Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Kite Runner - English Book Review

In English, we were giving the list of the texts that we will be studying next year in 5th year. From the list we were to choose a book that we felt we would be interested in reading and from reading the book, a book review would follow on. This book review goes to 50% of our summer exam. I examined the list and found they didn't really appeal to me, so then I asked my teacher if I could do The Kite Runner, as the present 5th years are studying that text. My teacher agreed to that because the texts that are to be done for us in 5th year have the same themes as the ones that they are doing at the moment.

So I decided to do The Kite Runner written by Khaled Hosseini, an American novelist and physician of Afghan origin. Having had personal experiences with Afghanistan's Hazara People led to the writing of this novel, it was also his very first novel. The Kite Runner is a poignant and powerful novel. In my own opinion the novel makes the reader think about the world around us and the people that inhabit it.

The book is about a young boy called Amir, from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, who is son to a very wealthy known father. He is giving everything in his young life, education, material comfort and also a constant companion - Hassan. They get on well when Amir wants them to but when something tragic happens to Hassan it puts a strain on their relationship and it slowly crumbles and comes to abrupt ending. Life trails on for Amir and when things in his country go wrong he is forced to move from his peaceful life in Kabul to America. For him his old life is a thing of the past and he tries with all his might to forget it but that daunting ordeal will never fade. As life goes on for Amir and youth fades to maturity, he is faced with returning to the life of his youth and faced with reliving that terrible part of his life. It is here Amir finds out some shocking news and is then challenge with a very big decision. It is here, that Amir will show his true colours and take back with him the memory of his childhood forever more.

The main themes of this book is: Relationships, especially between father and son, discrimination, the price of disloyalty, violence. Since there is many themes in The Kite Runner, it is hard to focus on just one so I will talk about a few in small amounts.

There is a lot of relationships going on in The Kite Runner, One of them being relationships, Baba and Amir share a unique relationship, with the love of Baba's dear wife and mother of Amir dead, Baba has to bring up Amir with the help of his dear servant. Amir loves his dad deeply and sees him as the perfect role model but there is times when he doesnt like him, especially when it is clear he talks so high of Hassan, Baba is sometimes confused whether Amir is even his soon as he has none of his traits but it seems Hassan dominates in that category. Baba says "if I did not see him coming out of my wife, I would never believe he is my son." Although their relationship is strained at that times, Baba is still proud to have him as a son, especially when he wins the kite tournament in the Winter of 1975. When Baba sits Amir on his lap and chats about his books with him and then later in life when they have moved to America and Amir cares for him when he is dying. But Baba always had something for Hassan, was always just that bit attracted to him. When Baba volunteers himself to be shot, Amir feels angry towards his father, wishing he would stop being the bigger man all the time but then feels his world crashing down around him as his father is all that he has left at that stage. When his father is dying you can see that Baba truly loves Amir and has seen him grow into a young dashing man and Amir is thankful to have had such a inspirational strong father figure, without the help of Baba, Amir would have been nothing.

Another theme that shapes the book is the price of disloyalty. When Amir witnesses Hassan getting brutally raped by a young disturbed boy, Amir doesn't do a thing about it. It is clear he is too selfish to stop the boys from doing such a sinful action as he wants to keep his dad proud of him for winning the kite tournament and then bringing home the kite itself will make him the proudest dad and Amir wants all the praise he can get from him. So he lets Hassan get raped and then is completely ignorant of the fact that it happens. That shows how disloyal Amir is to his fellow companion, he puts himself first over Hassan as does the rest of society because he is a Hazara, he is worthless. Amir is too much of a coward to say anything, this again shows how disloyal he is, if it was Hassan, he would have stood up to those boys, just like he did before, it is clear he is the bigger, better, boy. Because of Amir not saying anything to Hassan or anyone else as he is a coward, he keeps that secret locked away and tries to bury it but he then suffers from insomnia, breaks the years of friendship Baba and Hassan's father had together, destroys the bond between Baba and Hassan and ends the companionship between himself and Hassan just because he would not tell the truth. Even in years to come Amir dreams about Hassan, thinks about him daily, reflects on what he should have done. That is unfortunately the price of disloyalty.
These are just two of the themes found in The Kite Runner, ones that I felt jumped at you.

In my opinion I wouldn't have liked to live in Wazir Akbar Khan at some at some stages of the book. I would have liked living there at the start of the book when Amir's childhood was innocent and peaceful, when he and Hassan would go up their hill and Amir would read to Hassan, those images were very strong and I would have liked to have been there. Afghanistan for the wealthy seemed like a nice place, they had big houses, nice cars and had a lavish social life. It was less appealing for the Hazara's as they lived in huts with basic essentials. Amir's childhood was like a dream up until the incident that happened which turned it upside down, I would have liked to have lived in Afghanistan prior to the incident as life seemed very easy and laid-back. However when the Taliban came into the country and destroyed the buildings and the different communities which led to a great amount of poverty, debris, beggars. I would not have liked to have lived there. Being from a neutral country, Ive never experienced war or any type of conflict and I would not like to either. I would find it very sad to see my community blasted to pieces and my house just rubble, my lovely childhood just memories of the past, it must be an awful experience and I would not like to experience that.

I must say how much I loved how the story was told, the way the author could portray a young boy and being a man himself was incredible. The way he wrote it, it was so believable, it was hard to believe it is a fiction novel as it was written in such a way that you would swear it was a real life story. It's such a powerful poignant novel and so simple to understand. You can relate to it in so many ways and the way it is written is so intense that it will have you welling up. You get totally absorbed into Amir's world that it is difficult to think about your own real world. The dreams Amir had and the flash backs and description of things around him were very real and made the novel even better and believable.

I really enjoyed reading this book however at the beginning i was a little reluctant as I didn't think I would get into it, but as each page moved to the next, I found I was unable to put the book down and I was slowly being absorbed into the world of Amir, the main character. The book has got its happy moments, for example when Amir is taking part in the Kite Running competition and with all his strength and desire for winning it, he does and makes Baba, his father, very proud. There is also some very sad moments when Hassan - the son of his Father's servant gets brutally raped by a disturbed boy called Assef. The way Khaled Hosseini wrote that scene was very good but personally, I found it to be very disturbing and sad. I felt so sorry for Hassan when he was going through the ordeal, he was such a young boy and was innocently running for the kite. I know he is only a character in a book but I couldn't stop myself from welling up and tears spilling onto my cheek when I read through that part of the book. I genuinely felt sorry for Hassan and was thankful that I've never had to go through something so horrid like that.

I would most definitely recommend this book to anyone in their middle to late teens as a younger audience might be disturbed by some parts. The book has its pro's and its cons, for example, the book is very complex and has interesting characters, there is also a believable voice when reading it, as even though the author of the book is a full grown man, he portrays Amir beautifully as a young naive boy, in the way he acts and behaves. It is also the type of book you will not want to put down, you just don't know what will happen next when you turn the page over, the suspense is very thrilling. It is also very interesting to look at Afghanistan in times of war and what happens when a war is happening in a country and what happens to the residents of that country, the effects it has on the next generation, the older generation. Indeed, it is very interesting to look at Afghanistan when it was going through such a hard time.

The only bad thing about the book is it's intensity and some content is very upsetting and that is why I believe it is for an older audience. In my opinion once you get into reading this book, you will definitely get sucked into the world of Amir and the people in his life. When I was reading it, I then reflected back on my own childhood and how time goes on and you lose touch with some friends and how when you are older it is sad when you look back over the years to some of the friends you have lost and it was the very same for Amir with Hassan. I could relate to Amir in that case, although none of my past friends have died, I could still relate to it as I've lost contact with them.

I do not have a favourite part of the book but there is a quote that stuck in my head as well as sticking in Amir's head. It was when Amir had just won the major Kite Running competition, after trying with all his might, he made his father proud and to be the ultimate winner, you had to catch the kite, Hassan was super at catching kites and just before he his little speedy legs began running - which would then lead to the traumatic ordeal he suffered, which would then in turn shape who Amir became later on in life as a man. Hassan said to Amir "For you, a thousand times over." That quote showed how loyal little Hassan was to his friend Amir, showed how much he cared for his companion, that he would anything for his long time playmate just to make his friend content. Hassan was such a kind-hearted child, he always took the blame for things Amir did, and never told on Amir when he did things wrong, he was a bright, nice boy. I felt so bad for Hassan then as he was unaware what was going to happen. I felt anger towards Amir when he was witnessing what was happening to Hassan and he was too much of a coward to help his young friend and too selfish as he wanted to make his Baba proud of him so he let the worst thing possible happen to Hassan, I felt sadness come over me at that point, I was almost screaming at the book, hoping Amir would pluck up the courage to tell Assef and his gang to leave poor Hassan alone but it didn't happen and Amir had to hold onto that for all of his life because he was too selfish, naive and cowardly to do any different, It is clear that Amir feels ashamed and guilty yet he does nothing about it, Amir fails him.

Another quote that I liked was when Rahim Khan - a dear friend of the family said to Amir later on his life "There is a way to be good again". Rahim knew that Amir witnessed what happened to Hassan and knew that Amir drove Hassan and his father away but he never said it to Amir as, I think, Rahim was waiting for Amir to man up and unfold what happened. It showed how an old yet wise man could share such powerful words which fortunately led Amir to do the right thing.

I loved how Khaled Hosseini wrote this book. Words fail me as to how much I like this book. I enjoyed his features of style such as the pathos, characterization and use of symbols.
Kite flying is symbolic for joy, freedom, happiness as during the 70's when kite flying was allowed and brought Amir great happiness accompanied by his dear friend Hassan, these were the happier times, this is also the last moments we see Hassan and Amir sharing happiness between each other. Building the kite together symbolizes the friendship between the two boys.

Another symbol Khaled uses is the pomegranate tree, it is a symbol of their friendship, ripe, bright, happy, childhood innocence and shelter. They went and sat at that tree, watched it blossom and wilt each year, straddled its branches in the summer, spent hours reading and playing there. The pair carved their names in the tree, showing the wholeness of their friendship. When Amir returns to the tree twenty odd years later, you see the pomegranate tree is wilted, and according to Hassan in his letter "has not borne fruit for years" just like the way Hassan's and Amir's friendship is wilted and no longer living.

I adored the characters in this book, the way the author portrayed them was exceptional, each character seemed so realistic. For example, you see Amir grow up through reading the book and it is a journey for himself as it is also for the reader. Amir was a coward throughout his childhood and even when he is in his late thirty's, he comments on his ways of being a coward. This is what makes the characters so real, they bring characteristics from their childhood right on through into adult life and it is interesting to see the character develop.

Khaled Hosseini uses pathos in the way that he writes, whether it was intentional or not, it is clear through out the book, he creates an emotional experience through pathos. It makes the book so much better to be emotionally attached to the characters story.The way he uses pathos makes the story very powerful and intense. You feel for the characters of the book and enter into their world, as if you are alongside them in their journey.

Having read the book, I must say that the last hundred pages or so of the book have to be the most poignant part of the book. It was so sad, it had me crying continuously for about ten minutes straight. The way the story unfolds when Amir returns to Afghanistan is incredible, the way Khaled describes the once beautiful peaceful country now a crumbled debris ridden country is amazing. The ending of the book is so powerful and the suspense is great. It is in the ending where you see the subplot commencing and then blossoming into something tragic yet great at the same time. It was very sad to see that someone as young as Sohrab, the tender age of nine or ten, be fed up with life at such a vunerable age which would then lead to him doing something so extreme. I felt for the little boy. He has had such a tough life, with both parents murdered in the streets, then being sent to a rat invested orphanage. It is there where Assef takes Sohrab and uses him as a sex slave. Even though Sohrab is a fictional character I couldn't help but feel so sad for him. I just wanted to make his life happy again. He tells Amir, after he completes that drastic action that he wished he had found him, that he wants his old life back. Sohrab is a tender, vunerable traumatized child, he would need great care to see him happy again and Amir is happy to do that.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I will never forget how sad this book is as it brought me to tears an uncountable amount of times. This book is unforgettable and will have you thinking about it long after you've read it. I would recommend it to anyone, such a simple, poignant, suspense ridden story.

"for you, a thousand times over"

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Greek Cuisine

Greece is a very lavish country and is known for its beautiful blue waters and mediterranean climate.

Greek cooking is incredibly rich and offers an array of foods and beverages that have changed through the centuries. Greek cuisine is very fresh and light and is known for its use of olive oil and pita bread.

The names of foods, the cooking of the food, and the ingredients have changed little over time. Bread, olives, as well as olive oil and wine was the Greek diet for many centuries, just as it is today.

Greece is a country of small farmers who produce an incredible food, mainly organically produced oils, cheese, fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables, supplemented by a variety of greens and herbs that grow in the wild. These are the foods that form the base of the traditional Greek cuisine. The foods add both variety and nutrition.

Greece's climate is perfect growing for olive and lemon trees, producing two of the most important elements of Greek cooking. Garlic, spices and other herbs such as oregano, basil, mint, and thyme are widely used, as are vegetables such as eggplant and zucchini.

With 20 percent of Greece made up of islands - and no part of the Greek mainland more than 90 miles from the sea - fish and seafood are a popular and common part of the Greek diet. Lamb and goat are the traditional meats of holidays and festivals, and poultry, beef, and pork are also consumed.
Vineyards cover much of Greece's hilly terrain and the country has become known for its array of fine wines and spirits, most notably ouzo, an anise-flavored liqueur that is the national spirit.

To a large degree, vegetarian cuisine can be traced back to foods and recipes which originated in Greece.
Many ingredients used in modern Greek cooking were unknown in the country until the middle ages. These include the potato, tomato, spinach, bananas which came to Greece after the discovery of America.

Honey and nuts are commonly eaten in desserts. Feta cheese is known for its use in a Greek salad and Greek yogurt is known for its unusual yet enjoyable taste.

Greek food is simple yet elegant, with flavors subtle to robust, textures smooth to crunchy, fresh and timeless, nutritious and healthy.

Hungarian Cuisine

Hungary's a country found in eastern Europe. The countries people use very distinctive flavours, spices and foods which make their cuisine very unique and unusual. The country use the spice, paprika commonly in their cooking. The Turks invaded Hungary and brought with them their customs, paprika being one of the many customs and now the Hungary use the common spice daily.

In Hungary you can find wax peppers, they are a variety of chili pepper, home of paprika, another notable pepper product. They are also known as hot yellow peppers or hot wax peppers, and they closely resemble the banana pepper, a relative in the pepper family.The pepper can be used in a variety of ways in cooking. They are sold in pickled form as well as being available in grocery stores and markets.

Hungarians cuisine is very meaty, they use a lot of different meats in their dishes. They eat a lot of casseroles, meat stews, lamb, game and soups. Goulash is one of the dishes that represent Hungary, it is a soup or a stew mad up of vegetables and meat, lots of onions are put into it as well as the common spice paprika. They also use a thick sour cream called tejfol on bread and other carbohydrate food types and in my experience I didn't find it to be incredibly appealing or appetizing, I still ate it though of course!

Lunch is a major meal of the day, usually eaten in several courses, hot and cold appetizers. Soup is then served, which is followed by a main dish and then dessert proceeds, a sweet pastry dish or a meat and a salad, salad is always eaten with the meat. Dinner is far less important as is breakfast. Pancakes are served as a main dish rather then at breakfast.

Rwandan Cuisine

Rwanda is a country in central Africa. In 1994, Rwanda was unfortunately involved in the countries Genocide. Over 800,000 in the small African country were murdered. There is two major ethnic groups in Rwanda, the Tutsi's and the Hutu's. In the 1950's the Belgians came and conquered, they gave power to the Tutsi's for centuries. Then the Hutu's took over and then in 1994 for over 100 days, thousands and thousands of murders happened. During the Genocide, exportations came to a halt and no food was getting in or out. And now years on, farms are decreasing in size.

Rwandan's cuisine is based on staple foods produced by the traditional agriculture and has varied between the countries different ethnic groups.
Its food is neither hot nor spicy. People eat simple meals. Rwandans staples consist of bananas, plantains, pulses, sweet potatoes, corn, beans, millet and fruit.

A traditional Rwandan breakfast consists of sweet potatoes and porridge. In urban areas, such as the capital, Kigali, people usually eat toast and tea for breakfast. Rwandans add lots of milk and sugar to their tea.

Many Rwandan men enjoy drinking beer, but women are rarely seen consuming alcohol. Although Rwanda has a large commercial brewery, many people make their own beer. Traditionally people drink beer through a straw from a single large container.

Rwandans usually snack between meals, snacking on fruit. Tropical fruits such as mangos, papaya, avocados, are abundant in Rwanda. Dinner is the heaviest meal. Roadside vendors in urban areas sell roasted meat and barbecued meat.
Rwandans who live in rural areas rarely eat meat. Some families have cattle, but since cattle are considered a status symbol, people seldom slaughter them for meat. Many Rwandans in rural areas eat meat only once or twice a month and some Rwandan children suffer from protein deficiency. In urban areas meat is more plentiful. The most popular meats are beef and chicken. People who live near lakes may catch and eat fish. Tilapia and sambaza are raised on fish farms.

Some common dishes are:

Umutsima - a dish of cassava and corn,

isombe - cassava leaves with eggplant and spinach and

mizuzu - fried plantains.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New Zealand Cuisine

New Zealand is located to the right of Australia. The two countries are quite similar but are unique in their own special ways. They are quite similar because of the closeness of the two countries and as well, the people that took over the countries a long time ago. New Zealand's cuisine is similar to Australian's as they have the same influences but are again, different in their own way.

New Zealand's cuisine draws inspiration from Asia, Europe and the Pacific islands of Polynesia. These such influences have created a unique range of flavours and food styles. It's cuisine is based on local ingredients that are harvested from the surrounding ocean, rivers and agricultural landscapes. The enjoy quality local produce.

New Zealand's breakfast is quite the same as many English-speaking countries. In Summer, they usually have juice, toast, fruit. In the winter, they have porridge or weet-a-bix with hot milk, quite similar to the english-speaking countries.

High end Restaurants and fast food restaurants provide an increasing part of their diet - it is much the same in lots of countries in this day and age. Most New Zealand cooks are dependent to some extent on pre-made ingredients. They eat take-away about once a week. Barbeque's are common in the summer as a social event. Guests bring their help by bringing meat and wine and music is played.

Cafe's are more commonly seen in New Zealand now as well, in the 1900's tearooms were very popular providing tea, coffee, cream scones, muffins but in time the tearoom owners converted their businesses into cafe's and modified it, keeping up with the influences of Australia and adopting the Mediterranean ways of drinking espresso's and such drinks.

Some dishes that represent New Zealand are a lolly cake, double chocolate cheescake muffins, creamy tomato cauliflower pasta and much much more, as New Zealand is influenced from nearly everywhere around world they have a wide variety of dishes. Fish and Chips are commonly eaten.

Pavlova is New Zealand's national dessert.

Irish Cuisine

Ireland is an island in northwestern Europe. Their cuisine is a style of cooking developed by the Irish people. It has evolved from centuries of political and social change. The Irish cuisine takes influence because of its temperate climate and the crops grown and animals farmed.

Then in the 16th century the potato was introduced. With the introduction of the potato it changed the cuisine enormously after that. Unfortunately in 1945, 'The Great Famine' occurred and a terrible disease struck the majority of the potatoes growing in Ireland. The potatoes were rotten and black inside and the leaves withered. At that point there was barely any food in Ireland as potatoes were the staple food of Ireland and the population decreased from eight million to a little over four million. This shows how important food is in the lives of the human being. Luckily enough the potatoes then grew fine a couple of years later.

In most households of the Irish, dinner consists of a meat, potatoes and vegetables. So even today the potato is still a strong food that is eaten a lot in the cuisine of the Irish. Some Irish foods that include potatoes are colcannon, boxty and hash browns.

The beef of the cattle in Ireland is renowned for its great quality and is exported widely throughout the world. Thanks to our healthy, well farmed and looked after cattle!

Some traditional dishes of Irish cuisine are bacon and cabbage, coddle, Irish stew. Soda bread is also eaten, usually with a pint of stout, - Guinness, most likely. Ireland is also famous for the traditional Irish Breakfast. Fish is very popular in Ireland also e.g Dublin Bay Prawns.

Honey was widely eaten and used in cooking. Black pudding, made from the blood of cattle is still a staple breakfast food in Ireland.

Now in the 21st century, the modern western culture has been adapted in the Irish culture. Fast Food has led to increasing health problems in Ireland today.

'Geography - Food Project'

Our Geography project was giving to us as an 'End of Year Project' to be completed for the 16th of May. We were asked to think of something we are interested in and base our project on it. I chose to do countries cuisine as I'm a lover of food. We were then asked to make a map on Google Maps and are to 'visit' five countries regarding the topic we have chosen and write about those countries.

I didn't want to choose any old country so I tried to go deeper into the choosing of them, having a meaning behind my choice.

The five countries I chose to write about are: Irish Cuisine, Rwandan Cuisine, New Zealand Cuisine, Hungarian Cuisine and finally Greek Cuisine.

The reasons behind these choices are as follows.

I chose to do Irish food is because I am from Ireland and wanted to learn more about my countries cuisine. - Irish Cuisine

I then went on to choose Rwandan cuisine as I have been recently doing the Rwandan Genocide in Religion and was I was intrigued by the countries history and wanted to learn about their cuisine. - Rwandan Cuisine

I was going to do Australia as it's one of the five continents but then I decided to do New Zealand. Although the two countries are similar, they do have their differences and I was drawn more to New Zealand. - New Zealand Cuisine

I went and chose Hungary as I visited the country last winter and found their cuisine to be peculiar but tasty at the same time, so I wanted to learn more. - Hungarian Cuisine

Lastly, I chose Greek cuisine as it's a beautiful country and one of the many countries I'd like to visit because of its beauty. - Greek Cuisine

I enjoyed doing this project thoroughly as I got to learn about different countries cuisine and I also expanded on my knowledge of working with Google Maps which is something I may need in the future.