Nightborn Travel

Seeking Vistas Secret and Acclaimed

Category: Cultural Highlight

The Un-Planner’s Guide To: New York City (Day 2)

Hello, wonderful person! If you’ve made it here, that means you’ve made it to the second and final part of  Un-Planner’s Guide to New York City.

I hope my itinerary, and I use that term VERY loosely, for Day 1 serves you well. Now, let’s get the show on the road for Day 2, we don’t have much time to waste.

Day 2:

Herald Square

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  • Plan to meet up with family for breakfast, but start your day off a little bit earlier so you have time to wander.
  • Realize that you’re a block from Herald Square and its Macy’s of Miracle on 34th Street fame. Use store as a landmark to return to because it’s impossible to miss, considering it takes up an ENTIRE city block.
  • Pick a completely random direction to go in and enjoy strolling at your own leisure while watching sleepy businesses open and traffic buzz by.

Koreatown

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  • Be lucky that Koreatown is close enough to Herald Square that you can stumble upon it by accident.
  • See a street sign for Korea Way. Follow the sign.
  • Decide that Korean food would be an AMAZING breakfast. Meet up with your people and tell them so.
  • Find that there’s an abundance of Korean (surprise, surprise) places to eat that you know nothing about.
    • We interrupt this guide for the Un-Planner’s Mini-Guide to: Selecting a Restaurant (A guide within a guide. Guide-ception.)
      1. Yelp it.
      2. Be indecisive.
      3. Walk up and down the street looking at menus.
      4. Wonder how you ever make any decisions in your life.
      5. Say “to heck with it” and just walk into a random place.
  • Fortune smiles upon you and the restaurant you’ve chosen is New Wonjo, a popular Korean BBQ eatery that also happens to serve a really dope breakfast.
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This beef and kimchi soup was as delicious as it was enormous. Pictured in the background are all our side dishes or banchan, plus some excellent fried veggie dumplings.

  • Be thoroughly stuffed, but it’s fine, because you’ll need all those calories for all the walking you’re about to do.

American Museum of Natural History

  • Take your first subway trip of the day.
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For this iconic blurry subway train picture, I stood just a little too close to the platform edge and got the breath sucked out of me as it went by extremely quickly.  100% DO NOT RECOMMEND. Seriously, take your blurry photo from a distance.

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KNOWLEDGE.

  • Buy the Super Saver pass because you want to do all the things and then realize you may have made a mistake because you have roughly three hours and 5 floors of museum. TRY TO DO IT ALL ANYWAY.
  • Run around from floor to floor ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ at things, but mostly getting lost because seriously, how is this place so large.
  • Pause to watch a planetarium show about the universe. Or more accurately, watch two minutes of the show and fall asleep because the chairs are comfy, the planetarium is just the right amount of dark and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s voice is really soothing.
  • Spend the rest of your time enjoying the dinosaur exhibit the most because they are GREAT.
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SO MAJESTIC.

Central Park

  • Morning has somehow quickly bled into afternoon. Head over to Central Park, which happens to be just across the street.
  • Walk through Central Park while thinking, “I think I’ve seen that in a movie.”
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I can’t tell you what part of Central Park this is, but you’ve probably seen it in a movie.

  • Keep walking a find yourself amidst a lot of hubbub you don’t understand. Tourists are standing in a circle and taking photos of the ground (and of themselves and the ground).
  • Make it to a break in the circle and it suddenly all makes sense. You wandered into Strawberry Fields, an area paying tribute to late Beatles member, John Lennon.
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Imagine all the people… trying to take a photo with this mosaic. It was a lot.

Chelsea Market

  • It’s time to regroup with the rest of the family, so back to the subway you go.
  • Really experience the ride. People watch. Read the poetry that the MTA has put up in the cars, or the other fascinating literature other passengers have left behind.
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Uh, where exactly is this train going, again?

  • Decide on Chelsea Market because your group cannot agree on dinner. Thankfully, the market is a block long and chock full of a variety of restaurants and shops.
  • Let the smell of french fries take you to the Creamline for a burger and fries that you practically inhale. Then for dessert, the mini-donuts that your brilliant father has gotten from the Doughnuttery.
  • Roll out of Chelsea Market.
  • Struggle to find the right train station with machines to refill your metro card.
  • Arrive at correct station.
  • Zombie walk to hotel because you’re full of a combination of sun, food and exhaustion.
  • And finally, sleep.

That’s all she wrote, folks. Thanks for joining me for this brief and devil-may-care tour of NYC!

Happy Un-Planning,

Katie

Backyard Discoveries: The Shrine on Chihuahua Hill

If you’re up for a little bit of hike in Bisbee, AZ, the jaunt up Youngblood and Chihuahua Hill is an excellent way to get the heart pumping and to see life in this former mining town in a different way.

Like we mentioned in our handy itinerary, you can take OK Street up to the base of Youngblood Hill and take time to check out all the local homes (trust me, you’ll want to – they have a lot of character). If you start your journey earlier in the morning (maybe around 7 a.m.), you’ll benefit from pleasant temperatures and having the town (and trail)practically all to yourself before the sleepy town becomes a bustling tourist stop.

Blue Jesus (I’ve called him this because he is both literally painted blue and because of his sorrowful expression) is the marker of your trail up Youngblood, but also a good wake-up call for groggy hikers because from a distance you can’t tell if it’s a statue or a person waiting at the trail.

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A couple important notes before you ascend:

  • Beyond Blue Jesus is private property, so be polite and don’t go exploring a local’s front yard.
  • The path up to the hills is steep, narrow and slippery. If you’re not a strong hiker or don’t have appropriate shoes, it’s best to come back another time. There is also a bit of incline when getting to the top of both hills, so stay hydrated and listen to your body to stop when needed.

If you do make it up Chihuahua Hill, you are rewarded with a great view of the town below and are privy to a shrine that’s maintained by its residents. You can see some of our photos from the site below, but it’s really worth a visit in person. There’s a sense of peace, joy and love you get when you look at these colorful tributes.

Pay your respects and please move around with care.

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21st Century Warriors: Keeping Culture Alive at the Kenshin Dojo

It’s not every day that you see a bunch of guys with swords.

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But there they are. And here I am – not hallucinating or anything, even though it’s already hot enough outside in the early Phoenix springtime to consider sunstroke delusions.

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The only reason I’m not running in the opposite direction, is because these students from the Kenshin Dojo practicing iaido are fighting imaginary enemies, not real ones. This isn’t Feudal Japan, after all.

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Instead, these modern-day warriors are performing for a captive audience at Arizona’s Matsuri Festival. Festival goers are quiet, mouths agape as they watch these movements being executed with precision and grace. After all, how often do you witness an martial art form that’s more than 400 years old?

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I caught up with one of the students afterward, we’ll call him RB for short (to protect his warrior identity), to try and get the skinny on iaido. Read on for the answers to all of your burning questions (or at least some of them).

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NBT: What is iaido? (I ask, BRILLIANTLY.)

RB: Iai refers to ‘the draw’ of the katana (sword) from the saya (scabbard) and Do is loosely translated to ‘the way’. So together, iaido means ‘the way of the draw’.

Iaido is the general term for the art form composed of the kata (techniques) mimicking fighting and killing an opponent. In iaido, it is very important to visualize your enemy, and imagine the combat play out. In our dojo, we say that you must ‘wait for the body to fall’.

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NBT: Tell us more about the cool cats at Kenshin Dojo – the dojo you belong to.

RB: Kenshin Dojo was founded by Sensei Robert Corella just about 30 years ago.

But the style, Araki Mujinsai Ryu Iaido, was founded by Araki (a young samurai) himself as a reward for distinguishing himself to Toyotomi Hideyoshi (a daimyo, or feudal lord/ruler for us normies) in a campaign in Manchuria.

Presently, our Soke (headmaster) is Richo Hayabuchi. The 16th Soke of the style.

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NBT: Are there different levels of skill or belts to be earned? (I says because I knows nothing.)

RB: Iaido doesn’t grant belts, per se, but ranks as issued as a result of being graded (once a year by Soke).

Lower ranks are called Kyu ranks. They are ordered five to one, lowest to highest. Higher ranks are called Dan (pronounced dawn) ranks. They are ordered one to five, again, lowest to highest.

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NBT: Last question! Do you think carrying on these martial arts traditions is important?

RB: Man, good question. Absolutely, I think this important. At a high level, iaido exemplifies an aspect Japanese culture separately from any other martial art. Unlike others, the value of iaido isn’t both practical and spiritual. Iaido isn’t used for self-defense.

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Well, class, this has been Intro to Iaido 101, there WILL be a test on Friday. But seriously, readers, I hope you learned something new and this inspires you to do your own research on iaido or another martial art. Perhaps even take up a class and become your own warrior.

Keep fighting the good fight!

xx,
Katie

Cultural Highlight: The American People

Ok, so I lied about what I was going to post next. Since I posted a highlight about the Kalinago people, I decided that it would only be fair to post something similar about my own culture. Not only did it seem like a fun prospect, but I have noticed that I have a fairly good number of international people checking out my blog, and I thought that this might be a little helpful for anyone thinking about visiting the United States.

Disclaimer: This information is based off of my own experience, so be aware that this post is limited by my own biases as well as the limits of my perception of my own culture. You may have a different opinion of American culture than me, or, if you are a visitor, you may have a different experience. I will provide some information about a good book about American culture for anyone interested at the bottom of this post.

Cultural Highlight: The American People

Culture: American

Resident Area: The United States

Population: 316.1 million (2013)

Language: English is the primary language of the United States, and it is spoken everywhere except in a few small pockets of new immigrant communities in some large cities (e.g. Chicago, Phoenix, etc). The most common language spoken in the States besides English is Spanish, but most Americans only speak English. A lot of people that I know, including myself, wish that we spoke another language as well as English, but our public school methods of language teaching don’t appear to be very effective.

Food: There are a few things that we consider American food, including things like hamburgers, BBQ, apple pie, among others, but for the most part, the joy of eating in the US is the sheer variety of food types available. Furthermore, the country is so large that different regions have different specialties, so that should help any visitors decide what they should try while here. For some guidance, however, here is a list of foods that my friends and I decided are must-tries for visitors to the US: BBQ, hamburgers, hot dogs, chop suet, strange fried foods (Twinkies, pickles, Oreos, etc), ribs, turkey, apple pie, mac & cheese, brisket, pulled pork sandwich, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, deep dish pizza, clam chowder, gumbo, jambalaya, and others! There is so much. 😛 But seriously, you should enjoy eating while you are here; get some tips on the best local restaurants where ever you are going on Tripadvisor (the forums are great for getting advice), and don’t short change yourself by sticking to chains.

Religion: Christianity is the most common religion in the United States, and its influence can be seen everywhere here- from the prevalence of churches throughout our cities to our laws. I get the sense that this influence is more extreme in the United States than it currently is in most Western European countries, and there are some ongoing tensions created by what I would consider extremist Christians, and those of us that are more moderate in our beliefs, but I won’t go into any details about that here.

Besides Christianity, the University of Pennsylvania  lists the following as the other seven major faiths in the United States: Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Wicca, Buddhism, Sikhism, Baha’i World Faith. The ideal in the United States is that we are open to people of all walks and religions, although in practice this can be difficult. Overall, however, I do find that while people may be uninformed about other religions, we are generally pretty accepting. Again, there are those extreme exceptions, but as long as you stay away from arguing with people about religion, you should be pretty comfortable, and in many big cities you can find places of worship for most of the religions listed above.

Yearly/Ceremonial Cycle: Note: These are the official holidays of the United States, but there are some religious holidays not listed here.

New Years Day: December 31-January 1: Festivities till midnight on the last day of December. Fireworks and parades are common. At many parties, it is traditional to kiss someone at midnight. It is also common for people to make New Year’s Resolutions, or goals for the coming year for themselves.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Third Monday in January: No work on this day. Celebrates the birthday of the great civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr.

Groundhog Day: February 2. This is a small celebration in which the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his burrow and if he sees his shadow then six more weeks of winter are predicted. This has ben celebrated since 1887.

Valentines Day: February 14. This holiday was named after a Christian martyr, however, it is now a day to celebrate love. Gifts are commonly given and time is set aside for significant others. In elementary school, it is traditional for all the children to bring in cards and candy to exchange with eachother on Valentine’s day.

St. Patrick’s Day: March 17. Celebrated in honor of St. Patrick. It has widely lost its religious significance in the US, but many people party and drink with friends on this night. Those who don’t wear green on this day are threatened with a pinch.

Earth Day: April 22. This is a day to celebrate the Earth, and to promote action for its preservation. It was first celebrated in 1970 and helped inspire the Clean Air and Clean Water acts.

Mother’s Day: Second Sunday of May. Celebrates the service of mothers. Typically time is spent with family, and gifts are given to the mother of a family.

Memorial Day: Last Monday of May; No work on this day. Originally honored the dead of the Civil War, but currently it honors the dead of all wars.

Father’s Day: Third Sunday of June. A day to honor fathers, celebrated in a similar way to Mother’s Day.

Independence Day: July 4: Honors the nation’s birthday- July 4, 1776. During the day, people celebrate with picnics and parades, and then at night there are fireworks and family gatherings.

Labor Day: First Monday of September. Honors the nations working population, with parades being common.

Columbus Day: Second Monday in October. Commemorates October 12, 1492 when Columbus landed in the new world. No real celebration traditions happen on this day.

Halloween: October 31. People dress up in costumes on this day, and at night people will party or take their children out trick-or-treating, in which they knock on their neighbor’s doors and receive candy.

Veteran’s Day: November 11. Originally, this holiday honored the veterans of WWI, but now it honors all veterans. There is typically no work on this day, parades are common, and the President places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Thanksgiving: Fourth Thursday of November. This is done in remembrance of a three day feast that the Pilgrims held to Celebrate a bountiful harvest. Currently, this is celebrated with two days off of work- Thursday and Friday. On Thursday night, families will gather to eat a turkey dinner.

Christmas Day: December 25. Religiously, this is a Christian holiday that marks the birth of Christ; however, most Americans celebrate it regardless of religion. Families come together and exchange gifts and the symbolic presence of a Christmas pine as well as stockings are common. Must businesses are closed on Christmas.

Birthday: Varies. This is a celebration of the day of birth of an individual. Typically, gifts are given to the person of interest, and the family will gather to celebrate them.

Culture: The notes made below are based on generalized American culture, and will vary from family to family, region to region, and religion to religion. This is just meant to provide a brief overview of general American traditions.

Family Life: The American family typically consists of the core family, with the mother, father and children. Extended family gather on special occasions, but in most cases they don’t play a major role in the everyday life. Ideally, when Americans grow up, they are expected to illustrate their independence by breaking away from their parents, getting their own place, and starting their own families. This independent action is considered a major step towards adulthood, and the idea of adult children “living in their parent’s basement” is considered a somewhat shameful situation, although the Great Recession has caused many young adults to live with their parents. In their old age, Americans attempt to maintain their independence by avoiding the care of their children, which is often considered an inconvenience on the younger generation. Altogether, this need for independence is a point of pride and concern for Americans, as most people seek to be able to provide for themselves without the help of their parents, but many feel that this lack of community is detrimental over all.

Marriage: Americans date before they marry, and couples may move in together before marriage to see what living together will be like. The period of time taken for this varies from individual to individual. After the dating period, American men are expected to propose to their wives-to-be, often with the presentation of a ring, although it is also acceptable for women to propose if they so choose. Once this is done, the couple is considered engaged. Planning for the wedding is expected to be time consuming, and the wedding itself is often expensive. Before the wedding itself there will be a wedding shower, which is a family affair, as well as bachelorette and bachelor parties. At the wedding, the wife will usually wear a white dress (not to be seen by the husband until she walks down the aisle) and the man will wear black. The father will walk his daughter down the aisle to where the husband-to-be and the person residing over the wedding wait. Then the two lovers will exchange vows, rings, and finally they will kiss. After the wedding, most couples who can afford it will go on a honeymoon trip together.

Women and Men: Technically speaking, women and men should be treated equal in American society, and compared to some cultures the equality between the two is significant. That being said, there are still pressures on both genders to play traditional roles in which the man works, and the wife cares for the house and family. Women are also typically paid less than men, and are less represented in media such as movies and video games.

Extra Notes: Here are a couple things that you may find helpful when traveling to the US, depending on where you are coming from. These come from my own opinions as well as some thoughts from my friends (both American and friends from other countries who have visited).

(1) We are sticklers when it comes to lines. Pushing to the front is not acceptable, nor is grouping up towards the front of the line. Everyone waits their turn here, and in the few instances when people cut, most of the other people in line are clearly dissatisfied.

(2) Americans like their personal space. Typically, you should keep at least a foot or two (yes, we still use our antiquated measurement system 😀 ) away from people that you don’t know unless you are in a crowded place such as a bus or train, where there isn’t much of an option otherwise.

(3) There is an interesting dichotomy in America of people who believe that America is the best country in the world, and are particularly harsh towards immigrants and foreign visitors. On the other hand, lots of Americans have a much more realistic understanding of our country, and are excited to meet people from countries around the world.

(4) Americans are deeply interested in their ancestry, and most people know where their families have come from. I know several people who have made it their hobby to study their genealogy, and I made it a point to find records of some of my family when I visited Ellis Island in New York City.

(5) We tip our servers! Unless you get really horrible service, you should tip. 15% of your bill is considered normal, but I usually try to tip 20%.

(6) Lots of Americans love to believe in things like Bigfoot, government conspiracies, and UFOs. There are even some small towns (like Roswell, New Mexico) that have made their connection to these (perhaps) urban legends into a tourism draw.

A great book for further information about American culture for visitors is American Ways: A Cultural Guide to the United States by Gary Althen and Janet Bennett.

And if you have any questions about my experience in my own country or my travels feel free to leave me a comment. 🙂

My next update will be on February 15th, and I will actually be writing about Coronado’s neighbor, San Diego.

Culture Highlight: The Kalinago of Dominica

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Karina Cultural Group (c) kalinagoterritory.com

Culture: Kalinago

Other Names: Carib

Resident Area: Dominica (Current)

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Map of Kalinago Territory (c) kalinagoterritory.com

Population: ~2,208[3]

Language: Kalinago [4]

Religion: The historical Kalinago religion is believed to have stressed the importance of balancing good and evil in the world, as well as maintaining close, healthy relationships between people and the natural world. [5]

Volcanic Peaks: The Kalinago people once believed that the volcanic peaks of the Caribbean gave life to this islands. Beautifully carved conch shells and stone statues called “zemis” were made by the Kalinago to represent these peaks, and they represented the spirit of fertility. Some of the small zemis were buried in fields in order to help crops grow [5].

Yearly Cycle: Unlike the Western world view, which emphasizes four seasons, the ancestral Kalinago people, like many people living in tropical areas, followed a yearly cycle with only two seasons- the dry and wet seasons that characterize the tropical world. The wet season is represented by the Frog Woman, and the dry season was represented by the Bat Man [5].

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(c) Lennox Honychurch

Culture: Historically, the Carib people had standard gender roles, but the women of their society were highly revered, and held as much socio-economic power as males [1]. They had a fairly egalitarian society, and their government consisted of a chieftain who consulted with a tribal council [1]. They were skilled at fishing, hunting, and farming, and their ability to the navigate the Caribbean Ocean on their canoes allowed them to explore many of the islands in the Caribbean, long before the arrival of the Europeans [3].

Examples of Kalinago Myths

Government: The Kalinago Territory is governed by the Carib Council. This council is tasked with managing the territory, and settling disputes between residents. Currently, there are five members of the council, and elections are held every five years. [2]

History: The Carib people originated in the Orinoco River Basin of South America, and eventually explored and settled the southern Caribbean islands. During the process of colonizing, the Caribs fought with the Taino people, and eventually displaced many of the older Arawak communities [1].

The Caribs were well known for their skill in warfare, and when the European people invaded the Caribbean islands, the two fought eachother, although the Carib people were disadvantaged by the Smallpox infections that the European people brought with them [1]. Despite this, there were able to hold Dominica from both the French and British forces for nearly two centuries. Eventually, however, the island was taken by the British, and the Kalinago people were relegated to 232 acres of eastern Dominica. In 1903, this area was expanded to 3700 acres and would become the Carib Reserves that is still home to the Kalinago people today [3].

Experts on Kalinago Culture:

Karina Cultural Group 

Karifuna Cultural Group

Lennox Honychurch

Further Reading

Chances for Travelers to Learn More From the Kalinago People:

Kalinago Homestay Programme 

Experiential Learning

Living Village Experience at Touna Kalinago Heritage Village

References:

[1] http://www.avirtualdominica.com/caribs3.htm

[2] http://kalinagoterritory.com/the-territory/the-carib-council/

[3] http://kalinagoterritory.com/the-territory/history/

[4] http://kalinagoterritory.com/culture/language/

[5] http://www.lennoxhonychurch.com/article.cfm?id=388

[Map] (c) Kalinago Territory Website (http://kalinagoterritory.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Dominica_Kalinago_Territory_Map.jpg)

[Seasonal Image] from Lennox Honychurch’s website (http://www.lennoxhonychurch.com/article.cfm?id=388)

Disclaimer: One of the reasons that I love traveling is that I get to learn about other ways of life, and new ways of seeing the world. I feel that my spirituality and understanding of the Earth has much to gain from other cultures, and I definitely think that my own culture can only provide me with a very limited view of the universe around me. Due to this, I think it’s appropriate for my blog to not only showcase my travels, but some of the cultures that I come in contact with along the way. That being said, before I post the first of these, that I am no expert about any of the cultures that I am posting about. I will do my best to provide links and references to actual experts, and places to learn more. I am also hoping to promote any efforts that people from the cultures that I am discussing to preserve their way of life, as well as share it with others. In any case, I am open to suggestions for improving these highlights, as well as any concerns about misrepresentation.

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