Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Festival of Nations

I really love diversity. My family is full of different nationalities; Chinese, Ethiopian, Norwegian, Native American, Mexican, etc, etc... I love to see that kind of beauty shining out wherever I can find it. (I love this picture of my brothers and sisters and cousins..):

 There are some who call America a "melting pot;" where nationalities come together.. But so often in our cities we separate ourselves into districts and ethnic enclaves. I guess it's natural in a way; we want to be around people whose culture we share and who we can identify with. That's how urban ethnic zones are formed. But who is to say that we can't adapt a little bit of other cultures as our own? That is one of the beauties of the opportunities that I have had in recent years to surround myself with an incredibly diverse group of people. I used to see Saint Louis as a city that simply consisted of black and white - two groups that tried very hard to stay away from each other.  But I took the amazing opportunity to become involved with international students and refugees here in Saint Louis, and met so many friends who were not only Caucasian and African American, but also from Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Burma, Bhutan, Indonesia, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, France, South Sudan, Congo, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, India, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Cuba (and the list goes on and on...)

Last weekend we celebrated the Festival of Nations in Saint Louis. I love this tradition because it represents all of these friendships, and the diversity that I love so much. The festival brings us together to appreciate our uniqueness and cultural variety, rather than estranging us and pushing us apart. Food, artisan crafts, music, dancing...

Brazilian Pescado

Haitian rice and beans

 The festival is put on by the International Institute, the biggest refugee assistance organization in Saint Louis. (The one I have done work with is called Oasis International).

Saturday, August 24, 2013

We went to see the birds

My little brother, Joshy, has a lot of really great interests. Raising turtles, outdoor exploration, sketching, painting, taking pictures, birdwatching, creating terrariums... Many of them are things that I also enjoyed while growing up (except for raising turtles... I raised frogs).

A few months ago, we discovered that Saint Louis is home to the World Bird Sanctuary, and I wanted to take him for his birthday. Everyone ended up coming along, so that was pretty cool. I've lived in Saint Louis for a while, and I had never so much as heard about this place before a few months ago, so I figured it could use some free promotion ;)


The World Bird Sanctuary is located near Lone Elk and Castlewood State Parks, near the intersection of highways 270 and 44. It's one of the largest centers for the conservation of birds in the United States. Many birds who are injured and are no longer able to live independently in the wild are brought to the sanctuary for care and to be used for public education. If the birds are able to be healed, they are released back into the wild. Bird species who are declining in Missouri are bred at the sanctuary and released to repopulate the area, promoting the biological diversity of our forests.

The birds that cannot be released back into the wild are kept outside and are either in cages that allow flight, or are tethered to their posts. A caretaker explained that this doesn't bother the birds; birds of prey expend most of their energy flying in search of food, and would much prefer to remain stationary in one spot all day long. Since the sanctuary provides the birds with their food, they don't have a need to expend all that energy on flight.

Most of the cabins, exhibits, educational displays, and flight cages were constructed by local scouting groups.

Happy birthday Joshypoo

Friday, August 23, 2013

Running Around

Sometimes between my shifts at work, I go to walk/run around in some of the more impressive neighborhoods in Saint Louis. I'm not a person who strives for wealth or prestige, values which many people consider these neighborhoods to represent.. but my sense of well-being is often greatly affected by my surroundings. Saint Louis as a whole has a sort of ironic beauty about it; crumbling urban decay, images of the past mixed with the present, authenticity mixed with commercialism. After a while it weighs on your senses. I love the sense of vitality and well being that comes from being surrounded by things that blossom and grow. The neighborhoods that I have been exploring are amazing, in this sense. They are full of old houses, towering trees, and front lawns covered in huge flowering gardens. What if we worked to make the rest of this city like that - full of restored houses, flourishing gardens, towering trees.. and we could all run around all day ;)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Summer Moments

Some of the moments I most savor during the summertime are simple ones..

Playground moments.
Swimming pool moments.
Helping little girls learn to play baseball moments.

One of my all-time favorite summertime moments is from several years ago when these kids were so little. They each gathered handfuls of sticks and ran in a line through the backyard pretending they had wings...

Here are just a few summertime moments.. These days they are way too few and far between.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Birthday Girl

Baby girl turns 8 today... It seems so crazy. We had her birthday party yesterday at Creve Couer Lake, where we got to play baseball, go bike riding, and had a "real adventure." I'm so glad I've been able to celebrate every single birthday with you, Hannah girl.