29 December 2006
28 December 2006
27 December 2006
2 pounds chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup plain yogurt
1 T minced garlic
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt
1/2 c mint leaves, minced (use kitchen shears)
Combine everything (adding the chicken last) and refrigerate at least 3 hours. Thread onto skewers and cook in whatever manner is handy for you. I broil them on high, about 5 inches from the broiler element, for 7-10 minutes.
23 December 2006
And of course there are already rumors about his death. It's business as usual though in the country. The man who was supposed to become acting president, Ovezgeldy Ataev, has been fired and accused of various things by the man who actually became acting president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. He's apparently learned a few things from Niyazov. And if Berdymukhammedov ends up holding on to power, he may well have the longest last name of any head of state. Who would be some other contenders?
Some Russian experts have weighed in on Niyazov's death. I don't think anything is particularly predictable right now in Turkmenistan. I'll just hope (and pray) that the country is able to take a better direction sometime soon. It would be hard, although certainly possible, to do worse that Niyazov. But it will be hard to recover from that havoc Niyazov wreaked on the economic and education systems in the country, much less from his impact on every day life.
22 December 2006
21 December 2006
Did I ever put this picture up last year? I can't remember. This is a nativity my husband put together with these little wooden figures you can get in all the souvenir shops in Bishkek. It wasn't originally a nativity (one of the wise men is actually a women), but I like it. I'll put up a picture of our other Kyrgyzstan nativity tomorrow, I hope.
(Pardon the blue cloth. I didn't have a lot of options in Bishkek.)
19 December 2006
Have any of you fascinating people who read this blog ever tried building your own tandoor oven? I've been thinking about doing this for a long time and recently heard about a woman building one in her backyard (I wasn't sure about fire codes and such in the US, but it sounds like it's okay). Apparently she got a mold (they sell them in the Gulf) and then built it with dirt and clay.
I'd LOVE to have a tandoor in the backyard.
18 December 2006
16 December 2006
This wouldn't be a problem, since others make really good ones and share them with us, but my children seem to think they would be fun to make when people give us cute little cookies that look perfect. So we try. And it always ends up with me cross in the kitchen and a pathetic little collection of the sorriest-looking sugar cookies you've ever seen. And the boys are hiding downstairs.
Can't we just have snickerdoodles?
(And please don't give me tips or new recipes. I don't want to ever even imagine again that I should try making them.)
15 December 2006
Earlier this year Kulov said that Kyrgyzstan will owe $100 million in interest payments over the next three years. $100 million is a huge number in Kyrgyzstan. So far $39,000 has been raised to cover these payments so HIPC won't be necessary. There isn't $100 million available in Kyrgyzstan over the next three years, not to mention the continuing payments after toward the $2 billion currently owed.
Even though HIPC is not an attractive option to many in Kyrgyzstan, what else is the country going to do? I understand that it is annoying to have other countries come in and tell you what to do. I know I sound like an imperialist snob for saying this. But the money was borrowed and it has to be paid back. HIPC would write off as much as half of the $2 billion in exchange for reforms that are necessary to get Kyrgyzstan's economy going. No one in Kyrgyzstan can deny that corruption has had a seriously negative impact on the economy and there seems to be no political will to reduce that corruption (including the shadow economy which every single person in Kyrgyzstan is a part of). HIPC would at least require some reforms.
And please, Kyrgyzstan does not have enough natural resources to make it an object of prey for the World Bank or the West in general. And please stop trying to blame Akaev for this. I agree he caused a lot of the problems, but blaming Akaev won't solve the problems.
HIPC is not what we should be arguing about. HIPC would neither solve Kyrgyzstan's economic problems, nor would it make those problems significantly worse. There are so many other things contributing to Kyrgyzstan's economic woes that this outcry over HIPC is masking.
End of imperialist rant. Actually what I really wish is that there were a way for all countries that qualify for HIPC to write off every penny of their debt and use that money to get their economies going. Without corruption. When I have my own world.
14 December 2006
12 December 2006
11 December 2006
I loved volunteering at the baby house and working with the university students on English. I'd love to do the same thing in any country. I love homeschooling the boys. I love living in other countries with my family, especially with my husband. He is far more adventurous than I and I need him there with me. He enjoys teaching law overseas and could do that. We both were glad to learn a bit of Russian even though it wasn't our favorite. It's so much easier to work on a language in country.
It's too expensive though in reality. Even though it's technically much cheaper to live in many countries than the US, our monthly student loan payments are more than the average annual salary for law professors in many countries. And there are the flights. And homeschooling overseas does require some money because it's impossible to get decent schoolbooks in English, at least in the countries I'd want to live in. And a good internet connection is expensive; it's a necessity so I can keep in touch with my family. And a reasonable apartment in a safe and quiet neighborhood are requirements too. I require our own bathroom and I'm not sure I'd ever be interested in washing clothes by hand for a family of four or more- I think I could handle it for two though.
And for some reason my husband thinks a regular career would be a good thing for our family. One where you stay put for a while.
10 December 2006
Jupiter, Mercury, and Mars will be closely grouped tomorrow morning at dawn (nice that it's December so dawn is rather late). This doesn't happen often; the last time any three planets were this close together was in 1925 and the next time it will happen is in 2053. Mars is pretty dim right now so you might need binoculars, but Jupiter and Mercury should be easy to see if it's clear and you're looking in the right direction. It's always tricky though to see anything this close to the sun. And the mountains could block the whole thing from where I am.
If you look at the moon while you're out, you'll see Saturn just below it.
And the Geminids will be peaking on Wednesday morning.
09 December 2006
08 December 2006
The Agrarian University in Bishkek likes Turkmenbashi for some reason. I wish I was still there and could ask the students I knew from that university how they like the Ruhnama. For some reason I just can't imagine this foundation is making a big difference in Kyrgyzstan. Even beyond the fact that Niyazon is over the top, the Ruhnama is totally geared toward the Turkmens and not the Kyrgyz.
I am so tired of boxes. But I will be done soon. And then maybe I will write about something interesting. My brain has been turned off and this has to be the most boring site ever.
Did I ever say that I don't like to deal with comments? I'm still trying to decide if blogging on bigger blogs is for me. Comments I get here are fine- I can handle a few a week. But more than that strains my brain in so many ways.
06 December 2006
One thing I've always disliked about shopping in Asia (any part, from the Middle East to China) are the flimsy plastic bags you always end up with. Bags that can't hold anything. They're awful and they're everywhere (the few grocery stores in Bishkek that had decent bags would ration them out carefully- I usually took a cloth bag with me to avoid the bad ones). Everyone knows they're awful; most store owners will at least double bag your stuff.
But what's even worse about the total ineffectiveness of these bags is that they all seem to end up on the ground somewhere. This picture is from India, but the same picture could be taken in dozens of other countries. Countries prone to flooding have even more reason to worry because they seem to clog up drainage system- Dhaka and Mumbai in addition to others have banned them for this reasons. I hate these bags.
But so do lots of people and there's a growing movement to ban plastic bags, or at least the flimsy little ones. Tanzania just banned the thin ones; several other African countries have already banned them. Beijing has been trying to crack down on them in preparation for the Olympics. But too many cities continue to ignore this problem. And it's something so worthless that's filling up the streets.
(Yes, I know there are problems with plastic bags in the US. But it's nowhere near the problem it is in some other countries. And it's easy to fix in the US- just don't use plastic bags, or reuse the ones you do. And be grateful that you can get strong bags so easily.)
04 December 2006
There have been some interesting comments about Islam in Central Asia. James posted about Khalid's book a couple of weeks ago at neweurasia and Nick mentioned a couple of resources: For Prophet and Tsar: Islam in Central Asia, Encyclopedia of Islam, Cambridge History of Islam, Cambridge History of Iran, and Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tukles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition.
And since it was ambiguous below, when I referred to the dearth of books on Islam in Central Asia, I was referring to Islam during the Soviet years, and particularly in the last 15 years. And how Islam in Central Asia compares to Islam in other parts of the world, especially in the Middle East. Many non-Muslims have a rather monolithic image of Islam and I'd love to see even some popular nonfiction talking about the diversity within Islam.
Thanks so much for the suggestions.
01 December 2006
I've been rather too busy to blog much the last few days. I hate that. But we've been doing fun things. They're just not bloggable unless I want to turn this into a mommy blog. And I'd hate that even more.
30 November 2006
I finally got Adeeb Khalid's The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform: Jadidism in Central Asia from ILL. I've been looking forward to reading this book for a long time, but actually what I'm really excited about is Khalid's soon-to-be-released book Islam after Communism. It has bothered me no end that there is almost nothing written about Islam in Central Asia after the fall of the Soviet Union. A significant number of Muslims live in this area but little is written about Islam itself and how communism changed it. And I'm especially glad Khalid is the one to write this book; he is well-equipped to write about Islam in Central Asia. Anyone who's been in both the Middle East and Central Asia can easily see that Islam is quite different in the two areas. I am hoping that this is the book I've been looking for for a long time.
28 November 2006
I'm entering books into librarything instead of reading them right now (we finally got some of our stuff out of storage). Librarything has to be one of the handiest online things I've ever seen.
And my ILL book came in. I've been looking forward to this one for a long time. The shipping was 2 dollars, so it'll be cheaper to just get the university library card. That's what I was hoping for. :)
But I probably won't make it there tomorrow since we're supposed to get some snow for the next few days. I'd rather stay home and enjoy not going anywhere. Except that I have to go to the airport.
25 November 2006
I found someone else who doesn't like Simon Winchester's books.
And if you look carefully, for example, at the reviews of Krakatoa on Amazon, half the ratings are 3 and below, and many of those who gave three stars said the writing was bad, but the topic interesting. Sorry folks, but a book isn't worth reading simply because of the topic. Maybe in spite of it, but an author can ruin a good topic. And Winchester has a knack for that.
I'm usually not this picky about authors, but Winchester picks really, really interesting topics. So I've been sorely disappointed by him more than once, and I have trouble forgiving an author for that.
23 November 2006
Almaty branch (any branch)
Cake that's not too sweet
Football (as in soccer)
One-stop shopping (at the grocery store, not WalMart)
22 November 2006
Pretty much the only place in the US that reminds me of Kyrgyzstan is the grocery store. And that's a stretch since grocery stores here are entirely different creatures. But my life in Bishkek was so different from my life here. I didn't drive there, there's nothing like marshrutkas here, there's no baby house here, the sidewalks are different, I didn't go to the library there, the buildings are different, my husband isn't teaching, and the people are so different. There's nothing that's even remotely similar here except for the grocery store.
So except on the days I go to the grocery store, I can manage to not miss Kyrgyzstan too much.
21 November 2006
20 November 2006
This book isn't meant to be everything on the Roma. It's not at all scholarly (although, as with many books like this, I wish the she had put in at least a few footnotes) and Fonseca never makes herself out to be an expert on Roma, but she writes about them with compassion and makes an interesting tale.
Next, I'd like to track down Ian Hancock's (an American Rom) We Are the Romani People. Or Jan Yoors' Gypsies, or Gypsies: The Hidden Americans by Anne Sutherland. I'll see what ILL can come up with since there is very little in the libraries I can use. Or maybe I'll finally decide to fork out the $50 annual fee to use the local university library. It has all sorts of great books.
18 November 2006
There was an interesting show on PBS' Wild Things a few nights ago about Przewalski's horse. These are the only remaining wild horses in the world, and they nearly became extinct in the last century. They are the steppe horses of Mongolia, western China, and eastern Kazakhstan. The show was about attempts to reintroduce these horses to their native habitat from which they became extinct 30-40 years ago.
The horse is named after Nikolai Przewalski, a famous Russian explorer in Central Asia who "discovered" the horse. I had to snicker when the narrator said that, since the people living in Central Asia had noticed they were there long before. Przewalski died in what is now Kyrgyzstan because he drank the water and is buried near Issyk Kul. Karakol was named after him (small wonder they changed the name) during (some of) the Soviet years. As I recall, Ella Maillart writes about these horses in Turkestan Solo, but I can't remember what the local name was for them- it's takhi in Mongolian.
Mostly I was just pleased to see something about Central Asia on PBS. They showed a Kazakh family, which was interesting since the Kazakhs in China are the only nomadic Kazakhs left. China hasn't been anywhere near as forceful in settling nomads or requiring Chinese as the Soviets did with Russian. Of course, it's all relative. China has been plenty forceful in other areas.
17 November 2006
This is from Kate's Book Blog. I almost didn't do it since my answers are pretty vague, but I didn't have anything amazing to write today.
1. How old were you when you learned to read and who taught you?
If anyone taught me, it was my mother. I don't remember learning how to read. Well, I do remember my mother having me practice blending consonants. Seems like that was when I was 5? Maybe? But reading is just what I do.
2. Did you own any books as a child? If so, what’s the first one that you remember owning? If not, do you recall any of the first titles that you borrowed from the library?
Books have always been my favorite gift and I'd get lots every birthday and Christmas. But the first one that was my own? No idea.
3. What’s the first book that you bought with your own money?
I don't know on this one either. It was probably at one of those book fairs they had in elementary school. But I didn't check books out from the library much or buy my own because my mother kept me very well supplied with books. I still have most of those books and it's been fun to share them with my own children.
4. Were you a re-reader as a child? If so, which book did you re-read most often?
I've always been partial to E.L. Konigsburg. I had a friend in elementary school who gave me From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and I read that a zillion times. I still have it too (it hasn't fallen apart, because my mother gave me the same book that year, so there were two books to read). I really liked Joan Blos too and Elizabeth George Speare. And the Pushcart War. And Caddie Woodlawn.
5. What’s the first adult book that captured your interest and how old were you when you read it?
My mother started buying me what would be called adult books when I was a young teenager probably. There was a woman who worked at the local bookstore who would recommend books for me. I remember reading The Lacemaker and Kristen Lavransdatter pretty early on. And Spring Moon. Oh, and A Town Like Alice and Tisha and The Scarlet Pimpernel. And Chaim Potok.
6. Are there children’s books that you passed by as a child that you have learned to love as an adult? Which ones?
Many, many books. I'd never read the Betsy-Tacy books; or Anne of Green Gables; or Little House on the Prairie; or much of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (or the rest of the series); or Madeline L'Engle. I also really like Felice Holman now.
I've started crocheting dresses again. A good clue to this is the number of books I read in a week. If it's about one a week, I'm not crocheting. If it's more than that, I probably am. I used to not be able to watch TV without working on something, but now I can't even read without it. But it's always nice to realize I've crocheted a lot of a skirt without even realizing it. And I've read a lot of interesting books recently.
16 November 2006
I don't think I've written about The Silk Road recently. It's a pricey item, but I've found it at lots of libraries. It's been fun to watch it again since being in Central Asia. It is pretty dated since traveling through China is a lot more open now (it was filmed in 1979), and, of course, since the first 12 parts were filmed in China and subject to Chinese oversight, I don't agree with all the interpretations.
There are 30 50-minute segments (I've only seen the first 12) that go from Xi'an to Rome. I'd love to see the rest someday if I could ever find them. They are really dry in places, and it helps if you already have some background in the geography of the Silk Road, but still, checking out one or two segments can't hurt.
Still, as Silk Road Seattle points out, this should be cut down to three hours and given a better script to make a really excellent film.
14 November 2006
I finally read all of Geraldine Brooks' Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women . I've tried to read it before, but this time I decided that I'd get past the first few chapters.
It's a good book in many ways. Brooks is well-travelled in the Middle East and has talked to many women in a variety of circumstances. She is accurate and tells her stories fairly. But I don't think she is as balanced or unbiased as she could have been.
While she does present a variety of stories throughout the book, I felt that she was specifically looking for negative examples even though she writes, "Once I began working on this book, I looked everywhere for examples of women trying to reclaim Islam's positive messages, trying to carry forward into the twentieth century the reformist zeal with which Muhammad had remade the lives of many women...It turned out to be a frustrating search." I felt like she was looking for the wrong thing- for women who were fighting for things that were important to Brooks, instead of looking for women who were fighting for changes that were important to them. There are many women working to reclaim Islam, but we in the West don't see it because we'd do it differently. It's difficult to imagine that there are women who are choosing this life- they clearly aren't thinking correctly.
Brooks also writes about a very limited number of Muslim women. There is hardly a word about Turkic or Southeastern Asian or Indian Muslims; Arab and Perisan Muslims are presented as being representative of the Muslim world. While Arab and Persian Muslims are unquestionably the most familiar in the West, they aren't even close to being a majority of Muslims.
It's also important to note that Saudi Arabia is even farther from being representative of Islam than the Middle East as a whole. Saudi Arabia's Islam is extreme and, despite all the money the Saudi government has poured into its proselytizing efforts, Wahabbism is not spreading. Too many Muslims see it for what it is- a repressive and backward interpretation of Islam. Brooks does acknowledge that Saudi-style Islam isn't likely to catch on in Egypt, but I think it's misleading to have several chapters about Saudi Arabia when it is such a small part of the Islamic world. There were no chapters about secular governments in Muslim countries.
Brooks also claims that the Qur'an mandates the death penalty for apostasy. The Qur'an itself does no such thing; that tradition comes from the hadith and is subject to interpretation. The Qur'an also does not specially allow for wife-beating. Again, the interpretation matters a great deal and Muhammad, who is the example many Muslims chose to follow, clearly taught that women should be treated with respect. The Bible was and still is sometimes interpreted as a document that is repressive to women, but Christian women have fought against those interpretations and made a lot of changes.
I did like Brooks' suggestions at the end of the book of making sure laws against female circumcision are passed in your own country (they have been passed in the US since the writing of this book) and for granting refugee status to women who fear for their health, freedom, or lives because of these cultural traditions.
But in the end, complaining about the practices like these is not useful, and can be counterproductive. Do you remember that silly petition going around the internet in the years before the Taliban was overthrown where you were supposed to protest to the government in Afghanistan about its treatment of women? I couldn't believe that people actually were signing the thing and thinking that the Taliban was interested in their opinion. When we spend our time criticizing cultural practices within Islam, many Muslims feel attacked. Why don't we spend our resources helping these Muslim women and men change things from within instead of shouting from the sidelines? Negative traditions that have been changed within Christian societies did not change because Muslims were telling Christians they were wrong.
We in the West are not the ones who need to be educated about this. It's women in Africa who need to be taught about the devastating physical consequences of circumcision so they don't allow their daughters to be circumcised, and so they teach their sons to not require it of their wives. Women in Saudi Arabia need to learn about moderate forms of Islam (and 95% of Muslims are more moderate). Education of women is the key here. And while it's not possible for anyone to go into Saudi and start up a system of liberal Muslim schools for girls, ideas can be changed in many countries. We always hear about the extreme examples and we feel that nothing can be done. But something can be done, and it's through education. And by simply being encouraging.
We've been watching the old Silk Road videos again and the boys were surprisingly interested in the section on Dunhuang. When we were in China we decided not to go to Dunhuang because we thought the boys wouldn't be interested enough to make the trip worth it. Now I wish we had. Going there would have been even better than watching the film.
But, in a happy coincidence, while searching for star myths from Central Asia, I came across this star chart from a manuscript from Dunhuang. It's around 1300 years old and is one of the earliest known complete star charts. The manuscript is 210 by 25 cm and shows 1,345 stars. Very cool.
12 November 2006
I've just finished Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia by Tom Bissell. Bissell is a former Peace Corps volunteer who went to Uzbekistan, quit after 7 months (PCVs are usually assigned for two years), and then returned several years later to write a book. The book is supposed to be about the Aral Sea, but it's more a travel book about eastern Uzbekistan.
This is undoubtedly one of the better Central Asia travel books I've ever read, but it still had its faults. Bissell spends a little too much time analyzing things, and he focuses on Europeans in Central Asia (I didn't need to read about Connelly and Stoddard again, nor did I just want to hear about PCVs and aid workers), and he writes about the more familiar places. He did overuse f--- and its variants. I almost never heard or read that word while I was in Kyrgyzstan, but maybe it's fallen out of favor in the last few years. But to me, it was too much and didn't seem realistic. The ending chapter or two in Karakalpakstan was great though and I wish more had been written about his stay there.
So, if you've never read anything about Central Asia, this is a reasonably good choice to start with. Bissell doesn't spend too much time talking about the food or the logistics of travelling (so many travel authors fall into that), and you'll get some history in the mix (although I'd have appreciated some sources).
11 November 2006
09 November 2006
I've not written about the elections on Tuesday. Not because I don't care or because I'm depressed (neither are true), but because I've been far more concerned about what happens in Kyrgyzstan than what happens here. Because we have a solid system of government, it matters relatively little who is running things in this country. Not so in many other places.
So while I'm glad to see that there was a clear message that a new direction is needed in this country, I'm pretty skeptical that the Democrats are going to do much besides flounder also. But I just can't complain, because there isn't the remotest possibilty of civil war right now, or a revolution, or anything along those lines.
It's good to be an American. Sometimes people wonder why our family has chosen to live in places where people's rights aren't protected. And yes, we are somewhat restricted in some places. But the blessing is not just living in a free country, it's being a citizen of one. And no matter where I go, I'm still an American.
First of all I want to say how impressed I've been with KyrgyzReport the last week. While I don't know who's running the blog, I've met "young Kyrgyz guys" like them who want to see real reform in Kyrgyzstan and I'm glad this group has come up with a way to spread their ideas. And I'm glad the Kyrgyz government is open enough to allow blogs like this.
More details are coming out about the new constitution (summary in English here). AKIpress has an interview with Gulnara Iskakova (my husband met her when he were organizing some constitutional debates at the law school in Bishkek- FWIW, there are several law schools in Kyrgyzstan; the largest is the Law Academy, but some of the others have higher reputations) who teaches at the AUCA and is a respected constitutional scholar in Kyrgyzstan.
They also interviewed Nurlan Sadykov (in Russian here, English summary here) who talks about the good and bad about the constitution, although he very rightly points out that implementation is the most important question right now.
Some are concerned that the judiciary wasn't changed at all, but I'm not really surprised. While there are people who see a need for judicial reform, it's not very high on most people's lists, although KyrgyzReport writes about the need for judicial reform. We in the West have so many ways to address the government that we're not just left with organizing mass demonstrations in the capital for days on end to get our voices heard. The election on Tuesday is an excellent example.
I'm very glad to see these interviews out there about the constitution, and from people in Kyrgyzstan instead of constitutional experts from the west.
Word is that Bakiev has agreed to a new constitution, and has signed off on allowing parliament to make the necessary changes.
Stick to it Bakiev. It's not worth dragging the country down into another revolution to keep your disproportionate power.
Will the opposition be satisfied with this? Bakiev certainly has bought himself some time, but he has to realize that there are a lot of people in Kyrgyzstan who want some real reform (peacefully) and they expect the president to do something.
Parliament appointing the PM and the cabinet could be very interesting. There has been a lot of controversy over cabinet appointments and lots of people have gone in and out. But until I see some real changes, I expect we'll continue with business as usual.
07 November 2006
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick was pretty good. I thought the title was off (although the subtitle wasn't) because it really doesn't have much to do with the Mayflower. Instead, it's a history of Native American-English settler relations from the English's first permanent arrival in New England in 1620 to King Philip's War in the mid-1670s.
I thought the book was best at the beginning and then got more boring, but that's largely because I'm not very interested in military history. There were too many details in the war chapter of who fought whom when and where. I was pleased to see a fair piece written about Mary Rowlandson (her autobiography has been on my to-read list for too long) in the war chapter so I could read about her while I was skimming through the battles and troop movements.
This is still an important book though despite my misgivings. There is little written about the dealings between these two groups of people, and it's important to see what worked and what didn't. Philbrick applies these lessons to today, and I agree with many of his conclusions.
06 November 2006
The fourth day of protests in Bishkek has ended. This is definitely far more organized than the demonstrations earlier this year. Registan has a lot of links to lots of places where you can go for more information, especially from people in Kyrgyzstan.
One thing I haven't been able to figure out is whether the protests are limited to Bishkek or are in other parts of the country. Is the South supporting this?
Apparently there are discussions going on right now (it's the middle of the night in Bishkek) about constitutional reform. Bakiev has totally dropped the ball on this matter and it may well be too late for him to save it. We'll see what happens in the next few hours, if anything. And if it's nothing, Bakiev may not have a very easy time the next few days.
One wonders why Kulov is sticking with Bakiev.
This link is a webcam in the center of Bishkek. Keep in mind that Kyrgyzstan is 11 hours ahead of Washington.
Added later- It's October Revolution Day on the 7th. It's a pretty major holiday and lots of places will be closed. The Parliament, although not a majority, accepted a new version of the Constitution overnight. I can't find any details of exactly which version it is (there are many floating around), but this could possibly help settle things down. I very much hope that Kyrgyzstan can get through this peacefully and get a better system of government in place. I'm just not sure if Bakiev will let both of those things happen.
The Age of Homespun: Objects and stories in the Creation of an American Myth by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich has to be one of the most interesting books about early American history that I have ever read. I like it even more than A Midwife's Tale.
Ulrich takes everyday items like niddy-noddies, bed rugs, and chests to create a fascinating look at early American life. She writes about the transformation of weaving from a man's task to a women's; she talks a great deal about the Native American influence on the area even though we tend to think the Native Americans had disappeared from New England by the 1700s. A good example of what's here can be seen here at Harvard Magazine where most of the information from the chapter about this woodsplint basket can be found.
My favorite chapter was probably "Hannah Barnard's Cupboard." Ulrich writes about women's families and how their "movables," transportable items, as opposed to land, trace women's families. Probate records tell what people owned when they died and what fathers willed to their children, but documenting the history of individual items more often tells the story of women. To conclude the chapter, Ulrich writes:
Hannah Barnard left no written record to explain the meaning she attached to her cupboard. Over time, however, it became her memorial and a link between generations of women who bore her name. Hannah's cupboard helps us see that the nineteenth-century Americans who attached label to old shoes,spinning wheels, sheets, towels, tablecloths, and cupboards were not only memorializing their families. They were creating them.
Obviously I was particularly interested in this book because I like to spin myself, but this book is much more than a history of early American textiles. If you're not interested in textiles, it's easy to gloss over the technical details of spinning, weaving and dyeing. Instead, read this book to see Ulrich's brilliance in taking everyday objects and telling one corner of the history of New England.
05 November 2006
2 cups rice
2 large tomatoes
1 onion, cut into quarters
2 cloves garlic
3 T oil
3 c chicken broth
2 tsp salt
Corn from one ear
Grill the tomatoes and onion over high heat till blackened all over, blend. Add water if needed to get two cups of puree. Set aside. Heat the oil in a medium pot over high heat, then lower to medium high and cook the rice in the oil till golden. In a separate pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil. When the rice is golden, add the puree and stir, then add the hot broth and stir. Let boil 4-5 minutes, stirring once or twice, then add the salt and corn. Cover and lower the heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 15-20 minutes before serving. This is from Seductions of Rice by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.
04 November 2006
I'd post, but I'm spending my time reading one of the most interesting books I've read in a long time. And that's saying something. I'll have a review up tomorrow or Sunday.
02 November 2006
It appears the demonstrations went smoothly today. As usual, the estimates of the number in attendance has a 10,000+ range. Yulia at neweurasia Kyrgyzstan and RFE/RL both have stories up; there will be more later.
KyrgyzReport has lots of photos and updates through the day.
Demonstrations are scheduled to start in Bishkek in a few hours. While I expect this to be a lot more like the demonstrations this past spring than the spring of 2005, it's hard to imagine that Bakiev can expect to keep a handle on things forever.
01 November 2006
I finally had a chance to read Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman and I very much enjoyed it. Bushman is a believing Mormon, as he makes clear in the introduction, and that clearly comes through. While some might think Bushman glosses over some negative aspects of Joseph's life, others think he dredged up every negative story and ignored the faith-promoting. Personally, I thought he was a little closer to the first than the second, but he did deal effectively with most of Joseph's less-than-positive characteristics. I particularly appreciated that Bushman placed Joseph in his own historical and cultural setting instead of holding him to the different standards we have today.
I'd recommend this book to people who are interested in learning more about the LDS Church than a basic overview. Bushman discusses many points of Mormon doctrine that are a little harder to explain and I'd imagine most people would come away understanding the church better after reading this book. And, since I'm a Mormon, I hope they'd understand Joseph Smith a little better too. As Bushman points out several times, it has been hard for many people to get beyond the vilification of Joseph Smith and see the man who said he was a prophet.
31 October 2006
The main reason I'm not as concerned about learning Russian is that it's pretty much assured that Russian's influence in Central Asia is only going to decline. Will Russian be very useful there in 30 years, or will Uzbek and Tajik and Kazakh have taken over? I've decided that learning Uzbek/Uyghur is a better choice than Kazakh/Kyrgyz, mostly because Russian is going downhill more quickly in Uzbekistan than Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and it never existed in Xinjiang province. Russian may still be pretty prevalent in Kyrgyzstan in 30 years, at least in the north.
But it's hard to guess where languages will go. French is still the official language of many of its former colonies, but that doesn't mean that French is necessarily a good choice for a foreigner to learn. But I think I'll not worry as much about Russian. And if we go back in 30 years and really need it, I'll be sorry. But I don't think that will happen. (I certainly plan to go back sooner than 30 years though.)
I keep trying to move past learning Russian. It was the most logical choice to learn while we were in Kyrgyzstan since we were living in Bishkek, but I wish I could have focused more on Kyrgyz. I've been working on Persian (it helps that I already know the Arabic alphabet, and that there are lots of words borrowed from Arabic, or similar to other Indo-European languages), but now that my parents are going to St. Petersburg I've been enlisted in Russian-learning corps again. So Persian will probably go by the wayside for the next four months while I work on Russian some more so I don't totally confuse my parents.
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c tomato sauce, or as needed (I like to use crushed tomatoes too)
2 c water, or as needed
4 T fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
2 lbs potatoes, cut into thick wedges (Yukon Gold are best, but use what you have)
In a large frying pan, cook the onion in the oil till golden. Add the garlic, tomato sauce, water, parsley, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, add the potatoes, cover tightly, lower the heat, and simmer 30 minutes till the potatoes are cooked and the sauce is thick. Serve with feta on top. From The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean by Paula Wolfert.
29 October 2006
Olive oil dough
7.5 c flour
.75 c olive oil
2.75 c warm water
2 T yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 T salt
Mix everything together and knead well, adding flour if needed. Let rise till doubled. This freezes well. I usually use half the for one meal.
Cooked brown lentils- around 2-3 cups cooked, IIRC
1/4 c fresh parsley
1 T red pepper paste (post this)
1 grated onion, squeezed dry
1/2 c chopped canned tomatoes
2 T tomato paste
1 tsp cumin
Mix well and let sit, if possible. Divide the dough into 16 small pieces and roll out. Top with a bit of the lentil mixture. Bake at 500 for about 5 minutes. This is based on recipes from The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean by Paula Wolfert on pages 57 and 59.
1.75 c flour
3 T oil
3/4 cup yogurt
1 T cornstarch
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c crumbled feta
1 c grated mozzarella
3 T beaten egg (about 3/4 of an egg)
Combine 3 T flour and the oil, then add the yogurt. Add another cup of flour and mix thoroughly. In a small bowl, combine the rest of the flour and the cornstarch, soda, and salt. Add to the bigger bowl, then mix well to form a soft dough. Cover and let sit two hours. Meanwhile, combine the cheeses and the egg. Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each out into a 10-inch circle. Put half the cheese in a 5-inch circle in the middle of each circle of dough, then fold the edges over to make a tight, flat packet. Heat two frying pans over low heat, then film with butter. Cook the breads seam side up till golden, about 12 minutes. Flip over and finish cooking. Brush the tops with melted butter and let stand 5 minutes. Serve cut into wedges. This is from The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean by Paula Wolfert and is Georgian.
3 medium zucchini, sliced thin
1 T oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds (dry roast them till they turn golden)
Put the zucchini slices in a colander and salt them. Let sit 30 minutes, then squeeze them out to get rid of as much water as possible. You can use a towel to squeeze them, if you like. Heat the oil, then saute the garlic just for a short time. Add the zucchini and stir-fry about 2 minutes, then add the pepper and sesame seeds. Fry one more minute. You might want to add a bit more salt, depending on how much you squeezed out. This is based on a recipe from Essentials of Asian Cuisine by Corinne Trang.
1 T oil
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 T chili powder (I don't much like chili powder, so I use a lot less and put in crushed red pepper instead)
Heat oil, add beans and cook 5 minutes. Mash the beans and add the spices. Add water or the cooking liquid from the beans if you need to. Mix well.
3-4 c flour, white or wheat
1 T yeast
2 T sugar
1 tsp salt
1.5 c warm water
2 T butter
Mix 2 c flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Add the water and mix well, then add enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead 3 or 4 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter and pour it in a 9x13 dish. Roll out the dough to fit the dish, then put the dough into the dish, and then turn it over so it's all buttery. Cut the dough into 18 pieces about 1 inch wide and 4 inches long and sprinkle with garlic salt. Let rise 15-20 minutes, then bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.
3 T flour
2 c milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning (I've never used this, instead, I use some celery salt along with a some of a bay leaf and more pepper and a bit of cardamon, cloves, and paprika)
Melt the butter in the microwave or in a pot on the stove. Add flour and mix well, then add the milk and stir again. Heat for a minute at a time in the microwave, stirring each time it stops, or on the stove until thick.
1 c barley or oat flour, or another cup of whole wheat
3/4 c ground flax seed
1 c powdered milk
1 T baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c oil
1/2-3/4 cup applesauce, or one banana
3/4 c yogurt
3 c water
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Purify the rest in a blender, then add to the dry ingredients. Add more water or flour as needed to get the consistency you like.
28 October 2006
27 October 2006
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 4 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.
This was nearest book; others were a few feet farther on the piano bench:
The system of supporting constructions, owing to the large size of these halls, become so complicated that the structure almost becomes and ornament in itself, thus giving the building a unique individuality.
You'll never guess, so I'll just tell you it's from Monuments of Central Asia. It's talking about madrasa Abdullah Khan in Bukhara.
I haven't written about Kyrgyz politics in a while. But that doesn't mean that there isn't plenty going on in Kyrgyzstan. In fact, things aren't going well at all. But of course, things weren't going well earlier this year and Bakiev managed to weather that pretty well, and I think there's a good chance he'll get through this round of strife. But I'm not making any predictions, because you never know with Kyrgyzstan. And who knows? There are demonstrations planned for November 2nd. Maybe Kulov will drop Bakiev. Maybe Bakiev will threaten the demonstrators again. Or maybe Kyrgysztan will join up with Russia again. If Russia wants it.
26 October 2006
I have bad luck with smoke detectors. Even though I rarely burn food, they're always going off when I cook. Honestly, I'm really not burning things. :)
I'd forgotten that in Kyrgyzstan though, because I don't think I ever saw a smoke detector there. I never had one beeping at me for no apparent reason. I didn't have to track down magazines or newspapers to fan wildly in front of one till it stopped beeping.
25 October 2006
This is not to ignore the fact that there are many people in need in every community. There are always many ways to help in your own town. But for those of us who see the needs in other places, these are some ways to donate overseas. Since this list is far from exhaustive, if you know of other reliable organizations or individuals, please leave a comment. And please remember that you need to check all of these out yourself to make sure they are reliable. I can't make any promises, although I am comfortable with these.
- JustGive- an easy way to donate to a variety of different sources
- Red Cross and Red Crescent- click here for for a directory of country-specific organizations
- World Vision- I particularly like this one when you're working on a project with children since you can donate to very specific things, like buying a goat for a family
- LDS Humanitarian Services (click here for current needs)
- Aga Khan Development Network
- Catholic Relief Services
- National Peace Corps Association
- World Education
- Save the Children
- United Way
- Grameenkoota- Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus' organization
- ASA GV
- SKS Microfinance
- Swadhaar Finances
Books (remember cash donations are often required to cover shipping costs):
- Books for Africa
- Books for Asia
- Chapters of Hope
- International Book Project
- Sabre (and their links to other book donation programs)
I finally read (actually listened to) all of this book for the first time. For me, it falls into the category of books like Portrait of a Lady and House of Mirth. I get much too worked up about Tess and Isabelle and Lily, and Anna and Emma and plenty of others. But I love the books. Despite their sometimes incredibly stupid decisions, and at other times the horribly unfair things that happen to them, I love them.
23 October 2006
22 October 2006
The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan is unquestionably one of the best books ever written on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for people who aren't very familiar with the region. There are so many books out there on the conflict that it's difficult to find books that are interesting, fair and accurate. Tolan manages all three.
There really isn't anything new here; all of this is well-documented and there are many similar stories that could be told. But what's new here is that both sides are presented in an unbiased and complete manner. Yes, some think the Israelis are presented much too negatively in this book. You can't say the Palestinians are presented in a good light though- there are plenty of details of Palestinian terrorism (and you get plenty more in the news). Both sides have done awful things to each other and neither is morally superior to the other and that clearly comes through. Tolan doesn't skip over atrocities committed by either the Palestinians or the Israelis.
I've long enjoyed and recommend Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour for those who want to get a different perspective on the Middle East. I still love the book, but I'll also be recommending The Lemon Tree.
20 October 2006
Over at Nine Moons they've been discussing (I've been out of town, so I'm late on this) explaining difficult concepts; it started because I said it's harder to explain the Word of Wisdom than to live it. And it was, in Central Asia.
Explaining the Word of Wisdom is really easy in the US. It was even easier in the Middle East. It may not be fun to be the only couple not drinking at a party for work, but at least people could understand why you weren't. I knew it wouldn't be so easy in Central Asia, but I had no idea how hard it would be. Turning down alcohol and tea almost became a battle in some cases.
I expect the main reason for this is that most of the Muslims in Kyrgyzstan drink alcohol, at least occasionally (Muslims aren't supposed to drink alcohol). There is little precedent for turning something down simply because of your religious beliefs. Tea is so ubiquitous that it's almost unimaginable that you wouldn't drink it. And a simple no thank you wouldn't do. That would have nicely avoided the explanations. No, we always were asked why we said no thank you in someone's home.
I never thought that the most pressure we'd have to drink would be from Muslims.
18 October 2006
My parents are going to be spending most of the next two years in St. Petersburg- the one in Russia, not Florida. While there is a slight difference of opinion on whether a trip to St. Petersburg or a down payment on a house would be a better option- (does my husband actually think we'd stay in any one house long enough to make up for the trip?), I've got it all planned out. And maybe we'll get to go.
17 October 2006
I've been looking forward to reading both of these books for a long time and finally was able to track both down. I was a bit disappointed with Empires of the World, but loved Lengthen Your Stride.
Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler- When I first heard about this book, I hoped it would be a bot more global in its coverage (and certainly, it goes a long way, with sections on Middle Eastern languages, Sanskrit, and Chinese), but overall, it focused on Europe and European languages for more than half the book. The main title is better for describing the book; I didn't quite find it to be a language history of the world. There were way too many gaps for that. But it was still an interesting book, and if you're interested in language and world history, you'd probably like this book.
Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball by Edward L. Kimball- This was a completely enjoyable biography of President Kimball's years as president of the LDS Church. It's topical instead of chronological, and spends quite a bit of time on the 1978 revelation allowing all worthy men to hold the priesthood. This biography is different from most typical biographies of church leaders (although quite different from the recent one about David O. McKay), partly because it was written by President Kimball's son and recounts his entire tenure as president; usually the biographies are written near the beginning of a presidency and you miss a lot of their lives. President Kimball is also the first prophet I remember, although I only remember his later years when he was not well. It was heartbreaking to read the chapters about his last few years; you're left to wonder why he had to wait so long. Highly recommended.
15 October 2006
Too bad this list represents hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. My Central Asia library is pitifully small. (If you have comments about any of these books, or suggestions of others- I'm looking more for academic books than travel types- let me know.)
Russia's Orient: Imperial Borderlands and Peoples, 1750-1917
The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform: Jadidism in Central Asia
Islam after Communism: Religion and Politics in Central Asia
Historical Dictionary of Kyrgyzstan
History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The Dawn of Civilization : Earliest Times to 700 B.C.
History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The Development of Sedentary and Nomadic Civilizations : 700 B.C. to A.D. 250
History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The Crossroads of Civilization : A.D. 250 to 750
History of Civilizations of Central Asia: Age of Achievement, 750 Ad to the End of the 15th Century
History of Civilization in Central Asia:Volume Five: Development in Contrast From the Sixteenth to the Mid-Nineteenth Century
The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia
Turkestan and the Fate of the Russian Empire
Holy War in China: The Muslim Rebellion and State in Chinese Central Asia, 1864-1877
Tribal Nation: The Making of Soviet Turkmenistan
Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
A History of the Peoples of Siberia (not Central Asia, but I don't have a Siberia list)
Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North
13 October 2006
It's easy to find good coffee-table-type books about the Middle East; we have several. But now I want one about Kyrgyzstan, and I have never been able to find anything of the sort in English. There aren't even many about Uzbekistan or the Silk Road.