30 April 2005

Central Asian Dance and Music

Johnna pointed out a website on Uzbek dance. Here's one with pictures and information. And here is a review of an interesting-looking book about Uzbek dance and how it has changed. There wasn't much specifically on Kyrgyz dance, but it's not non-existant.

And here are some samples of Central Asian music.

29 April 2005

Quick Kyrgyzstan Update

Kyrgyzstan moves to reform constitution

Kyrgyzstan: struggle of paradigms

Kulov declares candidacy

More On Sunni Schools of Islamic Thought

I briefly discussed different schools of Islamic thought earlier this week and where each of those schools are dominant in the world. I also wanted to write a little about the specifics of each school. I know I keep saying this, but it is important to remember that there are as many differences, divisions, and disputes in Muslim practice as there are in Christian practice.

The Hanafi school was founded by Abu Hanifa. He was born in Iraq in about 700. The Hanafi school can be described this way:
Broad-minded without being lax, this school appeals to reason (personal judgment) and a quest for the better. It is generally tolerant and the largest movement within Islam. The Hanafi school is known for its liberal religious orientation that elevates belief over practice and is tolerant of differences within Muslim communities.

The Maliki school was found by Malik ibn Anas. He lived from 710-795:
This school recorded the Medina consensus of opinion, and uses hadith (tradition) as a guide. The Maleki is predominant in north, central and west Africa and Egypt. Following the tradition of Imam Malik, this school appeals to "common utility...the idea of the common good."

Malik did not record the fundamental principles on which he based his school and on whose basis he derived his judgments and to which he limited himself in the derivation of his rulings. In that respect he resembled his contemporary, Abu Hanifa, but not his student, ash-Shafi'i, who did record the principles he used in derivation and defined them precisely, specifying the motives which moved him to consider them and their position in deduction.

The Shafi'i school was begun by Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi'i. He lived from 767-819:

According to the Shafi'i school the paramount sources of legal authority are the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Of less authority are the Ijma' of the community and thought of scholars (Ijitihad) exercised through qiyas. The scholar must interpret the ambiguous passages of the Qur'an according to the consensus of the Muslims, and if there is no consensus, according to qiyas.

The Hanbali school was founded by Ahmad bin Hanbal (died in 855) and is the smallest of the four schools:

It derives its decrees from the Qur'an and the Sunnah, which it places above all forms of consensus, opinion or inference. The school accepts as authoritative an opinion given by a Companion of the Prophet, providing there is no disagreement with another Companion. In the case of such disagreement, the opinion of the Companion nearest to that of the Qur'an or the Sunnah will prevail.

The Wahhabi sect is part of the Hanbali school. Al-Wahhabi was born in around 1700. His initial goal was to rid the Muslim Bedouin of Sufi practices; his efforts grew into an attempt to return Islam to its original state- basically a Muslim reformer similar to Calvin or Luther.

The most obvious example of Wahhabi practice is in Saudi Arabia:

To the Wahhabis, for example, performance of prayer that is punctual, ritually correct, and communally performed not only is urged but publicly required of men. Consumption of wine is forbidden to the believer because wine is literally forbidden in the Quran. Under the Wahhabis, however, the ban extended to all intoxicating drinks and other stimulants, including tobacco. Modest dress is prescribed for both men and women in accordance with the Quran, but the Wahhabis specify the type of clothing that should be worn, especially by women, and forbid the wearing of silk and gold, although the latter ban has been enforced only sporadically. Music and dancing have also been forbidden by the Wahhabis at times, as have loud laughter and demonstrative weeping, particularly at funerals.

The Wahhabi emphasis on conformity makes of external appearance and behavior a visible expression of inward faith. Therefore, whether one conforms in dress, in prayer, or in a host of other activities becomes a public statement of whether one is a true Muslim. Because adherence to the true faith is demonstrable in tangible ways, the Muslim community can visibly judge the quality of a person's faith by observing that person's actions. In this sense, public opinion becomes a regulator of individual behavior. Therefore, within the Wahhabi community, which is striving to be the collective embodiment of God's laws, it is the responsibility of each Muslim to look after the behavior of his neighbor and to admonish him if he goes astray.
Another site with links to good information about Islam is The Sunnah: Practice and Law.

28 April 2005

Crocheted Blessing and Christening Gowns


I finally got some better pictures put together of my crocheted blessing and christening dresses. Check it out!

27 April 2005

Brands of Islam

I've not had time to comment on a very interesting article from U.S. News and World Report entitled "Hearts, Minds and Dollars." Hopefully I'll get to the article in general soon, but I did want to write about one issue that it brings up:

Fueled by its vast oil wealth, the Saudis are estimated to have spent up to $75 billion since 1975 to expand their fundamentalist sect, Wahhabism, worldwide. The kingdom has funded hundreds of mosques, schools and Islamic centers abroad, spreading a once obscure sect of Islam.


I've mentioned before that there are a variety of different styles of Islam. Wahhabism is part of the Hanbali "school" of Sunni Islamic thought (madhab). There are four madhabs: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, and Hanbali. Egypt uses all four schools, but most countries are dominated by one madhab.

Since the Ottoman and Moghul Empires were Hanafi, today the Hanafi school is followed in Turkey, Central Asia, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh. Jordan, Syria, and Palestine also have some Hanafi influence but are generally considered to be Shafi'i. The Maliki school is followed in Algeria, Tunis, Morocco, Mauritania, Libya, Kuwait, Bahrain, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The Shafi'i school is mostly found in SE Asia- Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and other Muslim areas of SE Asia. There are also Shafi'is in Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen.

The Hanbali school is followed in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, part of Oman and the United Arab Emirates (except Abu Dhabi and Dubai). The Wahhabis are part of the Hanbali school. Clearly they are a small minority, yet, as the article states, Saudi Arabia has spent a significant amount of money to spread its brand of Islam. As a result, many non-Muslims are most familiar with this Saudi style- even though it is only practiced by a small number of Muslims. Most Muslims don't have religious prescriptions on a woman going to the grocery store by herself or many of the other things I see as problems in Wahhabism.

The United States has a vested interest in supporting less restrictive and more reasonable types of Islam- and there are lots out there to choose from. Islam is much more than what it is portrayed on the news.

26 April 2005

Porkchop Geyser


Porkchop Geyser is rather interesting. It was only active for a few years before it exploded to bits.

Echinus Geyser


We made it to Norris Geyser Basin this time. It is the hottest and most acidic of the basins in Yellowstone. We waitied for Echinus for a while, but the boys were bored. I'll get back to this one too- it has a good eruption fairly regularly.

Steamboat Geyser


Steamboat is the largest geyser in the world, but it hasn't erupted since 2003.

Blue Star Spring


Older son calls this Hot Dog Spring since it smelled like hot dogs the first time he saw it, and younger son calls this Alaska Spring.

Oblong Geyser


We caught the end of Oblong's eruption. I felt like we were about 3 minutes late most of the day.

White Dome Geyser


We saw White Dome erupting as we drove by. Since Firehole Lake Drive is closed, we couldn't get very close to it. This is the end of the eruption- I didn't get the camera out in time for the beginning. It is a very narrow jet of water and not particularly high, but it is a beautiful geyser.

Grotto Geyser


Grotto Geyser is lots of fun to watch. Again, we just missed the largest part of the eruption, but there was still plenty of sound and splashing when we made it around the trees.

Daisy Geyser


Daisy goes off at a 70 degree angle and is a very regular geyser.

Castle Geyser


This is the steam phase from Castle Geyser. It had a minor eruption just before we got around the corner to see it, so I'll have to go back to see it again. The steam is fun to watch since it churns around.

25 April 2005

Great Blogs

We went to Yellowstone again today. I'll post some pictures tomorrow. We just missed a couple of geysers, but I was still able to get pictures of some new ones.

I also wanted to mentioned some new blogs that I've been introduced to or starting reading regularly in the last few months. These all, or nearly all, have LDS content.

By Study and Also By Faith

knot in the string

Mother of All (she has a handy link to a translation of a Kyrgyz epic)

Lisa's Ramblings

Food Chronicles

24 April 2005

Singing in Church

We're singing in church today. This is the second we've been asked to do this. We are not a particularly musical family. I play the piano passably- well enough for a New Jersey ward but not for an Idaho ward. However, my piano playing is better than my singing, so I muddle through accompanying my husband and the boys. My husband, D, was in the Mormon Youth Chorus (back when there was one) on a fluke and has no thoughts of being a great singer. (He is good, but not what you usually hear in Sacrament Meeting.)

So we rely on the boys to get us through. They both love to sing and people don't expect little boys to be particularly in tune. They are enthusiastic and happy. Too bad they can't just sing a capella by themselves. D and I do our best to lay low.

Of course, we won't have to do this in Kyrgyzstan since we can't meet for Church with anyone else. It will be interesting to see what we miss and what we're glad to not have to worry about for a while. We were talking with the boys about some things we might miss and one said meetings. It didn't take long to decide that we wouldn't miss meetings. :)

23 April 2005

Yellowstone!

I made it to Yellowstone today. I toted the boys along in the stroller. Yes, they really are too big for it, but they don't have quite the same interest in Yellowstone that I do. So they had to be dragged part of the day. The bison weren't too obliging either (although I didn't try putting any of them in the stroller).

We had a good time. Our luck wasn't quite as good as it was the last time we went because Daisy and Grand were both erupting just as we got there. We saw Grand through the trees and the steam from Daisy. And while we were in the middle of the Upper Geyser Basin, Beehive went off and we missed it. The road to Great Fountain and White Dome is still closed.

The weather was lovely too. And we saw lots of geysers. Just not the big ones. Hopefully our timing will be a bit better next time.

Clepsydra

Old Faithful

Fountain Paint Pots

Cliff Geyser

Fumarole

Old Tardy Geyser

22 April 2005

Yellow House


And, while I'm in the picture mode, here is our house in Boise. I am missing it a lot as Spring is starting. My lilacs would be starting to open soon, the daffodils and crocuses would be blooming, my weeping tree would have beautiful blossoms, and my roses that only bloom once a year would be starting to grow.

Grand Geyser


This picture doesn't do justice to Grand Geyser. It truly is an amazing geyser. It is high and lasts for a long time. If you're in the Upper Geyser Basin for the day, note the projected time for the eruption then keep an eye on the area where Grand is- you'll be able to see it over the trees and run over in time to see most of the show.

Cliff Geyser


Cliff Geyser is fun to watch because it's right next to the river. We happened to drive up as it was erupting and watched it for a while.

21 April 2005

Old Faithful Vent




This is the Old Faithful Vent. It is not possible to see this vent as a regular tourist since you can't get anywhere near Old Faithful.

Beehive Geyser



Beehive Geyser is one of the most impressive geysers in Yellowstone. It erupts from a come so the spray is small and quite forceful. It's not regular enough to be predicted, but its interval is at a 13-hour average, so it is not too hard too see if you spend the day in the Upper Geyser Basin. It is easily visible from Old Faithful so many people see it while they're waiting for OF.

Yellowstone again

Yellowstone opens tomorrow! It looks like the weather should be lovely on Saturday. Maybe not so nice next week, but still good enough to go again.

This actually looks like a great time to go. There will be few visitors since there is no lodging open yet. The only campground open is up at Mammoth. I wonder though if they'll have predicitions for some of the other geysers near Old Faithful.

The Park is also planning a new Visitor Education Center. And I just discovered a selection of photos available on the site. I think a post with lots of pictures is coming up...

20 April 2005

Good Thing We're Not Going to Turkmenistan...

Nearly all Turkmen libraries closed

Induced Earthquakes

I'm reading about earthquakes this week and came across a reference to earthquakes that have been caused by dams. The most obvious examples of this are from the Hoover Dam, the Aswan High Dam, the Kariba Dam on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border, and the Koyna Dam in India. Earthquakes have also occurred at the Hsin-feng-chiang Dam in China, the Kremasta Dam in Greece, and the Nurek Dam in Tajikistan and in a variety of other places.

However, most reservoirs do not cause earthquakes. It is theorized that earthquakes will only be caused where there was already stress and faults that are set off by the increased pressure from the reservoir. Usually the earthquakes occur as the reservoirs are filling or if water levels are lowered significantly; they are often small. However, some can be fairly large.

The area around the Hoover Dam has been experiencing increased small earthquakes as a result of lower water levels in Lake Mead. The Koyna Dam has caused some large earthquakes (a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in 1967 killed 200 people) and recently experienced another.

Of course, many are not convinced that reservoirs can cause earthquakes. (search for 3.9.1. Reservoir induced seismicity (RIS))

19 April 2005

Meteor Shower

The Lyrid meteor shower should be peaking early Friday morning. There are usually 10-15 fast and relatively bright meteors per hour. The radiant is between Hercules and Lyra, so look east before dawn. However, the moon is nearly full and it will interfere with the shower.

The Lyrids is the earliest recorded meteor shower with the Chinese noting it in 687 B.C.

I also noticed that the Draconids are supposed to be worth watching this year (October 8th). The expected peak, which could possibly be a storm with 1000 meteors per hour is at 10 AM Mountain Time. Not too good if you're in Idaho, but that's 10 PM in Bishkek. :)

18 April 2005

Yellowstone

Yellowstone opens on Friday! If the weather cooperates we'll be there a couple of times in the first few days. I cannot wait to see geysers again. I've written about geysers in the past here, here, and here. The electronic geyser data has also been updated.

17 April 2005

The Old Testament and Importance of Scripture

Ben had an interesting post at M* about the Old Testament. I've mentioned before that I love the Old Testament for many of the same reasons that Ben lists, but I also agree that many members of the Church aren't very comfortable with the OT.

There are obvious reasons for this. We talk about the symbolism of Isaiah and the difficulties we might encounter there, but we rarely mention similar difficulties throughout the OT. We focus on Isaiah because of the emphasis Nephi placed on Isaiah, but there is still work to be done with other books of the OT. It is also important to remember that some books of the OT (like Ezekiel and Daniel) could not have been on the Brass Plates since they were written after Lehi left Jerusalem, so Nephi's not mentioning them does not necessarily make them of less value.

The OT is very different from any other book of scripture. It is quite the hodgepodge of different things- genealogy, poetry, prophecies, children's stories, allegories, lots of history, etc. I imagine that Mormon was working with a collection of texts that was somewhat similar to the OT when he edited the Book of Mormon. One person's going through the entire OT and editing and possibly adding some other ancient texts would make for an "easier" OT- not that I'm advocating that.

All these things contribute to people's reluctance to reading the OT. Still, I think the primary reason we ignore it is that the OT is not emphasized in our Church the way the Book of Mormon is or the Gospels. Our focus on the Book of Mormon is good, but I wish it didn't exclude the Bible, especially the OT.

More Book Talk

So, if you were off to a non-English-speaking country and you had to pay to ship any of your books (at $211 for 70 pounds unless you fill one of your children's suitcases with books), what would you take? Would you take your chances at finding books written in English in that rather foreign country?

I'd love to hear what books you'd take. I'm starting on a list of what I wouldn't care to be without for a year.

And, by the way, here is an interesting article about bookstores in Central Asia.

16 April 2005

Thanks

I just wanted to thank you all for being so encouraging with our trip to Kyrgyzstan. We've gotten good suggestions for a variety of things here regarding many different aspects of going and it's been so helpful.

It's been funny to tell people here in our small Idaho town of our plans (well, I guess for Idaho it's a rather large town). The number one reaction is simply, "Oh," with nothing else said about it. Some do manage to ask where it is. My husband has better luck when he's talking to men. I don't expect much certainly, but it has been interesting.

So, thanks for your encouragement and interest. It's nice to know that I finally will have a move where I won't lose touch of some friends since I only know you through the internet anyway.

15 April 2005

Book Links

I picked up The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease a few days ago. I will always have fond memories of this book because my mother used it to choose books to read to us for many years. She continued to read to us even when we were teenagers. I still hear her voice when I read The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Search for Delicious, Tuck Everlasting, and Twenty and Ten.

Trelease has some links (mostly outdated, since the book was published in 2001) with some book sites. Here are the ones I could find:

Booklist

School Library Journal

International Reading Association

Reading Rainbow books

Kirkus Reviews

The Horn Book

Book Links

Logic Problems

I've been having fun with this site of logic problems. Logic problems are the only word-puzzle-type thing I like to do. What fun.

14 April 2005

Russian and Kyrgyz

I got my new Russian textbook yesterday, The New Penguin Russian Course by Nicholas J. Brown, recommended by Andy at SiberianLight. It looks like it will be just what I need. Not too long, but not just for tourists. Thanks Andy! I've gone through the first 5 lessons quickly and I think the next five should also be fast. Then I'm hoping to do one or two lessons a week to finish the book before we leave. I'll have plenty of practice when we get to KG.

My husband is focusing more on learning Kyrgyz. We can't find anything that discusses Kyrgyz grammar, so we're hoping that we can apply Uzbek grammar to Kyrgyz words. We got a Kyrgyz dictionary to help us out there.

We also picked up some Central Asia travel books. After waiting for so many years to go to Central Asia, I can't believe that we'll be there in a few months.

Simple Tasty Things

Salsa
About 4 Roma tomatoes
1 avocado
1 bunch of green onions (or less)
1-3 cloves garlic
Lemon juice
Salt
Crushed red pepper

Chop everything up and mix together. Eat with flatbread or homemade chips. It's okay to eat it all yourself before your husband comes home.


Smoothies
4 cups fruit
Plain yogurt (about 1 cup)
Lemon juice (I like lots)
Sugar if you're using a tart fruit
Whey or water to thin it down, if needed

Blend it all up.


Rice cereal
(I make a big pot that lasts a couple of days)
4 quarts boiling water
4 cups cracked brown rice (I mix in some brown basmati too)

Cook the rice in the boiling water, stirring every so often, till rice is cooked. Remove from heat and let sit to thicken some. Serve with cream and brown sugar.


Very Simple Salad
Mixed baby greens (fresh from the garden is best, but too often not available)
Crumbled feta cheese

Mix together.


Macaroni and Cheese
Cooked macaroni
Grated cheese
Salt
Yogurt

Mix together and eat it every day for lunch.


Yummy Toast
Toast
Butter
Homemade peach jam


What simple, delicious things do you like?

13 April 2005

Homeschooling in Kyrgyzstan and other KG Stuff

Squatters in Bishkek causing problems

There is a lot that needs to be done before we leave for Kyrgyzstan. The boys and I need passports. We still haven't figured out the best way to get to KG. We're seriously leaning towards driving to New York, then flying to London, Madrid, Istanbul, and Bishkek. However, we may not be able to leave Utah in time to do that, at least the driving to NYC. We have to get a laptop computer along with a portable printer. I need to throw away or give away a lot of stuff. It's not worth storing especially if we end up staying overseas afterwards or continue moving around the US.

I'm working on gathering homeschooling books now. The grant will reimburse us for more than I can spend on homeschooling (well, I could spend that much, but we don't need to) so for the first time cost isn't an issue. I know what I want for spelling, grammar, handwriting, math, and history. I'm not sure what to do about science and I'm concerned about having enough books around for the boys to read.

Lots to do... and I hate that feeling.

12 April 2005

Loose Tooth

In honor of older son finally losing his first tooth last night (six months is a long time to wait for a loose tooth to come out!) we found out what children do in some other countries when they lose a tooth. These come from Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the World by Selby Beeler.

In Kyrgyzstan you roll your tooth in bread and give it to an animal, preferably a mouse - they have healthy, sharp, white teeth and that is what you want too.

In the Dominican Republic your throw your tooth on the roof - maybe a mouse will come with a better one.

In Argentina you put your tooth in a glass of water. In the night a mouse, Ratoncito, comes. He drinks all the water and takes the tooth away but leaves coins or candy in the empty glass.

In Cameroon you throw your tooth over the roof, shouting, "Take this bad tooth and bring me a new one." Then you hop around the house on one foot and everyone laughs.

In Greece you throw your tooth on the roof for good luck and make a wish that your teeth will grow healthy and straight.

In Denmark you put your tooth under your pillow and the tooth fairy comes.

In Oman you face the sun and throw your tooth as far as possible while saying, "Oh mighty sun, take this tooth, play with it and do not forget to bring it back."

In Kazakhstan you drop your tooth under the bathtub and say, "Mouse, mouse bring me a new tooth please."

In Tajikistan you plant plant your teeth in the ground and they grow to be warriors.

In India you throw your tooth on the roof and ask the sparrows for a new one.

In Sri Lanka you close your eyes and say, "Squirrel squirrel, take this tooth and give me a new one." Then you throw your tooth on the roof and run into the house without looking.

In Malaysia you bury your tooth. It is part of your body and needs to be returned to the earth.

In Vietnam and Thailand you throw lower teeth on the roof and upper teeth under the bed.

Central Asia

Ikbol Mirsaitov on Kyrgyzstan and the Ferghana Valley. As a little background, the Ferghana Valley was divided by Stalin between what is now Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. If you look at a map of Central Asia, you'll see some creative boundaries where these three countries come together. That is the Ferghana Valley. Stalin was concerned about extremism in the Valley and wanted to divide the people; the result was the interesting borders. Today the Valley has more Muslim fundamentalists than other areas of those three countries (I guess Stialin's plan didn't quite work). Uzbekistan has been especially concerned about this area (they're concerned in general with Islam even though it is a Muslim country).

Martha Brill Olcott on Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. There have been a variety of people criticizing the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan. Olcott brings in a educated and insightful view.

Hat tip: Registan.net, of course.

More International Moving Books

Notes from a Traveling Childhood: Readings for Internationally Mobile Parents & Children edited by Karen McCluskey- Another one about the trials of living overseas.

Unrooted Childhoods : Memoirs of Growing Up Global by Faith Eidse- I didn't even finish this one. Are parents really as out of touch with their children as this?

Moving Your Family Overseas by Rosalind Talb and Penelope Welsh- Not very helpful.

Expert Expatriate : Your Guide to Successful Relocation Abroad-Moving, Living, Thriving by Melissa Brayer Hess- This one has been the most helpful book about actually moving overseas. It addresses a lot of issues and viewpoints. Still, it discounts homeschooling. I really have been surprised at how few (none) of these books see homeschooling as a good option unless there are literally no other options.

I have hit my limit of these types of books. If I were doing this again or recommending them to someone else, I'd just read The Expert Expatriate and Third Culture Kids.

11 April 2005

Kyrgyz News

Parliament accepts Akayev's resignation and sets new presidential elections for July 11 (please do them in the summer before we get there!)

Another negative report about the revolution from a US newspaper

Hidden Immigrants

Hidden immigrants, as the name implies, are people who have returned to their "home" culture after living abroad. They look like and technically are part of the home culture but often they don't feel or often act like part of that home culture. True immigrants are often identifiable by their language, race, or a variety of others things, but hidden immigrants are harder to identify unless they make cultural mistakes.

Hidden Immigrants: Legacies of Growing Up Abroad by Linda Bell shares discussions with 13 adults who grew up overseas. They talk about their home lives, schooling, college, the privileged lives they led, their current jobs, their restlessness, and how living overseas changed their attitudes.

This book was helpful in pointing out some of the things these people struggled with when they returned to their home countries. I am getting a better sense of what to watch for if we are able to live overseas a lot when our children are with us. However, the complaints started to bother me. I am not convinced that there are difficulties experiences exclusively by third culture kids. There are many different reasons why a teenager might not fit in at high school, or why college may be awful, or why a person might want to move a lot.

It was also interesting to note that many (almost all) of the problems these people experienced were somehow related to school. I think their parents could have done a better job of keeping things more consistent with their schooling. The one mention of homeschooling was negative. However, these children were overseas in the 50s and 60s when homeschooling was almost unheard of. Today many people living abroad homeschool their children. As always, homeschooling is not the best choice for every family, but it is certainly something to be considered.

10 April 2005

The Other Side of Russia

I've read several travel books about eastern Russia, China, and Central Asia over the last 5 or 6 years. Most of them were written by men traveling through these areas usually by train, bicycle or hitchhiking. They're fun to read but really only give a tiny glimpse into what life might really be like in those places.

So I was very pleased to discover Sharon Hudgins' The Other Side of Russia: A Slice of Life in Siberia and the Russian Far East. She and her husband taught at two universities in Vladivostok and Irkutsk and lived in Asian Russia for about 18 months in 1993 and 1994. She also has lived in a variety of countries in Europe and is a food writer.

Of course Hudgins experiences are out of date now. She assures us that things have changed greatly Russia in the last 12 years (and if they haven't, I'm not interested in living in Bishkek with two children!). However, she has a lot of insight on Russian perceptions. Her chapter on the university system and attitudes in the system was appreciated since my husband will be teaching at two Russian-style universities.

She also writes quite a bit about food, grocery shopping, and parties. She confirmed my wish to not live in a Russian-style high rise. She also collects spinning wheels and spindles which is something I wanted to do when we were there. (I had my husband running all over Cairo to find me a spindle when he was there 5 years ago.)

The books is written topically instead of chronologically. Each topic is pretty much chronological. She also writes about Lake Baikal, the Buryats who live around Lake Baikal, Vladivostok, Irkutsk, and the Trans-Siberian Railroad. I highly recommend this book if you have any interest in Asian Russia.

09 April 2005

Tae Kwon Do

We're a TKD family. My husband and older son had belt tests today. We have an excellent instructor here. The thing I will most regret leaving is TKD. It has been so good for older son. Younger son wishes he were 5 so he and I could start too.

If older son had been a girl, he still would be in TKD. There are fewer girls than boys at our TKD school. Most people wherever we have lived have their girls in dance classes or something like that. TKD teaches girls everything that a dance class can (self-confidence, self-control, discipline, etc.) with self-defense added in. Who can argue with that?

08 April 2005

A New Silk Road

This article discusses China's efforts to build a decent road from China through Central Asia possibly to Europe. Central Asia is in serious need of some decent methods of transportation since all Central Asian countries are landlocked.

China is already funding a road from Osh (in southern Kyrgyzstan on the Uzbek border) to Kashi in western China. Maybe someday it will be easier to get around Central Asia.

Historic Earthquakes

I've been reading Sharon Hudgin's The Other Side of Russia (more on this one when I'm finished) and came across a reference to a series of earthquake in 1862 that caused major damage around Lake Baykal. I have an morbid interest in natural disasters and historic ones are especially interesting to me. So, I set out to find more about earthquake activity around Lake Baykal.

During the Tsaganskoe earthquake 220 square kilometers of land sank 2 meters and were flooded to create Proval Bay where the Selenge Bay empties into Lake Baykal (Ulan-Ude where the Trans-Mongolian Railway breaks off the Trans-Siberian Railway is on the Selenge River). There were 5 Buryat villages in the area that were destroyed and flooded. There are conflicting estimates of the magnitude of the quake, but obviously, it was large.

It is interesting to compare earthquakes. Relatively small earthquakes (like in Bam in late 2003) can cause major damage while large ones go unnoticed (I bet you didn't hear much about the huge earthquake just a few days before the one in Indonesia).

Earthquakes can also have serious political implications. An earthquake in China in 1976 was probably seriously underreported, in part because the Chinese had only recently successfully predicted an earthquake and saved many lives.

Interesting stuff. I just wish there was more information (reliable information- it's too easy to find websites that promote wacky science). I'm going to check this book out to see if it's good. And this one about the New Madrid earthquakes. Sadly though, I've been disappointed by other books of this type (Krakatoa anyone?)

Eclipse

Don't miss the eclipse today. The southern US will be able to see a small partial eclipse. You can check out the times for Austin, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; Phoenix, Arizona; Trenton, New Jersey; or whatever city you're looking for.

Of course, you shouldn't look at an eclipse without solar filters. It's easiest to use binoculars to project the image of the eclipsed sun into a piece of paper. You can also make a pinhole projector.

Whatever you do, if it's clear and you live where you can see it, don't miss it!

Strong Girls

In Reviving Ophelia the author Mary Pipher says, "Girls who are isolated emerge from adolescence more independent and self-sufficient than girls who have been accepted by others."

This is not what we usually hear. We are so often told that being part of the group is vital for girls. But from my experience this statement is true.

07 April 2005

Central Asia Update

We hear that things are pretty settled in Kyrgyzstan although it may take a while for the looted businesses to rebuild. Apparently many of the ex-pats have gone to Almaty.

Unrest in the Fergana Valley

Iran is quite sure a velvet revolution couldn't happen there (and many that's true- there may be no fairly peaceful way to change that government)

A bit of political chaos in Kyrgyzstan

Heartbeat

I read Sharon Creech's recent and excellent book Heartbeat a few days ago. I also liked The Wanderer from a few years ago. I liked Walk Two Moons, but not quite as much. I highly recommend Heartbeat if you enjoy children's fiction.

Written in free verse, this book is quick to read. Annie is a young girl who is working through some changes in her life. It makes an interesting contrast to Reviving Ophelia to see the effects of some choices she makes.

Reviving Ophelia

I've finally gotten around to reading Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mark Pipher. I never got around to read ing this book when it was popular, so when Melissa mentioned it, I added it to my book list.

It's a good book and brings up many important points. I love how she stresses the importance of families.

I had several thought while I was reading this. First, almost all of the girls she works with have boyfriends at relatively young ages. I am becoming more and more convinced of the wisdom of the counsel to wait till 16 to date. It is also interesting that over time she has worked harder to keep couples from divorcing. Even when divorce is necessary, it is so difficult for the children. Daoud's parents were divorced 30 years ago and it still causes problems.

Certainly this book brings up extreme cases. I can't relate to many of the problems outlines in it. But I also was raised in slightly unusual circumstances. There was relatively little drug use in my town (certainly I knew people who were into drugs, but it was easy to find plenty of friends who weren't). Weight was not an issue in my family in any way. Girls were encouraged to be themselves.

Of course I didn't agree with everything in this book. I've never been able to agree with people who say boys are favored in school. I never felt discouraged from taking any class I wanted to in junior high and high school. I was the only girl in my electronics class, but it wasn't an issue. I come from a long line of women who are well educated. I'm sure there are girls who end up in poor educational situations, but I certainly didn't.

Whether you think this book goes to far or not, it certainly highlights the negatives influences of society on young girls. There is far too much pressure for these girls to do silly and dangerous things. (There is pressure on boys too, but boys seem to be able to keep themselves focused a bit better.)

06 April 2005

Uyghurs

Registan discusses China and the Uyghurs.

I don't know what it is about western China, but I've long been fascinated by it. We hear that it's not difficult to cross the border between Kyrgyzstan and China.

Journey: A Bicycle Odyssey Through Central Asia

Today I read Journey: A Bicycle Odyssey Through Central Asia by Alan Nichols. It would have been more accurate to say the odyssey was through western China since they never left China. They started in Urumqi (A Kazakh friend was kind enough to point out that this city is pronounced u-ROOM-chi. I love it when I can find people to tell me the correct way to pronounce the names of places. He also said Kazakhstan is pronounced ka-ZAHKH-stahn. I need to ask him how to pronounce Kyrgyzstan.)

So, they started in Urumqi, went through Kashi and headed down through Tibet to Lhasa. However, like many travel books, he was rather whiny. He did no training before he left and then was annoyed the entire trip that the rest of the party blamed him for slowing them down at the beginning. True, he also got quite sick when they first arrived (and I have stories about eating things that can completely flatten you), but that doesn't make up for the fact that he was not remotely ready for the journey.

The book talks much more about the problems with his companions than anything else. I would have loved to have heard more about the places they visited. He also is excellent at the rather negative folklorization that Wilfried discusses. Still, I liked reading about western China since there really isn't much written about it.

If you're particularly interested in Central Asia, this is an good book. If you simply like travel books, skip this one. And recommend another one that's not whiny while you're at it.

05 April 2005

Hmm. Looks like Amazon revamped some pages. I'll wait a few days to pass judgement.

Sacrifices

I've been thinking about sacrifices. Missions are often brought up as a sacrifice, and missions certainly can be great sacrifices under certain circumstances. However, I don't know that a mission is the best example. I am learning that there are greater but less obvious sacrifices.

Cooper pointed out that serving on a jury in a trial that is discussing despicable details would be difficult. A jury is important and it is not reasonable to expect that only those who don't mind hearing about those details to serve. Serving on that jury would be a sacrifice.

I think it is possible to become too strict in one's religion to make some sacrifices. When some people have heard of our plans to go to Kyrgyzstan, they have said they wouldn't go so far from the established LDS Church. Since the Church is not recognized in Kyrgyzstan, there will be many restrictions on what we can do as members of the LDS Church. It is a good thing to be actively and socially involved in the LDS Church. But it is also a good thing to leave it behind to go to Kyrgyzstan. There are good reasons for our family to go.

There are also destructive sacrifices. I think women are particularly prone to this. Some women will give up who they are for their families. Is it good to be devoted to your family and work to help them? Of course. But is the sacrifice of a mother for her children wise? I think not. You can be a good mother without losing yourself.

What other sacrifices might we be asked to make?

Third Culture Kids

I very much enjoyed Third Culture Kids. It was interesting to read about the similarities among people who were reaised overseas, even if they never lived in the same countries. It also discussed the challenges and benefits of living a high-mobility lifestyle.

I like how this book tried to emphasize the benefits of living internationally. It also stressed the importance of family relationships and of being aware of some of the issues children might be dealing with because of this different lifestyle.

I know this isn't something that most families have to think about, but if it does come up, I highly recommend this book.

04 April 2005

Jupiter

I forgot to point out that Jupiter is at its closet point to Earth for the year. It rises at sunset in the eastern sky and remains visible all night.

Interesting Book Website

As usual, I may well be far behind the times, but I just discovered a site that tracks books that are discussed on many blogs. You can see some of the books SFP has written about, or Julie, or Laura, or MFS, or Diane, or Staci, or me.

What fun. :)

Jury Duty

I have never had to do jury duty. I was called once, but I was in the Middle East at the time, so I couldn't do it. But I am concerned that jury duty is seen as something you try to get out of. Now, I mostly associate with women who are taking care of children, but I think that most people are not comfortable with leaving either their children or their job for possibly an extended period of time.

When you hear about jury duty, don't you think of the awful stories you've heard of people being stuck there for months at a time? The summons comes in the mail and you're sure that if you can't figure out a way to get out of it that it will ruin 1) your job 2) your children and/or 3)your life. However people serve on juries nearly every day and survive quite happily.

Clearly there needs to be reform in the jury system. Jury duty is important. I assure you that if you were being tried for something, you would want a good jury, a jury of your peers.

I've always thought it interesting and appropriate that jury duty is tied to voting rights. Jury duty rarely takes more than a few days (and when I say rarely, I mean almost never). I'm a dedicated mother, but I am sure that my children would be fine for a few days without me.

I have been working hard to change my perceptions of jury duty. I haven't gotten that summons yet, and it's likely I won't before we leave, but if it comes, I hope that I can look at it as something worth doing, not something to get out of.

03 April 2005

Cancer

I spent most of Saturday at a funeral for my aunt. My extended family isn't particularly close, so I have to admit her death has not affected me very much. As always, I feel worst for her husband, especially since they had an unusually good marriage.

This is the last of many of my close relatives to die of cancer. There are many slow, wasting diseases like this, but cancer is the one I'm most familiar with. My aunts, grandparents, sisters-in-law, and more have been taken in long, slow deaths. Often they have just been in their 40s. The people closest to them have suffered so much.

I am sure there are valuable lessons to be learned when you or a person close to you has cancer. But I wish there were another way to learn those lessons.

Who Are You?

I've been reading Third Culture Kids (about children who live in a different culture from their parents') and discovering all the ways we can mess up our children by having them live in another country. I'll have to check out a book that tells you all the ways you can mess them up right here to balance things. Anyway, that really isn't the point of the book. It has been quite interesting to read, and many of the issues they've talked about are ones my husband and I have dealt with. My husband actually is a TCK because he lived in Germany for three years; some of the issues brought up in the book have helped me understand better why I've never felt like I fit in.

I'm sure I'll have more to write about this book. Today, I wanted to point out an interesting quote: "People who are determined to prove who they are not rarely go on to discover who they are."

02 April 2005

Condolences

I am sorry to hear of the Pope's passing. I don't know that there is any other person who has had such a big impact on so many people. We were blessed to have him with us for so many years.

Learning Foreign Lanuages

I need to learn Russian. The more the better. I don't know what to get though. I took a year of Russian in high school, so I know the Cyrillic alphabet and a few basic words (marketplace Russian), and a bit of grammar, but I want to learn more.

But I'm picky about language books. I refuse to go with anything that simply teaches phrases with no explanation of the grammar. Phrases allow you to communicate something, but you don't have any hope of understanding what someone says to you. You also are not given the tools you need to say something unique.

Basic Russian instruction might not be very helpful either. We need to learn useful Russian. Too often foreign language instruction teaches you inane conversations or words that are not practical. (Our first Uzbek book was excellent at this. We learned the names of a variety of fruits, but nothing particularly useful.)

The best experiences we've had with learning foreign languages has been by talking to native speakers. My husband learned Spanish and we both learned Arabic and a lot of Uzbek that way. I don't know anyone around here who speaks Russian.

So, I guess I need to find a worthwhile Russian book.

I also bought a map of Central Asia today.