June 30 - Revolution Day in Sudan

Posted on June 30, 2019

Today is the anniversary of a bloodless coup in Sudan, in 1989.

I always like the sound of a "bloodless coup" - not as good as a peaceful transfer of power through an election, of course, but way better than a years-long, bloody civil war.

However, when Colonel Omar al-Bashir took over the government of Sudan, there was nothing but bad news for the Sudanese people. His military government suspended political parties and made the country into a dictatorship. The country became a theocracy, with Islamic law ruling everyone, including non-Muslims. Independent newspapers were gone, separate branches of government were gone, and political figures, journalists, and even officers in the army were imprisoned or executed.

There was more and more bad news, including the War in Darfur, a genocide, state-sponsored terrorism, repression of anyone who opposed the government. South Sudan broke away from the rest of the nation in 2011, and the economy - which was bad before all of this started, so long ago, became even worse.

This year, in April of 2019, al-Bashir's government was finally overthrown, and al-Bashir was arrested. A state of emergency was declared - and although al-Bashir is finally out of power, people still don't have what they need, and protesters are still being mistreated and arrested. 

A protest has been called for today - we'll see what happens!

And now...good stuff about Sudan:

There are fascinating historical sites, like the Pyramids of Meroe.

There is amazing wildlife.


The Jebel Marra Volcano looks a bit like a 2-eyed (green-eyed!) monster, from above.

Camels look amazing when walking through the turquoise waters of the Red Sea.

Speaking of the turquoise waters of the Red Sea:

Also on this date:




(Last weekend in June)

(Last Sunday in June)

Plan ahead:

Check out my Pinterest boards for:

June 29 - International Day of the Tropics

Posted on June 29, 2019

We all know what "tropical" means, right?

Lush jungles and turquoise beaches, sweet fruit and colorful flowers, exotic birds and warm, steamy days - all year long. 

Yes on all counts! 

But also...

Some of the places that fall within the tropics (between the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere and the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere) are very dry - deserts or beaches or rocky areas with warm-to-hot temperatures and little rainfall. Some places within the tropics are high mountains with cool-to-cold temperatures. 

The tropics are defined as the areas of the world that flank the Equator. They are defined as the areas that have the sun straight overhead at least one day of the year (and therefore the tropics are roughly the same degrees latitude as the Earth's tilt. 

Even though the climate in the various areas within the tropics varies because of altitude, the ocean's effect on weather, and other factors, the fact that these regions have more direct sunlight all year long means that most tropical regions are warm or even hot, and most don't have hot / cold differences in their seasons. Instead, many tropical zones have wet / dry seasons.
Areas that have jungles - or, we usually say, tropical rainforests - don't have dry seasons; rain falls all year long.

The tropics are super important to all of us. First, all the plants in tropical rainforests sop up carbon dioxide and release oxygen - so they make the air breathable and fight global warming. Of course, tropical rainforests are also important sources of foods (I read that around 80% of the world's food originated from rainforest plants!) and medicines, and the rainforest plant roots hold the soil and prevent erosion.

Also, more than a third of the Earth's land surface falls within the tropics, and it is home to about 40% of the world's population! Much of the world's biodiversity is found there, and much of humanity's cultural diversity is, as well.

The tropics face challenges - pollution, deforestation, overpopulation, climate change, loss of biodiversity, poverty, disease, and uneven access to food and clean water. Today's the day to raise awareness of these problems and of the importance of the tropical regions to the entire world. And maybe even do something?

June 28 - Vidovdan in Serbia

Posted on June 28, 2019

This religious holiday is also a national holiday. According to the Serbian Orthodox Church, June 28 is the feast day of St. Vitus (on the Gregorian calendar, that is), but Vitus was from Sicily (in Italy) and doesn't seem to have much connection with Serbia. But on this date in 1389 (actually, June 15 on the Julian calendar), there was a huge Battle of Kosovo between Serbians led by Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović and an invading army representing the Ottoman Empire.

Apparently both armies managed to wipe out most of the other. It was a terrible lose-lose situation. But the Serbs lost out much more, because they didn't have loads more people to defend them against the Ottoman. The huge loss of life managed to slow down the invasion - but it didn't stop it.

Prince Lazar and the others who died that day are considered martyrs and heroes. 

Because of the importance of this date, Vidovdan was chosen as the day to declare war against the Ottoman Empire in 1876 - after centuries of Ottoman rule!

Coincidentally, the Austro-Hungarian crown prince happened to be visiting Sarajevo, a city in the same region as Serbia, when he was assassinated on Vidovdan of 1914. That assassination led to World War I, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria worked together against everyone else. 

The Treaty of Versailles was also signed on this date - ending World War I.

With all of that important history, of course Vidovdan was selected as the date for important speeches and proclamations since WWI!

Here are some interesting things to see in Serbia (all of them having to do with rivers!):

Golubac Fortress has 10 different towers protecting three compounds; the thick stone walls have withstood many wars and attacks. But in 1964, a dam was constructed that caused flooding along the Danube River - and that submerged some of the outer walls of the fortress!

Speaking of rivers and "submerged," here's a building that HASN'T been submerged, as unlikely as it seems:

Apparently this little cabin (which is private property) was actually built by the owner and his friends on a rock in the middle of the Drina River. They rowed all the building materials out to the rock by boat, and of course one has to take a boat (or dare to swim in the swift currents) to get there.

Even though the level of the river goes up and down over the course of the year, and despite rainstorms and wind, the cabin has stayed on its unlikely perch for more than 40 years!

And one more river sight:

The Meanders are tight twisting turns made by the Uvac River as it cut its way through a limestone bed. The canyon walls are up to 328 feet (100 meters) high above the water - so you cannot really check out the twisty path except from the air.

By the way, the previously endangered griffon vulture is now thriving in the Uvac River Valley, because conservation groups have set up large "outdoor restaurants" for the vultures there. 

What does a restaurant for vultures serve? The waste from slaughterhouses! Yick!