USA Diaries – Day 28– Is it safe to say that Cahokia was overrated?

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary.

PS: I haven’t kept my promise.. I didn’t post each and every day and now I am trying my best to update all the remaining days from the sanctuary of my Home Sweet Home. 

I am sorry.. you need to forgive me… I am not an archaeologist and you can not expect me to feel the same way about a pile of earth the way the rest of the group might have felt. But I am skipping ahead.. and therefore let me start the details of the day from the very beginning. By this time, it is a granted fact that day just has to start early and there is just no getting around to it. But since I am not a breakfast person, I headed off to the Arc, which I was unable to see the night before. Now, I was a bit scared since the affairs of last night were more or less very much alive in my memory. But the park and the overall area was so breath taking that all my concerns went out of the window. The Arc is a splendid structure, but since I didn’t know the concept behind it … which is very important for me to have any feelings for anything ….. I lacked that connection with it, which I was able to establish with, lets say, the Vietnam Memorial.

By the time I got back to the hotel, people were more or less there and just waiting for a signal from Mark to start loading the van. And within 15 minutes or so we are all ready and heading towards Cahokia. Now I didn’t google Cahokia or anything, because I like to keep this element of surprise and be completely taken away by the very first sight… And in this case too, it was very much true, but just not in the way I had hoped.

So while my Archaeologist friends were all taken away by the sight of the site, for me it was nothing more than a pile of sand. I am sorry… I am really sorry for hurting anyone’s feeling this way.. but that’s what it was .. for me! When they said to us, that lets move along to the next site, I really thought that maybe the next one will be much grander town like say Mohen-jo-Daro – which after this, feels like a real beauty! But the next one was just more of a mound!

Although you do get a pretty good view of the city from the top!

However, the Museum was quite another story! I think I was simply in love with the Museum display and the way everything was organized. My friends comment was also justified.. She said that there were not so many archaeological artifacts retrieved from the site as she had expected to be here.. but the Museum Director in his defense did say that it was because most of those artifacts were displayed in the State Museum.

The Museum was so amazing. The tour of the Museum starts with an Orientation Film, which tells the story of the site and how people lived and how the mounds got developed. At the end of the movie, the backdrop is suppose to rise up to the Cahokia Village display, which I should say would have been quite dramatic, but unfortunately the backdrop wasn’t working and thus we were deprived of this privelage.

 

But the entire museum is a must see, yes there are not many artifacts from the site and therefore, thank god I am not an archaeologist, because I didn’t once think about this. I just thought that the info being given was nicely divided up under different headings. And the display and dioramas were simply to die for. I loved it!

And then how can I forget the village scene display! Amazing!

On the way back, we stopped at an Antiques Mall, and I could have gotten lost in that place, it was so huge and amazing. I mean it had everything in it that I could have every thought possible! But there was so much to see that you need an entire day to go through it. I mean for heaven’s sake, one of us actually found archaeological artifacts and stone tools from this place. I however found these really amazing sign boards and all!

The rest of the way was just another drive lasting around another 6 hours. Dinner was a Chinese affair, and I liked what I had, although I cant recall the names of the dishes which I had.

USA Diaries – Day 19 – Free Day equals a trip to the Zoo!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 19, 04-8-2012 – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Local Time: 2121, Pakistan Time:05 August 2012, 0622

Today was a free day for us – Today was also the last free day we would have in DC – Today was also the third last day that we were spending in DC! So it meant that there was a long list of things that we wanted to do but time was just not on our hand. Tough choices had to be made – which museum to prefer, which other places to hit, shopping or sightseeing or just sleep? I tell you the idea of sleeping was pretty tempting, but nonetheless, I decided that Zoo was a must for me! But first – a stop at the Congress of Library! The Library is one block down from where we are staying but beside that we have not been able to actually go there! The reason has been the lack of matching our timing! The library closes off at around 4:30 pm – we don’t ever get free before that. But I am glad that I made it there today. The place is magnificent – and it is truly a tribute to the great thinkers that we have had in the last century.

The exterior of the Library or more specifically The Thomas Jefferson Building is a grand building and it proudly holds these busts of these great names – which includes Goethe, Thomas Jefferson, and many more – right on top of the entrance gate.

The interior are just as grand and magnificent! The entire ceiling is covered with these magnificent panels and Cherubs and Quotations and once more these great names – oh and some of the most wonderful murals which show the evolution of knowledge.

However I did learn one thing today – It has always been told to us in our lectures that ornamentation is something that was done without any reason – that it was simply a decoration element, and something which required too much resources. That is not the case! The ornamentation are a way to add to the concept behind the building and the function which it is suppose to serve. There is such a strong rationale behind using these form for ornamentation. The usage becomes essential in creating an atmosphere that this is in fact a temple for Knowledge. For example, this Cherub on the side of the Stairs illustrates the various fields which are housed and which constitute the part of Scientific fields – One Cherub being a Physicist, another a Chemist or a Cook, or a Philosopher, etc.

The panel below illustrates the various form of Literature, with the two Cherub on the side showcasing Comedy and Tragedy and the middle one showing Drama.

The exhibition that were put up at the Library of Congress were truly amazing. One of the exhibition was about the Early America and how the Conquest and the search for new resources changed the world. There is also a Thomas Jefferson Library which is on display, but one of the best exhibition is about “The books that shaped America”.. it was nice to know that there were so many books that I had actually heard of .. and even read! I remember this one kid that was beside me who exclaimed to his parents and siblings “Oh my God, Charlotte’s Web is also here.. Can you believe it came out in 1952!!!” – I have never read that book!

It was an amazing Place!

So with much difficulty I decided that the second stop should be the National Zoo – Little did I know that this will be my last stop of the day! Why you wonder? Let me explain – I left my hotel at 9:30 am, Walked to Library of Congress, Roamed around, Got out by 11:30 am and went to the Metro, reached the Zoo at around 12:30 and then got out of the Zoo at 5:00 pm – Yes it took me a full 5 hours to see three-fourth of the Zoo! Apparently 5 hours even are not enough to see the whole Zoo! They need to make smaller Places I tell you!

Anyways, it was a delight to see the Pandas and the wonderful Outdoor Pavilions where we can see the animals in action, the Pink Pelicans, the King Vulture.. and then there were so different types of Turtles.. .I am missing my turtle a lot actually and I really need to go and meet him. I miss him.

 

 

By the end of this zoo trip, I was so dead tired that I didn’t have the strength to go anywhere and came straight to my hotel. The rest of the day was usual – we cooked and ate and now we are just talking away!

And the Conference begins; Day 2: In Lahore

Yes I know, I am very lazy. And that is why it took me two days to write this part. But well here I am . So people stop complaining!

After having a very good sleep – despite my parents astonishment that how I can get so comfortable at some one else’s house so soon – I woke up at 9 am and joined by host to watch the rerun of the American Music Award (hate you Justin Bieber.. the rest of these 40 years old musicians should just go kill themselves, I mean it doesn’t get worst than this right), and to a hot cup of tea. I really wanted to go shop, so Saba at 11 took me out to Liberty and I bought some of the most beautiful Khosa’s from Khosa Mahal. I am an upcoming shoeaholic! After that, we debated for what seemed like forever about where should we go get out lunch. We went to Gloria Jeans’ but after rejecting it, so reasons that I still don’t understand, we settled on Coffee, Tea, Company or CTC, as the Lahoris call it. I have to admit the sandwich was huge and really  good. Recommended for everyone!

We came home, and then after stuffing ourselves with that piece of heaven sandwich – we couldn’t eat more than half of it – we got ready for the conference. The butterflies that I have already mentioned started to take their toll on me again, and I tried to push them to the back of my mind….it was quite a fight alright!

The conference started on time, and with a wonderful introduction from Dr. Pervaiz Vandal, explaining the birth and the purpose of this conference. I especially liked the part where he defined himself and his wife as being proud to be teacher, then being an architect. He explained the conference as to be “for the teachers, by the teachers, from the teachers” .. I felt pretty left out!

 

The Venue for the Conference

I feel in love with these dogs.. at first I thought I was having dejavu.. it was after a whole fifteen minutes that I realized that the Vandal's had two dogs

While introducing Dr. Mubarak Ali – the keynote speaker – he told this story about how in each and every village of Pakistan, you can go to a shop and right next to the tea, cleaners, soap, etc, you would also find a section on his book. I thought that was such a wonderful thing to say! Dr. Mubarak Ali in his keynote speech discussed the evolution of the study of history. Some of what I remembered emphasized on the different ways that history is looked upon. One of them is that when you consider the past as the Golden age, in this context the future becomes dark. The other way is that we think of history in a constant progress, then this way the past becomes an era of darkness, and the future more promising than ever! He also discussed how when the true history was written about many of the Muslim rulers it was condemned by Muslims themselves for being anti-Muslim, because they had become used to the royal court’s version of the history. This session was chaired by Prof. Nimal P. De Silva, a wonderfully sweet man from SriLanka. Continue reading