping noise that this little creature makes; it's a lullaby for campers. The cricket has very powerful legs, which it uses for jumping and rubbing together to make its song. For something that makes such a racket they sure are small bugs, but *slurp* they taste like fried rice! Mmmm, that was good.






    Here’s another interesting insect that I’m sure you’re all familiar with, an ant. This tiny black creature lives in groups of up to 100,000 individuals! Ants might be annoying when they're getting in your camping food, but they are remarkable insects that use teamwork to hunt for food. They are also very strong and are able to carry 30 times their own weight. I think that ants look like licorice and *gulp* they taste like licorice, too!



    House Fly
    Hey—what's that flying around my head? It's a housefly. I know you are familiar with this annoying bug! It might be called a housefly but you'll find it out here in the woods as well. It has claws and pads on its feet that help it walk straight up walls or even upside down. The mosquito, another type of fly, is an especially pesky creature when camping. It sucks blood from animals, leaving an itchy bump behind, and they can spread diseases. I never eat those, but regular flies are okay. *Slurp* Mmm..meatloafy.






    And here is a ground beetle. There are at least 300,000 different beetles in the world. They come in all sizes, from those as small as a pin to some the size of your hand. They have a very hard outer shell, but I don’t mind *crunch * it tastes like candy.




    You don’t have to eat bugs to appreciate them. Your homework assignment is to find a bug, (not very hard as I'm sure there is one somewhere nearby right now) and watch it. Don't chase it, touch it, or catch it. Just watch it. Notice they way it moves (is it quick and erratic or slow and deliberate?) and watch what it does when it rests. Then let me know the results! And if you happen to notice a particularly delicious looking bug, well, save that one for me!



    Kiweenie and ants
    kiweenie and fly


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    We had a new friend come visit us the other day...a porcupine! We asked him to come inside (we were playing gin rummy) but he declined, ate lots of clover, and then wandered off in search of more food. (F.W. was making his famous oatmeal chocolate chip pancakes but the porcupine left before they were done. I guess he wasn't a pancake kind of guy!)

    Kiweenie Greets a Porcupine
    Porcupines are amazing creatures and often misunderstood. Their most obvious and unique feature is their quills. It might look like they are wearing a jacket full of nails, but porcupine quills are actually modified stiff hairs and their body is covered in thousands of them!


    Contrary to popular belief, porcupines can't shoot their quills at an enemy. When a porcupine feels threatened it stretches a muscle on its back, which makes all of its quills stand up. That's usually a scary enough sight to frighten a predator away.
    Kiweenie Flees Porcupine


    But, if the porcupine still feels threatened, it goes into attack mode by backing up towards the predator. If a predator persists, the porcupine sticks it with quills, then releases the quills and walks away. This doesn't hurt the porcupine but is definitely painful for the animal that attacked it. The quills are hard for the animal to get out and they dig in deeper and deeper making big wounds that can lead to death. The porcupine meanwhile walks away from the fight only missing a few quills, which it re-grows quickly.


    There's a reason porcupines have such a good defense system. It's because they aren't particularly fast. That might be putting it a bit nice. Are there any porcupines around here? No, okay, then I'll tell you. Porcupines are really slow! I didn't want to hurt their feelings. Not that there is anything wrong with that. They like to take life easy, sit and eat and enjoy the scenery. They are vegetarians and you can often find them sitting in a tree, munching on the leaves, twigs and bark while watching the world go by.


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    Porcupines may remind you of other spiky animals like the hedgehog but they are actually part of the rodent family. Yep, that's right, this cute little guy is a cousin of the rat!



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    Kiweenie writing Chinese Title


    Ni Hao class (do you remember what that means?). Kiweenie Lao Shi here again with part two of my lesson about the Chinese language. We learned how to say a few helpful phrases in our last class and I hope you've been practicing them. We've been using them a lot here in China! As you've been touring Beijing with us you've probably noticed that the spoken language is not the only part of Chinese that is very different from English.

    The Chinese writing style is extremely different as well. Instead of letters to write words they use pictures! Originally Chinese characters first developed as pictographs (pictures to represent an object) and ideographs (pictures to represent an idea).


    For instance, here is the Chinese character for the word face (mian) . This character was originally a pictograph of a face. It might not exactly look like a face to you, but this is how it likely evolved over thousands of years.


    Development of the character for face mian.


    Then there are ideographs like the character for the word up (shang) and the numbers 1, 2, 3, (yi, er, san) 一 二 三 . You can really see how the ideas of up and counting are expressed in these characters.


    Chinese has developed into a much more complicated language over the centuries and now there are lots of character combinations and characters that represent sounds and lots of complex stuff that makes my head spin, so we'll leave it at this for today.


    Oh, wait, but one more thing to know about written Chinese is that it is very important that the correct "stroke order" be followed when you are writing a character. To show you what I mean we've made this video of the character for face being written in the correct order. Imagine if you had to write all your letters in the same order as everyone else for it to be correct? Chinese is definitely a tricky language. Zaijian!


    animated version of character mian


    Also, here is a helpful chart of all the words you've learned in both my language lessons.


    chart for chinese words learned in kiweenie's class


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    Kiweenie Chinese Title

    Lesson 1

    Ni hao class! It's me Kiweenie Lao Shi (teacher Kiweenie). Since we've been in China I've been really interested in the Chinese language. I've even begun picking up a few words and phrases. Because you’re traveling through China with us I thought it would be important for you to learn a few words of Chinese too. Don’t worry, I’ll go easy on you because the Chinese language is very difficult!


    There are actually dozens of languages and dialects in China but I’ll be discussing Mandarin, the official language, which over 850 million people speak. It is very different from English. One of the major differences is that in Mandarin tones are very important.


    You sometimes use tones in English without thinking about it. like when you are asking a question your tone goes up on the last word. Well, mandarin has four tones and one is used in almost every single word. Changing the tone on one word changes the entire meaning. For instance, the word “ma” can mean mother or horse depending on which tone you give it. You don’t want to mix up those two words in a conversation! The four tones are: flat, rising, falling, and falling then rising.


    I’ll teach you a few of the words most commonly used when you travel. Becky is going to assist me with the audio portion of this. She's been studying Chinese and pronounces the words better than I do.



    Speaking Chinese


    First let's learn hello. Ni hao means “hello.” It’s pronounced “knee how,” and the first part is a flat tone and the last part uses a falling then rising tone.




    means thank you. It’s pronounced "shay-shay” and uses two falling tones. I think it’s always important to be polite, especially when you are in a different country!

    Kiweenie stops Ramses from buying more knock-off watches
    Kiweenie: Bu Yao, Bu Yao. Ramses, no more watches for you!




    Another useful phrase is bu yao. This means "don't want," and you can use it when people on the street try to sell you things you don't want. It really is effective, because as soon as you say it they leave you alone!









    Well, I've got to get back to sightseeing now but I'll have another lesson soon and I'll teach you how to read and write a few words of Mandarin. Zaijian. (That means goodbye!)



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    Year of the Kiwi

    Happy New Year! What, you think I'm crazy because it's way after January 1st? Well, I'm not talking about the end of the western calendar year kind of new year, I'm talking about the Chinese New Year!

    You see, in the western world, we go by a different calendar than the Eastern world. We consider this year to be 2008, but in China they go by the lunar calendar on which the year is 4706.


    Chinese New Year FirecrackersInstead of a fixed date for the first day of the new year (Like January 1st) the Lunar New Year changes every year. It starts on the day of the first new moon of the year, and ends 15 days later when the moon is full. This means that by our calendar Chinese New Year can fall anytime between late January to late February.


    New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are giant family oriented holidays in China. People travel all across the country to be with their family and to enjoy big meals together, but it's not just immediate family that is thought about. It's very important that ancestors are remembered and honored during the new year celebration as well.


    There are lots of traditions surrounding the new year, including cleaning the house from top to bottom, and paying off any debts. Another tradition is giving red envelopes filled with money to kids. In China, the color red symbolized happiness, and it is believed that giving money will bring luck in the upcoming year.


    Of course the new year is also celebrated with fireworks and firecrackers. Firecrackers are little packages of gunpowder rolled up in pieces of red paper (for good luck) that are strung together in long rows. That way you only have to light one end, and all the firecrackers explode down the row. They can be strung together in the hundreds and they make really loud noises (which some say scares away any bad spirits).

    Year of the Rat


    The Chinese New Year also corresponds with the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. A new animal is represented every year and people born during this time are supposed to take on the characteristics of the animal. This year the animal is the rat. You might think that rats are scary or gross, but being born in the year of the rat symbolizes wit, imagination, curiosity and a lot of energy. Hmm, that sounds more like the year of the kiwi bird to me.


    Class dismissed! Happy Chinese New Year to you all!

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    Hello class! Please take your seats. I have a question for you. What did you eat for lunch today? Chances are some of you had a sandwich. A sandwich is a perfect lunch food because you can make it ahead of time, add many different types of ingredients to it, and eat it without any utensils.



    Did you know there was actually a time when people didn't eat sandwiches? It's hard to imagine, but it's true! Of course bread, meats and cheese have been staples of the human diet for many thousands of years, and it's very likely that people ate them together, but putting your favorite ingredients between two slices of bread wasn't something that was commonly done until the late 1700's.


    Earl of Sandwich



    The modern sandwich owes its thanks to one man who liked to eat more than just chips while he played cards with his friends. He didn't want to get his hands, and the cards, all greasy so he put the meat he wanted between two pieces of bread to keep everything clean. That man's name? John Montagu. His title? The Earl of Sandwich.


    For a while, the sandwich was considered a man's food, to be eaten while gambling. It wasn't until 1827 that it was included in a family cookbook, making it a legitimate meal for families all over Europe and America.


    Can you guess what the most popular sandwich in America is? Peanut butter and jelly of course! Soldiers popularized this sandwich during World War Two. Included in their food rations were peanut butter, jelly, and bread, but all separate. It didn't take long for the soldiers to combine them into one tasty sandwich. When the soldiers returned they shared this easy to make favorite with their families, and soon after millions of kids around the world were stuck with a pb & J sandwich every single day for lunch.

    Buggy Sandwich


    Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I should dismiss class now. I brought a peanut buggy and jelly worm sandwich for lunch, and I think I see it trying to escape!





    Sandwich or Not?

    Which is a sandwich?

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    Hello class!

    I don't know what the weather is like where you live, but where I live we have a whole bunch of snow. I don't like snow because it means all the delicious buggies are gone for the winter and I'm stuck eating bugcicles, and bug preserves.


    I'm just glad that it's only snowy here for three or four months. In some colder parts of the world, the ground is covered in snow for much more of the year. Have you heard the famous saying about the many Eskimo words for snow? Well, it's commonly said that Eskimos have dozens (or hundreds) of words to describe snow because they have to deal with it much more than most people. Well, that's kind of true and kind of not. I'll explain why.


    First of all, having a lot of words to describe snow and ice isn't that strange. In fact English has tons! Some of them are: blizzard, flurry, sleet, hail, white out, snowdrift, frost, powder, slush and of course just plain old snow. In my dictionary at home there are more than 50 words that start with snow and I think I could find more if I looked in that really thick dictionary Rhetorical has!


    We also have to consider the variety of Eskimo and Inuit languages. The word Eskimo describes the native people who live in the frozen regions of the world such as the Arctic and Siberia. The natives of Alaska and Greenland are called Inuits. Not all Eskimos and Inuits are from the same background or group, and while their languages are similar, they are distinct.


    Eskimo and Inuit languages are also unique in the way they work. They are what are known as "polysynthetic" languages. Instead of using a fixed set of words, like we do in English, people who use polysynthetic languages can put multiple words together to create a new word. This means that there can be a very large variety of words not just for snow, but for anything.


    So, do Eskimos have hundreds of words to describe snow? Well, that kind of depends on how you look at it. Sure they do, but so does English and many other languages. I guess this just means that people need a lot of words for snow wherever they live and not just in places where you can't get an unfrozen bug for most of the year.


    Whoops, I just saw F.W. throw a snowball at Ramses outside so I better dismiss class so we don't miss all the fun.



    Kiweenie & Eskimo in the deep snow.

    soft deep snow muruaneq


    Here are some snow words in the in one Inuit language, Central Alaskan Yupik. 13,000 people in the coast and river areas of Southwestern Alaska speak this language.

    qanuk - snowflake
    qanir - to snow
    kanevvluk - fine snow/rain particles
    natquik - drifting snow
    qanikcaq - snow on ground
    muruaneq - soft deep snow
    pirta - blizzard, snowstorm



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