28 September 2006

Off the Library Cart 9/28/06

I read Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman this week. If you really don't know anything, and I mean nothing, about how the Bible was transmitted, then this would be a good book to read. But it wasn't till well into the book that I got to anything new to me, and my knowledge in this area is pretty basic. The last few chapters that discussed specific examples of changes that were made, and how and why, were interesting, but there really wasn't a lot there. I would have liked to have read much more on that subject.

Ehrman also repeated himself far too often. He'd make a perfectly understandable and reasonable statement, and then go back and rephrase it, especially in the early chapters. Still, it was worth reading the last 1/3; I'd do more skimming of the beginning if I had it to do over. And, for what it's worth, I didn't find this book to be in the least shocking despite the obvious attempt in the title. Although if you believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, this book could possibly make you less than comfortable.

And now I'm reading Empires of the Word by Nicholas Ostler

I also returned some books from last week's list for various reasons; some because they weren't what I'd hoped for, and others because I'm not in the mood right now and have other books I want to read more right now. Sort of like leaving the half-eaten carrot cake on my plate at an Asian buffet last night so I could get another egg roll:

The Living by Annie Dillard

The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz

The Balkans: A Short History by Mark Mazower

Those Who Love by Irving Stone

And here are the rest of the books waiting to be read or discarded:

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Lyman Bushman

The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolman

Strength and Honor: The Life of Dolley Madison by Richard N. Cote

The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley

Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia by Tom Bissell

Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant edited by John Gee and Brian Haugild

The Age of Homespun by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick

We'll see how many of these I get to while I'm waiting for geysers and hanging out in the Tetons in the next week. Spotty blogging for at least a week. In fact, I hope it's completely non-existant because I'm having too much fun doing other things.

And Another Cool Blog

Kyrgyzstan to Kathmandu

What I wouldn't give to do something like this.

Kyrgyz Love Mike Tyson

Trent, a Peace Corps volunteer, has a fun post about Kyrgyzstan. I never talked to anyone about Shrek, but I totally relate to the rest of his points. What is it about Mike Tyson in Kyrgyzstan?

Saudi Aramco World

The September/October issue of Saudi Aramco World is online now. There's a walking tour of the Suleymaniye Mosque, articles in natural remedies in Arabia, Ibn Khaldun, and some current Egyptian archaeology.

27 September 2006

Kyrgyzstan: Revolution Revisited

Just want to get this site up now; I'll comment on it more later. It is quite interesting with lots of analysis of the Kyrgyzstan revolution last year and its results.

Cave Day

We took the boys to see their first real cave. They've been in lava tubes and holes in the side of mountains, but nothing like this. Since it was early on a weekday, it wasn't too hot and we were with a small group. What a great reason to homeschool.

26 September 2006

Free People Read Freely... If They Can Afford It

It's Banned Books Week, as you probably know. While I'm not a fan of all the banned books in the world, I'm also not a fan of banning them. I want to read The Giver. And Wrinkle in Time. And even Huck Finn.

Actually, I can't imagine going to a library and asking them to remove any book from the shelf. I'm just glad we have libraries full of books that we can check out for free. Economic restraints can keep people from reading freely just as much as political restraints. This was the case in Kyrgyzstan:

They [university students in Bishkek] said that they can check a book out of the National Library for 3 som a day, or about 50 cents a week. Not too bad, but comparing a typical US salary of $30,000/yr to a Kyrgyz one of $600/year, that would work out to be about $25 a week in the US. Obviously the library is a luxury for most people. Villages have smaller libraries where you don't have to pay, but with much smaller collections of older books.

I think I'll donate to Chapters of Hope in honor of this week. If anyone knows of another book donation charity, I'd be very interested to hear about it. One that takes monetary donations for books to go overseas. Sabre looks interesting.

25 September 2006

My dear sister who has only commented twice really liked your comments. I assumed that she didn't care about the comments since she never comments. She doesn't like that they just come in emails to me now. But since I do everything that dear sister says, they are back on. Hopefully someone will oblige her with some interesting comments.

Actually, please don't feel like you ought to comment. I enjoy good comments, but you don't need to feel like you have to say something so I know you came by. I have stats for that. :)

23 September 2006

Ramadan Kareem

Ramadan starts today. This isn't a picture I took, but it's what I saw on the first day of Ramadan in Jerusalem in 1997.

And I'll miss our singers from last year.

22 September 2006

Off the Library Cart (1491) 9/22/06

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann- I finished this book yesterday after a slow and leisurely reading. I very much enjoyed it. Mann goes through the current debates surrounding the population of the Americas before Columbus, the technological advances and level of civilization of the American Indians, and their control or lack of control over the environment. I was aware of many of these debates and this book brings many of them together nicely. And as always, what you learned in your high school history book hardly scratches the surface of the wonder and diversity that was ancient America. Highly recommended.

I didn't finish anything else this week, I'm still halfway through The Living by Annie Dillard and may or may not finish it (although her writing is excellent). Here are the others waiting in the wings:

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Lyman Bushman

The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz

The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolman

Strength and Honor: The Life of Dolley Madison by Richard N. Cote

The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley

The Balkans: A Short History by Mark Mazower

Those Who Love by Irving Stone

Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia by Tom Bissell

Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant edited by John Gee and Brian Haugild

Rememering Bishkek

I think at least one sound of Bishkek might be more memorable than its smells. That sound was the ayran man (I can't believe I didn't get a picture of him; I saw him every day). Every morning he'd walk around the neighborhood calling, "Ayran! Smetana! Molochko!" Those are various milk products, but we never bought any from him. I really should have tried making yogurt with his milk sometime since I pasteurized it every time. The sour cream was really good on bread. I could have had that too.

I did decide that there are two smells that I will always associate with Kyrgyzstan- sour milk and hand sanitizer. The baby house always smelled like sour milk (worse in the winter when the heat was on) except on the days when they were baking bread while we were there. I loved that smell. The babies also often smell like sour milk. It's not my favorite smell, but one I got used to quickly.

But that hand sanitizer. One day when I was getting it out to pass around the family, I caught a whiff and thought, "Kyrgyzstan." I'd never used it before we got there, and since we brought plenty of one brand, that smell will always and forever remind me of sitting down to a nice steaming pile of plov. Or to a dish of yogurt and flatbread at the Lebanese restaurant.

21 September 2006

The Adventure of Living Overseas

I get a lot more interesting emails (a larger quantity- the people emailing before were interesting too) with the comments turned off. An emailer had this to say about overseas life:

I think that the charm of living overseas might be the fact that the simplest of everyday activity becomes a little adventure, a chance to learn something, to discover something. For example buying bread becomes a linguistic exercise and a chance to find new breads and new traditions.

Exactly. I'm not what anyone would call adventurous (certainly not what my husband would call adventurous), but I like those little chances to learn something. And I suppose that you can have adventures buying potatoes at Winco, but it's just not the same.

Humanitarian Aid Tips

The ward we're currently going to had a humanitarian aid fest last night. I have a few suggestions about humanitarian aid projects after spending time in Central Asia and the Middle East and seeing how aid is used and not used in those countries:

Find out what current needs are. Yes, a baby blanket might be quick to make and you've heard so many stories about babies who need blankets that you feel good when you give one away, but sometimes they aren't needed. There's not much point in making something that will be stored for a while (and wastes money storing it) when there are other things that are needed now. The current needs page is updated regularly; make or donate those things. If there is a Humanitarian Center near you, ask there for suggestions. Sometimes they have other ideas that aren't on the church website.

Also, the humanitarian aid people aren't in the business of shipping your son's Eagle Scout project or your great idea to help people. Shipping is a huge expense and hassle and they're not looking for new ideas of things to send to people.

Follow the guidelines to the letter. When they say no buttons and snaps on baby clothes, don't buy clothes with them. When you've got 12 babies needing diapers changed, I promise you're not interested in snaps. Sometimes shipping can be slowed down if you don't put the right amount of items into a school, newborn, or hygiene kit. Your creativity and extra generosity make well just mean more work for someone else.

Stick to the basics. While it's nice to make a newborn kit with all girl stuff or all boy stuff, it's just as likely that that kit will end up with the opposite gender than it was intended for. A tied quilt can be just as beautiful (and more durable) than a beautifully pieced and hand-quilted quilt. If you've got time for the extras like that, great, but it's not necessary.

Money is always a good choice. Items are good when there is an emergency, but things like quilts and clothes can often be purchased more cheaply in country than trying to ship them from Salt Lake to all corners of the world. The humanitarian aid missionaries we've known in Central Asia and the Middle East usually donate items purchased in country instead of items shipped from Salt Lake. Money goes towards buying furniture for blind schools, giving pregnant goats to families, remodeling rooms in nursing homes and so much more. Your money will be put to good use, and often to better use that you think it might be.

The number one goal of supporting humanitarian aid is not to make you or your children feel good. It is to get desperately needed help and supplies to people all over the world. Feeling good should be a nice benefit, but remember what your goal really should be and work toward that.

20 September 2006

Albanian Beshik

An woman with Albanian in-laws sent this picture of an Albanian beshik after seeing an old post about beshiks in Central Asia.

Here's the Kyrgyz one we took a picture of in Osh.

19 September 2006

Smelling Kyrgyzstan

I stumbled on this old post while sorting through things the last week. I've been trying to decide if there is any smell that I associate with Kyrgyzstan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can't really think of any herb that particularly reminds me of Kyrgyzstan; there are so few herbs and spices that are used there. One of my favorite smells from there is bread baking. Since we lived right next to two tandoor bakeries, I could often smell bread baking through my window. I liked to go to Ak Emir and get flatbread with onions on it. One of the best days for scents was Nooruz when there were lots of street vendors selling plov and kebabs. But I smelled similar things in the Middle East all the time, so those smells aren't unique to Kyrgyzstan. (There was one place on the way to a friend's house that smelled like a sewer; that definitely reminded me of the Middle East.)

China had a lot more scents though. Everywhere you went you smelled something new and wonderful. I still can't see a plate of sesame chicken without thinking of Xi'an and the feeling of finally eating something wonderful. Garlic, green onions, all sorts of herbs and spices. Thank you, China.

It's odd though that I can't really think of many smells that remind me of Kyrgyzstan. That makes me sad.

18 September 2006

Side Bar Photos

Way down on the sidebar below the label list (done!), there are a bunch of new pictures (I hope the formatting turns out okay):

Arsin, from the baby house

Pink Cone Geyser at Yellowstone

Majd (glory) design by my husband

Great Wall of China at Mutianyu

Fountain Geyser in Yellowstone

Washington DC LDS Temple

Qayt Bay Funerary Complex in Cairo

Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi'an, China

Sharifa Asma

Big Goose Pagoda in Xi'an, China

Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem

Great Mosque of Xi'an

Beatitudes design by my husband

BYU Jerusalem Center

Ala-Too Mountains south of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

The Bismallah, the traditional Muslim blessing. "In the name of God, the Compassioniate, the Merciful"

16 September 2006

Mongolian Ping Pong

An emailer pointed out this Chinese film, Mongolian Ping Pong. This is what s/he said about the film: "I recently saw this movie, playing at an independent theater. It was cute and heartwarming and funny. It's called 'Mongolian Ping Pong.' The people being portrayed are not actually Mongolian, but are Chinese who live on the 'Mongolian Steppe' part of China. I've been told the actors are speaking a Chinese dialect of Mongolian, and not the same Mongolian language that's spoken in the country
of Mongolia."

Here's a schedule of where it's playing right now.

15 September 2006

My September 11th Post

While I was sorting through old posts (still not done), I came across this post about September 11th, terrorism, and some of the aftermath. I didn't write anything about September 11th on Monday, but I was thinking about it. And this post comes somewhat close to capturing my feelings about it- because for me, it's not just about my feelings, or even about those who died. It's about a dramatic change in the way Americans view the world. And I have grave concerns about some of that change.

Reading Aloud

I wasn't able to do much reading aloud to the boys in Kyrgyzstan since we just didn't have many children's books. Sure, we read at bedtime and for school, but we were barely scraping by with only reading that much.

But we're back on track again with plenty of books to read. Here are some of our current favorites:

14 September 2006

Blogger Beta

I am totally sold on the new Blogger. It's so much easier to use (although I finally learned something about html with the old Blogger) and there are lots more options, especially with the templates. I am particularly fond of the labels; I've only got about half of my old posts labelled though.

I'm actually not sure where I found the link to make the switch- I'd only ever seen things that said I had to wait to make the change. So I can't tell anyone how to change unless Blogger makes it more obvious.

13 September 2006

I've recently come across Barking at the Moon, a fascinating blog by a woman who has travelled quite a bit for her job. She's currently in North Africa, but has been in Kazakhstan. :)

Segullah Blog

Segullah has a blog now. I expect to see some excellent posts there based on the quality of writing I've read at the contributors' various blogs. Hopefully it shows up in LDSelect soon.


I keep going over to LibraryThing wishing that my books weren't in storage and I could put all my books on this handy cataloguing site. I've never had all my books out of boxes since we were married and I'm ready to get them out.

10 September 2006

Fall is coming to the tops of the mountains. We've been up in the mountains for the last three days. If only the ocean were closer, this would be the perfect place to live.

Was It a Bride Kidnapping?

I've read a few hyper comments in the last few days saying that Jill Metzger must have been kidnapped in a bride kidnapping since it's so common in Kyrgyzstan.

No way. Bride kidnapping is a Kyrgyz tradition, not something that happens in Kyrgyzstan. Someone who is not Kyrgyz is not going to get kidnapped. Major Metzger was very clearly not Kyrgyz.

When a girl is kidnapped, the point is to let her parents know and get married quickly. Even if the girl doesn't know her kidnapper, it's most likely that she is not going to just disappear like Major Metzger did- there's not going to be a wedding if you do that.

Bride kidnappings usually aren't very sophisticated either, as this case clearly was. It's a lot more common to trick the girl into getting into a car, or simply grabbing her and running. You don't plant a fake bomb in her pocket.

Bride kidnapping is unquestionably an issue in Kyrgyzstan, but it doesn't have anything to do with this case.

09 September 2006

Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan

Here's a good way to help in Afghanistan. This is a particularly good option because you'd be sending the stuff to an APO, which makes it a lot cheaper for you to get the items to Afghanistan.

Personally, I think regular pencils sent with sharpeners are a better option than mechanical pencils that break easily or run out of lead. They are also a lot cheaper. I'd be inclined to send a lot of paper too.

08 September 2006

American Servicewoman Still Missing in Kyrgyzstan

Update: She's safely back at the base.

Major Jill Metzger, a servicewoman from the US air base outside Bishkek, has been missing since Tuesday afternoon.

I sincerely hope she is all right and that her family will know she is safe soon. It certainly is an odd case though. I've shopped in Tsum plenty of times myself, and I can't really imagine getting kidnapped there on a busy afternoon. It really is a crowded place despite being huge. Now, if it were Dordoi Plaza, I'd find a kidnapping a lot more believable.

I hope she didn't leave on her own. It is very difficult for the servicemen and women on base to get permission to leave for any reason, and since her disappearance, no one has been able to leave base for any type unofficial business. She'd have known that would be the case if she planned this. They really are incredibly careful on base and I'd truly be surprised if this turns out to be a kidnapping.

But no matter what, I pray for her and her family.


Placed my Amazon order. :)

  • The Read-Aloud Handbook
  • And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?
  • Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?: Teaching Great Poetry to Children
  • Hands on Spinning
  • What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know
  • The Lost Colony Of Roanoke
  • Janice VanCleave's Science Through the Ages
  • Can't You Make Them Behave, King George?
  • What Your Second Grader Needs to Know
  • The Heritage of Central Asia
  • Monuments of Central Asia
  • The Weaving, Spinning, and Dyeing Book
  • Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva
  • Persuasion
  • Earthy Tunes

06 September 2006

But I Wasn't Finished

I'd go back tomorrow if I could.

MECA Conference

The University of Utah will be holding its Middle East and Central Asia Politics, Economics, and Society Conference starting on Thursday. I might have a chance to go this year. There are plenty of interesting panel discussions.

05 September 2006

Saying It the Way You See It

"He smiled at an old thought of his: Why do people always look for grief and disaster when happiness is every bit as inevitable as despair and often easier to reach?" (from Soul, by Andrey Platonov) .

"It isn't as easy to be resigned as happy people think" (Squire Hamly in Wives and Daughters, BBC film version).

Soul is hardly a cheery book and isn't really a good example of people reaching for happiness; Wives and Daughters is, at least more than Soul (although the Squire has plenty of reason to despair after the deaths of his wife and son).

So, which one of these is true for you? I've had these two opposite viewpoints sitting in a partly-finished post for a while, and the slug post at FMH got me thinking about them again.

And what about people like Julie who have figured out how to be content? Is she not resigned? Is she content because she never has had bad things happen to her? There aren't a lot of women who are willing to say things like they are; those who do are often criticized. Many women prefer to sympathize (which is fine, they can keep each other happy). And the people in the group in between (where I am) can't stand to do the sympathizing thing, but keep their mouths shut. I'd ten times prefer to live next door to Julie than the sympathizing crew. She's blunt, but I'll take that any day over the typical female chatter.

04 September 2006

Is It Just Me...

Or are other people having to refresh some blogger blogs (including mine) to get current posts? There are several regular posters who hadn't seemed to post for a while, but when I finally refreshed them, I found a lot of unread posts. I hope this isn't a new trend for blogger, or that it's just a little blip while they're getting the beta blogger going. I'm looking forward to that.

The Children's Blizzard

The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin is in the style of books like Simon Winchester's Krakatoa, but I liked The Children's Blizzard far better than anything I've read by Winchester. It details the deadly January 12, 1888, that affected much of the northern Great Plains of the US.

Laskin pays a lot of attention to detail; sometimes too much. I got bogged down in the first few chapters reading about the various families' comings and goings to the Midwest. The people were difficult to keep straight and they all had relatively similar stories, especially since I've got my own supply of Scandanavian ancestors who had rather similar experiences getting to the US, although they ended up in a different part of the country. I also could have used fewer weather details.

But once past those parts, the book clips along nicely. There is not a morbid attention to suffering or death, which I appreciated. Laskin does use more sentence fragments than I can forgive (and I can forgive a lot, but when there are so many that paragraphs are beginning with fragments, I get annoyed).

Laskin estimates that the relative death rate of those who died compared to those living in the area was similar to the number who died on the morning of September 11th. Still, most people survived the blizzard, even those who were marooned outside overnight. It seems amazing that people can survive conditions like that, but we seem to have a darker view in some cases of what people can actually survive (for example, most women didn't die from childbirth in the early years of this country, even though we seem to think childbirth was incredibly dangerous).

So, while this was an interesting book and worth reading, it's not one I'd say you just have to read. One of the most interesting points was the brief discussion at the end of the failure of the settling of the Great Plains- and this can apply to other parts of the country. There are many parts of the Midwest and Intermountain West that have been settled, but that settlement has never been terribly successful. Despite all our modern advances and all of our efforts, some places just aren't that hospitable.

01 September 2006

Mormon Quilt Books

I recently finished reading two books about quilts made by Mormon women, Quilts & Women of the Mormon Migrations by Mary Bywater Cross and The Salt Lake City 14th Ward Album Quilt, 1857 by Carol Holindrake Nielson.

While there are a lot of similarities between the two books, and even some women who are in both books, they are also quite different from each other. Cross' book covers a much broader time period and a wider variety of women; there is also a lot of diversity in the quilts she documents. The 14th Ward Quilt book had by far the most interesting story and the potential for the most interesting book, but I think it might have been a better book if it had been done by Cross instead of Nielson.

As Julie said in her review of the 14th Ward book a few months ago, Nielson is not a historian. Cross is a quilt historian and clearly knows far more about quilts and the time period (although she might not have done any better dealing with polygamy than Nielson did). Nielson had an interest in the quilt and put a lot of time and effort into the book and produced and interesting book, but I somehow felt like it could have been more. (I felt the same way about The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff- an important and interesting topic, but it would have been better in the hands of another author.)

Still that doesn't mean that the 14th Ward book shouldn't be read; in fact, I recommend it. Nielson writes about both the historically well-known and historically insignificant women who contributed to this fascinating quilt. The story of how the quilt itself came into Nielson's hands makes for an intriguing tale. Both books are particularly interesting if you have an interest in quilting itself, although that aspect is not played up too much in either book- the women are the focus in both.