Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Joninės

Happy St. John's Day! This is the midsummer folk festival celebrated in Lithuania right after the summer solstice. We are studying Lithuania right now, so my oldest daughter gathered grass and flowers from the yard, and we all made wreaths. The girls wore them to a park where they launched the wreaths onto the surface of a duck pond.

Joninės wreaths

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Yemen Fortnight

We are finished with our fortnight of studying Yemen. Among other things, we did the following to learn about life there:

  • Ate mangoes, saltah (national dish of Yemen, eaten with a condiment made of ground fenugreek), honey, dates, yogurt, cardamom rice, etc.
  • Listened to Yemeni music on YouTube
  • Watched a movie on Yemen from Amazon and learned about Socotra (like the Galapagos islands as to remoteness and unique flora and fauna, but located in the Indian Sea) from YouTube videos
  • Visited a spice store and did a scavenger hunt for spices used in Yemeni cuisine (fenugreek, pepper, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, etc.)
  • Bought some frankincense incense sticks and burned part of one
  • Toasted spices and ground them with a mortar and pestle to make hawaij, a Yemeni spice mixture
  • Cooked several dishes using hawaij as the seasoning
  • Recited poetry to each other (poetry evenings are a common evening entertainment in Yemen)
  • Learned about oil exploration at the Hunt energy exhibit in the Perot Science Museum in Dallas, Texas (petroleum is Yemen's primary export and approximately 25% of its GDP)
  • Imitated the Yemeni sport of camel jumping by having my kids and their cousins run and jump over each other's backs
  • Learned about social issues such as child brides and the current civil war in Yemen (we visited friends and family for a week, often sleeping on cots or the floor, so we could show the children what life is like for a displaced person fleeing civil war)
  • Learned how to say "Good appetite!" in Arabic: bil-hanā' wa ash-shifā'

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Yemeni Food

While Yemen is not a wealthy country, its cuisine benefits from its location near India. They make heavy use of coriander, cumin, and cardamom. Some of the Yemeni recipes we've been eating this week have been delicious. My husband--a Midwesterner who kindly tolerates all my cooking experiments even though he would just as soon eat pizza, lasagna, and deli meat sandwiches all the time--really liked the cardamom rice I prepared yesterday. He would actually like me to make it again, which is a rare request coming from him.

If you're looking for Yemeni recipes, I recommend the website Queen of Sheba Yemeni Foods. It's in English and has clear instructions and helpful photos for many Yemeni recipes. Besides the cardamom rice, our family has enjoyed hawaij (a Yemeni spice mixture which we toasted and ground ourselves), banana milk (banana, milk, a little sugar, and almond+vanilla flavoring all in the blender) and a rose lemon drink (basically lemonade with a little red food coloring and some rose water).

Monday, June 8, 2015

Yemen and Girls

As I posted before, we're learning about Yemen right now. I have five daughters, and nearly everything I find about life for girls in Yemen makes me very sad.

The disparity in education between boys and girls in Yemen is possibly the worst in the world, according to this 2007 article. One of the barriers to education for girls is the lack of female teachers (male relatives don't want their girls taught by male teachers); although there are projects aimed at increasing the numbers of female teachers, there aren't remotely enough yet. Technology could help with the teacher-gender issue, but in Yemen, they are woefully behind at actually implementing new technology. According to this 2013 article, only young government employees in Yemen really utilized computers at work while the older employees persisted in using only paper, and a mere 15% of the country had access to the internet.

Then there is the abominable practice of marrying off young girls, which Yemen refuses to make illegal even though it periodically results in deaths of the poor girls from foreseeable internal injuries. Approximately half of Yemeni girls are married off before turning 18. Their consent is not required by the law; their fathers can simply give them away as wives, often to much older men. Death at childbirth is the primary cause of death for women of reproductive age in Yemen, and women typically cannot receive even emergency medical care at medical centers without authorization from their male guardians (usually their husbands). As if all that weren't bad enough, one strain of Sunni Islam practiced in Yemen promotes female genital mutilation as a religious obligation.

On top of all the above, half of Yemen lives in great poverty and there is currently armed conflict between a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni countries and Iran-backed (i.e., Shiite) Houthi rebels, which has further allowed an Al-Qaeda offshoot to gain territory and influence in Yemen.

When I hear feminists' complaints about "manspreading" on public transportation, I just want to throw something sometimes. Like an atlas. At their desks and opened to maps of places other than Europe or the "Anglosphere." I'm appalled that they waste the energy of their movement on New York subway trivialities when there are places like Yemen.