Sunday, April 12, 2009

Three Months on the Road!

Des Moines, Iowa

Today, Easter Sunday, marks three months that I have been deployed to Iowa as a DAE (Disaster Assistance Employee) with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Ninety days on the road – and I love it! My work is truly enjoyable and I am part of a very large group of dedicated people who are there to help others in need. True to form I try to make every day an adventure and to embrace the moment. This is easy to do when in a new and unfamiliar and super-cool place. And Iowa fits the bill nicely. My job as an archaeologist in the “Special Considerations” Cadre takes me to various project sites across the state and I have seen quite a lot in the past three months. I hope to continue to see even more – especially to watch Mother Corn grow and grow!

I am trying to update this blog on a regular basis, as I have found it difficult to remember details if I don’t regularly pound my thoughts down on a keyboard. I keep a notebook with me at all times and am always scribbling notes – this and an annotated road map and digital images are the primary data for my blog. Many of my traveling mates have Flickr accounts (online photo management and sharing application) and I have been so impressed that I have decided to link many of the digital images that I am so fond of taking to my blog. However, this is a bit easier said than actually accomplished! But, soon my Flickr website (The Chinese Buffalo ~ Tales, Travels and Photos Thereof) will appear as a direct link.

So, since I have been here in the Midwest for such a long time and have only just started to blog it up (as of last week), I am going to just spit out some semi-random thoughts and experiences I have had in this wonderful state and working for FEMA.|

• Iowa is agricultural and it is really wonderful to drive around (or fly over) and to see expansive ag fields as far as the eye can see. Tractors actually share the road with automobiles and people wave to you on rural roads whether they are on foot or in a passing car. The Iowanians are friendly and gracious beyond (IMHO) the norm! Serious weather reports, plowing and planting dates, soil conditions, and hog and grain and pasture and range reports are facts of daily life and are taken seriously. The wide-spread flooding across the state last spring affected both rural areas and towns and cities. The swollen rivers and creeks took their toll on housing and infrastructure and there are many areas that will not return. I am amazed to see how much help FEMA and various State agencies are providing to many hard hit communities.

• It is also heart warming to see so many people dressed in Carhartt work clothing! I no longer feel alone in the world dressed in canvas pants and coat. I feel accepted and like I belong, especially since I now sport a genuine Dekalb corn seed cap (with the winged ear of corn soaring across the crown). I recently gave a presentation to the Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist wearing a coordinated canvas vest and trousers and felt better than if I were wearing a custom-made Thai silk suit from Bangkok.

• The weather has been very cold (no, I mean incredibly cold) for the first couple months of my stay, but spring is on it way. I was up north of Cedar Rapids late last week and corn stalk discing, fertilizing, and seeding has begun!!!! – Booyah!! I also hear that the mighty Walleye are beginning to run pretty dang well – can’t wait to do some fishin’. For better or worse, low-till, no-till, conservation, or scratch plowing is widely practiced hereabouts. Good for the conservationists (although with some debate), but not so good for the archaeologists who use surface reconnaissance as a primary method of prehistoric site identification.

OK, forgot how fast time flies by whilst inside the blogosphere. I have an early call on the morrow – monitoring some demolition in a prehistorically sensitive area along the mighty Cedar River. Happy Vernal Equinox to all - celebrate.

• One last thing before I retire for the evening. Colleagues and I ate at Oasis Falafel (206 N Linn St, Iowa City) on Friday. This was my second visit and I will be back again and again when in this university town. We had terrific falafel, hummus, babba ganoush, beef kababs, and whole wheat pita. Their hot sauce, tahini (garlic sesame), & mango curry sauces were outrageously scrumptious, as was the Turkish Coffee! Great place & great staff – but avoid the high noon rush.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Time to blog!

Des Moines, Iowa, USA

It has been quite a while since I started this blog - with great intent to share information on my travels and life. Well, as per usual, things piled up and i just did not have the time or energy or motivation to get back to it. I have traveled to a bunch of new and exciting destinations since I wrote the initial entries and am bursting to impart the highlights. I quite often send long-winded emails to disparate sets of friends and colleagues and family about my trips and adventures. However, for many reasons I still think providing this information
vis-à-vis the blog site of the Travels and Tales of the Chinese Buffalo would be a wicked cool idea! So, let the blog begin (sort of like the start of the great Italiano horse race - Palio di Siena). Speaking of Siena, I visited this absolutely and incredibly beautiful Tuscan city a year ago and will remember it as one of the most lovely places on earth -- Viva Italia!

I am now employed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and am deployed working on flood damaged sites in the Midwest (Iowa) -- AND I LOVE IT!!!!
I have traveled widely throughout this most interesting and beautiful state and intend to share some of these experiences with the blogosphere. I am going to make a point of posting on a regular basis and I do hope that some find it interesting. I have long ago found it important to treat every day as something special and to enjoy and appreciate where you are at at any given moment. I also try to reflect on the events in life that got me to the place where I am and to frame them from both a narrow perspective and that of a much broader picture that is my life.

The photo shown above is a marvelous Hindu Temple under construction a short distance northwest of Des Moines (where I currently reside). My job takes me into the field quite a bit to evaluate the archaeological potential of flood damaged properties across the state. I was driving with a FEMA colleague (architectural historian) and good mate of mine from Laos
(Tai Dom) and alternatively chit-chatting about SE Asia and prehistoric Iowanian archaeological sites when we crossed the mighty Des Moines River, rose up a steep hill talking about how the area is a great location for Native American habitation when this large temple came into view (surrounded on all sides by cornfields). We stopped and investigated and took pictures. My thoughts immediately went to the interesting temples I visited in Southeast Asia and the Indian communities I have seen in Great Britain and Ireland and then got stuck on the fact that I have not yet visited Mother India -- an issue that will soon be rectified!

I have experienced another interesting part of the East Indian immigrant population in Iowa early on in my stay hereabouts - visiting the Maharishi Vedic Organic Agricultural Institute in Fairfield, (southeast) Iowa. I hope to find and post some of the images and notes I took of the Maharishi University during a cold Sunday in February - very amazing and worth a trip!

Namaste mates.