31 March 2005

We're Going to Kyrgyzstan!

We just got word that my husband has been selected as a Fulbright Scholar to teach next year at two different universities in Kyrgyzstan.


Defining Religion

Here are a few articles that nicely illustrate how difficult it is to categorize people simply by their religion. Culture influences religion greatly. This is one reason why I often point out that many Mulisms do not live in the Middle East and are not Arab. Culture also has a large impact on the LDS Church.

African Muslims commemorate Magal

Did the Taliban understand Islam?

Cultural influence on religion in the US

The Rage Diaries on culture and religion

Carribbean Catholics

30 March 2005

World Enough and Time

I discovered a new blog yesterday called World Enough and Time by Hypatia. I'm still trying to pin down how to categorize her blog though. She's Catholic, not a homeschooler, doesn't write about books or science or politics, so for now, she will remain in her own little slot.

I know I've said this before, but one of my favorite things about blogging has been getting to know new people. It's always fun to discover someone else who is interesting.

(I had this post ready to go, and then popped over for the links and discovered some embarrassing praise on her blog, so just know that's not why I'm linking to her blog today. :))

A Few Random Thoughts

23 more days till Yellowstone opens!

I have had a difficult time not getting involved in the "gender wars" going on around the LDS blogs. It helps that I generally agree with Julie and she is willing and able to jump into the fray.

I have not had a difficult time staying out the of debates surrounding Terri Schiavo.

It is amazing how difficult something can be for one son and how easy it can be for another son. I am beginning to lean more and more to the nature side of things, instead of nurture.

And, yes, I am aware that Kyrgyzstan sounds scary. Do you think we'd go someplace without actually learning about it before?

And, yes, I know we are crazy. Thanks for pointing that out again. At least you don't have to be crazy with us.

Finally, how inane can a spell check be? The blogger spell check is hardly worth using.
Interesting article on US foreign policy in Central Asia


I finally got all the library books sorted through and returned today, and checked out a nice new collection of books (adulterous though it may be to check out books from the library). Thanks to Melissa, MFS, SFP, someone on the WTM boards, the BYU bookstore, Amazon, my mother, Azar Nafisi, and possibly Julie (I should keep better track of who recommends what), I will have plenty to read for a while. I think that my favorite thing about the internet may be getting good book suggestions.

29 March 2005

Creative Women

I've been poking through Women's Life Writing for a few weeks now, and found these quotes by May Sarton to be quite interesting:
These young women are determinded to have children as a part of a fulfilled life and to do original work as well. I admire them wholeheartedly. But I am always up against my own hard view that it is next to impossible to lead a fulfilled life as a human being and do original work of the highest caliber, if one is a woman.

And, in response to hearing that some former students who were then mothers were writing poetry: "The news made me happy. It also made me aware once more of how rarely a women is able to continue to create after she marries and has children."


I've been thinking of different ways to get to Kyrgyzstan. We have all of August free, so we'll have a month to get there. There are several options.

1. Fly from California to Kyrgyzstan.

2. Drive across the US and visit friends and relatives in Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin (a little out of the way),Virginia, and Maryland. And of course, see how things are in Trenton. Then fly from NYC to Kyrgyzstan. Anyone in between Idaho and New York want a visit?

3. Take a transport cruise from California to Shanghai. Head up to Beijing to catch the Trans-Mongolian Railroad through Mongolia to Ulan Ude. Take the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Novosibirsk, then the Turkistan-Siberian to Bishkek.

3. Fly from SLC to London to visit a friend there, then fly to Cadiz, Spain to visit another friend. (Can I tell you how handy it is to have well-traveled friends? Too bad no one is in the Middle East right now.) Then travel from Cadiz to Moscow on the train, staying in hostels. From Moscow, take the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Novosibirsk, then take the Turkistan-Siberian Railroad to Bishkek.

4. A lot like option 3, but instead of heading towards Moscow, go to Baku, sail across the Caspian to Turkmenbashi, then take the Trans-Caspian Railroad to Bishkek.

I'm liking the third or fourth options best. Cadiz-Madrid-Barcelona-Marseille-Nice-Milan-Venice-Vienna-Prague-Warsaw-Riga-St. Petersburg-Moscow-Novgorod-Kazan-Perm-Yekaterinburg-Omsk-Novosibirsk-Tashkent-Almaty-Bishkek. Or, for option four, after Vienna, to Budapest-Odessa-Sevastopol-sail across the Black Sea to the Caucasus-Baku-Turkmenbashi-Ashgabat-Bukhara-Samarkand-Tashkent-Almaty-Bishkek.

Or what about this? From Cadiz, sail to Istanbul, train through Turkey and the Caucasus to Baku to sail across the Caspian to catch the Trans-Caspian Railroad.

There are far too many interesting places in the world to see.

28 March 2005

Another Major Earthquake off Indonesia

A large aftershock has occurred off Indonesia. Scientists have been warning there could be a major aftershock, and here it is. Hopefully there will not be tsunamis as a result.

USGS' page on the earthquake with tsunami information.


Akayev can start a new job any time he'd like to.

Some in Kazakhstan think the revolution in Kyrgyzstan was a great idea.

Of course, there are some minor problems still to deal with, like the several presidents and parliaments.

Some say that some current Mongolian protests are inspired by what happened in Kyrgyzstan. (Apparently, protesting in Mongolia isn't new, so this may have nothing to do with Kyrgyzstan.)

And more reactions to Akayev's downfall.

Hat tip to Registan.net on all of these.

27 March 2005

A Worn Hymnbook in Jerusalem

There aren't very many Easter hymns in our LDS hymnbook. We sing them so rarely that I have specific memories of singing all three. I love all three. I especially like to sing those Easter songs when I have my little green hymnbook on hand.

I took my hymnbook to Jerusalem with me twice. It went to Bethel, where we sang "Nearer, My God, To Thee." We sang "Redeemer of Israel" on top of Mt. Sinai. "Angels We Have Heard on High" was sung in a field near Bethlehem. We would sing praise hymns while we were returning to Jerusalem. I can still hear "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" in Bethany in the tomb of Lazarus. Singing "More Holiness Give Me" always takes me back to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

I wrote in my hymnbook the names of the places where we sang those songs, and the names of my dear friends' favorite hymns. I remember Shahira saying that "O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown" is her favorite hymn while we were at the Garden Tomb. Kirk loved "Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy." And even "Love at Home," which I don't particularly like, takes on special meaning when I remember singing it with an Iraqi family in Jordan who had escaped Iraq and joined the Church in Irbid, Jordan.

I know I've been writing about Jerusalem a lot recently. Easter is the time I think about Jerusalem the most. I miss Jerusalem. I don't think I ever felt more alive than when I was there.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
They shall prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls,
and prosperity within thy palaces

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget her cunning
If I do not remember thee,
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth;
If I do not prefer Jerusalem
Above my chief joy.

Happy Easter. Christ the Lord is risen today.

26 March 2005

History of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a very interesting building in Jerusalem, as interesting as the Dome of the Rock in its own way. I didn't expect to like it much the first time I went there. I had always heard it described as too dark, too smelly, too crowded, or worse.

I loved it though. When I got back to the US, I read everything I could about the Church. The work on the Rotunda had been completed by the time I got back the second time, and the Church was much lighter and felt more open. But it's the history of the Church that I love the most.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been built, destroyed, rebuilt, remodeled, and fought over for nearly 1700 years. Today, the Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, and Armenians control and share most of the Church. The Copts, Syrians, and Ethopians all have minor rights in the Church or on its roof. In the past the Russian Orthodox, Georgians, and others have had some level of control. Protestants have no rights in the Church at all, except to visit (this was a major reason why the Garden Tomb was established).

The Christian sects have rarely been able to work together in the Church. Worship times are strictly alloted, and outright violence has sometimes resulted. Foreign political powers got involved at times, and the Crimean War was fought in part because of disputes over the holy places, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the Ottoman Empire. Two Muslim families hold the keys to the Church and lock and unlock it daily since each sect wouldn't allow any other to hold the keys.

Today, though, these individual sects are generally working together better. (At least the three main ones are. The Copts and Ethopians still seem to enjoy locking each other out of varoius chapels.) Most of the most important parts of the Church are common areas. The divisions within the Church are leftover from the Ottoman days and referred to as the "Status Quo."

These are some books I've read about the Church:
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre by Martin Biddle
The Tomb of Christ by Martin Biddle
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem by Charles Couasnon
Beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem : the archaeology and early history of traditional Golgotha by Shimon Gibson
Golgotha and the Holy Sepulchre by Sir Charles William Wilson

25 March 2005

A Rather Brief Revolution (and let's hope it stays brief)

I forgot to add this link earlier. It's a nice summary of what happened on Thursday in Bishkek, complete with plenty of pictures.

Wild Swans

I just finished Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang. It is an excellent book. Not perfect, but very good. The author tells about her life growing up in China, along with her mother and grandmother.

It begins with the birth of her grandmother in 1909 to a warlord and a concubine and follows the family down to 1978 when the author leaves to study in the West. The most valuable part of the book is the authors point of view as part of a family of Communist Party members. Other books I have read on China (Life and Death in Shanghai especially comes to mind) have either been by people who were always opposed to Communism, or by someone who is more neutral. It was very interesting to read about the lives and actions of high-level Party members.

It was literally painful to read about the early years of her parents' marriage, and to witness the terrible family life they were forced to live. She mentions later in the book that many families were torn apart because of Party regulations, and I wondered what her family had done to avoid that- they were generally quite close. I also wish I could have known more about her father. She focused more on her mother and grandmother, but I would have liked to have known what her father was thinking. He died many years ago, so there is no way to know. I also would have liked to have heard more about her grandmother's thoughts and feelings in the 60s and 70s.

I did get bogged down in the autobiographical parts, especially during the Cultural Revolution. I also would have preferred that she refer to her parents and grandmother by their names instead of "my mother," my father," and my grandfather. I felt like I couldn't quite get to know them beyond their relation to the author, even when she was talking about the childhood of her grandmother.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. It is fairly long, and a bit slow in places, but worth reading. I believe it is vital for people who have always lived in free and open societies to see what happens when those freedoms are lost.

Mournful Friday

I prefer this name for this day. Good Friday has never sounded right to me. We asked a Christian in Jerusalem how they said the name of this day in Arabic, and he said al-Juma al-Haziin, which means Mournful Friday. So I call it that now.

We spent the morning walking along the Via Dolorosa (yes, I know it's far from accurate, but isn't this all symbolic anyway?) to visit the stations of the cross. The first 9 stations are in the city, and the last 5 are in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was another day when it felt wonderful to walk along the streets of Jerusalem with such a large number of Christians from all over the world.

Many groups were carrying crosses. Others were led by priests. We didn't spend much time in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre this day, but the various sects all have rituals they perform in the Church this day.

[Added later: Don't miss MFS' beautiful post "Happy Good Friday"]


We've heard from several friends in Bishkek and they seem to think things are generally fine. The looting appears to be the biggest problem. Of course, of Akayev tries to come back, that would be a problem too, but it is highly questionable how much support he has anyway.

Our contacts at the University in Bishkek are busy reassuring us that things should be fine.

Is He Gone?

So maybe Akayev didn't resign. Who knows? But it is being reported that the Kyregyz Parliament has elected an interim president and that new elections might be held in May or June.

Condie Rice discusses Kyrgyzstan

24 March 2005

More on Kyrgyzstan

Kurmanbek Bakiev, one of the main opposition leaders, has called for new Presidential elections. Right now it looks like he or Roza Otunbaeva could be the new leader.

Bakiev is a former Prime Minister and Otunbaeva has been the foreign minister of Kyrgyzstan. She is generally considered to be more popular in Kyrgyzstan.


Akayev has resigned

Can I just point out that he ignored these protestors for nearly a month? There was plenty of time to try to resolve things. It may not have worked, but there were no efforts at all.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The history of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is very interesting. Not necessarily faith-promoting (how could it be, with priests hitting each other over the head with crosses?) but still interesting.

But there are places that inspire me in the Church. My favorite is on the stairs leading down to the Chapel of St. Helena. As in many places throughout the Church, there are numerous small crosses carved into the stone walls. I love to run my hands over them and think of the many people who worked so hard to get to the Church. Even though the history of Christianity has often been violent and sad, there have been so many good people who have led good and faithful lives. Those small crosses symbolize that for me. I cannot criticize the Church because I know the feelings it has inspired, and still does inspire, in many people.

I also love the Unction Stone. I loved to sit and watch worshippers enter the Church and kneel to kiss the stone. I loved to watch the various priests go about their business. I loved to go in the Edicule. The dome is beautiful, and it symbolizes people working together who hadn't gotten along for centuries.

No, you won't hear me complain about the many churches placed on holy sites in Israel. Those churches hold too much meaning, too much reverence for me to say they shouldn't be there. Some might wish all the trappings weren't there, but I love them. And if I didn't love them and couldn't look past them, it wouldn't be the fault of the building.

Maundy Thursday

On Thursday morning of Holy Week, we went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which happens to be one of my favorite places in Jerusalem. We went to watch the Greek Patriarch performing the Ceremony of the Washing of the Feet. The Church was crowded with people so we climbed up on the roof to get a better view.

It was a fairly long ceremony because the Greek Patriarch had to have his heavily decorated robe removed; he wore a much simpler white robe for the ceremony. He washed the feet of 12 of his clerics while prayers were recited. I can still hear the sound in my mind. Afterwards, he sprayed the crowd with the leftover water from the ceremony.

We didn't see the Latin Patriarch celebrating the washing of the feet, but it is a much simpler process inside the Church (if the weather is decent, the Greeks do it outside). Afterwards, The Latins go to the traditional site of the Upper Room on Mount Zion.

The Armenians don't do their ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at all; they use the Cathedral of St. James in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. The Copts use the Church of St. Anthony in the Coptic Patriarchate. The Coptic Archbishop washes the feet of the entire Coptic congregation.

A Little More on Palm Sunday

I pulled out The Church of the Holy Sepulchre by Martin Biddle to read more about Palm Sunday. One thing that is important to remember is that each sect may celebrate Holy Week on different dates. For example, sometimes the Latins are celebrating Easter on the same day the Greeks are celebrating Palm Sunday. This creates quite the atmosphere in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

On Palm Sunday, the Armenians enter for a service near Calvary at 5:30 AM. The Latins come in at 7:00 AM to bless the palms, lead a procession, and conduct Mass near the tomb. The Greeks enter at 7:30 AM and go to the Katholikon, avoiding the Latins' rites. The Copts and Syrians also come in at this time. The Armenians enter the area of the tomb at 8:00 AM. If the timing is right, all five are now conducting their services. (This is a somewhat helpful article on where things are in the Church.)

As soon as the Latins are done, the Greeks move into the Edicule for their procession. Then the Armenians, Copts, and Syrians make their procession together.

Later in the morning the Latins being their pilgrimage from the Franciscan Church in Bethphage (this was the procession I joined). They go through a-Tur (the village next to the BYU Jerusalem Center), down the Mount of Olives, over the Kidron Valley, into the city through St. Stephen's Gate and to the Monastery of St. Anne. This is the same pilgrimage that has been made on Palm Sunday since at least the 4th century. The Latins again enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at 12:30 PM in a special ceremony. The Greeks follow this same basic pattern later in the day.

Palm Sunday

I should have written this on Sunday, but I didn't. Holy Week holds special memories for me after spending it in Jerusalem 8 years ago. Even though Mormons don't go in for a lot of rituals, I loved following each step of the way that Holy Week.

On the morning of Palm Sunday, 1997, we started our trek in Bethphage. We walked down the Mount of Olives and entered the Old City through St. Stephen's Gate (or Lion's Gate) and went to the Church of St. Anne. There was a large gathering of Christians there. One of my favorite things about that week was worshipping with such a variety of Christians- Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Protestants, and more. Many of us had palm branches to hold. We sang hymns and shouted Hosanna.

I will continue writing about Holy Week with Maundy Thursday tomorrow. Most of my memories are brief, but the feelings are still there. Clark pointed out that Mormons don't place enough significance on this great holiday, and I didn't want it to go unmentioned here.

23 March 2005

Judge Not, But You Will Be Judged?

Can you teach your children to not judge others based on their appearance (or any other factor), but also teach your children that they will be judged based on their appearance? Does one necessarily preclude the other? If your children know that their appearances send messages, whether true or false, about who they are, can they ignore that in other people? Is a person who doesn't judge going to be less concerned about the way they present themselves to others?

If you think this is possible and worthwhile (and I do), how would you do it?

More on Kyrgyzstan

Registan.net is providing plenty of coverage of Kyrgyzstan. Things are getting worse. Of course I'm mentioning this because I care about Central Asia, but this could also turn out to have a broader effect on the region. Since this is a Muslim part of the world, this is important. The Middle East is not the only place we should watch.

Interior minister resigns, and the new one appears more likely to use force against protestors.

Washington Post editorial

Russia's involvement, and is Russia not interested in supporting Akayev?

Protests in Bishkek


Some people collect coins, or cows, or cats, or other things. Some decorate with lovely art, or bows, or rows and rows of bookcases (we're close to this one, but not quite there yet).

At our house, we decorate with maps. I'm a map collector. We have far too many to hang up right now (since bookcases take up a lot of the space). I am always looking for new maps. I've found good ones in unexpected places, like my maps of Southeast Asia (that one was very handy when the tsunamis happened, because it has many of the affected cities and islands on it) and the former USSR. That's the only one I have with any detail of Central Asia.

There are three hard-and-fast rules about maps here. First, no mercator projections. Second, if it's a world map, the US cannot be in the middle. That makes for an awful view of the world. Third, they have to be big, unless they are showing a very small piece of the world. My maps of the Carribean, North and South Korea, and Antarctica are not very big. But it took me several years to find a good map of the US where you could see Rhode Island instead of believing it was under a dot on the map.

My favorite maps are the giant ones I made. They have to hang on the stairs in this house. They're large enough to play Twister on. It's fun to see who notices the maps. Most people don't care, but some do. It's always fun to find another map lover.

This map is the one I want now (well, after a better map of Central Asia).

"I Know We're Not Supposed To Judge, But..."

I have a very difficult time with people who preface intolerant, ignorant, or plain rude statements about others with, "I know we're not supposed to judge, but..."

This also goes along with the lovely statement, "He's not a member, but he still takes good care of his family/goes to church/prays/etc."

Is this not something we were supposed to learn not to do in Kindergarten? You really can tell very little about a person by their clothing, their religion, their house, or their car. If your neighbor has four piercings in his face, you don't need to fear for the safety of your children. A black son-in-law will not corrupt your family. A Palestinian is not more likely hurt you than a Norwegian. Europeans are not necessarily morally "loose." Pakistanis aren't necessarily worse renters than anyone else. A person with an accent who calls about renting an apartment is not necessarily unable to keep up on his rent. A person living in Trenton who has nice shoes did not necessarily steal them, nor are they certainly a drug dealer. Living in Bishkek is not necessarily more dangerous than living in Los Angeles. Simply being a member of the LDS Church does not make you a good person.

These are all things I've heard people say, usually prefaced with the "we're not supposed to judge" thing. Why do we do it?

Of course, I'm judging the people who say those kinds of things, aren't I? But it's a righteous judgment, so it's okay. ;)

22 March 2005

Protests in Kyrgyzstan and Israel

IWPR on Kyrgyzstan

A few photos from the Kyrgyzstan protests

Protests in Israel

Dangerous Places

I've been following an interesting discussion on the WTM Boards about places people wouldn't care to visit. The Middle East came up fairly often as a place that people wouldn't visit because it is perceived to be a dangerous place. Some mentioned that the Holy Land was the one place they really wanted to go, but that they wouldn't.

I wouldn't go anyplace that I felt was dangerous to my family. But you have to be reasonable about what you see on the news. Of course the media shows you the trouble spots. But there are random acts of violence in the United States every day. Would you tell foreigners that the US is a dangerous place? Anyone is still in the most danger of dying in your car near your own home, even if you travel to wild and "dangerous" places.

I was in the Middle East in the 90s, so it can be argued that things have changed there. But I have had good friends who have lived in the Middle East (some with children) since 2000 when things fell apart in Israel and since September 11th, when things fell apart in general. Based on their experiences in the last few years and my personal experience in the Middle East, I can't sat that I think that it is inherently dangerous to visit the Holy Land.

It is quite simple to stay relatively safe in Israel. But if you're concerned about terrorist activity, it can easily be avoided. Don't ride busses or eat in Israeli cafes in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Don't go out at night and avoid large crowds (good ideas in any foreign country). In fact, I never felt like I was in the least danger in the Israel, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip.

If we go to Kyrgyzstan, I hope that we can stop in the Middle East on our way over.


Registan.net is keeping up on Kyrgyzstan. CNN actually picked the story up too. It will be interesting to see where this all goes. As long as they sort themselves out nicely before September.

21 March 2005

Five-year-old Opinions

I love homemade food. Nothing tastes as good as homemade bread topped with butter and jam I made myself (now I need a cow). I won't touch the stuff they call pita at the grocery store. Homemade lasagne is better than what you can buy frozen at the store. Freshly ground peanut butter is delicious. Homemade yogurt tastes so much fresher. It's fun to make mozzarella and feta cheese. Applesauce is better when you cooked it yourself. Packaged stuff is not for me.

So why doesn't my five-year-old think so? He thinks it's great that I spin and crochet and quilt and sew, but I apparently can't be trusted to make decent food. :)


Things are hopping in SW Kyrgyzstan. Apparently the government has lost control of Jalalabad and probably Osh. Some are reporting that the President of Kyrgyzstan is in Moscow.

Akaev defended the recent election results. But he said through his press office today that the Central Election Commission should look into the matter involving disputed regions.

The statement said officials are to pay particular attention to those districts where election results provoked demonstrators.

Think they'll really look into the results?

Big Mormon Blogs and Commenting (along with abject navel-gazing, ick)

I enjoy all three of the big group blogs, especially since they are all quite different, and generally are discussing completely different topics. However, I happen to comment more often on T&S. Steve Evans asked a few weeks ago why I don't feel comfortable commenting on BCC. I said something about not quite feeling like part of the group there, but I think that's not quite it.

I've been hanging around the LDS blogs for a year now, and I feel like I generally know most of the regular posters and commenters (you don't know who I am, but I know who you are, which also adds to the reluctance in commenting). I have found the posters at BCC as a whole to be very friendly and respectful, along with the posters at T&S and M*.

The reason I don't comment over there much is that I really don't have anything to add to the discussions. I love to read the posts and comments, but I don't think I have a part in the discussions, since I don't relate to many of the concerns raised. I love to read about different viewpoints. I agree with many points raised at BCC. But overall, it's not quite me.

I do write out a lot of comments though. I have discovered that typing out a comment, but not posting it, is rather satisfying.

I still wish there were more commenting as a whole around the LDS blogs. BCC is good, as Steve pointed out, but it's always a bit galling to see long discussions with very little input from women. I'm still looking for that good LDS women's group blog. I expect it is just wishful thinking. [Danithew pointed out the FMH is an LDS women's group blog, and I completely agree. I should have clarified by saying that I'd like to see one that discussed more things than specifically "women's issues."]

20 March 2005


Transcript of a press conference with the US Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan on the elections and the general situation in Kyrgyzstan.

Interesting new structure going up in Astana- maybe the President thinks that would attract people to Astana? Or maybe he's having everyone fly into Astana so they don't miss it.

And yes, the protests are continuing in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Jerusalem post op-ed on Diaspora Jews:
A Diaspora Jew's duty toward the Jewish state is first and foremost to secure its survival, not shape its borders. And that cannot possibly be reconciled with making Israel seem incapable of controlling its own population and carrying out its own polices.

There was, to be sure, a time and a way for both Diaspora and Israeli Jews to try to shape Israel's borders: The time was until the disengagement became national policy, and the way was by moving to live in places such as Gush Katif not the day before their dismantlement, but the day they were established.

Scents of the Middle East

Last night I opened a package of fresh mint to add to my marinade for some chicken kebabs. When the package popped open, I was surprised by the memories that came back. It took me to my garden on late summer nights, and also to Nazareth. Lisa had a great post a while ago about ten scents that can change her, and, since I love to garden, I starting thinking about some herbs and spices that take me to different places.

Like I mentioned, mint takes me to Nazareth. We wandered around there one afternoon, and, after visiting a church and a mosque, went out to the hills near the mosque and chatted with a shepherd there. I gathered herbs there, including mint.

Oregano is Sinai. We had hiked up Sinai in the evening and spent a cold night on top (the old Scout sleeping bags just didn't cut it). After watching the sunrise, we climbed down the steps. I got down faster than most of the group and sat on a rock to wait. Sinai is pretty barren, but there was a little oregano plant tucked next to the rock. I can still smell the scent on my fingers.

Rosemary is Jerusalem. The BYU Jerusalem Center has many rosemary plants. I would sit out on the balconies overlooking the city and run my hand over the rosemary.

Cumin is for the markets in any Middle Eastern city. Cumin is sold and also commonly used in the food, so that scent was very prevalent.

Garlic reminds me of Arab homes. There was usually a garlic scent in every house we went to, and I love the flavor and taste of garlic after having it very rarely as a child (I think I was the first one to buy garlic powder at my house).

And finally, hyssop is Hebron. We had gone to a pottery factory and I wandered out the back door. We were on the edge of town and there was a scent in the air that I couldn't place, but that I loved. After I came home, I happened to smell some hyssop at a nursery and knew that was Hebron.

The best thing about all these is that I can grow them myself (well, not the cumin). My herb garden is my reminder of the Middle East.

19 March 2005

Women and Religion

This story about a Muslim woman leading Friday prayers has been in the news quite a bit this week. Danithew was kind enough to send me a link to a podcast she did.

I am glad she is doing this. I always like it when people do something instead of complaining. But this is going to have no real impact on Islam as a whole. Even if a more women decide to become imams and have (small) followings, it will mostly be noted by the media and people of other religions. I assure you that women are not going to start leading the Friday prayers in Saudi Arabic anytime soon.

(It is also interesting to note that the status of women in Islam varies dramatically from place to place. I've spent my time in more liberal Muslim countries. I've never been to Saudi Arabia. Kyrgyzstan is quite a bit more lax on these issues. It is also interesting to note that American Islam varies in its degrees of tolerance towards women. In fact, I first came in contact with the more restrictive Saudi style in northern Idaho, and it was then that I understood better the complaints about Islam's treatment of women.)

The same thing has happened in Judaism. There are women rabbis in the United States leading Reform congregations. However, if you were to convert to Judaism and join a Reform congregation, you wouldn't be able to immigrate to Israel, since you wouldn't be considered Jewish. If you were to join a more conservative congregation and go through the proper steps, then you would be considered Jewish. (Actually, this is also a political issue. Since Israel allows any Jew immigrate, the politicians don't want the rules for becoming Jewish to be too lax. However, Orthodox Jews in Israel are against making the conversions legitimate for religious reasons.)

I am also not going to criticize Islam for not allowing women to lead prayers. I do not believe that a woman's place is lessened because she cannot lead the Friday prayers, or because she cannot be a rabbi in a more conservative congregation, or because she cannot hold the Priesthood in the LDS Church (and I am not going to jump into the fray on this one!). But I also think that a woman should worship in a place where she is comfortable.

(If you drop by, Danithew, please correct any errors I have here. It's been a little while since I read about the divisions in Judaism, and I may be a little behind the times.)

18 March 2005

"From Islam, Pluralist Democracies Will Surely Grow"

Danithew pointed out an excellent article on democracy in The Chronicle by Reza Aslan. There are many interesting discussions in the article- Christian missionaries in the Middle East, pluralism, and religion's role in society. Here are a few quotes:

Malcolm and Jennifer, as I discovered on our way to Marrakech, were part of a rapidly growing movement of Christian missionaries who, since September 11, have begun to focus exclusively on the Muslim world. Because Christian evangelism is often bitterly reproached in Muslim countries -- thanks in large part to the lingering memory of the colonial endeavor, when Europe's disastrous "civilizing mission" went hand in hand with a fervently anti-Islamic "Christianizing mission" -- some evangelical institutions now teach their missionaries to "go undercover" in the Muslim world by taking on Muslim identities, wearing Muslim clothing (including the veil), even fasting and praying as Muslims.

I have become increasingly concerned about this trend. Yes, I am LDS, and yes, we are actively involved in missionary work, but we do not "go underground." I cannot think of a worse way to teach someone about your religion than to lie, deceive, and break the law. True, the laws may be wrong. But they are still the law. And, for what it's worth, when I was in Israel, I was not allowed to talk about my religion to anyone who was not LDS- whether they were Christian, Muslim, or Jewish.

Aslan goes on to say

It is pluralism, not secularism, that defines democracy. A democratic state can be established upon any normative moral framework as long as pluralism remains the source of its legitimacy. Israel is founded upon an exclusivist Jewish moral framework that recognizes all the world's Jews -- regardless of their nationality -- as citizens of the state. England continues to maintain a national church whose religious head is also the country's sovereign. India was, until recently, governed by partisans of the elitist theology of Hindu Awakening (Hindutva), bent on applying their implausible but enormously successful vision of "true Hinduism" to the state. And yet, like the United States, those countries are all considered democracies, not because they are secular but because they are, at least in theory, dedicated to pluralism.

...It must be understood that a respect for human rights, like pluralism, is a process that develops naturally within a democracy. Bear in mind that for years, black American citizens were considered legally inferior to whites. Finally, neither human rights nor pluralism is the result of secularization; they are its root cause. Consequently, any democratic society -- Islamic or otherwise -- dedicated to the principles of pluralism and human rights must dedicate itself to following the unavoidable path toward political secularization.

...That does not mean the religious authorities would have no influence on the state. However, as with the Pope's role in Rome, such influence can be only moral, not political. The function of the clergy in an Islamic democracy is not to rule, but to preserve and, more important, to reflect the morality of the state. Again, because it is not religion but the interpretation of religion that arbitrates morality, such interpretation must always be in accord with the consensus of the community.


Thinking for Yourself

I read an interesting statement in Women of Mongolia (and I'll say again how much I enjoyed this book and that I recommend it highly- now all I want is more information). To give a little background, Mongolia was dominated by the Soviets until the fall of the USSR. An artist named Purevsuren is quoted:

I mentioned the transition has not been easy, but I want to emphasize that, before, I never really thought about anything. I just did the painting I was told to paint and took my salary. When our country started to change to a market economy, I had to think for myself.

I think this is a very telling statement; it illustrates a problem that is often ignored when we promote democracy and market economies. They come with responsibilities and their own difficulties. I firmly believe that, in the end, it is better, but the road there may be too hard for some.

The Laundromat

Concierge Services has a beautiful post about the laundromat. It's worth reading!

17 March 2005

Great Cookbook Authors

A little while ago a discussion came up on the WTM boards on what authors' books you buy as soon as they're released- authors that are so good that you like just about everything they write. I didn't have any authors to add to the list, because I didn't think I had any. But then I realized that I do have some- but they write cookbooks. I don't buy all their books (I wasn't quite as impressed with each of their last offerings), but I keep track of what they're up to.

I discovered Paula Wolfert when we were on our honeymoon. We stopped at the Harvard bookstore and I was trying to find some good Middle Eastern cookbooks. Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean was recommended it, and I've loved it ever since. There are a number of recipes from this book that we use often, and it also has lots of "special occasion type meals." Wolfert has been writing cookbooks for many years. I also have Mediterranean Grains and Greens.

Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid have also written several cookbooks, including Flatbreads and Flavors. They have a new cookbook coming out: Mangoes and Curry Leaves : Culinary Journeys in the Great Subcontinent.

The thing I like best about these authors is that they write about their travels in addition to presenting delicious recipes. Flatbreads and Flavors added to my desire to go to Central Asia, and I'd love to travel around Turkey after reading Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Central Asian Food

I pulled out my Uzbek cookbook yesterday to get some recipes for this weekend. I have to say that Central Asian food isn't as good as Middle Eastern food. But that's to be expected since Central Asians haven't had access to the variety of foods that are available along the Mediterranean Sea. Traditional Central Asian society is nomadic, so many of the dishes are based on meat and dairy products. Central Asia does produce a huge array of fruits though, if you live in the right places. The techniques and food are also heavily influenced by Persian and Indian cooking in many parts.

There are a variety of different flatbreads made in Central Asia, but the most common is naan (non). Some are made with yogurt, some are topped with onions or nigella seeds, some are rather plain. Many are cooked in tandor ovens (I have wanted these ever since I tasted tandor breads in the Middle East). My favorite cookbook, Flatbreads and Flavors, has great recipes for all these and how to make your bread a little more like tandor breads. (I'd put some of the recipes here, but I think I'm pushing copyright laws with the number of recipes I've posted here.)

Buuz or manti are very widespread throughout all the Turkic areas. I first read about manti in relation to Turkey, but I've eaten it with Mongolians (it is called buuz in Mongolia), Kazakhs, and Uzbeks. They are steamed meat dumplings and quite tasty. The techniques and spices are a little different from place to place. This is a Turkish version, and here is an Uzbek version (you'll have to scroll down quite a way, or search for "manty").

Lamb is commonly eaten in Central Asia. Shurpa (lamb soup), fried dumplings (these are different from manti since they are not boiled), shashlik (kebabs), chektyrma (boiled lamb soup)and more.

Rice is also eaten. There are a huge variety of plovs (pilafs): Kazakh, Uzbek, Turkmen, sabzi pilau (this is an Indian and Pakistani version). There are many good rice dishes in Seductions of Rice.

Here are some sites that have descriptions of national cuisines. Uyghur (more), Uzbek, Mongolian, Kyrgyz, and Kazakh (more Kazakh and another Kazakh site with a very tiny font).


Recommendations of places to visit in Israel (my list would include some different places and different questions, but these are important too)

Kyrgyzstan elections

16 March 2005

What To Do With All Those Students? (LDS stuff)

When we started law school as married students with children, we choose to attend the local "town" ward. We could choose whether we attended the married student ward (MSW) or a local ward. There were several good reasons to do this- we wanted a ward with a little more age diversity, we were both older than the average married student, and we thought that we would feel more welcome in a regular ward. But it didn’t take long to notice some problems.

First, there were three town wards there, but really only enough youth for one ward. The wards had to be split up because of the high number of married students, and the youth didn’t like that. There also were relatively few children in Primary (although many in nursery). Many of the students felt like they were on the periphery of the ward, and most of the students were assigned to visit and home teach each other. We weren’t really meeting older people in the ward, or the non-students, and we didn’t feel like an important part of the ward (and after coming from Trenton, New Jersey, and a ward where everyone was desperately needed, that was a bit hard).

After we had been there for a year, a university stake was created. The leadership decided that married students would be encouraged to attend the student stake, but not required to. We somewhat reluctantly decided to attend the MSW (it wasn’t complete reluctance, since I had seen the problems that large number of married students were causing the town wards). In the end, we were the only family that changed wards, but many more students started to attend the MSW when they moved in.

I couldn’t believe the difference that attending the MSW made. There were a variety of things that made it a better experience, but the main thing was that the ward was geared towards married students and their needs. There is no other time when a ward is so specifically focused on one group of people. I was sold.

Fast forward a few years. We live in a college town again (this time my husband is teaching), and we are in a ward that is about 50 percent married students, and the problems are the same. In fact, they are worse here in some ways. But the married students don’t want to attend the MSW, even though they are encouraged to. The MSW here, for reasons I don’t understand, don’t even have nurseries, much less Primary for Sunbeams and CTRs. They are known as even more transitory than a typical MSW because no family attends the ward after their oldest is 18 months (although it could be argued that gives a couple over two years at the very least to attend a MSW, and hopefully they didn’t get married that young).

Do you think it’s a good idea for married students to have a choice of which ward they attend? One concern here is that it’s hard to keep track of the married students- you never know which ward they really are attending. Some also use the ploy of going to one ward until they get a calling they don’t like, and switching to the other. Should MSW have nurseries?

But more importantly, if there are going to be large numbers of married students in a town ward, what can that ward do to make the students feel more welcome?


Since Nowruz is coming up in a few days, here some links about Zoroastrianism. (Nowruz was originally a Zoroastrian holiday that has been adopted by many people- in fact, a Kazakh friend of our referred to it as a Muslim holiday.)

Tenets of Zoroastrianism

Questions about Zoroastrianism

Zarathustra (founder of Zoroastrianism)

Beliefnet on Zoroastrianism

Another good site (especially on the Avesta, the Zoroastrian scriptures)

We'll be celebrating Nowruz on Saturday with some friends of ours. They are interested in Eurasia also (although more specifically in Eastern Europe) and even care about Central Asia. Shashlik, naan, rice, and more will be on the menu.

Christians and Israel

The final op-ed piece in the Jerusalem Post that I wanted to comment on concerned the way Christians should feel about Israel. Since I'm Christian and I believe the Bible, I found this piece ("Calling All Christians" by Michael Freund) to be quite interesting.

Freund's initial assertion is as follows:

But what is truly remarkable, and as yet inexplicable, is that a man
[President Bush] so committed to his Christian faith and to belief in the Bible could possibly be unaware of the inherent contradiction in his policy [establishment of a separate Palestinian state] toward the region.

Indeed, how is it that the most devoted Christian to sit in the White House in decades is the same person pressing to divide God's Holy Land, the very same land promised exclusively to the Jewish people by Divine right?

Now, I am neither a theologian nor a Christian, but I do know that the words "Palestine" and "Palestinians" do not appear anywhere in the New Testament. So Bush could not have gotten the idea to establish "Palestine" while attending Sunday school. Did he not learn that Jesus was a Jew who, like the Jews who today are called "settlers," lived in land given by God to the Jews, the same land in which he would now create a hostile Palestinian state?

This is nigh unto amusing to me. I am quite sure the Bush is talking politcal solutions, not religious solutions. And what about the idea that Abraham and his posterity (I don't recall anything completely excluding Ishmael from that promise) were to have the land? And it's quite certain that a fair number of Palestinians are actually Jewish- descended from the ancient Jews who were scattered around 70 AD.

Freund also says

Efforts by Bush and by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to carve up the Holy Land and turn over parts of it to the Arabs should offend anyone who takes the Bible seriously, including evangelicals. To stand by and watch this process unfold without speaking out is simply unthinkable.

I honestly do no see how it is a Biblical contradiction to call for a Palestinain state. Does the Bible say that the Jews will control and hold the entire area from the Nile to the Euphrates? Depends on your point of view. And even if it does, is that a practical solution right now?

Freund ends his article with this stirring sentiment:

There is still time to act, to make a difference. American Christians have been put in a unique position, one in which they can have a direct impact on the future of Israel and its land. At this critical hour, when the integrity of the Holy Land is at stake, they cannot and must not be silent.

The integrity of the Holy Land? I think not.

It's easy to find specific verses in the Bible to support an exclusively Jewish state in that part of the world. But I also think you can find Biblical verses to support the idea of compromise over religous fanaticism. I happen to like this one from Ezekial 47:22:

“And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide [the land] by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, which shall beget children among you: and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.”

An excellent LDS perspective on this issue can be found here.


Aftermath of Kyrgyzstan runoffs

There were several interesting op-ed pieces in the Jerusalem Post today.

"Accommodating Islam" by Amnon Rubenstein

I am not as worked up about this issue as Rubenstein is. True, there are Muslims who are trying to get special and unreasonable accommodations. Some of the ones he lists as unreasonable are not unreasonable to me. I think dress codes should have exceptions for religious dress (although the Sikh short swords could be an issue). I have no problem with Muslim students being allowed to pray in an empty classroom at lunch time, and I can see no reason why anyone should. But I don't think it's necessary for a university to be required to set aside a room that can only be used by Muslims or any one religious group.

There are people all over the place of every race and religion that try to get special privileges. This is not a Muslim issue at all. Christians and Jews certainly have tried the same thing. As a result, there does have to be a limit to religious freedom. We cannot be entirely free to do whatever we want whenever we want religiously. I don't think it's necessary to aim these restrictions at any one religion, or to be more concerned about Muslims than anyone else. We just need firm laws that in certain cases do not allow religious exemptions or exceptions. But your reasonable might not be the same as my reasonable. It always comes down to interpretation in the end, doesn't it?

"There Is No 'Right' of Return" by Amnon Rubenstein

Early in the piece, Rubenstein says: "It is clear that their [the Palestinian leadership] intention is to flood Israel so that its character (and name) disappear with the creation of an Arab majority in the country." This is an incredible statement. Of course it's true. But it's not a devious plot. It's simply the demographics of the area. Israel was created in a place where many non-Jewish people lived. The original partition plan created Jewish and Palestinian states- but both would have had Palestinian majorities! I've said this before, but Israel really has a problem if they want to be both democratic and Jewish.

Rubenstein also says that the Palestinian demand to return is racist- they want to dominate Israel. This would be the result if the Palestinians could return to their homes. But I don't think that's the point. The point is that the Palestinians want to go back to their land. When I was in the Middle East, we often asked Palestinians where they were from as we chatted. Invariably they said they were from the place they no longer lived- they were "from," for example, Akko, but "lived in" Gaza, even though they had been living in Gaza all their lives.

I honestly don't know how willing the Palestinians are to negotiate on the right of return. But I have a feeling, that given a truly viable state, the importance of the right of return would diminish in many Palestinians' eyes.

(I don't think Rubenstein and I would get along very well if we ever discussed politics. Of course, I rarely discuss politics in real life for a variety of reasons. And there is one benefit to that- I don't offend everyone around me, liberal or conservative.)

And finally "The Limits of Ecumenical Dialogue" by Isi Leibler (there is one more interesting piece today, but I think it'll be another post itself).

Jean Fritz

I've been a fan of Jean Fritz for many many years. I've been reading her books since I was little. I remember very clearly when Shh! We're Writing the Constitution came out. I attribute my love of American history to these books. Jean Fritz has a knack for making American history interesting without dumbing it down. If you're not familiar with her books, they are really worth reading- even if you're far beyond elementary school.

And now older son is enjoying her books. I discovered that my husband has been reading my old and very worn copies (I really should replace them, since the pages are falling out) to him at night. They've read And Then What Happened, Paul Revere and Will You Sign Here, John Hancock, and now they are reading Around the World in a Hundred Years. It has been so fun to watch older son discover good books. And my husband's getting a good dose of history to boot.

15 March 2005

Kyrgyz Textiles

Hah! I finally found a blog by an expat mother in Kyrgyzstan.

I also found some sites about textiles in Kyrgyzstan (actually, this one is about animals, but discusses textiles too). Since I'm a handspinner, I'm rather interested in textiles and the methods people use to make clothes and blankets. In Central Asia, people also use textiles for the walls of their yurts or gers.

One of the most famous Kyrgyz textiles is the shyrdak. It is an appliqued felt carpet. Large pieces of wool are felted, then a pattern is cut out and appliqued onto another piece of felt. The remaining pieces of felt are appliqued onto another piece of felt, so you get two shyrdaks that are mirror images. It takes months to make a shyrdak, but they are sturdy enough to last many years.

They also spin wool using an iyik, or hand spindle. My husband picked up a couple of spindles for me in Egypt (he had quite a time finding anyone that still spun wool in Cairo), but they weren't as easy for me to use as my hand spindle. It is interesting to see the different ways people have come up with to use wool.

14 March 2005


Kyrgyzstan runoffs

Troubles with the draft in Israel (Israel requires all young men and women to serve in the military. I believe the only exemption is a religious exemption.)

It is hard to find news stories about Central Asia outside the few blogs and news sites specifically devoted to Central Asia. If CNN manages to make it over to Central Asia on the Asian coverage, they are covering Pakistan or Afghanistan.

13 March 2005


It is always beautiful to hear this [the call to prayer], but at sunset in Cairo it is magnificent. Unlike the long, drawn-out desert dawns, sunset in Egypt is a brilliant and fleeting vision and it is then, the hour of departing day, that the minarets of
Cairo appear at their best: tall and slender silhouettes standing against the
flaming western sky. Then, as dusk ushers in the night, the minarets turn into
delicate tracery set against the stars, as later, in the deeper darkness as in
the light of day, the muezzins prepare to intone one more time the "perfect
summons" to the sleeping city: "Allahu Akbar ... Allahu Akbar..."

John Feeney, Saudi Aramco World, "The Minarets of Cairo"

Minarets and Domes of Cairo (photos)

Islamic Architecture (and other good stuff)

My husband and I both love Islamic architecture. He has been interested in architecture since he visited Europe as a little boy, and specifically in Islamic architecture after he visited Spain, Morocco, and Tunisia. Since he always had to find a few people to go with him while we were in the Middle East (the rule was that you always had to be in a group of at least three), I usually went with him when he visited mosques and other interesting buildings. After we got married, we started collecting (if you can call an assortment of 7 or 8 books a collection) "\coffee table books on places we've been.

These are all beautiful and I recommend them all.

The Mosque: History, Architectural Development & Regional Diversity edited by Martin Frishman and Hasan-Uddin Khan- This one talks about mosques all around the world. It starts with mosques in places like Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Jerusalem and goes out from there to all parts of Asia and to Africa. I love the mud brick mosques in sub-Saharan Africa. I showed my husband Samarqand in this book to get him to want to go there. This was the first book we bought- actually, I bought it in Amman while we were still in the Middle East. My friends always said he married me for this book.

Splendours of an Islamic World: The Art and Architecture of the Mamluks by Henri and Anne Sterlin- This book is about Cairo during the Mamluks (1300ish-1500ish, give or take a few years). The Mamluks built Qayt Bay (my favorite, pictured at the top of this post). Some of Cairo's most beautiful mosques were built during this time (including the Sultan Hassan mosque which is discussed in Saudi Aramco World) were built at this time. I love this book.

The Dome of the Rock by Said Nuseibeh and Oleg Grabar- This book is a photographic detailing of the Dome of the Rock. The Waqf needed the Dome of the Rock documented before they began some restorations and asked Said Nuseibeh to do it. The detail is amazing and many of the mosaics pictures could never be seen from the ground with low lighting. Oleg Grabar writes the text at the beginning and discusses the motives for building the Dome of the Rock, presenting a different theory.

Egypt: Yesterday and Today and The Holy Land: Yesterday and Today by David Roberts, Fabio Bourbon, and Antonio Attini- David Roberts was an artist who traveled to the Middle East in the early 1800s to paint. He produced many pictures, and they are some of the most famous paintings of the Middle East. These books both take many of his paintings and tell a little about them, and also has a modern-day picture on the same page. These are a delight to read if you've been to the Middle East.

The Contemporary Mosque by Renata Holod- This one is more for my husband. I like the older architecture better generally, but there are some amazing mosques in this book. It's also interesting to see how mosque architecture has evolved, especially in relation to the dome and the minaret. Many architects are not including those two traditional aspects, since the dome was never necessary and the minaret is no longer needed. This book includes mosques from around the world.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre by Martin Biddle- This book is more on the people and history of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Biddle's The Tomb of Christ is about the architecture and building the of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I like this one though, since I love the interesting history of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Many Protestants and Mormons don't like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre very much, but I love it.

The Fires of Excellence by Miles Danby- Spain and Portugal have a lot of Islamic architecture from the time the Muslims ruled Spain. This book is completely dedicated to Islamic architecture in those two countries.


I haven't written about anything I've been reading for a while, so I'll remedy that now.

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald- I read this one on lchan's recommendation and enjoyed it, although not as much as I liked The Great Gatsby. I will be reading more Fitzgerald in the future.

Egyptian Women in a Changing Society 1899-1987 by Soha Abdel Kader- Too analytical for me- I want to know more about women's lives during that time, and this book doesn't have that.
Women of Mongolia by Martha Avery- This one is very interesting. It is full of stories about various women all over Mongolia. It starts with an educated Mongolian women giving her recipe for marmot and goes from there. Recommended.

In the Tracks of Tamerlane edited by Daniel L. Burghart and Theresa Sabonis-Helf- This covers all sorts of issues in Central Asia- political, economic, and security. Interesting, if a bit dry.

Kyrgyz Republic by Rowan Stewart- This has been a fun one to read about Kyrgyzstan. It has lots of detail and information, but I'm sure it is rather optimistic in some places. It is more geared toward a traveler to Kyrgyzstan than someone who would live there, but still, it is more helpful than any books I've come across on Central Asia.

Dictionary of the Turkic Languages by Kurtulus Oztopcu- This is a great little book. It takes 8 Turkic languages (Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Tatar, Uzbek, Turkish, and Uygher) and puts them all together. These languages are all rather similar, and since we've been studying Uzbek, it's handy to see how it fits with Kyrgyz.

And, since this has been a less than peaceful week, I've been reading Letters by Marjorie Pay Hinckley. This book and her Glimpses always give me perspective.

Classifying Blogs

I am finding it increasingly difficult to sort the blogs on the sidebar into various categories. Some defy classification. Some could easily be in two or even three categories (Julie's comes to mind, since she is a homeschooler, LDS, and blogs about books). Some don't really fit the category I have them in. Alaska's shouldn't really be called a homeschooling blog right now, but it probably will be someday. And I wouldn't move her to the LDS section. Of course, some of the LDS blogs just happen to be written by Mormons and aren't really "LDS." MFS' blog could be put under homeschoolers, but it is definitely more a bookish place.

But I'm really not complaining, since I like the eclectic blogs. I like that you never know what will be at my own private idaho or Itinerary for: Marlette and Guisseppe or many of the others. And it's always fun to update things over on the sidebar.

Of course, in the end, sidebar links aren't much more than reciprocity anyway.


Remember to look for Mercury tonight. It was beautiful last night near the moon. It will be about halfway between the moon and the horizon and slightly to the right of the moon just after sunset (that's about 7 MST). Don't miss it!

It Never Fails...

Even if it's a Saturday and I can't come up with anything original to write about, there's always politics. And pictures of Kyrgyzstan. :)

Kyrgyzstan is still worked up about the elections. The runoffs are scheduled for tomorrow, if everyone gets their ducks in a row in time. The president is saying that if everyone isn't nice, he'll just reappoint himself as president for the next five years (he had promised to step down for the October 30th presidential elections).

The president of Azerbaijan is sure of his power.

Georgia appears to be set to force the Russians from some old Soviet airbases in Georgia. They have been negotiating about these bases for over 10 years. The Georgians realized that all they have to do is to not issue visas to the Russians.

And here are some lovely photos from Kyrgyzstan. Of course you'd want to go there. And this one has a picture of Bishkek a little way down the page. Here are more of Bishkek.

Orphans of Kyrgyzstan and more photos of Kyrgyzstan.

11 March 2005

Another Jerusalem Post Opinion

Shmuley Boteach (quite the interesting rabbi, from searching the internet) has an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post on Arab women. He says: "But an inability to shake off the tyrants is only the second worst of modern Arab sins. The foremost is the subversion of the maternal and nurturing instinct from within so many Arab women. "

(The author also has a book coming out soon on the way America treats women.)

He goes on to talk about Palestinian women who want their children to be suicide bombers. I remember reading about polls done a few years ago (in around 2001, during the worst of the Aqsa Intifada) saying that a large majority of Palestinians supported suicide bombings when Israel was being more repressive than usual. Boteach writes:
In fact, rather than being seen as lacking any womanly or maternal instinct,
mothers who send their sons off as suicide bombers gain recognition from
organizations like Hamas, who give them the title "Hanas" - women who have
attained a sacred level in Islam. Hamas uses these women in television
interviews to encourage other mothers to encourage their sons to perpetrate
terrorist attacks. The New Yorker's Nasra Hassan wrote that after a Palestinian
suicide bombing operation, "Often the mother will ululate in joy at the honor
that Allah has bestowed upon her family."

Reports like this are increasing. And maybe I'm out of touch, because it's been several years since I've been in Palestine, but I just don't think that a majority of Palestinian mothers wants their children to blow themselves up, no matter how depravedly they are portrayed in the media. Sure, there are women out there who would support it. There are crazy mothers everywhere, in every society. Living in a state of violence and conflict for nearly 60 years also has serious psychological consequences. But I do not agree that Palestinian women are awful.

This story presents a different view about suicide bomber named Iyad: "His parents knew he was distraught over his younger brother's death two months ago. But they never imagined that Iyad would consider strapping a belt of explosives around his waist."

The article goes on to explain more about Iyad's circumstances and state of mind:

Iyad's parents say that his frustration grew with a long period of school
closures here, and he refused to return to school last year. He decided to work
in construction instead. For his middle-class family, members of one of this
city's largest and most well-established clans, it was a disappointing choice.
But more disappointment and hardship was to come.

Iyad's 14-year-old brother, Amjad, was shot by Israeli soldiers in the courtyard near their house Jan. 3, during an Israeli raid in Nablus [as you may recall, things were very violent in Nablus for a while, with charges of brutal behavior against
both Israelis and Palestinians]. At the funeral, Mr. Masri says, one of their cousins
was also shot and killed while carrying Amjad's body to his grave.

I honestly don't think many Americans can even imagine the lives most Palestinians have. I remember talking to families in the Gaza Strip, and they told us that they lived in fear all of the time that Israeli soldiers would come to their door in the middle of the night. The soldiers were allowed to violently enter (and often wreck) their houses to search for anything they wanted- without a warrant of course. Can you imagine living like that? Would you feel like you could protect your children? Would you yourself become more accustomed and tolerant to violence? What if this went one for three generations?

There is no question that Palestinians have promoted this violence too, and that many teach their children that violence is completely acceptable. I worry that violence will become the means to any end, even if the Palestinians finally get their own state. But would this have even happened if things had worked out differently 60 years ago? Should we blame the instigators of the problem, or the ones who continue it? Are the Palestinians solely to blame for continuing the problem?

Here is one more interesting article about suicide bombers.

One More Thing...

The World also has all of its back issues on the internet (from the last 40 years!). You can search for articles, or see the lists of titles, subjects, and contributors.

Not bad from a free publication.

Reading Suggestions for Islam and Interesting Exhibitions

I linked this in the post below, but it was buried at the bottom beyond the give-up point. I am often asked for suggestions of what to read regarding the Islamic world, and Saudi Aramco World has a great list of suggestions and reviews on a huge variety of topics concerning Islam. Check it out!

Anyone here from Michigan? There are often interesting things going on there. Grand Rapids will have an exhibition on Petra starting in April. Ann Arbor currently has one on life in Roman Egypt and one that looks oh-so-interesting called "Art of the Written Word in the Middle East." I love calligraphic ornamentation.

Obviously places like Washington DC, New York, London, and Paris are great places to see these kinds of thing. Sydney, Australia, is often a good place too- there was one in the textiles and ceramic of Central Asia earlier this year. There were hand-painted photographs from Turkestan, Inner Mongolia, and Tibet taken the early 1920s in Houston earlier this year too.

I'd love to go to Philadelphia to see the "Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur." And I want to go to "Art of the Ancient Mediterranean World" at BYU- this one is actually a possibility. Or what about "Beyond the Bag" in Washington DC that discusses textiles as containers? "The Art of Rice" (Honolulu) "Asian Games" (Washington DC again), "The Art of Medicine in Ancient Egypt" (New York City) all sound good.

Or maybe we just need to go to Bonn, Germany. The King Tut exhibit is there now, one on art and culture in Jordan will be starting soon, and finally, one on Genghis Khan and the Mongols starts in June. I'd love to see that one.

So what am I doing in Idaho?

Saudi Aramco World

We just got our Jan/Feb issue of the Saudi Aramco World today (yes, I know it's March- it takes a rather circuitous path since my mother steals it en route to our house). It's a great little publication put out by, you guessed it, Aramco, and it covers a variety of topics in the Muslim world.

You can read the whole thing online at the above link, or you can subscribe to it for free (that's really why we like it). In fact, there are lots of free things from Saudi Arabia. They'll send you as many Qur'ans as you'd like, if you ask.

This month the articles include archaeology in Troy (or what we hope to be Troy), eagle hunters in Kazakhstan, and a lovely section on Islamic architecture in Cairo.

The magazine always has a Reader's Guide with suggestions of how to use the articles in teaching, and also has a continually updated list of Events and Exhibitions around the world. (The Events aren't really helpful for us, since not too many things come through Idaho, but there have been a few things we've been able to go to in Utah. If you live in a big city, there are often things listed.)

The World also often has book and music reviews, and provides an interesting look into the Islamic world- all of it. If you have any interest in Islam or Muslim countries, this publication is worth looking at.

10 March 2005

The Moon and Mercury

The Moon will be near Mercury on Friday and Saturday evenings just after sunset. The Moon was new early this morning, so look for a slim crescent with Mercury slightly below and to its right on Friday. On Saturday, look for Mercury a bit to the right of and about halfway between the moon and the horizon.

Zakat Donations

So, I was thinking about Muslim donations as a result of these tithing posts. Muslims are supposed to donate 2.5 percent (at least, that's the interpretation I've seen- is that number universally recognized?) of their wealth each year. (I'm glad we have our system- it's much easy to figure out 10 percent of our increase that 2.5 percent of what we actually own!)

Anyway, there are any number of places Muslims can donate their money. There are many waqf organizations set up that take donations and use it for a variety of purposes. The administrator of the waqf for the Holy Mount in Jerusalem is a friend of ours and he gets donations from a huge number of people, organizations, and countries.

But my understanding is that there are no real rules on what you do with your zakat, as long as you give it to someone. However, Muslims' donations can be closely tracked by the government- there are some who believe that a Muslim who donates, even unknowingly, to a group that funds terrorism in any way is guilty of funding terrorism and can be charged accordingly.

I believe this is an extreme example, but I assure you that I would not be pleased if it were discovered that the LDS Church had funded some type of terrorist activity, and now, as a result, I could be charge with funding terrorism. I don't donate my money for any purpose like that, and can I really be responsible for the money after I have given it? Is it even my money at that point?

An excellent example of this could be Hamas. We know it as a terrorist organization, but it also happens to do quite a bit of humanitarian work. Should a Muslim who donates specifically to Hamas' humanitarian work be responsible for any money that Hamas uses for terrorist purposes?

These are tricky questions. I wouldn't want to see laws that were so relaxed that anyone could fund illegal activities under the guise of donating to a religious organization, but people really should have the freedom to give their money to the legal organization of their choice. It's the intent that counts. Too bad it's hard to measure intent.

More on the Tithing Discussion

The discussion on tithing has now evolved into a discussion on whether it's right for a church to use its money to build opulent buildings and such. This is something that often comes up in the LDS Church. Our temples are very visible and often people are more familiar with our temples than the humanitarian work the Church does. I remember when we lived in New Jersey that several people thought the Washington DC Temple was far too big and ornate and that the money should have been spent in a different way.

I can certainly see the point. But I don't have a problem with building beautiful temples that are dedicated to God, or with supporting Church leaders and their families when their callings keep them from working in their regular jobs. I guess what it comes down to is trust. I believe that my money is being used wisely- I wouldn't give it to the Church if I didn't. I honestly haven't found a better charity, humanitarian-wise. Since the LDS Church has tithing funds to administer and distribute its humanitarian donations (which are separately accounted for), 100 percent of what we give to fast offerings and humanitarian aid goes to helping people. It works for us.

I guess what it comes down to is that we each get to choose what we do with our own money, and so does each church. It's interesting to note, though, that Muslim organizations have come under increased scrutiny after September 11th concerning what they do with the money they get.

09 March 2005

Tithing from a Different Perspective

There has been an interesting discussion on tithing on the Well-Trained Mind boards. There are a large variety of Christians commenting there, so it's a helpful place to get a lot of different perspectives, especially since I've never discussed tithing with someone who is not LDS.

In the LDS Church, we are asked to tithe 10 percent on our gross income, and also asked to contribute to what we call fast offerings which specifically go to help people in need locally. We are then welcome to contribute to other things- like humanitarian aid, the missionary fund, money to build temples, etc.

There were several different points brought up- ones that you might hear in an LDS discussion on tithing too. First was the idea that tithing on our gross income instead of your net income would bring more blessings. Most of the blessings referred to were financial, and some of the posters there pointed out that we don't pay tithing to receive financial blessings. It's easier to see the financial blessings, but so often the blessings aren't financial.

Several posters felt strongly that tithing is not required anymore, and if you simply look at the New Testament, I think that's a reasonable conclusion. She certainly was not advocating that Christians not give, but that a specifically defined 10 percent was not necessary.

There was also a very interesting discussion about members of a certain church not feeling comfortable with what their church was doing with the money they received. It would be hard for me to feel like I was supposed to give money to an organization that I didn't feel like used the money very well.

One of the things I most enjoy about reading the WTM boards is that I gain new insights from other Christians.


Women in politics in Kyrgyzstan

Interesting article about religious freedom and religious extremism in Muslim countries

Lack of cooperation among the opposition in Kyrgyzstan benefits the president


Mount St. Helens is continuing its current unrest and had another small eruption starting about 2 hours ago. Too bad it's too dark to check the webcam there.

And while you're at it, check out the current volcanic activity around the world (updated Friday).

08 March 2005


There will be a partial eclipse visible from the southern US and Central and South America. The only place it will be total is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is on April 8th, in the afternoon (at least here in the US).

Southern Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida will see it 20-40 percent eclipsed (the farther south you are, the better). New Mexico, northern Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware; and southern Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey will see it 1-20 percent eclipsed.

And I just remembered today that there is a total solar eclipse in Central Asia next March. Maybe I'll get to see it! I've always wanted to see a total solar eclipse.

J Post Opinion

This opinion piece is about quotas for women in Israeli diplomatic negotiations.

A Few Links

Remember this article about the Uyghurs (large Muslim group in western China)

Liberals Against Terrorism

Language Hat- this is a great blog about language with lots of good links

Omniglot- very interesting site about written language

Language Maps (I've seen better ones though.)

Unrest Continues in Kyrgyzstan

Protests are continuing and growing in Kyrgyzstan after the parliamentary elections. (Map showing where protests currently are.) There have been many accusations of fraud, and many are calling for the president to resign and call for new elections. The president had already announced that he would not be running again in November (after being in control for 15 years).

It will be interesting to see where this goes. There are a variety of possible outcomes. The best would be to see Kyrgyzstan more open as a result. Of course, it could also result in civil war. Probably not though. There are many minorities in Kyrgyzstan- it's about 20 percent Uzbek and 20 percent Russian, with most of the rest Kyrgyz. Hopefully changes are made, but it could well be that the most likely scenario is that everything stays the same. Kyrgyzstan has actually been one of the freest of the Central Asian countries, but it has a long way to go.

Of course, it might also make Kyrgyzstan a very interesting place to be in the next few months, or in November, when the presidential elections are currently scheduled.

07 March 2005

Two Requests

My sister is speaking at the funeral of a friend of hers (she and the friend are both adults) who committed suicide. Her topic is the plan of salvation. She finds this topic to be rather difficult in these specific circumstances. Any suggestions?

Also, my husband is interviewing all day today for a job that is rather important to both of us. If you feel so inclined, it would be lovely if you kept us in your thoughts today.


Would You Stay?

Someone in church today made an interesting comment. He said that he would still be a member of the LDS Church even if he didn't believe it was true, because the Church helps him lead a better life. There were several who agreed with him. The Church does teach people to live good lives, and I do think that is a good reason to be a part of something.

But it wouldn't be enough for me. If I didn't believe the Church were true, I wouldn't stay in it. I think there are many religions, philosophies, and beliefs that can teach people to live good lives. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I believe that Islam is a great religion. I don't think I could say, if I thought neither were true, that the LDS Church teaches people to be better than Muslims. I don't think that any one branch of Christianity is better than another. They all teach truths, and they all teach people to lead good, moral lives. And religion isn't the only way to find those truths. One commenter recently said that she finds truth in a variety of books. I completely agree.

I am a member of the LDS Church for different reasons than that it's "good," or that it teaches me to lead a good life. I am a member because I firmly believe the doctrines of the Church. I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that Gordon B. Hinckley is a living prophet today, that the scriptures (all of them, from the Old Testament to the Doctrine and Covenants) are the word of God. I believe that families can be eternal, that I will be resurrected, and that God loves me, plain old little me.

And that is enough for me. The LDS Church is not perfect. Nothing is or was perfect here on the earth, except for Jesus Christ. But I have faith that its doctrines are true, and I hope that I end up a better person because of it.

From Scratch

There have been several conversations about homemade food, or cooking from scratch. This is pretty much all we do. We've only had one car the entire time we've been married, so if we didn't have it, I had to figure out how to make it, since I couldn't ever get to the store. It's cheaper and healthier anyway. And, if you make a lot of something at a time, it's not very time-consuming.

So, here are some of my recipes. My favorite "basic" cookbook is one I've mentioned before, Boarding the Ark Today. I've also collected and made up others along the way. I have a few posted below, and I'll be adding more soon. And as always, check the recipes link on the sidebar.

Fresh Salsa

About 6 roma tomatoes, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 avocado, diced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
Crushed red pepper to taste

I love this served with flatbread.

Pasta Sauce

1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 29-oz can crushed tomatoes, or 2 lbs fresh tomatoes, chopped
Herbs to taste- I like rosemary, oregano leaves, thyme, sage, and a bit of basil
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
Crushed red pepper

Saute onion in oil till soft. Add the red of the ingredients and simmer for 5-10 minutes with canned tomatoes, and 15-20 with fresh tomatoes.

Cream Soup Base

2 c powdered milk
1 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup chicken bouillon
2 Tbsp powdered onion
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/4 tsp black pepper

Mix. To reconstitute, combine 1/3 cup of the cream soup base and 1 1/4 c water. Cook over medium heat till thick. This equals 1 10-oz can of condensed cream soup. If you're baking it in a casserole or something like that, you don't have to pre-cook it. It will thicken as you bake your dish.