كتابات الأستاذ فرنسيس كلو خوشو

Francis Kalo Khosho
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Francis K. Khosho

Francis K. Khosho was born in Mangeshi, northern Iraq, in the Land Between The Two Rivers. He spent his childhood, adolescence, and youth in that beautiful country. These experiences gave him a lifelong sympathy, and love for, and harmony with his culture, customs, and people. His two children Andrew and Shannon, introduced him to children´s literature by asking him to read and tell them stories about the life and charm of his people, their past and present. He decided to write for all the children who did not have a chance to visit the Land Between The Two Rivers and share these memories, so they will not be lost. He is the author of the Twin Rivers Bibliography: Assyrian, Chaldean and Syrian Past and Present.

The distinctive book is a delightful combination of text and illustration for children of all grades and those reading to them. It is full of the life and spirit of a little village in the Land Between The Two Rivers, but it is good to read and enjoy anywhere.

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فرنسيس ك. خوشو

ولد فرانسيس كلو خوشو في بلدة منكيش، شمال العراق، في بلاد ما بين النهرين. قضى طفولته ومرحلة المراهقة، والشباب في ذلك البلد الجميل. فمنحته هذه التجارب تعاطفاً مدى الحياة، كما وهبته المحبة، والانسجام مع ثقافته، وتقاليده، والأهل.

طفليه أندرو وشانون، أطلعاه على أدب الأطفال بطلبهما منه أن يقرأ ويحكي لهما قصصا عن حياة وسحر شعبه، عن ماضيهم وحاضرهم. فقرر أن يكتب لجميع الأطفال الذين لم تتح لهم الفرصة لزيارة أرض ما بين النهرين ومشاطرتهم هذه الذكريات، كي لا تضيع. وهو مؤلف كتاب" ببليوغرافيا النهرين التوأمين: ماضي وحاضر الآشوريون والكلدان والسريان".

الكتاب المتميز مزيج ممتع من النصوص والرسوم التوضيحية للأطفال من مختلف الأعمار وللذين يقرأون لهم. وهو مفعم  بحياة وروح تلك القرية الصغيرة في بلاد ما بين النهرين، لكنه موضوع جيد للقراءة والإستمتاع به في أي مكان.
 


Mangeshi: The Light of My Eyes

Figs - The Fruit of My Childhood Memories

By: Francis Kalo Khosho

 

            August never fails to remind me of my hometown Mangeshi, the light of my eyes. Sweet memories of time spent in Mangeshi flood over me time and time again, particularly each August when I see the fig fruits ripen on my trees here in California. I have several fig trees and everyday when I come home from work I go straight to my orchard and inspect each fig tree. For whatever reason, every farmer always feels compelled to examine each and every fig on the tree, inspecting its size and its color. I also have many other fruit trees, but my favorite has always

The Fig Tre

been the fig tree. There are varieties of figs, all with a common soft flesh containing a multitude of tiny edible seeds. Figs range in color from purple/black, to green and vary in shape from round to oval. However, the most common in the Mangeshi orchards were Teni Komi, Rehani (first to ripe), Be’anati, Arzani (was excellent to make fig sheets – pateryatha), Shengari, Mathera (not good to taste), Tepsi (small figs), and Hershani (does not bear fruit). The figs from the vineyards were called Teni d’Karmani and were excellent for drying. The mountain fig trees were found in the Mangeshi mountains and were wild figs, naturally growing in the mountainous regions. The only difference between mountain figs and others were there tolerance for drying. They usually did not need any irrigation and were able to survive extremely dry weather.

When I was young living in Mangeshi, we were blessed to have fig trees in our orchards, vineyards and the Mangeshi mountains. The trees were so big so as to produce an umbrella of shade that we would use to sit under, particularly farmers who would eat their lunches under the massive canopy. It was a time in which we could rest and be at peace, shielded from the hot summer sun. The figs would grow on multiple branches that could reach up to 50 to 100 feet in height and 20 to 50 feet in width. I would especially love picking the figs from the top of the tree. While climbing up the tree the leaves would always irritate my skin and my exposed arms and legs would itch for quite some time after I climbed down. The milky latex that would seep out of the leaves and figs upon cutting was a serious eye irritant, but also served as a very good meat tenderizer.

 

 Milky sap dropping from the freshly cut fig

Climbing the trees was a great childhood pastime, and for those of us growing up in the region, climbing came naturally as there was no such thing as a fear of heights. We would always find a large branch that could support our weight and look for a sturdy area to place our feet and secure our hands. Our actions were similar to those of climbing animals such as monkeys or koalas in the way that we would climb and our natural ability to scale the trees. We would get used to climbing at a very early age, the older we got, the better we became at climbing up more quickly. We would hook our knees and arms around branches or use our hands to pull ourselves up in order to keep secure and not drop our basket filled with figs.
 

The fig tree has always been somewhat of a mystery to me in that the rest of the fruit trees in Mangeshi had flowers, so why didn’t the fig tree have them as well? My curiosity led me to finally look it up and I discovered that botanically, figs do have flowers, but not in the traditional sense. Fig flowers are called syconiums (inside-out flowers). In other words, all you and I can see is the outside of the fig developing, however the flower itself is inside the fig. For example, some fig trees require pollination and rely on fig wasps to get inside the fig and pollinate the fruit, or flower portion. When the wasp pollinates the flower dies and is broken down by enzymes in the fig. If too many fig wasps try to pollinate the fruit at the same time, the fig can split and if it opens you see the ‘flower’ (Perqeya).

Fig flowers – ‘Perqeya’
 

The figs are one of the earliest known fruits to be cultivated, dating all the way back to 5000 B.C. Historical Sumerian tablets record the use and consumption of figs all the way back to 2500 B.C. Fig trees have influenced cultures, and have been celebrated in several religious traditions. The fig tree has been used to teach, cited in prophecy, and also used to discipline. There has been mention of the tree in Greek mythology, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. In Islam, the fig is one of the two most sacred trees. There is even a ‘sura’ in the Quran dedicated to the tree named “The Fig” (At-tin). In Christianity, the most famous biblical reference to figs is that in which Jesus cursed a fig tree for not producing any fruit for him as he passed by, a curse that ended up killing the fig tree. (Matthew 21:18). The Jewish king Hezekiah was cured of the plague by applying figs directly to the infected spot. Adam and Eve famously covered their nakedness with fig leaves. Also, in Deuteronomy, the Promised Land was described as "a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything." Much like the bountiful lands of Mangeshi.

 

The process of drying figs
 

We always wanted to pick figs to eat and also pick some to give to friends and to take home for family to eat fresh or to dry in the sun. In Mangeshi, drying figs was a simple way to preserve your harvest through the Winter. There were several ways you could go about it. I am going to tell you the fastest and easiest way that we would do it in Mangeshi, which I now use here in California. Drying figs was a laborious process, figs dry well but you need to be sure that these figs are fully ripe before you begin. As soon as they ripe, cut them in half and place them skin down, forming a rectangular sheet, to dry on a large flat basket (Pathorta). After two days, you then place the second layer, this time with the skin up and leave to dry in the sun for another week (Pateryatha). Or, a faster technique would be to take whole figs, dip them in ash water, and leave them to dry in the sun (Zarekei). Dipping them in the ash water helps to kill any germs that may be on them. When drying figs in any way, you need to have warm days with a slight breeze and there should also be a little humidity in the air. Make sure to lay the figs in a spot where they will get direct sunlight, in Mangeshi this was on the roof of the village houses. Or, you can also put them on a string and dry them. (Khroze) It is possible to identify when they have dried out simply by the texture and consistency. The external covering will be wrinkly yet able to bend effortlessly. The internal part of the fig will still be tender but completely lacking juice. Dry figs in Mangeshi were kept in air-tight containers that would also block out light and were then stored in dark rooms (Bestery). The figs were kept for Winter and eaten just as snacks and in doing so was a good way to keep a tab on your health.

  

 A mix of delicious figs in harvest basket

            It is my hope that this article was able to take you back to a time in which we were all youthfully climbing trees, playing under the shade, and indulging in the fruit of the land. We were blessed to enjoy the sweet treats the fig trees had to offer, that would nourish our bellies and please our taste buds. From the varieties of figs all over the world, I would like to extend the bounty of the harvest from my fig basket here in San Diego to all of you in Mangeshi and all Mangeshniyi all over the world. Happy Harvesting.

 

ALMOND TREES IN BLOSSOM: Mangeshi the light of my eyes

By: Francis Kalo Khosho
 

Last Saturday, I was caught up in a daydream, a surreal vision where I was standing on the roof of our house in Mangeshi, the light of my eyes. The sky was a very rich blue and the sun was shining brightly. The birds were particularly awakened this time of year, flying around and singing in such beautiful harmony. I was able to see all of the wondrous trees that surrounded the villageThe particular trees that continued to catch my eye seemed to have delicate, white branches that looked as though they were capped with snow. They happened to be the elusive almond tree which surrounded the vineyards of Mangeshi.

This particular time of year, the village became a sea of blossoms due to the abundant amount of these spectacular trees reaching their peak. They were aesthetically astounding and as a result were easily arrested into one’s memory. This was part of the triumph that was Mangeshi’s fertile plain; bounded by Bathre zori to the north and Qam matha (part of the Gara range of the Zagros Mountains) to the south, Sardashti to the east and Hasari to the west.

Out of all the trees in the land of Mangeshi, the almond trees would blossom the earliest, capturing the attention of the villagers who watched diligently for their first bloom, thus marking the beginning of winter’s end (late January/early February). The beautiful blossoms were a harbinger of spring and the bountiful harvest that was to come.

       
 

Almond tree in blossom

Almonds have a rich antiquity, having been cultivated and eaten throughout history. The Bible even documents their importance through various passages; one such passage refers to Jacob ordering his sons to take some of the riches of the land of Canaan, to the man of Egypt (Joseph). “Then their father said to them ‘If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry them down to the man as a gift; a little balm and a little honey, some aromatic gum and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. (Genesis 43:11) As made clear by this passage, almonds were considered to be some of the best products of the land. The villagers of Mangeshi that grew up on such fertile parcel understood how lucky they were to have this rich soil beneath their feet. 

It can be said that some of the best poetry and songs of our village have been dedicated to the beauty of the almond tree. Much of our culture is steeped in traditional song and dance and therefore it has been important for songwriters to capture their memories of our homeland in words. My good friend Hana Shamon from Chicago, IL is not only a distinguished writer and poet, but also a son of Mangeshi. Some years ago, he wrote a beautiful song sung by one of our beloved singers Janan Sawa, which goes, “shetha pqekhla mburtena ma dewn khezya mathwatha leth besh khletha menakh” (the almond tree blows and its blossoms have seen many villages, you’re the prettiest of all.) This visual is captured not only in song but in our memories. 

 
            The almond tree with its beautiful barely pink/white blossom

The reason almond trees have such a strong presence in my memory was their longevity; they always seemed to be a part of our village. When we would ask our parents when the trees were planted, they would say our grandparents planted them. However, I always wanted to know more about this special tree and thus took it upon myself to do some research. I found a great deal of information on the symbolic nature of the almond tree as well as facts about its various properties. It turns out that the almond tree is actually a symbol of abiding love. There has been an association between the almond tree and themes of love, friendship and forgiveness, which actually makes sense considering its romantic and visually soothing nature.  

Factually, the trees grow to be 15-20 feet in height and are astoundingly not afraid of the cold. In fact, during the cold season, the trees provide much needed nectar to the wild bees. The almond itself actually forms inside a soft, fleshy exterior. In Mangeshi, we used to eat it while it was a soft green (kosikni). Although the exterior appeared to be beautiful, it was not ripe, and therefore unpleasant to the taste; instead, we preferred to eat the strong interior that contained the seed. The bees were always busy pollinating the almond tree blossoms and collecting pollen. When the blossoms began to fall to the ground, it was a signal that their work was done, and before you knew it, green almonds (kosikni) were visible from the branches. Green almonds, the name given from the color of their hull, were not ripe, but the very smooth, white colored almond on the inside was edible. As the green almond began to dry out, it would split, exposing the nut inside. It took a couple of weeks to completely dry. However, once it dried, the harvest would begin by shaking the trees branches (mpasa) or physically climbing the trees to pick them up. The almonds would fall to the ground, and were then gathered and put in sacks in order to transport them home by donkeys in order to be properly cleaned. The nuts were then stored in cool, dry places away from heat.

 
  A bee near the almond blossom

Almonds themselves come in two varieties, sweet and bitter. The sweet almonds are the most common almonds that the average person would be used to. The bitter almond on the other hand has distinct differences to the sweet almonds, not just the taste. The bitter almonds contain a toxic amount of prussic acid, which can be further refined into a poison called cyanide. Consuming seven to ten unprocessed bitter almonds can actually be lethal to a human, according to The Encyclopedia Britannica. Consequently, the prussic acid must be drained out before they can be used by humans as food. Therefore, bitter almonds are generally boiled or baked, in order to drain out most of the hydrocyanic acid. Usually oil extracted from bitter almonds is then used to make flavored liqueurs. In Mangeshi, the bitter almonds were very rare. The only place that I was aware of was (shethi d’hagi baif) which used to be a vineyard belonging to Hana Koki. Hana Koki was a merchant (karwanchi), and I was told that he would take his bitter almonds to the city of Mosul (Nineveh Province in Iraq) and exchange it with other merchants. The bitter almonds in Mosul were used to make soaps, due to their stronger almond scent.

Since we are in this same time of year, it has brought me much joy to not only recall the beautiful memories these trees produced, but also research the many uses and attributes of this bountiful nut. I hope you all take the time to enjoy all of the splendor the Spring season has to offer; I send you all a twig of almond tree as a symbol of my love.


          Branch of an almond tree
 


النسر الذي ظن أنه دجاجة


قصة من تألیف:  فرنسیس ك
. خوشو
الترجمة من الأنكلیزیة
:  حنا شمعون
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ܢܸܫܪܵܐ ܕܚܫܝܼܒܼܠܹܗ ܕܝܼܗܘܵܐ ܙܵܓܼܵܐ ܕܟܬܵܝܬܵܐ

ܒܝܲܕ ܦ̮ܪܲܢܣܝܼܣ ܟ ܚܘܿܫܘܿ
ܛܘܼܝܵܒܼܵܐ ܒܝܲܕ ܚܲܢܲܐ ܫܲܡܥܘܼܢ

 

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