Sunday, May 16, 2021

LAOS


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I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find a suitable book to read for my post about Laos (officially, Lao People’s Democratic Republic). The only book I was aware of, Mother’s Beloved, by Outhine Bounyavong, was a short story collection, and I was hoping for a novel. So when I was browsing in a used bookstore one day, I was delighted to come across A Thousand Wings, the debut novel of T. C. Huo, who was born in Laos but now lives in Northern California.

A Thousand Wings tells the story of Fong Mun, a gay man who is a caterer and cookbook author living in San Francisco. He is giving a demonstration on the preparation and serving of egg rolls in the home of a client when he meets and becomes attracted to a young man named Raymond. They discover that they are both from Laos, although Raymond was so young when he left that he has no recollection of that country. Raymond asks Fong Mun for his egg roll recipe, and Fong Mun responds by offering to show him how to make them in person. Raymond goes to Fong Mun’s house, and at that point, the rest of the book is basically the story of Fong Mun’s life in Laos.

Fong Mun’s childhood was spent in Luang Prabang, which was at that time the royal capital of Laos. Fong Mun lived with his father, mother, and grandmother on property shared with other people, including a photographer and the K. family. Fong Mun’s father, Mr. Fong, worked in a darkroom developing the pictures taken by Mr. Woo, the photographer. Fong Mun was interested in food even then, planting a garden and fuming whenever the neighbors would help themselves to the fruits of his labor, or encroach on what he considered to be his space.

The year was 1975, however, and Fong Mun’s life was about to be turned upside down. First, his family heard on the radio that Saigon had fallen. Next, pro-Communist students began protesting in the streets of Luang Prabang, and a group called the Brothers came into the neighborhood to take inventory of all the trees and livestock each household had. Some food began to be rationed, the practice of Buddhism started to be repressed, and Communist indoctrination replaced regular instruction at Fong Mun’s school. Eventually, the principal led the students on a march to the royal palace, meeting up with other protesters along the way, and the king was forced to abdicate his throne.

Fong Mun stopped going to school after that, and his parents, fearing for his future, sent him to Bangkok with the K. family. They tried to keep a low profile because they had no legal right to live there, and eventually, they fled to the countryside to stay with friends. This transitory life was summed up by Uncle Hahn, a friend of Fong Mun’s father: “From China to Vietnam, running from the Japanese. Then from Vietnam to Laos, running from the Communists. And now running from the Communists again. Running all my life.”

Fong Mun finally met up with his family in a refugee camp in Thailand, and later settled in the United States, while other people he knew went to live in France, Australia, and Canada. Although San Francisco is now his home, Fong Mun tells Raymond, “We’re all guests.” Undoubtedly thinking of his garden in Luang Prabang, he says, “We moved from country to country, from garden to garden. We adopted different tongues, went by different names – picked up different recipes.”

A Thousand Wings captures the dichotomy of the immigrant experience: a longing for the familiarity and the cherished moments from one’s home country, combined with the resilience and determination to make the best of the opportunities available in the new country.


COOK

Since the first nine pages of A Thousand Wings are devoted to a discussion of egg rolls, it was clear to me early on that I would have to figure out how to make vegan egg rolls for this blog post. I found a recipe for Lao Style Fried Spring Rolls at SimplyLaddie.com that was not even remotely vegan, but I veganized it as well as I could. I found vegan egg roll wrappers, substituted diced tofu for the ground pork, used Just Egg in place of the eggs, and replaced the oyster sauce and the fish sauce with hoisin and soy sauce.

To serve the egg rolls, I adhered to Fong Mun’s admonition: “Salad is an integral part of eating egg roll. It provides a communal experience and lets you compose your own dish.” This meant wrapping the egg roll in red leaf lettuce, along with mint, cilantro, and a spoonful of noodles.

This was quite a process, but the egg rolls turned out pretty well. Whenever I eat egg rolls in a restaurant from now on, I’ll have new respect for all the work that went into making them.




 

GIVE

Four projects in Laos were listed on the GlobalGiving website, all education-related and all operated by the same nonprofit organization, Action Change. According to the description of the project I chose: “Laos is a country with education inequality, particularly affecting the poorer communities and young girls. Due to education in Laos only being compulsory for 5 years, the education they do receive is often poor quality and under-resourced. This project aims to tackle the education inequality in these areas by providing quality educational resources, teacher training and improved facilities to encourage children to continue their studies into higher education.

More information about this project is available at Fund Educational Resources in Laos - GlobalGiving.


NEXT STOP: LATVIA


 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

KYRGYZSTAN



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Jamilia, by Chingiz Aïtmatov, is a novella about a young woman living on a farm in a small village in Kyrgyzstan during World War II. Her husband Sadyk and his brother are fighting in the war, and Jamilia is living with Sadyk’s mother. The book is narrated by a teenage boy named Seit, who lives with his father, mother, and little sister in another part of the house where Jamilia and her mother-in-law live. Seit’s two older brothers are also fighting in the war.

The two families have an interesting relationship. When Sadyk’s mother was widowed, Seit’s father was married to her by his kinsfolk, since he was the closest relative of the deceased. The families live in harmony, and Seit refers to Sadyk’s mother as “younger mother.” 

With most of the able-bodied men away at war, the hard work of running the farm falls to the women and the boys. Seit and Jamilia are given the task of hauling sacks of grain to the train station every day in a horse-drawn cart, a round-trip journey that takes all day. Assigned to help them is a disabled soldier named Daniyar. He was originally from the village where Seit and his family live, but was orphaned at a young age and sent to live elsewhere. 

As might be imagined, long days together going to and from the train station give Daniyar and Jamilia a great deal of time to get to know each other. The power and passion of Daniyar’s singing on the way home from the station every day enthralls Jamilia, who is feeling slighted by her husband. Sadyk sends letters home from the war with greetings for all his family members, but for Jamilia, there’s just a postscript at the end of the letter – “… and give my regards to my wife Jamilia.” 

Seit is a keen observer of the bond that is growing between Daniyar and Jamilia, and being of an artistic bent, he sketches a picture of the two of them, which Jamilia takes from him. According to Seit: “Simultaneously she painfully wished and did not wish to admit to herself that she was in love, in the same way as I was keen and not keen for her to love Daniyar. After all, she was my family’s daughter-in-law, my brother’s wife.” 

I won’t say how the story ends, although the book’s back cover isn’t nearly as careful about avoiding spoilers. The French poet Louis Aragon called Jamilia “the most beautiful love story in the world.” I don’t know that I’d go that far, but it’s a captivating little book.

COOK


No regional dishes were mentioned in Jamilia, so I had to search the Internet for recipes from Kyrgyzstan. I found one for a dish called kuurdak on the “World Cuisine History and Recipes” website. Kuurdak is basically just braised meat and potatoes, making it one of the simplest dishes I’ve made for this blog. The only substitution I needed to make was for the meat, of course, so I used Gardein Home Style Beefless Tips. Not bad at all!



 

GIVE


GlobalGiving didn’t seem to have much going on in Kyrgyzstan, so I did a Google search to see what else I could find. I finally found an organization called Babushka Adoption, and how could I resist? According to the website, “Babushka Adoption aims to help elderly citizens who live under hard conditions, receive low pensions and lack close relatives who could care for them. The Foundation has established various projects with and for elderly people to improve the living conditions of elderly Kyrgyz citizens on both a local and regional level.” More information about Babushka Adoption is available at Babushka Adoption.



NEXT STOP: LAOS

Monday, April 26, 2021

KUWAIT




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My book selection for Kuwait was Motorbikes and Camels, by Nejoud Al-Yagout. This is the author’s debut novel, and I thought the format was particularly interesting. The book consists of stories about thirteen different people, all of whose lives are intertwined with the lives of one or more other people in the book. While the plot doesn’t feel like a continuous story with a beginning, middle, and end, the reappearance of the same characters in the different stories gives the book some cohesion.

The first story is about Salma, who is struggling to understand why her interactions with men never work out the way she wants them to. Two men in her life have their own stories, as do other women they’re involved with. We learn about the manipulative Aisha, whose life touches on those of several other characters in the book. The man Aisha marries, Hussam, is gay and has been trying to repress the fact ever since his father discovered him with a man. There is a chapter about Salma’s uncle, Mohammed, a bigamist whose favorite thing about his religion seems to be the liberties he is permitted as a man. His story is followed by those of his two wives, who have started to resent his sexism. Another chapter revolves around Mike, a foreigner who has converted to Islam and who seems to have a thing for Kuwaiti women. 

The stories all feature discussions about love or sex, as well as various interpretations of Islamic law and beliefs. There was a lot more alcohol-drinking and sex outside of marriage than I would have expected, and quite a bit of back-and-forth about whether women should or should not wear a veil, which is apparently not required by law in Kuwait.

While each of the stories were entertaining, I found the epilogue to be confusing and not of a piece with the rest of the book. It involves Salma going to a spiritual retreat in India, where a guru answers people’s questions about love and sex. I don’t know what the author’s purpose was in adding such a disconnected piece to the end of her book. All in all, however, I thought Motorbikes and Camels provided an interesting glimpse into Kuwaiti culture.


COOK


The only mentions of food in Motorbikes and Camels were about dishes that aren’t Kuwaiti cuisine – avocado toast and coconut and pumpkin curry, for example. Salma becomes vegan during the course of her story, but no vegan Kuwaiti dishes make an appearance. In looking online for recipes, most of the ones I found were very meat-centric. So I was happy when I found a recipe for Kuwaiti lentil soup on the “Recipes Wiki” website. It was different than other lentil soups I’ve made because the lentils were puréed after they were cooked, and then potatoes and dried lemons were added to the soup. The potatoes made it a more hearty dish, and the dried lemons gave it a little tang. The only change I had to make to the recipe was to replace the ghee with Earth Balance spread.




GIVE


Since Kuwait is a wealthy country, I wasn’t surprised that GlobalGiving didn’t have any projects listed in that country. I found a few nonprofit organizations when I searched online, but the websites were in Arabic and there didn’t seem to be an easy way to make a donation. Finally, I found a link to a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money for Touch of Hope, an animal rescue effort in Kuwait dedicated to helping injured, abused, and abandoned animals. The women who run this shelter were recently evicted from their farm, so money raised by the GoFundMe campaign will help them to relocate. More information about Touch of Hope is available here.




NEXT STOP: KYRGYZSTAN 


 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

KIRIBATI



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First things first – where is Kiribati? Kiribati is an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean, generally in the vicinity of Samoa. It is comprised of thirty-two atolls, with the capital and the most populous area being on the atoll of Tarawa.

As you might imagine, it wasn’t easy finding a book in English by an author born in Kiribati, but I managed to track down a copy of the only such book that I’m aware of – Waa in Storms, by Teweiariki Teaero. This book is a collection of poems, short prose pieces, and art works by the author.

“Waa” means canoe in the Kiribatese language, so the book’s title evokes the image of a small craft battered by a tempest. The material in the book is divided into three types of storms, followed by a section honoring the calm that follows the storm.

“First Wave: Pond Storms” contains poems about problems that affect the author, his family, or other individuals. In one poem, he agonizes over his young daughter’s hospitalization after she is hit by a drunk driver. A couple of other poems help him grieve for his father, who has lost his battle with cancer. There is a poem lamenting the death of a friend, and one that anticipates the author’s loneliness as he watches his wife leave for work for several months:

             “never does a plane look so ugly

               as when it is about to whisk half of me away

               beyond easy reach behind concealing clouds

               for many long months again”

The poems and writings in “Second Wave: Lagoon Storms” are about problems affecting Kiribati. Teaero rages about a series of child rapes that had just taken place, and about all the children hit by speeding buses. He honors the country’s Vice President, who had died suddenly, while also poking fun at other political leaders.

“Third Wave: Ocean Storms” is concerned with problems that impact the region or the world. There are poems decrying environmental degradation, an homage for the death of an elder, and a lament called “What is…” that lists things that are rising (global warming, cost of living, blood pressure, etc.) and things that are falling (natural resources, respect for elders, earning power, and so forth). Poignantly, the author asks:

             “What remains static?

                 i can’t see

                   i can’t feel

                     i can’t hear

                       i don’t know”

With “Fourth Wave: Calm Again” the author attempts to close on a more positive note. He includes a poem honoring his father-in-law; a love poem, presumably for his wife; and a poem about artists called “Seeing” that I particularly liked. It opens with the words:

             “anybody

               can look

               but artists

               ‘see’”

Several of the poems in the book are written in the Kiribatese language, so I obviously couldn’t read those. According to the author, “To me, the most important concern is to express an idea as vividly as possible. If this comes through the use of English, Kiribatese, visual image or any combination of the three, then I have not hesitated in pursuing that mode of expression.” I liked his colorful artwork, which appeared throughout the book. An appendix includes explanations about each work of art.

Although Waa in Storms isn’t the type of book I normally read for this blog, I really enjoyed reading poetry and looking at art for a change. 


COOK


It never occurred to me when I started this blog that I would one day have to figure out a way to make vegan SPAM, but that’s exactly what happened when I started looking for a recipe for a Kiribatese dish. The “196 flavors” website had a recipe for a dish called Te Bua Toro Ni Baukin, which is basically a casserole consisting primarily of pumpkin, cabbage, and SPAM. Fortunately, I found a vegan SPAM recipe on the “Cheap Lazy Vegan” website. I ended up taking a lot of liberties with this dish. Besides making a SPAM substitute out of tofu, I used coconut milk powder instead of cow’s milk powder; used kabocha squash instead of pumpkin; and since I didn’t have a lemon in the house, I used a lime instead. I really didn’t have high hopes, but it was tasty enough.





 

GIVE


 The GlobalGiving website had two projects that mentioned Kiribati. Since some of Teaero’s poems expressed his concerns about the environmental mess we’ve made and continue to make, I chose the one that addresses the coral bleaching crisis in Kiribati, Fiji, and Tuvalu. According to the project description: “Communities and resorts are being empowered to save the lives of thousands of corals that are resistant to warm water bleaching, but that can not survive the onslaught of over-abundant coral predators without help. Patches of heat-adapted corals are restored to reefs, planted as second-generation fragments trimmed from the nurseries. Five villages in Fiji, four villages in Kiribati, and four villages in Tuvalu are impacted, and ‘Coral Gardener’ has been created as a new profession for resorts.”

More information about this project is available at Emergency Response to Massive Coral Bleaching - GlobalGiving.


NEXT STOP: KUWAIT


Monday, March 22, 2021

KENYA

 


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Dust, by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, opens with the shooting death of a young man on the streets of Nairobi. He is killed by the police after stealing back the car that was stolen from him. The young man’s name is Moses Ebewesit Odidi Oganda (Odidi), and his death shatters his family: his estranged father Nyipir, his erratic mother Akai, his beloved sister Arabel Ajany (Ajany), and his pregnant fiancée Justina.

A police officer who knows Nyipir calls to notify him of his son’s death, and Nyipir, in turn, calls Ajany, who is living in Brazil. She flies to Nairobi to meet her father, and together they take Odidi’s body back to the family home, a crumbling, coral-colored edifice called Wuoth Ogik, which means “Journey’s End.” When they reach Akai and she learns that her son is dead, she breaks down, berating Nyipir and disdaining Ajany. After a time, Akai takes the car and flees.

In the meantime, a man has arrived in Kenya from England and is heading for Wuoth Ogik. His name is Isaiah William Bolton, and he has been in correspondence with Odidi. Isaiah is looking for his father Hugh, whom he has never met, and he believes Wuoth Ogik belongs to him. Hugh had settled in Kenya with his wife Selene when it was still a British colony. He was happy there, but Selene was not, and she eventually left him and went back to England, where Isaiah was born. There are dozens of books and other papers with Hugh’s name on them at the house. Odidi and Ajany have never known who Hugh Bolton is, but it has always been clear that Nyipir and Akai know.

Isaiah eventually arrives at Wuoth Ogik, much to Nyipir’s distress. Ajany talks to him and he shows her one of his father’s old books that Odidi had sent him. He also shows her a bookmark that his father had painted, depicting a naked pregnant woman. Ajany immediately recognizes the woman as her mother, but doesn’t tell Isaiah that.

Ajany goes to Nairobi to find out what she can about her brother’s life and death there. He had had a promising career as an engineer, but had been betrayed by people he trusted. She discovers that he had a fiancée, Justina, who is now pregnant with his child. Isaiah, who has been unable to get any answers from Nyipir, follows Ajany to Nairobi.

In addition to all the family secrets and intrigue, the bloody political history of Kenya is woven throughout the novel. After Kenya gained independence from England, there was still considerable unrest from rival political factions. The people and events mentioned in the book are probably familiar to anyone from Kenya who reads Dust, but I found myself having to Google or refer to Wikipedia from time to time in order to understand what was happening. 

The author did a good job telling this story, and I found myself wanting to keep reading in order to find out how the lives of Nyipir and Akai intersected with that of Hugh Bolton. I appreciate the way she tied up most of the loose ends, making for a satisfying conclusion.

COOK

When Ajany goes to Nairobi looking for clues about Odidi's life, a man near the place where Odidi died tells her to go see Justina. She doesn't know who Justina is, but a woman in the beauty shop nearby tells her where to go. She discovers that Justina is a lap dancer whom Odidi had met at a local club. He had moved in with her, and Justina is pregnant with Odidi's baby. While they're talking, they drink "endless cups of ginger tea" and eat mandazi, which is basically fried dough, similar to a donut but triangular in shape. I found a recipe for mandazi on the "Tasty" website. I only needed to substitute egg replacer for the egg in order to veganize the recipe. These little snacks turned out to be pretty good!



GIVE

As Isaiah walks from Wuoth Ogik to Nairobi, he sees a sign that says, "Reading Is Knowledge." The explanation? "The Kenya National Library Services Camel caravan pitching camp for the night." Apparently, this camel caravan is a real thing, and I really wanted my donation to go to the camels taking books to readers in rural Kenya. Alas, I couldn't find any way to do that. So I searched GlobalGiving's website to see if there were other projects involving books and found an organization raising money to provide a thousand story books to children to promote literacy in Kenya. According to the project description: "Quality education transforms students' opportunities, and gives them a pathway out of poverty! For many children in marginalized communities, access to story books is simply a luxury. We want to change this by providing a much needed supply of story books to students to promote literacy, and connect them to a world of stories. This project will enable us to start mini library boxes in schools so that children can have access to engaging materials to enhance their learning experience." More information about this project is available at 


NEXT STOP: KIRIBATI


Sunday, March 14, 2021

KAZAKHSTAN


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The Aral Sea in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan used to be the fourth largest lake in the world, with fishermen from small villages all around its edges depending on it for their livelihood. In the 1960s, the Soviet Union determined that the water from the rivers that fed the Aral Sea were needed to irrigate farmland, to grow crops such as cotton. The diversion of river water caused the Aral Sea to begin shrinking, resulting in an environmental and economic disaster. To make matters worse, the land that was left behind once the water was gone was toxic due to salinity, pesticide and fertilizer runoff, and chemicals left behind from weapons testing.

The shrinking Aral Sea is the backdrop for the book I read for Kazakhstan, Final Respects, by Abdi-Jamil Nurpeisov. The novel’s protagonist, Jadiger, is chairman of the fishing collective in his village on the Aral coast. He frequently goes out to wherever the fishermen are working to see how things are going, leaving his wife of thirteen years, Bakizat, and their two children at home. This causes problems in the marriage, which was never on particularly firm footing to begin with. They had gone to university together, along with another man, Azim, with whom Bakizat had been in a relationship. When Azim broke up with her, she took up with Jadiger and they married, but she has never gotten over Azim.

The shortage of fish in the receding sea is extremely concerning for Jadiger and the fisherman in his collective. One large clan is moving out of the area because they can no longer make a living. Azim, who has a respected position as an academician, favors draining even more water from the sea, convinced that there is fertile soil in the seabed where cotton can be farmed. He has also managed to persuade many people that there is a large underground freshwater lake that will provide all necessary water. He seems to be unaware or unbothered by the fact that changing the local ecosystem by shrinking the sea is causing the environment to become more and more degraded. As one critic argued at one of Azim’s meetings, “Many possibly don’t realize, and some have already long ago understood that…if we don’t radically review our relationship to nature, then humankind will inevitably come to its annihilation.”

Jadiger and Azim clash over their conflicting views about the future of the Aral Sea, and shortly thereafter, Bakizat finally leaves Jadiger for Azim. Jadiger strikes out for the sea, and Azim and Bakizat leave the village together in a sleigh. Fate brings the three of them together, however, in circumstances that will put them all to the test.

This book was often difficult to follow, as I think it’s the only novel I’ve ever read that was written mostly in the second person point of view. So instead of “I did this” or “she did that,” it was always “you did this” or “you did that.” The “you” was Jadiger for the first part of the book, so it seemed as though he were talking to himself. The “you” shifted to other characters later in the book, adding to the confusion. 

While the way the book was written may have made it challenging to read, the environmental warnings came through loud and clear. As his world begins to crumble around him, Jadiger wonders, “If in such a short time, the sea could grow shallow and so many lakes and rivers dry up…if the earth could grow scant and the air be poisoned…then perhaps in reality, not long remained before the very end of the earth?”

COOK

Not many particular dishes were mentioned in Final Respects, and even fewer that could be veganized. So I googled Kazakhstani recipes and found one on the Fandom Recipes Wiki website for Chrov Plav, which is basically a rice pilaf with almonds and dried fruits. I substituted Earth Balance for the butter, and agave nectar for the honey to make it vegan. My grocery store didn’t have currants, so I threw in some goji berries instead. This was a good side dish with the Beyond Sausage I had for dinner, but the leftovers will be even better for breakfast the next few days.




GIVE

In Final Respects, Jadiger’s son was born with disabilities. It appears that, between the environmental problems caused by the receding sea and the toxic chemicals left behind after nearby weapons testing, many children in the village were born disabled. So when I found a project on the GlobalGiving website helping children with cerebral palsy in Kazakhstan, that’s the one I chose for my donation. According to the project description, more than 26,000 families in Kazakhstan have a child with cerebral palsy. More than 75 percent of those families have no access to free and qualified rehabilitation services. This project would provide free services to over 1,500 children with cerebral palsy who come from low-income families or who live in orphanages. With these services, it is hoped that the children can learn every-day skills, such as walking, sitting, eating, etc. More information about this project is available at Support 26 000 children with palsy in Kazakhstan - GlobalGiving.

 

NEXT STOP: KENYA


Friday, March 5, 2021

JORDAN



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My Name is Salma, by Fadia Faqir, follows the life of Salma Ibrahim El-Musa, a Bedouin shepherdess in a small village somewhere in the Levant, an area that encompasses several countries in the Middle East, including Jordan. Salma’s life is simple, but happy, until she falls in love with a local man and becomes pregnant. She knows that if her father and brother find out, they will kill her, so she seeks help from her schoolteacher. Miss Nailah tells her that her best option is to turn herself over to the police so they can keep her in protective custody where her father and brother can’t reach her. Salma gives birth to her daughter Layla in prison, and Layla is immediately taken from her and sent to live at a home for illegitimate children.

Salma spends eight years living in the prison, afraid of the consequences if she tries to leave. One night, though, a nun smuggles her out of the prison and out of the country. She eventually ends up in Exeter, England, where her name is given as Sally Asher. She finds work as a seamstress and rents a room from an alcoholic widow whose reality alternates between the present day and her youth, which was spent in India. Salma has two close friends in Exeter, an elderly woman named Gwen and a Pakistani refugee named Parvin. Her evenings are filled with studying, as she works to obtain a degree in English literature, and her second job collecting and washing the glasses at a local bar.

Although she seems to have settled into a normal life, fear and self-loathing are with her everywhere she goes. She imagines her brother is around every corner, just waiting to shoot her between the eyes. And despite the fact that she fled her village in order to escape that fate, she feels as though it’s what she deserves, both for becoming pregnant in the first place and for leaving her daughter behind.

After several years in England, Salma finally meets and marries a kind man. But she becomes increasingly obsessed with returning to her home country and reuniting with her daughter, who would be sixteen years old by then. Will the passage of time have softened her family’s anger?

My Name is Salma was a compelling story, although it felt disjointed, with the author hopscotching between multiple times and places so frequently that it was often hard to keep track of what was happening in Salma’s life. Still, it was a good portrayal of the determination of one woman to keep moving forward, even though all the odds seemed to be stacked against her.


COOK


The olive groves in Salma’s village in the Levant figure prominently in her memories of her childhood. On the very first page of the novel, there is this description as Salma looks at the English countryside but yearns for her village: “It was a new day, but the dewy greenness of the hills, the whiteness of the sheep, the greyness of the skies carried me to my distant past, to a small mud village tucked away between the deserted hills, to Hima, to silver-green olive groves gleaming in the morning light.”

So when I started looking for a Jordanian dish to prepare, it seemed fitting to find a recipe for MaazatZaytoon, a green olive dip, at the International Vegetarian Union’s website. It seemed like it would be easy enough to make – just throw all the ingredients in the blender – but there were too few liquids and too many solids for the ingredients to blend properly. I ended up chopping the olives into smaller pieces and using considerably more liquids than the recipe called for – olive oil, lemon juice, and some brine from the jar of olives – before everything reached the right consistency for a blender. The final result was very good, though, served on wedges of Mediterranean flatbread.





GIVE


The GlobalGiving website listed several projects in Jordan, but because of Salma’s studies in English literature, the one I chose to donate to was the “We Love Reading” program, which is designed to “create a generation of change makers by fostering a love for reading among children aged 2-10 throughout Jordan.”

According to the project description, “We Love Reading is an innovative model that provides a practical, cost efficient, sustainable, grassroots approach to create changemakers through reading. WLR supports the activism of local volunteers to increase reading levels among children by focusing on the readaloud experience to instill the love of reading. The program constitutes training local volunteer women, men and youth to hold readaloud sessions in public spaces in their neighborhoods where books are routinely read aloud to children.” More information about this project is available at https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/we-love-reading-ambassador-training/


NEXT STOP: KAZAKHSTAN