Postcard Album Archives - Eva Varga

November 14, 20121

A friend of mine does a significant amount of traveling for his work and we recently received two postcards in the mail that he sent from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  The UAE is comprised of seven emirates that share legal, political, military, and economic functions since 197.  Dubai has the largest population and is the second largest emirate by area, after Abu Dhabi (the capital). Revenues from petroleum and natural gas contribute less than 6% (2006) of Dubai’s $37 billion (U.S.) economy.  The majority of the emirate’s revenues are from innovative real estate projects, sporting events, and increasingly from tourism and other service-oriented businesses.

We completed our usual country fact sheet and spent a little time browsing topics that caught our attention:  architecture, food, and music.  The construction that has taken place in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in just the past 20 years is astounding.  We enjoyed browsing the photographs and artist renditions of the more well known sites featured here,  Dubai Architecture.

Arabic food is the main type of food in the UAE.  One of the most popular dishes is Shawarma, a dish similar to kebab that is made with lamb or chicken generally mixed with tomatoes, pickle, garlic sauce, and fries. Then they will wrap the mixture in a small Arabic roti  (a bread baked in clay ovens). Another favorite is falafel, an Arabic French fry that looks like a cutlet. They are made out of mixing chickpeas and different spices. Then deep-fry and served as a side dish. We are fortunate to have a new middle eastern restaurant in town and will be making a visit soon. 

We also enjoyed listening to several videos on YouTube that featured Bedouin musicians performing traditional music.  We really enjoyed it!

On a bunny trail … I recently read a great book by Diana Abu-Jaber called, The Language of BaklavaHer memoir weaves stories of being raised by a food-obsessed Jordanian father with tales of Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts and goat stew feasts under Bedouin tents in the desert. Her anecdotal stories and recipes (Yes!!! Recipes) bring to life the two cultures of Diana’s childhood–American and Jordanian–while helping to paint a loving and complex picture of her father who, like many an immigrant before him, cooked to remember the place he came from and to pass that connection on to his children. The Language of Baklava is a wonderful story.  

February 17, 20121
 Facebook. One of the benefits of this popular social networking site is the ability to connect with friends and family.  Frequently, friends will post that their plans to travel. Alternatively, many will also post while on vacation from their destination.  When they do this, I am not shy to speak up and ask for a postcard.  

When a friend was in the Netherlands, Antilles for business a month ago, he was eager to lend a hand in our geography studies.  Not only did he send a couple of postcards, he also posted a picture on his Facebook wall of the mailbox into which he mailed the cards.  How cool is that?!

Map of the Netherlands (Europe)

When I showed the kids the photo, they immediately wondered if the cards had been mailed from Scandinavia as the red box reminded us of those we’d seen in Denmark.   I informed them that my friend was in the Netherlands Antilles and I shared another photo, one taken on a beach.  They were immediately intrigued.  “Weren’t we at an airport in the Netherlands, Mom?  Why does it look like Hawai’i?”  Indeed, we had to change planes in Amsterdam and we’d had a discussion that it was the capital of the Netherlands, sometimes referred to as Holland.

Our postcards
 The arrival of the postcards on Valentine’s Day lead to further intrigue.  “It does look like Hawai’i!” they exclaimed.  “So where is Curaçao?” 
Map of the Netherlands Antilles (Caribbean

Curaçao is an island in the Caribbean just north of Venezuela.  The island is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Its capital is Willemstad. The official language is Papiamentu.  Though the origin of the island’s name is debated, it has a history rich in the slave trade and piracy, like most islands of the Caribbean

Upon researching the country for our fact sheets, the kids both proclaimed that they wanted to go there on our next tropical vacation.   If only we could win the lottery for they desire to travel to all the places we study.

A few recipes we’ll try soon.  🙂

KeshiYená (Stuffed Cheese) 
Adapted from The Jewish Kitchens of Curaçao
1 small Edam cheese (2 to 2½lbs)
2 lbs. shredded cooked chicken
3 tomatoes, chopped and peeled
2 sliced onions
1 garlic clove
1 chopped green pepper
¼ cup sliced olives
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon parsley
¼ minced hot pepper (or hot sauce to taste)
½ cup raisins and chopped prunes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
5 eggs
Slice the top off the cheese and reserve. Gently scoop out the inside, leaving a 1/4 to 1/2 inch shell. The cheese should resemble a hollowed out pumpkin. Sauté the remaining ingredients, except the eggs, in the butter; simmer for about 20 minutes. Beat 4 eggs and stir into the mixture. Spoon it into the cheese shell, replace the top and spread remaining beaten egg on top to seal. Grease a shallow baking dish and fill it with about 1 inch of water; set the cheese in the dish and bake at 350° F for 1 to 11/2 hours. The cheese will expand and flatten slightly but will keep its basic shape. Serve piping hot, cut into wedges. Leftovers are good reheated.

Funchi (Corn Meal Mush)

Adapted from The Jewish Kitchens of Curaçao
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 cup corn-meal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
Mix the cold water, corn-meal and salt in a heavy saucepan. Stir in the boiling water and butter or margarine. Bring to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes. Continue for another 3 minutes while stirring with a wooden spoon. Mixture is done when it pulls away from the sides of the pan and it is stiff in texture. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6.
Tutu (Corn Meal With Black Eyed Peas)
Adapted from The Jewish Kitchens of Curaçao
1 cup corn-meal
16 oz. packaged dry black-eyed peas
6 cups water
3 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups funchi or corn-meal
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
Cook the black-eyed peas in the 6 cups water until soft. Drain.
Add 3 cups of water to the peas and bring to a boil, then use a whisk or “lele stick” to break the peas. Add sugar and salt and whisk again. Taste for seasoning, and adjust if necessary.
Add corn-meal, and in a combination of beating and mashing the mixture, blend it well to avoid lumps using a wooden spoon. Reduce heat. Continue the beating/mashing technique until the meal disappears and the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan. Add butter when done and either invert on a platter or use an ice cream scoop (dipped in water before each scoop) for individual portions. Serve with butter and cheese.

October 23, 20111
I am delighted. Another homeschool mom organizes a Geography Club similar to the way I had organized Passports Club in central Oregon.  She hosts a gathering in her home once a month, invites the children to give presentations on the country selected for that month, and encourages families to bring a dish from that region to share.  The focus in October was on Nepal and we were fortunate to have two guest speakers … Gyan (a native to Nepal) who now resides here in Northern California and Ana (a native to Costa Rica who has climbed Mt. Everest).  
Gyan speaking to us of the Gurkha soliders, young Nepalese who are trained by the British. 

Gyan spoke to us of his childhood and of how much education is valued in Nepal. He reminded us of how fortunate we are in the United States and how many take our opportunities for granted.  He spoke of the poverty and stated that girls in Nepal do not get a formal education, though this is slowly changing, particularly in urban cities.  He also stated that many young Nepalese men serve in the military.  
Ana speaking of her climbing expedition in May of 2011.
Ana spoke of her expedition and attempt to summit Mt. Everest earlier this year.  She shared with us a slideshow showcasing man photographs from her expedition and talked about the many perils that face the climbers.  We were enthralled by her presentation and had many questions.  She had brought with her a small rock that she passed around for all to touch.
I got to touch Mt. Everest!!!  Well, a rock from 21,000 feet .. the highest point Ana has reached (thus far).
After the presentations, we enjoyed the food that everyone had brought to share.  We were encouraged to eat the many dal dishes in the Nepalese manner … with our fingers rather than forks or spoons.  Dal refers to the thick stew prepared from lentils, peas, and beans – an important part of Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi cuisine.  Dal is a ready source of proteins for a balanced diet containing little or no meat.  It was a little strange to eat in this manner .. many of us felt uncomfortable as we’ve become so accustomed to using utensils. 
Buddy eating dal and rice in the Nepalease manner.
I asked if Gyan might have a friend or family member that could send us a postcard.  Instead, he allowed us to pick from a stack of postcards he had brought along for the occasion.  I thereby don’t have a postage stamp … but a las, I share with you the card I selected.
Gyan gave us a postcard … this is the one I selected.
 The postcard album notebook pages the kiddos completed.
We returned home and soon thereafter completed the notebook pages for our Postcard Album. Of note, Nepal is the only country in the world whose flag is not rectangular and the nation’s flower is rhododendron – my mother’s favorite. 

September 6, 20111

A friend of mine in Atlanta, Akshaye, recently traveled home to India and I was delighted when he said he would send us a few postcards.  When the first one arrived, we were all drawn to the subtle watercolor illustration.  The munchkins were ecstatic to discover it was from India … a country for which we have developed a strong appreciation.  Through our history studies in Story of the World, we have learned quite a bit about India.  It is high on our list of countries to which we hope to someday travel.

 Victoria Memorial, in Calcutta
His inscription on the back read, “I am sending you a postcard from Calcutta, India.  I grew up in Calcutta and it’s a very special city.  The postcard shows a picture of Victoria Memorial, one of the city’s most famous buildings!”
Coincidentally, one of our favorite restaurants is the Taj Palace.  We were regulars in fact.  We were there shortly before we moved to Northern California and we got to talking with the owner.  When we shared with him that sadly we would be moving to Northern California and would not be able to come in as often, he said, “Oh, no problem! My brother has a restaurant in Redding.  Just like this one, buffet!”  This discovery made our move much easier and of course we went the first week we were here.

 The stamps upon both postcards

When Akshaye’s postcard arrived … we immediately began to crave Priya’s again.  Gladly, we were able to coordinate with DH and also celebrated our traditional “NOT Back to School” day here as well.  Some of our favorite dishes are Butter Chicken, Naan, Raita, Aloo Gobi, and Tandoori Chicken.  Mmmm, I’m craving Indian food just writing this . . .  ..  . 
Qutab Minar is a UNESCO World heritage site located in Delhi, India. 
It is the world’s tallest brick minaret.
A few days later, a second post card arrived.  On which Akshaye wrote, “This postcard shows a tower in Delhi made of red brick.  It was constructed by a king and work began on it in 1193.  That’s over 800 years ago!  Till today it remains the world’s tallest.  My mother grew up in Delhi and I go there to see her family.”
Sweetie’s Notebook Page (page 1 of 2)

We filled out our notebooking pages and began to do a little more research on India.  Most of our studies have focused on the history of India so this time we focused on present day.  We discovered that, like Malaysia, India is one of 17 megadiverse countries.  We also learned that it is the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people.  Any guess which countries come in first and third?  We read about Ghandi and a little about the economy (imports / exports) discovering that India, in addition to spices, is one of the world’s leading producers of iron and copper ore as well as rice and cattle.  
Buddy’s Notebook Page

If you are interested in creating a unit study on India, check out the resources I have compiled here, Investigating India: A Homeschool Unit Study.

I am linking this up at All Things Beautiful

August 26, 20111
As you may be aware, I teach professional development courses at the Heritage Institute.  This summer, one of my students lives in Malaysia and agreed to send us a few postcards for our Geography Postcard Album.  We love postcards!  With this post, we share our virtual trip to Malaysia.  

According to the tourism website, To Know Malaysia is to Love Malaysia– and while I am sure this can be said about many countries throughout the globe, we were certainly intrigued.  “Mayaysia is a bubbling, bustling melting pot of races and religions where Malays, Indians, Chinese and many other ethnic groups live together in peace and harmony.”  Geographically, Malaysia is as diverse as its culture.  The country is divided into thirteen states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Sea.  Eleven states and two federal territories (Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya) in Peninsular Malaysia and two states and one federal territory (Labuan) in East Malaysia.

Moonlight Bay with rock formations located along the way to Batu Ferringhi.

One of Malaysia’s key attractions is its extreme contrasts. Towering skyscrapers look down upon wooden houses built on stilts, and five-star hotels sit several metres away from ancient reefs.  Cool hideaways are found in the highlands that roll down to warm, sandy beaches and rich, humid mangroves.

We enjoyed the postcards we received and googled Malaysia to learn more. The caption on back of the one on the right reads, “The coconut plantation workers – the human as instructor and the monkey as climber and harvester.”  My student wrote, “15 years in Malaysia and I have not seen this … rubber plantations, – yes; oil palm plantations – plenty; but not a trained monkey to harvest the coconuts, amazing!”  The munchkins then filled out a notebook page for our album.

I was delighted with how much effort they each put into the illustration of a famous landmark.  One of the things we enjoy most about receiving postcards are the stamps.  Surprisingly, however, the stamps on the postcards we received from Malaysia didn’t have a post cancellation stamped upon them.  
We hope to make a recipe from Malaysia soon.  Just need to find one that appeals to us.  I’ll keep you posted if we do.  🙂

I am linking this up at All Things Beautiful.

August 11, 2011
Early in the summer, I was inspired by the way the family at All Things Beautiful learns about culture and geography with postcards.   We had quite the collection of postcards already … but once we received them, we did little more than locate the destination on our world map in the hallway and tape it onto the wall.  I wanted something of more value … a way to organize the cards as well as provide us with a more meaningful exchange.  The Geography Postcard Album was just what we were looking for.  While we have already logged the postcards we already have with my earlier post, Getting Started with Postcard Albums … we have yet to document what each has provided us.  
I thereby begin with Maryland – to commemorate the Bergenholtz Family.  We received this postcard in the late spring .. just after returning from Scandinavia, if I recall correctly.  The wonderful thing about this postcard is that it features a recipe for Crab Soup as is pictured on the front of the card.  Though we haven’t yet tried the recipe … nor have we been able to obtain blue crab from the seafood departments here on the West Coast at a reasonable fee (I looked into special ordering it but the minimum order was over $100).  We thereby opted to just keep our eyes open … it shows up once in a while.  We did, however, have an opportunity in June to try soft shell blue crab at a Japanese restaurant.  The kids didn’t like it at all .. at least prepared in this way.  I enjoyed it but did find it a little on the salty side.
The picture below is one I took in Chinatown in New York City when my husband and I were there a year ago.  I shared it with the kids and they remarked, “Ah!  I see why it is called blue crab.  That’s cool!”
After looking over the picture and discussing the postcard, we located Maryland on our wall map of the United States.  Coincidentally, this week in Story of the World, we are also studying Jamestown as well as Captain John Smith and Pocahontas.  The kids thereby had no trouble finding the Chesapeake Bay and the state surrounding it.  The kiddos then completed a State Profile sheet and filed it in their new United States Geography Postcard Album.