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.

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