Very long ago, there was a witch that lived in Brussels. A young boy, who was passing by the house of the witch had an urge to go to the bathroom. He peed right outside the door of the witch, so the witch decided he needed a punishment. He would repeat his potty break over and over again. But Brussels also has good people, and it turned out one of them saw what was going on. He put an end to the witch’s spell by turning the boy into a statue, the Manneken Pis. This is one of many stories and legends about the statue. Another story, the one my dad likes, is about a little boy who saves the city from destruction by peeing on the fuse of a bomb that would have surely destroyed the city.
The Manneken Pis is a statue of a boy peeing. The day we saw it, it was wearing a golf outfit, but his outfits change everyday. The Manneken Pis wears clothes about 300 days a year. He has over 900 costumes, including a harlequin costume from Italy, a Santa Claus costume, a Dracula costume, and a Samurai costume from Japan. He also has a Greek outfit of a evzone (scroll down to Greek fashion commentary). Outfits are given from all over the world. You can put yourself on the list to give him clothes. If selected, it’s about two years till he will wear it, but it’s still fun to do. I would give him a Harry Potter costume.
Now that we are in the Netherlands, wooden shoes are becoming a popular souvenir, or at least you find keychains with these shoes in every tourist shop. I don’t understand how they could be comfortable or stay on, but they are and they do. But before you scroll down to the funny video, you should read a bit more.
Let’s begin the history lesson. People have worn shoes for years. Even now, we wear shoes, flip flops, sandals, sneakers, and boots, all common today. Not everyone wears wooden shoes, but they are not impossible to find. The oldest one of these clogs in the Netherlands was found in Amsterdam, and it dates back to 1230 AD. It was made of alder wood.
The European Union has certified clogs as safety shoes because they are very strong shoes. Still, don’t drop the heaviest bowling ball on your shoes. Do you want a broken big toe? Honestly, I didn’t think so. Back to wooden shoes. In Dutch they are called klompen. When you say klompen it sounds like people walking in wooden shoes. We went to a clogs and cheese shop (cheese is also a special Dutch thing) and keep scrolling for a taste of clog making.
I knew you’d keep scrolling! We saw a demonstration of clogs being made. Long, long ago, people made them by hand with a few tools, but machine is much easier. Most klompen are made from willow or poplar wood, because they’re soft and easy to carve. Even using the easiest wood can be hard by hand, and the machine makes 200 a day. One guide said that by hand you can only make 2 a day. Two million pairs are exported, while 1 million stay in Holland. Who buys them in the Netherlands? Fishermen, gardeners, and farmers, because the clogs keep your feet clean and dry. Also, Dutch people wear fancy decorated klompen on special occasions. Traditionally, the groom is supposed to carve/decorate a pair of klompen for his bride. She wears them for the wedding, and then she hangs them on the wall as decoration.
Now watch the video. Go ahead. This is just some silly text. So go ahead. Watch the video. This is not a joke. Thank you.
Masks in Venice
Masks. There is nothing very special about them, no matter what type of mask it is. They can be handy if you’re trying to scare your brother or sister or your parents, especially around Halloween. Or as part of a costume, also. It’s hard to read expressions under masks. If you’re smiling nobody sees that, or if you are happy, they can’t know that for sure. Doctors wear masks when they take care of a patient. Firefighters wear masks when they are fighting fires. So actually, masks aren’t really a Halloween thing at all. They’ve always been a sort of every-day thing.
Try to avoid the plague. Especially if you lived in Venice during the sixteenth century or the seventeenth century. It’s not just the fact you would be highly contagious and doomed to die. You would meet your doctor, and you would probably freak out at first sight. He would wear a mask with a long nose for stuffing herbs in, and in his hand would be a long stick. Hard to imagine a man like that helping you nowadays, but I don’t know what patients actually thought of him. Actually, he was trying to freak you out. That is, if you’re a spirit that causes the plague.
Other Venetian masks were once meant to hide your identity. Let’s step back in time. You now belong to a royal family of Venice. You are very wealthy. Spies try to find you and to murder you. You do not want to be murdered, so masks are worn. You are allowed to wear any type of mask, colorful, plain, yellow with polka dots, but you want to blend in the crowd of black masks. Spies can’t stalk you if you look like everyone else, right? So if you wear a black mask, you won’t be murdered.
Now Natalie and I are painting masks, but not a doctor’s mask nor a plain black mask. In fact, mine is purple and blue, and Natalie has chosen two shades of pink. My paint brush carefully touches the mask, sliding sometimes or swirling. Its golden tracks leave designs on the mask I am painting. I change the color to black. Black looks good on blue and purple. Then I am done. I dry it, and spread varnish on my mask. I dry the varnish. The mask is pretty. Natalie has finished before me. Her mask is smaller, and it is pink with gold dots on the top. Her mask looks like it has feathers on it. You can’t see her pink brush strokes. I liked painting masks!
Evzones (Presidential Guards)
“They look like oompa loompas,” Natalie said. We were standing in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens. Two guards guard it, and they wear strange clothing. Natalie is right. They look like oompa loompas. However, the pompoms on their shoes and the colorful costumes do have a historical meaning behind the unusual looks.
We were there on a Sunday, and this is the uniform they were wearing. (Every day except Sundays and on special occasions, they wear a cream-colored uniform.) On the white kilt, there are exactly four hundred pleats. Each pleat represents a year of Turkish occupation. The kilt is made from thirty meters of cloth. They wear red caps with black tassels. The red represents blood, and black is for mourning. The pompoms on the shoes represent tears, and the tassels on their legs do, too. Just ten individuals at the Presidential Guard Training Camp make these uniforms. It takes a month to make the vest. The shoes have nails at the bottom, so that these special soldiers don’t slip during the changing-of-the-guard ceremony.
The changing of the guard is just as unusual as the clothes. The soldiers do what is like a little dance. They do it in perfect synchronization, and as you can imagine, takes loads of practice. Our guide says that they imitate horses when they kick the ground. The steps are done slowly to help the blood circulation. After all, they have been still for an hour while guarding the tomb!
Have you seen Natalie’s page on Holy Week in Sevilla? If you have not I recommend you read it. Anyway, while we were watching Holy Week processions it didn’t take long to realize that the hats nazarenos (religious people from a church brotherhood) wear are not normal everyday hats. But where did this hat come from?
It took a really long time for my mom and I to find out, and here is what we discovered. In 15th century, the Spanish Inquisition began. The Inquisition was a court made to make sure that each and every person in Spain was Catholic. If you were not Catholic, they punished, tortured or killed you. One form of punishment was public penance. They made you wear a long pointy hat and walk down the streets. Everyone came out to see the person. Finally, in the 19th century, the Spanish Inquisition was over.
“Hey!” everyone said. “We don’t have anyone to wear these hats and walk down the streets anymore!” Later church brotherhoods adopted the capirote (hat) as a symbol of penitence. Nazarenos marched down the streets in reminder of their sins. When you do this, you try to feel the pain God suffered when he was crucified. When the Nazarenos walk the streets, they are deep in prayer.
According to Andalusia.com, there is another reason for wearing these capirotes. In Spanish cemeteries, there are Cypress trees and pointy shrubs symbolizing bringing the dead to heaven. Do the marching Nazarenos wear the capirotes to bring themselves closer to heaven? The capirote is strange type of hat that has a lot of interesting history. Another important thing is that under the hat, it is almost impossible for anyone to recognize you. You are the same as anyone else under the capirote, nobody is different.
I hope you found this post interesting. I find it fascinating on how the hat was created. Another thing to know is that different brotherhoods may have different color capirotes, such as purple, black, white, and red. Some Nazarenos had really dirty hats from the wax of the candles they hold. I’m glad we saw Holy Week in Sevilla, and I certainly learned a lot!
In Suzhou, China, we went to a silk factory to learn about the process of how to make silk. Did you know that the process of making silk had been a secret for a long time? China was the only country that had silk. Why spill the secret and ruin the market? After a while, the secret did go out. Foreigners stole silk worms. Now you can find factories in many places around the world.
The process starts with some worms. These special worms are called silk worms. The workers feed silk worms with mulberry leaves. It is the only thing they will eat. Once the worms are full, it is time for them to build cocoons. To make cocoons, the worms will wind a thread around and around and glue it with saliva. The cocoons are white and round.
Before the moths come out, you boil 90 percent of the cocoons. Ten percent are kept for reproduction. Boiling cocoons will kill the worms inside. It will also dissolve the glue from the saliva, so you can use a machine to unwind the cocoon. Then, the thread gets dyed and is finally ready to be woven into clothes or to be used for embroidery.
Sometimes there are two worms inside one cocoon. Since both threads overlap, you cannot turn those into silk thread, but you can use them for filling for comforters. To do this, you take the dead worms out and stretch the cocoon on a small wire arch. Then, you stretch it more on a bigger wire arch. Finally, you pull it by hand to the size of the comforter.
Silk can be used for many things. Curtains, embroidery, clothes, and gloves for example. After our tour in the factory, we bought silk dresses. Unfortunately, it is too cold to wear them. I really enjoyed my tour at the factory.
At Tjapukai Cultural Center, we learned about what Aborigines wear. Here are a few facts.
Aborigines wear different things depending on the climate where they live. In cool climates, they would make cloaks out of possum skins sewn together. These would also be used as blankets. The Aborigines in warmer regions were mostly naked. Instead of clothes, they covered themselves in body paint. Sometimes the men would wear a belt made of their own grown-out hair, and the women would wear one made of strips of kangaroo skin. They would also wear headbands. In winter, though, they would wear kangaroo skins around their waists to keep warm. When the English did come, the English were embarrassed. From then on, the Aborigines have worn clothes called gumbi.
Also, Aborigines wear different things on important days. If somebody died, they would paint themselves white. They used the same paint to paint other things. Some Aborigines where headdresses. The women would wear necklaces made of shells, bones, and gwandongs (berries that cassowaries eat). Many things are different on important days. The Aborigines would even play a different didgeridoo than they would on normal days.
Thanks to Birri (Fire) and Nyinggarra (Freshwater Eel) for giving us this information.
The latest in Australian Stinger Suits
- What is a stinger suit?
A stinger suit is a suit much like a wetsuit, only it keeps out jellyfish stings instead of coldness.
- Are stinger suits necessary?
Jellyfish stings can be rare, but the consequences are great. You could end up in the hospital for at least three days or worse.
- Won’t I be embarrassed because nobody else has this?
No. Everybody wears them.
- Why don’t you wear them in Miami?
The jellyfish we are protecting ourselves from are the box jellyfish and the irukandji jellyfish. We don’t have them in Miami.
- Tell me about the box jellyfish.
It is a large jellyfish that is almost transparent. It has a box shaped bell (which is the body) with four corners. The jellyfish has up to 15 tentacles coming out from each of its corners. The sting marks are whip-like and burn the skin. You can lose consciousness and stop breathing if you get stung.
- Tell me about the irukandji jellyfish.
It is the size of pinky nail and is barely visible. The stings can have many symptoms, including illness.
- How do you look in the suits?
You just saw the photos above.
- Snazzy! Where can I get one?
Anywhere. Most tour companies provide them for you.
- Have you been stung yet?
I don’t know. I’ve been wearing my stinger suit.
Fashion at a Sheep Farm
Tobruk Sheep Station, Sydney
There are fashions for everything, don’t you think? You can find different styles anywhere, even at a sheep farm. Or in Antarctica. I am going to tell you what to wear if you ever need to shear a sheep, so hang in there.
First of all, you need to wear moccasins. Normal shoes are made of leather, and they will soften so much that you will be able rip them apart easily. This is because an oily substance called lanolin (which is found on sheep’s wool) will soften it. You also need Jackie Howe singlet which you wear because it is hot. (Jackie Howe is a legendary sheep shearer. One day he was so hot, he tore the sleeves of his shirt. He got his mother to cut the sleeves of his other shirts, and now he has a singlet named after him.)
Next, are dungarees (pants like jeans). The dungarees must have two layers. If not, all the thistles that get stuck in the sheep’s wool will poke into your skin, and that hurts! Finally, you need an elastic belt. Why elastic belt instead of any other belt? The answer is simple. Since you need to bend down to shear a sheep, the belt cuts into your stomach. That is, unless it’s elastic. That is all I have to tell you and all you have to wear. Also, do you think there are fashions for everything?