Meow Wolf

Where else can you open the refrigerator and step into a whole new world. Or bang on the ribs of a mastodon to make music. The Meow Wolf Museum in Santa Fe New Mexico is a bit like going down a rabbit hole.

We made a visit to the museum on June 27. We were staying near Santa Fe for a few days, and with the hot weather and the closure of hiking trails due to a high fire hazard we opted to visit the Meow Wolf museum.

The website bills the museum as  an immersive, interactive experiences to transport audiences into fantastic realms; the product of a cooperative of over 200 artists encompassing disciplines of architecture, sculpture, painting, photography and video production, virtual and augmented reality, music and audio engineering, narrative writing, costuming and performance.

Like no other museum experience. We got in for the senior price of $23. Regular admission is $25.

It Takes a Village to Make a Cup of Coffee

Three months have passed since our African Chagga Coffee experience and it’s still an event that’s worthy of a few words. As part of our tour of Moshi our tour guide, Sophie Angostino, arranged for a visit to the Chagga Culture and Coffee. The Chagga people are an ethnic group, and the village we visited was just outside of Moshi on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.

It’s hard to explain this experience in words. You’ll just have to imagine standing in a circle around a mortar of coffee being pounded with a wooden pestle while chanting and clapping. Music and rhythm are part of the African experience.

The coffee is pounded twice, first to break off the hulls. What results are the tan colored raw beans.

The raw beans go into an iron pot where they are roasted on a wood fire. Then they go back in the mortar to be pulverized by pounding.

The fine grounds are then brewed into coffee, using a variation on what I would call “cowboy coffee,” but somehow their method results in a rich tasting coffee free of sediment. We sipped the resulting  coffee with a great sense of community and camaraderie.

Family Outing to Historic Columbia

The Memorial Day weekend provided us with an opportunity to go explore the historic town of Columbia in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. About 140 miles east of San Francisco. This is gold country, or at least it was gold country after James W. Marshall discovered gold on January 24, 1848. The news of gold brought some 300,000 people to California. The gold rush was rather short lived, though, and by 1855, the rush was essentially over. Columbia was one of the boom towns that arose from the gold rush and the historic park can give you a sense of the history of the region.

 

We were in town for a family get together, a shower to celebrate the anticipated birth of our first grand child.  The old part of town is now a State Historic Park, with shops that sell everything from candy to leather goods and boots. You can also ride a stage coach or pan for gold.

 

 

There were about a dozen of us that explored the town, touring the old school, built in 1860, and exploring the shops and curiosities of the state historic park.

Columbia State Historic Park

Reflecting on Culture

Earlier this week I was driving down a street in my home town, Marin Avenue in Albany, California. It’s only been a few days since our return from Tanzania. There is a orderly stream of cars moving along. The street is lined with neat single-family homes. There are no people on the sidewalks, no bikes on the bike path, just an orderly stream of traffic, each car with a single occupant. Each of us in isolation. I’m struck by the the contrast to our experiences in Tanzania. Where are the people, the humanity,  the motorbikes, the thousands of small shops, the roadside vendors and the people going about business? My own neighborhood seems stark and sterile compared with vibrant throngs of people on the streets in Arusha. A stark contrast in cultures. I feel like a fish, having just returned to my fishbowl, and having a whole new perspective about water. I see my own culture as one where people are isolated, insular, each in our own carefully constructed realities, where fear, suspicion and anxiety are prevalent. I wouldn’t even notice this if it weren’t for the opportunity to step into another culture. Even a brief visit gives insights about my own insecurities and biases. As we visited with the people in Africa, I began to appreciate a people that seem less anxious, less fearful, and free to express themselves. One morning as we toured the market place in Moshi, I wanted to photograph some of the people. I had been informed to be cautious about photographing people; many people do not want to be photographed. As I worked with our guide, Sophie, I found, that while some people clearly did not want to be photographed, others were more than willing, and became quite expressive. As we passed one little butcher shop the butcher invited Joann into his shop to pose for a photo, nearly grabbing her off the sidewalk. His enthusiasm and joie de vivre were infectious and something that seemed to create a bond of friendship, transcending our cultures. I doubt that such and interaction would happen on the streets of Berkeley.  I doubt that my idea of “normal” will ever be the same having spent time in Africa. Or if life does start to look normal, that will be my cue to plan anther trip.

 

Maasai Boma Visit

As part of our African safari we had arranged to visit a Maasai boma. The Maasai are an ethnic group that inhabit Kenya and northern Tanzania. There are some 120 ethnic groups in Tanzania, The word boma refers the the enclosures in which the Maasai live.

When we arrived at the boma, our driver, David, introduced us to the village chief. The first order of business was to negotiate a fee. We agreed on a fee of $50US, which we paid in small US bills. It seems that the tourist economy in Tanzania runs on American dollars whether it’s tipping a porter or paying a hotel bill. Small bills are preferred since there is really no way for the locals to break larger bills.

Having completed our transaction, the villagers invited us to join them in their traditional greeting. Jumping, chanting and prancing. Once we had been suitably greeted we were entertained with a lion dance. What struck me about the people was their genuine openness, and the passion they put into their activities. Even though we were just tourists the villagers were quite friendly and clearly have a passion for their culture.

Following the dancing we were given a tour of the compound including an a visit inside one of the mud huts, and a tour of the school where the younger children learn English. The older children have the job of tending the sheep, goats and cattle. At night the livestock is brought into corrals in the boma. A fence of very thorny acacia branches surrounds the boma which serves as a defense against predators.

Once our tour was complete we were offered the opportunity to buy trinkets that the villagers sell with the hopes of generating some additional income. We were warned ahead of time that the villagers might prevail on us to buy trinkets, so we were happy when they politely respected decision not to buy.