March 21, 2008

Springbreak 2008: CA, AZ, NV

For Springbreak 2008, I didn't go to any white beaches or lush green jungles, but I did go somewhere yellow with sunshine, and warm (at least 30 degrees warmer compared to Logan, Utah). I went and explored Northeastern Arizona (AZ). But before arriving at my AZ destination, I stopped by San Diego, California (for 4 hours). One of my cousins showed his disbelief for my choice of vacation spot. "There's nothing in Arizona," he said. "Auntie's place is in the middle of nowhere. There's nothing there but the desert." His comment fazed me a bit, but not completely. The adventurous side of me accepted the challenge of seeking something -- a treasure-- out of "nothing/ a void," and finding the beauty in empty-open spaces and in "barren" lands.

Auntie's house/Miscellaneous
The original plan was to fly to San Diego on Friday night, spend a weekend with one of my titas and her family, and then meet another tita and drive with her and her husband for 6 hours to Kingman, AZ. But you know what they say about plans: "The great thing about plans is that you can change them." A week before my scheduled flight, I found out that my tita was driving back to AZ on Friday midnight (it was too late to change my reservation without paying extra).

Adapt to the situation
In a very hilarious scenario, I did my best to catch up with my San Diego cousins in 4 hours. I haven't seen them since the Summer of 2002 (to make things better, I told them that I'll save up again and visit them this summer for a longer time). Of course lots of things happened. Some events (which I won't elaborate for the sake of time and space) included cousins/family graduating high school/finishing college, getting a license/job, getting old etc.

The first thing we did was eat Filipino food. They commented on my skinniness, and I complained about eating cafeteria food in Logan (I'm in a long process of learning how to cook edible and nutritious food). We recalled the past (especially the Summer of 2002), swapped recipes, and surprisingly discussed politics (I generally would try to avoid this but my cousins were so comfortable with it that I just let it happened and listened). Under normal circumstances, I would be the one asking questions, but my family did most of the asking. All of these are happening while I ate. The funny and memorable part of it all was me chewing and swallowing rice and fish at one moment, then the next answering questions about my job and MA program, ate more, then recalled the past... etc. There were many conversations going on, I felt a bit overwhelmed; I didn't know which conversations I should be listening to and responding. These conversations were interrupted by calls from other relatives in the area, who couldn't be there to greet me. Every ten minutes or so, one of my relative would ask if I wanted more rice, fish, shrimp, or soup. One of my titas admonished me to eat "slowly" or risk upsetting my stomach. I ate moderately because I wanted to leave room for dessert (turon [fried sweetened bananas], Goldilocks cake and bubble tea).

One of my cousins thought it would be amusing to see me drunk (don't worry, I didn't drink). However we did go to a Tea house that sold bubble tea and bolba (the closest comparison I could think of, Tea house are like Asian equivalent of the Starbucks franchise: different flavored powdered tea mixed with milk/ latte-esque, served both hot or cold, and lots of "add ons" such as bolba, pearls, tapioca, pudding, jelly, ice cream etc.) That night was a bit chilly (even for San Diego weather), so I ordered a hot Taro milk tea with bolba and pudding. It was delicious (side note: Tea houses are not only found in San Diego. Any city with a Chinatown usually have tea houses. However I must admit that San Diego has one of the best tea houses in the U.S., definitely better than the one in the Philadelphia Chinatown).

My cousins and I talked some more in the car. Once in a while I glanced out the window, which was cracked open. Brine and automobile exhaust wafted in. I recognized some places vaguely and saw the outline of the Coronado bridge. When we got home, the energy waned a bit. The hour for me to leave and meet my other tita came closer. My cousin told me about food network.com and invited me to call her anytime for cooking advice. Before being escorted to my other tita, I gave my family pasalubong (travel gifts). I recognized how much I missed them (I consoled myself with the thought of returning to San Diego for a longer time this Summer even if I'm broke). As the great governor of CA, Arnold S., once said, "I'll be back (insert guttural German accent)."

I arrived at my other tita's house; we left San Diego at midnight. I would have loved to see the commute from CA to AZ, but it was really dark and I was tired. My tito drove the van. I sat at the front and my tita in the back. I dozed on and off sleep in the 6 hours drive (which wasn't that bad, the infamous L.A. traffic was non-existent). Songs from the Beatles, Beegees, Neil Diamond, and other 60s/70s pop icons filled the van.

When I was finally fully conscious, dawn was breaking or at least trying to break out of the overcast-filled sky of Kingman, AZ (this picture is not mine- it's Michael Payne's photo, not overcast, but you get a sense of "desolation"/lacking the skyscrapers of Manhattan). There's nothing in Arizona- the words of my cousin- echoed in mind.

We drove past two museums, several diners and motels, and mediocre shopping centers. This drive lasted for 10 minutes (not counting the traffic stoplights). "This is the downtown area, Mikey," my tita said. "Your Uncle will take you here this Wednesday."

"Okay," I said.

We drove further and finally reached their house in Rancho Santa Fe. A long time ago (like 2 years ago) I used to think that 5 acres of land wasn't that big. My tita's house was big, and I was even surprised when I found out that her house (including the front and back yards) was only 1/2 an acre (compared to my parent's 1/4 or 1/8 of an acre town house in Philly- I'd say that's humongous)...

My favorite parts of the house- the high ceiling, and the kitchen with the island counter (breakfast bar?). In the backyard, the view of Hulapai mts. lined along the highway. A couple of months or years from now, more houses would be built. I spent most of the evening in this house mostly sleeping (during the day various excursions took place outside- more details later). I watched my regular shows. We watched American Idol and afterwards voted to support a fellow Fil-Am. My tita showed me how to cook three recipes:sinigang, ginisang, and spaghetti sauce. I helped out somehow. I remembered washing several vegetables and tearing them apart. I peeled a slice of squash in 3 minutes while my tita peeled nine at the same time. Dinner time was filled with stories from my tita (stories about her work and the caricatures who inhabit them) and of course delicious food.

The next day, we woke up early so we could have a head start towards our first excursion. As soon as I got up, I greeted my tita and tito a "good morning" and then I went to the backyard to get a glimpse of dawn. The overcast of yesterday was gone. Already the blue sky was crisp and sharpened by clean air. There wasn't smog in the distance, just the highway and the horizon.

Later that night, the sky remained clear. I found Orion, and the Little Dipper/Big Dipper. Even though the sky was star-studded, I only recognized Orion and the Dippers. I got frustrated a bit because even with a star map, I still couldn't figure out other constellations. Since it was the "desert", it was cold being outside at the time. Even at night you could still tell how open and endless the sky was. I needed this openness and "barrenness" to unclutter my mind from distractions and stress...

to be continued...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 4:41 PM | Comments (0)

March 1, 2008

my first Pow Wow: learning to respect

so I just spent half of today reading a 124 page book filled with anthropological/socio-linguistic jargon... the author could have written a more condense 20 page journal article and save the reader (me) all the repetition....

the RA checked the apartments today- I woke up early to do last minute tidying up-... when he came to my apartment, I passed the inspection- BUT he annoying pointed out that the kitchen floor was too dull (caused by shoe marks) and the bathroom mirror was too streaky- honestly, the dull floors and streaky mirrors are not fire hazard... overall the apartment is still clean and pristine...

this week will be hell week, it's the week before spring break- I'm excited, I'm going to visit my family in CA and AZ, so I have to do a lot of work this week so during spring break I don't have to do as much.

Goals before spring break: finish grading papers, start another novel for class, read journal articles for the week after spring break, continue research so I'll be prepared to write my a folklit paper proposal, which is due the Wednesday after spring break

enough with the introduction... the main subject of this blog post is my first pow wow, which I attended yesterday...

It was held in the Nelson Field house here in Logan Utah... Native Americans, different tribes congregated here, some came from Wyoming, some from New Mexico, and some more from different parts of the west... I don't know what a pow wow is, and I didn't do any research... somehow, in the back of my mind, I had some info that pow wow had dance exhibitions and I was right - but other than that, totally clueless...

it started at 7 (according to the brochure, the announcer said that native American time was different (fashionably late)... I walked in and since I had time, I checked out the vendors (I didn't have a lot of money with me)... I saw hand-crafted jewelries, pottery, drawings, clothings and a food vendor selling FRY BREAD ( i love fry bread, my first exposure to this was last week, the Native American study Association sold them at the Taggart Student Center to raise money)... Fry bread reminded me a little of johnny cakes (of the Virgin Islands)- you have two options- on your toppings to put on top of the fry bread: vegetable salsa, sour cream (traditional taco-bell stuff) or butter and honey- I chose the sweeter deal (sugar is bad for you, BUT honey is not processed the same way as sugar, they are more natural and therefore not as dangerous)...

so during the pow wow, the first thing I did after checking out the vendors was buy a fry bread for $2.50 and then found a seat with my friend...

I got a program and read through it while waiting for pow wow to begin- I was partially right, the pow woo had dances- but it also has fashion, singing, drumming, and dancing contest, it's a celebration-- I found something funny in the program saying that the fashion et al. are part of legends and traditions, which were too lengthy to explain in a small blurb in the program.... I know this is true but some context would have helped... I just did a lot of guessing and interpretation based on previous experience and exposure

Native Americans were dressed traditionally in ceremonial clothing/dressing (not costumes- to say that they are wearing costumes is insulting and disrespectful- costumes imply Halloween)... some using colors of the natural earth (brown tones and torquoise) some some using today's accessibility of the world- silk inspired, neon colors,-- lots of sparkle, beads, satin/matte finished, feathers, animal symbols (I didn't bring my camera- I'm hoping that USU' Utah's Statesman will have good picture to commemorate this event on this Monday's issue)... I hear the jingles of bells, the clanging of cylindrical metals...

the grand entrance started, the dancer processed in a circular path (the circle is prominent in native American culture)...

dancing- marching- some animal movement maybe rooster fighting, eagles soaring, there was a warrior dance, dance separated by age- tiny tots, girls/boys, teens, women/men, golden age (respect for the elder), there's the traditional dance, the fancy shawl category, and exhibition (it reminded me of ballroom a little bit)

drumming/singing contest- my friend and I sat behind a group of singers and drummers, so when it was their turn to demonstrate, you can feel the reverberation of the drum all the way to your heart... I heard the men singing and the women harmonizing- the men's voice seem to crack, they were singing high (screeching almost) and it felt like they're straining their voices, the women seemed to be more at ease, the high notes came out of them effortlessly...

I'm guessing that the winners will be announced at the last day of the pow wow...

the clothings were really amazing-- one in particular sticks in mind, this woman had a black gown-esque with sparkling/violet/blue sequence/bead work, and it just reminded of the night sky with with stars... the black/ebony hue made the earth-toned beads and other warm colors stand out... it was really pretty and inspiring....

to be continued...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:05 PM | Comments (0)