Places You Can Go with Spanish

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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 French 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

Places you can go with French

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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

Ethnic Dance Festival

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

Yesterday, and last Sunday, I went to the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival at the San Francisco Opera House.  The theatre had golden decorations on the walls, and comfortable cloth seats. We saw eighteen music and dance performances, from: Peru, Hawaii, Cuba, Japan, Philippines, Iran, China, Mexico, India, Spain, Congo, Mozambique, Brazil, and Tahiti.  My favorite dances were the ones from Brazil, Mexico, Tahiti, and the Congo.

The Brazilian dancers (Fogo Na Roupa Performing Company) did a lot of gymnastic jumping and kicking moves.  Their costumes  were very bright, with patterned colors in red and yellow and gold. And there was a kind of parade with a king and queen and a giant umbrella. The music was very loud.

The dances from Mexico (Ballet Folklorico Mexico Danza) were folkloric dances that seemed to tell stories about what it was like in the Mexican Revolution.  The costumes had many, many bright colors, like yellow, blue, red, and green, and they had pretend guns and swords.  Some dancers also had stuffed costumes that looked like pretend horses that they were riding. The part that I liked most about the Mexican dance was the men and women in costumes dancing with big skirts and tuxedo tails.

The Tahitian dance (Te Mana O Te Ra) had a lot of women moving their hips really fast, in circles, around and around, and back and front. They wore yellow grass skirts with black stripes that swayed when they danced. How do they do that?! Imagining it makes me feel dizzy!

The dances from the Congo (Bitezo Bia Kongo) started with drumming. Four men were drumming on hand drums bigger than me, that were hanging between their legs, from shoulder straps. They looked heavy. The drummers even danced while they were drumming! Then, the dancers came out. They jumped a lot, and played other small percussion instruments. They also moved their hips like the Tahitian dancers, only slower. If I could, I would like to learn to drum and dance like the men from the Congo!

Places you can go with English

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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 English.  I counted 68 different countries that have English as an official language!

Things that I would really like to go do and see, if I could only go to places with English, are:

  • Go island hopping by mail boat in the Bahamas;
  • Swim on a pink sand beach in Bermuda;
  • Visit penguins on Carcass Island, in the Falkland Islands;
  • Learn African drumming in Serekunda, in Gambia;
  • Listen to Irish traditional music in a pub, in Ireland;
  • Ride a bamboo raft to Somerset Falls, in Jamaica;
  • Go salt-water fly-fishing for dinner, in Kiribati;
  • Hunt for dinosaur footprints near Morija, in Lesotho;
  • See pygmy hippos in Sapo National Park, in Liberia;
  • Sail in an ocean-going canoe in the Marshall Islands;
  • Zip-line over Riviere Des Galets to see the waterfalls, in Mauritius;
  • Slide down garnet-laced sand dunes near Terrace Bay, in Namibia;
  • Spot elephants, lions, and hippos in Gashaka-Gumti Park, in Nigeria;
  • Snokel in Jellyfish Lake, in Palau;
  • See birds of paradise in Varirata National Park, in Papua New Guinea;
  • See mountain gorillas in the rainforest of Volcanoes National Park, in Rwanda;
  • Eat a lobster dinner in Frigate Bay, in Saint Kitts & Nevis;
  • Visit the stone-age village of Skara Brae, in Scotland;
  • Play “Swiss Family Robinson” on the deserted outer islands of Seychelles;
  • Learn traditional East African dances, and eat Maridi honey, in South Sudan;
  • Swim with humpback whales, in Tonga;
  • Learn to play the two-ball, team sport, “Te Ano,” in Tuvalu;
  • Visit the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C., in the United States;
  • Kayak through tunnels and caves, to the underground lake of Valeva, in Vanuatu;
  • Kayak through mangroves on the wild end of Saint Thomas, in the Virgin Islands;
  • Watch cheetahs hunting puku, in Zambia; and
  • Hike to see dinosaur fossils, in Zimbabwe.

The countries that have English as an official language are:

In North America:  Canada, United States

In Central America:  Belize

In South America:  Guyana

In the Atlantic Ocean:  Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Falkland Islands, Grenada, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos, Virgin Islands

In Europe:  England, Ireland, Malta, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales

In Africa:  Botswana, Cameroon, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

In Asia:  India, Pakistan, Singapore

In the Indian Ocean:  Mauritius, Seychelles

In the Pacific Ocean:  Cook Islands, Fiji, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Soloman Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu

And Australia!

Lesson from a Mama Woodrat

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

We’ve been working over the past dozen plus years on a Native California ecosystem restoration project on our 1/3-acre property, and over the past two years, developing an organic fruit/veggie mini-farm, with small growing areas interspersed with the native habitat area. So, we are both providing for ourselves, and the wildlife. Last week, we discovered a nest with five baby grey-brown rats, and a mama rat in attendance.

Rats!!!

I am sure that popular opinion is that their first appearance should be met immediately with the Dalek-like exclamation: “EXTERMINATE!” followed by outright war. Especially when one is seen among human food-growing beds. As farmers we only wanted to keep them out of our food. As parents of a young child, we were also concerned with the safety against disease-vector potential for our inquisitive boy.

But as druids, we also wanted to respect the life of a devoted mother with newborn babies.  She was trying so hard to be a GOOD mother. And her babies barely had eyes open. And they were put here by Nature, just as I was. And Nature does have a way of keeping pests in balance: owls, hawks, coyotes, etc.

Our solution: we waited until afternoon, when the temps had cooled a bit, and daylight was still strong. Then, we removed the “roof” of their nesting place (boards covering the underground watering system controls), to make them feel exposed and uncomfortable — but with a running head-start before our resident owls go hunting tonight. Then, we went in to dinner. By the time dinner was over, mama rat had relocated her babies to a less inconvenient location for us.

Or so we thought.

The following day, in bright, sunny, blistering heat, I saw the mama out and about, hunting for food and/or water with an air of desperation (they are normally nocturnal) — around the perimeter of our blueberry patch.  She still had not managed to find her way through our veggie-bed hardware-cloth cages, but she was studying them, and I do believe she was working out the math.

So, what was a Druid to do?

Answer: Refuse to panic or take action in a knee-jerk response prompted by fear. Instead, adopt a meditative state of carefully observant, reverent behavior, and consider all options. Watch and listen, and phrase our questions carefully:

NOT: “Eeeek! What is it!?! How do I get rid of it?!?”

BUT: “Hello! Who are you? Why did you come here? What are you trying to accomplish? Can we find a way to live and work peaceably, together?”

It was only upon taking this approach that we discovered, upon closer inspection, that we did not actually have a brown RAT (Rattus Norvegicus — below, on right), but a dusky-footed WOOD RAT (Neotoma Fuscipes — below, on left). And the difference is huge — even though they look very similar, at first glance:

Neotoma Fuscipes (California dusky-footed woodrats) are solitary creatures, except during breeding (once or twice per year), whereas Rattus Norvegicus (brown rats) species live in groups, and breed continuously.

Neotoma Fuscipes are clean animals, pooping only outside of their nests, in dedicated latrines, and using partly-chewn leaves of aromatic plants like Bay Laurel, to keep their nests free of parasites like fleas (and the diseases they carry), whereas Rattus species are dirty animals, and pose serious disease-vector problems.

Neotoma Fuscipes has an important role in our local ecology, eating leaves and acorns, and fungi, and thereby spreading the mycorrhizae critical to the health and longevity of the native plants of our area, whereas rattus species are merely pests and dangers, eating everyone’s gardens, garbage, and pet food.

Finally, Neotoma Fuscipes are just plain PRETTIER than Rattus species: bigger ears and eyes, softer, glossier coats, and furry tails.

More info on the Neotoma Fuscipes can be found at:

http://www.friendsofedgewood.org/dusky-footed-woodrat

Yes, she might eat a bit of our veggies, now and  again, but she is unlikely to breed out of control, or spread diseases to her neighbors (us). So, Mama Wood Rat is welcome to stay.

With our blessings.

World-Game: Mexico

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

  1. Country: MexicoMexico Flag
  2. Food people eat: Pancakes (I saw this in the “Families of the World” documentary on Mexico.)

  3. Animal that lives there: Rabbit
  4. Food that animal eats: Grass
  5. What eats that animal: Beaded Lizard (I saw a Mexican Beaded Lizard eat a rabbit, on David Attenborough’s “Dragons of the Dry” episode of the BBC documentary series “Life in Cold Blood.”)

  6. Climate/Biome: Arid Desert & Grassland
  7. City: Mexico City
  8. Game or sport: Football (Soccer)

    Mexico's_Men's_National_Team_1

    Photo by Victor Araiza

Lesson from Mr. & Mrs. Bewick Wren

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

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A few weeks ago, the tiniest little Bewick wren I ever saw flew out of a bush and sat on the fence while I snipped some kale for dinner, peeping at me continually, to let me know that this bit of the yard was his, that he was watching me, and that he was NOT AFRAID of me! I wondered: should I be afraid of him?

So I introduced myself, and reassured him that I would never harm him or his family, and that he was welcome to my mini-farm as hunting ground.

A couple of weeks later, I discovered that he and the Mrs. had discovered that they can squeeze through the holes of our 1″ mesh hardware cloth (which protects our crops from rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and crows), and inside, they have found a completely protected location in which to vacuum up pest bugs for us. Top tier restaurant dining, that!

This morning, they came to our garden with their kid.  The three of them feeding voraciously on the caterpillars that have started pestering our caged and ripening blueberries.  Mr. Bewick even came by the window to peek in and say hello.

This is the essence of a thriving gift-economy at work: we work to offer them a protected hunting ground in the mini-farm area of our yard, and nesting sites in the restored native ecosystem; they work to keep the pest population down for us.  A lovely alliance.

**THE LOVELY PHOTO ABOVE IS BY MINETTE LAYNE, VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS. MY WRENS REFUSED TO SIT STILL FOR PHOTOGRAPHS.

Lesson from a Redwood Grandmother

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

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Earlier this week, I drove through a wall of fog to visit the coast redwoods of Muir Woods. They were sparkling in the full glory of their pale-green new growth for the year. And one of them beckoned me to touch her, and learn the reason why she lived so long: though the bulk of her body was strong and tall and tough and protective, her new growth was not merely pliable (as in other evergreens I have met), but the softest, most delicate plant tissue I have ever encountered — far softer than a human infant’s skin. It was like touching warm water. Fluid, gentle, inviting.

It is an odd combination of qualities of character that I think humans would do well to cultivate, too.

Estifanos’ World-Game

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

I have an idea for a new game:

Each person takes a turn, and has to name, from memory:

  1. The name of a country;
  2. A food that people eat there;
  3. An animal that lives there;
  4. A food that that animal eats;
  5. Something that eats that animal;
  6. The climate/biome that they live in;
  7. The name of a city there;
  8. The name of a sport or game that is played there.

If a person cannot think of a complete set, they can ask for help, or try again, try again.