September 1 – Anniversary of the Start of the Armed Struggles in Eritrea

Posted on September 1, 2014

I have written about patriotic holidays in so many countries and territories around the world, I keep thinking that I've covered them all...but I still haven't!

Today's country is fairly small (a little bit larger than Ohio). It is located in the Horn of Africa, between Sudan and Ethiopia, with a nice, long coastline along the Red Sea.

With official languages of Tigrinya, Arabic, and English, and with nine different ethnic groups (the majority are Tigrinya), the nation is diverse—but it voted almost unanimously to be independent of Ethiopia. But Ethiopia did not feel the same way—hence the “armed struggles.”

Rather than show you grisly
pictures of a 30-year war, I
thought I would just show you
some of the beauties of Eritrea.
Way back in 1890, Italians colonized Eritrea and nearby “Italian Somaliland.” During World War II, in 1936, Italian forces invaded and occupied Eritrea's large southern neighbor, Ethiopia. When Allied forces liberated the African regions, in 1941, Ethiopia once again became an independent nation with its ancient monarchy. Italian Somaliland remained under Italian rule – but as a United Nations protectorate, not as a colony. (In 1960, Italian Somaliland joined British Somaliland to form an independent nation, Somalia.) And what happened to Eritrea?

Eritrea was made a British protectorate from the end of World War II until 1951, Britain proposed dividing the nation in two, with the mostly-Islam northwest regions given to Sudan and the mostly-Christian southeast regions given to Ethiopia. (Don't you love how often European and American forces divvied up other countries, no matter what the people living there wanted or needed? Aack!)

From what I can tell, this controversial idea was not used, but the U.N., prompted by the U.S., did “federate” Eritrea with Ethiopia. Soon Ethiopia was not only occupying Eritrea, it was passing laws establishing the compulsory teaching of its main language, Amharic, in all Eritrean schools and otherwise showing the Eritreans “who's the boss.”

It seems pretty natural to me that many Eritreans fought back against this takeover, and on this date in 1961, violence between Ethiopian governmental forces and Eritrean separatists broke out. It was the start of a 30-year war!

Finally, in 1991, the UN supervised a “referendum” (vote) in which almost every single citizen voted for independence. And finally it did win its independence and recognition as a separate nation from other countries in the world.

Now Eritreans celebrate both the beginning and the end of this war. Today is the anniversary of the beginning, and May 24 is Independence Day, celebrating the 1991 takeover of the capital, Asmara, from Ethiopian forces.

Why, oh why?

We often scratch our heads over war, wondering why anyone would go to war over _________ [fill in the blank]. But in this case, I can to some extent imagine why Eritreans were sick of other people taking over their country and insisting that they speak some OTHER language, other than their own... Still, I wonder why, oh why would it be worthwhile for Ethiopia to fight the Eritreans for thirty long years?

Take a peek at this map of Ethiopia to find out why:

Ethiopia is totally landlocked! It has no access to a sea or ocean. Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia block it from the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden on the north, and Somalia and Kenya block it from the Indian Ocean on the south and east.

As a matter of fact, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked nation in the entire world.

Actually, Eritrea's location on the Red Sea explains a lot of the invasions and colonizations it experienced: South Arabians came to conquer, along with Ottoman Turks, Portuguese, Egyptians, British, and Italians. Especially once the Suez Canal was built giving ships access from the Mediterranean to the Red Seas, Eritrea was in a very strategic position.

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August 31 – Independence Day in Kyrgyzstan

Posted on August 31, 2014

Another “-stan” nation that used to be part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Kyrgyzstan is landlocked and mountainous and politically unstable.

Like most of the nations that became independent when the USSR broke apart, Kyrgyzstan declared its independence in 1991. Since then there have been ethnic and political party conflicts, two different “colored revolutions,” and general unrest.

You may be wondering, what's a ”colored revolution?”

These are widespread movements that have used nonviolent resistance such as demonstrations and strikes to protest authoritarian and corrupt governments. Students tend to big in these protest movements. The reason that they are called “colored” is because each revolution adopted a flower or color as its symbol. From the Yellow Revolution in the Philippines in 1986 to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004 Lotus Revolution in Egypt in 2011, there have been many of these movements worldwide.

Kyrgyzstan's colored revolution is called the Tulip Revolution, or sometimes the Pink Revolution. It rose up in response to an unfair election in 2005, and unfortunately it was more violent than many colored revolutions. It suffered from less communication and coordination, with students in one area adopting the color pink as a symbol and students in another area adopting yellow.

Still, the movement did succeed in forcing the president to resign, and a new government was formed. However, the capital was looted during the demonstrations, and the new government fell prey to conflicts between various factions and, probably, a connection to organized crime.

There were more protests in 2010, and another president eventually left his job (and the country). Unfortunately, the transitional government was not able to control the violent clashes occurring around the country, and the nation seems to be hanging onto its status as a parliamentary republic by a thread.


Horse riding is important in Kyrgyz culture. It is said that Zyrgyz people are born on a horse, and an ancient proverb maintains that horses are the “wings of the Kyrgyz.”

One reason that the horse is so important is that the traditional Kyrgyz life is nomadic, and people go from place to place with their herds and their horses and their yurts.

The national sports of Kyrgyzstan reflect the importance of horses in that culture. In one sport, teams of horse riders wrestle for possession of the headless carcass of a goat; in another, riders try to shoot at and break a thread, dropping a metal jumby to the ground, as they gallop by. In one sport a man chases a girl to win a kiss, and in another riders try to pick up a coin on the ground while at full gallop.

Tourists often take treks across the
beautiful Kyrgyz landscapes on horseback.

Also on this date:

  Independence Day in Trinidad and Tobago

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August 30 – Constitution Day in the Turks and Caicos

Posted on August 30, 2014

I thought I had written about every single island nation in the Caribbean Sea and the nearby portions of the Atlantic Ocean...but there are so many! The Turks and Caicos Islands are an autonomous overseas territory of Great Britain, celebrating self-rule and a written constitution since August 1976.

I was surprised to read that Canadian government leaders have on occasion expressed interest in annexing the Turks and Caicos. Like, several occasions: in 1917, 1974, 1980s, and 2013. Obviously, I'm not talking armed invasion here; instead, I'm talking about leaders of Canada nicely approaching leaders of the Turks and Caicos, and inviting them to join the nation (or T&C leaders approaching Canada).

The Turks and Caicos Islands includes eight main islands and more than 299 smaller islands. Most of the islands are fairly flat, made of limestone, and covered with marshes and mangrove swamps. The weather is generally sunny and fairly dry – but with a high chance of hurricanes during the season (official hurricane season in the Caribbean is June 1 to November 30...although a few hurricanes occur in May and December).

Apparently, the Turks and Caicos
have the only commercial conch
farm in the world.

The T&C Islands feature lots of gorgeous beaches, of course, and also coral reefs and diving and snorkeling and kayaking and all the other lovely things one can do with water! Tourists can visit conch farms and lighthouses, go on a whale watching trip or an eco-safari, tour former cotton plantations or swim in one of the largest pools in the Caribbean...

Learn more about conchs here.

Also on this date:

Frankenstein author Mary Shelley's birthday

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August 29 – More Herbs, Less Salt Day

Posted on August 29, 2014

Heart health and taste buds agree: we should all be eating more herbs and less salt.

Most herbs belong to one of two families:

The Mint Family

lemon balm

The Carrot Family
cilantro (aka coriander)

However, let us not forget that onions and garlic (along with chives, shallots, and leeks) are super important flavor providers that sometimes are classified as vegetables and sometimes as spices (garlic powder or onion salt, for example). You can use more of them and less salt, too, as you work to obtain more flavor and better health!

Celebrate herbs!

  • Learn about the best herbs for certain kinds of dishes. For example, seafood is delicious with a blend of fennel, dill, parsley, and tarragon, whereas poultry is especially yummy with a blend of sage, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, nutmeg, and black pepper. 

Here are some unexpected herb suggestions from Mass Appeal:

  1. Mix poultry seasoning in with ground beef when making hamburgers.
  2. Add ginger powder to the yolks when making deviled eggs.
  3. For a potato salad that has no hardboiled eggs, add lemon zest OR mint to the salad.

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August 28 – Crazy Computer Holidays

Posted on August 28, 2014

Today we celebrate two different computer-related holidays: Crackers Over the Keyboard Day and Race Your Mouse Around the Icons Day.

For Crackers Over the Keyboard Day, we are dared to eat crackers and other crumbly food right over our keyboards – but only in jest, I hope. It's SO not a good idea!

For Race Your Mouse Around the Icons Day, we are encouraged to spend the moments when something is downloading, uploading, or otherwise hourglassing or pinwheeling our computer, instead of just sitting there patiently, by using our mouse to dart around all over our monitors and desktops, trying to “touch” every icon. 

I'm not positive this is such a great bright idea, either. When we do unnecessary computer stuff while impatiently waiting for our computer to do some other stuff...well, maybe it slows the first, important task down?

I don't know that – I'm asking!

When I say "nurture your computer"...
I wasn't thinking of cuddling it!
Instead of torturing your computer today, maybe you could do a 180 reversal on the holiday names and spend the day nurturing your computer.

    this is what my cool wireless mouse
    looks like...It looks like the future!
  • Go wireless, if you can! I love my wireless mouse and keyboard!

Also on this date:

Anniversary of MLK's “I Have a Dream” speech

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