It’s Time to Return to Blogging

Too much time has passed since my recent blog dating back to September when I paid tribute to our deceased daughter.  Since that time, I visited by home town, as the featured photo shows, and I’v had a life-changing event: a new job!

Now, I have been on my new job, which was a move from one department to another at the university where I work for nearly one month.  I have gone from social researcher and community educator to another exciting job that works to ensure the success of multicultural students.  Now remember, “multicultural” means all cultures!  One thing that I’ve realized in my work with the many cultures, ethnicities, and dominant populations these past 25 years is that many think the word, “multicultural” means anyone who is not White and middle-class (in the United States).  That means finding common definition or understanding to assure that 1) Every human is from a culture, 2) Everyone has an ethnicity (belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural traditions), and 3) Every human can find common ground from which to build a relationship.  As you can see, I have my work cut out for me.

One thing I didn’t report, here, is that my former work was at an agricultural experiment station in SW Kansas.  Now I am on the campus, which is 4.5 hours away.  That means sell a house and buy a house.  Wish me luck.

So, in terms of friendships that change because they have become long-distance, I have wonderfully close friends in my former town.  I will see them often, for now, because I go “home” on the weekends. I am making new friends, too.  I will return to my soon-to-be former home this weekend to eat, drink, and be merry with my friends.  I love them dearly.  I have gone to a few dinner gatherings since being in the town of my new position.  Since many of our readers like food, I will share a newly-created appetizer that I took to one of the gatherings.

It’s a fruit, cheese, and nut medley, and I’ve named it, “Fall Colors”.

1 bag of fresh cranberries

2 oranges

1/2 cup (64g) coconut sugar

2 teaspoons (8.5g) Chinese 5 spice

One “log” of goat cheese

1 cup (28g) shelled walnuts

Brandy or vanilla is optional (brandy would be added during cooking and vanilla added when removed from the heat)

To make the compote, chop the oranges (peeling and all) and combine with the other ingredients in a saucepan to cook gently until the liquid comes out of the cranberries and oranges and the compote is thickened.  Remove from the heat.  If you use vanilla, add it now.

After the compote has cooled, place the goat cheese on a plate, and arrange the compote around the cheese, and top with the walnuts.

Fall-Colors-compote-and-goat-cheese.jpg

When you scoop it up, make sure you have a nice distribution of the cheese, compote and the nuts so that you have the advantage of all the flavors.  It goes well with nut crackers, and enhances the taste of red wine.  I call it “Fall Colors”, because cranberries and oranges are fresh at this time in the Northern Hemisphere.

Enjoy, and 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.

In and Beyond My Backyard: Cultural and Arts Observations in Daily Life and from My Educational Travels

We learn much about a people when we live among those who are not like us.  As a Native, not living on the reservation, most people with whom I interact daily are not like me, culturally and ethnically.    As a young person, I didn’t get to interact with a lot of people outside my developmental sphere with the exception of the kids at school.  As an adult, I think I’ve made up for lost time.  I live in an area of Kansas known for its cultural and ethnic mixes.  Of the 26 counties that make up Southwest Kansas, the three population centers (densely-settled rural) and one frontier-rural are Minority-majority.  In our region, we have about nine African, six Asian, 12 Latin American, and about three Caribbean countries represented. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some.  It is a lovely mix of varying faith beliefs, foods, dress, folkways, and mores.  I’ve made this area my home and my work as a researcher.

When we speak of culture, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked a group of Anglo, U.S. Americans to tell me about its culture, individually.  I become sad when people say, “I don’t really have a culture”!   So, I have to ask about their family traditions, foods, behaviors pertaining to their families, holiday, etc.  Then a light comes on about their own cultures.

So, what is culture, in the non-bacterial sense?  We social scientists might say it’s our attitudes, our customs, and our belief systems.  Humans build their cultures from the influences of place, time, socio-economic status, education, and belief systems.  Our cultures set us apart from one another in the fabric of humanity.  Every human population has a culture. We transmit our cultures through artifacts, language, rituals, and through the creative arts.

Think of your favorite artist.  Perhaps you have favorite artists across many disciplines: music (within or across genres), visual arts (within or across media), written word, and spoken word.  I know I’ve omitted a medium, but you get the picture (no pun intended!).

What have you learned from observing, listening, performing or, perhaps, owning a work of art from a culture different than your own?  Though I graduated high school 40+  years ago, I continue to be influenced by my high school music teacher, Mr. Bauguess.  Because of his talents as a teacher, I learned other languages, like Latin: by singing masses by Franz Schubert and Antonio Vivaldi; learned German by singing folk songs by Johann Sebastian Bach, and we learned French singing the music of Guillaume DuFay.  Learning those languages also sparked interests in me and my fellow students to learn more about the cultures of those composers who were touching our lives some 100 to 500 years later.

A perfect example of transmitting culture and chronicling history reaches way back to medieval Spain, then called Castile-Leon.  King Alfonso X ruled his kingdom by laying down laws and teaching morality through more than 420 songs/poems (written and commissioned by the King, himself) and corresponding works of art based on the teachings of the Virgin Mary.  He used the fine arts to teach a largely illiterate kingdom how to behave “properly”.   Fast forward to early 1800s to England, Scotland, and ultimately, Boston.  Harvard professor Francis James Child collected his “English and Scottish Popular Ballads”, some of which were broadsides, a sort of news clipping of the day, to tell the stories of broken laws, love, betrayal, and current events.  To this day, musicians and performers are still telling the stories collected by Child.  We call them the “Child Ballads”.  You’ve heard of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair”?  Child called it the “Elfin Knight”.  Do you remember Led Zeppelin’s “Gallow’s Pole”?  They used the same name as it was collected by Child.  We learn much about a culture from its music and other forms of art.  Even more contemporarily, think of how music and other forms of art are used to express political views.  We can learn a lot from the arts and culture of others, and we transmit our own beliefs to our children and grandchildren.

I am working very hard to make sure our grandchildren know their ancestries. After all, they reflect the pluralistic society that demographers predict for the U.S. by 2040.  My wish is that we keep teaching our cultures through the arts and other forms of creativity and intellect.  The more we know about each other, the more it fades to lines of “difference” that separate us (humans).

If we do not have the luxury, or the good fortune, to live among those who are not like us, then the next best thing is to visit with an open mind, a sense of adventure, and without judgement.  In other words, leave your back yard at home!

I have had wonderful opportunities to travel with work and with my work-related organizations.  These include a cultural geography trip called, “North Plains to The North Woods” arranged and executed by the Kansas Geographic Alliance.  Seven educators, with two leaders, made up a microcosm in a Kansas State University van traveling 4,106 miles during a 10-day span.  We studied flora and fauna (my assignment), culture, Lewis and Clark (It was the 200th anniversary of the Expedition), food, art, history, and some architecture. Why did we do it?  To learn about other people who have a different story than each of my fellow explorers.

Why does anyone travel?  I travel because I am curious.  I want to know how other people function in their societies.  I want to know how other people interact with their environments. I want to learn from them.  I want to eat their foods.  I want to hear their music. There is so much to learn from other people in other cultures, other socio-economic backgrounds, and of other ethnicities.

My plan for this blog, is to intersperse my extensive journal notes from some of my travels.  I hope my notes and writings will both enlighten and entertain.  Though, I have not traveled widely, I do take notes on my observations, experiences, and activities. To this point, my writings will come from my educational travels to Canada, Spain, Gibraltar, Mexico, Peru, and Alaska.  I’ve even taken notes on some of the simple travels across the U.S. I learn something everywhere I go.  Stay tuned!