Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Month: October, 2013

Iraqi-American Stories, Shown by French Filmmakers

I’m sitting at my computer, having my usual morning coffee and writing my next post about the web documentary My Beloved Enemy: Iraqi-American Stories, since their trailer was just released online. Suddenly the phone rings and I see a strange out-of-the-country number. I answer and lo and behold it’s Claire, one of the French directors of the web documentary.

My Beloved Enemy, which includes my mother’s story of how she attained her US citizenship, will be released December 10th. In early September, there were three crowded screenings of this web documentary at Visa pour l’Image, the premiere International Festival held in Perpignan, France.

“Claire, this project is great, but so is its artistic quality,” I said, after having viewed the trailer.

She told me how in France they recently had this debate of whether a journalist can combine artistic work into their story or if they must remain objective. In my opinion, journalists with a lot of courage and strong feelings cannot keep their feelings to themselves or hide it from their work. That is why in recent years so many artists have dove into independent projects, so they can unleash their own heartfelt truths. Plus, no reporting is truly objective. Look at CNN and Fox News!

Also, given what Claire told me previously, that the audience at the festival was touched and impressed by the Iraqi-American stories they watched on the big screen, I say, use the artistic and journalistic and whatever other talents God gave to inspire, educate, and shed light on the world.

My Beloved Enemy

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Our Sponsored Child

Jose

Today we received a welcome packet from Children International introducing us to the child we will be sponsoring. His name is Jose, he’s from Guatemala and he’s 8 years old.

It all started three weeks ago. I was trying to take a short nap when the doorbell rang. My kids, who thought it was their neighborhood friends, opened the door. Hearing the voices of adults, I threw my nap out the window and came to see who was at the door.

Oh no, I thought, seeing a nice looking young man and woman, all smiles, polite, and trying to sell me something. They were from Children International, and they hooked me quickly by talking about children in need. My son didn’t help. He was flirting with the beautiful young woman. The handsome young man was telling me how his wife was having a baby soon. It was going to be a girl. To make a long story short, I ended up giving in.

Twenty-five dollars a month to make a difference in a life of a child who lives in a poverty-stricken country is a good thing – to the child and to us. Once in a while, we need to step outside of our comfort zone, to look not at our goals but at those who are trying to achieve our goals. To them, we have everything.

Jose’s birthday is November 3rd. I told my daughter we will send him a birthday card.

“Can we take him out too?” she asked.

“Well, no. He lives in a different country.”

“Oh man! Can we visit him one day?”

I thought of the one room house that housed 5 people and had 3 beds. “Maybe,” I said.

“He is poor, mamma?” she asked, looking at the picture of the average Guatemalan home.

“Not really. Like you he has parents and siblings and he goes to school. He likes to draw and write and so he’s very rich in his own way.”

“How are we going to help him if he doesn’t live here?”

“We are going to help each other through gifts. We send him money and in return, he makes us realize how grateful we should be for what we have.”

Nineveh is Like Any Major City in the U.S.

Nineveh

“Nineveh is like any major city in the U.S.,” said Pastor Aaron at today’s sermon.

Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. It is one of the oldest and greatest cities in antiquity. The area was settled as early as 6000 BC and by 3000 BC had become an important religious center for worship of the Assyrian goddess Ishtar.

“Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was the superpower of her day,” said the Pastor. “It required three days to circle metropolitan Nineveh. And the Ninevites lived large. They enjoyed the best chariots, the finest food, and the most exotic entertainment. It had an extensive business and commercial system like none in the world. In addition, Assyria had ruled the world for 200 years and was the strongest military power. Sounds familiar?”

He added that Nineveh’s wickedness was great, and unbeknownst to them, their days were numbered. It would not be long before Babylon would overtake Nineveh. God gave them one last chance to repent, however, by sending Jonah. After Jonah’s sermon to them, the entire city turned from their sin of violence, which they were known for, and turned to God. (Jonah 4:4 NLT)

“Shouldn’t we be concerned with Sterling Heights, with that great city and its surrounding cities?” asked the Pastor.

The message is clear, and it resembles the heart of Cultural Glimpse. Wherever we are we are on holy ground. It is wonderful to recognize, honor and serve the sacredness of our homes and communities.

Acorns Roasting on an Open Fire

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On the way home from school, I noticed large size acorns scattered on the sidewalk under an oak tree. Their shiny smooth shell was inviting, but I wondered if they were edible or if they were mostly intended for chipmunks. I cracked open a nut and tasted the meat of it. It was definitely edible, and tasted familiar.

I gathered a bunch into the pouch attached to my son’s bike, and told my children, “Today we will roast acorns on an open fire.”

Most people do not eat acorns as a snack, but they are delicious and nutritious, and a long time ago they were a staple in the diet of Native Americans. They have many benefits. They have been found to possibly be the best food to effectively control blood sugar levels. They are a good source of fiber and they are lower in fat than most other nuts.

My friend stopped by my house for tea just as I finished roasting the nuts. When I showed them to her, she said, “That’s baloot!”

“I knew they looked and tasted familiar,” I said, having forgotten that we ate them regularly in Iraq. But in Iraq they were not bitter like they were now. I googled how to best roast acorns and it turned out that first you have to boil them repeatedly until the water no longer contains any trace of the brown tannic acid.

Oh well, I’ll do a better job with the next acorn harvest!

Hiking, Tribal Style

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Last year my cousin raved about this one park that she said we “must go to.” So we did. It was Bloomer Park in Rochester. They have a number of playgrounds and picnic areas and countless gorgeous trees to stare at. But our favorite discovery was the hiking trail we accidentally came across. We went up and down peaks, walked over fresh fallen leaves, amongst trees bunched together like parsley. The sun glistened over the small river beside us, bikers passed us by, and our children picked up sticks to use as canes as we moved forward.

The trail walk is around 90 minutes. Trying to find our way back to the picnic and playground area is usually not easy. Once we even ended up in a subdivision. It was a sight! Twenty people between the ages of 60 and 3 just roaming around a quiet neighborhood, looking dazed and confused. The experience was exhilarating and ever since that first time, we have gone back often for more hikes and picnic food or in today’s case, a barbecue.

Bloomer Park is named after Howard Bloomer, who was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1871. Later in life, he received his law degree from Detroit College of Law. After law school, he helped found the Macgregor and Bloomer Law Firm. Two of his famous clients were John and Horace Dodge, the founders of Dodge Motor Car Company.

In the 1920’s, Bloomer persuaded the Dodge Brothers to donate 11 parcels of land to the State of Michigan to form state parks and recreation areas. Bloomer and his wife donated 47 acres along the Clinton River to the state in order to create Bloomer State Park #2.

Our family is grateful to Mr. Bloomer’s philanthropy.

Cooking All Night Long

I’m beat. For the first time today my sisters taught me how to make kubba Hamuth, an elaborate staple of Iraqi-Jewish cooking. Kubba hamuth is meat stuffed dumplings that we freeze in large quantities and later cook in a savory soup. It took five women hours to make this food. Unfortunately, my mother was not able to help, but she was there watching and making remarks.

With my mother’s health recently deteriorating, it dawned upon me the importance of cooking the food that has been passed down for ages from one woman to another. Women of kin would often gather and knead the rice with meat until it becomes like dough, then stuff it with meat and onions. They made various traditional foods and afterwards, shared a meal – today for instance, we ate dolma (stuffed grape leaves and other vegetables) and an Indian dish I prepared. Then we had watermelon and white cheese.

Though right now I am really exhausted, the experience was oh so lovely! I can’t wait for the next traditional dish we prepare and freeze. More importantly, I can’t wait to pass on these recipes to my children.

Kubba

Crappy Sun

Crappy Sun

After a long day’s work of organizing my office and paperwork, cooking brussel sprout stew for lunch, preparing the stuffing for the grape leaves I will roll tomorrow, taking my son to school, dropping books and movies to Friends of the Library, taking the Ipad to get looked at an Apple Store, picking up my kids from school, coming home to feed the kids and out again to take my daughter to a Rock Climbing class while I exercise on the treadmill, then back at the house, preparing dinner for my husband, helping my daughter with her homework, researching for a possible weekend family trip, washing the dishes, on the way to taking out the garbage, I hear my son open the garage and yell, “I want Crappy Sun!”

I couldn’t help but smile. I didn’t correct him and say, “It’s Capri Sun.” I simply thought to myself, as difficult as it is sometimes to be a mom, with one word, one hug, one smile, our children can melt our hearts, make us remember how worth-while life is and how unnecessary it is to treat it too seriously.

E’Rootha’s 5th Annual Evening of the Arts

Dunya's Award

Again this year, the E’Rootha’s event brought to life Iraq’s rich cultural heritage with a beautiful program that included a strolling gallery and performing arts. Last year this organization honored me with the outstanding contributions of the arts award. This year the award went to a great and accomplished poet and a dear friend of mine, Dunya Mikhail – recent recipient of the Kresge Award (recent Kresge Literary Artist Fellow).

As I sat among the audience, I recalled years ago when I sat with a group of Iraqi-born artists and discussed ways to do what Matthew A. Kalasho, Executive Officer, says E’Rootha has been doing and intends to do more of – “to preserve our [Chaldean/Assyrian Syriac] history, language, culture, dance and our sense of community as we continue to grow and prosper in America.”

I realized and was happy that all along, our older generation and younger generation had the same desires, and shared similar dreams. I imagined how much farther we would go if we one day closely worked together. Since I’m an optimist, I see that happening very soon.