Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying Turkmenistan

When I started taking the kids on a pretend trip around the world every summer, I envisioned doing countries like France, China, and Japan. You know, countries I knew the location of.

But that's apparently not what my kids had in mind, because they chose Turkmenistan for this week. Which meant we all had a lot to learn.

I've included links to the resources we used to learn; please feel free to use them! Some of the links are affiliate links, which means if you buy anything using them I receive a small commission for referring you.


Monday


Turkmenistan is just a little larger than the state of California.
The kids located it on the oversized wall map and filled out the passport pages I made for them. On the passport pages, there are spaces to write what the capital is, what the bordering countries and waters are, that kind of thing.

But I also ask them to design a visa, like you'd get in your actual passport when you traveled there for real. Here's my son's:

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

He did that because Turkeminstan, once part of the USSR, is now a communist dictatorship whose first "president for life" has been compared to Kim Jong Un. Which, we learned last summer when studying North Korea, is bad.

Next up was the flag of Turkmenistan, one of the most complicated flags known to man. I literally laughed out loud when I looked it up the night before to see what they would have to draw this time:

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Sheer ridiculousness.

There's a lot of symbolism to the Turkmen flag, obviously, and a good place for the kids to read about some of it is here.

While they were drawing the flag for 100 hours, we listened to Turkmenistan's national anthem under the USSR, and then the current national anthem written by the president for life.

Making the cuisine of another country is always the hardest part of these weeks for me, mostly because I'm not a good cook and I don't enjoy cooking. But I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Turkmen cuisine is really easy and I actually enjoyed it.

For lunch, we made somsas. They're kind of like a Turkmen version of Chinese dumplings. The kids liked folding them into triangles and the 2-year-old helped put them on the pan.

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

They were gone in about three minutes.


Tuesday


One of the most interesting things about Turkmenistan is that it's the only religious dictatorship I've ever heard of. Which means that an interesting type of communism and Islam are practiced there.

Backing up a little, we read The Fall of the Soviet Union to review what happened before Turkmenistan became independent.

During the Soviet era, mosques were closed and religious observance was banned, but when The Great Leader Saparmurat Turkmenbashi (seriously, that's what the president for life called himself) took over he made great efforts to bring Islam back.

He even wrote a book called the Rukhnama, a moral treatise that he required be placed alongside the Quran in all mosques and is the textbook in schools. Even more amazingly, our library had a copy and we checked it out. Can you believe that??

We finished by watching this video on the spread of world religions:


And that night, another tasty and simple recipe for dinner followed. I made Turkmen pilaf and it was delicious.

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Wednesday


Since Turkmen is only spoken by about 4 million people, it's a little hard to find resources on. But I tried.

We at least learned 'please' and 'thank you' here, and watched a YouTube video on counting in Turkmen. The numbers 1-10 are very similar to Turkish, which we just learned a few weeks ago, so it was actually pretty confusing.


But we did our best.

The Turkmen language was once written in the Arabic script, then in Cyrillic script under the USSR, and in a Latin-based alphabet called New Turkmen: you can see all of them here if you're interested.

Thursday


We wrapped up this week a day early because my three oldest were flying to visit their grandparents on Friday. For our last farewell today, we watched an eclectic assortment of YouTube videos featuring different interesting places and things in Turkmenistan.

Video #1:  In the Kara Kum Desert (also called the Black Sand Desert) that covers 80% of the country, there is a 40-year-old huge flaming crater called the Darvaza gas crater. Otherwise known appropriately as the Door to Hell.

Video #2: Tourists to Turkmenistan (yeah, those exist) often come to see the ruins of Merv. In the 13th century it was among the biggest and most important cities in the world. Total surprise when the Soviets found it while looking for oil in the desert.

Video #3: Turkmenistan borders the Caspian Sea... which is actually a lake. This video explains why that's even an important distinction to make, and has an awesome cameo of Vladimir Putin.

Video #4: The Ashgabat earthquake in 1948 killed 10% of population of the entire country, including the future Great Leader's mother. The country is actually quite earthquake-prone.

Video #5: The akhal-teke horse is called "the most beautiful horse in the world," and comes from Turkmenistan. It's kind of a national emblem: it even appears in the middle of their country's coat of arms.

After watching this hodgepodge of videos, I gave the kids a choice:


  1. Design your own Turkmen emblem featuring the akhal-teke horse, or 
  2. Research what makes a building earthquake-resistant and design one for me.


My 14-year-old started to draft a building but had to go to work and then it just never got finished:

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Looks like it would've been nice.

My 12-year-old sketched a statue of the Great Leader Turkmenbashi riding an akal-teke horse in his signature "thoughtful" pose which we saw featured in many of his official photographs:

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
I don't know why he's riding side saddle. He just is.

My 10-year-old made a building with our architectural legos and explained to me how earthquake-proof buildings should have a light roof and make use of the 'X' shape to retain strength:

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

And my 6-year-old just wanted to copy the existing Turkmen coat of arms so that's what she did:

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Official crest courtesy of Wikimedia Commons on the left; my 6-year-old's replica on the right.

I think I can safely say she's the only non-Turkmen 6-year-old in the world who knows what the national emblem of Turkmenistan looks like.

We finished off the week by eating shurpa for dinner.

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Capping off a very successful week of ethnic food.

I know I'm adding shurpa to my regular meal rotation as it was fast, easy, and good. You just dump everything in a pot and let it simmer for a while, which is my cooking style exactly.

When my kids return from their vacation, I plan to give my oldest a library copy of the novel Unknown Sands: Journeys Around the World's Most Isolated Country. This novel/memoir contains just the right mix of factual information and real-life story for my 14-year-old. I just had to screen it first for appropriateness because it came from the adult section of the library.

(I also tried Sacred Horses: Memoirs of a Turkmen Cowboy, but I found the author's voice/attitude so off-putting I couldn't get past the second chapter. I wanted to like it, though.)

Wrapping up another summer of fake traveling the world is always a mixed bag. Yay for no more work and planning activities and driving the librarians crazy! However, I miss it because the kids really do pick up a lot and we have fun.

And I know for a fact that without it, I never would've learned this much about Turkmenistan. Like, ever.

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

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2 comments:

  1. I knew that you had a daughter who had quite a talent for drawing (I think? Maybe painting?) But it seems to me that you have at least 3 artistic kids based on their various compositions above. I was particularly struck by the 6 year old's coat-of-arms. That is some impressive "copying" for a 6 year old. You know, every year I feel a little whiney about the around the world education we have to take each summer and feel like it would be nice if we could just enjoy our summer without summer school for once. Then, every year I get sucked in and read every word. By next year I imagine I will break down and begin filling out my own passport and coloring a flag. So thanks, I guess- Kathy Young

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    1. My oldest is definitely an artist. Out of the kids, she's shown the most interest and taken the most formal art instruction of anyone. But they are all very artistic and have their own style.

      Glad to hear you're along for the ride each summer, even if it is kicking and screaming.

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