Visiting the Giants

by Estifanos (age 6), of California, U.S.A.

Last month, I went to visit the giant redwood trees in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, CA. The trees there reminded me of the Carboniferous Period that I read about in “The Encyclopedia of World History,” because the trees were ten times taller than I thought they would be.  Joan Maloof wrote that this forest could have been about 50 million years old, so, I expected the trees to be about as tall as my kitchen, broken off by lightning strikes and storms, but they were mostly standing, and much much much much much much bigger than I thought!!!

The first fallen tree we found was about twice as wide as I thought it would be. It reminded me of “Sir Cumference and the Knights of the Round Table,” where Radius was as tall as half-way across the fallen tree, and Lady Di of Ameter had a reach equal to the distance across the middle of the tree.  Below, are two pictures of me and my Mama, pretending to be in a Sir Cumference book.

But the biggest fallen tree we found felt like it was a thousand miles long.  We walked for about a half an hour, to get from the roots all the way to the top — which we couldn’t even find. Here are some pictures of what I think must have been the tallest tree on Earth, before it fell.

This is a picture of the tallest tree we saw, still standing.  It is called the Founder’s Tree.

I want people to see this, so that they know about it, because it is the best tree I have ever seen!

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Places You Can Go with Arabic

by Estifanos (age 6), of California, U.S.A.

I was looking through “The Travel Book,” and I wondered how many countries I could visit, if I only knew how to speak Arabic.  I counted 23 different countries! Most of them were in the Middle East, or the northern part of Africa. Things that I would really like to go do and see, if I could only go to places where people speak Arabic, are:

  • Explore the rock carvings and cave paintings of Tassili N’Ajjer in Algeria;
  • Visit the ancient step-pyramid at Saqqara, in Egypt;
  • Swim in the Dead Sea, so I can stay afloat! (in Israel);
  • Have fish for dinner in the hull of an ancient dhow, in Kuwait;
  • Eat homemade bread cooked under the sand of the Sahara!!! in Libya;
  • Camp out under the stars of the Empty Quarter, in Oman;
  • Snorkel in the Red Sea, in Saudi Arabia;
  • Wade through the ancient sands around the pyramids of Begrawiya, in Sudan;
  • Watch camel races in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates; and
  • See the dragon blood trees of Socotra Island, in Yemen.

The countries that have Arabic as an official language are:

In the Middle East (which is part of Asia):  Bahrain, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.

In the Indian Ocean: Comoros & Mayotte

In Africa: Algeria, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia.

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Dances from Brazil

by Estifanos (age 6), of California, U.S.A.

I wanted to see what kinds of other dances people did in Brazil, after seeing the Brazilian dancers of the Fogo Na Roupa Performing Company at the Ethnic Dance Festival in San Francisco. So, Mom and I Googled “Brazilian dance.” We found a list of “10 Traditional Brazilian Dances You Should Know About.” Then, we looked for videos of those Brazilian dances on Youtube.

My favorite was of about five men that were doing Capoeira dancing. It was acrobatic, and very very fast. They spun on their heads! (crazy guys!!!) They also would kick their feet up and twirl around, just inches from each other, and did not bump into each other!

Here is a link to the Capoeira dance we watched:

Another traditional Brazilian dance that I liked was called Bumba Meu Boi. I liked it because it was funny and dramatic. The dance showed people dressed up as animals in a forest. There was a bull, some monkeys, and about 20 Amazonian birds. And also, at the end, there was a man holding a little toy bull, just like the bull at the beginning. There has to be a story to this dance. I am going to ask my pen-pal about what the story is.

Here is a link to the video of the Bumba Meu Boi dance we watched:

The last Brazilian dance I liked is called Forró. It is so fast, that I can’t even describe it. It is danced by a boy and a girl or a man and a woman. They do lots of fast hand work, and turns and spins. Once the woman even slid underneath the man’s legs, and jumped right back up and kept dancing. I really want to learn it. It is just amazing!

Here is a link to the video of Forró dancing we watched:


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Brazilian Feast

by Estifanos (age 6), of California, U.S.A.

This week, mom and I looked for recipes from Brazil, to find out what food tastes like there, and to find out which foods from Brazil we would most like to eat. For our first Brazilian Feast, we made: Feijoada (a Brazilian pork and black bean stew) with rice and Pao de Queijo (Brazilian cheese rolls), served with cabbage salad, orange slices, mango juice, and toasted cassava root for sprinkling on top.

The whole family helped to make the Feijoada. The night before we started cooking, I measured a gallon of cold water, 1/4 cup of salt, and 2 pounds of dried black beans, and mixed them together in a pot, and let them soak overnight. The next morning, the beans were purple and plump, and the water was blackish-purple.

The next morning, Dada fried 3/4 pound of applewood smoked bacon, and Mom chopped up 0.54 lbs. of chorizo sausage, 0.58 lbs. of corned beef, and 0.86 lbs. of boneless pork ribs, into 1 inch chunks. I put the meat into a big pot with oil to brown, and then added the beans, and some diced onion, green bell pepper, scallions, tomato, bay leaves, and cilantro. Then, we let it simmer away.

Mom made the Pao de Queijo, because I was too tired, after all that cooking. This is a picture of her making it:

And this is a picture of me and my Mom, eating our Brazilian Feast:

My favorite part of the feast was the black beans and meat, because it tasted so meaty-beany-delicious! My least favorite part was the cheese rolls because they were a bit too gooey for me.

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The True Colors of Humanity

by Larisa White of California, U.S.A.

Brazilian photographer Angélica Dass has created a wonderful exhibit that explores the true colors of the human race, calling into question the absurd habit of referring to people as belonging overly-simplistic color categories like “black”, “white”, “red”, or “yellow.” She calls it her Humanae Project.

For this project, she has photographed thousands of people, from many different countries around the world. She then took a sample of color pixels from the area of their noses, and matched this color to a Pantone color code, and used that matching Pantone color as background for the portrait. A sampling of the portraits she created looks like this:

Humanae Work-in Progress by  Angélica Dass


For me, seeing this work has been a delight, as it demonstrates so beautifully what I have been trying to teach my own family, in words — when asked how a family made up of one “whitish” European mutt, one “yellowish” Asian-American mutt, and one “cocoa-brownish” Ethiopian boy can really be a family when we all look so completely different. The things that unite us in love cannot be seen in the surface-coloration of the individuals. True beauty is only found in the complexity of wondrous diversity.

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Places You Can Go with Portuguese

by Estifanos (age 6), of California, U.S.A.

I was looking through “The Travel Book,” and I wondered how many countries I could visit, if I only knew how to speak Portuguese.  I counted only 8 different countries. That surprised me. I thought there would be more. Things that I would really like to go do and see, if I could only go to places where people speak Portuguese, are:

  • Surf-board on the Atlantic swells, off the coast of Angola;
  • Go wildlife watching for tapirs, jaguars, cayman, and howler-monkeys, in the Pantanal, in Brazil;
  • See elephants, and the western-most communities of chimps, in Guinea-Bissau;
  • Sail on a dhow, past remote island archipelagos, in Mozambique;
  • Explore the mediaeval Castle of São Jorge, in Alfama, Portugal;
  • See sea turtle babies in the sand, on the beaches of São Tomé & Principe; and
  • Play in a soccer match on the beach, in East Timor.

The countries that have Portuguese as an official language are:

In South America:  Brazil

In the Atlantic:  São Tomé & Principe

In Europe:  Portugal

In Africa: Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique

In the Timor Sea: East Timor

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Wild Animals in Alaska

by Estifanos (age 6), of California, U.S.A.

I went on a cruise ship to Alaska, in September 2017. My first stop was at Mendenhall Glacier, in Juneau. While I was there, I saw a cute little baby porcupine on the side of the trail, munching leaves and grass! I also saw a Mama porcupine. It was probably the baby’s mom. This is a picture of the little baby porcupine:

AK Mendenhall Baby Porcupine

The second stop on the cruise was in Skagway. From there, we took a ferry to Haines, and then a bus to the Kroschel Wildlife Center. There’s a crazy old kook there who keeps an orphaned grizzly bear as a pet, and feeds it oatmeal porridge with a spoon!!! He also feeds the bear blueberry pie!  Look at the picture:

AK KW Blueberry Pie Grizzly

Steve Kroschel also kept a moose, a wolf, a red fox, and some reindeer. He was always feeding his animals organic carrots. Karen is his orphaned moose, and he even let me feed her a carrot. Guess what? I had my first kiss at the Kroschel Wildlife Center. I “kissed” Karen:

AK KW E kissing Karen

The most funny part of the entire thing was the wolverine:

AK KW Wolverine

He had razor-sharp claws and teeth, so Steve put on his shoes before bringing him out. He came out with the wolverine on a leash, and he kept saying, “Ouch! Don’t bite!” while the wolverine nipped at his pants! It was so funny, I burst out laughing.

AK KW Crazy Stephen

After Steve massaged the wolverine’s gums, and kissed his nose (!!!!!), the wolverine calmed right down like a baby falling asleep in Mama’s arms, and let me pet his rear end.

On the bus back to Haines, we also saw a bald eagle on a tree, and three bears hunting for salmon in a river.

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Ecological Succession in Alaska

by Larisa White of California, U.S.A.

I just returned from a week-long cruise to Alaska. It was amazing to spend time in a place where the Living Earth was so blatantly ALIVE — changing land, with geological contours reshaping themselves before your very eyes; changing waters with 20+ foot tidal swings, and flowing ice rivers crashing into the sea; changing skies with dancing mists and clouds and rain. Cruising – in a single day – revealed a complete, 200-year ecological succession story along the length of Glacier Bay.  It began with the bare rock, recently exposed by receding glaciers. The next step was the arrival of mosses & lichens, which clung to the bare rock and began to crumble it into soil. Then, there were the first few pioneer herb plants and low-growing shrubs.  Then, the first few trees to establish, followed by a young forest, and at last, a majestic stand of old-growth rainforest, swirling in mist. WOW!!! A sampling of images, for your enjoyment:

A tidal glacier, calving:

A receding glacier (note the river of ice, which no longer reaches the sea):

Pioneer mosses and lichens on bare rock:

Hills covered in low herbs; a field of saplings on lower ground:

A full-blown temperate rain-forest:

The power and speed of change evident in these landscapes reminds me of just how powerful Mother Earth really is, and how well she is able to recover from dramatic climate changes. In an age where worries about human-generated climate change have caused so many people to despair, this story — written in land, sea, and sky — also gives us a reason to hope.
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Places You Can Go with Spanish

by Estifanos (age 6), of California, U.S.A.

I was looking through “The Travel Book,” and I wondered how many countries I could visit, if I only knew how to speak Spanish.  I counted 21 different countries. Things that I would really like to go do and see, if I could only go to places where people speak Spanish, are:

  • Boat out to Isla del Sol, home of the ancient Incas, on Lake Titicaca (the world’s highest lake), in Bolivia;
  • Paddle through a maze of jungle canals, thick with wildlife, in Costa Rica;
  • Go wildlife watching in the Galapagos Islands, in Ecuador;
  • Go surfing at Punta Roca, in El Salvador;
  • See lost Mayan temples climbing above the jungle canopy at Tikal, in Guatemala;
  • Feel the breeze of a billion butterfly wings at Reserva Mariposa Monarca, in Mexico;
  • Climb Cerro Negro, then sand-board down its soft slopes, in Nicaragua;
  • Visit Machu Picchu, in Peru!!!!!!!!!;
  • Swim in the shallow, sandy beaches of Palomino Island, in Puerto Rico; and
  • Visit Gaudi’s Barcelona, in Spain — and of course, see a Barcelona soccer match while we are there.

The countries that have Spanish as an official language are:

In Central America:  Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama

In South America:  Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela

In the Caribbean:  Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico

In Europe:  Spain

In Africa: Equatorial Guinea

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Places you can go with French

by Estifanos (age 6), of California, U.S.A.

I was looking through “The Travel Book,” and I wondered how many countries I could visit, if I only knew how to speak French, because I’m studying French on Rosetta Stone.  I counted 34 different countries.

Things that I would really like to go do and see, if I could only go to places where people speak French, are:

  • Eat a hundred pieces of chocolate in Belgium;
  • Watch a football (soccer) game in Burundi;
  • Learn Congolese traditional dancing and drumming in the Republic of Congo;
  • Stand on the “Bridge of Lava,” which is the thinnest part of the Earth’s crust, in Djibouti;
  • See fire dancers at a traditional Bwiti initiation ceremony, in Gabon;
  • Hunt for sleeping chameleons in the trees, at night, in Madagascar;
  • Swim in a natural swimming pool after a lobster lunch on Ile des Pins, in New Caledonia;
  • Go cross-country skiing in the Alps, in Switzerland;
  • Hike through cocoa and coffee plantations, in Togo; and
  • Swim through an underwater world of sunken ships, caves, and coral reefs, in Vanuatu.

The countries that have French as an official language are:

In North America:  Canada

In South America:  French Guiana

In the Atlantic Ocean:  Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique

In Europe:  Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Monaco, Switzerland

In Africa:  Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo

In the Indian Ocean:  Comoros & Mayotte, Madagascar, Seychelles

In the Pacific Ocean:  New Caledonia, Tahiti & French Polynesia, Vanuatu

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