Friday, October 30, 2009

Similar celebrations...

One of the things World Blog Surf Day does is show how cultures have lots of things in common holidays are no different. First there is the cooking and baking that must be done. Some things prepared in advance, others closer to the time but all according to secrets passed through the generations. Second is the cleaning. Everything must be cleaned, dusted, polished; ready for the next step. This is the visiting. Aunts, uncles, grandparents or parents must be visited and visitors must be welcomed into shining houses smelling of baking and delicious food.

In Ireland Christmas is the biggest celebration. Pudding, cake, trifle and mince pies prepared in advance; turkey, ham and roast potatoes on the day. My mother washing the kitchen floor at 1am when everyone else is in bed waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. Visiting my aunt and then on St Stephen’s Day the whole of my mother’s family coming for dinner. My mother spent both days in a panic of cooking and only rested by leaving my father to do the washing up!

In Turkey there are two celebrations that require similar preparation; Ramazan Bayram and Kurban Bayram. Ramazan Bayram marks the end of Ramazan, the Muslim month of fasting and is an orgy of food and sweets. Children must kiss the hands of their elders to celebrate the day and receive their allotment of sweets. Family visits are mandatory and can take up all three days of the holiday. My daughter was born on the first morning of Ramazan and as I struggled to keep some dignity the hospital board visited the ward giving chocolates to all the new mothers. I think it was the only time I ever turned down chocolate. There is Turkish delight, lokum, chocolate, boiled sweets, and of course baklava, layers of paper-thin pastry brushed with butter, sprinkled with nuts and drenched in syrup. The days beforehand involve terrific cleaning and preparing stuffed grape or cabbage leaves, borek a savoury pastry, and lots of dishes that can be served with tea.

Kurban Bayram is the sacrifice festival when animals are slaughtered and the meat divided between family, neighbours and poor people. Accompanying the sweets neighbours drop in with plates of fresh meat. While the councils set up special slaughter houses, some people prefer to do it themselves, killing animals on roadside verges, roundabouts and any other common ground. Inevitably some animal makes a break for it, causing havoc as it runs through crowded city streets.

Now on to Martin at Bulgarian Silvatree for the next stop on the World Blog Surf Day.

Thanks to Karen, an American expat blogger last seen in Prague, for being the World Blog Surf Day reporter. The Wall Street Journal said, "Her blog, Empty Nest Expat, makes a fun read for anyone looking for reassurance that change can be a wonderful thing--and also for anyone interested in visiting the Czech Republic.

And of course a big, big thank you to Sher at Czech Off the Beaten Path for arranging the World Blog Surf Day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

And Now the Good News!

Sharon and Hilda have been freed!

Yesterday in the early hours of the morning they were finally released. They have been given medical attention, but are in good health, and Sharon will be flown home today on the government jet arriving in Dublin tonight.

It is such a tremendous relief for everyone. In an interview with the Irish Times Sharon is calm and eloquent as ever.

So happy for Sharon, Hilda and their families!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Friend in Need...

A few months back we went on holidays and other than checking Facebook and Twitter occasionally I didn't keep up with any news at all. It was nice to be ignorant for a while. I did notice my friend Claire kept refering to 'Sharon' and hoping she was well. For some unknown reason I figured that Sharon must be a cousin of Claire's and must be sick. A few weeks went by and still there was the odd referral to Sharon and hoping for good news. Oh dear, I thought, Sharon must be pretty unwell. And that was it, the full extent of my concern.

Back at home I spent a bit more time online and through some random surfing ended up at Random Irish News about to read an article about an Irish charity worker kidnapped in Darfur. I nearly fell off the chair before I got through the headline as I knew the girl in the picture. She'd been in school with me and her name is Sharon. Suddenly all of Claire's references to Sharon made sense. It was three weeks after the kidnapping.

Sharon was working for GOAL, a development agency set up by a former sports journalist, John O'Shea. Sharon had been in Darfur for eighteen months when the GOAL compound was raided and she and co-worker Hilda Kawuki from Uganda were kidnapped at gunpoint on the 3rd of July.

Since then over a hundred days have passed and Sharon has celebrated her birthday in captivity. The kidnappers demanded a ransom and the Sudanese government have refused to pay as it would endanger the lives of other aid workers in the region. There were rumours that Sharon and Hilda would be released at the end of Ramadan but they were false. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has travelled to Sudan and there is an Irish delegation in the region trying to secure the release of the two women. Sharon has been allowed to phone her family a few times. School friends have set up the Facebook page Freedom for Sharon.

This week a mass was celebrated in Sharon's parish church of St Gabriel's in Clontarf and an ecumenical service was held in the ProCathedral in Dublin. But there is still no sign of the women being released. And as time goes on, it becomes easier for people to forget.

I think about Sharon a lot these days, far more than in the intervening ten years since school finished I'll be honest. I keep wondering what I can do and I can't come up with any answers. But that doesn't mean I'll stop trying to find something more I can do.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Break in Service...

It's been a while I know but life has been busy lately. I've been going to driving school in the mornings and have had several school meetings in the afternoons. We had Ramadan and the holiday at the end of it too. My written driving exam is coming up toward the end of the month and my parents are coming for a visit after that. I'm also participating in another World Blog Surf Day on the 31 October.

Anyway I'll be posting more regularly from now on so keep tuning in!