I’m Thankful, but not for Thanksgiving

History, musings, United States

I have mixed feelings around Thanksgiving. Those in Native American communities, justly, feel its a day of mourning over colonialism and genocide that followed earlier settlers in North, Central, and South America. I can’t deny their right to that, in fact I often think we need a day of mourning and honor to that time. Not just natives suffered from chronic colonial policies, but also those stolen from their lands in Africa, subjected to horrific treatment for centuries and even to this day.

I hate that we embrace Thanksgiving in a patriotic way without thorough discussion on the problems associated with romanticized notions around our colonial past. If you talk to many they know a romantic quip on the Mayflower, a largely 19th century fabrication that is about as historically accurate as Shrek. It leaves out vital context on the idiotic behaviors of early colonists. It leaves out the open gates that natives had forced open, establishing a trade that largely left people ripped from their lands, dying drone disease, and massacred at every turn.

In ways it feels as if we celebrated the election of Hitler but ignored everything he did after that. Or celebrated the ships that brought trade and the Bubonic plague to Europe, because trade, and ignored the deaths that followed. At the end of both scenarios, thousands to millions died, and the world was never the same afterwards. Even if we pretend that most colonists were innocently involved, it still doesn’t make the behavior right.

It’s comfortable for people to want a sweet and easy story to share with kids, to celebrate. We want to believe all of those in our past are goodly and had good meaning. Yet, to be honest as a society and people, we must face our mistakes and we must talk openly of what was wrong. This means acknowledging truth to share with our children and friends.

While I am very thankful for all that I have in this world. For my family, friends, education, community, cat, home, car, food, and so very much more, I know that it should be celebrated with more awareness. And this awareness means that we acknowledge our past sins and work to the future.

So maybe Thanksgiving should be celebrated without pilgrims and false narratives, and instead be a time to truly focus on all we have. A time to not try to find the best holidays shopping deals and a time to connect with family and friends. I am lucky that my little family has joined this trend, I hope to see more in the future.

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A Stack of Magazines

musings, Travel

It’s easy to say “I read” as a kid. It’s much more interesting to explain exactly what that looked like.

My family are readers, through and through, every room, including the bathrooms, had books or magazines in them. Often she leaves were two or three deep, the coffee table housed endless picture books. I read before bed. My mom read to us before bed. I read on the bus. My grandma shared art books with us. I powered through reading challenges. I took home stacks of books from each library visit.

My mom was an assistant library for our community school/public library (small town Cripple Creek) which meant the book love train was never ending.

Some of the coffee table books that littered the living room were elaborate photo essays of places all over the world. The art ones showed off masterpieces and where to find them. The DaVinci anatomy book connected past and present to our understanding of the body.

But the cream of the crop was the, what’s seemed to my child mind, mountains of National Geographic magazines in our basement. Vividly I remember pouring through stack after stack searching for images and stories that inspired my exploring. Ships bobbed on azure waves, tribally adorned men dove for pearls, houses were made raw and blended seamlessly into the landscape. I saw that much more was happening outside of the mountains of Colorado.

As I grew older I would read some of the articles and learn about poverty, war, crime, danger, and the perseverance of peoples. Combined with all my reading, and the nightly news my grandfather consumed I began traveling in my mind. I was compelled to seek these other lands, these people, the animals, the food, the azure waves (I didn’t see the ocean until I was 17).

I knew then, as I do now, that the stacks of magazines were so much more than “a stack of magazines” they were portals into all that the world was and could be. They were windows into the soul and spirits of endless stories and endless lives. They were pure magic.

At some point the magazines were donated to the local school, where they were cut into collages and posters, an upcycling rebirth. And as an adult I collect new stacks and new stories and new portals to new worlds I dream of exploring.

Victorian Horrors

adventure of the week, colorado, Colorado Events, Travel, United States

This month has been a busy one, but I made sure I took some time to go to an event I had been longing to experience since I was 11.

When I was 11 my great aunt died right around Halloween. Saddened by her passing but overwhelmed with visiting family we somehow ended up at the 19th century home of Margaret Brown. AKA the Molly Brown House.

What I remember, apart from everything I saw on that tour, was all the magical looking Halloween decoration. The decorations were for their evening Victorian Horrors, and I knew then that I muse return for this experience.

Flash forward 16 years and I finally made it and it was worth the wait and the journey to visit. The Victorian Horrors tour delightfully blends the macabre nature of the Victorians, with many detailed decorations of bones and creatures, with the stories that made the time iconic. An actor a room shares a dark tale from their collection, and you are enraptured and transported to another time, and another world.

Table setting (from the Molly Brown House)

It’s well worth a visit or two, and best enjoyed with costume and some friends. If offered, don’t miss the free tarot readings, and fabulously kooky gift shop.

Happy Travels and Happy Haunting 💀🎃 👻

My First Travel Adventure

adventure of the week, family, Travel, United States

My first trip without my parents was in 2008 with my great aunt and uncle. My uncle was a retired Vietnam Navy Veteran and his group of “Navy Rats” decided to have a reunion in Norfolk, Virginia.

In the summer of 2008 I was 17 and I wanted to work for the summer to save for a trip I wanted to take in 2010 to Europe. However, living in the sticks of Colorado and in the beginning of the worst recession since the 1930s, I didn’t have many choices.So, Casper, Wyoming was having an oil boom and there were ample jobs for those needing “something”. My aunt and uncle graciously opened their home to me, and I worked that summer as a hostess at IHOP (I don’t recommend this part of the experience).

However, the first few days I was gone I learned the first boy I kissed had died from Bacterial Meningitis. I missed home and the comforts of my small town life, and I felt isolated in a job with a lot of drama (think back seat shags in the parking lots, and being screamed at by drug dealers).

However, even though it felt like I got kicked out of a car driving down the interstate, I found a lot of strength that summer. Strength to fight through panic attacks. Strength to go to a job I hated. And the reward was my first time on an airplane and other firsts.

We headed to the east coast, I flew the first time. Saw Ellen Page at the Detroit airport (Juno was a new movie still). I saw the ocean for the first time. We visited Historic Jamestowne and Jamestown Settlement as well as Colonial Williamsburg.

It was at these locations that history began to come alive to me and I began to appreciate the layers and complexity around every turn.

It was then that I became totally hooked on travel to real and historical places. It was at these places that I started to think critically on what I knew about American History and colonialism. And I have never looked back.

This journey would push me into being away from home for months at a time. It would push me to seek knowledge and stories. It would encourage me to face my fears and anxieties like a warrior. It would make me a stronger girl that would turn into the woman I am today.

The moral of the story, is don’t give up because it scares you, move forward because you should.

Happy Travels!

The World Isn’t Disney for Americans

adventure of the week, Caribbean, colorado, geek, musings, Travel

One of the biggest issues with myself, and with travel, is that so much of the exploration that is glamorized is done without really experiencing much.

With a world of Instagram and celebrity travel photos it’s hard to understand that the world is more than the elegance dripping from the web. This isn’t to say that everything is a lie and parts are ugly, but to say that the sanitized version we see is the air brushed version of a model.

So many Americans (and Europeans and Australians etc) flock to other parts of the world with one set of ideals of that place. In Africa it’s the Big 5. In China it’s the Pandas and Great Wall. In Mexico it’s cheap vacations and tequila. Yet while there is an immense amount of fun and cultural significance in all of these things, there is also a disconnect.

While thousands stumble off of cruise ships in Italy or Jamaica, how many people stop to talk to a local? How many have a beer from a little old lady’s restaurant or squid ink pasta? How many people take time to get lost and see something different? How many people care about the locals that live there.

What concerns me is not that people visit in droves, or that their focus is on a romantic ideal. For I have also been that person. No, the concern is the disconnect from the reality of a place. Like Disney World the grit of the world has been cleaned away in many places. Like a fairy godmother, tours select only the pristine and sanitized, something with fairy dust. It’s even more concerning when the most vulnerable populations are used as tourism props or ignored. This can be ignoring their humanity, their human rights, their rights to land and water and standards of living. For say, a new hotel, or a pool. For a new form of imperialism and colonialism to cheaply pad the pockets of the powerful.

This is not anything new. The spread of Colonialism is as old as civilization, with Greek, Roman, Germanic, and British Faces. Yet, we seem to fail at learning that these horrors are disgusting no matter there new mask. Indigenous people lose their homes for Olympics and World Cups. Communities collapse for resorts and waves of tourists. Yet, the real question is who makes it out on top? While “new jobs” help locals, do they really ever achieve a life they should? It’s hard to say yes when the heads of large companies live in gilded towers, while they barely can send their kids to school.

This is not to say “don’t travel, it’s corrupt” but rather to encourage an analysis of what one does when they explore. Do you stay at chain hotels helping the Hiltons and Marriotts of the world? Or do you seek out a locally owned gem with homemade food and warm smiles? Do you see end time with locals? Or do you shy away to American bars and hotel lobbies? Do you view locals as friends or possible enemies? And if you said yes to the last one, why?

Travel can be the life blood of a community, of a country, of a town. Yet, when we choose who and how we support that area, we need to better examine our priorities.

Happy Travels!

 

More Reading:

Must Love Mexico

Losing Bourdain

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My Favorite City

History, Scotland, Throwback Thursday, Travel, United Kingdom

A lot of people have favorites, and while I try not to discriminate, Edinburgh will always be my favorite.

I fell in love with the city at first sight. Literally. I rolled myself out of Edinburgh Waverly Station and when I walked out I was facing Princes Street, totally unimpressed and then I turned around. And of my god I will never forget the chills I felt taking in the magnificent gothic spires and alleys that make up Old Town Edinburgh.

I fell. Truly. Madly. Deeply. In love with the city.

I loved waking up to the sound of tourist music and the earthy smell of centuries of rain, Moss, and people. What Victorian London loss in the Blitz, Edinburgh has retained.

My first time in the city was one filled with new experiences, people, accents, food, art, culture, and hundreds of moments that propelled a small town girl (Pop. of Florissant, CO 100) into a completely new world.

I tried clubs and hipster coffee shops (when hipster was hardly a thing). I shopped for woolen goods, and went clubbing. I met friends and another male love interest. I had my heart broken, and found new passions. I visited ancient relics, I drank scotch for the first time, I went to my first U.K. Castles, I even did tombstone rubbings at Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. I got my first tattoo. I absolutely absorbed every misty breathe I could of the city.

In the last eight years I have been to more cities and have had more experiences. I added places to my scrap book like Rome, Venice and Florence, San Francisco, Orlando, and Frankfurt. Yet still, my heart craves the cobbles and Georgian basements of Edinburgh.

I returned in January 2015 and found new treasures such as Dean’s Village, and Mary King’s Close, and my new favorite, Sandy Bells. I found more music and a local Edinburgh than early tourist season had revealed. I loved the city even more in winter’s chill, even when it cut me to the bone. This time, five years wiser (I hope), I found the city as charming and lovely as before, just with new layers. My friends now haunt real bars and appreciate some tunes, they work professional jobs, and they don’t live with their parents. We all moved on and upwards, creating some blend of lives in the cities we have landed.

I know I’ll make it back to Edinburgh one of these days, a few more years wiser, a more aware version of myself. Yet my curious and naive mind will wander over dark closes and Scottish identity. I’ll learn new slang, and ghost stories, I’ll hear new tunes and make new friends, and once again I’ll be in love with the ancient walls around me.

Playing Renaissance

musings

If you have gathered anything from my love and passions while reading this blog, it’s that I’m a bit of a history geek.

My first passions started with medieval and renaissance Europe as a teen. Which lead me, almost annually, to the Colorado Renaissance Festival. Since then, I go every year or two with a group of friends and a wad of cash to enjoy a fun and silly adventure.

Held every weekend in the summer, usually June to early August, the festival is all that a Renaissance festival can be expected to be.

It’s the perfect chance to dress up in a cute, sexy, ridiculous, or just funny costume. Over the years I have made, worn, and even bought some fun get ups. There was a princess or three, movie costumes, a pirate a couple of time, and most recently a maiden costume.

It’s not a historical trip I seek anymore, as I am fully aware of the inaccuracies and absurdity of the festival. Instead, I seek out the shows, frozen margaritas, and artisan goods. I enjoy a day of walking and talking with friends, and I love seeing the care and details taken with homemade costumes.

If you find yourself along the front range of Colorado in the summer, stop by for a turkey leg or two.

DNA Travels – Part III

History, musings, Travel

Part I and Part II

23andMe is distinct in that it goes beyond looking at DNA markers for ancestry, but it also finds information on genetic aspects such as risk for disease.

23andMe also works to look at DNA markers from historical DNA data as well as current aspects. However, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t lack for problems in its own collection of information. 23andMe still relies on information that it has, and the growing collection of it. However, as it still lacks for information on many parts of the world, there are gaps in the story.

It also means I got additional and surprising results from this test.

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 9.06.02 AM

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 9.06.30 AMFor me this test’s surprise is the drop of West African and Sub-Saharan African, and the higher amount of Native American. While in part II we learned about my native relative, this new data is surprising, but I have a theory….well two.

My first theory is that we had a relative in the 1700 to 1800s that was from somewhere like Spain or Portugal, which means that they were close to Moorish rule of the area. Meaning they were also part middle eastern and African.

My other theory is that someone was a slave, and forced into a relationship with someone in my family. This part is a horrific reality of colonialism, the slave trade, and other facts of  the white American past. I am proud of having a part of this in my existence, I am appalled at the potential reasons that lead to this.

I hope to have more insight on this when I get my parents to take the DNA tests, to see which branch this has more of a match to. My suspicion is my father’s side as they have a little more getting around, and a longer time in the United States over my mother’s side. Yet, I may be surprised even further. Stay tuned!

For a historical understanding of this 23andMe offers a timeline understanding of where what relative came into the picture. Which also adds some scientific backup to my paper trail.

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 9.14.49 AM

However, and here is the caveat, the information and details have different levels of certainty available for the test. When I adjust from 50% certainty to 90% certainty then I see where there are holes in the research. The reasons of which are that these details are ever changing and more and more data will increase our understanding of these elements.

More on this in Part IV

dnatravelsIII.jpg

DNA Travels – Part II

family, geek, History, musings, Travel

Part I

For my own tests I started in 2016.

First off was Ancestry. As I had done my genealogy research on there I figured it would be beneficial to have DNA data to match with the paper trail available in Ancestry.

Ancestry pulls much of its data in comparison to the gene pool of today. Meaning it takes DNA samples from around the world and matches it based on location, genetic markers, etc. giving the user a general idea of where their DNA matches in the world.

This is a little murky in that DNA changed in parts of the works due to the mixing of cultures and people resulting in more diverse peoples. So DNA markers change from year to year, decade to decade etc. You get the idea.

However, in Ancestries defense they are always updating their methods and means in which they track DNA and how it connect to the larger world. So this will continue to reveal more information for users new and old.

Here are the results:

As expected I’m mostly European.

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 8.25.16 AM

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The surprise was this Iberian peninsula, Eastern Europe, and Middle East. All of which I had no information on in the paper trail.

The other surprise was this little less than 1% Native American. Being that family had pushed the Native Princess narrative for so long I was surprised that it wasn’t more.

Then I dug deeper into the family tree and found a relative in the 1700s that was Ita Ha Ha (Barton Married Name) she married one of my white relatives Joab Barton, common for the time, but an exciting find none the less. She was Shawnee, born and living in Missouri in the 1700s. For that time, Missouri and the surrounding areas she lived such as Maryland, West Virginia etc. would have been something of a wild frontier, a borderland to much less familiar Western United States. This was a time before Lewis and Clarke, and the Louisiana Purchase. She passed away in Virginia in 1807, around 40 years of age.

Some records (maybe myths) indicate her marriage to a white man, Joab, was intwined with him being adopted into the Shawnee tribe after a conflict with his parents. I am not convinced that find grave.com is the best information for this type of thing. However, these incidents were common. Conflicts between settlers and native populations were not uncommon, and not unjustified. I might be pretty pissed if someone just waltzed in laying claim to my life too. However, a lot of people also died from diseases, injuries, and plain human violence among each other. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for native peoples to adopt orphan children, raising them, caring for them, nurturing them; the same that any of us would do.

The princess narrative came in as a way to inflate egos and ideas around white identity and intermarrying with native peoples. I’ll address this in a different blog.

When I took the 23andMe test around a year later the results were slightly different.

Part III

dnatravelsII

Chichen Itza

Caribbean, History, mexico, Travel
 If you read my last post you know that I went to Chichen Itza recently, as a part of my journey through the Seven Wonders of the World. I am sitting at 2 out of seven and feeling pretty good about getting tot he other five eventually.

However, I want to expand on my journey through Chichen Itza as it was a really remarkable day and I highly recommend spending the time to visit if you find yourself in the Yucatan or Mayan Peninsula.

I never truly understood why Chichen Itza was considered a wonder of the world until we visited it, and we made the right decision in getting up stupidly early and going with an archeologist as a tour guide.

 

This helped with several parts of our day. First, we beat the heat by getting there early. Second, we beat the general public crowds. Third, we missed some of the harassment from vendors that set up all over the city grounds. Finally, and most importantly, it gave us historical and cultural backgrounds we would have not otherwise learned.

If you have an interest in this tour, click here, it’s through Viator and well worth the price.

We started the day with a somewhat late pickup from our resort, this was the only real issue on the tour, which I am unsure of what happened with it, but it was a minor hiccup that was fixed with a quick phone call.

One downside for my husband was that the van from Playa del Carmen was pretty small for his 6’4″ body, but we survived. However, do note that this will be up to three hours in the van/bus each way. Also, you may bring a hoodie just for the cool weather and/or air conditioning on the bus. This is also a great time to nap! Don’t worry about needing a restroom of food/water, there will be about two stops going and coming back for any needs you may have.

At the complex we met up with our guide/archeologist, Marco, who took us on what felt like a SHORT two hour tour of the main part of the city.

As you walk into the city complex you are met with the grand pyramid, or Castillo Temple that is so iconic. This is where we learned about the sounds that bounce through the temple creating a whistling like a bird, which changes in pitch and volume from where you stand and listen or clap. To the east of this is a remarkable temple that makes a rattle snake noise (tail rattling) when you clap at a certain angle.

All of this is meant to represent and celebrate Kukulkan, the feathered serpent man-god that meant so much to the Maya culture. They also, at this time in the culture, practiced human sacrifice to appease the god(s) through blood offerings where hearts were ripped form chests while still beating, and  backs were broken before being drowned. (This really isn’t so different from gladiator games, public hangings, warfare etc.)

From there we toured buildings set up for the king of this specific city-state and the intricate measures that were taken for the rulers and nobility. For instance, a king was never allowed to touch the ground, so there are no steps from his throne room at the ball field and other areas that reach the ground. Instead, the noble was transported on a Litter.

In addition to being blown away by just the scale of the buildings more auditory wonders came into play. For instance, at the ball field, for the Mesoamerican Ballgame, they had an auditory system set up where the King could hear conversation from the opposite side of the field.

Maybe you remember it from this movie:

Traditionally, visitors from other tribes and cultures would be placed here, so that the king could listen for any treasonous information or gossip and it’s likely that the visitors had no idea they were being spied on.

Finally, our tour was wrapped up with some free time, around an hour, where we were able to see other buildings that made up the city. We also had to note we were only seeing about 30% of the entire city as much more was closed off for restoration and research. However, it was exciting to explore the city and imagine what it would have looked like with thousands of people milling around. People that were praying, working, selling, cooking, talking and living their lives as people around the world do.

In the other areas of the city we saw what is believed to be an astronomy tower, additional pyramids, and royal complexes that housed people and worked in tandem with their beliefs and rituals.

We learned other snippets as well, like that the Castillo or main pyramid has several pyramids built inside of it and that the Maya would build new things, and burn the old every 52 years or so as a rebirth cycle with their calendar. Additionally, the majority of the city would have been painted in lush, vibrant colors, specifically red made from paprika or cochineal.

While many people jump on the bandwagon that the Maya were supernatural or even in touch with a greater power, I have to encourage additional research and thought. It’s easy to come up and write off ideas as beyond this world, it’s harder to do the research and actually learn where, what, when and how things came together. Pretending that an alien or outside entity must have created these marvels writes off people that fall into a minority as somehow unable to build such remarkable things. Which is complete garbage. These empires and cultures from the Americas lived in the same complex cultures and identities that Europeans held onto. While they looked, spoke, and existed differently, their mores, taboos, and livelihoods were very similar and equally important. There are also endless wonders in the Americas, some of which are just being discovered.

Anyway, get out, explore, be amazed!