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A Feathery Trip!

by Haadiyah Sajid

On the sunny afternoon of March 17, we set out for the newly-opened bird aviary in Islamabad, which is Pakistan’s largest bird aviary! We’d been there once before, but this time we were especially excited as our homeschooler friends, Danielle Aunty and her kids Safiyah, Diyana and Shams were coming along, too! Danielle aunty had brought along a big book “Birds of Pakistan” which she used to help us verify which birds were which. Well, there weren’t just birds of Pakistan in the aviary. The feathered fliers released in this huge net were from all over the world, including places like Australia, Brazil and Canada!

We got the bunch of tickets and walked in. It was beautiful, SubhanAllah! Right in front of us was a big pond with lots of ducks swimming inside. Our favorites were the tufted ducks, white ducks with little round tufts on their heads. The fluffy tufts were dyed pink and green, and that made the ducks look rather hilarious. There were ring-necked ducks, brownish birds with dark rings around their necks, as you’d have guessed. And there were mallard ducks, of course. They’re very common, the black, brown, whitish bodied waddlers with shiny green heads – those are the males. The females are a dull brown.

Our guide (from the aviary staff) was an expert, just like Danielle aunty who raises birds on her farm. He even opened the gate of a special enclosure and let us in to see the ducks and some more birds up close! That was a really great part of the trip. Diyana and I tried to get close to a tufted duck (and we did, to some extent), but our target swam away very quickly when he (or she) saw us approaching. That’s the instinct that Allah has created it with!

The Duck Pond

The Duck Pond

Next, we saw the biggest pigeons in the world. It was rather unbelievable that they were pigeons in the first place, as they were nearly as big as peacocks, without the long tails. One type was bluish, and it had straight hair on its head. A bit like:  The other was all black with curly hair growing on its head.

Next, we came past some more pigeons – which had lots of feathers on their feet, which made them look as if they were wearing snowshoes! There was also one pigeon who had puffed up its neck like a balloon. Well, that ‘neck’ isn’t actually called a neck; it’s known as the crop. The bird can fill up its crop with food and fly to its nest and then take the food out from its crop to feed chicks. (I’m avoiding the term throwing up, OK?)

After that, we came across large cages in which parrots were kept. Many parrots were released into the aviary, of course, but the parrots in the cages were either sick, a little injured, or they still didn’t have a companion of the same breed.

The first cage had parakeets, small parrots which have many species. We got to see lots of the species! SubhanAllah, the parakeets come in all colors: blue, red, green, yellow, even pink! Our guide even took out a cover-head pigeon for us to see up close. This pigeon always has its feathers over its face and you couldn’t even see the eyes. In fact, all we could see of its head was the smooth, round white top, which was seen only when we peeked in from above and a tiny bit of its beak. Safiyah did try uncovering its head but unfortunately it only does that when feeding! 😀 Well, check out these photos.

Next, we advanced up a big bridge, from the top of which we could see nearly the whole aviary! When we’d just started climbing it, we saw some game birds. Traditionally bred for sport, this group of decorative birds includes grouse, pheasants, partridges, and quails. One lady pheasant (that’s a type of pheasant, not a female pheasant) was digging a shallow hole on the ground to lay eggs! Game birds tend to live on the ground, so most are not strong fliers either.

A nesting female game-bird

A nesting female game-bird

We kept ascending the bridge and, at one point, we saw a large bowl full of bird feed – and lots of colourful birds! SubhanAllah, they looked so cute squabbling about on little grains of food. 😀 Most of these birds were of the parrot family. Our guide pointed out some budgerigars (budgarees, for short) that are very sociable. They’re small parrots really. There were also Pakistani green parrots that held larger morsels of fruits in their feet and held it up to their beaks. SubhanAllah, parrots are the only birds which can do so.

Australian parrots feeding freely

Australian parrots feeding freely

Australian parrots enjoying the sun and the food

Australian parrots enjoying the sun and the food

After the birds flew away from the bowl (well, Shams spooked them!), we kept on going and saw a pond with swans (erm, spelt sawns on the board!), pelicans and ducks. We were going to see those later. After a short while the bridge began sloping downwards. Just as we were about to step off, Diyana turned our attention to a small brown stump on a tree. “What’s wrong with you?” asked Shams – but just then a curios face peeked out of the stump at us. SubhanAllah! The “stump” was a cover-head pigeon! We all had a good laugh and headed towards the tame birds’ enclosure…

In this enclosure there was a colourful wooden structure on which there were 2 cockatoos from Australia, 1 macaw from Brazil and some parakeets, also from Brazil. The cockatoos were huddling together, cawing occasionally but the macaw was hopping around, grabbing bites at times and cawing our heads off. CAW! CAW! CAW! CAW! Our guide put his hands next to his feet and said, “Up!” With another ear-splitting CAW, the ma-CAW hopped nimbly onto his hand. He handed the bird over to Danielle aunty, and then it sat on my shoulder. Even though I was really enjoying it (getting used to the CAWs), I decided I’d like to get him off when he started climbing up my hijab. Later, when the maCAW was on his branch Safiyah put her hand next to his feet and murmured, “Up!”. And hop – Safiyah had gotten him!

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Shams was running around as “Alexander the Great” when I asked him if he wanted to hold the macaw. “Hold it?!” he said. “Yeah, you know, like Safiyah’s doing over there,” I replied, pointing. Shams ran over to Safiyah, stared, and began gasping: “Oh my! *gasp!* Safi! He’s digging his claws into your flesh! *gasp! gasp!* Look! Watch out!” Diyana told me that Alexander the Great is afraid. So much for being great!

Our last bit was the swans, pelicans and some ducks. A very interesting thing happened here. The pelican swam around very fast in circles, flapping his wings up and down, making rude splashing noises. Just then the swan came along and did the flapping thing again, but not quite so ‘rudely’ as his wings didn’t touch the water and he held himself high. “This is how you do it!” growled Safiyah, speaking for the swan. “This is going to turn into a drama now that Safi’s spoken,” I thought to myself. And it did.

After the swan’s flapping thingy, the pelican tried it but kept splashing rudely again, but with a tiny little betterment. “See? I can do it!” said Safiyah. “He looks like an airplane!” commented Aymun. “Oh, here’s the swan!” interrupted Safiyah. “He’s like – are you still bein’ an idiot?” “No, I’m doin’ exactly what you told meh to,” said Diyana sweetly, as she was supporting the pelican. Just then the swan flapped gracefully (with Safi’s commentary running along: “THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT!”) And yet again the pelican didn’t get it. “AURGH!!!! You little idiot! You’ll never learn!” said Safiyah in a deep, booming, commanding and bossy-all-at-once voice. Well, he didn’t. The pelican gave up and the swan swam away.

Just then, we realized that we’d better set off for home. We said our salaams and walked back to the entrance. It had been a memorable and feathery trip!

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Homeschooling, Naturally Yours

 

Tarbela Dam Visit

Mar 31, 2013

A great trip, both educational and recreational, to the world’s largest earth-filled dam – Tarbela. Thanks to our hosts, we had a memorable time.

I asked someone to write a report, huh? (Aymun are you reading this?)

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Posted by on March 31, 2013 in Naturally Yours

 

A nature-walk to remember!

(by Haadiyah Sajid, 10 years)

Bright and early on 17 December, we set off for a family hike to a “very far place”. Very far indeed! And I’m telling you, 13 kilometers is no joke. It was a ‘family hike’ because my mom, my dad, my grandfather and grandmother, and in addition my 2 sisters Aymun ‘n’ Hanaa were all going – plus Hanaa’s toy cat, Rocket, in Hanaa’s hoodie! 😀 (Just so you know, it’s impossible to find Hanaa Sajid anywhere without that toy.)

It was very exciting at first – with Abu Jee (our grandfather) telling different facts and Ammi Jee (grandmother) telling stories from her experiences. My favorite was when Abu Jee sent her in a hot summer day to these faraway fields with a cow so that it could graze well, but she got scared and then angry owing to the totally deserted fields and came back, no grazing!

As we started out and crossed a bare (but full of soil) field in front of our Bubbo’s (Aunt’s) house, we discovered a narrow path in the middle of vast fields. Wheat fields were all you could see on both sides of this path; no people, animals, or even homes, let alone shops, trucks or roads! Presently in the fields there was the very young wheat. At this time it is dark green and just a few inches tall. Lots of dew on countless green, tiny wheat plants plus a shiny sun made the scenery so beautiful SubhanAllah! We also passed some peanut fields, but they were mostly harvested. In yet other fields mustard, and black peas grew. Often you could spot very beautiful spider webs shining with dew. They were very different kind of webs because they were so dense, looking very white! There was a wild berry tree on the way, from which Abbu Jee plucked some berries and offered us. I dared to try, but not many, in fact not even one whole!

Oh, anyways, as the way got longer and looonnnggerr, we got more and more tired and started feeling hot. Off went my coat and mittens. It was still very exciting though – Ammi Jee showed us a straight flat path in one of the peanut fields, where mice had been crossing. Our dad even spotted a pack of wolves, that took cover quickly on seeing us. The path we were walking on was also used by wolves. Plus, Ammi Jee pointed out a dig-out made by a wolf, scary! A strange lonely man had made up his abode under a tree in that wilderness – quite odd but true. Then I nearly got ants in my joggers and we still had quite a while to go!!

When we were almost there – erm, actually we never knew where we were going 😀 – but when we were almost ‘there’ the scenery changed. Going down a pretty steep worn-out path, we saw lots of bushes of saffron colored grasses, that looked dead but actually weren’t! Even if they were, Allah would bring them back to life as He says that He brings the earth back to life, after its death. In winter, everything looks bare – a tree which used to be dense with flowers and leaves becomes leafless. But Allah brings it back to life in spring. I just don’t understand how disbelievers watch a tree grow its first leaf buds in spring and then simply deny the Day of Resurrection – let alone any Creator! Astaghfirullah!

So, gotten down from a steep narrow path, we reached a stream! A lot of our tiredness evaporated. We threw rocks, washed our hands, collected some nice stripy rocks and washed them in the cool stream and took pictures on a natural bridge over the stream. There were also little water-holes near the stream, from which people can drink water.

After that Abu Jee, who was astonishingly not tired Masha’Allah, said that we could rest for a while and that he was going from a longer path to check on his other fields. Now Ammi Jee was supposed to lead us back home through a shortcut. But first she collected some ‘sarsoon ka saag’ from one of our fields there while we stretched our legs a little. By now, Hanaa (4 years only) was very tired – not her fault! So with Hanaa on Baba’s back and Ammi Jee in the lead, we walked back home. Abu Jee met us on the way and our Bubbo greeted us again on the way back and enquired about our trip. By then, Abu Jee had already reached home (my grandfather is a fast walker) and had a chataai (a type of woven rug) especially spread out for us. He also picked some fresh organic oranges right from our very own backyard. We were really refreshed with that little treat. And now it was time to tell Mama how much we had walked – you know, if you told her in the way she’d faint –

IT’S 13 KILOMETERS, MAMA!!

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Hyper Hiking

By Aymun Sajid (9 yrs)

I am a villager. At least I say so. And think so. That’s because I’m ready for the ups & downs of the village. Rough feet. Tough hands.

Welcome to the knowledge of one of our favorite village hobbies: “Hiking the hills”

On a cool morning of December, I went with my grandfather, father and two sisters to the hiking trip. We first went around most of the village fields, in which wheat was sprouting presenting a miracle of Allah. Then the excitement started. The first task to tackle was walking through the long grass. It felt like if you were in a lion territory – no dangerous things living around though! There are snake-holes but you almost never see snakes outside. But you can expect to get a glimpse of a chameleon, a squirrel, a hoopoe or a woodpecker and some other birds you never see in the city.

The next part was the start of hiking. We climbed over a… um, a hillock (shorter than a real sized hill). It was all very rocky. We even had to use our hands to avoid stumbling down! My little sister did very well, even though she is four. On top of the hillock, there was hardly any good dirt for plants to grow but Subhan Allah, there were still some amazing spiky plants growing there!

After that, since we were new to the area, we just kept on following our grandfather. We went over many rocks and hillocks and walked around many thorny bushes & we didn’t know where we were going until we saw it – a huge pond! We had walked about 1 kilometer now, but we were too stunned to be tired. It was full of water. Our grandfather told us that where we were standing, there used to be water there too. My father said that when he was little, many people used to come to this pond for swimming and making their cattle drink from the pond. And in the morning hours, women used to come in groups to wash clothes. Sometimes there little children also used to accompany themJ. When water was scarce people used the pond water as drinking water too.

My grandfather told us that the water used to pile up leaves & grass at the bottom of tree trunks & even showed us some leaves that were piled around the trunks of some trees. We climbed a huge rock & then right after the slope was a pool of water in which we threw pebbles. Then I started to follow my grandfather through the long grass & my father & sisters followed not far behind. Then my grandfather showed me a huge rock which looked somehow like an elephant and told me that I could climb it. I climbed up the rock & my sisters also came from behind. After getting down from the rock, we noticed that we couldn’t see our grandfather and which way he went. My father called out to my grandfather asking which way he went. (It might seem strange to you but that’s the village way of communicating from far). We heard the faint reply and then we started following my father instead. Then after walking for a bit through the long grassy zigzag path, we came to some familiar fields. Then I and my sisters realized that we were back to where we had started from!

I learned a lot that day. My little sister said her favorite part was the pond. My older sister said that her favorite part was the thrill of climbing steep and slippery rocks, using your intelligence to judge where to step while climbing and getting lost and finding the way ourselves! :P. I cannot tell my favorite part. It was all too thrilling to tell!

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Posted by on December 15, 2012 in Naturally Yours, Village Ventures

 

Our Botanical Expedition

Spring and a stunning garden – doesn’t that sound tempting? The Islamabad homeschoolers’ squad had a lovely time today, learning and socializing in a private garden, meticulously maintained by a lifelong gardener Aunty. The past week was spent much in happy speculation for the upcoming tour, along with plant study going on at different levels within the families – thanks to Sister Danielle’s botanical guide, which spurred kids to research about plants in order to prepare for the ‘botanical expedition’, as they named it.

The tour, which started on the button, was guided by the hostess and Sister Danielle – moms and kids benefiting equally by their rich experience and knowledge. The garden had 3 sections – a wonderful grass-carpeted flower garden, a big and thrilling kitchen garden and a fruit garden growing mainly on the slopes, boasting about 90 fruits trees of different types. Nearly every inch of land in and around the house was carefully utilized, under the careful supervision of Aunty herself. There was also a neatly maintained chicken coop, charming the younger visitors. After an initial excursion, the kids had an interactive session with Aunty Danielle, in the stimulating flower garden, where they chipped in their bits of info on plant classification, types of roots and leaves, photosynthesis and transpiration. Permaculture and preparation of natural pesticide (with Neem and garlic) was discussed by the two experienced gardeners, in the kitchen garden which had dozens of vegetable patches. Snacks and tea were shared amid healthy discussion on various topics. The ever-hungry cameras could not have enough of the amazing shots, while the kids could not have enough of fun and frolic, which only stopped for eating or praying Salah. Alhamdulillah, we all had a superb time with this focused outdoor event, much thanks to our warmly hospitable hosts. We left with an inspiration to practice our own passions and in awe of the beauty of our Perfect Creator.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Homeschooling, Naturally Yours

 

Hiking – the new hype

Alhamdulillah , when thegirls became interested in hiking, we didn’t have to take the usual route to Margalla Hills – we had a ‘customized solution’ at the village. The girls practiced hiking skills early in winter mornings at the natural hiking terrain in the village.

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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Naturally Yours, Village Ventures

 

My Cool Homeschool Life

By Aymun Sajid – 8 year old homeschooler (This article was published in HomeWorks Magazine – a Muslim Home Education Quarterly)

People find homeschooling strange but I really like it. First I didn’t want to read and write, but slowly I began to like it. Nowadays you’ll find my nose buried in books. I don’t only learn from books, but also from people. For example, in village my grandmother tells me how to clean the wheat grains, feed and milk the cow, how to chop the wood and make fire. She taught me to cut the wheat by hand and I did it this harvesting! From my grandfather, I learn about sowing, threshing and how rains affect the wheat. My chachoo (Uncle) shows me how to cut the wheat by tractor and make scarecrows! He sometimes gives me tractor rides while he is plowing and I always watch carefully. Sometimes I even pretend to drive a tractor. I like to wake up early in village, before my dad makes the fajr adhan, so that I don’t miss all the early morning work. For me, work is fun.

Our helper aunty knows a lot about plants and is a an exclusive gardener. I learn gardening from her. I also explore insects and plants in my garden. I love to cook with my nani and bake with my mom’s best friend. She even makes pizzas. Now I invent my own recipes. Our kitchen is not only used for cooking but it’s also our science lab. I like to do science experiments there. I presented some experiments with my elder sister in our presentation club.

In my study time, I like to write, read and draw. I listen to Islamic lectures and watch science and Arabic videos. I like to start my day with Quran (which I read with translation) and then I do mental math on computer, then other subjects. I take spoken Arabic classes and horse-riding lessons as well. I have friends at these places, in neighbors and in other homeschooling families.

We like to visit many different places, like hill-stations and rivers. My dad always says to look and learn. He talks about every place. When we go for Umrah, my dad tells us interesting facts about people and places.

The thing I like most about homeschooling is that I can teach my mother about animals! I like that I can ask anything, I can learn about any topic. I think homeschooling keeps my faith strong and keeps me away from bad things. Think about a three year old being sent to school. Being away from mom so long! And in the end schooling destroys her creativity. I hope after reading my article, you understand homeschooling better!

 Aymun Sajid is a nature loving, book passionate, villager cum townie,  Islooite homeschooler.

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