Saturday, September 19, 2009

Home on the Range

A couple of years after we moved to Kansas, we attended the formal dedication of the Dole Institute of Politics. As the event began, the local children's choir began singing "Home on the Range" and the assembled masses stood at attention. We were a bit perplexed by this behavior, but quickly discovered that it is the Kansas state song. The pioneer tradition and prairie life are a source of great pride for Kansans, and they are celebrated at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. The site is managed by the US Park Service, but is owned by a public-private partnership. We have been planning a trip for several years, but finally made it there this weekend.

We took a less-traveled route on small roads, enjoying the rural scenery. Once we were at the preserve, we hiked and took a bus tour. Several photos and comments follow.

The photo above illustrates the sparse beauty of the tallgrass prairie. The preserve is located in the Flint Hills, and limestone deposits from Kansas' time as a prehistoric sea sit about two feet below ground. The land is not arable for standard agriculture, but is ideal for grasses and wildflowers. The terrain reminded Erik of his travels in Mongolia.

While fall is not ideal for viewing wildflowers, it is the best time to see the tallgrass.

Some flowers were still abundant, especially sunflowers.

Carter was a real trooper, as we hiked quite a bit (Carter also earned his "junior ranger" badge by completing several tasks). He has experience hiking - especially during our trip to Ukraine. In fact, we think that our friends Phil, Jani, and Thomas would love the tallgrass prairie.

In addition to showcasing the flora and fauna of the prairie, the site includes a one-room schoolhouse that was used from the late 19th century until the early-mid 20th century.

The Park Service staff conducted a nice tour, and also showed off pioneer skills like quilting.

We'll leave you with two final prairie images from a great visit.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Haskell Indian Art Market

Lawrence is fortunate to host two universities. In addition to the University of Kansas, our town is home to Haskell Indian Nations University. Haskell was originally opened as a school to assimilate children into the dominant European culture, but it later became an inter-tribal university. We have attended the Haskell Indian Art Market almost every year since our move to Kansas, often bringing along visiting scholars to expose them to the unique North American cultures represented at the event. This year a Fulbright scholar from Ukraine accompanied us as we perused the art, enjoyed music and dance performances, and snacked on fry bread. A video and photos follow.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Oh Canada!

Over the Labor Day weekend, Erik was in Canada attending the American Political Science Association Conference. Yes - the American Political Science Association met in Canada. Many of the participants were also shaking their heads about the venue. To be sure, Canada is a lovely country and Toronto has much to recommend it, but traveling to Canada created some logistical and financial hurdles that other conference sites would not have presented. Erik was also annoyed by some problems with his panels. On one panel where he and his Ukrainian colleague Nazar were presenting their research, the discussant was unable to attend. A discussant reviews and provides commentary on all papers, and plays a critical role in academic conference activities. So, they received no feedback. In addition, his second panel, scheduled for Sunday, was canceled.

Despite these complications, he had a productive visit. Erik met with his colleagues who are working together on a big research project funded by the National Science Foundation, spent several hours working with Nazar on their research projects, networked with other political scientists, and caught up with grad school chums.

Toronto is a great food town, but Erik's conference obligations did not allow him to explore too much. He did a bit of research with the help of Yelp to identify two must-visit roadfood sites. Erik took Nazar, as well as Rob and Frank (from Texas and Texas Tech universities, respectively), to the St. Lawrence Market for the "World Famous" peameal bacon sandwich. As we have noted on previous posts, markets are always key destinations to visit on trips. Lea and Erik cobbled together a lovely picnic lunch from cheese, bread, and other items from the St. Lawrence Market during their visit to Toronto over ten years ago. The peameal bacon sandwich did not disappoint. The freshly baked soft bun offset the tender bacon. Erik added horseradish, hot mustard, and some hot pepper rings to spice things up. Here you can see the sign advertising the sandwich (at the Carousel Bakery stall), and Nazar taking in the sites and smells of the market.

Chinatown was another important food destination, as Erik had identified a Banh Mi shop that he wanted to visit. Here you can see the sandwich that he ate on the road (the shop had no seats). The baguette had a wonderfully crunchy exterior and soft interior. The barbecued pork was sweet and was accompanied by fresh coriander, sliced and marinated carrot and daikon, and hot pepper. The whole filling was coated in a dark sauce that came out of a Sriracha sauce bottle, but its color and viscosity did not match Sriracha. The banh mi was definitely the most delicious sandwich Erik has ever tasted for $2.25 (Canadian, so take off 15 cents or so). It also ranks among his favorite sandwiches of all time.

Toronto has been hosting an air show, and during the day sonic booms regularly blasted eardrums in the city center. It was hard to capture the planes as they moved quickly across the sky, but this photo caught one fighter jet.

Early one morning, Erik took a 7km jog (the hotel provided nice maps for runners, with 2K, 4K, and 7K options) that took him up through the university to the Royal Ontario Museum, past Chinatown, and back to the hotel. He came upon some interesting buildings (the one below is an art school), and also was able to witness Toronto's sizable homeless population in many of their haunts. He passed by a Salvation Army trailer serving breakfast to a large crowd, and passed many people camped out on grates or in doorways. The man in the photo below - along with his dog - found a spot inside the locked yard of a historic home museum.

Erik had some time on Sunday prior to his departure to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame. His first stop was the shrine dedicated to the Stanley Cup. The Hall has been reorganized since his last visit, and unfortunately some of the historic gear was not on display. However, the international component has been expanded. He found alot of gear from his favorite area of the world - below
you can see the Kazakhstan and Ukraine national jerseys. Another great sweater was North Korea's - complete with a Nike swoosh.

While the visit had ups and downs, it was a success overall.