Monthly Archives: August 2010

K.C. Ethnic Enrichment Festival 2010

Sunday, 22Aug10, I returned to the Kansas City Ethnic Enrichment Festival, to participate and enjoy myself like I did last year. Friday there had been a gully washer of a storm, but by Sunday it was a typical August day. I got there a little bit early, right before the booths were to officially open, and then helped out the Japan-America Society, a group I’m a member with but don’t have the time to go to a lot of meetings of, by stamping children’s “passports” for a short while.

Kendo folk started filtering in, and before I knew it we were lined up behind the stage ready to go. There were about half again as many kendoka participating in the demo this year, from rank beginner up to san-dan, and new-to-bogu to bogu-for-years, so it was a good mix for demo purposes. The number of people participating also meant more time stressing my torn ACL sitting on my knees. I ended up pulling off my knee brace and standing. For my part in the demo I demonstrated kote-men strikes, then sparred with Brian for a bit.

It seemed to go pretty quickly this year, and I believe we were well received by the audience.

After that I dumped my gear at the JAS booth and then headed out for some food. I wasn’t all that hungry, unfortunately, so I didn’t eat as much as last year. But I got some Scandinavian pancake balls (which I had last year) and a Hebrew sampler plate (which I didn’t), and was satisfied with the variety and quality of what I did eat.

Last year my pictures were smaller and more or less limited to the kendo club, so this year I’m going to post some more general pictures of the festival so that readers who’ve never been can get an idea of what it’s like:

The pavilion at Swope Park. This is the center of the festival and where the demonstration stage is set up.

Here were some Thai children, I believe, modeling some traditional costumes or doing a dance. Actually what was really going on was a parent was chasing a small child around the stage, who apparently didn’t really feel like being a celebrity that day.

My first stop after the demo was, of course, the pancake ball distributor. You can find some information on the Sons of Norway at their website, if you’re interested in such things.

These things take forever to make (if you’re waiting in line on a hot summer day), and they’re basically spheroid funnel cake type stuff, and maybe overpriced for what you get, but I recommend stopping by and getting a three pack of them. Raspberry sugar drink optional.

These sorts of cultural events are interesting for the way people come out to represent their folk or native land. Note that these aren’t “Laotians”, they are “the Hmong of Laos”. In the 1960s the CIA recruited Hmong tribes in the forests and mountains to fight against the communist government, as a sort of side action to the backdrop of the Vietnam War. And since we all know how American adventures in 1960s South East Asia ended up, this explains why this group is both here and pointing out the difference to an American public who otherwise isn’t likely to know. Remember, this is an ethnic festival, not a state festival.

Which of course doesn’t stop nationalist concerns from being present. Above is the Republic of China representatives. Known more commonly in the States as Taiwan, the ROC is more or less the last vestiges of the holdouts of the nationalists who fought against the communists, retreating from the mainland and holing up on the island province of Taiwan. There’s all sorts of interesting historical and political things going on here, but I won’t go further in depth.

A comfortable distance away was the Society for Friendship with China, representing the mainland People’s Republic of China. Largely Chinese people are ethnic Han (over 90% for both the PRC and the ROC), so what we’ve got here is basically one ethnicity with two booths split along state lines. Though it should be noted that there are scads of ethnic groups that comprise the idea of “Chinese”, the Han group is super dominant culturally, politically and, increasingly, linguistically.

The Scotland booth is disappointing unless you want to buy some meaty dinner. At least it is by Sunday, because I suppose it could be rocking on Fridays and Saturdays. For the enthnicities of the Isles, Scotland and Ireland were represented, but I did not see England or Wales there. Or any Manx or Cornish folk, either, but that’s to be expected, I guess.

Germany: blonde girls and sausages. Enough said.

Samoans were there representing. There were other Pacific island ethnic groups too, but the Samoans had the best application of thatching, so that’s the picture I kept.

And the Lithuanians brought their own castle! Close by, the Thai folk had an equally impressive construction for their booth, but the pictures didn’t turn out.

Jamaica, launching pad for some of the best dance music beats ever! Not into spicy food, though, so I didn’t see the reason to stand in what was the festival’s longest food line.

Probably the best food deal at the festival is the Israeli food sampler. I couldn’t tell you what it was I ate, but all of it was very good.

To finish off back where I started, here is the mighty torii of the JAS booth, along with the bloody great wind-sock that towers over the festival booths.

The Japanese are one of the ethnic groups that really have their stuff together when it comes to promoting themselves. The JAS always has a great variety of wares to purchase ranging from pop culture to traditional, an array of literature available on things like the JET Program, delicious food to eat and friendly people to chat with.

I don’t have pictures this year of the actual demo, but really, just look at last year’s. This year I took just a couple of “behind the scenes” photos of the kendo club after the demo. The JAS, of which several of the club including myself are members of, are always very good to the kendoka.

And some more milling around; chatting and putting away our gear, getting ready to wander the festival with our friends and families.

And finally there were these things. The festival is sponsored by a local communications service provider, so they had these weird cyborg beings rolling around the festival proffering terminals you could use to… I don’t know, really. They made me nervous, and this was as close as I would get to photograph one. You don’t want to antagonize cyborgs, because being part-human they have a natural blood-lust that you don’t want to accidentally awaken.

That’s all! I strongly encourage everyone who lives in the Greater Metro to go to one of these festivals, either as an attendant or as a volunteer for the cultural group of your choice. It’s a fun experience!


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First Days of Senior Year at KU & Last Cambridge Photos

It’s been a busy few days, so I’m playing catch up with the blog again. I’ll just get right into it with some pictures.

As a motorcycle permit holder I got sent a couple of questionnaires last year, mostly about the explosion in moped/scooter numbers on campus. As an aside, just a few years ago riding a moped or scooter on campus or around town got you laughed at and yelled at by people. Now the same type of folk are riding around on them. Just saying. But anyway, the first thing different I noticed was the above picture and the displayed new parking spots exclusively for mopeds. Of course, this being America:

Because we can’t follow directions until we’ve been fined a few times for disobeying them. It’s part of what makes America great, I’m pretty sure.

I spotted this in a bathroom in Wescoe. What is this thing?

Seriously, what is this thing?

Flyer for a ska band that’s apparently native to Lawrence. I wanted to go see them, but I was pretty wiped out Saturday. I haven’t seen a local show in ages.

And of course there was a performing street clown on “Wescoe Beach” on the first day of school. Maybe you can see it, maybe you can’t, but his T-shirt is all about how his god is going to punish us for all eternity, or summat. I don’t know if he was serious or if he was just trying to be entertaining, like some kind of out-and-about Stephen Colbert style thing, but either way I think that “performing street clown” fits as a description.

OK, these are the pictures and commentary on pictures that I promised here, so here we go:

A Chinese character somehow etched into the bricks and then either highlighted or assaulted by spray paint. At some point I plan to look up what this means, because I don’t remember it from Japanese class.

All of these pictures were taken on my last day at Cambridge, and most of them were on the walk out to the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, a place I felt I should visit since it was only a three mile walk from Trinity Hall. I probably mentioned it in the last Cambridge post, but the college porters thought I was nuts to walk so far, which I found amusing. But anyway, about the picture: SHOOTING STUFF IN ENGLAND! I wish I had known about this much earlier!

Here is a shot of the reflecting pool and shrine from the flagpole area. It’s really nice there, and if you’re in England there’s a couple of these places, and I suggest you visit one if you’re near.

There are statues representing each service active in the area during WWII. Most of the names were U.S. Air Force airmen. Like I always do, I looked for names of people I might be related to, and found a couple:

I have the information of the two Maxwells buried there, and plan on looking up more information about them someday. They weren’t Southerners, so the connection would be distant, but I visited the grave I could find anyway because, hey, we’re all the children of Undwyn one way or another.

This was my last look at the river-wall from this point of view. We all sat on that wall, normally near the tree, and just hung out, at least once a day I guess. We all liked it there.

My last look out of Q7. Some kind of party, as they often hold there for alumni and whatever.

Dalek graffiti!

Tradition requires a final dinner at a fancy restaurant with the professors and students. I wish I had a shot of the waiter; he had one of those crazy little waxed and twirled moustaches and the attitude to be able to pull it off without looking ridiculous. Crazy.

I took these two photographs sitting on a bench in front of Cambridge Station, waiting for a fellow student to join me on the train to King’s Cross. He didn’t make the train, and I couldn’t wait for the next one, so it was strange, quiet trip to and through London to Heathrow.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the first public drinking fountain I could locate during my trip to England. It was at Heathrow Airport, and I didn’t find it until I was on my way out after having spent four bleeding weeks there. If you ask for a water at a restaurant, they don’t bring you a glass of ice with tap water, they bring you a glass of ice and bottle of Perrier that costs more than all the other non-alcoholic drinks. So if you’re visiting England and trying to cut costs, keep that in mind.

Related to both my visit to the US cemetery and the river-wall, here is something I did early in the morning of the last day. I don’t talk about it a lot, but I am Asatruar, and occasionally use this website to shed some positive light on who we are and what types of things we do. To put it in layman’s terms: the cemetery visit falls in the category of “honoring heroes”. The above picture, and the afore pictured river-wall, fall under a category called “vaettir”.

If you know anything about Japanese Shinto, you could draw a parallel between the Shinto belief in kami and Asatru belief in vaettir. What I have pictured above is 1. an ancestor statue, 2. some short, runic prose I wrote about how much the river meant to me while I was there, 3. a traditional votive offering in the form of coins. Have you ever thrown a coin into a fountain and made a wish? Did you ever wonder where such a thing came from? I incorporate simple, intuitive things like that into my personal religious practice. It has a historical precedent, a certain logic to it, and it feels right.

That’s it. That’s all there is of England.

Following shortly will be a post about my friend’s new pizza shop, followed by an uncharacteristically perturbed blog about why I am disappointed with Books-A-Million. A new Iron Lawyer of Mars is in the works as well. It should have been posted yesterday, but the first two days of school combined with a busy weekend saw me going to sleep Sunday afternoon and not waking up until early this morning…


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Iron Lawyers of Mars #7

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Iron Lawyers of Mars #6

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Cambridge Journal: Days 27 & 28

Watch this space for pictures later, but for now I’m just going to so a summary of my last day and the trip home. It’s been an exhausting few days, and I can hardly believe I’m home now. I’ve also been having difficulty with my home wireless network, which is why I don’t want to do the complete journal right now (I’m leeching off a neighbor, and I don’t like doing that).

So the last day I had in Cambridge I got up and did Professor MacAllistair’s Constitutional Law exam. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I’m reserving final relieved judgment until I see my grade. All I have to do now is a paper for Professor Shaeda’s class, but that’s not due for another week, because she was cool enough to give us time after the trip so we could enjoy the trip that much more.

After the exam I went and had some home made lunch in my room (with the icky English peanut butter), with my windows open listening to the ragtime band on the lawn that was playing for some kind of alum/fellows/whatever party. Then I went to the plodge and asked the porters for walking directions to the American Cemetery. They told me that it was way too far to walk, “it must be three or four miles!”, and recommended a bus. Wow. Three or four miles. So I walked out there after they gave me the directions and paid my respects to the American servicemen who never came home from WWII, then walked back. The whole trip took less than two and half hours. I had a similar reaction when I first got to Cambridge and asked at the train station for walking directions to Trinity Hall, “that’s got to be at least two miles!” WTF? I guess the English don’t walk any further than the bus station if they don’t have to.

So after that I got to packing, and because of weight and space restrictions I had to give up my socks, underwear and T-shirts in order to fit my souvenir purchases. It worked out to be an even exchange, so my suitcase was good for the airplane. I was running late for the last day banquet, so I checked out of my room and lugged my suitcase to the restaurant. Turned out to be a very nice restaurant, and there I was dressed for travel with a pile of luggage next to the table. The waiter even had one of those waxed and twirled moustaches that makes you feel like you’re not rich enough to be there, and I suppose that would normally be true, but KU was paying the tab so it was all good.

I left the banquet early in order to get to the train station on time, gripping the straps and throwing my fifty pound suitcase over my head, Army style, and humping through the city like a champion beast of burden. I was supposed to meet my friend Jason to have someone on the trains to talk to, but I got nervous about the trains shutting down and stranding me somewhere. I had £10 total for my journey home, and didn’t want to spend half of that on an additional Tube ticket. As it turned out I missed my friend at the station because I had to jump on a train because the next one was leaving too late. The train ride was weird, knowing that it was my last one and all that. At King’s Cross I got on the Picadilly Line and rode it all the way to Heathrow. I would have loved to know I should go to King’s Cross when I first got to England, because I ended up changing trains all over London trying to figure out what I was doing. But on the other hand, I did learn to use the Underground from that experience…

At Heathrow there wasn’t too many folks there. It was weird to be in such a place and have it be eerily empty. At one point I found myself going down a long tunnel alone while a distant alarm went off, warning of a fire at someplace else. Eventually I walked away from the source and found myself in the terminal, which had some people curled up on benches and against walls waiting for things to open. I ended up doing the same, waiting a good 4+ hours for Air Canada to come online.

The flight was a good one. There was good weather and I had an aisle seat, and I didn’t have any of the usual ear pressure issues. I chatted some with the Canadian next to me, napped for a short time and read some out of the Poetic Eddas. Toronto airport was crap. The airport itself is crumby, but U.S. customs was a pain in the ass. Not the actual customs search part, I had no problem with that. But standing in a tiny room in a snaking queue for AN HOUR drove me absolutely nuts. After that I had some difficulty figuring out whether I should get American or Canadian money or just buy my food in GBP. I think I probably got screwed, because I got American dollars, then found out that Loonies are worth more, and one of the bad things about Toronto airport is that there is next to nothing to eat there and it’s too pricey. Heathrow is what an airport should be, honestly, with all kinds of food to be had and not all of it off the wall expensive. Choices are a good thing.

So anyway, I used nearly all of my four hour layover to get through customs and security, and then found myself on a puddle-jumper with Toronto F.C., who was playing Kansas City the next day. That was interesting, though I didn’t talk to any of them. The flight home was good, and blessedly quick.

Dad met me at the airport and drove me straight to the China Buffet in Leavenworth, and I was very happy about that. I had been going for two days by then, and it was great to get home, kick my shoes off and finally see my kitties again.

I’m going to post some pictures to fill out this journal entry, and I’ll post one more later on as a “final thoughts” about the whole thing.


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