Luke's great-grandparents immigrated to the US from Sweden, so I thought I should include it on my country list and learn a thing or two. I hardly scratched the surface of what there is to know about this rich and complex country, but I really enjoyed the month!
I really dropped the ball on this one and actually forgot to listen to anything throughout the month! I did come across this video that has gone viral in the past few weeks, a parody inviting all world leaders over for fika, the Swedish word for a sweets/coffee break.
There is tension in Sweden over racial and refugee issues like there are all over Europe and the US. Recently a Muslim school has come under fire for allegedly separating girls and boys on the school bus. They also reinstated their draft for both men and women due to the decrease in volunteers, but growing threat from Russia.
In honor of Allan Karlsson (the hundred year old man...) and his love for vodka, Skal! Cheers!
He struggles through his life being misunderstood, depressed, weak, lonely and afraid. His devotion to his work was often a means to escape the dark feelings that haunted him. If we were his contemporaries, we would surely criticize him for being a workaholic and unable to appreciate the important things in life. The book was also not a captivating story, it was pretty dry and boring, at least saved by the controversial letters from Alfred to his mistress of twenty years. I trudged through (for the sake of the challenge, mostly), and ultimately I’m glad I did because it has made me think about a few things more deeply.
In our obsession with enjoying life to the fullest, traveling, exploring and staying connected, do we forget that there were men and women throughout history that had to invent these things that we so casually enjoy? When we travel with ease across countries and borders, do we stop to appreciate the millions of people that have done something to make that possible? Alfred Nobel’s dynamite gave a huge advantage to the travel industry by greatly reducing the time to construct railways. Can I condemn him for creating something so destructive while enjoying the obvious benefits of it?
I have often sat at airports, gazing out the window as the planes are taxied, bags are loaded and passengers accommodated. So many people have to work hard at their jobs day in and day out to make my choice of life possible. This goes for almost everything I enjoy - the food I eat, the clothes I wear and even the books that I read. With all of the social strife that is raging today, maybe we should all stop and think about how the people that we judge, accuse and hate, might play an integral role behind the scenes of our daily lives and the luxuries we enjoy. Are we contributing to the future or just enjoying the fruit of other people’s past labors?
I wonder what Alfred Nobel would have thought if he had lived to see the twentieth century, the most barbaric and deadly of all time. His last will and testament, which established the Nobel Peace Prize, was not just a last ditch attempt to make up for devoting his life to destruction. He actually had a keen desire for peace all of his life, and his greatest ambition was to create something so destructive and deadly that nations would be forced to live peacefully. As anti-social as he was, he had a deep concern for world peace that we would do well to emulate, first and foremost in our daily interactions with one another.
Having picked Botswana completely at random, I couldn't have been more interested and impressed by this little country! A population of just 2 million, it is an example for the entire continent being the least corrupt, least violent and most politically stable country on the continent.
My favorite music was this guy Ronnie on his guitar. Overall the music was beautiful and soothing to listen to. I listened to some very traditional songs where they were singing accapella as a group and it honestly sounded like a choir of angels.
While the country has been peacefully and democratically ruled by the Khamas since independence in 1966, more political parties are forming and the current government has been blamed for slow economic growth and for high unemployment about the youth. The next elections will be held in 2019 and prior to that a coalition has united against the current government. I hope that they can continue to maintain peace even if such a massive transition of power takes place. Also this month, Botswana was hit by a cyclone which has left flash floods and many damaged homes. It is hard to believe there are flash floods in a country that is 70% desert!
Laleme le le lengwe ga le a lekanela - One language is never enough! So true, I wish I knew more!
It seems like just yesterday we celebrated New Year's, but we are already winding up the first destination of the 2017 Travel by the Book Challenge! This month took me to Cameroon, a small country on the western coast of Africa. When I began the challenge, I didn't realize how difficult it might be to find books and movies without a proper library and without Netflix... so I took whatever I could find.
Here's my Cameroon Travel Log :
I listened to some Cameroonian radio stations online, which mostly resembled R 'n B music that you hear in the United States.
The current situation in Cameroon is fragile. There is a huge division between the French speakers and the English speakers. Late last year, the predominately French-speaking government passed laws that were seen as discriminatory to the English-speakers. While protests have been largely peaceful, the government has taken measures against them including blocking the internet in the English-speaking regions and jailing some activists who have been blamed for stirring up the protests.
One of Cameroon's signatures dishes is Ndole Soup. More than a soup, it is similar to an Indian curry, with a thick gravy and meat. I had fun cooking it and it tasted good enough for us to finish all in one sitting! Traditionally it would be eaten with a fermented tapioca dumpling called fufu. We ate it with rice. I made a variation of the recipe here, using shrimp for the meat and leaving out the dried crayfish since I had no idea where to find it.
Along with French and English over 200 other tribal languages are also spoken in Cameroon! In Pidgin English, Dis chop too sweet means This food is delicious!
Since it will take me another month to finish Fortunes of Africa, I'll be changing up my schedule and camping in Africa for the next two months. So for February, I'll be visiting Botswana. Happy Traveling!
Even though it was not set in Cameroon, I appreciated the peak into the Cameroonian culture, via the family life, food references, and the characters' reminiscing of their hometown and childhoods. One big cultural dynamic that was highlighted in the story was the relationship between the Cameroonian husband and wife. The main characters had an intense loyalty to one another and took their roles in marriage seriously. The husband was willing to make difficult decisions that he thought were best for the wife, even when he knew it would make her mad. He was willing to go to great lengths to supply for and protect his family. The wife was committed to standing by her man and did so by submitting to decisions she didn't like and forgiving both verbal and physical abuse. I thought it was brave of the author to present this aspect of her own culture, especially to a western audience that might be really put off by it. She highlights this through several characters in the book, other than just Jende and Neni, which made me think she was portraying the normality of it in her culture.
I thought the core theme of the book was "Is the 'American Dream' worth it?" A lot of people around the world believe that America is the promised land of success and happiness. Jende and Neni are willing to pursue that dream at almost any cost because of the lack of opportunity in their own country and their desire to impress everyone back home. Their wealthy employers, the Edwardses, appear to have everything, but are still zealously pursing the same dream at a much higher cost. The ending of the story for everyone is both tragic and hopeful.
I hope the author, who is herself an immigrant from Cameroon to New York City, continues to write from her cultural background and experiences. It is such a helpful way for us to get insight that we normally wouldn't have and to be able to relate with people who are different than us. I would recommend the book to anyone who is looking for something that will both entertain and enlighten you.
Happy New Year!
Now that January has started, Travel by the Book 2017 has also officially begun! I'll admit, January has caught me off guard and it is taking me a few days to get rolling and to get my thoughts together. But I have picked out my complete Country List for the year. So here goes...
First I decided how many countries from each continent that I wanted to follow. That ensured that the countries were spread out. I've started following Cameroon using the Flipboard app, and it seems like there is alot happening there right now. I can't wait to dive in and learn more about their past, present and future!
Remember, you can track your progress using this free printable. And don't forget to share all of your travel adventures!
Last week, I announced the new challenge that I'll be taking on for 2017. I am inviting everyone to take a journey with me across the world, to learn about different people and places and to become more globally aware world citizens.
To keep track of your progress, download this 11x17 printable. Print it and hang it on your wall as a great reminder and motivator. If you prefer everything digital, its perfect for you too. You can type directly in the file and add your progress.
Enter the name of each country on the top line next to the red number marker. As you complete each challenge, check off the box and write a note on the line (book name, movie name, favorite song you found, etc.) Use stickers or a marker to mark each country on the world map at the top.
I decided to use numbers rather than Months because I didn't want you to get discouraged and give up if you miss one (that is the number 1 reason I give up on stuff!) Even finishing 6 in a year will be a great accomplishment!
I've almost got my list finalized, which I will be sharing with you soon!
If you have been following the blog at all this year, you know we have been deep in the trenches of the 2016 Reading Challege from Tim Challies. This has been a huge stretch for me, maybe not so much for Luke, but I have read more books in the past year than in the past 5 years, at least, combined! Maybe because I love traveling so much, I have most enjoyed all of the places and cultures and histories that I explored. I've read about events that I thought I understood, only to have a new perspective teach me that maybe I am not as wise as I thought.
This year, many of you may have also felt in the trenches of political drama, racial tension, social divides and stereotyped misunderstandings. Honestly, I have avoided most of it, being abroad for the entirety of 2016. But it has even reached here and its been humbling for me to hear so much commentary on my own country's problems from outsiders. It has reminded me, as traveling often has, of how steeped my identity is in the place and people that birthed me. I have a deep desire for other people to understand where I came from, not just where I am now. And I think to give that gift of understanding to others is priceless.
So... for 2017, I challenge you to take a journey with me. We are going to journey across the globe and explore people and cultures that are 100% foreign territory to us. We are going to learn about their past, live in their present and dream about their future. We are going to explore their arts and their language, taste their foods and then share what we've learned. Here's the rules :
FIRST Pick One Country per Month :
Each country should ideally be one that you have never visited, and know very little about. I'm going to space mine equally among the continents (except North America, of course!) If you know there is a large community of immigrants from a specific place in your area, I would encourage you to start there.
SECOND, Each Month :
----> Read a Non-fiction Book about their History
----> Read a Fiction Book by a Native Author
----> Watch a Movie produced in Country
(In some cases this may be impossible, in which you can find a Hollywood movie that features the country)
----> Listen to their Music
----> Follow their Current News for the whole Month
(If you are using an app like Flipboard, its easy to add a specific country to your news feed).
----> Try their Food via Cooking or an Authentic Restaurant
----> Learn 5 Words or Phrases from their Mother Tongue
THIRD, Share :
I'll be sharing each month's travel plans and learnings on my blog. I would also encourage you to share your progress on your blog or via social media. You can use the hash tag #2017TravelbytheBook to connect. Maybe we can also inspire others to explore far off lands and distant (or no-so-distant) peoples.
In the next couple of weeks, I'll be coming out with more details, resources, ideas and printables for keeping track of your progress. Once I finalize my country itinerary, I'll be packing my Christmas list with some new books. What about you?
Are you ready to go?
Luke and I are married and have four little munchkins that travel the world with us. I blog about living overseas, travel, kids, education and graphic design.
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