A Learner’s Mindset For Understanding Self and Others

My featured image is one I took from a car as I was about to board an airplane from Los Angeles International Airport. At one time, the Mid-century structure was used as a restaurant and remains a symbol of the airport. I like the “Atomic Age” design, which the light poles further establish.

My topic today explores a framework that we can employ in our learning processes of one another. National Geographic Society uses this framework to help people understand the concepts of geographical inquiry. The Society calls it a, “Learning Framework.” I adapted NGS’s framework for teaching self-awareness, which greatly improves how we interact with those who we see different than ourselves. I call it, “A Learner’s Mindset for Understanding Self and Others.”

Did you know there are people who do not recognize that they have a culture? This continues to be a heavy subject in my teaching. Teaching cultural awareness required that I create/adapt this framework. Usually, I present this in a table for easy usage. Here, I present the framework in narrative form. The framework focuses on three elements: Attitudes, Skills, and Knowledge each with three subheadings.

A Learner’s Mindset for Understanding Self and Others

Attitudes

Curiosity: Engage in an on-going process of learning about yourself, about others around you, and about the environments (spaces) you and they inhabit.

Responsibility: Have concern and care for the well-being of other people, their journeys, and their experiences.

Empowerment: Understand your unique lived experience. Developing shared experiences builds self-confidence in social interactions. Empower others by internalizing that “different” is not bad or threatening.  State your opinions and listen to others.

Skills

Observation: Create a framework for knowing through the “mental” gathering of data, which informs our daily behavior and interactions. Are you able to observe without judgement?

Communication: Use language and media that speaks to truth, historical uses of words, and implications of wording in spoken language, writing, visual, and audio media. Apply this mindset to advancing learning about self and others.

Relationships: Collaborate across disciplines to advance understanding.  Listen to re-state the main points and to find common ground. Above all, build and value your relationships, which dissolve the lines of difference.

Knowledge

Understand the Human Journey: No two humans have the same journey. Share the story of your journey. Listen to the story of another person’s journey.  All humans develop their preferences, their ways of knowing, and their observations of others depending on their journeys.  Do some humans have an advantage over others based on their journeys?

Understand the Interconnected Human Systems and their Dynamic Forces: Seek and internalize frameworks of information to discern between truth and convenience. Discern the quantities, patterns, rhythms, and symmetry in human systems.  How are they unique, and how are they related? How do they change over time?

Acknowledge and Celebrate Human Difference: The social construction of hierarchies, class, and race historically benefit some groups and put others at a disadvantage. We can build relationships across these social barriers to see one another as individually contributing to the social fabric of humanity.  Celebrate this.  

This may not be the answer to every little thing in human interactions, but I do believe that it can be a start in our interpersonal relationships with those from cultures different than you own. Yes! Every human has a culture! Simply put, our cultures come from our knowledge and beliefs systems. Culture comes from our patterns of behavior learned from childhood, our language, our symbols and institutions. Culture is created, learned, and shared. Thrown together, the definition of “culture” seems to challenge people. To some, “culture” might seem an abstract concept mostly because some do not think about what constitutes “culture”

Sit down and think about your own patterns of behavior. Where did they originate? Human difference is a marvel. Celebrate it.

Thank you for reading me.

Convivial Times

As COVID restrictions begin to ease a bit, we appear to be interacting more often and frequently, without masks. I hope we are not being premature in our ease. I read a quick headline today that said that our isolation for the past 20 months may have taken a toll on our cognitive functions. I think we shall see more on that as we continue to examine the far reaching effects of a pandemic in contemporary times.

I must admit that I have ramped up my interactions across the dining table, both at home and with friends. One of the great opportunities of working at a university gives me the privilege of working with students from a variety of backgrounds, countries, geographies, and traditions.

My “featured image” demonstrates the diversity of my interactions that include dining. Enoch, a city planner, and Elfadil, a soil scientist, hail from Africa: Ghana and Sudan, respectively. These two brilliant young men prepared a feast for hubby and me. Each dish featured chicken, and one dish feature the addition of goat.

When Enoch comes to our house for dinner, he often treats us to Jollof Rice. He gets the spice blend from his home country, blended by women who specialize. He shared a nice pint sized jar with me. The best I can do is taste and try to decide what’s in it.

I taste the seasoning mix, and then write down what I think: crushed chicken bouillon, garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, onion flakes, chili flakes, black pepper, nutmeg, and thyme. While I am certain that the “spices” contain other ingredients, this is what I think I know, for now.

Let me tell you about the stews, which our hosts served with rice, which they prepared with cardamom pods floating in the water during the cooking process. First the gentlemen offered a simple salad of lettuce, tomatoes, and a cucumber served without dressing. I forget that a salad does not need any type of dressing to be satisfying. Then the stews…

First of all, I love that they offered hot tea with the meal in small glasses. It made the evening so elegant yet simple. We ate around the coffee table in the small, student apartment, which was a celebration of its own.

Both Enoch and Elfadil shared their recipes:

Enoch’s goat and chicken stew:

Brown goat chunks and chicken thighs in garlic, ginger, hot pepper, onion, tomatoes, black pepper and Jollof rice spices. Blend vegetables. Sauté the vegetables, then blend them. Add water. Simmer for the afternoon preceding dinner time. Serve with fragrant rice.

Elfadil’s chicken stew:

Fry onion, add salt, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, curry, mix all together. Add garlic. Add cut chicken to mix. Put lid on and simmer. “Wait for the magic to happen!” (My quote, not Elfadil’s) After cooked, add tomato sauce and let cook for 5 minutes and add garlic. Replace lid for 5-10 minutes before serving. It simmers into a rich thick stew.

Enoch’s goat and chicken, pictured above, is the redder sauce of the two. Both stews tasted warmly rich with the combination of spices most aromatic to the senses. We ate heartily!

I had a geography student live with us five years ago while she gathered data. We lived in another part of the state at the time, and I worked for the same university in another research position. Anyway, when the student returned to campus, and I had to be there, she cooked for me in her tiny, student apartment. She was from China. ” Kathy Su” prepared a feast of meats: beef, chicken, and lamb. She roasted all the meats separately in her tiny oven. She flavored the meats with ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oils. Each meat added its own flavor profile to the similar ingredients. Kathy chopped the meats and then put them back in the oven to finish cooking to tender morsels with crispy edges. She served a big dish of steamed rice, and we enjoyed the meats, which were “finished” with chopped green onions! I wish I had pictures, but I didn’t think I would be writing about it. Once again, simple ingredients for a sublime dining experience.

Next time, more flavors from the kitchen. Thank you for reading me!

What Matters to Me and Why

I work at a university with a leadership studies college. The school invites varying faculty, staff, and administration to talk about personal priorities and interests. As I always say, the more we know about one another, the more that the lines of separation fade. I love this notion of inviting people to talk about themselves. It becomes the living libraries favored by many communities. Here is one of my stories.

My father used to tell me, “Know something about everything and everything about something, and you will always be able to find common ground with another person.”  I have a penchant for music, literature, geography, history, art, language, biology, architecture, travel, navigation in air travel, and people.  Curiosity was the most important thing to my father.  He taught me to be curious, always!  Actually, I think my varied interests greatly inform my work in intercultural development, or helping humans find common ground with one another. It’s what I live.  It’s what I love. I like to begin my classes, workshops, and presentations with a land acknowledgment:

My homeland is the Uncompahgre Valley in Western Colorado, from where colonial settlers displaced my father’s people (Ute).  

In Kansas, I live and work on the ancestral territory of many Indigenous Nations, including the Kaw, the Osage, and the Pawnee. Kansas is currently home to the Prairie Band Potawatomi, the Kickapoo, the Iowa, and the Sac and Fox Nations. 

  I am grateful to these Nations. 

Please remember these truths.

It can be quite enlightening to research and discover what Indigenous Nation occupied the land on which you live, work, and play. We can think about:

Who granted the land?​

Who held the land previously?​

What was the U.S. Homestead Act of May 1862?​ Who was given land, and who was removed from said land?

So, I begin all my teaching with this acknowledgment. I am honored and obligated to my ancestors to do it.

Next in my processes of teaching, I acknowledge myself and my identities. Here are a few of the things with which I identify:

•Native (Ohkay Owingeh/Diné/ Uncompahgré) •Human Ecologist/Geographer •National Geographic Society Explorer •Social Researcher •Banjo player •Mother, daughter, friend, spouse, aunt, grandmother, motorcycle rider, writer… •King Alfonso X enthusiast, the original pluralist! •Blogger •Craftsperson •Nature enthusiast.

I could also say, I’m a mother, daughter, friend, spouse, aunt, grandmother, motorcycle rider, and writer.

Embedded in each of these identities that I share with you denotes aspects of my of my culture. However, the most challenging part of working to educate students, especially those from a dominant identity (Anglo-European descent) about culture is that they possess a culture. Many of my students tell me, “I don’t really have a culture. I’m just an American.” That just tells me that they have not thought about their identities.

Each of us, if we think about it, has several identifying factors that contributes to our cultural identity. You have the same sets of identities – each with sets of verbiage, practices, and thought processes that are part of your culture.

Certainly, our environments influence our patterns of behavior, our ways of knowing, our ways of living. I grew up in a mountain environment, as pictured here. We learn certain behaviors to thrive in mountain valleys, which can be different than the tallgrass prairie where I live now. In humans’ cultural practices, we learn, adapt, and adopt, often maintaining our foundational family and community systems.

Prairie or mountains: both are beautiful, and we adapt and adopt the cultural aspects of each geography.

Speaking of geography, I grew up in a household where National Geographic magazine was honored as much as the family bible.  My father read them from cover to cover.  My brothers saw them as anatomy lessons.  I vowed to visit all the places imaginable.  My work with National Geographic Society, as an explorer, put me in company with the likes of Maria Mitchell, noted astronomer in the 19th Century, Munazza Alam, 21st century astrophysicist searching for Earth’s twin, Harriet Chalmers Adams, journalists in the French trenches of World War 1, and notably, traveled to Africa to see Haile Selassie’s coronation as emperor of Ethiopia.  Of course, everyone knows the names of Edmund Hillary, Jacques Couteau, and Alexander Graham Bell as NGS explorers, but I encourage you to seek out the females who made great strides in the name of discovery.  Being a NGS explorer is the greatest way I can honor my father’s love of knowledge.

Two of the great products of my NGS funding was developing introductory course in geography for females of color, now in its fifth year, also thanks to our Center for Engagement and Community Development’s incentive grants, I was able to study the women in the African diaspora in rural SW Kansas, which became a chapter in a book recently published.  Here’s a picture of the book. My chapter covers the women of the African Diaspora now settled in Southwest Kansas. It tells of the brave women, displaced from their countries by war, worked in the beef packing plants while raising families and navigating health care, educational, and faith systems.

If you have read previous blog entries of mine, you would know that I greatly esteem George Washington Carver, the great genius in botany, invention, music, art, and philosophy.

Carver had a small homestead in Beeler, Kansas.  As a child, his slave owners near Diamond, Missouri actually saw his genius in plant pathology.  He came to Kansas, finished high school, and applied and was accepted into Highland college until he showed up. Carver was denied a college education in Kansas, because of teh color of his skin.

He found his academic home, first at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa.  Only being allowed to study the fine arts, his art teacher took great interest in his botanical illustration.  She connected Carver to her biologist husband who was teaching at what is now Iowa State University.  Carver received is Master’s degree there where his brilliance was duly noted by Henry Ford, who had invited him to work since Carver had created rubber out of golden rod. Thomas Edison tried to recruit him as an inventor since Carver was noted as a great inventor, having patents on wood stains made from peanuts and sweet potatoes.   Alas, he went to work at Tuskegee “Normal” Institute at the invitation of Booker T. Washington, because it was there that he’d “do the most good.” Carver taught chemistry, botany, and other biology at Tuskegee until his death. I found this picture on the internet with Carver’s rules to live by: “Education is the key to unlock the golden doors of freedom.”

Once a year, I pay homage to King Alfonso X, who ruled Castile-Leon (now Spain) in the 13th Century. Here are a few facts about the “Learned King.”

He ruled from1252 – 1284 13th C. Medieval – Father of Castilian language, which we now call Spanish.  During his time, his language was Galician-Portuguese, also called “Romance” 

420 songs, poems, and commissioned 3 dimensional pieces as a way to teach morality to his subjects. 

He had just missed being crowned the Holy Roman Emperor because he was “too learned!” according to the Pope of the Catholic Church at the time. I wrote a blog better examining the King last November. No doubt, I will write another about the king in the coming fall.

I like learning about different species in the animal world. I was a volunteer teacher at a zoo in Southwest Kansas. If you want to learn more about a subject, teach it! I was able to handle lots of cool animals. Here I am with a goshawk.

Finally, exploring my Indigenous roots remains an important part of my identity. I still practice the food, the songs, and the rituals of my grandmothers. The fire featured as my main image illustrates one of those practices of cleansing with smoke. I am born for the Ohkay Owingeh and the Dine and born to the Uncompahgre Ute.  I have DNA ties to the Athabascan, Alaskan Native.  My people, called the San Juan Pueblo by Spanish colonizers of what is now New Mexico. Spaniard plopped right on the Village at the confluence of the Chama and the Rio Grande Rivers.  Our villages straddled the rivers, so there was much struggle to keep our culture, our food ways, and our identities as The People of the Strong Land.  You can see a stature of our great leader, Popay, in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.  Despite the push toward erasure, we are still here!

My family remains the most important, my children, grandchildren, spouse, parents, siblings, and extended family, natural and adopted, as I call my dear friends. Find what makes you happy, and develop curiosity about an array of subjects. For me, I can only think knowledge is the best brain food.

Thank you for reading.

Geography Awareness

Though I am running a week behind the actual Geography Awareness week, which begins on the third week in November, I think it’s always important to understand place and our relationships to our environments. The study of geography must move beyond memorizing state capitals. In this vein, I wish to offer some tidbits from what used to be an annual Geography Awareness Week (GAW) program on a public radio station in the Central High Plains. My dear friend, Lynn, and I did this fabulous music show. The music reflected people of the world and the music of their people.

Neither of us live near that public radio station, and the live show is not one we can do remotely, though I do have an in-home studio, thanks to National Geographic Society (NGS)! Over the years, Lynn and I have collected geography facts and turned them into radio segments called, “Did You Know?”

GAW used to have different themes each year, and we would find music, of the world in the folk traditions, that matched or supported the themes. Lately, NGS encourages teachers, professors, and anyone else interested in promoting the discipline of geography, to celebrate all aspects of geography since it is considered “the mother of all sciences.” Here are some geography facts that you may not have known or thought of.

Did you know that early human migrations are thought to have begun when Homo erectus first migrated out of Africa to Eurasia around 1.8 million years ago?

Did you know that one of the greatest waves of immigrants to the USA was during the 1820s – 1890s, when more than 5 million immigrants arrived in America from Ireland and Germany.

Did you know that Immigration to Australia is estimated to have begun around 50 000 years ago when the ancestors of Australian Aboriginals arrived from the islands of the Malay Archipelago and New Guinea. 

Did you know that according to the Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011, 3% of the world population (more than 215 million people) live in a country other than the one in which they were born.

Did you know that the largest migration corridor in the world is Mexico? The second largest migration corridor in 2010 was between the Ukraine and Russia, followed by Bangladesh and India. 

Did you know that Asian Indians make up the largest percentage of immigrants coming into the United Kingdom, followed by migrants from Pakistan, Poland, Australia and China. 

Did you know that relative to world population size, more people were migrating around the end of the 19th Century than they are now, in the 21st Century. 

Did you know that an “emigrant”’ is a person who is leaving one country to live in another?  An “immigrant” is a person who is entering a country from another country to make a new home, and a refugee is a person who has moved to a new country because of conflict, abuses, and other harmful threats in the home country.

Did you know that in 2017, 48% of international migrants were women? Female migrants outnumber males in all regions except Africa and Asia.  In some countries of Asia, male migrants outnumber females by about three to one.

Did you know that Human Migration is movement by people from one place to another with the intension of settling temporarily or permanently in the new location? It may involve movements over long distances and from one country to another.

Did you know that a demographer is a scientist who studies human population dynamics by investigating three main demographic processes?  Demographers consider birth, migration, and aging. 

Did you know that Climatology is the study of how climates are created and what they do the environment?  Climatology is a long-term study of the geographic world. 

Did you know that Geography is considered the “Mother of Sciences”?  Geography’s study field embraced the entire universe and later bore many children, among them astronomy, botany, geology, and anthropology. 

Did you know that the Geographic Inquiry Process helps us to understand the interaction of human and natural systems with a framework that promotes understanding?  Geo-Inquiry guides us to Ask, Collect, Visualize, Create, and Act.  For more information, explore geo-inquiry online. 

Did you know that Human Ecology, the study of humans in their environments, is a unique field of Geography?  This form of geographic inquiry aims to clarify the relationships between natural environments and varying activities of humans.

Did you know that the study of geography explores different systems such as human, physical, and biological through space? Explore geography! It is more than states, capitals, rivers and trivia. 

Did you know that geography explores human systems, which include culture, economics, migration, and politics?

Did you know that geography explores physical systems such as landforms, climate, and rivers?

Did you know that geography explores biological systems such as habitat, species dispersal, and adaptation?

Did you know that Geographers identify relationships and explain spatial patterns?

Did you know that geography is not just something you know; it is something you do!  Geographers explore systems and processes in human, physical, and biological worlds using a geographic perspective!  Look it up!

Did you know that geography has different perspectives within its discipline? For example, an ecologist might study how individual species depend on one another while a biogeographer might study how those dependencies influence and are influenced by location!

These geography moments come from several of my geography friends who love this discipline as much as I do.  I have had the pleasure of serving as a National Geographic Society Explorer these past four years. Lynn and I serve on the Kansas Geographic Alliance, a group of fine people.  I hope you enjoy these geography moments.

Thank you for reading.

The Meaning of Safety in Common Spaces

I work at a university as a teacher of intercultural learning and development.  That means I work with students to learn about their own cultures so that they are better prepared to understand other cultures.  You see, we want to graduate students who are globally marketable and are able to think past their own identities.

I have developed many workshops over the years to address such learning outcomes.  One of the developmental workshops/classes is called Safe Zone.  It was developed by Anthropologist, Dr. Susan Allen, among others, originally to address sexual minorities, and then began to include intersectional identities deemed, “Not in the mainstream.”  That was back in the 1970s, and we continue this important work of building allies today.

With the recent focus on inequities across all social constructs, there remains a focus to help institutions build community, foster a sense of belonging for all, and address emotional well-being.  As I continue to say, it’s a life-long journey.  When one asks me, “How long with this take?”  My favorite answer is, “A life time.”

I have a class called, History of Exclusion, Implicit Bias, Aggression, and Language.  I present this here as a way for us to think about the environments that we build in order to exclude, which is the opposite of building community.  Here is a quick primer:

Justification:

As with any intercultural learning processes, all students , no matter who you are,  must understand and internalize the benefits of being globally aware, confident and competent. This learning is not a “check box,” nor is it a “once and done” process.

The goal is for a us to move toward “allyship,” with historically excluded groups with “Authentic Allyship.” For example:

  • “Performance Allyship,” i.e. extrinsically motivated and tends not to be sustainable. Rather is tends to be “a means to an end.”
  • “Authentic Allyship,” intrinsically motivated and tends to promote positive and sustainable change in systemic exclusion.

If we are asking ourselves and teaching our children to function in a global society, we must model that same “self and other” awareness.  Here’s a way to begin:

  • Learn about your own identity and the characteristics that make up your culture.
  • Learn about the identities of others and what about those identities that make up their cultures.
  • Internalize how this understanding contributes to cohesion and the equitable representation of multiple identities in the class (room), in community, and in  societal settings.

Intended Outcomes: Participants in this practice  internalize their personal journey in Authentic Allyship with persons who identify with populations not part of a dominant.  Practitioners of allyship understand how their own stories influence how they view the “other.”  Practitioners of allyship find common ground to learn the stories of “others” and build relationships.  Ultimately, practitioners of allyship advance the concepts of “Community, Belonging, and Emotional Well-being” for all.

As you look for readings, look for key words in the following topics.

Topics Covered:

  • History of the exclusionary acts that contribute to racism and other “-ism” constructs
  • Understanding Implicit biases and its effects in building relationships
  • Understanding different types of aggressions: how do they affect the relationship between the aggressor and their “targets,” including:
    • Micro-invalidations
    • Micro-insults
    • Micro-assaults
  • Understanding the language that further “minoritizes” and separates one group from another.

Again, we promote: “Community, Belonging, and Emotional Well-being”

This is what I want for us:

Jumbo Ball Pit with 10 students

Thank you for reading.

Nature, Meditation, and Cooking

I hope you like my featured photo.  I took it on my way home from Nebraska in 2017.  We had traveled there to witness the total solar eclipse.  Of course it was incredible, and luckily, the sun set that day with a spectacular view in Western Kansas.

I have a list of topics on which to write in my series of blog posts.  One thing I thought of was the joy of camping.  My Father used to take us camping when we were young. Of the seven children, all of us continue to enjoy nature and all it has to offer us.  My best memories of camping with my father and siblings were the nature lessons on edible plants, astronomy, mushroom hunting, and fishing.  Cooking what we caught and gathered was the best part, and eating all of the food we prepared was the bonus.  My father used to sing to us while he cooked our camp meals.  Today, our camp sites are a place for gathering (Pre-Corona Virus times), conversing, and enjoying each detail of the natural world around us.

My Father’s favorite and best meal was, “Sheepherder’s Delight.”  Basically, it is a one-pan meal, and was cooked over an open fire.  It was a favorite of Dad’s for camping trips since it was a staple meal for sheep herders who lived in the mountains of Colorado with during the summers, as was my Father’s life as a young boy.  Today, when my family goes camping, we prepare the meal the way Dad did, but when we make it at home, we change it a bit.  Here’s my Father’s recipe for Sheepherder’s Delight prepared in one large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven:

1 pound (0.45 kg) of bacon.  Cook until crisp.  Remove cooked bacon, and set aside.  Cube two to four potatoes, depending on the number people that you will feed.  Figure about one small potato per person or two people for a large potato.  Place the potatoes in the hot bacon grease, and fry until soft with crisp edges.

Next, open a can of prepared baked beans, pork and beans, or beans in tomato sauce.  Pour the beans over the potatoes, and add the cooked bacon.  I don’t have a picture of it, but it’s best served after a hard day of hiking, fishing, mushroom hunting, or what ever you do to enjoy nature.  We have a slightly different take on Sheepherder’s Delight when we’re at home.  We change up the ingredients:

1 pound of ground beef (453.592g) I’m sorry if my metric measurements are not quite right.  I look them up on the web for the conversions.  Cook the ground beef with some diced onions, salt, and pepper.

Prepare the potatoes for oven baking.  I cut mine into strips, and toss them with salt, pepper, some oil, and some malt vinegar.  Bake the potatoes in an oven set at ~365 degrees Farenheit (185C). Bake until brown and crispy at the edges.

While the potatoes are baking, finish cooking the ground beef.  Drain of any extra fat.  Then you’re ready to add the canned baked beans, pork and beans, or with what you’re familiar.  It should look like this.

Now, to assemble this wonderful comfort food, bring the potatoes out of the oven.  Arrange some of the potatoes on your plate.  Then serve the bean-meat mixture over the potatoes.  We make this for camping trips.  We use one pan by cooking the potatoes first.  Set them aside while you cook the meat.  Add the beans, and serve over the potatoes.  I forgot to take a picture of the finished product until I had but one bit remaining.

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Another thing we do to enjoy nature is hike up to my Father’s fire circle.  It’s in the same mountains of his childhood and that of his children, grandchildren, and the “Old Ones,” our ancestors.  The Fire Circle is a place to drum and sing our songs, and honor our beloved ancestors.  The hike to our sacred fire circle is about two miles from the main forest service road.  We pass stands of quaking aspen trees, scrub oak, pinon pine, and Ponderosa pine trees.  The fire circle overlooks a canyon where my people hid when the U.S. government was removing them from their ancestral lands to reservations in the 1800s.  It is a very sad time in American history, that is not taught in the schools today.  Here’s a glimpse of those lands.  Our grandson enjoys his time there.

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Speaking of “Indian Removal,” there is the reality that the people were moved away from their hunting and gathering grounds, so there was no way to raise their food.  So the government provided commodities, food surpluses, which included white flour, powdered milk, lard, and a variety of canned meats and vegetables.  The food was highly processed, and we can trace obesity and diabetes back to this down turn in our physical health and food sovereignty.  Having only white flour, dry milk powder, and lard, fry-bread was born, out of necessity.   Though it is a symbol of a bad time for my ancestors, we use it today to symbolize that we are resourceful, and we are still here!  Here I am frying bread at my Father’s fire circle.  My grand nephew was learning how to roll out the dough.  It’s never too early to teach the “younguns” as my brother would say.  He was the one hauling the cast iron Dutch oven up to the circle.  The elevation is ~8,000-plus  feet above sea level.  The beauty contributes to the meditative state in which we find ourselves when we visit this place.

It was a good day to be alive and a good day to honor our ancestors while celebrating the children.

Thank you for reading.

It’s Geography Awareness Week!

Every year, around the second or third week in November, National Geographic Society celebrates Geography Awareness Week (GAW).  As a National Geographic Society Explorer, I have made it one of my missions to promote the study of geography in the class room.  In the U.S., the study of geography is not mandatory.  This sad reality means that many young people, mostly our Anglo students in the U.S.  have no idea that they  possess culture or are part of the human continuum that we call, “diversity.”  Geography teaches us that our respective cultures become part of us as we mature from infants to adulthood, gathering preferences, inter-sectional identities, belief systems, and ways-of-knowing, depending on what part of the world we call home.

It’s a great honor to be part of National Geographic Society as an explorer.  While I don’t get to travel to the far reaches of the globe, I help students look at the world with geo-spatial lenses.  I teach them to ask questions, which we call, “geo-inquiry.”  I have an example:

  • Ask: Framed question from a location-based perspective so that you understand the challenge
  • Acquire: the resources needed to study the question further, such as research data
  • Examine your data, and watch for patterns that begin to emerge
  • Analyze the data to see which factors influence other factors
  • Act on your knowledge to determine a problem-solving approach

–Develop your message for your intended audience to create visuals to communicate information

Let me break this down even further.  Suppose I parachute out of a plane, and I don’t know where I am.

  1. Where is this place? (Ask)
  2. What is the topography? What is the climate?  Am I surrounded by mountains?  Can I see snow on those mountains? Why am I surrounded by a treeless sandy plain but I can see mountains about 25 miles (40.2 km) in every direction? What else can my surrounding tell me? Have I been to a place like this previously?  (Acquire data)
  3. After I take in all this data, I can begin to examine it to create a hypothesis on my location. (Examine)
  4. Analyzing my data, I begin to realize that I am somewhat familiar with the surroundings.  About 25 years ago, I remember that I climbed Blanca Peak, a 14,000 Feet (4267.2 meters) peak at my 11:00 o’clock as I face south.
  5. I can now act on my knowledge to find my way to the nearest town in this valley.  Where am I?  I am at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, United States.

Geography asks us to consider all our surroundings and to recognize how we humans interact with our environments.  It asks us to consider place and what makes place important to us.  Here are some other questions we ask through geography:

“What is?  or Which is?

“Where is?”

“What has changed?”  “Since when”?

“How has it changed?”

“Which spatial patterns exist?”

“What if?”

Girls pointing at map.jpg
My students pointing to their places of origin!

Here are some other geography “tid-bits.”

  • Did you know that Geography is considered the “Mother of Sciences”?  Geography’s study field embraced the entire universe and later bore many children, among them astronomy, botany, geology, and anthropology.
  • Did you know that Climatology is the study of how climates are created and what they do the environment?  Climatology is a long-term study of the geographic world.
  • Did you know that Human Ecology, the study of humans in their environments, is a unique field of Geography?  This form of geographic inquiry aims to clarify the relationships between natural environments and varying activities of humans.
  • Did you know that geography explores human systems, which include culture, economics, migration, and politics?
  • Did you know that geography explores physical systems such as land forms, climate, and rivers?

Geography is wonderful!  Some people think that technology, such as map programs, will do away with maps and atlases.  I hope not.  The joy of exploring the world through maps remains a great excitement for those of us who grew up with maps.

If you would like to hear geography linked  with music, listen to High Plains Public Radio, online at hppr.org.  Silver Rails: Music of the World in the Folk Tradition airs Saturday, November 9, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Central Time.  Lynn Boitano and I will be your host for music, geography trivia call-in, and lots of geography information.  We will be celebrating Geography Awareness!

Thank you for reading!

 

Sunsets and Landscapes

If you ever doubt a higher power, look at nature.  I love to be outdoors.  My featured photo is a sunset taken at a retreat ranch south of Dumas, Texas.  It looks as though the evergreen tree, through which I photographed the sun, is on fire!  Notice the colors of the sky and horizon framed by the trees.

I’ve just passed the week in California.  Even with wild traffic on the freeway, one can eventually get to the beauty of the hills.  My other brother-in-law, Bob, lives in the southern wine country.  The homes built in the granite hills above Temecula, make me think of the Mediterranean, because of the olive trees and grape vines.  The date palms make me think of Middle East.  Notice this sunset.  Those colors are postcard worthy!

Temecula Sunset

Included in the array of birds and other animals were, hummingbirds (Anna’s and Ruby Throat),  scrub jays, tufted titmouse, yellow vireo, house finch, common raven, goldfinch, and great horned owl.  I have not identified this little lizard, however.  He was very quick, so I could not catch him/her.  Perhaps you have an idea.

Lizard

At my brother-in-laws in Los Angeles, there lives an abundant sort of wildlife, too.  I could not get a picture of it, but look up the Red Whiskered Bul Bul.  There lives a pair in one of the trees.  The green June beetle intrigued me, too, but, alas, too fast for a picture.  Take a look at these gulf fritillary.  They have brilliant coloring.

Gulf Frittilaries

These were shot with my phone.  I didn’t feel like dragging my camera through tsa, and I had my limit of carry-on.

Yes. I write few words, but I hope the pictures make up for it.

Thank you for reading.

The Wonders of Traveling to the City – Los Angeles

We landed at LAX, the international airport of Los Angeles, California today.  I love traveling.  Yes.  There are delays, many personalities, and some inconveniences.  Those little “bothers” dim when compared to the phenomenal wonders of witnessing the human experience in the process.  There are those who are laid back, as I tend to be, because we know we cannot hold back the tide, such is air travel.  There are those who appear to be stressed and uptight, perhaps, because they have no control over time and space, such is travel.   And there are those who appear to be oblivious to the process of travel and other life realities, in general.   

On the flight from Colorado to LAX, I had the pleasure of observing all three.  First, there was my seat mate who was traveling to LA to meet up with friends at Disneyland.  She amused me, not because she was unaware of direction in her home town of Colorado Springs (I mentioned that Cheyenne Moutain is always on the west, and if she faces it, her right would be north, and her left would be south.  To which she replied, “I don’t know what that means”.  Okay.  I get that, I think.  She appeared to be a nice young lady, no matter how unaware of her surroundings.  The great perplexing thing was that, once we landed, she did not know how she would get to Disneyland.  She thought of taking an Uber or Lyft for the 35 miles to Disney.  I suggested public transportation.  We were glad to help her get there, through a little research.  I was glad to help an elderly lady get her three big bags to the curb queue for waiting on family to fetch her. 

What I enjoyed the most, was the train ride to Pasadena.  Los Angeles has a very nice light rail.  On the ride, I spoke with homeless people who rode the rail for most of the day.  I interacted with some who were suffering from untreated mental illness, and with hard-working folk who toiled long, hard days to support their families in jobs that contribute to the economy, put food on our tables, and tend toward jobs that most of us do not want to do, nor do we raise our children to do such jobs.   

On the train in LA

I loved watching a little girl explaining to her mother, in Spanish, about her Russian Nesting Dolls, which she received as a gift from her teacher at school in the first day.  The little girl explained to me, the origins of her gift, in perfect English.  She was about 9 years old and very bright.

Little girls with nesting dolls on train

The first train from LAX takes us to Union Station, built in 1939 as a Passenger Terminal.  Called the “Last of the Great Railways, LA Union Station gained notoriety in 1980 by being place on the National Registry of Historic Places.  When we took the train from Kansas City to Los Angeles two years ago, we had the pleasure of departing from a great Union Station and Arriving at an equally great Union Station.  If only the walls could speak! 

The ride from LA Union Station to Pasadena afforded the observer with great contradictions.   Hibiscus “hedges” lined the streets while on those streets were small microcosms of tent “villages” inhabited by homeless people.   My heart breaks for the many circumstances that render one homeless, , and I believe we can learn much from them, because I witnessed great survival skills and resourcefulness in those with whom I’ve interacted.   

By the time we reached our destination of Pasadena, CA, I had spoken to 15 people each with a story to tell.  If we, but, listen, the voice of humanity shines, and we walk away a little smarter for the experience.   

Not only does the city offer the continuum of the human experience, I like to go to grocery stores to see what the locals purchase.  I like a well-stocked grocery with a wide array of ethnic ingredients, and Los Angeles does not disappoint!  Opportunities for dining out are fabulous!  One of my favorite hamburger spots is In-n-Out Burgers!  Opened in 1948 by the Snyders, the franchise boasts that it has no freezer or microwave.  Each “store” provides a viewing window, where we wait and watch each burger assembled.  The “double-double” has two freshly cooked patties that are place on buttered-toasted buns, freshly sliced onion and tomatoes and a chunk of lettuces pulled from the freshly broken head.  The fries come from a potato placed in a chopper directly into the hot oil.  All this is washed down with a sparkling cola.  There are even items from a “hidden” menu such as “animal fries” and a patty cooked for your dog! 

In and Out

After sitting with my brother-in-law, as he received chemo-therapy infusion, we treated ourselves to a snack of “inari-sushi” from a “stand” that has been in existence from Dale’s (my spouse) childhood. He’s 69 years old, so that Inari-Sushi stand has been around for a while.  One orders from a window, and the person brings the order to the car.  Inari-shushi is sushi rice, sesame seeds, with seasoned rice vinegar tucked into a tofu pocket.  Eaten with soy sauce and pickled ginger, it’s a taste explosion you won’t soon forget.  Now, I’m on the hunt for recipes on making the tofu pocket!   

Thank you for reading.

Eggplant Parmigiana – Made Simply

I might be a little brain dead at the moment, so I’ll just write about this evening’s dinner.  Again, I didn’t set out for this to be a blog only about food, though its preparation wanders into a sort of therapy for me, sometimes.  I have many topics on which I want to share.  I don’t want to be boring, however.  Sooner or later, I plan to discuss food in books a bit more along with other points of interest such as music, film, history, culture, and themes of social justice.  Let’s continue with food, for now.

My all-time favorite cookbook, given to me by my friend, Lynn, is more of a story book, called There’s a Tuscan in my Kitchen, written by restauranteur, Pino Luongo, who hails from Tuscany (Toscana) region of Italy.  Tuscany sits on the same latitude as Corsica (birthplace of Napoleon) and would be considered the upper part of the “boot” (but not the upper flaired part!), that is Italy.  The Tuscan region is on the Ligurian Sea.  Luongo’s book tells a story of each featured dish. My favorite part is that he does not give the reader/cook ratios and measurements for each dish.  He trusts the reader to make his/her own judgement.  He does list the ingredients based on where one might find them: pantry, cold storage, and market.

Yes.  I love Luongo’s book, but my food travel, this evening, goes north to Parma!  This evening’s menu: Eggplant Parmesan on linguine (literally, “little tongues” from the Liguria region west of Parma).

Since my basil garden continues to be quite prolific, I have a goal of incorporating the “mint cousin” into as many dishes as possible.  First, however, I sliced the eggplant, and salted it on each side before laying the slices on paper towel to drain from lunch time to evening.

eggplant-draining.jpg

My sauce:

  1. 1 can whole tomatoes
  2. 1 very large bunch fresh basil leaves
  3. 4 cloves of garlic
  4. ¼ yellow onion
  5. 1 TBS mix of dehydrated and ground onion, celery, and mushroom (my own creation)
  6. Salt and pepper
  7. ¼ cup red wine

Blend all ingredients, then pour into cooking pot and simmer for three- four hours (I put these ingredients in the pot when I came home for lunch and simmered on low until I returned).

Put 2 eggs into a pan.  Dip the sliced eggplant in egg mixture then in flour before placing in hot oil to fry until golden brown.  Place browned slices into a glass cake pan in one layer until all slices have been browned.

Pour your simmered red sauce on the browned eggplant slices, then cover with Parmesan cheese and mozzarella.  Bake in a 350-degree oven until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is browned.

EPP in the pan

Serve the eggplant and sauce on top of linguine or spaghetti.  Enjoy with a salad and a beverage of your choice.

Thank you for reading!