Tag: culture (Page 2 of 2)

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.

The Apache Trail and Tonto National Monument

From Google Maps

From Google Maps

Going to the Tonto National Monument is an all-day trip from Phoenix, especially if you want to take the most scenic road to Roosevelt Lake. Google claimed that the drive was about 2 hours long on Apache Trail (88), but the drive down the twisting, dirt roads is more realistically between two and three hours long. It takes longer if you stop along the way, of course, and taking your time is a good idea on Apache Trail for both safety and your enjoyment.

Just before the Apache Trail turns into a dirt road, you will see three small buildings near the edge of Fish Creek. The buildings are somewhat ramshackle, and their boxy architecture and wooden walls is purposefully reminiscent of a small historic Western town. This is Tortilla Flats; and it is one of my personal favorite places to stop whenever I am on the 88. There isn’t much here- a small restaurant, a gift shop, and a country store. The restaurant has a great atmosphere that fits the area to a T. The walls are coated in layers of signed dollar bills, most from the US, but I always like to peek around for money from all over the world. The bar is also lined with horse saddle stools, and the bathrooms are surprisingly humorous but I won’t spoil why. The food here is good, mostly sporting American classics. As much as I enjoy stopping by the restaurant here, however, I mostly come to Tortilla Flats for its delicious prickly pear ice cream, which I like to eat next to the (sometimes) gurgling stream that runs right by the area.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

Past Tortilla Flats the dirt road begins, and while this area is breathtakingly beautiful, anyone who wants to drive this road needs to take their time, and keep their eyes on the road. There are cliffs along long stretches of the road, and at times the road narrows until vehicles will need to stop and pull over in order to let each other pass. Along this part of the Apache Trail is the small Apache Lake, and the Roosevelt Lake Dam. After stopping to view the dam, the road curves up one final hill, and at the top the largest lake in Arizona expands out to either horizon- Roosevelt Lake.

For some reason, I was expecting there to be a sizeable town around Roosevelt Lake, but in the direction from Roosevalt Dam towards the Tonto National Monument all I saw were a few small settlements. One was a high-end gated community perched on the edge of the lake, some looked like a mix of large camp grounds and RV grounds, and about eight miles from the turn off by the dam was a small collection of low buildings including a gas station, and an all American restaurant called Boston’s Lake House Grill (that seemed surprisingly far from the lake for its name).

From the lake to Tonto National Monument was a short drive up from the relatively flat desert surrounding Roosevelt up into a small box canyon. The visitor center here was under construction when I visited, so there wasn’t much there to see, and we immediately headed out onto the trail leading to the Lower Cliff Dwelling. This is the only trail accessible to visitors without a ranger or guide, it is a mile long (round-trip), and it is nicely paved and thus welcoming to most people, although it is steep.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

I got winded a few times on the way up, but it was a good excuse to stop and take in the scenery, which was always worth the pause. The plant communities surrounding the path up to the Lower Cliff Dwellings was amazingly rich, and was so lush that I almost felt like I was taking a stroll through Phoenix’s manicured Desert Botanical Gardens. All of the charismatic plants of the Sonoran Desert were represented in vibrant greens on either side of the trail, and any time spent at one of the trail’s benches would reveal a variety of bird, mammal, and reptile life as well.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

Of course, the crowning jewel of the trail and the national monument itself are the ruins. Unlike Montezuma’s castle, Tonto National Monument allows visitors to carefully climb inside of the ancient Salado ruins here. They are watched over by a volunteer, who dutifully reminds visitors to not lean or sit on the stone walls tucked into the mountain-side, and who is prepared to answer any questions that visitors may have about the people who once lived here, as well as the surrounding area. Inside the warm, stone and mortar walls of this ancient Native American village, it is easy to see what drew people to this place. The shallow cavern that the buildings were constructed in makes the place feel safe and protected. The walls are dark with the remains of fires from hundreds of years ago, but the closeness of those ancestral families doesn’t seem to have abandoned this place. Just over the remaining walls, or through the surviving doorways and windows, visitors can catch glimpses of the Salt River Valley and the lake, beckoning with its life giving waters, and the lush desert around it.

In short, Tonto NP is a must-see for anyone interested in Arizona history, or in the ingenuity of our ancestors. There is a second set of ruins in the park as well, but visitors must join a tour in order to see them, and the hike is more difficult than the trek to the Lower Cliff Dwellings. If what I saw was any indication, however, I think that the trip to the Upper Dwellings would certainly not disappoint anyone with the time and ability to make the journey further into the mountains.

And if you have any questions about Tonto or my travels feel free to leave me a comment. 🙂

My next update will be on December 1st; about the Organ Pipe National Monument!

Puerto Penasco: A Beach Paradise in the Desert

(c) Rocky Point Restaurant Guide

(c) Rocky Point Restaurant Guide

About four hours from Phoenix and Tucson alike, and a little more than an hour’s drive past the Mexican border at Lukeville/Sonoyta sits the formerly small fishing town of Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point to Americans and Ge’e Suidagi in Tohono O’odham). While it is currently a spring break/holiday hot spot for Arizonans looking to spend some time on the beach, Puerto Penasco’s major tourism development actually didn’t start until the 1990s. Initial development was slow, but by the 2000s the growth of the tourism industry and improvements in the city progressed at nearly a monthly rate. In some places, like the community of Las Conchas, condos starting at $100,000 were common- a mere 5 minute walk from the beach.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

I have been traveling to Puerto Penasco regularly for nearly a decade, and it is easy to see why people were eager to grab their slice of paradise here. The beaches, even at their busiest, were spacious compared to the overcrowded coasts that I have visited in California. Swimming here is easy- the water is warm and comfortable, the sand is soft, and when the tide is perfect there are large tracts of relatively shallow water to drift lazily through. At other times, the waves are good enough for body surfing or boogie bordering, and despite the generally sandy nature of the beach, there are also amazing tide pools here. Puerto Penasco’s beaches offer visitors a little bit of everything.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

Besides the beaches, Puerto Penasco is home to CEDO, a vibrant shopping/dining hub in Old Port/Malecon, as well as some ecological treasures (and formerly a little aquarium). CEDO is also known as the Centro Intercultural de Estudios de Desiertos y Oceanos or the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans. CEDO has their base in Las Conchas, which has a small museum and shop for visitors. CEDO also runs a variety of ecotourism trips, which include paddling out at Morua Estuary, trips to Pinacate (a must see!) and the San Jorge Islands, among other things. For any one interested in the outdoors, CEDO is your go-to for Puerto Penasco.

Alternatively, Old Port or Malecon is a nice dose of culture, although this area is heavily influenced by tourism, and for any seasoned traveler, it is pretty easy to see. There is lots of shopping here, and while there are definitely some gems to be found, much of what you find here are the cookie cutter souvenirs that most tourists appear to be after. There are areas of Puerto Penasco with more authentic wares, of course, but Malecon is still a great place to visit. Standing on the edge of the main road in Old Port, you can look at some of the oldest parts of the town on one side, and the ocean,

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

rimmed by mountains, on the other. Many of the restaurants in this area are built to cash in on this view, with many of them having large, second-story patios (there is even one restaurant that was built over the water). There are also many places in this area to buy fresh seafood from Puerto Penasco’s own fishermen.

Besides dining downtown, I would highly suggest that anyone who visits Puerto Penasco stop and have lunch at Pollo Lucas. This is my favorite restaurant in the whole city, and while the dining is outside, beneath a thatched roof, it is the best Mexican food that I have ever had. Everyone that I have ever have brought here has loved it. It is simple, delicious, and affordable. I highly recommend it.

And if you have any questions about Puerto Penasco or my travels feel free to leave me a comment. 🙂

My next update will be on November 15th; about the historic Tonto National Monument!

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

Culture Highlight: The Kalinago of Dominica

karina2

Karina Cultural Group (c) kalinagoterritory.com

Culture: Kalinago

Other Names: Carib

Resident Area: Dominica (Current)

Dominica_Kalinago_Territory_Map

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].

firstcosmo4

(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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