The smells of fresh-baked pastries, a confetti of colors, and the sweet anticipation of warm delight – it was my first trip to the doughnut shop in 2 years. GADS, oh how I have missed you. The 24hour doughnut shop holds so many memories: from going with my dad on special weekend mornings to studying for finals at 3am. And now, another generation gets to experience the joy that this little shop bakes.
I pride myself on being a Kentucky advocate. I love talking up my home state. There are so many beautiful things to see and do here that you can only do in Kentucky. So I felt it was a travesty that I had yet to visit Churchill Downs or see a horse race in general. So talk about really getting into the “American-swing-of-things!” My 3rd week back in the states provided me with my first visit to our historic track. Bailey’s birthday extravaganza landed us in the general admission seating for Downs After Dark on the most perfect of themes: Star Spangled Banner Night. Red, white, and blue was everywhere (along with a fair share of sparkling). We took pride in our country, picked our winners, and watched the storm roll in. Rain didn’t darken the mood, only the sky. What a grand night for a horse race.
There is nothing better than sitting on a front porch swing, surrounded by your oldest friends, watching the twilight settle over the southern rolling hills. I got together with my “family” for a family farm weekend. These are the friends that know me the best, who I can count on to welcome me back home to America like I never left. Granted, there were a few more kids and spouses than before, but it still feels the same – the love is still there. We spent the weekend telling stories, playing music, hitting pinatas, swimming the lake, playing cards, and shooting guns. The sun shined bright on our days and sparklers lit our nights.
What was the absolute best way to spend my first weekend back in America? Going to the RC and Moon Pie Festival, of course! It has been a tradition since 2008 for us to go the Festival in Bell Buckle Tennessee, and what a beautiful tradition it has been. I felt like America was welcoming me home with a big Southern hug. Not only did I eat a corn dog that was a least a foot long, but I had cold RC and a banana Moon Pie just like I remember having when I was little and would go fishing with my dad. We shopped in antique stores, walked through arts and craft booths, and listened to a hog calling contest. Loren went prepared this year to win the hula hooping contest; where she had to drink an RC and eat a Moon Pie without dropping her hula hoop. She came in 4th place this year, but we were not discouraged. Loren and I decided to compete in the water balloon throwing contest and this is where we won first prize. Which led to us being knighted on the stage by the Queen and King of Bell Buckle. Our prize: a free t-shirt and the privilege of cutting and serving the world’s largest Moon Pie.
A group of Americans came to visit us last week. They came to see the authentic “Horn of Africa” and make connections with the local people. Our trip out country would be my last excursion to the countryside. I will be moving back to America in 2 weeks time. One of the visitors asked me, “Do you just love it here?” Well, first off, that is a crazy question. It’s difficult, it’s frustrating, it’s beautiful, it’s different. But I was surprised by my answer – “It’s home.” Somehow in my 2 years here, this place has become a home to me. I think I feel this most when I am outside of the city. The countryside is so majestic and so endless. Sometimes I think about how this may be the birth place of humanity – and if that is the case, why wouldn’t I feel at home here.?
Visiting people in the countryside is my favorite thing. The people are genuine and welcoming for the most part – very different from the “Money, Money, Money!” I hear everyday walking around the city. In the countryside, they feed you what they can and offer you the story of their life. In return they listen to our stories. And in the end, the only thing they usually ask us is for medical advice or help because it is so hard for them to travel to a clinic. So here are a few snapshots of my last out country trip and the lovely faces I saw.
It was everything I expected and everything I wanted it to be. One my think that I would be appalled by such sites after living in Africa where mud-huts are the norm – but surprisingly I just felt amazed, maybe bewildered, but not appalled. Versailles was pure ridiculousness – this gilt castle, the extra palaces, the extensive grounds, the make-believe peasant’s cottage. I could just imagine myself playing a epic game of hide-and-go-seek in a huge ballgown while running through shaped hedges and around Classical sculptures.
This was my reason for coming to Paris. We had it narrowed down to a few places in Europe. But when I thought about what I wanted to see if I was never to come back to Europe – the Louvre was it. The chance to see that much art and culture in one place, to be surrounded by all the stuff I study in university, to experience the masters in person – I had to take it.
What I remember from National Geographic videos or from what I have seen of the “african style” numbers performed by dance companies – African dancing seems to involve moving whole bodies, especially the mid-section, to drum-heavy music. I am no dumby – I know that I can’t generalize all of the African cultures’ dance styles into one category or image. But I was definitely not expecting to find the kind of dance that is prevalent in this culture. The first cultural celebration I attended a year and a half ago surprised me when I saw how this African culture moves their bodies – by popping their shoulders and necks in and out. Way, way more intense then the chicken-style dance you are probably thinking about. For the most part, people never move their lower bodies at all, except to maybe “sway” around with the music. All the energy is focused in the chest and upper back. People will face each other and try and match the others movements. A very intense back and forth of varying pulses and patterns – all within the beat of the music.
Now, if you go to a special performance with dancers and music, you will see more full-body movement. Last year, we went to see a showcase of the different regions’ take on the dance. Every few songs, the dancers would change clothes into the appropriate attire for that specific region. It was a load of fun. The dancers would come into the audience and get the crowd dancing too. Even with my many years of dance training, I cannot manage to get the hang of it. I may fair better than some foreigners, but man I sure do look silly. The nationals enjoy it though.
A city to the north of us was home to the emperors of the country in the 17th and 18th centuries. This sort-of imperial city is now in ruins but still commands a magnificent presence. I just wasn’t expecting to see buildings like this in this area of the world. A walk through the old castle grounds made for an interesting and very peaceful afternoon.