Dances from Ireland

by Estifanos (age 7), of California, U.S.A.

The first time I saw Irish dancing, it was watching a video of the very first performance of Riverdance, on the Eurovision Song Contest:

I thought that it was a mind-blowing performance because the dancers did the footwork super good, so that it sounded like every one of the dancers were hitting the floor together. To me, it sounded like their feet were making a kind of percussion music along with the drums and the synthesizer music. That made me want to know more about Irish dancing.

Next, I took Irish dance classes, to find out how people did the footwork, to make the different noises with their feet.

The classes were okay, but I didn’t like that it was so loud in the dance studio.

After that, I watched a documentary about kids who were learning Irish dance. The youngest kid was probably about ten years old. The oldest was probably about twenty-one. The documentary was called, “Jig.” Here is the trailer:

I think that Irish dance is interesting because I like the costumes, and the hard-shoe rhythms.

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Food in China

by Estifanos (age 7), of California, U.S.A.

This week, mom and I looked for recipes from China, because my grandmother came from China, and I wanted to know more about the foods from there. China has different foods in different areas. The northern, the southern, the eastern, and western parts of China all have different foods because they have different climates, tastes, and cultures.  Some areas have a lot of water, which you need to grow rice. Other areas have dry grasslands, which are good for raising cattle and growing wheat. Some areas have rivers, or are next to the ocean, so they can have a lot of fish and sea food like jellyfish, shrimp, and octopus. We found this map of China, showing different food regions.

The two dishes we made at home were fried mixtures of different meats and vegetables. One had ground chicken meat, chopped spinach, chopped scallions, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper. The other one had ground pork meat, whole shrimps, chopped mushrooms, chopped scallions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper. We didn’t really measure anything; we just kept adding stuff until we like the taste. We served both dishes over white rice. I liked the one with pork and shrimp and mushrooms, best.

My favorite Chinese dish that I like to eat, when we go out with my grandparents and uncle for dim-sum is: rice noodles with jellyfish, in some kind of bean sauce. I don’t really know what is in the sauce, but it is on the border between being sweet and spicy-hot, and I liked it from the very first time I tasted it. But I don’t like to eat jellyfish when they’re alive; they might sting my mouth!


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Yellow-Faced Bumble Bees

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

About the middle of January, I started seeing these bumble bees visiting the blueberry bushes in our front yard and the manzanita bushes in the back yard, getting pollen from the flowers. They make A LOT of noise when there are a lot of them buzzing around your head, so we wondered what kind of bees they were. I looked in the Kaufman “Field Guide to Insects of North America,” and found out that they are called yellow-faced bumble bees. These bumble bees live in the area between southern Canada and Baja California, along the west coast of the United States. They look like this:

I’m not very fond of bees, and so I wanted to know where their nest was, so I wouldn’t get stung. Mama found this video about bumble bees, that I found very interesting and very very amazing. The amazing thing I want to tell about was that a bee drove a mouse out of its home, so that the bee could own it instead! Since these bees nest underground, I think we should put a big rock near the entrance so that we remember not to go too close.



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Dollar Street – A Culture Study Resource

by Larisa White of California, U.S.A.

I just stumbled upon a wonderful new resource for the study of world cultures, which is every bit as vivid and informative as are the “Families of the World” documentaries described on our Culture Study Documentaries page.  In this case, the resource is a web-site, which enables you to search sets of photographs of family life in different countries, for a range of different socio-economic levels within each of those countries, to get a feel “on your skin” of what life might be like to live in each of those places.  The web site can be found here:

Dollar Street

The TED talk, in which its creator, Anna Rosling Rönnlund discusses the project’s creation and its potential uses, can be viewed here:


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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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