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 25 – Poetry Dreams becomes a Reality!

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.

Hello! The last week or let’s say the last stretch of this journey is really turning out to be exhausting. Not only are we losing our mind, trying to get everything done, but even the timetable that we have is making us feel like we are trying to just pack in everything… and let me say that such a thing tends to takes its toll. Plus I miss home! One month is long enough to stay in a place which is the complete opposite of what your home used to be.

So Day 25 (5 more days to go) started off yet again at 9 am in the morning, but today we were supposed to start off our day at the Chazen Museum of Art and meet the director, Russell Panczenko. We were to understand the main purpose of the Museum and how it relates to the University as a whole. But my interest remained in understanding that in contrast to Washington DC, which is a big tourist destination, how a town like Madison attracts crowds and people towards it. Well the answer given by the Director was the most simple and brilliant answer that I could have expected. They simply make and organize shows which would be a big attraction for the local crowd. And it is here and at this very moment, that I got to know the FLW (Frank Lloyd Wright) is owned by the whole of Wisconsin as their hero. And more importantly, Taliesin – which was his studio – is only a short distance away.

During this trip we also got a chance to see their Storage Units, which have been installed with State of the Art Equipment and also all that goes on Behind the Scenes – which included the Loading Deck, their underground additional Storage.

The building which we visited is the new wing of the Museum and an extension to the original building which had many of its own issues. The new building is one of the few extensions that I have ever seen which gives respect to the old structure. The extension carries on to the new interior the same feeling which is there in the old building. The most important feature for me of the overall complex is how even the bridge that has been made between the two buildings to link the old to the new, is not only to conserve the Pedestrian Mall, but also takes use of the bridge as the Gallery Space as well.

The end discussion of course with the Director himself was one which was one of the most interesting aspects of the day.

After the visit to the Museum we had the chance to grab lunch and today we decided to enjoy the many kiosks that seem to appear automatically on State Street during lunch hour. We were told to try the Jamaican Food, but I went to this other vendor which had Teriyaki Chicken, and sadly I have to say that the choice was not a very good one.

The second session of the day was dedicated to Dr Mark and his wonderfully amazing Experimental Archaeological Techniques. We started off first with understanding how the Faience Beads were made by the Harappans. We were told about the Stone that they use, the way they used to roll it in to form, the way they used to give it the signature and the art work that they did.

 

I made the cylindrical beads which can be centred by two circular beads!

Afterwards, while half the group – who in my opinion are completely crazy – decided to head off to the Stone Making Class, I opted for Pottery. Now this is something that I have always desired to do… in fact there was a time when I asked my mother to let me get admission in this Institute so I can actually learn it. But well… I finally got my chance on Day 25.

I have to say it is not as easy as it seems – but well then that seems to be truth about more or less everything in the world. On my very first try I shifted the clay off its centre on the wheel, and Dr Mark at this point had to come to my rescue. I then started again to get in shape my Matki – which is more or less a small cup which is used to have drinks or water or something. Anyways, it was really hard and half the time I was just praying that Mark doesn’t lose his patience with me. But he is truly a wonderful teacher; he kept saying “This is the way you learn”!

The class ended, and we decided to head off to the hotel, but not without a few stops first. The first stop of the day was at this lady who was selling handmade antique jewellery. Afterwards we even called in a friend of my roommate – Katie. Now Katie has been working in Harappa Sites for more or less a considerable period. And it was with her that we headed off to Macy’s.

 

Dinner was a Nepalese affair…. That’s right.. We headed off to the Nepalese Restaurant on State Street. And I have to say that their menu had a lot of variety. I got myself a Nepalese Dish – I can’t recall the name – but the oddest part for me was that they served the Dal or lintel as an actual soup item. But it wasn’t so bad!

The rest of the evening consisted of a lot of Facebooking and Email Checking!