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Volume 57, Number 3March/April 2006

In This Issue
Click for the Table of Contents

Classroom Guide

For students: We hope this two-page guide will help sharpen your reading skills and deepen your understanding of this issue’s articles.

For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from Saudi Aramco World, by teachers at any level, whether working in a classroom or through home study.


Class Activities

Food photography is big business. If you’ve ever seen the glossy and expensive cookbooks at any bookstore, you can see why: People like to look at food, and it sells. The food may be as basic as it gets, but photographing it is anything but basic.

How do photographers make food look interesting? One way is by creating an interesting composition. Look at Baloganze Pitchu, right. Which part of the photograph is the actual appetizer, and which parts show ingredients that went into making it? Why do you think the photographer included the ingredients? What shapes do the ingredients have in common with the food and the plate? Why do you think most—but not all—of the food in the photo is on a plate? Why might the photographer have chosen a red background for the photo? As you answer these questions, imagine that the photograph were different: What if it included only the finished Baloganze Pitchu on a plate? What if the background were blue? What effect might that photo have on a viewer? What other questions can you think of to ask about the photo?

For another photo that includes both ingredients and a finished product, look at Sultan Qoq on the cover and on page 41. What can you tell about Sultan Qoq because the ingredients are included? This photo also has a particularly complex composition. What shapes do you see in it? How are they situated relative to each other? Where does the boldest color come from? How would the photo look if it weren’t there? Would the photo be different emotionally? Do you think that would be better, or worse? Why?

Photographers also choose the perspective, or angle, from which they shoot the food. Often it’s looking down, as you would look at a plate set before you. Sometimes it’s not: Look at the photos of Chap Shuro and Hosarye Hoi on page 39. The photographer wasn’t exactly at eye level with the food, but these are not bird’s-eye views, either. See if you can describe how these photos differ from the first photo you examined.

Sometimes a photograph of food contains other objects—say, a spoon in a bowl of soup, or a hand holding a glass. Why? Do you like the effects? How many different effects do you see in “Cooking in Hunza”?

Analyzing Visual Images

Theme: Global Connections
Many countries have histories that involve periods of isolation and periods of connection. One particularly well-known example of isolation is Japan between the 1600’s and the 1800’s, when the Japanese restricted contact with the outside world almost completely. But today, advances in communications and transportation have made isolation far more difficult. Every country struggles to find the right mix of keeping to itself and interacting with others. (Much like individuals!)

How can you tell that a place has connections to other parts of the world?
Without thinking much about it, you’re probably “in touch with” other parts of the world just about every hour of every day. If you use the Internet, for example, you can read articles published all over the world. Any vehicle you ride in is probably made from pieces manufactured in many different countries. How many countries are represented by the clothes you are wearing? With a small group, look for objects that show how you, your town or your school are connected to other parts of the world. Start indoors, and then go on an outing. List the evidence of “global connections” that you see. If you aren’t sure where something connects, research it.

Three articles in this issue of Saudi Aramco World address this global-connections theme. Read “An Oasis in the Balance,” “The Diplomacy of the Sons” and “Cooking in Hunza.” Use a highlighter to identify the objects in each article that let you know the places are not isolated. Add them to the list your group put together from your outing. With your group, study your list. Use at least three different highlighters to categorize the objects as related to communication/information (e.g., telephone, computer), transportation (e.g., highway signs), and food. What other categories do you find?

What encourages connections between people in different places?
What discourages them?

Now think about what makes such connections possible, or what would make them impossible. Read “The Diplomacy of the Sons.” Start with the problems. Discuss with your group what made relations between Central Asians and Chinese difficult in the late 1300’s and early 1400’s. Think broadly. Include physical features, people and beliefs. Summarize your thoughts by writing a short paragraph to follow this topic sentence: Several factors inhibited connections between the people of Central Asia and the people of China around the turn of the 15th century. Then discuss what drew the two groups of people together. Write the same kind of summary paragraph. When you look at the two paragraphs, what generalizations can you make about what encourages connections and what discourages them?

For the next step, try applying these generalizations to a situation in the world today. Start with two countries that are allies. What brings them together peacefully? Then think about two countries that are not on friendly terms. What factors contribute to the tensions? Do any of these current situations fit the model you put together based on the history of Central Asia and China?

What are the benefits of being connected to faraway places?
What are the drawbacks?

Make a T chart. Title the left-hand column “Benefits of Connection” and the right-hand column “Drawbacks of Connection.” Reread “An Oasis in the Balance,” “The Diplomacy of the Sons” and “Cooking in Hunza.” Use the information in all three articles to fill in the two columns. You can also refer back to the list of objects that show you’re connected to the rest of the world: Which of those objects improve your life? Which, in your opinion, don’t? Add them to your chart. Then, would you say the benefits outweigh the drawbacks? Or is it the other way around? What’s your opinion of the balance? Write a persuasive first-person essay about whether the benefits of global connections outweigh the drawbacks or vice versa.

Theme: Water
We humans depend completely on water for life. We are, even today, at its mercy. Think, for example, about droughts, tsunamis and hurricanes. For thousands of years, people have tried to manage water, trying to exert some control over this crucial—and often unpredictable—resource. In the following activities, you’ll explore the complex relationship between people and the elixir of life.

How does water shape society?
In modern life in many places, people don’t see where water comes from. In such places, it’s easy to think of water as something that automatically comes out of a faucet no matter what. There always seems to be enough. Of course you know that’s not necessarily true, but if you’re far enough away from the sources of water, you can easily think that there’s an endless supply. But in some places, people are acutely aware of water’s scarcity—or its overabundance.

Think about water in your daily life. Write a journal entry that answers some of these questions: Where does your water come from? What questions do you have when you think about water? Can you have as much as you want? Has it always been that way? Imagine how your life would be different if you couldn’t get enough water. How would the scarcity of water affect your life? How would your life be different if you could not have as much water as you wanted?

Now read about how water has shaped whole societies in the past. Read “The Last Nile Flood” and “The Art and Science of Water.” Divide the class into groups. With your group, make a web. Put water in the center. From the center, make three spokes: one for government, one for agriculture and one for culture. According to the articles, how did water influence each of these areas at the times and in the places the articles discuss? Make the web by writing your answers across the spokes of each topic.

With your group, study the web. Think about life today. Does water affect it in any of the same ways it affected the long-ago societies you read about in the two articles? Does water affect those areas of life in different ways now? If so, use a different color to add them to your web. Discuss what other resources might have a big impact on modern life where you live.

How do people try to manage water?
Hydrology, according to “The Art and Science of Water,” is the study of the control of the movement of water. For thousands of years, people have tried to alter where water goes.

“The Last Nile Flood” reports that in 1964 Egypt first sealed the Aswan High Dam to begin controlling the river’s flowing and flooding. Do some historical research about the building of the dam. (Or, for a larger project, dams in general.) Who decided to build it, and how did they decide? Was the decision controversial? Who opposed it? Why? What effects, both positive and negative, has the dam had? If time permits, research these questions in regard to other dams.

Of course, there are many less drastic ways of managing water. “The Art and Science of Water” describes some of them. Underline the different ways people written about in the article managed water’s movement. What surprises you most about what you’ve underlined? Why does it surprise you?

Now look back at the journal entry you wrote about water. Add to it. What have you discovered? How might your discoveries affect your thoughts and feelings about water? How might they affect how you use water?

Julie Weiss Julie Weiss is an education consultant based in Lowell, Massachusetts. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies. Her company, Unlimited Horizons, develops social studies, media literacy and English as a Second Language curricula, and produces textbook materials.