Visiting La Mezquita in Cordoba Spain


July 7th: woke up early for free admission to La Mezquita . If you wake up early, then you can go to the church and get in for free (Gratis!) Make sure you are dressed to be respectful. Ladies, this means, wearing a shawl or something that covers up your shoulders. Also, make sure if you are wearing a dress or skirt that is longer than the knee or just above it. Always be a good ambassador. They are strict here, which I appreciate. Guys, you should wear pants or slacks and a t-shirt, no tanks.


Waking up early and touring La Mezquita was awesome!!! It was everything I expected and more. The left side of cathedral had better lighting for openings in the ceiling that the Christian Kings put in later during the time of the Reconquista. You could see older arches and newer arches stacked upon each other. Just to give a quick history lesson, the visigoths (a Germanic tribe) were in Cordoba first, then the Muslims (Moors) came and lastly the Christian Kings kicked the Moors out. So, as you can see this building has been through A LOT! It was bewildering to see the beautiful Islamic style arches and then walk around and see Catholic carvings and pictures of Jesus. The Mihrab was stunningly beautiful painted with shiny golds and hunter green shades. I could see moon shapes and flower shapes in many of the panels. You have to note that these panels and spaces were hand painted by many individuals and are painstakingly lovely. A Mihrab is an opening in the wall or a niche that is pointing towards Mecca, so it is a very important part of the building. If you were to make comparisons, it would be like walking into a Catholic Cathedral and walking towards the altar. When standing in front of a Mihrab, you will see more etches and intricate designs that go into the wall. You may even see beautiful tile work or Arabic writings if you look really closely into the designs in the ceiling part of the Mihrab.



Barely anyone was inside which made my experience better. Daily routines for maintenance were taking place early in the morning before flocks of tourists came in. There was a man cleaning the floor with a zamboni machine. I had to step aside so that he could clean the floors to shine. I was in the building for more than an hour. A early morning Catholic mass was taking place. There were speaker phones that were attached to several columns and I decided to go and stand right next to one. I didn’t feel brave enough to go and sit at mass. I feel like if I knew my Spanish a bit more, I could listen along and know when to be respectful. What a trip to listen to a Catholic mass that used to be a mosque. Talk about cultural diffusion! It is a surreal and mystical experience. For just a minute, I felt as if all the religions of the world had no hostilities and that every religion in the world was on the same page. This mosque has its religious differences set aside, because they kept the beautiful parts of the Catholic Church and they kept the exquisite parts of the mosque.


Walking around, there is just so much detail to absorb and to feel. I had to touch some of the columns to try and feel what this building had gone through in history. It amazed me that this building had gone through several hands in history, yet maintained a quiet and serene and pristine beauty. Before I left, an Australian lady was so kind enough to take a photo of me inside the cathedral with the beautiful pink and creme arches. We exchanged a quick conversation and we both agreed that it was a spiritual and reflective experience to walk around with only less than 10 people inside. I finally decided to go outside and sit in the sun. I felt a sense of completion and purpose. I was exposed to these beautiful arches of Cordoba when teaching my AP World history students about the Ummayad and Abbasid dynasty almost 7 or 8 years ago. Something about the arches, haunted me and drew me in to its enticing story. The arches were so perfect, so geometric and so simple, yet they inspired me to travel to Spain. Kids that I have taught still taunt and tease me about the arches. I was able to tell them that I actually went and saw them!


As I sat outside, girls were getting denied at door for not having shawls. This was the first place that enforced this rule and I appreciated this. I witnessed some small birds, possibly swallows flying around like a swarm of bats. At one point, I thought that maybe the birds were bats and still I have yet to answer that. I sat close to a water fountain and watched the local people and tourists hang out by it to be purposely splashed with water because of the escalating heat. It gets REALLY hot in Cordoba. There was some kind of bell device attached to the water fountain that made chiming noises and many people were videotaping it, including myself. Cordoba, is definitely a place that feels local. You can tell who is a tourist, who is a student and who lives there. I wasn’t used to the change in pace since I had come from bustling Madrid and Sevilla, but now when I think back and reflect on my experience, I would go back and enjoy it all over again. One more thing to note, is to go and check out the outside facade of the building as the day progresses with the sun placement. The light and dark of the day bring about a feeling as if the building is still alive and breathing. I can’t explain it, you just have to go and see it throughout the day. Oh…and if you get hungry, go eat a slice of Spanish tortilla (egg, potato & onion) at Bar Santos, you will thank me later.



How students do listen to lectures and go see the world

We often wonder as teachers if students apply our lessons to life or go past the textbook. Teaching history, many students come in with the impression that history is “old” and “boring” and that it doesn’t apply to them. I always dispel that myth on the first week when students come into my classroom. History is what you make of it. It is totally personal and can be fascinating. I often show pictures of my travels, tell them funny, sad and interesting stories about history that are not in the history textbooks. You would be so surprised at how much students remember those stories rather than what is in the text. There is history in everything. Each person and how they were named usually has an interesting story. Whatever your hobby may be, there is a history to that as well. I also tell students that when they leave my class, they will see all kinds of things that they will now know and understand. Students will make connections to the video games they play, they have referenced that they have seen things like the Hindu “OM” symbol or “Ganesha”.

The “OM” is a Hindu word referring to the breath of life.

Ganesha is a Hindu God that helps remove obstacles

Just today, I received a short and sweet email from a former student who is now in their 3rd year of college. Here is this student’s email.

Before my study abroad in Cordoba, my friend and I are travelling our way through some European countries for two weeks! Right now, we are in Istanbul. Here are some pictures from my trip so far (it has been 2 days) that I thought you would appreciate. After this we are going to be in Athens, Rome and then Paris before going to Spain. It has been a blast so far! I absolutely love Istanbul. It is truly a vibrant yet still cultural and historical city.
Here are some gorgeous pictures from my student! Glad they are taking beautiful photos!
Sisterns in Turkey
Map of Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia)
Exterior View of Ayasofya in Istanbul, Turkey
Interior of Ayasofya
So teachers, keep on teaching and remember that those stories you tell in class inspires students. Yes, the books are there, but those personal stories that you tell them are what counts! Happy Teaching!

Henna Hands

One of the joys of teaching my students is when they teach me about culture! One of my students came to talk to me about a topic that we covered in class. As we got to talking, my eyes automatically gravitated towards her hands. What did I see? HENNA!

What is Henna? It is a plant that has been used for centuries to dye skin, fingernails, cloth etc. In America, we see henna once in awhile at street fairs and festivals. I often talk and discuss henna in class when I lecture on the Middle East or India. The student beat me to my lecture.

Just from common knowledge and from speaking with others, henna is used a lot in Egyptian culture, in Persian culture, India and a few other Southeast Asian countries. Personally, I have only encountered henna from my Indian students and friends. My friends have talked about how henna is heavily used in Indian weddings. A couple of my students have even brought back authentic henna from India that supposedly stays on MUCH LONGER (months) as opposed to weeks.

The holiday known as Karva Chauth just happened a few days ago (November 2nd) The date coincides with harvest times which happens to be about 4 days after a full moon around October and November. Hindu or Sikh women will fast for their husbands. To me this gesture is very romantic. They fast as a way to show their dedication and loyalty to their husbands. I believe they also pray for a long marriage and a prosperous marriage. When the moon comes up, a full feast is shared between husband and wife. My student told me that a lot of single women will do this for a future husband or significant other. Henna hands also become part of the festivities.


The picture shown is from both hands of my student that I currently teach. She gave me permission to photograph her hands. I wanted to share this with others. Look at the beauty and detail in the henna designs. Truly a beautiful display of art on the hands.

For those of you interested in this type of art, you can get your own hands henna’d. Look for your local Indian community. In San Diego, the location happens to be right off of Black Mountain Road. They have a shop that sells Saris (Traditional Indian Dresses) They henna hands for $20 and up.

Try :Little India Center
Black Mountain Rd,
San Diego, CA 92126

Eclectic North Park: San Diego

My friend and I decided to go to North Park this morning for breakfast. If you are up for a little adventure and reconnaissance, give North Park a try. It feels like a mix of Sacramento, San Francisco and San Diego all blended together.


Mission #1: Get Breakfast

The Mission restaurant in North Park


Source: (Famous French Toast)

Source: (Breakfast Sandwich w/fruit)

Breakfast at the Mission is a must. There are 3 locations. Some of you may have been to “old school” Mission in Mission Beach. I’ve had my share of coffee cups and pastries back in my Bohemian days. The Mission in North Park feels like a restaurant in San Francisco. The restaurant easily holds about 110 people at capacity. The walls are a terra-cotta orange and there is a colorful chalk board above the kitchen area. If you browse around, you will see artwork from various artists displayed. Get there early, otherwise plan to wait a bit. There are many types of pancakes to fit your fancy ranging from naked pancakes to granola banana pancakes and strawberry banana pancakes. Their french toast looked amazing from what I saw. I swear I saw some swirls of cinnamon from a distance. If you are going for healthy, they have a bowl of fruit with granola that you can add low fat yogurt to. If you are feeling adventurous, give their Latino breakfasts a try, I did. I had the breakfast quesadilla and it hit the spot! There were 4 slices of breakfast quesadilla with cheese, scallions, bacon and salsa. You can add eggs if you want for additional. I almost tried the papas locos, but I will save that for next time.

TIP: Parking can also get crazy. I would arrive around 7-8:00 A.M. so that you don’t get stressed out. Park residential and make sure you look for signs. Some parts of the residential streets mention a 2 hour parking limit, other residential areas do not.  Mission #2: Shop PIGMENT: I love cute finds and this was definitely one of them! Tucked away between a couple buildings was a super cute boutique shop called Pigment.  I was attracted to this store immediately for the mini cactus plants they had hanging in the window in glass bowls.


They open at 11:00 A.M. and I waited for 10 minutes to go into this store. There were a lot of succulents and other fun knick-knacks to look at. There are cute greeting cards, home decor books, jewelry and accessories, pillows and various pieces of furniture. Everyone in the store at the same time was “oohing and awwing”. One of the greatest features about this store was their colored sand station. There was a guy at the time that came in specifically asking for some colored sand to create a beautiful colored glass bowl. They have a large selection of sand.


There was a small Chinese store somewhere in the middle of other shops that we passed by that carried all kinds of Chinese statues, bamboo plants, Chinese hats etc. Perhaps if you are making a garden and need some Buddha statues or some Asian decor, this place is worth dropping by. I can tell you that the prices will be a heck of a lot cheaper here than going to Restoration Hardware, Cedros District, Pottery Barn or some fancy design shop. I picked up a cactus plant here in a really nice jade colored pot for $10.00.


As we walked around the block through residential, we also spotted a Army Surplus store. They sold army boots, camping supplies, uniforms, camouflage jackets and pants, patches etc. I asked the guy working there how long they have been open. 51 YEARS!


Mimi & Red is a small and cute boutique shop worth taking a look at for women’s apparel and accessories.


Mission #4 Coffee Break

Claire De Lune: Coffee Lounge. They have a full coffee bar and pastries to enjoy. They also serve a small menu for breakfast and lunch and a light dinner. I have heard from my boyfriend that they do not have internet access. So this is a place to listen to music, work on papers, type on your laptop, chat with friends or read a book.


Ironically, Starbucks is right across the street to Claire De Lune Coffee Lounge. Please try and support your local coffee shops, but if you can’t budge from Starbucks, it is there with its corporate same old same old.


There is a great little dessert shop on the corner in North Park called Heaven Sent Desserts. This cute little patisserie is famous for making wedding cakes and beautiful desserts to indulge in. Sit down grab a cup of coffee and a dessert with a friend, loved one or family. I didn’t get the chance to taste one of these beauties, but I will be back.



Mission #5: Dinner: 


If you are into ambience, go check out Wangs. The design concept is fresh for San Diego, not like Tao restaurant or anything, but sleek and modern Chinese. This restaurant would be a great date spot!


Casa De Luz:

Casa De Luz was an unexpected find. It has only been open for 5 months. The space is large, clean and has a very environmental and communal feel about it. The restaurant does have communal tables to encourage talking with others. A great place to meet new people. Their philosophy is to eat well and to live well. Everything here is organic and from farm to table. The menus change daily according to their ingredients for the day. I am definitely coming back here! You can come here for coffee and tea as well, so it functions like a cafe as well. I noticed that they make smoothies as well. The girl explained the restaurant for us and told us to go and look upstairs. They have yoga in the morning and they also had a community board that said they have cooking classes as well. It is truly a beautiful space. The table woodwork is amazing! It is a Vegan restaurant, so no meat here.

Source: gogobot.comSource:


Urban Solace & The Linkery are also staples to North Park. I’ve heard about brunch at Urban Solace. It seems to be the buzz. I heard that the Linkery is just a great all around hangout.

Source: (Urban Solace)

Source: (Grilled Cheese at Urban Solace)

The Linkery:

Source: (The Linkery)

Source: (The Linkery)

I have to mention Lefty’s Pizza (Deep Dish Chicago Style) and the Smoking Goat. If you are in the mood for really greasy, heavy feeling, artery clogging pizza, go check out Lefty’s. It is delicious! Smoking Goat is on the pricey side, but they cook with the finest ingredients and have a simple menu of about 5 main entrees, so don’t go there expecting a 3 page menu.

I enjoyed walking through North Park and finding all these beautiful stores and restaurants with my friend. Go out in North Park and adventure! I’m sure there is a lot more that I am leaving out, but that is for you to discover!

AVID College Trip 2012

We started off in San Diego with about 6 kids. My colleague is AMAZING! She planned the whole trip and asked if I could help chaperone and keep company! She arranged the whole thing from the hotel rooms, to rental cars, to meeting up with students at certain colleges etc. She planned out times and everything to ensure that we would meet up with students and also see all of the colleges. I have now been two times with her and her AVID students and it has been life changing!


Get in the car right after school and book it up from San Diego to San Francisco! Super Ambitious! First stop, BERKELEY!

ARRIVAL in Oakland: 2:00 AM. Driver and I, super tired! What kept us up? Listening to tunes like Lady Gaga while the kids were sleeping in the back part of the mini-van.

  1.  Day 1: University of California Berkeley
  2. Day 1: USF (University San Francisco)
  3.  Day 1: San Francisco State University
  4.  Day 1: UC Santa Cruz
  5. Day 1: Cal State Monterrey Bay
  6. Day 1: Stanford University
  7. Day 2: Santa Clara University
  8. Day 3: UC Santa Barbara
  9. Day 3: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
  10. Day 3: Cal State Dominguez Hills
  11. Day 3: Pepperdine University
  12. Day 3: Chapman University
Recommended Hotel that is cheap and reliable. I have stayed here almost every year. It’s close to University and Shattuck. QUALITY INN
They have always been super nice to us and we have made sure that our kids have been nice and respectful. They have continental breakfasts available in the morning. They have cereal, svenhards pastries, apples, oranges, bananas, yogurt, coffee, tea, hard boiled eggs etc and a juice machine. Much appreciated for kids who have to save their pennies for souvenirs and other food experiences.
Quality Inn hotel near UC Berkeley
Free full Breakfast | Quality Inn University Hotels Berkeley, CA
Hotel in Berkeley, Quality Inn
WIFI is included with stay. The kids were able to work on their homework at night. There is a Trader Joes up the street and also a hamburger restaurant across the street. Be careful walking around at night. I recommend walking in groups. This is not the safest of neighborhoods, so once we were in for the evening, we were in. The kids were honestly so tired from the drive, that they went to bed straight away.

Day 1: TIP: Parking can be tricky early in the morning. We parked in a car garage close to the gym. It was about a 5 minute walk to campus. The parking was on Bancroft Street. The picture above is the Life Sciences building at Berkeley. You can definitely tell that sciences get a lot of money! The building is amazing! One of the science buildings has a full size dinosaur skeleton.

This skeleton is worth seeing if you take a tour at Berkeley. If you go on the official tour, you definitely will stop by the dinosaur.

Lots of trees around campus, be careful for those crazy squirrels! Wear comfortable shoes. The tour guides walk backwards on the whole trip! It’s crazy!

With the official tour, you will be walking with a group of about 30. The kids mentioned that they would have maybe had a better experience hearing a tour from a kid that we knew. They felt that the tour was too planned and to large to freely ask questions. Between my colleague and I, we have plenty of former students to ring up for a impromptu tour. We had a couple students meet up with us just to say “hello”. Occupy Berkeley happened to be going on. Our kids got a small taste of what Berkeley is like. Berkeley is the home of the “Free Speech Movement”

After Berkeley, we piled back into the car and drove to USF (University of San Francisco). As soon as we got there, we met up with my colleague’s former AVID students. It was exciting to see my colleague get so excited to see her former students. We went to the brand new cafeteria. Pictured below is a taste of the new setting. The cafeteria was gorgeous, modern and clean.

USF is a private school. It is also a Jesuit School. Here is their Mission Statement:

“Our vision, mission and values statement is the best expression of USF’s mission. It’s a detailed and carefully constructed document, but what it boils down to is relatively simple: USF exists to provide arigorous, world-class education to a new generation of leaders, who will work to create a more humane and just world.”

The Campus is gorgeous. A lot of the students assumed that it would be smack in the middle of San Francisco. They were surprised to see the school on top of a hill in a more “manicured” area of the city. If you are expecting the school to be city like, its almost in its own type of setting. The houses surrounding the area are nice and you have a great view of Twin Peaks from one of the highest points on campus. If you go walk around, make sure you peak your head into the Church of St. Ignatius.

It was hard to snap a proper photo of St. Ignatius at this time of day on my iphone.

The kids mentioned that food prices were expensive. I did however notice that the food ingredients were great quality. I purchased a panini and sat down with my colleague and her former students and we chatted about life. The high school kids got a chance to sit down in the cafeteria away from us and tried to blend in with the college kids.

Next Stop, San Francisco State University where my former student gave us a FANTASTIC TOUR and did a good job selling the school to all of us.

The kids and I were pleased to hear about SFSU receiving money in a time of budget crisis. The school was one of the only schools on our tour to talk about improvements to their campus. Pictured here is their new library that is probably open by now.

SFSU really stands out as a school that embraces diversity. You can see a picture of Cesar Chavez in the background. The cafeteria and this building is named after Chavez.

Pictured above is the dorms that most freshman live in. They appear to be in pretty good shape and really nice. We didn’t get a chance to go inside, but they looked very nice from the outside. Apparently SFSU students really decorate their windows with post it notes and in pretty cool designs.

My former student on the far right all grown up! He impressed the students with his knowledge of the campus and enthusiasm. His friends tagged along and also helped out. They were fantastic! Off to Stanford before nightfall, hopefully.

We met up with a former student of mine and she helped us walk around Stanford for about an hour. She walked around with her bike and literally answered questions and talked to the kids about her experience. First stop, library.

Yes, GOOGLE was created at Stanford, here is proof to show all of us! Amazing brains and talent are fostered at Stanford. My former student kept telling us about the pioneering spirit at Stanford.

Gorgeous church on campus. I heard something about Leland Stanford building this church for his son. I still haven’t researched it entirely yet. There definitely is a Spanish feel to the campus. The plaza area here is gorgeous. Next Stop, SLEEP!!!!!!!!!! Drove to Santa Clara and stayed at a hotel close to Santa Clara University.

Santa Clara’s campus is absolutely stunning. It exudes serenity and peace. The campus is spotless and there tends to be a feeling of focus and responsibility. This is one of the missions in California.

 You can get a pretty good feel of this campus by just glancing at the pictures I provided. All the facilities are newer. They have a robot that gets books for you in the library. Pretty crazy! Random Fact, you will take approximately 9-15 more classes before you graduate because of their quarter system. This really allows for you to do a double major and more minors. It also allows for you to really find what you are passionate about.

The Cafeteria here was also new like USF’s. This sandwich shop was extremely popular and super efficient. The line looked deceiving, but it actually went pretty quick. Our kids complained again that food was expensive. There were higher quality ingredients being used here. Next stop, UC Santa Cruz.

My good friend Paul who is a TA at Santa Cruz for the math department. He was gracious to take time out of his schedule to give us an in depth tour. THANKS PAUL! He told us about a rare white albino squirrel that lives in the forest of the school. He also told us about banana slugs, class choices, and safety. Apparently, UC Santa Cruz has a great safety rating compared to other UC’s. I got quite scared thinking of what it would be like to literally walk to my dorm at 10:00 P.M at night alone and he said people do it all the time. The school is situated in the middle of a forest. One way in to this school and one way out. Very outdoorsy feel. Ran into a former student while walking around. Bought a Banana Slug sweatshirt! Next step, Cal State Monterrey Bay.

This campus literally used to be Fort Ord. My dad was stationed here for awhile. He told me how it gets really cold here. The buildings are all fairly new. Super close to the beach. Lots of outdoor activities. This is definitely a campus where most students have cars which means it is a commuter school. They had a unique car rental service for students here. They told me that if you wanted to borrow a car, you literally just pay for gas. Lots of kids go and visit other friends at Chico or close by.

The visitor center was super nice for Cal State Monterrey Bay. They had restrooms, brochures, free chapstick with Cal State Monterrey Bay logos on them. The girls working the front desk were super nice. Off to Cal Poly Slo for the evening.

 Yes, that’s right a BOWLING ALLEY! Yee haw. We bowled with the kids for the evening and had a great time. Some of the students played Dance Dance Revolution and hung out at the arcades. Some air hockey matches took place too! We drove towards Santa Barbara and stayed there for the evening. Didn’t take pictures of UCSB. I’ve been there too many times and was feeling a bit tired. Pictured below is at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Pictured below is Pepperdine University. A way of life at this school is walking up a lot of stairs. It is a Christian college. They have pretty set rules here. One of the most beautiful campuses in the U.S.

It is hard to tell from this picture, but the views from the cafeteria are AMAZING! You literally feel as if you are in Greece or the Mediterranean. Stunning views of the ocean. Last stop before going back to San Diego, Chapman University.

Chapman is a private. Close to Disneyland. Super clean, quaint and SO CUTE! The town of Orange feels like you are stepping back into the 50’s. Cute boutique shops, restaurants and a gorgeous east coast looking school. One of my former students is a film major and loves it here. Great connections with Disney if you want to go here.

TIRED………………..We got home around 7:00 Pm to 8:00 Pm…..Long trip, but SOOOOO WORTH IT! I appreciate my colleague for her driving and for inspiring these kids to choose their colleges wisely. So much fun!

A Moment of Silence in Hiroshima (Day 1)

Historical Background: Hiroshima: Source: Modern World History: Patterns of Interaction

  • The bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. The Japanese were amongst the last to not surrender for the war
  • 8:16 A.M, the bomb was dropped above Hiroshima (Southern Japan)
  • The plane that dropped the bomb was named the Enola Gay.
  • The A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had names (Fat Man & Little Boy)
  • Ground Temperature when the A-Bomb dropped 7000 degrees Fahrenheit
  • There were hurricane force winds that were 980 miles per hour
  • The energy released was 20,000 tons of TNT
  • 62,000 buildings were destroyed. The Genbaku Dome still remained standing. It’s a UNESCO site today.
  • 70,000 people were immediately killed
  • By the end of 1945, 140,000 people were dead
  • Total Deaths related to the A-bomb: 210,000 people
  • 3 days later after the Hiroshima bombing, the U.S. dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki (August 9th) 70,000 people were immediately killed.
Scary Facts:
  • The U.S. mapped out the area of where we would drop the bomb so we could do post war bomb recording. You can see many of these clips in a film called the Atomic Cafe (Dropping of the A-Bomb on youtube) Here is another clip on the testing of Atomic Bombs from the Atomic Cafe
  • When the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, it essentially took a picture of shadows. There were actual photos of the shadows of people taken in a survey report by the U.S.
  • Source: Shadow in Stone
  • Women who wore kimonos which were made of silk found out that the silk burned onto their skin in the design patterns of their kimono.
  • Birds flying in the sky, had their wings rip out and they fell to the ground with just the cartilage pieces in their wings but they were still alive.
Source: Reason.Com

Traveling to Hiroshima should be a must for every human being. The city itself is a living reminder of the terrible things that humanity can do to other human beings. We often get sucked into our lives and get upset about mundane things. After going through the museum and throughout the city of Hiroshima, it reminds you…and SHOULD remind you that we are lucky to live in this day and age. It’s very unsettling to also know that many people that are still alive today actually witnessed this time period in history. My grandmother from Japan being one of them. She lived in Ibaraki, Japan where she remembers areas north around Hitachi being bombed.

Traveling by Train to Hiroshima

As a foreigner, buy the Japan Rail Pass! So worth it. You can jump onto a bullet train easily. I do recommend that you try booking reserved seats though. This might be a little intimidating or scary, but if you know a friend who is Japanese, take them with you to the train station. The Rail pass is purchased at the point of sale in which country you are coming from. I buy my rail pass for usually a week. The rail pass activates upon your first use. You will need to carry around your passport and rail pass during travel times. For more info, click here. (Japan Rail Pass)

Where to Stay if you are on a Budget

I broke away from my mom and dad and took the bullet train to Hiroshima from Kyoto. It was the closest that I would be to Hiroshima. I tried to keep on a budget and looked for a safe and reasonable place to stay that also fit my needs. I was looking for a place close to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. I found the World Friendship Center. According to their website it reads:

World Friendship Center was founded on August 6th, 1965 (exactly 20 years after the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima), by Barbara Reynolds, to provide a place where people from many nations can meet, share their experiences and reflect on peace. A group of dedicated volunteers have continued Barbara’s vision of serving the Hiroshima community and guests to the city in a variety of ways to include: 

A-Bomb survivor (Hibakusha) stories. Survivors volunteer their experience of August 6, 1945 and share their life experiences and visions for peace. (Activities tab)

Peace Park Guided Tours. Your Japanese Guide will provide a personal tour in English, for 1 or more visitors. (Activities tab)

This is what exactly I had anticipated for. I stayed at this specialty bed and breakfast and TOTALLY RECOMMEND IT. The room was about 3900 yen which is about $48.00 (check universal currency converter for the most recent exchange rate) This included a Japanese style tatami room (it was actually a small room used for a classroom) and had a futon, blankets, bathroom and shower. I was served a western style breakfast and there was internet. The guest house owners were English speaking. I had the room to myself and they do fill up quickly. A girl came last minute to find a room and I told her she could share it with me. She was thankful. The girl was from Poland. We exchanged stories about travel and I was happy to talk to her about her experiences in Europe.

Here is the address:

The bed and breakfast set up a tour for me with a local tour guide to walk around the city of Hiroshima. It was a fantastic tour and I believe she was a local Japanese volunteer. I highly recommend that you take this tour to familiarize yourself with the city and the events that took place. I did this before going into the Museum and I was very glad to do so. It made the museum more personal and I could empathize more with the events that took place.

My local tour guide. She was a native Hiroshima lady and she knew the subject inside and out. I cannot remember her name which is unfortunate, but she was full of knowledge and gave me so much insight into the city and the history.

Walking around the city with my tour guide there were many statues around. I didn’t get to find out what this statue was all about, but I liked the dragons on it.

It is hard to make out this statue, but it is of a turtle. Turtles and cranes in Japanese history and folkore symbolize longevity. Long live the souls of people who died in vain.

Walking around the city, you can’t help notice that the city has a lot of green spaces. They support nature here and you see a lot of trees and plants, unlike other cities in Japan. There definitely is an urge to promote peace in Hiroshim and nature goes hand in hand with peace.

It was a perfect coincidence that on one of the peace memorials a tombo (dragonfly) was sitting peacefully on the monument.

In this picture above, you can see the Genbaku Dome in the right hand side of the picture. One of the only few buildings left standing.

A sad reminder of a child’s tricycle. Innocent people’s lives were taken away during the dropping of the bomb. This was taken inside the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

A tree still survives from the bombing. I can’t remember the whole story about this, but this particular tree is special. You can see a sign on it. This particular graveyard has many people that lost their lives or were affected by the bombing of Hiroshima. Japanese people pay their respect by cleaning the stones, bringing flowers and food for the graves. If you walk through, you will sometimes see offerings of fruit around particular holiday times. Veneration of ancestors is pretty typical in Asian culture. You will also see osenko (incense) burning if someone has just visited.

A picture of the A-Bomb Dome Memorial. This is a UNESCO protected building left “as is” to remind people of the past. It’s an interesting contrast to see the Genbaku Dome (A-Bomb Dome) with an modern building the back left corner.

Here is a photo that I took in the museum that shows real human hair taken from the day of the bombing. Apparently from primary sources that I have read, a lot of people’s hair started to fall off after exposure to the bomb. Also an intense thirst took place with many people. They looked for the closest water supply which was the lake. Upon drinking the water, people died quicker because of the intense amount of radiation.

Another effect that took place on innocent civilians was the development of “microcephaly” amongst babies. The picture of the museum panel explains it pretty clearly.

A mother with her daughter who had “microcephaly” In other instances, the A-bomb survivors (Hibakusha) had symptoms of sickness that were sporadic. Some of the A-bomb survivors would get sick at sporadic times. Still to this day, its unexpected when they get sick or not. I had a meeting with a Hibakusha on the day that I did this tour, but the person got sick. Medical testing was difficult because each person developed different symptoms and not at the same time.

Closer shots of the Genbaku Dome.

At the time I was viewing the Genbaku Dome, there was not a single person there. It was later in the day and it was pretty hot. I walked around in solace and felt the emptiness, sadness and trapped feeling of this place. There were homeless cats wandering around the Genbaku that were in bad shape. It was an eery feeling. The cats were in pretty bad shape which reminded me of how the people must have felt on this day.

Here is a picture of me in front of the Peace Memorial Cenotaph in the center of the city called Peace Memorial Park. You can see in the background the Genbaku Dome. The memorial was built as an ultimate symbol of peace as is one of the first monuments to be built. Many foreign dignitaries have visited this site on a yearly basis (August 6th) to honor this memorial and to remind the world to uphold peace. There is a part of the memorial that is in the center of the water that burns a single torch and never goes out.

This particular memorial is dedicated for children who lost their life. You can see that many colorful posters and folder origami are encased within the glass boxes. Many schools make pilgrimages here and contribute some of the items within the cases. In this sense, teaching kids about this topic and allowing them to see it is POWERFUL! It is our duty as teachers to promote peace to children and to keep talking about it.

A touching memorial dedicated towards the teachers that tried helping and saving children in the a-bomb disaster. Many of them died while trying to protect their students. Look at the overwhelming support and showering of the cranes (1000 in strands)

I can’t remember the significance of this statue, but I can kind of possibly figure it out. It appears that there is a girl and a deer. I think that this statue symbolizes life before the bomb. This particular region of Japan has lots of wild deer. I can imagine that there were a lot more back then. The only reason why I think this is a deer is because of my trip to Miyajima Island (close to Hiroshima) There were herds of wild deer walking around not being bothered by tourists.

A memorial that is also in Israel, Russia, France and Japan. This is the “Wall for Peace”, one of several that were created by the artist Clara Halter. I am lucky to have been to the one in France and this one in Japan. Every single word that you see is “PEACE” in many different languages.

Is this what we want for our future? A reminder as to what the bomb looked like when exploding. A real clock sits in the back that melted upon the A-bomb dropping. Let’s not repeat the past. People died in vain and it goes to show you how human beings can be greedy & destructive.

For more reading on this topic, please reference the following. TEACH PEACE!

  1. Clara Halter: Artist: Wall for Peace
  2. National Security Archive: Hiroshima
  3. Imagine Peace: Yoko Ono Exhibit at the Mori Art Museum
  4. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (Book) on Amazon
  5. Hotaru no Haka (Grave of the Fireflies: 1988) Animation by Isao Takahata on IMDB
  6. Bostom.Com article on the Hiroshima Bomb (65 years ago)
  7. Documents relating to Hiroshima
  8. Maruki Toshi & Maruki Iri: Hiroshima Painters

Works Cited:

“About JAPAN RAIL PASS.” JAPAN RAIL PASS / ジャパンレールパス. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <;.

“Accommodations.” @nifty:@homepage:エラー. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <;.

Affects of the Atomic Bomb. Digital image. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <;.

Gijsgeluid2006. “The Atomic Cafe 1982 Usa Documentary Part 1.” YouTube. YouTube, 22 May 2010. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <;.

“Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum WebSite.” 広島平和記念資料館. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <;.

“McDougal Littell World History: Patterns of Interaction: Student Edition Grades 9-12 Modern World History 2007 / Edition 1 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Linda Black, Larry S. Krieger.” Barnes & Noble. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <;.

“Sheroug’s 8-bits of Nonsense, with Infrequent Bouts of Sensibility.” Sheroug’s 8-bits of Nonsense, with Infrequent Bouts of Sensibility. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <;.

“The Atomic Cafe.” IMDb. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <;.

WWII Major Leaders Graphic Organizer (PDF) AP World/AP European History


Click here for the chart: WWII Leader Chart

Have high schoolers that need to understand the WWII major leaders more? I have created this chart. Please use it for AP World, AP U.S., or even AP European History. It can be used for college prep as well.

Here is a WWII Major Leaders Chart that I created for WWII. The chart consists of pictures for each of the important people and gives a very BRIEF idea of who the person was and why they are important. This is more geared towards California State Standards. Have the kids print the chart out and put it in a review binder. Can use this for second language learners and even college prep learners.

Works Cited:

Beck, Roger B. Modern World History: Patterns of Interaction. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell, 2005. Print.

WWII. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. <;.