Jo’s Blog

    November 2nd, 2009 by Jo Turner-Attwell

    Jo Turner AttwellJo Turner-Attwell is an intern at Pontydysgu who is discovering she has more to write in a blog than she originally thought.

    Jo's Blog

    Playing to Learn? Maria Andersen

    January 10th, 2011 by Jo Turner-Attwell

    This prezi presentation discusses the relationship between games and learning. Designed in the form of a game itself and with different mediums along the way, including video, images, the presentation presents a new perspective on the value of games in learning. It can also be worth checking out other prezi presentations by Maria Andersen such as Mathmatweets.

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    Information is beautiful’s first infographic

    January 10th, 2011 by Jo Turner-Attwell

    Ever a lover of infographics this new video caught my attention. With a tetris like theme it presents various UK financial statistics simply and effectively.

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    Maths is not Linear

    July 9th, 2010 by Jo Turner-Attwell

    by Alison Blank

    Being a bit of a maths geek this presentation appealed to me straight away. In addition I think Alison Blank has got it bang on, Maths is a fascinating subject and is dulled down by the lack of the bigger picture and the teaching methods can often hinder students from reaching their true potential. In addition I think some of the teaching suggestions that come out towards the end of the presentation related to engaging students in learning about Mathematics hinted towards encouraging students to lead the way with their own learning whilst working in the boundaries of the school system. This is similar to the basis of the theory of PLE’s something that, since currently being at the PLE conference in Barcelona, grabbed my interest.

    Wat Phou, Pakse and the wonderful Luang Prabang

    June 19th, 2010 by Jo Turner-Attwell

    After our lovely homestay trip we were all exhausted so it was the perfect time to climb a mountain to see a temple. So we got back on the crazy raft boat thing and made our way to Wat Phou. The temple was Ok and there was a reasonable view, but to be honest the most interesting bit was the stone for sacrificing people. Apparently two virgins were sacrificed per year, or at least I think thats right I may have made it up. The stone was in the shape of a crocodile and the young people sacrificed would volunteer themselves. Can’t say I’d do the same.
    Anyway our next hotel was in Pakse, had previously been a palace and although I managed to attract a colony of ants by covering the bed with crumbs it was pretty nice. At night there was this amazing storm and all the palm trees were blowing all over the place in the wind. I’ve never seen a storm like it. Mad.
    In the morning we headed to Luang Prabang a day late as our flight had been cancelled the day before and by the time we arrived we went to this place called Joma. Oh my god it was heaven. A real coffee shop! We spent a good few hours there. After dinner we headed towards the night market. I loved it. It was lit up by laterns all the way along and was just stall after stall of scarves, t-shirts, jewellry, slippers etc etc. And bargaining was insanely easy. I stopped to look at a skirt, asked how much it was and then decided against buying it but when I then tried to leave and she kept callig me back and pushing the price down and down. I felt like a ruthless bargainer. All the same I didn’t buy it.
    The next day was an amazing day. We started off with an elephant ride through the mountains of Laos and I actually sat on the front behind its ears. Turns out I am not a natural at elephant riding and the guy actually had to hold me on with his feet. Patrick was though! As we were riding through there were loads of crazy insects all of the place, not nice, and the elephant we were on was very ‘naughty’ as the man put it. She kept galloping off in the wrong direction. I thought it spiced things up a bit.
    The afternoon was magic and the highlight of my trip so far. We went to this set of waterfalls and me Carolyn and Andrew climbed up some big hill and looked at the view. We seemed to be making a habit of climbing up places for views. Very tiring. On the way back down an orange butterfly landed on my foot and circled us for a while until some big angry bug flew towards us looking ready to do some damage so I ran away. Anyway the waterfalls were like physically blue because of the minerals in the water and we were able to swim in them and when you put your feet down all the little fish would nibble at your feet. I tried out the rope swing but my poor arm strength let me down and I fell off almost instantly, however we were able to jump off a small waterfall about 4 metres high. It was epic.
    Even dinner was exciting. We had Lao BBQ which was abit like DIY restaurant service where we cooked our meat and soup and stuff at the table. Afterwards it was market again and this time I was in it to buy. I bargained hard, too hard maybe and ended up feeling a bit guilty but bought many gifts which I am sure some of you will benefit from when I am home. Though the Aladdin pants I bought looked dumb, which I was well gutted by!
    Next morning it was time to leave again though and me Carolyn and Lek got up insanely early to see the monks take food offerings, which was really really stressful with two women shoving food on our plates so we could put it into these pots that the monks had. We had to take off our shoes and kneel on a mat and I spent half the time trying to get my second shoe off whilst handing the monks food. Very awkward.
    The morning market was very different to the night market, less catered to tourists. It was mainly food, meat and fruit, we even saw lizards tied up to be bought! We then went for a normal Lao breakfast of coffee and doughnuts. Lek was telling us how really early before work everyone heads to the coffee shops (nothing like Joma just open on the streets) and chat and drink coffee to start their morning.
    After packing we visited the palace and royal cars. The most interesting part I reckon was when the guide told us a little bit about the impact of the Vietnam war on Lao, which at the time meant very little but after to going to Vietnam means a lot more. After that we headed off on our way to Vang Vieng, although not before ordering sandwiches and coffee from Joma!

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    Lao!! Don Khong Island and Don Deng Island homestay.

    June 14th, 2010 by Jo Turner-Attwell

    The next day we were moving over the border and into Lao for country number two. And the first thing we saw was a waterfall, the Niagra Falls of Lao apparently. We took some pictures and headed off again towards Don Khong and Oh My God Lao was different to Cambodia immediately. For a start there were actually hills! And after chilling out a bit and seeing that the ants in our room were anihilated we felt very refreshed. Overjoyed by this change in scenery I stupidly decided it was a good idea to join Lek and Sylvia on an 8km bike ride to the other side of the island to watch the sunset. To be fair the scenery was beautiful as was the sunset. I guess the stupid moment was when I decided to jump in the Mekong river off a little jetty surrounded by children in a white top. Obviously my top went completely see through violating the modesty of South East Asian culture completely. Well done Jo. We did buy some tasty pineapple for the way back though.
    After sunset things get dark pretty quick and despite riding my arse off I was still slow and I spent the majority of the journey being hit in the face by massive flies. Not fun. However I did come back able to say I had jumped in the river, and all the embarassment was definitely worth it for the man pride.
    The next day we headed off to an even more beautiful island Don Deng and went via our second waterfall, which was smaller, but a bit nicer in my opinion, than the first.
    Don Deng was like heaven. We got there in plastic chairs on top of a wooden raft driven by two fishing boats attached to the bottom. It was an interesting way to travel. The island itself was overlooked by green mountains and had the most beautiful white beach onto the river. After a very speedy village tour and settling into our homestay accomodation we headed towards the beach for an afternoon swim fully clothed because of Lao traditions.
    The sunset whilst we were in the water and we got to meet the local kids and we carried them on our shoulders. Crazy westerners.
    In the homestay we had another wonderful home cooked meal and sat chatted with the family for a while before crawling under our mosquito nets and collapsing. I learnt a little about their education system, which is compulsary until 18, and their way of life. The family itself was pretty big and there was the cutest little girl of 1 years old who already talked pretty well.
    When I woke up at five thirty the family were already up dressed and cooking. I had slept fine but others had struggled with the thin mattress. The Lao family had shared one between four of them, but I think the 18 year old girl had one to herself. The toilet and shower suprised me. Despite being simple and you being supposed to purely pour water over your head. It was really refreshing in the heat. And better than most of the showers I have had since.
    Next was breakfast and goodbye time, and after lots of photos and thank you’s we set off out again.

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    Kratie (28th May)

    June 14th, 2010 by Jo Turner-Attwell

    Kratie was epic. We arrived and went straight out again on MOTORBIKES. I know most people that travel in Asia travel on motorbikes but it was just so good. On the way there he was at like 50km/hr whilst I was nervous and clinging on for dear life but on the way back he didn’t go above 40. I think he thought I got a bit too cocky for my own good taking photos and waving my arms around. But its actually really easy once you get used to it.
    Anyway the whole reason we took the bikes was to go see the river dolphins, which we actually did see. They were shy which is apparently due to previous hunting or something, but we saw them bob out the water. And a storm was building up across on the far side of the river so you could see the cloud formation really clearly. Once a geography geek always a geography geek. On the way back we also climbed this mission of a mountain to reach a temple. But at the top there were dragonflies everywhere around the temple it was amazing. The kind of moment a camera just can’t capture. We even got to see some monks and their homes. One was smoking apparently which doesn’t seem very monk like to me.
    Before dinner we had some fun watching the geckos trying to catch flies, as you do, and then for my last evening in Cambodia I finally learnt how to say thank you and ate a meal of meat and potato. I literally got no veg. Teach me to not take the menu literally I guess.

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    Phnom Penh (26th/27th May)

    June 14th, 2010 by Jo Turner-Attwell

    Before we left for Phnom Penh the insane heat drove me to the pool as we didn’t have to leave until the luxuriously late time of 10 o’clock and I enjoyed a lovely swim before doing my usual 5 checks of the hotel room to see if I had forgotten anything!! The travel itself was long and bumpy. The road was hellish and i swear we bounced along the road rather than drove.
    Along the way there were fried crickets and tarantulas. This was all well and good because no one forced me to eat them (well not at this point anyway) what worried me was if there were loads fried to eat, there must be live ones around somewhere. Everytime I went to the toilet I edged into it nervously first checking to see if it was inhabited by big spiders. Thankfully I am still yet to see one live.
    When we arrived in Phnom Penh it was the middle of rush hour and it took us aaaages to get to the hotel. It did give us a chance to get a look at the city though. It was mad. For one thing girls were wearing what we have as pajamas, like full on just wearing pajamas in the street and for a second thing there was a tradition of fitting as many people onto a motorbike as physically possible. Including small children and elderly people. I think the strangest I saw were three tiny children riding alone on one and like 5 people on one at once. Essentially it was just the way they travelled. Even monks could be seen riding on the back of them. I should probably mention the monks. They are everywhere, wear orange robes and the reason women have to dress appropriately is so as not to arouse inappropriate emotions in them, which I guess is logical.
    Anyway whilst we were checking in Sylvia had a scare, apparently there was a tarantula in the hotel toilet! This panicked both of us greatly and I decided not to go and check this out properly.
    The evening was good though, we went to somewhere called the Friends Restaurant I think which was run by street children and their teachers to try and give the street children of Phnom Penh a chance to develop skills they could use to make a living. The food was really good.
    Our full day in Phnom Penh was a bit heavy though and if you don’t want to hear about torture and death I wouldn’t read on. We started at the S21 prison, which was where the Khmer Rouge would torture people to get a confession from them. These people either confessed and were killed for confessing or tortured to death in an attempt to make them confess. The prison itself was previously a school for children and some of the previous school apparatus was manipulated to be used for torture. It was all really really shocking.
    I think the most moving bit for me though was meeting a survivor from the prison, one of the seven named Chom May. He showed us his cell and where he had scratched his name into the wall and allowed us to take pictures of him, his only request was that we show it to others and spread what had happened there to prevent anything similar from happening again. Just thinking about it gives me a lump in my throat.
    The killing fields were similarly shocking and I would tell you more about it but I don’t think my words would do it justice. You really should go see it for yourself.
    I guess the worst part is that even when we knew what had happened in these places the leader of the Khmer Rouge was recognised by the UK as the leader of the country until 1991 because it was convenient for them to join forces at the time. Says a lot about politics.
    Our tour guide himself had been forced to do hard labour day after day and food was rationed. He had lost most of his family in the period. He now supports his three children and 4 nieces and nephews to go school and pays to support an english school out of normal school hours underneath his house, which currently 18 students regularly attend.
    The afternoon was lighter. We looked at the palace and took photos like true tourists and then went to the Russian market where I haggled and got myself a t-shirt and purse.
    At 4 o’ clock it was cyclo tour time and we sawthe independence monument, monkeys outside a temple and then to the central market. Here I realised I had the haggling bug and got a little too into it and found myself buying a watch for 11 dollars 50, which ironically has turned out to be the most useful thing I’ve bought.
    The evening though was probably the highlight of Phnom Penh for me. We went for a meal at our tour guides house and met the children in the english school he had set up. One girl tried teaching me some Cambodian, which did not go well. Then we ate the most amazing meal with the schools teacher, which included, as anyone who has me on facebook will know, fried tarantula. Took me a good half hour to build up to eating a leg and even then someone had to pull it off for me. Ewww. But Andrew also on our tour ate the whole thing, fangs and all.
    Anway that was Phnom Penh the next day we were off to Kratie!

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    Siem Reap and Angkor Wat (24th-25th May 2010)

    June 3rd, 2010 by Jo Turner-Attwell

    My trip begins in Cambodia and I have travelled through Laos with a group tour from GAP adventures and next I head to Vietnam and then Thailand. The journey to Siem Reap in Cambodia started well with us only being a few minutes late downstairs to leave Bangkok. All my clocks were a bit messed up as I seemed to have got the time difference wrong, but still we were ready on time.
    Day twos activities were mainly driving and border checks, which involved a lot of writing made difficult with no pen, in epic heat. I did see the first of many geckos though which was pretty cool, wandering up walls and I did get to use my lovely lovely passport photos. I think my parents are in for a shock when I come home as I now really want a pet lizard and may just bring one back with me!
    The bus journey though, despite taking around 6-8 hours altogether, wasn’t actually too bad. It passed waaaay quicker than I had expected. And when we arrived in Siem Reap we were extremely happy to see that the hotel had a pool!!
    Anyway on a more interesting note, in the evening we headed out onto the biggest freshwater lake in south east asia, Tonle Sap. On the way we all had a bit of a culture shock. It was very different to anything I had ever seen before, the houses were only really huts and the poverty we saw there I think is the worst I have seen so far.
    The boat trip on the lake itself was nice though. We went out to a restaurant floating on the lake, where the had aligators captured underneath! It was mad. As we were going along in the boat though children would jump on and try to sell us things for a dollar. This one boat came up with two boys on. One jumped on the boat but the other had a MASSIVE snake round his neck. Luckily at we arrived at the floating restaurant at exactly this moment and managed to jump off the boat just in time.
    On the floating restaurant we could climb up some stairs and see a view of the sunset which was lovely. The sun set right over the floating houses which apparently belonged to people fleeing from Vietnam around the time of the Vietnam war, but they were not allowed to enter Cambodia. So they settled out on the Lake were they could fish and live. We even saw a school!!
    We then all piled back on the boat and headed back under very beautiful skies. As we got off the boat a child took my hand and walked me up the short diagonal platform to get back to the bus. I tried to shake him off but he had a really firm grip!! Then as I reached the bus he asked for one dollar, and we were surrounded by other children chanting the same trying to sell us things. One woman had even snapped our pictures as we were getting on the boat and put them on to plates.
    At the end of the day we went for a meal on pub street and I had my very first tuk tuk ride (a south east asian taxi, look it up).
    The next day was far more full of typical tourists with cameras, we were still hassled though, one girl in particular had really really good english. We left for Angkor Wat insanely early to try and get there to see the sunrise, I think it may have been 5.00. Anyway both me and my roomate Sylvia managed to get our clocks wrong, even the room clock was wrong and woke up at 5.08 and in the rush downstairs I managed to forget both my camera and Patrick, mine and my friends travel bear. Disaster. Angkor Wat was amazing though. I’m not sure I can really find another word, it was just amazing. And because it was so early we saw dragon snakes in the water. We did a full day of temples and I did get chance to go get my camera at breakfast so I managed to get a picture of Patrick with the temple used in Tomb Raider. That was very cool, big trees were like embedded into the structure of the temple as during war times they weren’t preserved and were therefore damaged. Made for some good photos though. We saw a fair amount of temples. There was one I liked in particular with faces of Buddha everywhere withall the big ones having different expressions.
    By the end of the day we were dying in the heat though, it was unbearable!! Never have I been so sweaty in my entire life. Not a pretty image but it’s true.
    Our last temple of the day was at the top of a mountain where we could also watch the sunset, but before it could really start a storm started rolling in from the other side, so at one point we had a sunset on one side and massive fork lightening on the other. When it rained, after revelling in the feeling of actually being cold we climbed down the elephant track (supposedly easier as elephants carry people up on it though I am not convinced) and then went for dinner.
    The first of a lot of very good days.

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    On the road: Bangkok (22nd/23rd May 2010)

    June 1st, 2010 by Jo Turner-Attwell

    So it started well with me having to run to make the plane, late as ever. We’d spent around ten minutes running around the airport to find somewhere to take passport photos. Whats the likelihood of both the ones in Heathrow not working, really now? Anyway, the plane ride itself went fine, mini tvs, food appearing once every few hours and a place to rest my head suits me just fine. When I arrived in Bangkok however I did begin to get a bit panicky. I had kept up a brave face in front of people back home everytime I got a ‘You’re actually going to Bangkok, but isn’t that dangerous!!’ but in fact all the news headlines and people’s warnings worried me a lot. It’s ironic really, despite me having to get on a plane and actually go to Bangkok it was my mum that kept being told how brave she was being, ha! Well anyway I was in a right flap, but no drama no nothing. It was all fine. 11 o’clock curfew was in place meaning after our meal we had to head back earlyish, but in comparison to what I’d been told to expect a curfew was the least of my worries.
    When I arrived in Bangkok I found the guy picking me up and then went to buy water. The driver told me it should cost ten bhaat and having heard bout haggling I ignored the sign saying more and offered ten bhaat. The shop keeper accepted this no problem, can you imagine someone doing that in the UK or Germany? Madness.
    After arriving at the hotel, meeting my tour leader and managing to injure myself several times in my room on furniture and my pen knife, I headed downstairs to meet my tour group. They all seemed pretty cool. We went out for a meal and walked along Kao San Road, which was certainly different to anything I had ever seen before and a good first taste of South East Asia. I won’t tell you exactly what I ate (ahem, Bruce). But it suprised me it tasted exactly the same as Thai food I had had in the UK, after what I had heard about Chinese food being different I had expected Thailand to be the same.
    When we got back I was so tired I was just happy to be in a bed and sleep.

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    Travel Blog

    May 22nd, 2010 by Jo Turner-Attwell

    I’ve been working for Pontydysgu for 6 months now, and as of Saturday I have a whole 6 weeks off!! However much I would enjoy spending this watching the tv and eating, I have been allowed this time off to travel South East Asia. With the current issues in Bangkok where my first night is based this could be interesting. This may seem like a stupid idea, but in fact measures are being taken to ensure the hotel is safe and my choice was an escort to the hotel and being in the company of a group for my first night in Asia, or arriving evening time alone in Cambodia. So Thailand won. Anyway the point is I intend to blog whilst I am away and Graham suggested that I leave this on the Pontydysgu site. I can’t promise it will be exciting or that it will necessarily always be well written but if you are interested in traveling Asia, maybe you will find it interesting.