Happy Birthday Jane Kurtz - April 17
After reading this response to my email, asking Jane Kurtz to share a birthday memory, I wanted to know more of her story. I learned that she was born in Portland, Oregon and moved to Ethiopia at the age of two with her parents who worked for a Presbyterian church. Her mother taught her at home until grade 4 and then she went to the boarding school in Addis Ababa. Her return to the United States wasn't until college. She badly missed Ethiopia for many years. It was the "homesickness" and having children of her own that lead her to writing about her childhood experiences in the form of children's books. (FAQ at janekurtz.com)
2000 interview with Cynthia Leitich-Smith on Cynsations, Kurtz describes these tales as "great stories" that can be used to "illustrate the kind of behavior that is important and valuable and honorable." In Fire on a Mountain, Alemayu watches over a rich man's cows and observes the rich man every day not giving much of a care to his servants. When Alemayu succeeds later in life, he learned much from watching his self-centered master and instead treats his servants with appreciation and respect. In Trouble, Tekleh's father gives him a gebeta (mancala) board to keep him out of trouble. However, Tekleh almost immediately loses the game board. It appears that the gebeta board only got him in more trouble, but it is with great generosity displayed by Tekleh that ultimately leads to him finally catching a break.
I wanted to make gebeta boards with my children. A wooden board was out of the question because of my lack of skills in carpentry and with my son being prone to accidents (I think we have gone through a box of band-aids already this Spring!). As I was researching the game I saw a picture of a game board made out of pottery. My first thought was to head to the store to buy Model Magic by Crayola (in hind sight this might have been worth the money). However, I decided to make our own homemade clay.
|We mixed 2 cups of flour, 3/4 cup salt, 3/4 cup water.|
I honestly don't remember where I found this recipe. But, similar recipes are here.
|My children rolled out the clay dough.|
|They used spoons to push down the dough to make the indentations.|
|They had to watch how much they pushed down so they didn't push|
all the way through.
|After making 14 holes, the dough had to dry for over a day outside|
in the sunshine and it probably could have used another day of drying.
|But, I couldn't hold them off from painting any longer.|
|We used all-purpose craft paint. They choose to paint the holes a different|
color than the rest of the gebeta board.
|Overall, the project was a success because they had fun. The clay dough|
did take forever to dry and it cracked slightly.
|While we waited for the paint to dry we played Mancala using an egg carton and|
two plastic food containers. We learned the rules here.
|I continued to dry the gebeta boards on a cookie rack and glued a foam backing on the bottom to provide stability. My children counted out 48 beads to use with the board, but you could also use beans.|
Her feelings about Ethiopian cuisine were not quite as positive as the gebeta board experience. When I researched injera, "a large, spongey pancake used as bread at most meals in Eritrea and Ethiopia," I thought it would feasible after finding a recipe on The Science of Bread website. I only needed Teff flour which I found at a local healthy food store. The injera is both something you eat and use as an eating utensil. So, I needed a Ethiopian dish to eat along with our injera. I found some recipes on BetumiBlog and really wanted to try wat, but there were so many ingredients that I didn't have so I settled on Kik Pea Alecha.
|This tasty goodness was eventually blended and served with the injera.|
|My first attempt at injera was semi-successful.|
|When the kids ate the injera they smiled.|
|But, that was not the case with the kik pea alecha.|
I had pizza in the oven as a backup plan!
In closing, Jane Kurtz provided one additional birthday memory:
The only other birthday that stands out...for a similar reason...was when my mom and dad visited me on my birthday the year my first son was born. They brought me a favorite family dish, orange spirals, with them. When my son was born two days later, I felt such comfort to have my mom's rolls in my cupboard.
Jane, thank you so much for sharing your birthday memories. We hope you have some yummy treats tomorrow! Also, congratulations on receiving the 2011 Kerlan Award.
Jane Kurtz has written many books that are not about her experiences in Ethiopia:
1. Jane Kurtz's Website - More about Gebata (Mancala), FAQ, Reader's Theatre - 2 Books!
2. Jane Kurtz's Blog - She is very active and up-to-date
3. Jane Kurtz Interview - Cynsations, Patricia Newman, Five on Friday
4. Jane Kurtz on Twitter
5. Video Interview - Books on the House
6. Ethiopia Reads Website
7. Jane Kurtz talks about Lanie, American Girl - Cynsations
8. Lanie's American Girl Website