25 May 2007
And now I'm getting ready for a jaunt that will look a lot like the one we did last October. Except the lilacs will be blooming instead of the trees changing colors. But we'll visit lots of little towns like St. Charles (the sculptor of Mount Rushmore was born there, but we care more about the ancestors who were buried there), Hyrum (lots and lots of ancestors here), and Grover (they have a great little cemetery- maybe I'll be buried there instead of Swanlake).
I'll try to get the book reviews done before I go.
21 May 2007
But women like Anna Lopez, the education coordinator at the Plymouth Historical Museum, see no reason why the story of quilt codes can't be fact. "What I tell kids is, who writes history? Men do. Mostly white men. Then I ask, who made quilts? Women did, and a lot of black women made quilts and passed on their oral history. No one wrote down their history, so who knows?"
There is no doubt that it can be significantly more difficult to research women's history, especially black women's history, than the more traditional history we usually read. But this quote, from someone who has some influence on how children will interpret the history they see in the Plymouth Historical Museum, seems dangerously close to advocating making up, or at least not worrying about, the details of history. This does women's history and black history a huge disservice and teaches children that written records are the only reliable source of historical research.
If you're writing about history, you've got to be able to verify your stories to be credible, especially if your stories are far-fetched. The burden of proof is on the historians promoting the stories. I'll write more about the Underground Railroad quilts later on.
20 May 2007
18 May 2007
As far as I am concerned, institutional arrangements are far more important than things like specific human rights cases because they are a much more meaningful indicator of a regime’s trajectory...
Western policymakers should, however, be sending the message that we are not just concerned about behavior, but also about how institutions constrain and/or encourage behaviors conducive to democracy.
I've also been very pleased with Bonnie Boyd's Central Asia on the foreign policy blogs.
I've never read Gone with the Wind and I certainly don't plan to any time soon.
I've never been to Europe except in a handful of airports (Paris, Frankfurt, Dublin, London, and Istanbul, depending on your point of view).
I've never lived by the ocean, and I'd like to. Any ocean would do, like the Pacific Ocean around Kamchatka.
I'm not impressed with most American or Kyrgyz food. Luckily it's easy to find other food in both the US and Kyrgyzstan.
I think plain homemade yogurt or Arby's sauce can fix almost any American or Kyrgyz food. Even hamburgers are edible with enough Arby's sauce.
I don't like fresh tomatoes. (So why did I plant so many tomatoes? Salsa.)
I wish I lived in the mountains in Asia.
I wish I could travel around Central Asia (taking a broader view of the area) and document bone games. I honestly think this would be about the coolest thing ever to do.
16 May 2007
13 May 2007
You can mail the supplies directly to Iraq using the APO below. It should cost about a dollar per pound to mail a package to the APO (this is amazingly inexpensive). Email Matt Wehle to let him know what you send to the APO: firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington Group International
c/o Mark Wehle- Al-Quds Power Plant
Humanitarian Aid Project
APO AE 09348
A few other guidelines:
Ship the supplies in boxes no larger than 12x12x12
Do not send white paper- they have plenty of white paper
The supplies need to be sent before June 5th
Scissors, especially small round-tipped ones
Lined writing pads
Colored pencils and sharpeners (non-electric)
Colored construction paper
Staplers, staples, paper clips, rubber bands
Paintbrushes and paints
Simple coloring books
If you have other ideas, email Matt at the above address to confirm it with him.
Even if you can only send a little, this is a worthwhile project, especially since the shipping is so convenient.
12 May 2007
Ten years ago this week I was at Petra. I have never drunk so much water in a single day as I did that day.
It was interesting going there that second time because I could read Arabic. The admission for locals was quite a bit less than for anyone outside Jordan. But they didn't announce that in Hebrew or English.
It really is as cool as Indiana Jones made it look.
10 May 2007
If I didn't have the internet, there would be literally no one with whom I could discuss Central Asia books. I might never have found Anything Can Happen or Ancestor Stones or even The Thirteenth Tale (because I rarely pick up contemporary fiction without a recommendation). Now I can rely on recommendations from people whose opinions I trust.
I often think about how much so many people's lives have changed because of the internet. We can call friends in Kyrgyzstan for next to nothing. I can chat with my mother and sisters all at once no matter where we are in the world. I can read General Conference talks anywhere in the world. I can find flushable diapers. I can hear what has happened to some of the babies I knew in the baby house. I've learned a lot more about Protestant Christianity. I can find the perfect Latin book.
What in the world did I do before the internet? And what new thing will appear someday soon that will make me feel the same way?
09 May 2007
Want some questions of your own? Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me!" and I will respond by e-mailing you five questions (if your email is not on your profile, email me your desire to be interviewed so I know your address). I get to pick them, and you have to answer them all. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post. If others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
1. Out of all the places you've lived, which was your favorite? Least favorite?
I don't know, I've liked all the places we lived for different reasons. I liked Boise because we had a house and a yard, and I liked Rexburg because it was close to Yellowstone. I liked Jerusalem and Bishkek because they're interesting, etc. I don't have a least favorite either. But there are a few American cities I'm not interested in moving to.
2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I've thought about this a lot, and there are lots and lots of places I want to live. But if I could just choose one, it might be Toronto. Or Cairo. Or Xi'an. Or West Yellowstone.
3. How did you become interested in Islam, and what interests you most about the religion?
I first started learning about Islam almost 20 years ago when one of my sisters lived in Jerusalem and started writing home about the people she was meeting. It just sort of grew from there. The thing that interests me the most is the diversity of the religion.
4. What's the deal with the geysers?
Beats me. I didn't care about them till I lived close to Yellowstone, and then I got totally hooked on them. There's something about the waiting and the beauty and the danger that makes them exciting. And they're always changing. That's why Old Faithful is boring. It's not much fun to watch a geyser that doesn't change and that's predictable to within 20 minutes. A geyser you've been waiting for for hours is lots better. Or one that doesn't have crowds of people.
5. What's your pet peeve?
Depends on the day. Today I don't have on. I guess my general one would be when people make assumptions. Muslims are violent. Don't tell a woman who has miscarried that you're going to have a baby. Boys are wilder than girls. Homeschoolers are wacko. Public schoolers are wacko. You're not a Christian if you teach evolution. Religious people are deceived and naive. Of course these are all true sometimes, but not always.
04 May 2007
Khalid's introduction to the book is excellent. In just a few pages he clearly refutes a variety of misconceptions about Islam and the various courses different Muslims are taking today. He begins by explaining why history matters in Islam- particularly the 70 years of Soviet rule in Muslim Central Asia. The Soviet period shaped Islam in Central Asia and cannot be ignored despite the common misperception that "Islam is inherently political and naturally leads to anti-Western militancy" (pg 2).
He also neatly describes the conflicting views today of whether Islam is "bad" or "good." Khalid believes, and I thoroughly agree, that the problem with this division "is that too often, the yardstick for measuring moderation is agreement with US geopolitical goals" (pg 5). Exactly. So Saudi Arabia, whose Wahhabis unquestionably have a rather harsh interpretation of Islam, is "moderate" or "good" and many secular Muslim countries are "bad" because they disagree with US foreign policy.
Khalid then discusses the diversity within Islam; this argument is getting old, but it has to keep being made since it's not sinking in. Islam is not homogeneous, particularly in its approach to law. He also differentiates between the different terms we use for Muslims, such as Islamist and Jihadist- particularly the US' role in the creation of the Jihadists- and discusses the differences between various groups.
This brief 18-page introduction is one of the best explanations of current thinking in Islam and how it is misinterpreted. Required reading.
Update- I forgot to add this quote from David Reeves' review of Islam After Communism on Registan a couple of months ago that nicely sums up the "Islamic threat" in Central Asia (especially worth noting if you've fallen prey to Jihad:
He [Khalid] stated that in Central Asia “the states are a bigger threat to Muslims than Muslims are to the state.” The book says that “Indeed, although Islamic militancy might pose some danger to the regimes, the danger the regimes pose to ordinary pious Muslims is far greater.” (191) Either way, this is the main message of the book.
03 May 2007
02 May 2007
I stumbled on Erica Marat's The Tulip Revolution: Kyrgyzstan One Year After at the library a week or two ago and sat down today to read it. It's only 123 pages long, plus about 25 pages of notes and indexing and a handy chronology. She covers everything in the first year after the March 25, 2005 revolution that brought Bakiev to power in Kyrgyzstan. The final page or two summarizing the aftermath of the revolution was spot on.
Obviously this isn't a book that will appeal to lots of people. It could also be fairly confusing if you're not already familiar with the people in Kyrgyz politics. And I particularly liked it because I was in Kyrgyzstan during most of the time the book covers. It's an excellent little book and definitely the one to turn to for a concise summary of Kyrgyzstan during 2005 and early 2006.
Messenger followed the same theme as The Giver and Gathering Blue- that we all choose how our societies run. Jonas' community decided that they were afraid of choices and so they removed almost any opportunity to make choices. Kira's society decided that they can't afford to keep anyone who doesn't fit in. And Matty's Village chooses selfishness. Lowry has a knack for telling a good story but making you think.
If you haven't read any of these books, they really are worth reading. I'm looking forward to reading them with my own children in a few years.