USA Diaries – Day 27 – I left my heart in St. Louis!

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.

One thing you learn when you are under the supervision of Mark Kenoyer, and that is that he will pack such a schedule that you get the most of everything without wasting a minute of your life. And this is exactly what Sunday was all about! Despite the fact that we were due to travel to St. Louis so that we can visit the site of Cahokia, there was still a session organized for the morning. The session was all about Collection Management and how the University of Wisconsin with its limited budget and all tries to do the best it can for its collection. We also had a big discussion about why is it necessary to have Teaching Collection with which the students can familiarize themselves and learn to handle artifacts and objects and how it can be used for their Research Purposes. The tour was given to us by Danielle who works in the Department and has been taking care of the Collections for a while now. I really like this approach of Western Universities where they let you touch the objects and actually get a feel for them so that you can have a better understanding of their texture quality and everything and there is no denying that you get more out of such experiences then you can ever imagine. We even got a chance to go and visit the effigy mounds many of which just seem to be scattered all over Wisconsin Areas. These Mounds are shaped as certain animals and the exact purpose of these effigy mounds has still not been very clear. The major excavations were done in the early 1900’s and sometime around 1920 but even the evidence found has not been enough to deduce the basic person of these mounds. I would love to post some pictures of them, but then in the pictures they hardly seem like something special… actually to be honest, they didn’t seem like anything special in reality even.. oh well, that’s the non-archaeologist in me speaking! Anyways, so after that we went to grab some lunch at the same place where we ate the first day – this Indian Restaurant called Mirch Masala. And on my way back to the hotel, I saw these bunch of people gathered up outside the Capitol Building – and chalking the sidewalk. Since there seemed to be no explanation for this, I decided to go up to them and just see what are they doing. It turned out that these people were protesting against the arrest of two Veterans who were charged with Chalking on the Side walk. The people simply spread the word out and they had an entire strategy planned out about what they are going to do when the police comes etc. I really thought that it was an ingenious idea for protesting. I simply loved it. 

 

By the time we got back, people had already started to pile up in the Presidential Limousine and many of Mark’s students had also decided to join us for the trip. I have to say that it was a very sweet ride, but apparently there had been a bridal shower or something in it the night before which meant that there was glitter more or less every where. There is hardly anything that I can say.. I mean after all it was just 6 hours drive. There were jokes and discussions and all of that but there is little that can be shared out here.

We did get a chance to see much of the landscape and the problems that are being faced. This year there has been a scarcity of rain and this means that most of the corn fields have gone dead. It was quite sad to see this, which would have an impact on the entire food market of the world.

When we finally reached St Louis we headed off first to the restaurant Rasui – which is an Indian Restaurant. The food was really good and it was nice to have a lassi after so many days – although I do have to say that I will never get used to the idea of having lassi with a straw and without Malai.

But still it wasn’t so bad!

The night stay was at Hyatt and we were pretty excited about staying at such a fancy place. But the most exciting part of the night came when we decided to go out to the Arch, and right then at that time, a shoot out happened right across the road. A car apparently just came and started 3 straight fires…. a few people across the road were just ducking behind a bin. I think someone was injured or something. And then we even got cursed as well by a car which just passed by us. I have to say it was too much adventure for one night.

After all this, there was enough reason to call it a night

 

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USA Diaries – Day 22 – Hello, Madison!

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 23, 08-8-2012 – In my hotel room, Madison, WI, Local Time: 2241, Pakistan Time:09 August 2012, 0840

Apparently for a flight at 10 am you need to get up at 6 am… And I say this from experience! And let me add, that so early in the morning I am not a very nice or friendly person! This is simply for information!

Anyways, we wake up early, run with our suitcases out of this wonderful hotel and land at the Ronald Reagan Airport.. where we all await to know the dreadful news… Our luggage (or at least mine for sure) is overweight. When I loaded my luggage 22 days ago from the Karachi Airport, it was a mere 16 kg or 32 pounds approximetly. Today, when I had the same suitcase weighed, it was almost 79 pounds….. and it was all books… Oh well, there is nothing which I didnt already predict! Anyways, I get my luggage in and then I ask this old sweet man about which gate is my flight to be depart from.. I am travelling by Delta.. the old man however tells me to go to United Terminal.. that is located on the other end of the Terminal….. of course this is something that I will only get to know that much later. Not only do I go to the United terminal, I even clear security. I get done with the entire screening process and go inside the lounge and sit at this particular gate and wait.. until…. things start to seem fishy! I check from the counter and my suspicion is cleared! I am in the wrong Terminal. So I walk back to the Correct terminal, which guess what, is on the other end of the terminal!

But hey, you can never expect me to complain about getting lost… I loved the entire experience!

So I am finally at the right terminal and I board the right flight, and then after an hour or so of flight time, we are in Dallas, Texas Airport. Now I have been quite shocked about the Airports that they have in US, and this one was no exception… I mean there is a bloody train which moves inside of the Airport… I mean INSIDE! I mean you can be walking on those escalators, and all of a sudden you can see a train moving from one end of the Airport to the next! And there were around 78 or so gates in that one terminal alone, and I am sure there were other such more terminals!

And from Dallas Airport, we took another flight that took us to Madison! Now the plane in which we were suppose to travel was ridiculously small. I mean it was a matchstick! I don’t even know how we fitted into that plane, but anyways we did, and after another hour or so we had shifted … from our room in DC…

..with out combined Kitchenette …

…. into this..

So, the place is amazing! It is small and petite and tiny, but there is a huge difference between the crowd of DC and Madison. Since Madison is a University town, where you can see these kids getting the ideas of liberalism for the first time, therefore there is a huge difference in the way they dress to even the way they flaunt their cigarettes in public, this being particularly true for women. But the women in DC were much more sophisticated and I think I hardly saw anyone smoke in public like the way I saw in DC.

So as soon as we reached our hotel, we were greeted by Dr Mark Kenoyer – the larger then life personality, who instructed us to put our luggage and come out for lunch with him. We headed to this Indian Pakistani Restaurant called “Mirch Masala” and I tell you, it was God send. I mean after days I had vegetables and desi food, and Achar (pickle) and roti…and Achar! I mean it was heaven! This is not to say I don’t enjoy what I am eating now, but I loved the desi food!

 

I think I hardly ate anything except this!

So, when the sun had gone done a bit we were given a private tour of the town by Dr Kenoyer and we got to see Madison with all its history and even the minutest of detail.

A sign of protest against the freedom to carry weapons in Public taken up by the various Shopkeepers!

We took a tour around the University Campus where we even had the chance to see the Boating Club in full swing…. yes they have a boating Club!

We finally went up the Anthropology Department and from there we had the chance to see the various classes and rooms, before we finally took our spot in front of the amazing Bell Tower!

 

I think we sat on that spot for about an hour, or until it was already 7:30 and it was time to head back for dinner, which we had at this amazing Restaurant,

And we had such a variety of food that even I don’t know what we did have last night. I know there was Sushi involved, and there was Raw Fish, and there was a Shrimp Head, Saki and fried Ice-cream. Let me just say for the record, I didn’t like Sushi… the sea weed around it, I just didnt like!

Do you really think there is anything more left to the day when you wake up at 6 am and have had dinner?