Archive for the ‘Events’ category

In Flip Flops at the Rodeo

July 13, 2012

A short trip to Prescott, Arizona for the July 4th celebrations was one of the best ideas I have come up with lately — especially during the recent heat wave in Tucson when our patio became a “Sahara” patio, thanks to many long hours of southwest sun exposure. Prescott offered cooler temperatures (below 100 °F) and a lot of festivities — among them the famous “World’s Oldest Rodeo®.”

My idea became a reality on the 2nd of July when we entered the charming center of Prescott with plenty of green trees and architecture that does not resemble the southwest character of Tucson. We got tickets for the evening of the next day, and I could hardly wait since it would be my first rodeo.

Cover of 2012 Prescott Rodeo program

The first Prescott “rodeo” took place on July 4, 1888 — it was called a “Cowboy Tournament” at that time and was an addition to the 4th of July activities. The aim was to bring people to town to enjoy a variety of festivities and, of course, to spend money in local shops.

That first “rodeo” in Prescott was a great success. Both the contestants and spectators loved it, and that is how it all began…. In fact “Prescott, Where it all Began” was the theme of this year’s festivities. Rightly so, since it was the 125th anniversary of the World’s Oldest Rodeo® in the same year that Arizona is celebrating its centennial statehood status.

One might ask — is it really the world’s oldest rodeo? Apparently there are some stiff criteria that have to be met to be called that and to be able to obtain a register ® mark from the U.S. Patent Office. That mark, No.1.353.477, was issued on August 6, 1985. So the Prescott Rodeo truly must be the oldest one, right?

The rodeo tradition is as old as ranching and cattle raising. It honors the heritage of the cowboy culture that is so deeply rooted in the Prescott area. It is derived from the old Spanish tradition of the vaquero. It has become extremely popular in this country with over 700 professional rodeos.

Rodeos are reflections of the cowboys’ skills used in the every day chores of their lives. To compete in a rodeo one has to have knowledge of the animals, tenacious spirit, and athletic ability crucial for success in the ranching world. Only bull riding does not seem to fit this concept.

Alicja and two men

At the entry to the Rodeo grounds I was welcomed with great smiles by two handsome greeters and invited to take a picture with them. Looking at their boots, I realized that perhaps I should have worn different shoes — not my red flip flops. “Ouch, gentlemen, please do not step on my toes!”

Boots meeting

Boots and hats were in great abundance. I was probably the only one wearing my flimsy flip flops!

Happy, elegantly
Lady and two gentlemen
Waiting, in style
I loved the friendliness of the place and seeing many women and men dressed with extra care for the occasion. There was some pride and joy in the air….

Pony tails

Even the horses looked elegant with their slick pony tails! I imagined that they were “Saddle Bronc Riding” horses. Those horses are identified individually in the program, just like the human contestants, with names like Elvis, Cactus Flower, Thunderstorm or General Tom. I like that idea — it shows respect for those animals and stresses their integral part in the competition.

Bull

Visiting the bulls was surprisingly amusing. They were very calm and only one took some interest in my visit. They do not have their names listed in the program, but I decided to name this one, anyway, as Tracy. I think it fits him well.

Happy rider

not very happy rider

Visiting another bull was even more amusing and you can see why. Of course it was a mechanical bull, but the girls were very real! One was a happy rider and the other not happy at all.

Daddy and son
Pink boots

It was time to follow others to the arena.

View from my seat

This was the view from my seat, not the best one, but still it was exciting to be there. I felt like a kid again in some kind of enchanted and unknown world.

Flags, flags...

Randy Corley kept us informed about all of the action in the arena from the announcer’s booth.

announcements and commentary spot
Horseback rider with US flag
Horseback rider with Coca-Cola flag
The “Grand Entry” was full of flags — all kinds of flags — patriotic and commercial ones.

Big O Tires sign

Events like rodeos need some sponsors, of course — like Big O Tires.

Competition

This is a scene from the Tie Down Roping competition. I read in the program, “The event derives from the duties of actual working cowboys requiring catching and restraining calves for branding, immobilizing a sick or injured calf for treatment. Ranch hands prided themselves on how fast they could rope and tie calves, and soon they began informal contests.”

Action

OK, after a few attempts to capture the bucking horse riding, I had to give up! The action is very fast and intense — the rider has to stay on the horse for 8 seconds just to qualify! Many of them don’t last that long. I was not equipped for that kind of photography and did not have have a good spot for it. Therefore I will direct you to the professional photographers of the rodeo. Please click on my photo above or here to enjoy their action photos.

Satiisfaction

It was dark when the rodeo ended. I enjoyed it very much and felt satisfied, just like this little cowboy. However next time I will not wear my flip flops, but red boots like these instead. I also know where to buy them.

Red boots

Boots waiting for me

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Cover Artwork of the Program by Paul Lanquist. Text and other photos copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

Happy Name Day!

June 21, 2012

It is very seldom that something nice comes “out of the blue” for me, but this time it did happen! And the timing could not have been more perfect. I was not in the greatest of moods. It was very hot in Tucson, and my name day (which is the day this post is being published) did not look very promising. If you wonder what a name day is, please see an explanation at the bottom of this post*.

My name day was coming within hours when I got a terrific e-mail from my friend Connie, who got it from someone else. She forwarded to me a collection of music to share. It made my day! I shortened the list to focus on well known musicians and music groups.

For me it was a gift of music instead of flowers for my day. I want to share this gift with you.

pink oleander flowers

Click on an artist or group name, enjoy the music, and .

1) Elvis Presley 2) Roy Orbison 3) Beatles 4) Abba 5) Bee Gees 6) Michael Jackson 7) John Lennon 8) Celine Dion 9) Frank Sinatra 10) Creedence Clearwater Revival 11) Julio Iglesias 12) Queen 13) Neil Diamond 14) Paul Mccartney 15) Rolling Stones 16) Pink Floyd 17) Bruce Springsteen 18) Elton John 19) U2 20) George Harrison 21) Cliff Richard 22) Tina Turner 23) Bob Marley 24) Andrea Bocelli 25) Dire Straits 26) Barbra Streisand 27) Eagles 28) Madonna 29) Simon & Garfunkel 30) AC/DC 31) Bob Dylan 32) Dean Martin 33) André Hazes 34) Tom Jones 35) Eric Clapton 36) John Denver 37) Eros Ramazzotti 38) Deep Purple 39) Led Zeppelin 40) Rod Stewart 41) Status Quo 42) Louis Armstrong 43) Fleetwood Mac 44) Bryan Adams 45) Jimi Hendrix 46) Barry White 47) Nat King Cole 48) Santana 49) Michael Buble 50) Gipsy Kings 51) David Bowie 52) Adriano Celentano 53) Robbie Williams 54) Charles Aznavour 55) Metallica 56) Doors 57) Shakira 58) Beach Boys 59) Cat Stevens 60) Bon Jovi 61) UB40 62) Joe Cocker 63) Whitney Houston 64) Phil Collins 65) Enrique Iglesias 66) Ricky Martin 67) Ray Charles 68) K3 69) ZZ Top 70) Van Morrison 71) Ringo Starr 72) Stevie Wonder 73) Gloria Estefan 74) Supertramp 75) Jethro Tull 76) Black Sabbath 77) Marco Borsato 78) Guns N’ Roses 79) Neil Young 80) Chuck Berry 81) Billy Joel 82) Sting 83) Kinks 84) R.E.M. 85) Laura Pausini 86) Genesis 87) Who 88) Monkees 89) Animals 90) Simple Minds 91) Prince 92) Aretha Franklin 93) B.B. King 94) Iron Maiden 95) Pearl Jam 96) Christina Aguilera 97) Alice Cooper 98) Depeche Mode 99) Nirvana

*What is a name day?

Well, on many European calendars, days are marked with names, showing that different days are identified with different names—for instance, a day for Thomas, David, Martha, or Ann. It all started in ancient times with the days named for saints. In contemporary Poland, however, that is no longer the case. There is no saint Alicja and yet I have my day on the calendar and share it with Alojzy (for saint Alojzy). So on the 21st of June all Alicjas are celebrating their day. It is the longest day of the year and usually is the first day of summer. I always loved that day — full of sunshine and flowers!

The nice thing about name days is that there is no problem to remember them, because the names are printed on all calendars and are announced on the radio and TV stations at the beginning of the day. For instance, if it is Joseph’s day and you have a friend by that name, you better run to a flower or liquor shop to purchase something that Joseph likes, and go to celebrate that day with him.

The best part for the celebrant is that he has a lot of attention and nobody talks about his age, as happens here on birthdays.

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Text (except music list) and photos copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

Radium Girl – a Hero

March 30, 2012

I was in the middle of writing my new post for this blog with the intention to dedicate it to Marie Sklodowska Curie, the brilliant scientist and recipient of two Nobel prizes. She was an inspiration and role model for me while I was studying biochemistry in Warsaw — the city of her birth and mine (two generations apart). I thought March would be the perfect month for such a salute since it is dedicated to the celebration of women.

When I learned that the play Radium Girls, written by D.W. Gregory and based on a true story, is being presented by Beowulf Alley Theatre here in Tucson, I knew that I had to see it! After all, radium was discovered and isolated by Marie Curie, my hero. So on a sunny Sunday afternoon at 2:30 pm — when I would rather be gardening — I was sitting in the dark auditorium of the theater watching Radium Girls.

The play was emotionally exhausting for me and the Radium Girls stayed in my mind with such a persistence that I postponed writing about Marie Curie and wrote this instead.

You might be familiar with the tragic story of the young women (18-year-old on average) working in the factory owned by the U.S. Radium Corporation in Orange, New Jersey, where “glowing” watches were produced. The Radium Girls, as they are now referred to, were painting the dials of watches with delicate brushes using paint containing radioactive radium. The girls were unaware of the deadly power of the paint. The factory management was unaware, as well…at first! When the danger became apparent, fear of the responsibility for the workers, fear of bad publicity, and fear of the financial consequences were too big for the corporation to face. As a result, the dangers of using radium were downplayed and the need to protect the workers totally neglected. Consequently the girls continued to paint the dials of the watches. In order to sharpen the brush points they continued putting them in their mouths and twirling them against their lips, each time swallowing a bit of the radioactive paint…. With today’s knowledge of radiation it is easy to predict the end of the story.

Since I did not grow up in this country, I was not even aware of the Radium Girls’ existence… till now. Sheldon Metz, the director of the play, did! He read about them in a Chicago newspaper when he was a 15-year-old boy. The story made a lasting impression on him and that is why there is an opportunity to see this play in Tucson. For that I am very grateful to him and the entire cast.

The play takes us to Orange, New Jersey and requires setting our watches back to 1926 in order to enter the scenes full of authentic characters of that time.

The focus of the play is Grace Fryer, one of the watch painters at the Orange factory, who slowly becomes aware of the danger of the painting job by seeing some of her friends getting deadly sick. In spite of quitting her job and finding a safer one (in a bank), she becomes very sick and faces the prognosis of only one year left to live. Her decision to fight the U.S. Radium Corporation and her painful struggle with that decision are remarkable — and worth seeing in the performance by Nicole M. Scott.

I was glad that the character of Arthur Roeder, president of the corporation, was not overdrawn and made into a caricature. Jared Stokes convincingly personifies Roeder in a way that it is not possible to like him, but also not easy to hate him.

Every member of the cast, except Nicole, plays several characters and that was pretty amazing for me. They all deserve a standing ovation, but it is the Grace Fryer character that stole my heart. The Radium Girl, Grace Fryer, became one of my heroes.

Grace’s type of heroism is often unrecognized because it is not action oriented or driven by an overpowering personality. It is not like the act of heroism by a soldier, rescue team member, fire fighter, or ordinary bystander responding to a dangerous situation requiring a quick, decisive action. No! She is a different type of hero; she becomes a hero through a painful metamorphosis. And metamorphosis requires time.

Grace, in the play (and in her real life), is not a complicated person at first. She has her relatively common dreams — dreams of marriage, having a home, children, and simply a good life. She is a nice girl, as she describes herself, one who was taught to obey, to behave well, to please others and to not become angry…

This very young girl is changing slowly in front of us into an aware, decisive, and strong young woman. That does not happen by some magic, serendipity, or blind faith in a supreme being’s help. Such a metamorphosis comes with the pain of shedding different skins of fears and doubts. And Grace had plenty of them while struggling with the overwhelming power of the U.S. Radium Corporation and, in addition, with her mother and friends who fear that her battle for justice is useless and will backfire. Of course she desires some physical comfort and a bit of financial security while facing the prospect of imminent death. Such comfort is tempting and is offered to her a couple of times… for the price of being silent. She has to re-examine her decision each time she is tempted.

Grace does find the strength to stand for what she believes “is the right thing to do” in spite of all the forces going against her, in spite of her loneliness, in spite of her despair. That is why she is a hero for me.

I truly wish more people could see this play and especially the young ones — high school and college students. The Radium Girls were their age, after all. Grace Fryer’s fight with the U.S. Radium Corporation influenced greatly how workers’ safety and rights have changed. The Radium Girls play presents a lot of opportunities for intellectual debate about the future of this country. As Sheldon Metz states in his Notes in the program,

“There are, to this day, other corporations promoting products that may or may not be safe: cosmetics, medications, dietary and pet products, food, paints, nuclear waste etc. The story happened over 90 years ago. It is still happening. You make up your own minds.”

You can still make up your mind to see the play — that is, of course, if you live in the Tucson area. However, there are only a few performances left:

7:30pm Fridays and Saturdays through April 7
2:30pm Sundays, April 1 & 8
Beowulf Alley Theatre
11 South 6th Avenue
Downtown Tucson
www.beowulfalley.org

Links to reviews:

Faith in Science | Review | Tucson Weekly
Radium Girls – Downtown Tucson Partnership
“Radium Girls” recounts early battle for worker safety
“Radium Girls” A Disturbing Legacy

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Text copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

A Photographic Detour

February 22, 2012

This is a small detour on my writing road – a photographic one. My commitment to this coming Saturday’s (February 25th) SOUTHWEST ARTISTS SHOW in downtown Tucson has taken my writing focus away. My concentration on writing this blog has gone down to zero!

Unfocused photographs are sometimes interesting, have some purpose, and can be attractive. Unfocused writing, however, is seldom desirable. Consequently, I have decided to delay my writing this week and focus on the show.

Flyer for Southwest Artists Show 2012

Below are a few of my photos.

Desert flowers by Alicja Mann

Two Windows by Alicja Mann

Cafe Yellow by Alicja Mann

If you are in Tucson this “Rodeo Days” weekend, please feel invited to the historic Bates Mansion and visit our diverse group of artists.

Enjoy the courtyard and the mansion. Enjoy the art and conversation. Enjoy the music, food, and wine. Just have a nice time!

Entrance to Bates Mansion

There is plenty of space to park nearby – free of charge on the weekend.

I hope to see you there!

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Text and photos (except Southwest Artists Show flyer) copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

The Cards of Life

January 6, 2012

I love all kinds of celebrations and New Year’s Eve is one of them. I am almost superstitious, believing that not celebrating that night might bring you bad luck.

Last year such a celebration took the form of a large party in our home with plenty of friends to warm up the coldest night of the year in Tucson. This year, after several months of racing with time to meet some important deadlines, I had the mood to celebrate the end of this year in “a bit” more glitzy way. So I persuaded David and a couple of friends to go (elegantly dressed) to one of the plushy resorts hidden in the foothills of Tucson’s Catalina Mountains that offered such a possibility. The fact that it promised to be a relatively inexpensive event and that one of my new “Jazz” friends, jazz musician George Howard, and his group would perform was a decisive factor.

The resort was surrounded with cool lights and we walked into the “Parisian night” theme of its lounge where the tables were decorated with red roses. The waiters in black and wearing characteristic French berets were cruising among the guests. Wow, that was exciting! I felt like a little kid ready for fun and adventure.

Lights for New Year's Eve

Lights and water, and Hello Paris

It was a night with the moon high in the sky and big stars on the ground (including George).

Stars, moon, George Howard

It was a night of elegant details in the clothing, which I found to be delightful.

Elegant details: shoes and stockings

It was crowded, it was noisy and it was fun — in my book.

Alicja Mann and George Howard

That was New Year’s Eve, but then came New Year’s Day and a predictable reflective mood arrived dimming my sunny morning. That happens usually after some important celebrations like anniversaries, Christmases or birthdays.

My reflective mood usually brings some dark thoughts for a while. Memories of tragic events, images of people I miss, thoughts about unfulfilled promises or dreams that did not materialize crowd my mind. An image of myself emerges — identical to the real me, but much darker. That darkness is similar to the reflection of any image on a shiny surface (except a mirror) — a pool of water, a window or a very shiny table like the one I was sitting at on New Year’s Eve.

Thinking about this, playing cards came to my mind and I created one for myself. I made the choice of an ace of hearts. I like the hearts on it. I also like that it is the highest card, but can also be the lowest one! There is a challenging duality in it, just as in real life.

The playing cards for bridge or poker have mirror images on them — so identical that the way one holds a card does not matter. However, the cards of life, like mine, have to be handled with great care. If not, they might flip around and their dark side would be up and dominate.

Have a good year of 2012 — play your cards of life the best you can!

Two Ace of Hearts cards from Alicja Mann

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Text and images copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

Hello from Yesteryear

November 18, 2011

How about having a Thanksgiving feast with a touch of the 17th century? It is quite possible around this time at Plimoth Plantation. Plimoth Plantation? Yes, Plimoth Plantation is the living history museum of the 17th century in Plymouth, Massachusetts, just 45 miles south of Boston and a few miles north of the Sagamore bridge of Cape Cod. Plymouth is traditionally associated with the image of the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621, perhaps better defined as a harvest celebration. The Pilgrims joined together with the “People of the First Light”, as the Wampanoag Native Americans refer to themselves, who had helped the newcomers survive their first harsh winter.

I never tasted a Plimoth Plantation turkey dinner while living on the Cape, but I tasted a variety of Wampanoag dishes when I was accepted as their friend and later became co-author and publisher of one of the books dedicated to their heritage — Son of Mashpee.

Now in Tucson — far away from Cape Cod and Plymouth — I am planning our Thanksgiving with a touch of southwestern style. However, while on the Cape in September I visited Plimoth Plantation and took some photos to share with you a little of its ambiance.

“Plimoth Plantation is a private, not-for-profit museum whose exhibits include Mayflower II, Wampanoag Homesite, the 1627 English Village, the Crafts center, the Nye Barn, and changing gallery exhibits. Each exhibit presents a unique aspect of the story of 17th-century Plymouth and the people who lived there,” as their brochure informs. The spelling of the name, Plimoth, also comes from the 17th century.

Indeed it is a rare and fascinating place. There is a lot to see and learn in Plimoth Plantation, but I can offer here just a small slice of what I saw — like a sliver of the traditional pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

On entering the English Village one gets enveloped by sights, sounds and smells from a far away past. The costumed role players of the village inhabitants are effective in convincing visitors that it is indeed the year 1627.

The Wampanoag Homesite in Plimoth Plantation is scenically located at the mouth of Eel River where their mishhoons, canoes made from hollowed-out tree trunks, are resting. The dome-shaped wetuash covered with bark and cattail reed mats was a comfortable summer dwelling. In winter the Wampanoags would move deeper inland, to their winter homes.

Everybody needs some bread! Every culture makes it a bit differently. In Plimoth Plantation visitors can learn how to make and bake corn bread. Kids especially are fond of that activity. I was watching them with great pleasure on that sunny September day, but could not quite dismiss the thought that in November and later months with cold and often wet days it could be a very different experience.

That visit into the past made me feel more appreciative of the conveniences in our contemporary life. So I am grateful for our comfortable homes with warm bathrooms and modern stoves.

Have a joyful time cooking, dining, and gathering on this coming Thanksgiving!

Alicja

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Text and photos (other than photo of Wampanoag Native American gathering) copyright © 2011 by Alicja Mann.

Water is Rising

October 27, 2011

When I made my small writing “wave” in July about the beautiful flag of Kiribati, the Pacific island nation slowly disappearing because of global climate change, I did not expect to see that flag in “real” reality so soon, or to have an opportunity for a conversation with “real” people of Kiribati. Well, I did last Friday, October 21st, right here in Tucson when the Water is Rising project performers made a big “wave” at the University of Arizona Centennial Hall, which was filled with people of all ages. This unique artistic event was sponsored by UA Presents.

"UA Presents" flyer for "Water is Rising"

Fragment of UA Presents flyer

And what is the Water is Rising project? It is a project of the UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance in collaboration with the Foundation for World Arts. Water is Rising is produced and directed by Judy Mitoma, Director of the UCLA Center, who has worked with Pacific Island cultures for over thirty years and has a deep understanding of them. The goal of the project is to educate and to increase the sensitivity of the American public about global climate change and how it is affecting the Pacific atolls of Kiribati, Tokelau, Tuvalu and other Pacific Island nations.

Professor Mitoma conceived the Water is Rising project after the emotional plea made by officials from Tuvalu at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Those officials asked world leaders to acknowledge the effect global warming was having on their islands.

Indeed, there is scientific evidence that the Pacific atolls are at risk of becoming the first cultures on our planet to be submerged in ocean waters and… disappear. The irony is that powerful industrial countries like the USA have been contributing greatly to global warming (causing to the ocean waters to rise), but the highest price will be paid by the smallest countries like Tuvalu.

Fragment from “The World of Ours”
Composed by Kelemene (2011)

The world of ours
It is not steady, it keeps
moving
We worry about climate
change
Oi! My Tuvalu, what will
happen?
Will we float into the
ocean?

Listen to my tiny voice
Crying out for help
Hear our plea from
Tuvalu
Our low and small
Pacific home

Through Water is Rising the voices of Kiribati (population 100,000), Tuvalu (12,000) and Tokelau (1,500) can be heard. After three years of preparation, 36 selected artists from these countries are touring the USA — performing and conducting educational programs for all ages.

Please visit www.waterisrising.com to learn more about the project and global climate change. The schedule of the tour is posted on that website and if you have a chance, see a performance of Water is Rising.

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First photo from UA Presents. Second and third photos from the website of Water is Rising. Text other than poem of Kelemene copyright © 2011 by Alicja Mann.

Columbus Day Darkly

October 14, 2011

How did you celebrate Columbus Day last Monday?

Columbus Day has been observed by most states of this country since 1937 when Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed October 12 a federal holiday as a result of lobbying by the Knights of Columbus.

Many Italian-Americans view Columbus Day as a day to celebrate their Italian heritage. Most of us, however, do not know how to celebrate that day, except enjoying a day off from work or going shopping. So on Monday I was wondering what was happening on Columbus Day besides special sales? Nothing or almost nothing, I discovered — nothing in Tucson, anyway, and most likely in the rest of Arizona. Sorry! Casa Grande held a 3-day event, the Arizona Soccer Tournament for the Columbus Cup.

Having had some issues about this holiday for some time, I decided to “observe it” by taking a long walk on Columbus Boulevard here in Tucson and thinking about Christopher Columbus. It was a nice and easy celebration — Columbus Boulevard is only a few steps away from our home and is a pleasant street for walking or jogging, especially the northern part of it that leads to the Rillito River.

Monday morning was sunny and warm and I truly enjoyed being reacquainted with the desert plants and houses along the boulevard. I had not walked it for a while, having been away from Tucson.

Columbus Boulevard, Tucson

Columbus Blvd in Tucson

McCormick Park, Tucson, Arizona

McCormick Park on Columbus Blvd

A charming spot along Columbus Blvd

Rillito River, Tucson, Arizona

Waterless Rillito River

My walk, in truth, was a nice procrastination from writing this post. I procrastinated the next day as well, since I found the issue of Columbus Day a difficult one to write about. Finally, I am writing today, on the “real” Columbus Day, October 12, so please bear with me!

Quite a few years ago I wrote (in one of my op-ed columns) about the dark side of Columbus Day but did not question the celebration of it. Today I do!

Five hundred nineteen years ago on October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus and his sailors arrived in the Bahamas. When they stepped ashore, for the first time since the voyages of the Vikings, a small piece of the New World felt the presence of Europeans. That event changed the history of the world much more significantly than any other geographical exploration.

Why was there such a strong response in Europe to discovery of America? The author of “America in Europe: A History of the New World in Reverse”, German Arciniegas, addresses that question. “The fervor, the passion, the spontaneity that had been restrained for centuries broke their barriers and a new era was opened. Man began to declare his own rights, at the risk of anarchy. When one reflects with sufficient perspective on this deep, radical change, one finds the words that define this new course: Independence, Freedom.”

What was freedom and independence for newcomers became oppression, displacement, and loss of freedom for the indigenous people of this continent.

So why are we still celebrating the man who in truth was not a visionary about the existence of the New World, but stumbled upon it by mistake? At the time of his first voyage Columbus’ intention was not discovery of the New World but travel to India. Assuming that he had reached the “Indies,” Columbus named the native people of San Salvador “Indians” and since then “Indians” has become the name of the natives on both American continents.

Columbus’ attitude towards natives of the New World was less than admirable. It is not fair to judge that man of the 15th century by the standards of our thinking in the 21st century; still, it is impossible to like him while reading the well known excerpts from his logbook regarding the natives: “They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance…. They would make fine servants…. With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them to whatever we want.”

A quote from his second Voyage of 1495, when many Indians were taken as slaves and died on the way to Spain, is also telling, “Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.”

I have to admit that I was oblivious to the dark side of the New World discovery for quite a few years of my living in this country and while living in Poland. Writing a book with a Chief of the Wampanoags of Mashpee (an American Indian tribe on Cape Cod) — Son of Mashpee — opened my eyes widely. At that time I read a lot of history of the Wampanoags and other tribes of American Indians. While reading, one could only cry….

Columbus Day has been a controversial holiday for a long time. Some feel ashamed of it. Some feel angry about it. Some wonder what to do about it.

It is obvious that we cannot change history, but I think we can and should stop celebrating Columbus Day. It would be very appropriate, in my opinion, to keep the holiday, rename it and dedicate it to those who were present in the New World when “discovered” by Christopher Columbus. Let’s follow the example of South Dakota that already celebrates Native American Day in place of Columbus Day.

Stop Columbus Day

And what do you think about it?

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Photos and text copyright © 2011 by Alicja Mann.

Gone Fishing!

September 21, 2011

Art by Arkadiusz Wesolowski (age 10 in 1987), Gdynia, Poland. Photo by Alicja Mann.

Just kidding — will be back on these pages in a week.

Alicja

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Copyright © 2011 by Alicja Mann. Art by Arkadiusz Wesolowski (age 10 in 1987), Gdynia, Poland.

Tale of Two Flags

July 15, 2011

What do South Sudan, the United States and Kiribati have in common? Definitely not the size of the country, not their political influence, and not their geographical location.

All three — the United States, the Republic of South Sudan, and the Republic of Kiribati have their birthdays in the first half of July — on July 4th, July 9th, and July 12th, respectively.

Just a few days after our Independence Day, a festively dressed crowd of South Sudanese gathered in Juba on July 9th — from the early morning through the entire day — for celebrations of their independence.

Crowd waving the flag of South Sudan

They waved their new country’s flag with great enthusiasm and triumph. By breaking away from Sudan, the Republic of South Sudan became the 54th country of Africa and the newest country of the world.

“My country, too, was born amid struggle and strife on a July day,” Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Flag of the Republic of South Sudan said on that memorable Saturday in Juba, the capitol of South Sudan. “On this day the world’s oldest democracy welcomes the world’s newest state. Independence was not a gift you were given. Independence is a prize you have won,” Ms. Rice stated.

Indeed it was a long struggle by the Southern Sudanese. They endured over three decades of civil wars ravaging their country. More than 2.5 million people died and 5 million were externally displaced as result of these wars. Finally this year, as the result of the referendum held in January, South Sudan seceded from Sudan. An overwhelming majority of the population (98.83%) voted in favor of it. The formal independence was declared on that hot and sweaty July 9th.

This new nation of an estimated 8.3 million people from over 200 ethnic groups will face huge challenges in the coming days. The weekend of July 9th, however, was the time to forget all worries for a while and celebrate as the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, put it, “A dream come true.” Here he raises the constitution after signing it:

President Salva Kiir Mayardit of the Republic of South Sudan

A similar dream of independence came true for Kiribati on July 12, 1979 when this island nation of the central tropical Pacific Ocean became independent from the United Kingdom.

I did not pay attention to this small nation of 98,000 people till I discovered its flag in the Rand McNally handy Notebook World Atlas which I carry around with my slender Toshiba PC. One day while looking at the pages filled with the flags of the world’s countries, I stumbled upon the Kiribati flag – it made me smile.

It is one of the most beautiful flags, in my opinion, among the other nations’ flags — the unusual symbols of it are peaceful and inviting. Flag of the Republic of Kiribati I immediately thought about visiting that country some day. Kiribati (the former Gilbert Islands), pronounced in the native language as Kirr-i-bas with a surprising s on the end, became even more interesting for me when I learned that it is the country — the one and only — located in both hemispheres. It is positioned on both sides of 180th meridian. Inquiring further I discovered that traveling from USA to Kiribati is not an easy task. First I would have to go to Hawaii and then from there to Kiribati. The planning has to be very precise because there is only one flight per week connecting Hawaii and Kiribati.

But if I really want to visit and perhaps some readers might be enticed, too — we have to hurry up. Kiribati is steadily disappearing. Why?

According to Wikipedia, Kiribati is expected to be the first country which will disappear as the result of sea level rise due to global climate change. In June 2008, the Kiribati President Anote Tong declared that country had reached “the point of no return.” The same year the Australian and New Zealand governments were asked by Kiribati officials to accept Kiribati citizens as permanent refugees. They will be the first environmental refugees — not political, not economic, but environmental refugees!

Village huts on Tarawa, Kiribati

Global climate change is with us for real, if anybody has some doubts. It is as real as Kiribati’s fate. A couple of Kiribati’s islets already disappeared in 1999. Such disappearance is not a myth or legend like the story of Atlantis, described by Plato in the fifth century BC. Atlantis may have existed or not, but Kiribati does exist today and tomorrow will be gone. The beautiful flag of Kiribati will remain. It should remind us of its anticipated fate and our responsibilities to this planet — to try as hard as possible to prevent more disappearances of islands, plants, animals and entire habitats.

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Photo of crowd in South Sudan from Reuters/Paul Banks. Photo of President Kiir by Matata Safi from Government of South Sudan website. Photo of huts on Kiribati by Brad Hinton on Flickr under Creative Commons license. Text copyright © 2011 by Alicja Mann.


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