Saturday, December 31, 2016

NAURU: MUSIC AND DANCE


The musical traditions of Nauru are similar to that of other Micronesian traditions. However, many of these traditions have been lost over the centuries, and few songs have been recorded. Radio Nauru has made a push to try to record some of the music from the older generations, but even the older generations don’t understand the context of some of these songs. Part of this was due to the fact that the Germans banned much of the traditional music and dance after they annexed the island in 1888. And to follow this, the forced move of over a thousand Nauruans during the Japanese occupation contributed to much of their cultural arts to be lost. 

 
Nauruans are known for their rhythmic singing performed at certain ceremonies and celebrations. I’ve tried to find more information about their traditional reigen music, but all I’ve come across is the same mentions on a handful of articles.


Dancing to traditional music is still regarded as one of the more popular art forms. Like other Micronesian dance traditions, their dances tend to be about their daily life. One dance was called the “dance of the fish” to celebrate their catch (I’m guessing). Because Nauru is an island, fishing is an integral part of their society. After the dance, they would eat the fish. Other forms of dance that is popular throughout the Pacific Islands, like hula dancing, is also performed. Dances can either be dances female only, male only, or mixed.


As far as pop music goes, I’m going to venture to say that they more than likely are influenced by and listen to Australian music. For their own styles, it is a mix of their own traditional styles that are popular throughout the South Pacific and Western styles like pop/rock. I didn’t really find anything on Spotify, but there were a few clips on YouTube. Their traditional-style pop music is typically sung in Nauruan, although I did find one song in English. I didn’t really come across any rock bands, but I did find one rap video from a Syrian-born Nauruan who calls himself MCAK (aka Ali Kharsa) that is sung in English. I thought it was pretty good, even though his accent was still thick in places. But kudos for rapping in a second language. That’s not easy to do.

Up next: the food

Worldly Rise Year End Stats 2016 Edition


Once again I thought it’d be fun to take a look at some of my stats. Because stats are fun and don’t let anyone tell you different. So, I’m essentially following on the mold of last year’s statistics. Enjoy!


— In 2016, I started with Liberia and ended with Namibia.

— At the end of 2016, I completed the 119th country for this blog. I did go back and add in the three countries that are not part of the UN at the end, so this now makes me 61% finished with this project. (I’m definitely making headway! Only three more years to go…)

— Of all the countries I have completed so far,
36 (30.25%) have been in Africa
32 (26.89%) have been in Europe
15 (12.61%) have been in Asia
          9 (7.56%) have been in the Caribbean
 8 (6.72%) have been in the Middle East
         7 (5.88%) have been in South America
 5 (4.20%) have been in Oceania
          5 (4.20%) have been in Central America
 2 (1.68%) has been in North America
           
— Of the 94 countries I have completed so far, 263 languages are represented in some capacity, either as an official language or at some kind of national/regional/vernacular level. Here are the ones who hold some level of status in three or more countries.  
English: 36
French: 32
Arabic: 16
Spanish: 14
German: 11
Russian: 8
Croatian: 7
Armenian: 6
Portuguese: 6
Albanian: 5
Romany/Romani: 5
Serbian: 5
Greek: 4
Bulgarian: 4
Italian: 4
Ukrainian: 4
Azerbaijani: 3
Danish: 3
Garifuna: 3
Hungarian: 3
Slovene/Slovenian: 3
Swahili: 3
Berber (Tamazight): 3
Occitan: 3
Turkish: 3

— As of December 31, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. EST, I have had a total of 383,614 pageviews (an increase of 134,749 from this time last year) and have been read by at least one person in 165 countries (an increase of 4 countries). I have posted 545 blog posts (an increase of 101 posts) since I started in February 2012 and now have 22 followers (I gained one more follower this year).

— Here are the top ten countries based on the number of pageviews (of all time):
            1. United States
            2. Russia (number 8 last year)
            3. Philippines
            4. United Kingdom (number 2 last year)
            5. Canada (number 4 last year)           
            6. Germany
            7. France (number 5 last year)
            8. Ukraine (number 7 last year)
            9. Australia
            10. India

— If everything goes as planned for 2017 (which may or may not happen), I will start with Nauru and end with Samoa. 

Have a happy new year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

NAURU: ART AND LITERATURE


Many of the arts and crafts on the island of Nauru have been lost over time. As the islanders moved toward modernity, the traditional arts unfortunately fell to the wayside. And since Nauru is one of the least visited countries in the world, there isn’t that much of a tourist industry pushing for local arts to sell to tourists.



However, like other island cultures, woodcarvings and various woven arts and textiles are often used for various purposes in their daily lives. For many of their arts and crafts, they use the wood from the kokospalme. Various articles of clothing and fans are often made from the kokosfasern and uses sheets from the screw tree. Their designs tend to be geometrical and somewhat resemble the designs of other areas of Southeast Asia.


Nauruan culture has changed over the past few centuries—Western culture has influenced it to the point of erasing parts of their own traditions. Although literacy on Nauru is 97%, there isn’t even a daily newspaper. There are a few weekly publications, though. There’s now a campus of the University of the South Pacific on the island, but many students still opt to attend school in Australia. The Dept of Ed did publish a Nauruan dictionary and a history of the island from the point of view of the Nauruans. Through programs linked to the university, writers are often encouraged to write more stories and poems.



There really isn’t a lot of information out there on current authors from Nauru. But thanks to one of my favorite blogs to read, A Year of Reading the World, her efforts brought a few authors to light. If you’re looking for a few Nauruan authors, I would suggest the book Stories from Nauru. This book and others are written in English. (I’m not exactly sure how much literature is actually written in Nauruan.) It includes short stories from several authors including Ben Bam Solomon, Elmina Quadina, Eston Thoma, Pamela Scriven, Jerielyn Jeremiah, Lucia Bill, and Makerita Va’ai.

Up next: music and dance

Sunday, December 25, 2016

NAURU: THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE


I’m going to bet most people have never heard of the third smallest country in the world. In fact, I’ll admit that even I wasn’t exactly sure of the correct pronunciation of this tiny island in the South Pacific. Nauru (pronounced na-OO-roo) is pretty much isolated. Unlike other island countries in this part of the world, Nauru is all by itself – a one-island country. So, what’s so special about one island poking its nose out of the ocean? Plenty.

 
Historians aren’t exactly sure where the name Nauru came from, but the most accepted origin is that it’s derived from the Nauruan word for “I go to the beach.” When the British arrived in the late 1790s, they referred to the island as Pleasant Island. 


Nauru is located in the Micronesian group of islands. Its nearest neighbor is the island of Banaba Island (part of Kiribati), located almost due east. The Marshall Islands are to the northeast, and the island of Kosrae (Federated States of Micronesia) lies to the northwest. A little farther away still to the southwest are the Solomon Islands and the islands of Tuvalu are to the southeast. This island is one of the few islands in the South Pacific that is known for its phosphate deposits. Because Nauru is close to the equator, the climate tends to be warm all year round. They generally see a rainier season (with monsoons) between November and February.



Nearly 3000 years ago, groups of Micronesians and Polynesians moved to the island. There were originally 12 tribes on this island (which is why there’s a 12-point star on their flag). Life went on in their own ways of living off the ocean and what the island provided until the Europeans arrived. The British whale hunter and sea captain John Fearn was the first European to step foot on the island in 1798 and named it Pleasant Island. They began to regularly trade with the islanders, especially in palm wine and firearms. In 1888, Germany took the island in as part of the Marshall Islands Protectorate. At the same time, Christian missionaries began arriving from the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati). The Germans stayed there for almost 30 years. During that time, phosphate was discovered on the island, and it didn’t take all that long before they figured out how to exploit the reserve. During WWI, Nauru was captured by the Australians. Australia, New Zealand, and the UK came together to administer the island and establish an organization to handle the phosphate business. In 1940, the Germans bombed five supply ships and the phosphate mines and other key operations on the island. Two years later, the Japanese invaded and took over the island, removing a number of Nauruans to the Chuuk Islands (Federated States of Micronesia). By the end of the war, the Japanese surrendered it back to the Australians. So, although Australia was the one who administered the island, it was actually divided up between Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. During the mid-1960s, Nauru began working toward self-governance and finally gained independence in 1968. They purchased the phosphate mines for their own, which helped them to have one of the highest standards of living among the islands of the South Pacific. 


Nauru is one of the few countries that doesn’t have an official capital. The de facto capital—where the center of government is—is the city of Yaren. Located in the southern part of the island, the city used to be called Moqua. I thought that I grew up in a small town, but this “capital” city is smaller than my hometown: Yaren has 747 people whereas Morgantown, Indiana has about 986 people.  


For a long time, the Nauruan economy was based on the phosphate mines. There really aren’t many other natural resources on the island, and they have to import many of their supplies, materials, and food. A trust was formed between UK, Australia, and New Zealand to manage the mines, and part of that included long-term investments. Mismanagement caused them to renege, and this forced them to scrounge to fix their debts. Unemployment is really high, and the vast majority of those employed work for the government. During the 1990s, they were a tax haven and actually weren’t all that cooperative in curbing this problem. Now many people work for an Australian immigration detention facility located on Nauru. This facility has gotten the attention of the international community for its deplorable conditions and riots. Because of the ties with Australia, Nauru uses Australian dollars as their currency.


Most people practice Christianity; there are more Protestants than Roman Catholics, but there are also a number of other denominations represented here as well. Nauru has the largest proportion of Baha’is in the world (10%). There are also smaller communities of Buddhists and Muslims as well. In their indigenous beliefs, their main deity was a female by the name of Eijebong.  


The official language is Nauruan. Nearly 96% of the people speak Nauruan in the home. Nauruan is a Micronesian language, but it’s not exactly clear how closely tied Nauruan is to other Micronesian languages. Their language also has many German and Latin loanwords. Because of their ties with Australia, English is also widely spoken on the island and tends to be the language of the government and commerce. 


Besides having a matriarchal society in their traditional culture, there are a number of interesting things about this tiny island. For one, they are the smallest country—both in area and in population—in the UN. However, despite its small size, Nauru is listed as one of the Fattest Nations in the World. (I’m hoping that means the food is good?) It’s also one of the least visited countries in the world, receiving around 200 visitors per year. Well, let’s try to put it on the map.

Up next: art and literature

Sunday, December 18, 2016

NAMIBIA: THE FOOD


So, the Christmas season is upon us. And with only a week to go, I’m about halfway done with my shopping. I’m just glad I had a nice bonus check so I can get this all done. I lucked out this year. Even though, the kids are more excited about a Minecraft update than they are about anything I’m getting them, so you know… Anyway, it’s such a busy time of year, and I’m kind of ready to go back to my normal routine of things. 

A great wheat bread. Goes well with stews. And stuff.
And in an attempt at normalcy (which is hard to do anyway), I’m making food from Namibia today. I’m starting with the bread: veldt bread. In a large bowl, I mixed in about 3 ½ c of whole wheat flour, 4 ½ tsp of baking powder, and ½ tsp of salt. After I mixed that together, I threw in about 4 Tbsp of brown sugar and cut in a half stick of butter (I just used my fingers). Once I got all the butter cut in so that it looked like breadcrumbs, I formed a well in the center and poured in 150mL of milk and a beaten egg, stirring and kneading it on a floured pastry mat for 10 minutes until it finally comes together as a smooth dough. I oiled a bread pan and put my dough in and sort of attempted to shape it to the pan. Even though it didn’t say, I added slashes to the top of the bread. I’m not sure if it’s authentic, but I did it anyway. Then I baked this at 400ºF for nearly 45 minutes. (My oven tends to heat high and burn things like a teenage pyromaniac, so it might be more or less time for you, depending on your oven’s upbringing.) I thought this was good. The wheat flour gave it a heartier flavor, and I think I should’ve put more of the sweet spices in it to combat that. It tasted wonderful when it was warm and topped with melted butter.

I thought this was great. I may have been the only one. But I'm a super delegate in this house, so my opinion counts as ten.
The main dish today is Namibian Chicken Potjie. It’s based on a South African dish of Dutch influence and named after the cast iron pot with three legs it’s traditionally cooked in. I don’t have one of these pots (and actually, I don’t even own a cast iron pot of any kind, just a griddle), so I used a large pot. I put a little oil in the bottom of the pot and heat it up. Then I put in my chicken that I had sprinkled with salt and fried it up. I added in 1/8 tsp of black pepper, a pinch of dried thyme, 4 bay leaves, a pinch of allspice, and 3 Tbsp of chutney (I went with a sliced mango chutney, but if I had found a garlic chutney or something similar, I think I would’ve went with that instead.). After stirring everything to coat and mix together, I layered in my sliced carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms on top of the chicken and spices. Pouring in a ¾ c of boiling chicken broth (in lieu of ½ c boiling water and a chicken stock cube), I put the lid on and let it simmer for about an hour and 20 minutes, making sure I check on it periodically so that it doesn't completely run out of water/broth. I really liked this, even with the mango chutney. My husband didn’t like the sweetness to the meat, although it made the potatoes taste like sweet potatoes. But everything was super tender, and the chicken practically fell off the bone. 

I keep trying these. My husband said he would've liked them more if I left them on another 20 minutes or so. Now he tells me. Sheesh, tough crowd.
To go with this, I made Namibian Black-eyed Peas. I soaked and rinsed 2 c of dried peas in cold water. While they were in the water, I rubbed them to loosen the skins. Then I discarded the water along with any skins (or at least I tried). In a smaller pot, I poured the peas, some salt, and a little bit of cayenne pepper, and boiled until they were tender. I threw in a little spinach to it toward the end. This had the propensity to be tasty, and even though the beans were soft, they weren’t quite as soft as I like them to be. And man, were they dry! I’m not a super huge fan of black-eyed peas anyway (the band is better), but every now and then I try them to see if maybe I like them in a different recipe. And each time I come to the same conclusion: my husband likes them better than I do (and we both agreed these were dry).

Overall, we agreed this meal earned 4/5 stars.
So now that the kids are on Winter Break, I realized that this is actually my last country of 2016. The next one will be posted next year. There have been many complaints about 2016 – the many celebrities we’ve lost, major global events and tragedies, scandals, that hellish election mess we got ourselves into – but there have been many things that haven’t been so bad. Personally, I had two jobs I enjoyed and am currently employed. I have full health insurance again (I’m afraid to use it because I’m afraid of the bills, but that’s an entirely different issue.). We’re all generally healthy right now (more or less; well, we’re alive anyway). Probably by the end of next week, I’ll have my 2016 stats ready and will post them. So, until then – thanks for reading! And remember: stay global, my friends.

Up next: Nauru

Saturday, December 17, 2016

NAMIBIA: MUSIC AND DANCE


Namibian musicians have borrowed and utilized the musical styles of many different cultures. Because Namibia is such a multiethnic country, each ethnic group has their own musical styles. And on top of that, they often have their own dances associated with their music. 


The Herero people are known for a style of music called oviritje, which used to be pretty much only vocals until they introduced keyboards to it. Damara traditional music gave us Ma/gaisa and Fura music. While Fura is the main genre, Ma/gaisa is a dance form of music. Shambo is a type of dance music from the Oshiwambo people. Later on, it got mixed with other regional styles like kwaito. One artist who goes by the name Sunny Boy created his own genre called hikwa. It’s essentially a cross between hip-hop and kwaito. Afrikaans music, heavily influenced by European styles, is also a popular genre, even though it tends to be more popular with the white communities.
 
Shisani Vranckx (front, center) and her band
In Namibia, there are a number of genres of popular music that is performed and merged with others. Styles like rock (with influences from South Africa, Germany, and the US – includes metal music as well), hip-hop (influenced by European and American styles), reggae/dancehall/AfroBeat (with influences from Africa and the Caribbean), kwaito (from South Africa), R&B/pop (influences from many areas), and house music (especially European styles). 


Because I’ve been so busy with the holiday season, I didn’t get a chance to really listen to a lot of Namibian music. I missed complete genres, like rock. But I did get a chance to listen to some. One of the most well known musicians is Ras Sheehama. He was a key figure in establishing the reggae scene in Namibia; however, his style is a mix of the reggae styles of several African countries. I quite enjoyed listening to his music. 


One thing I noticed was that there were several hip-hop artists I found on Spotify. The first one I listened to was Jblack. He has some good beats and some good flow, but I think he needs to mix it up a little bit more. There were several songs that got kind of monotonous. The change-ups were a little too subtle, I think. I mean, there were certainly songs that weren’t like that. Overall, I liked his music. 


Another I listened to was G-Ride. His music is a little more laid back, but then he would come in with the lyrics and a faster flow that immediately takes the song to a different level. I liked a few of the songs on this album (Warrior Spirit). It definitely had an American style, and his accent and diction sounded quite American.


A few musicians didn’t have that many songs available on Spotify. One was Gurd Grill. He kind of mixed a little bit of soul, reggae, pop, and hip-hop in his music. Snazzy only had a few songs available as well. His music tended to be a combination of dance, reggae, and pop.

Up next: the food

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

NAMIBIA: ART AND LITERATURE


Namibian art goes back to the earliest days of antiquity. Rock art has been found in caves and shelters that were close to where these nomadic tribes had set up temporary settlements. Evidence of early stone tools and weapons has also been found in these locations as well. Many of these rock drawings depict their everyday life, their hunting expeditions, and their spiritual beliefs. Their paints were made from materials that were readily available to them in the desert, and paintbrushes were made from animal or human hair. Sharpened stones were used for carving. 

 
However, rock art wasn’t the only art Namibians produced. They were also skilled at creating art out of everyday utensils and tools. Items such as baskets and pots were woven, molded, and painted in a variety of subtle geometric designs. Belts, bracelets, and leather pouches were decorated with beads, ivory, and stones. Even musical instruments such as drums, rattles, and thumb pianos (mbira) are also decorated with carved designs. Textile arts were also a necessity: embroidery, weaving, and appliqué were used for wall coverings, clothing, tablecloths, rugs, and a number of other items.



As Europeans moved into the land and took it over, they also introduced a variety of styles of European painting. Landscapes were quite a popular thing to paint as was the abundant African wildlife. Namibian artists as well as European and foreign artists flocked to the rural areas to paint the view.



Even after independence, Namibian artists continued to utilize these European artistic styles and techniques. They merged their own culture into their art, and it became an expression of their identity, a means to tell a story, and to depict their life and their struggles. It’s hard to say if there’s a unifying theme or style among artists because each is unique. Perhaps the land and the people remain the unifying element.



Technically speaking, the first pieces of literature were probably those rock drawings. But the Owambo tradition is considered one of the earliest forms of literature in Namibia. As Europeans ventured into the area as explorers and missionaries, they wrote about what they saw. However, they wrote from their point of view, not necessarily about the people or their history or way of life. For the people who lived here, oral traditions were at the heart of their storytelling for many of the early times. 


As Christianity moved through the land, it influenced their literature in many ways. For one, there were cases where they downplayed the local cultures in lieu of European ways. However, in many areas, the church was responsible for education and the teaching of written language. Much of the early literature was in the form of poetry, short stories, and traditional tales that have been passed down from generation to generation.



Literature from colonization to today is mainly written in English, Afrikaans, or German. Many Namibian writers have had their works published and have made significant contributions to modern African literature. Common themes include women’s rights, the rise to independence and the shedding away of colonialism, the struggles of oppression, and cultural identity. One writer, Neshani Andreas, writes about women’s issues in her novel The Purple Violet of Oshaantu. Giselher W. Hoffman is an example of a Namibian writer who has produced several novels written in German.

Up next: music and dance

Sunday, December 11, 2016

NAMIBIA: THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE


There’s a corner of Africa where deserts blow across ancient roads. Trod on only by a few, much of this land is as it has been for centuries: untouched. Ancient languages intertwine with languages that were brought there. In a way, it’s the story of Africa in general. But what makes Namibia different? Plenty. 


Namibia is named after one of the world’s oldest deserts, the Namid Desert. This desert runs along the coast from Angola, across Namibia, and into South Africa. When the Germans occupied the area, it was known as German South-West Africa, or later as South-West Africa.



Located in southern Africa, Namibia is surrounded by Angola to the north, Zambia to the northeast, Botswana to the east, and South Africa to the south. Namibia actually is only a hop, skip, and a jump (almost literally, although it might be a few hops, skips, and jumps) from Zimbabwe along the Zambezi River. It also borders the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Generally, the climate is arid to semi-arid considering that the country is pretty much variations of desert. A particular current in the Atlantic Ocean—the Benguela current­­—is responsible for the lower precipitation among other weather patterns. Inland winds also affect their climate, and they also experience a rainy and dry season.

The international face of a grandmother with a baby (taken of the San tribe). Some things are universal.
Even before the Bantu migration into southern Africa, the San, Nama, and Damara tribes lived in and around what is now known as Namibia. Several centuries later, the Oorlam peoples, a mixed race tribe who are related to the Nama, also began to establish their place in Namibia. Not everyone was cool with them moving into the area, and there were skirmishes and battles over it. Technically speaking, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to land in this area. However, the Portuguese didn’t really stay in the area long nor did they claim it for Portugal. The first Europeans to come in and claim it as theirs were the Germans when they stepped in to quash the tribal fighting during the early 1880s. The Germans renamed it German South-West Africa (how original). Even though, the British took the port of Walvis Bay as an exclave of South Africa, which they were administering at that time. A few of the tribes decided they had enough of the Germans and fought against them. Of course, the Germans didn’t take that too well and came back like gangbusters: they killed off half of the Namaqua tribe and over three-quarters of the Herero tribe. After WWI, the Germans handed over Namibia to South Africa to do with what they wanted. It became more or less a “fifth province” for them, and apartheid was extended into Namibia as well. During the 1950s and 1960s, there was quite a bit of talk of Namibia declaring its independence from South Africa, especially since many African nations were breaking their colonial ties during this time period. It wouldn’t be until 1988 when they finally broke free, even though South Africa would hold onto Walvis Bay until 1994. For the most part, life after independence hasn’t been too bad, with the exception of a few key events (like the refugees from Angolan Civil War spilling over the border and a few dissenting political groups here and there).



Namibia’s capital, Windhoek (pronounced something like VINT-hook), is almost right in the geographic middle of the country in the Khomas Highlands. Before colonization, the city was known by its Herero name “Otjomuise” and its Khoekhoe name “ǀAiǁGams.” (Just a heads up-- Khoekhoe is one of the several dialects of what colloquially known as “click languages.” They utilize symbols like | and ! to indicate different kinds of clicks.) Both of these names refer to its hot springs. The city began to grow and expand during the mid-1800s, and today stands as the center of government, commerce, media, education, entertainment, sports, and culture. Even as the country’s largest city, it only has about 326,000 people. 


Because of Namibia’s historical and cultural ties with South Africa, their economy also remains tied with the country. The largest economic drivers are manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and tourism. Bloomberg has named Namibia as one of the Top Emerging Markets, even though the cost of living tends to be higher due to the fact that much of their food supplies and goods need to be imported in.


The vast majority of Namibians are Christian, and of those, about three-quarters are Protestant (and half of those are Lutheran). However, like in many areas of Africa, there are many who adhere to their indigenous beliefs at the same time. A number of Christian denominations are represented in Namibia, along with a very small Jewish community.


Before 1990, there were three official languages: English, German, and Afrikaans. But then in true sibling fashion, they thought they couldn’t be the same as South Africa. In the end, now English is the only official language (even though, like, 3% of the people speak it at home). Far more people speak German or Afrikaans at home. These languages and ten other commonly spoken languages are listed as Recognized Regional Languages. 

Even in the wild, no cat can resist the sound of a can opener.
For those who love ecotourism and the great outdoors, Namibia is your place. Its population density is one of the lowest in the world (second only behind Mongolia); it’s great for people who hate neighbors. It’s also practically free of malaria and has over 300 days of sunshine per year. Namibia has several national parks and protected areas that promote conservation for both flora and fauna. They’re especially known for their animal preserves, especially for elephants and cheetahs. From canyons to dunes, Namibia’s landscape has a lot to offer. So, let’s see what their people and culture is about.

Up next: art and literature

Sunday, December 4, 2016

MYANMAR: THE FOOD


Ah, the holidays are upon us. Unfortunately, it’s not one of my favorite times of the year. If it were less about presents and more about just getting together to eat, drink, play cards, and watch movies, I’d be much happier. The commercialism gets me down, especially since it’s been hard on us for much of the past decade. And anyone who lives paycheck to paycheck knows this all too well. We’re a little better off this year, but it’s still stressful. As long as there’s (spiked) eggnog and (spiked) mint hot chocolate, I’ll get through this.

This might have been good if it were more done. Otherwise, it was pretty good. I might try to make this as a bread.
But today, we’re escaping all of that. We’re heading someplace warm and eating their food: we’re making Burmese food. I started off my day with Sanwin Makin, or Burmese Semolina Cake. Now, I typically have never roasted sesame seeds, even when a recipe calls for it, but in this case, I did. I put about 1 Tbsp of sesame seeds in my small skillet and once they started to smoke just a little, I put them in a ramekin to cool and set them off to the side. (I forgot all I had was black sesame seeds—hope that’s ok.) In a medium bowl, I measured out about 400 mL of coconut cream and mixed in an equal amount of water. Instead of using semolina (because I couldn’t find it), I went with a substitute of spelt flour, which is an ancient form of wheat. I measured out 1 c of spelt flour and put it in a large saucepan and then slowly added in my diluted coconut cream to it along with 1 c of sugar. I brought this mixture to a boil, slowly stirring in 4 oz of butter until it thickened. Adding in a pinch of salt and a ½ tsp of ground cardamom, I stirred this until everything was mixed well before taking it off the heat. At this point, I separated 3 eggs into two bowls: the yolks in one bowl, the whites in the other. I beat in the egg yolks into my mixture. Then I tried to beat my egg whites until they were stiff but gave up after about 8 or 9 minutes when I realized nothing was really happening. So I folded them into the mixture as they were. Unfortunately, I ruined the one sheetcake pan I had doing something that was completely not-cake-related with it. (It was a cheap pan anyway.) So instead of a square 9” pan, I used a round springform one instead. I sprinkled my toasted sesame seeds on top of the smoothed out batter. I baked this in a 325ºF oven for about an hour and fifteen or twenty minutes, and it still needed more time (the recipe said 45-60 min). I even allowed it to cool thoroughly before cutting it, but the inside was still mushy. Now to be fair, I had to put a silicone baking pan around my springform pan since I didn’t trust it wouldn’t leak. And I know that probably had a lot to do with it. But the flavor was good, especially the part with the toasted sesame seeds on it. 

Warm and cuddly. Perfect for winter.
To go with this, I made one of my favorite drinks: Lahpatyei Gyo, or Burmese Milky Tea. I had this in a Burmese restaurant and thought it was absolutely wonderful. I heated up 3 c of water until it was boiling, then cut off the heat and threw in 3 black tea bags and let it steep. While that was steeping, I heated up 4 oz of evaporated milk with 2 oz of water in a large mug. In the mugs I was serving this in, I poured a tsp of sweetened condensed milk in the bottom of the mug. Then I filled the mug halfway with tea, then added in some of the evaporated milk mixture, then adding in more tea and more milk. I stirred it up before serving. This was clearly the best part of the meal. It was exactly what I was wanting. And now that I know how to make this myself, I’m going to make it ALL. THE. TIME. 

This was really pretty good. I look forward to eating this for lunch tomorrow.
The main dish today was Fried Pork with Garlic Curry. I cut my pork loin into small, diced pieces and set it off to the side in a large skillet (or you can use a wok if you have one—I don’t have one yet). Then I blended my garlic, onions, and ginger together until it was a paste consistency (I used my blender for this). I tried to squeeze out as much of the liquid as I could into the skillet with my pork. To this, I also added in a little vinegar (I used rice vinegar), chili powder, salt, and some vegetable oil (I couldn’t find peanut oil in anything smaller than a gallon). I cooked it on high heat for a few minutes. Then I lowered my heat and let it simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally so it didn’t stick and the pork got tender. In another smaller skillet, I heated up the rest of the sesame oil and stirred in my ginger-garlic-onion paste with some turmeric and let it cook down for about 10 minutes. I added it to the pork mixture and stirred. This part was good. I enjoyed the subtle flavors, and the garlic curry wasn’t overpowering at all. Partly because I didn’t actually make it with 3 onions and 20 cloves of garlic. (That’ll do it.)

It was almost good. I'll have to watch it or amend it a bit.
I served the curry dish on top of coconut rice. This was pretty easy to make. I made this like I do when I made regular steamed rice. I mixed 1 c of rice with 2 c of coconut milk and 1 tsp of salt. I brought this all to a boil, then turned my heat down and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is soft. However, I must’ve bumped the knob and turned the heat up more because the bottom started to burn. But when I tasted it, there were pieces of rice that tasted like it was still uncooked. The flavor was great, but the texture of not being done was a turn off. The parts that were done went really well with the pork and garlic curry. 

Who doesn't love ending a meal with some tea and cake?
Heading into the winter season, this past week has been rough with sick kids. Last week, my son had some kind of allergic skin reaction, and now my daughter’s seasonal allergies are flaring up. So, this was probably one of the few meals that I ate by myself because neither kid felt quite up to eating curry. My husband came in and sampled everything, and pretty much agreed with me, except he thinks the tea needs way more sugar (which it doesn’t). But that’s how things go sometimes.

Up next: Namibia

MYANMAR: MUSIC AND DANCE


Myanmar’s music, like its art, is influenced mainly by China and Thailand. For the most part, their music is based on the melody rather than the harmony. Most of their music is based on a 4/4 time signature and variations (2/4, 8/16). Apparently, in Orthodox Theravada Buddhism, they see music as not having a moral characteristic (um, ok…? I mean, I saw some things when I was a music major, but still.). Even though they are a Buddhist country, they evidently ignored this part because they continued to make music (thankfully). Different ethnic groups, like the Mon, certainly had their own styles and variations as well. 

 
Burmese classical music is generally divided into two types: indoor music and outdoor music. There’s also cat music, where you just stand in the doorway, not really sure if you’re going in or out. (Just kidding, I made that up.) Indoor music is more like chamber music, generally led by a female singer with accompaniment. Outdoor music is music of the court, typically used for ceremonial purposes. 


Mahagita music is essentially a collection of classical songs. It’s divided into a number of categories, depending on what kind of song it’s about: royal court songs, songs for worshiping spirits, songs for sorrow, etc. Folk traditions use music in a variety of situations. Some are used in religious festivals, and some are tied in with theatre, dance, and the arts. Folk music is performed by a folk ensemble, which is generally comprised of a various number of drums, gongs, and other percussive instruments. 

Representing the underground punk music scene
Rock music was introduced in the 1960s and became popular during the 1980s. Punk, metal, and other genres gained popularity on an underground level. Hip-hop music was introduced during the late 1990s and grew a following across the country among the youth. 


One musician I came across is Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein. Her music almost had a pop/rock quality to it with acoustic piano on a few of her songs. I kind of liked it. There’s something about it that reminds me of some late 1990s rock music. The sound quality on Spotify wasn’t all that great for some reason, but it sounded like she had that same closed-throat vocal style that Shakira has. 


I came across the music of rocker Lay Phyu. He has a nice rock sound to his music, bordering on metal at times. I suppose I’d probably categorize it as metal. It reminds me of Metallica or Guns N Roses at times. Even though he’ll still mix in some traditional instruments and acoustic guitar into the mix. I like it. 


And thanks to Anthony Bourdain for helping these guys out, the Burmese band Side Effect got some major love from the US. They were even invited to perform at SWSX a few years ago. I can see why. They’re really pretty good. 


Hip-hop is definitely a growing trend in Myanmar today, especially among the youth. And for the most part, it tends to be an American-influenced style of hip-hop. Some hip-hop artists mixed it with some pop for more of a chance at commercial success. Probably one artist I came across who demonstrates this well is Yan Yan Chan. Another is the up-and-coming one is J-Me. You can tell both guys have studied their craft and have listened to a lot of American hip-hop. I also listened to Kyaw Pha and Ye Lay, who perform in the same style, except Ye Lay tends to be a little slower (at least based on the three songs I heard from him).

Up next: the food