Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Month: June, 2013

The Benefits of a Full Moon

Full Moon

One day when I was seven or eight years old, I spent the night at my niece’s house, who is six months older than me. We competed on who would stay up the latest and we had a race with the full moon on the rooftop of their home, where Iraqis slept in the summertime (before the Gulf War and the 2003 war when such endeavors became too dangerous). We ran this way and that way and what we couldn’t understand is how the moon followed me and followed her simultaneously even when we went in totally separate directions.

I’ve learned quite a bit about the moon since those days. According to shamanic teachings, the Full Moon is the strongest energetic phase of the moon, especially so as the night approaches midnight, a time when the masks of life between this world and the other world are most think. At this time magical powers will be at their peak.

This is the time where the universe is aligned for romance, high energy, and releasing things that don’t serve you. If you have missed the midnight deadline, you will not be like Cinderella when she lost her slippers. You still have time to sit down, reflect on what you want to give away, and do a little ceremony when actually giving it away. Then when the new moon comes, you will be empty enough to bring in and begin a new project.

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Summer is Here – Oh Goodness!

Just two days into summer and I’m already exhausted! We’ve gone to the pool a number of times and today, it was the start of those fun Sunday beach outings where you stand under the sun for hours keeping an eye on the kids as they build sand castles and swim in the water. Then after hours of catering to their needs, and feeling dizzy in the process, you get someone crying, “I don’t want to leave!” which continues to pound in your head on the drive home.

At home, you have to unpack the coolers, give the kids a bath and remove the sand that clings to the bottom of the bathtub. By the time you have a chance for a breather, or to write a post on your blog, you get “Mom, I’m hungry.”

And that’s just the beginning of summer.

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Frankenmuth

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Last weekend we stepped, slightly, into the heart of Germany when we visited the small city of Frankenmuth and had dinner at the Bavarian Inn. Frankenmuth’s population is less than 5000, and it the place to go to if you want to stroll through 13 acres of beautiful riverfront, or “Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland” which bills itself as the world’s largest Christmas store, listen to the hoof beats of horse-drawn carriages, and enjoy family-style chicken dinners and authentic German dishes.

The city’s name is a combination of two words. “Franken” represents the Province of Franconia in the Kingdom of Bavaria, home of the Franks, where the original settlers were from. The German word “Mut” means courage; thus, the name Frankenmuth means “courage of the Franconians.” The area was settled and named in 1845 by conservative Lutheran immigrants from Roßtal area of Franconia (now part of Bavaria) in Germany. The group of settlers left Germany on April 20, 1845 and arriving at Castle Garden seven weeks later.

The nearby villages of Frankenlust, Frankentrost, and Frankenhilf illustrate that the area remained a magnet for other Germans from the same region even after it lost its original purpose as a mission post for the spread of Christianity to the Chippewa tribe.

Although we didn’t get to do any beer tasting that day, we ate and ate and ate until we could barely breathe. Then we were served ice cream! Word of advice, do not wear tight jeans if you plan on eating at the Bavarian Inn.

A World Without Prejudice

A World Without Prejudice

I heard a knock on my door. My daughter assumed it was her uncle and rushed to open it. It was not her uncle but a lovely well-dressed family of a mother, father and their daughter. Jehovah’s Witnesses have come to my door before, and I am never displeased by their presence. Sometimes it is an elderly woman with her grandchild or two sisters or friends, or whomever. But they are always polite and sensitive and I appreciate that they have taken the time to get up early Saturday mornings, dress as if they are going to church, and pass out literature that one can choose to read or not read. Nothing is forced.

Yesterday’s literature especially caught my attention. It was entitled “A World Without Prejudice: When?” and it talked about how discrimination and prejudice is nonexistent in heaven.
“God is not partial,” said the Christian apostle Peter (Acts 10:34,35) having received a divine vision in which he was told: “You stop calling defiled the things God has cleansed.” Or simply created?

Fifty years ago the work of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., caused over 100 countries to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Other global initiatives were adopted in the decades that followed. Yet in 2012, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated “Nevertheless, racism continues to cause suffering for millions of people around the world.”

What’s the answer? Attempts to eliminate prejudice must not merely curb discriminatory acts but also change a person’s thoughts and feelings toward people of another group.

Myself, I’ve always thought that the best way to do this is not just by reading about their issues, but to actually spend time with another group of people, invite them to your home, share a meal, visit their place of worship, ask them questions. We do not have to travel overseas to meet a new people and culture. It’s right here in our neighborhood, waiting to be discovered.

The Women of Telkaif

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Telkaif like most of the villages in the north is in the city of Mosul, Iraq. Mosul is where Agatha Christie once lived with her husband, an archaeologist who was involved in the excavation in Nimrud in the north of Iraq and he explored the ancient city of Ur in the south.

“I fell in love with Ur,” Agatha Christie wrote in her autobiography.

I fell in love with Telkaif, where my parents and their parents and their grandparents are from.
Yesterday I invited over some cousins who I stayed with in Telkaif in 2000. Telkaif is in the province of Mosul, and there, I got to visit the various churches and monasteries that date back to the early Christians in the place, from the 6th Century. I got to sleep on the rooftop and watch the stars shine brightly over the maze of streets and exquisite 19th century houses. I got to observe the fresh meat and dairy market when around six o’clock in the morning, my cousin and I walked to a place where cattle was slaughtered and where countrywomen sat beside a curb, selling homemade dairy products like yogurt and clotted cream. For a dollar, I also bought an abaya, a type of veil, from Mosul’s market.

Things are no longer the same in the northern part of Iraq. According to the Bishop of Mosul, of a 32,000 plus population of Christians, there are now less than 2,500. So I may soon have no relatives left in Iraq to visit.

Flipping a Pot of Stuffed Grape Leaves – The Chaotic Way

My brother-in-law arrived from Jordan a few days ago and we had a gathering for him last night. Although the gathering was nice, it was also quite chaotic. After all, it was an Arab/Middle Eastern family so we’re talking sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles and more aunts and uncles.

There were more people than my house can hold and it was too chilly to sit on the patio. My husband was passing out jackets to the men (after checking no money was in any of the pockets) but after staying outside for an hour or so, they walked back in and took up whatever little air was left inside.

The most fun part was when all the women tried to help in the kitchen. I was trying to get to the sink but when I saw the little crowd clustered there, I thought, better get the camera instead.
Turns out the fuss was over the huge and heavy pot of stuffed grape leaves, which my husband’s nephew successfully flipped over. The Iraqi version of stuffed grapes is different than other regions in the Middle East. The dish is called dolma and in it is included stuffed green peppers, cabbage, zucchini, eggplants, onions, or whatever else one’s heart contends. Some even stuff potatoes and carrots, if they’re large enough.

The good part is – at least I did not have a lazy group of people at my house, in which case I would have ended up staying up until 5am cleaning instead of when I actually slept at 1:30am.

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Fabulous Teachers

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For two years prior to enrolling my son into nursery school, he would watch his sister enter her pre-school class, then her kindergarten class. Each time, he tried to sneak in with her as well. I’d pull him out, kicking and screaming.

This year, he finally got his turn. He attended school twice a week, two hours a day and had two wonderful teachers – Mrs. Sharon and Mrs. Lisa. Mrs. Sharon was so full of life that when she came outside at the end of the school day to inform the parents what the children did in class, I felt exhausted just watching her energy. Her passion for her job and her love for the children was really a sight. It would be raining or snowing or freezing cold, and she would be out there in short sleeves, excited to talk about our kids. It was truly amazing and reminded of when Marilyn Monroe sang in front of the soldiers one cold winter. She was in a sleeveless dress, not thinking about the weather but concentrating on what she loves to do.

Yesterday was the last day for nursery school, so we may not be seeing Mrs. Sharon or Mrs. Lisa for a while, but we will definitely never forget my son’s first teachers.

The Detroit Zoo

A few weeks ago my daughter’s school took the first graders on a field trip to the Detroit Zoo. My family and I figured we’d go along since none of us had ever been to the Detroit zoo before.

Although it was a great experience and I look forward to going there again, hopefully soon, it was kind of sad to see some of the animals in the lonely states they were in. For instance, the tiger was in this underground spiral habitat. He just lay there, looking bored and well… tamed. The same with the lions and the bear and the buffalo.

Once upon a time, animals were more a normal part of our lives. Thousands of years later, we’ve managed to switch the natural way of things and put animals, even insects like birds and butterflies (in some cases even plants and flowers) in cages where they await occasional visits.

Well, people have kind of done the same with a lot of human beings, so why should animals receive a better treatment?

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