Family Travel: Visiting our Home Country…Impressions, Thoughts and Perspectives

Family Travel
Going home….Visiting home…
seeing family & friends
Arriving the first day – seeing their grandmother and enjoying Niagara Falls
This is our vacation this summer – the first time back to the US since moving to France almost 3 years ago.  It’s exciting, it’s strange, it’s comfortable, yet it’s not….
 
For our trip, I had 2 important goals – one to see my immediate family plus other close relatives and also to visit the town where we had spent almost 15 years before moving abroad and see all of our friends.  This town was where we started our family, settled in and began raising our kids.  My oldest was 10 and a half when we moved, so she had many memories and really had completed almost all of her Elementary years there.  For my middle daughter, she too had strong ties and good friends and of course, for me I couldn’t wait to see many of my friends (who in many cases are also parents of my children’s friends).
 
The tricky part was that my hometown and the town where we moved from are, of course, not the same and are about 4 hours apart.  Additionally, I wanted to spend a fair amount of time with my family in our vacation home nestled in the Adirondack Mountains in Northern New York.  Needless to say, this meant a bit of traveling and driving to fit everything in.  At this point, we are just over half way through our stay and it’s time to reflect a bit.
We just returned from visiting our friends in our former town of Saratoga Springs, New York.  It was a fabulous week and one full of so many observations and feelings, it’s hard to put it all in words.  As we drove into town that first night, it was exciting to drive the old roads, remembering where things were seeing the same and different stores, restaurants, and buildings.
 
My oldest daughter and I just kept saying it felt surreal.  Were we really there?  We had counted down months, weeks and days and finally we had arrived. Things looked the same, yet different.  Many things were still in the same place, looking exactly like when we left, but then we would turn a corner and new buildings had popped up, making certain blocks unrecognizable.  
 
This same feeling was felt when we saw some of our friends that week.  Many people looked the same, and it seems like we had just seen them last week or last month.  Others changed some but it still felt like we had just seen them.  But almost 3 years have passed since we moved – we have all lived, experienced and moved in our own directions – Surreal was the word of the week.
Cousin time…
A few other observations from my kids as they spent time with their friends.  For the most part, they just enjoyed hanging out, doing what they always had done together and talking about what was going on with them at the moment.  For my older 2 daughters (10 & 13), these conversations were about what’s in style, what they and their friends liked, favorite singers and an update on mutual friends.  It was interesting that they seemed to just jump right in like they had seen their friends last week!  They didn’t really discuss what was different or what they had each done for the past 3 years.  It was really about the “Here and Now”.  Of course, they all remarked how much each had grown physically or changed slightly but it was surprising that both of my daughters said it felt like they had just seen their friends only a little bit ago.
 
For my youngest who is almost 7, her experiences were different.  We had left when she had just turned 4.  Even though, she too had friends from daycare and pre-school, she didn’t have the same bonds.  Her memories were more limited.  It was interesting to watch her memories triggered.  We walked into her former school and she remembered right where her classroom was – she pointed out things she remembered.  We got to see a couple of her former teachers and she was thrilled!!  The most interesting thing for me to watch with her is that culturally she almost has equal memories in both countries and the longer we stay in France, the more that country will be “home” to her.  I had to start realizing that she is more accustomed to the way things are done in France now.  I laughed as for the first couple of days visiting the US, she didn’t flush the toilet.  Not because she didn’t want to – but because she didn’t remember where the flush lever was located. (In France, they are on the top of the toilet and in the US on the side) – She didn’t know where to look.  
Enjoying Niagara Falls

 

For me, I had similar feelings – but then again, I have been lucky that I have stayed in touch with many of our friends through facebook, email and skype.  The strange thing for me was being in Saratoga and having the feeling that this town felt like “home” but also didn’t.  I suppose for many people who move away from any town, they experience this feeling – the sense that they know their way around, they know “how things work” but at the same time things have changed.  The funny thing for me that I found striking as I was chatting with my friends was the number of times French words would pop into my head first before the English.  This happened to my daughters too – and we were all a bit surprised when this happened.  Yes, we are all bilingual, but we all speak English to each other and as a family, our home is mostly English speaking. 
 
We also chose to visit our favorite stores, restaurants and parks there and reminisce about fun memories.  This was also a great way to share some old memories with my youngest who loved hearing stories about her older sisters.
 
So with about 10 days left of our vacation, we are really enjoying seeing family and friends and in many ways it’s been busier than I imagined, but I’m not complaining.  It’s also very energizing to refresh these connections and I wish we had more time.  We are all cherishing these new memories that we are creating with family and friends and hope to be able to return in 2 years, not three.  There is a comfortable feeling that we experience here in our native country that I think we all feel.
 
But at the same time, I have listened to my girls compare American friends to some of their French friends – how some personalities are similar – how they are also different.  They truly appreciate all their friends.
 
I have to say, as much as we are enjoying our time here – it’s still vacation … and when I ask my girls about their friends back in France – they are looking forward to seeing them when they return.  I guess as much as they are bilingual – they are really also becoming bi-cultural too!  A foot in each country as they say…

 

 

Written by – Jennifer F. – who writes the blog American Mom in Bordeaux.  Her blog shares her experiences and adventures as an American living in France and raising bilingual children.  

 

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Puerto Rican Food and Culture

Puerto Rican Culture and Food

Puerto Rican food is the essence of my memories growing up en la isla, and with every bite  I reminiscence on a not too long ago period in my childhood. Yes, I’m still young so it wasn’t too long ago. {Huge smile!}

Every time we visit Puerto Rico I indulge in its food.  I wholeheartedly want our child to have his own unique memories of foods when we visit Puerto Rico. It’s part of his culture. One that I want to indulge in when we’re visiting, and keep cultivating even if we’re far away from our isla bonita.

I remember my Abuela’s cooking in el fogón (cooking in iron cast pots over open fire). The best tasting arroz con gandules was cooked over a fogón.

Puerto Rican food Via Mercedes Dayanara Flickr Creative Commons

Via Mercedes Dayanara Flickr Creative Commons

Puerto Rican food: Arroz con gandules (Rice with pigeon peas)

Arroz con gandules (Rice with pigeon peas)

Of course, my version of arroz con gandules will never be like my Abuela’s. At 94 yrs. old I could never expect her to make it for us while we visit Puerto Rico.  So when in Puerto Rico I take advantage of every single opportunity to eat from manos Boricuas (Puerto Rican hands) especially my mother’s; and we occasionally eat out so our child can have his own taste of Puerto Rico.

If you ever travel to Puerto Rico here are my must try foods while visiting this beautiful Caribbean island with your family!

One of the dishes that I absolutely drool over is mofongo!   However, if you can’t visit Puerto Rico you can get a taste of it by trying out Diana’s yummy Mofongo with Spanish Olives recipe right here on Multicultural Kids Blog!

Mofongo is such a popular staple in Puerto Rican cuisine that you will also find it in Indian and Chinese restaurants across the island. I was surprised to see it on the menu in the Indian restaurant that we visited in Old San Juan.  In the picture below you can see we had chicken curry, naan, roti, a shrimp dish, and a yuca mofongo.

Yuca mofongo served with chicken curry

Yuca mofongo served with chicken curry.

Mofongo with chicken in a tomato based sauce.  Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Maldonado

Mofongo with chicken in a tomato based sauce. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Maldonado

Puerto Rico is also well known for its frituras (deep fried fritters).  This is just simply good eats, but not so healthy! But, I’m sure you can indulge once in a while can you?  You will find kiosks along the coast line selling frituras especially in Loíza. You can also find them during the festival celebrations and in any food vendor establishment around the island. Here’s a good variety of frituras to pick from!

  • bacalaítos:  a seasoned flour mixture with pieces of cod fish.
  • alcapurrias:  a seasoned meat filled dough “masa” made out of yuca or green bananas.
  • rellenos de papa:  a seasoned meat filled dough of mashed cooked potato.
  • sorullos:  a dough mixture made out of corn flour that is filled with cheese or guayaba. Sometimes it is fried into small oval shaped balls without filling.  Growing up I had these often for breakfast!
  • piononos:  sweet plantain slices filled with seasoned meat.

During our visit to Puerto Rico we stopped at a place called La Granja in Barrio Guajataca in Quebradillas.  It’s a small shop that sells Puerto Rico souvenirs, specialty treats, and of course, frituras!  I bought the most delicious mouth watering alcapurria in the world and chugged it down with some chilled Coco Rico soda. Nothing like having a cold coconut drink on a hot, sunny day in Puerto Rico.

Alcapurria

Alcapurria with a Coco Rico soda.

Plátanos are a staple in Puerto Rican food.  You can see it in the mofongo, and tostones (twice fried green plantains)  but what about a plantain soup?! Yes, plantain soup is creamy, hearty, and down right delicious island comfort food. Did you know that the demand for plátanos is so high that they are often imported from neighboring countries?

Creamy, hearty plantain soup.

Creamy, hearty plantain soup.

Puerto Rican food has influences from Africa, Spain and its native Taíno Indians thus creating unique aromatic flavors and tasty ingredients.  Although I do recreate these flavors with recipes passed down from my Abuela to my Mamá there is nothing quite like eating in Puerto Rico.

evans

Frances is a part-time blogger, mommy and wife of a beautiful multicultural familia.  She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a certification in Human Resources.  She blogs about  heritage, culture, bilingualism, multicultural children’s books, and discovering the world through her son’s eyes.  You can follow her at Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes.

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How We Ditched Our Summer Bucket List in 3 Simple Steps

Photo courtesy of Alex Chalkley Photography

Photo courtesy of Alex Chalkley Photography

Less than two months ago, I received the devastating news of having breast cancer. After a series of procedures from sentinel node procedure, DNA test, PET scan, an operation to take the tumor out and meeting specialists (geneticist, surgeon, oncologist, radiologist and just recently an orthodontist) our summer vacation is turning into regular visits to the hospital.

Naturally we (my husband and I) felt that this is not how summer vacations should be for the children. Last year I wrote a summer bucket list with activities that we planned for the children. This year things are extremely different. This year we opted for the other end of the spectrum – to let go of control and see how things will flow. This summer we decided to take things on a daily basis.

But this doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be fun and pleasure. I may have a pressing health issue but it doesn’t mean I cannot spend the precious time I have with my family in ways that will get us involved while going through hospital visits. So how are we doing it? How does our summer look like?

Here are 3 simple ways that we ditched the summer bucket list:

1) Our focus is on TODAY.

“I know what we are going to do TODAY!”

Plans are easy to do and they are also easy to undo. This summer our family is taking on the perspective of let’s see what we can do for today (sounds familiar? yes, it’s what we learned from watching Phineas and Ferb) but instead of focusing on tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, we decide on what we can do for the day.

Having an illness is making me rethink a lot of things. Today I chose to play with the family on the WII instead of getting the rooms organized. Kids were still awake and watching their second film for the day. We’ve gone through days were the choice involve getting toys and making stuff on the floor, giving the kids some technology time, doing chores, reading books, making puzzles, drawing, going out to the city center, or getting busy in the kitchen making smoothies or juicing fruits. What’s the plan for today? To get through each day with as much peace and happiness that we can create for our family.

2) We learned to enlist help when needed.

Going for hospital procedures is never easy. It can mean 30 minute visits or it can go for hours. What we have learned early on is to be knowledgeable of what the procedure entails and learn to ask for help when it is needed. When I got my sentinel node procedure, it took a total of 5 hours away from the kids. Having play dates set during appointments like that put me at ease while I go through the motions of poking, probing and diagnosing.

Play dates also give some time for the kids to be away from me during my most vulnerable procedures. We try to be open to the kids with what is going on and even had a wonderful nurse in the Mammacare clinic explain to them what I will be going through. However, at times when I am unsure myself of what is happening, I am comforted with the knowledge that our kids are taken care of and having fun with friends who treat them like family, while I and my partner keep ourselves centered.

3) We provide the environment for fun to happen.

In some appointments where it means just going to the hospital for less than 30 minutes, we opt to bring the kids with us and then have some time together outdoors after the appointment. But that would mean letting our 5 and 7 year old on their own in the waiting room while my husband and I talk with the doctor. For some parents the idea of letting their children unattended can be unsettling. Believe me it was to us at first (and there were days when they knocked on the doctor’s door interrupting the talk just to ask when we are going to be finished). But after talking with them and enlisting their help to get through those few minutes away we decided for them to bring their backpacks with some carefully selected valuables. So what is inside their backpacks?

Here are some of the things that we let them choose from:

activities o bring to hospital activities to bring to hospital page 2

Whatever we do or where we are, be it at home or in the waiting lounge of the hospital, we try as much to savor the moment together. Summer time after all is about that – having more time to be together and making memories to talk about for the summer periods to come. It doesn’t need to be fancy, we don’t need to go somewhere different. We just need to be together and find pleasure in the moments that we share.

Lana Jelenjev is a freelance educational consultant who recently got diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 37. She blogs about her activities with her children at Smart Tinker and just recently started writing about her musings on parenting as she navigates through a new territory of hospital visits, a whirlwind of feelings and in finding compassion as she battles cancer, a disease that her mom succumbed to at age 49. She advocates for the importance of early detection and encourages women to take part in her Breast Check Challenge.

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Kindness Around the World

Is Kindness really overrated? Or is it still one of the most powerful forces in the world?

For the MKB community blog, I have asked several bloggers what it means to be “kind” in their country and what they think about it, hoping for a snapshot of “Kindness around the world”. It was a real pleasure to read all their answers and feel their love for their peers.

Kindness Around the World | Multicultural Kid Blogs

My daughter, hugging a statue representing a victim of Nazism. Oberursel, Germany.

I would like to start with Bronwyn, of Journeys of a Fabulist, who lives in Singapore and has witnessed firsthand how important kindness was for the people in this Asian country:

Around the world, most cultures believe in some form of kindness. Singapore has gone one further and turned it into an official movement. The Singapore Kindness Movement – a non-government organisation inspired by former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, housed in an old police building, and listed as an official “Institution of Public Character” – works to inspire “graciousness” in the Singaporean public. “Give up your seat for those in need,” their signs suggest on buses and subways. On their website you can take a quiz to find out how kind you are really, and get tips to improve your rating, from simple acts like smiling at your local kopitiam staff all the way up to major service roles helping out your community.

 

As a foreigner, it struck me as odd. I mean, a whole organisation whose job is not to help others, but to inspire people to help others? Isn’t that a bit meta? You have to see it in the context of Singapore’s rapid transformation from a series of Kampungs to a modern metropolis, coupled with its low-welfare policies. The village had its own social structures for reminding people to care for each other, and the Singapore Kindness Movement is the big city equivalent. It’s not a perfect system. I’m sure the Kampung wasn’t, either – it’s hard to keep people from falling through the cracks. But by and large, compared to similarly-sized places, Singaporeans seem readier to offer their seats to the needy or put some money in the charity tin. Graciousness indeed.

What a life changing experience it seems to be for Bronwyn! The same can be said for Florentine of Oxfrognews who lives in Oxford, UK and has encountered the British style of saying things in a gentle way. She wrote about the nicknames used to address one another in My love? Oh dear! (blog post in French) and explains to us some of the more endearing language expressions and groomed behaviors.

What I like a lot about England is the way people talk to you. It’s often very sweet, charming and pleasant. We speak to you by adding “my love” or “sweety” and right away that gives a cute note to the conversation and doesn’t build fences or distance. At first, we were quite surprised but frankly we became quickly accustomed and we appreciate this familiar way of communicating. It’s the first thing that came to my mind when I thought about the word “kindness”. But it has to be said that for the British, “kindness” is linked with “politeness” –in my opinion- and so with the importance of respecting someone else.

 

It could be a bit disturbing when the message is so polite and kind that we don’t really know what the other person thinks. Like in this instance: “It’s entirely up to you, please do as you like…” a sentence people use and sometimes abuse. These “ultra-kind” English formulations can on occasion be rather difficult to decode when you come from another country. Being at the end of the school year, a beautiful English tradition comes to mind: the children say “thank you” to their teachers. “Thank you teacher!” cards can also be found in the papershops.

 [Texte original en français:   Ce que j'aime beaucoup en Angleterre c'est la manière dont on vous parle. C'est très souvent doux, charmant et agréable. On vous adresse la parole avec « my love » ou « sweety » ce qui donne tout de suite un ton mignon à la conversation et ne met pas de barrière ou de distance. Au début on est étonné mais finalement on s'habitue très vite et on apprécie cette façon proche de communiquer. C'est la première chose qui m'est venue à l'esprit quand j'ai pensé à "kindness". Mais il faut dire que pour les Anglais "kindness" est à mon avis aussi relié avec "politeness" et donc l'importance du respect de l'autre. Cela peut aussi être un peu perturbant quand le message est tellement poli et gentil qu'on ne sait plus ce que pense vraiment l'autre. Je pense à des phrases comme "it's entirely up to you, please do as you like..." dont les gens usent et abusent parfois. Les formulations "ultra-gentilles" à l'anglaise peuvent parfois être difficiles à décoder lorsqu’on vient d'un autre pays. En cette fin d'année une coutume anglaise de toute beauté m'est venue à l'esprit : les enfants "disent merci" à leur maîtresse (ou pour les plus grands aux enseignants) pour l'année scolaire. Il existe même des cartes à acheter: "thank you teacher".]

Cultural kindness can be even more ingrained in a society. While dealing with a terrible illness, Lana, who lives in the Philippines, recognizes that her friends and the people she meets are giving her an amount of love and help that she would have never thought possible. She tells us that she is “showered with so much goodness” and is now able to see more clearly the good acts realized everyday around her. Her article In the midst of Goodness, written in her blog Smart Tinker, teaches the reader how Filipinos define the concepts of Goodness / Kindness and Shared Identity. Language, philosophy and communication are intertwined in the definition of these concepts. To journey into her post is to learn a new path for kind interpersonal relations, a path made of wisdom and love.

Sheila from Pennies of Time shares the observations she has made in the USA. This dynamic woman participates in a group who helps people to go serve others. She says that everyone deals differently with how to be kind, and that’s good because we are all different. Each one of us can be an example for someone, and that cheering one another to do good strengthen our relationships.

 Here is what I thought about kindness in the US: In the United States, I find that much of our culture is focused on being quicker and better. With a capitalistic market, products and services are designed around how to make our personal experience better. Make your personal appearance younger, more beautiful. Get places or information faster. Entertainment is focused on the fleeting experience of a few minutes of pleasure.

 

On the outset, it can seem overly selfish. What I have discovered, though, is that kindness is celebrated and appreciated by others. People have a strong need to experience and witness acts of kindness.  Those displays of kindness go viral, and people want to feel connected to the deep emotion that occurs when another is compassionate and loving.  When a disaster strikes, or a tragedy occurs, there is no hesitation for our communities to come together and for people to reach out across long distances to help fill a need. In 2012, when the tornadoes struck Oklahoma, I drove 3 hours with my family to help with the disaster relief.  Do you know what I found? Others there that had driven much further, even days, hauling trailers full of clean-up supplies and equipment. At the holiday time, I volunteered with my 5 year old to help distribute toys to homeless shelters and there were others right there with me, strangers that wanted to help those in need. 

 

Pennies of Time - Tips for Clean a Creek with Kids

Sheila’s boys cleaning a creek

Book Drive to Help the Hospital - Pennies of TimeIt seems that Becky (founder of Kid World Citizen) has the same approach to this topic. In an inspiring post, she relates how her multicultural family has challenged themselves to do as many Random Acts of Kindness as possible in one day. What is particularly delightful is that her children were at the core of the project. As she said in her post: I told the kids to think of ways we could be nice to others, and show them kindness and gratitude without expecting anything in return. The kids had great ideas!!

Children are eager to do things that will make people smile. They thrive at being creative and generous. Kindness is an expression of love, and children are loving (and lovely) creatures.

Sophie is offered a cookie

A boy around Sophie’s age offered her a cookie. They spent ten minutes watching the fountain nearby, climbing up and down the bench and sitting together in silence or laughter. Children can be so kind… and cute too!

Like Becky, Leanna’s family had a Random Acts of Kindness day, which she wrote about here. She was so happy with her experience that she decided to run a series on her blog (All Done Monkey), featuring other bloggers narrating their days of Kindness.

She also shared with me a prayer the children of the Bahá’í Faith love to recite. To be kind is one of the requests of this prayer.

As Farrah (Global Advocacy) expresses in her Random acts of Ramadan Kindness post, many religions hold the value of Kindness as one of the most precious interactions with another being. The Golden Rule echoes in me when I think of Kindness and Goodness. Inasmuch, the hadiths ending Farrah’s article remind us that Islam is in fact a religion in which charity and kindness are clearly rooted:

“He who is deprived of kindness is deprived of goodness.”

“God is not kind to him who is not kind to people.”

As for me, at the beginning of this year 2014, I pondered on what I could share with my readers and what would be a main topic in my writing life for the following months. As you can read on my Projet Smile page, the words “Kindness”, “Generosity” and “Service” have been chosen to highlight this year on my blog. I have given challenges – the TWC: This week challenge – and carried them out (and I will do it until the end of December), written about some aspects of being kind, and shared good deeds people in the world have done.

I am not done with this project! I have many posts waiting to be finished (whining in the draft folder…), one of those will be about the worth of “Service” in religions. As a Christian, being good to my neighbor, showing Kindness and changing any of my “too individualistic” habits to charitable ones, are the expression of a true change of heart. It’s what we strive for, being more loving and kind as Jesus Christ is. Of course, I won’t be like Him in a snap of fingers. It’s a life’s journey!

Right now, there are a lot of men, women and children from various backgrounds who live their lives in an altruistic form, refusing to be enslaved by the egoistic ways of the “modern and developed society”. Kindness may have been attacked and blamed for how people deny their personal “desires” and think only of the others… But in doing so, the society has lost the essential link between its members. The common good and the shared experiences and responsibilities, for far too much people, are not anymore the key for happiness in their community. It’s tragic. And it’s up to us dear readers, to bring back more Kindness in the world. Starting today by doing ONE Kind Act, even a very small one. And day after day, continuing on the road of Love and Service, doing your part and witnessing what is done in your neighborhood. By your kind deeds, you can be the flapping of the wings that will create a storm of loving smiles!

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Finding the Ramadan Feeling…or Not

I don’t remember that first Ramadan with him, except that he fasted through the short days of winter while I awaited the arrival of our first child. In fact I don’t remember much of the first years save for a memorable argument here or there. I know it was all new and I had a lot to learn. I wanted to do things right, just like I think most newly married women do (and maybe men too).  I knew he was a long way from home and I felt whatever I could provide would barely hold a candle to what he was used to. How could I recreate this important Muslim holiday month in the middle of the Midwest?

A Moroccan grocery store prepares for the month of Ramadan.

A Moroccan grocery store prepares for the month of Ramadan.

One year, I can’t remember which, I learned enough to know what the traditional foods were. I spent hours researching, procuring ingredients and in the kitchen making things ahead of Ramadan. Silky harira soup, crispy briouats stuffed with ground meat and onions, cheese, and seafood, and cookies the likes of which were nowhere to be found for purchase and no Toll House wouldn’t cut it. I made the flaky msemmen breads, thick avocado juice, and stocked our fridge and pantry for pre-dawn breakfasts. It was through this compulsion to make things “right” I hoped to achieve a smidge of what he’d left behind.

Everything he’d left behind for me.

Ramadan came and went every year. Some things became second nature. Some things were added as Ramadan moved closer and closer to summer. Fresh fruits and salads replaced fried foods. Less meat appeared in favor of healthier options. Of course we had the staples because it wouldn’t be a Moroccan Ramadan without then. But they weren’t the focus. I put up lights one year, we always tried to invite non-Muslim friends to celebrate with us, and we went to our mosque for potlucks and hosted iftars but that feeling still weighed heavy above me.

A usually busy street in Marrakech at the time for breaking of the fast.

A usually busy street in Marrakech at the time for breaking of the fast.

Something was missing.

I never felt whatever it was my husband did. I couldn’t make the special connection. Feel the spirituality. All I felt was hungry and crabby. I didn’t get the bubbly joy so many friends proudly proclaimed. I didn’t look forward to this time at all. But for him and for our kids I kept on trying in my own way to make it special. I also couldn’t escape hearing “oh, in Morocco it’s so wonderful. There’s a special feeling. It’s the best.” So I came to the conclusion that was what I was missing. It must be the place that adds to the excitement.

Fast forward 10 years to our first Ramadan in Morocco. This year. I waited for the cannon that signifies the end of the fast only to learn we can’t hear it where we live. I waited for the lights to go up or the holiday feeling to fill the air. Nothing. I anticipated an iftar table with special dishes. What I discovered was maybe it wasn’t so. After the first day of fasting my husband took me for a ride around at midnight. I waited to see people outside, visiting and sharing with neighbors enjoying the evening. What I saw was mostly empty streets and business as usual. I couldn’t hold it in any longer, I blurted out;

“For 10 years I attempted to make this special for you, to make it even 1/10th of what I imagined it was like at home. I’m so let down!” It was utter disappointment. I felt sick to my stomach. I let myself feel terrible year after year for not being able to capture the “Muslim world Ramadan experience” only to learn there’s nothing special that was missing!

Marrakesh's Djem al Fna square on a Ramadan evening.

Marrakesh’s Djem al Fna square on a Ramadan evening.

For two days I thought and struggled with my feelings. I confided in some close friends and realized maybe I hadn’t wasted all that time and effort. I was making things special for my kids, my family. Even if the holiday wasn’t the same as my husband remembered, or thought he remembered. My time and effort would be a real memory for our children. I’m still disappointed and not sure when or how I’ll get that “Ramadan feeling,” but one day maybe it will show up. For now, I’m okay with keeping up the traditions we started ten years ago, because now they’ve become special to me.

 

Amanda from Maro Mama
About Amanda:
Amanda is curious, world traveling mom of 2 boys. She currently lives in Marrakech, Morocco with her husband and kids. Amanda is the publisher of MarocMama a blog about raising multicultural kids, food, and travel. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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Get Outdoors And Make Some Music! Favorite Outdoor Music Activities

Although you might not think of playing music as an outdoor activity – there are quite a few creative ways to get outside and make some joyful noise at the same time. Here are some of our favorite outdoor music activities that come from world cultures.

bullroarer - realMake An Australian Bullroarer

Both the Apache people and Australian Aboriginal people discovered that a spinning object makes the most amazing sounds. We’ve created one made from a plastic water bottle and you can read all about it or make your own here.

 

 

Musical Play With Water – A Mayan Style Water Drum!

Playing water gourd drumThis amazing-sounding gourd drum dates back to the times of the ancient Mayans! But, you don’t need a set of special dried gourds to make one at home.   You can use a few basic supplies found around your kitchen. Then go outside and try this drum that can be heard quite a distance away!

 

A Piece Of Fabric Becomes A Native American Style Pow-Wow Drum

musikfest largest drumOriginal pow-wow drums were larger skins played by holding the drum in one hand and the drum beater in the other. If you’re out camping, you can use a sturdy piece of canvas or a similar fabric to recreate this unique form of unison group drumming.

Hear a real pow-wow drum or find step-by-step instructions to make this type of pow-wow drum and beater right here.

 

do the limbo at core creekDo The Limbo

Do you know the background of this popular dance tradition? It’s a story that starts with slavery but transformed over the years into a more joyous celebration of Caribbean culture. Check out different ways to make Caribbean-style steel pan drums or learn more about the limbo here.

 

Turn A Tree Into An Instrument

rhythm tree - playgroundGather your recycling and make a free form sculpture that not only looks good, but sounds good as well. You can adorn a tree in your park or backyard or create a clothesline that can be a perfect place for kids in your community to explore music, get creative and jam.

 

 

 

 

What else sounds like fun outdoors?  Check out the other great posts here at the Multicultural Kids Blog for lots of other wonderful ways to explore the world with your children this summer!

By Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou

World Music children’s performer DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has spent the last two decades performing in the USA and around the world, creating music to inspire all the world’s children.  Along with numerous national awards for her culturally diverse music, Daria’s website (www.dariamusic.com) was given a Parent’s Choice Award and offers many great resources for teachers, parents and kids of all abilities.

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Musical Tribute to an Inspirational Man: Nelson Mandela

July 18th is Nelson Mandela Day, the celebration of one of the most inspirational persons of the century. Mandela spent 27 years in prison under the apartheid government of South Africa. While in prison, he meditated and reflected upon the hatred and discrimination that held the people of South Africa captive. Mandela understood that it was only through love, forgiveness and the power of personal example that people could be liberated from this most grievous of prisons, and he dedicated his life to ending prejudice and injustice in all its forms.

When he was released from jail, 100,000 people gathered to celebrate his freedom. A few years later, in 1993, Mandela was given the Nobel Peace Prize, and in the following year he was elected the first Black African president of South Africa. As President, he worked to promote the unity of all South Africans – whether black, white or other background – as he believed that in the eyes of God all were equal. Although Mandela passed away on December 5th, 2013, at the age of 95, his spirit lives on everywhere. His life and legacy are a testament to what one person, relying upon the power of faith and love, can achieve.

When Mandela passed away, I felt the best way I could pay tribute to him is through music. Nelson Mandela found great solace in the poem ‘Invictus’ (Latin for undefeated) during the 27 years he was in prison. Written by William Henley in 1875, I felt inspired to set the poem to music.  You can listen to the piece here.

My son Taraz also created a video for the song, you can view it here.

Nelson Mandela collage

Some inspirational quotations by Nelson Mandela:

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

You can also read our earlier tribute to Nelson Mandela, written after his passing.

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MKB World Cup for Kids: Wrap-Up

MKB World Cup for Kids: Wrap UpIt is hard to believe that what began as a casual chat among a handful of bloggers nearly a year ago turned into one of the most rewarding projects I have worked on in my blogging career.

The World Cup for Kids project is a collaborative project involving 21 bloggers from all over the world, exploring and celebrating the countries participating in the 2014 World Cup for football/soccer.

Each blogger adopted one of the countries (some bloggers took on more than one), and every time that team played, the blogger wrote about some aspect of the country – language, culture, food, etc.

The result is a stunning collection of articles on a broad range of countries, a rich resource for teaching children about the world.  Find them all here.

In addition, several members created an activity pack for children, and one blogger compiled video clips of children around the world talking about why they love the World Cup.  There are also a number of other wonderful articles about the World Cup in general and what we can learn from it.

You can see all of them and even more resources on our World Cup for Kids Pinterest board:



MKB One World Futbol World Cup Giveaway: Help Needy Kids Worldwide with the Power of PlayFinally, near the end of the World Cup, we were fortunate enough to work with One World Futbol on a campaign to donate FIVE of their virtually indestructible footballs to kids in needy communities worldwide.  (Read the announcement on the One World Futbol page).

Multicultural Kid Blogs set a goal of reaching 1000 page views on our campaign post, and although in the end we fell short of this goal (706 page views), One World Futbol was so pleased with the support we received and the enthusiasm from our worldwide community that they are generously (and happily) helping us to donate the two footballs anyway (yay!)

YOU, our readers, chose where we will donate the One World Futbols, and the winners are:

Ethiopia Reads has successfully worked with Ethiopian communities to provide excellent early education and literacy programs in both urban and rural environments.

Project Pelota Eterna distributes One World Futbols to underprivileged children and youth throughout Honduras.

As for the member bloggers who were vying with one another to donate a One World Futbol to an organization of their choice, the three winners were, in order of votes (that is, social shares on their posts):

1. Diana of Entre Compras y el Hogar: donating to Coaches Across Continents

2. Eolia of La Cité des Vents: donating to Fesakam e.V. for educational development in Cameroon

3. Leanna of All Done Monkey: donating to the Mustard Seed school for homeless children in Sacramento, USA

And so, as we bid adieu to the World Cup for 2014, we say a big THANK YOU to everyone involved, and above all:

See you in Russia in 2018!

MKBWorld Cup for Kids  thank you

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Ramadan in my Saudi/Canadian home

Ramadan is the 9th month in the Hijri calendar. It is one of the holiest months in the Islamic calendar, in which the Muslim Holy book the Quran was revealed. It is a month where Muslims all over the world refrain from eating, drinking any fluids including water, smoking, intercourse, and any sinful acts. During the daylight hours from right before the call to Fajr (sunrise) to the moment Maghreb [sunset] prayer is called, eating is not permitted unless you are elderly, a traveler, a child, sick, or a woman on menses.

In Saudi Arabia, Ramadan is a holiday that is observed by the majority of the population. Restaurants are closed, working hours are cut short, and the malls are open into the wee hours of the night. There are extra prayers that are observed during Ramadan, and many will take this month to be closer to Allah/God.

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An assortment of dates at Bateel a shop that specializes in Dates here in Riyadh.

Many would find it amusing that the month in which we are told to refrain from eating during the day is when many will indulge in lavish feasts throughout the hours between sunset and sunrise. You will see restaurants from fast food takeout to 5-star restaurants offering great iftar deals, catering to everyone’s choice of food and their respective budgets- Yes, even McDonald’s offers a deal on Iftar meals! Most Masjids have white tents pitched on their property that feed hundreds of iftar meals to mainly foreign workers, and those that have no place to eat. You will also find boxes of food being handed out at traffic signals when the prayer call for Maghreb is approaching.

One of the most important foods you will find when breaking ones fast is Dates. Dates are found at every breakfast table. They come in a large assortment such as rutob (which is the fresh dates), as well as those that have been allowed to mature a bit such as sukari. You will also find dates that have been stuffed with different types of nuts, and some that have been pitted, and pureed and then covered in different interesting choices such as coconut, Pistachios, to even Oreos.

Ramadan is the only time during the year in which my family and I all sit together for a meal daily at our dining room table- between my husband’s work hours and my kids’ early bedtime, the kids and I just end up eating in the kitchen, and my husband will eat his dinner when he gets home from work alone. So when my kids see that the usually untouched dining room is once again being used, they get excited, and look forward to eating meals together as a family.

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The assortment of food on my Ramadan Table. This was day seven.

 

In my home, we eat one main meal, Iftar. Because in all honesty after eating a meal at nearly 7pm, there is no time to eat another meal. There are families that will have two elaborate meals a day during Ramadan, keeping them in the kitchen for hours at a time. In our house, I make a main course, a salad, some appetizers, and dessert. I also make sure I have fruit on the table, and of course the infamous Saudi Gahwa, an important part of our daily ritual. Oh, and how can I forget the Samboosa’s? The meat or cheese filled goodness that has been a part of my Ramadan since I was a child and could have my first memory of the holiday.

Neighbours often take food to one another, and yesterday I decided to make Ramadan-inspired cupcakes. I made date cupcakes, and my oh my were they delicious. I sent them out to my neighbours and my children enjoyed them as well.

ramadan

The assortment of food on my Ramadan table. This was from the second day.

I will go through some of the important additions to a typical Saudi Iftar table; as I mentioned already there is the samboosa, the dates, the gahwa.

There is also another dish you will usually find on tables here and they are called Lugaimat. They are much like dumplings, that are fried in really hot oil, and then covered in this sugar syrup that is made up of sugar, water, a dash of lemon, and Zaafaran. The result is this delicious crispy on the outside and fluffy and airy interior that really does melt in ones mouth.

Another dish that has become quite important during Ramadan here in Saudi, is Fool (the beans). You will notice insanely long lines at the restaurants that make foul right before the call to prayer. The meal is filling, delicious, and very cheap. People usually pair it with tamis/tameez (fresh out of the oven flat bread).

Quaker soup has also become a staple on many tables (including mine) a couple of times a week. This soup is a rather savory dish unlike the sweet oatmeal breakfast we are often used to. When Ramadan is approaching you will find towers of Quaker quick oats sold at the shops, along with piles of Vimto, custard, dream whip, and flour, lots and lots of flour!

Ramadan, whether it be in Canada or Saudi, has a truly amazing feel to it, and many of these comfort foods make it all the more special when enjoyed with wonderful family, and amazing friends.

If you celebrate Ramadan, what is on your iftar table?

 

Multicultural Meal Plan Mondays on Multicultural Kid BlogsYou can also read other multicultural meal plans in this series and follow our Multicultural Cooking board on Pinterest.

You can also visit our Ramadan board on Pinterest:




 

About the author, Lavender

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I am a Canadian expat living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with my Saudi husband and our three children. I have been here for nearly a decade and am enjoying my fun yet scary ride on the mommy roller coaster. I studied Political Science and Sociology at the University of Toronto and am now a housewife who loves to observe the world around her.

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Ramadan Crafts and Activities

Itikaf Tents, Scrapbooks and Papier Mâché Mosques

Ramadan is the perfect time for children to get involved in fun crafts and activities which also provide opportunities for reflection and conversation about other religious practices around the world. Therefore, the following ideas can be easily adapted for families with diverse faith traditions or no faith. These brilliant ideas come from two of my favourite Muslim women: Australian writer and TV personality Susan Carland and craft blogger Karima.

Susan Carland - MCK craft itikaf tent

Photo Credit: Susan Carland

The first idea was inspired by Susan Carland who constructed a gorgeous Ramadan ‘itikaf tent (complete with twinkly star fairy lights) for her children to have their own special space. Susan describes it as “a little place that’s just theirs, for ibadah & thinking & dreaming.” To make the tent even more welcoming, she “put little prayer mats, tasbih [prayer beads], Islamic picture books, cushions etc in there for them.”

You can construct a simple tent-like space by hanging up a voile, curtain or spare fabric using a hoop or even a re-purposed coat hanger attached to a picture rail or wardrobe door or draping fabric over a clothes line or clothes horse re-arranged to create a free standing structure. If you want to get fancy with your creation, you can follow these tutorials which range from the no-sew simple variety to the sturdier and long lasting versions.

Once the tent is up, you could personalise your tent using fairy lights as Susan did, or use brightly coloured blankets, cardboard or glow in the dark moons and stars, or pin up your children’s Ramadan themed artwork. And since you want the space to be a cosy space where your children would want to spend time reading, reflecting, creating, you can decorate the inside with soft furnishings like pillows and cushions.

Then all that’s left to do is work out how to make an adult-sized Ramadan tent for yourself!

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The second activity is inspired by Karima Crafts‘s Ramadan Scrapbook project with her children this year. A scrapbook is the perfect outlet for your child’s creativity, especially if they love drawing and writing, and would be a lovely keepsake for the future.

Ramadan is a time when Muslims step back and reflect on the important things in life – family, friends, and our connection with God. With that in mind, the scrapbook could include short prayers, photos or drawings of family activities during Ramadan, or scrummy Ramadan recipes that you’ve prepared together. The scrapbook could also serve as a neat record of achievements during Ramadan such as helping out with jobs around the house, raising money for charity or even fasting for a full / half day if your children wish to do so (depending on their age and health of course).

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And the final activity is for parents and children who want to take their Ramadan crafts to the next level (and don’t mind getting their hands sticky!)

Last year, Karima ran a 30-day Ramadan craft project. It featured a fantastic papier mâché mosque which she said was the hands down favourite activity for her whole family. Aside from being incredibly fun, it’s also perfect for those wishing to have a Green Ramadan as it allows you to recycle old newspapers, kitchen rolls, and cardboard boxes. You can find Karima’s tutorial here. For children or teens who aren’t keen on glue and glitter, you could also check out Karima’s impressive design activities – including constructing a Ka’aba using Minecraft and a Jenga mosque!

If you do get creative this Ramadan, it would be great to see the fruits of your efforts so feel free to post links to photos of your projects below and share other links to Ramadan-themed activities which children or the whole family can enjoy.

Also be sure to follow our Ramadan board on Pinterest!

 

2 Sarah

Sarah Ager is an English teacher and expat writer living in Italy. She describes herself as an ‘Anglo-Muslim hybrid’, having converted to Islam in 2011. She writes about interfaith dialogue, religion, and culture on her blog A Hotchpotch Hijabi in Italy and tweets at @SaritaAgerman. She curates Interfaith Ramadan, an inclusive interfaith blog project bringing together writers from different faiths and cultures (@InterfaithRam).

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