July 15, 2009

Breaking News: An Unexpected Ending

PierceI don’t know exactly who, but a wise man once said: “All good things must come to an end.” I’ll add to that: “and some of those things end sooner than expected.”

We all knew that this adventure would end somewhere-but none of us would have guessed it to be here.

Seventy miles outside of Tallahassee, Florida, at about four this morning, an over-heated bearing caused our tour bus to pull off on the side of I-10-for good. The bus, which we’ve been affectionately calling “Big Mama,” has reached her final destination on the 40/40 stop. The miles and miles were apparently too much for her to handle.

Continue reading "Breaking News: An Unexpected Ending" ...

July 14, 2009

This is What?

ElisabethSaint Augustine, Florida
Where do two roads meet? Where does education meet vacation? Can it? When did people decide that vacations were less about the personal gain and more about the materialistic ones? These were some the questions that popped into my head as a small group of us had the pleasure of talking to Sherry.

In Saint Augustine the group once again saw the portrayal of a certain kind of history. The kind where details are given in depth (repetitively), other details are shaded over, while the remainders are not acknowledged at all. This is what American history is all about. It reminds me of some foreign dance. You think you finally figured it out and the pieces are out in the open. Then you realize that half the puzzle is conveniently missing. But what is even more absurd is that we the people do not demand that all of the pieces be given to us in the very beginning. In fact we are almost relieved sometimes when they are not. For example, today we went to Mission Nombre’ de Dios. The place gave remembrance to the establishing of the first Catholic mission parish… Yay. It recognized the great fact that the Spaniards came here and were so very giving that they shared one of their most valued possessions, their religion. Which is a powerful thing and if that was all they did I could probably respect them a lot. But, it is not. First they failed their fellow people of today by not telling them the whole truth. Secondly, they failed me personally by the way in which they “shared” their religion to the Native Americans.

Continue reading "This is What?" ...

Show Me the Way

ElisabethCharleston, South Carolina
I have no clue what to say about this place. I have sat here for 10 minutes now pondering what to write…

I got it: the way that class is portrayed with invisible lines that are evident but not completely clear in nearly every neighborhood and city that comes to mind. We were first introduced to this concept on the very first day when we did a driving tour of some of the various neighborhoods in Memphis. Now some 35+ days later I still find this occurring. In Charleston today it was just as true. First we had the market. This was a place that drew a collective bunch of people. What I would call an enjoyable mix of tourist and locals.

Then continue driving and two blocks later I find my surroundings to consist of Starbucks and Louis Vuitton! I like to think that this was a gradual change, but let’s be honest 2 blocks does not really allow for that kind of extreme transformation. So instead of a gradual change you experience this “invisible line .” It seems to be the habit that they start with the upper, middle class place on the perimeter of these areas. Now, do not be fooled, this is very strategic. Firstly, it establishes who should and should not continue down this route. After all if you cannot afford an outfit from Talbots and a highly commercialized and caffeinated beverage from some lovely coffee franchise then you probably cannot appreciate the even finer things like, $1000 purses that are in the center of this shopping island.

Continue reading "Show Me the Way" ...

July 13, 2009

Meet Virginia

JenniEither CNN has done a total revamp or I really have changed a lot over the past 37 days. As Emily, Shirah, and I sat down to the glorious cheap salad bar in the grocery store we are parked near, I found myself absorbed in the T.V. Instead of tuning out information that was either too depressing or didn’t seem relevant in my life, CNN was more like a collage of stories that weaved gracefully into my thought process these last 6 weeks.

A black woman in D.C. overcoming obstacles of race and gender to start her own business, Detroit's economy and the film industry arising there because of tax incentives fit right into our discussion this week and were places that we had traveled to within the last 7 days. I am guilty of being the girl who says in a class I can't get excited about "I will NEVER use this is real life." Its been an invaluable privilege to be in a class where the text book is the people and places we visit.

Our day in Williamsburg today was no different. We started the day off at Bruton Parish for their 11:15 prayer service. One of the oldest still operating churches in the U.S. we got to experience the Episcopal church in a place full of history. The Parish was key in some of the early colonial politics and has pews dedicated to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Tyler, and James Monroe who had all worshiped there for significant amount of time.

Continue reading "Meet Virginia" ...

July 12, 2009

Washington, DC - Newseum

PierceNot a lot of professions get their own museums. There’s no teacher museum, no firefighter museum, no cop museum-and that’s kind of a shame. Those jobs take a lot of hard work and deserve respect and gratitude.

Fortunately for me, though, I get to have my own museum-and it’s pretty stinkin’ awesome.

The Newseum in Washington, DC is a journalistic playground-a reporter’s mecca, if you will. The 450 million dollar facility is devoted to the people who make the news, watch the news, and report the news.

But, it’s not just for journalist junkies-by focusing on news and society, the Newseum actually presents a creative, atypical, comprehensive look at American history.

Continue reading " Washington, DC - Newseum" ...

July 09, 2009

Day 34 - Washington D.C.

ShirahReasons why I would love to live in Washington D.C....
(in no particular order)

1. D.C. has two great international airports, from which I can get to anywhere in the world.
2. Life is just the right pace: not as fast as NYC (where everyone rushes around in a daze), but not lacking in vitesse.
3. Unrivaled accessibility to knowledge: the Library of Congress, countless museums on every subject imaginable (and mostly free), a general concentration of educated people (although educated does not necessarily mean knowledgeable/wise).
4. There's a great selection of healthy restaurants and fun bars/clubs.
5. Great public transportation system.
6. The seasons are well-defined, giving variety to the "look" of the city and the temperature. (And the cherry blossoms each spring are definitely a bonus.)
7. Exciting ambiance--the feeling of "being in the middle of it all"--both historically and politically, and perhaps socially.
8. Lots of jobs available in my fields of interest.
9. D.C. is a very active city--I love seeing people walking, biking, and playing soccer in the parks.
10. Opportunities to meet really neat, powerful, and unique people.
11. Fro-Yo shops on every corner.
12. I would get to walk past beautiful buildings every day.
13. Being surrounded by the history of our country and legacy of our founders.
14. The opportunity to actually use the extra languages I've learned--something I've really enjoyed doing this week.
15. I would love to be able to wake up at 5 every morning and walk down to the Lincoln Memorial, one of my favorite spots in the world.

July 08, 2009

Pilgrimages aren’t just for pilgrims


pil·grim·age (pĭl'grə-mĭj) n.
1. A long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance.

Here we are in the City of brotherly Love, my home next year. The scenery surrounding this stop was not of a glorious national park, Times Square, or sheep and buffalo. No, here was a neighborhood we had only driven by in the other cities to discuss the cultural and social impact of the local economy as well as observe the ilapidation of a broken-down area in America.

Walking forward, the group at my heels, my mind races as to why we are here, in a rougher neighborhood of Philly? Why have I decided to go into this area, as the group’s leader, when I am a small-town girl from east Tennessee and have never been here myself? With Pierce’s father’s text messages warning him to run and get away from this side of Philly as soon as possible, my own concerns bubble to the surface.

Continue reading "Pilgrimages aren’t just for pilgrims" ...

July 07, 2009

I Love NY: I Know Its Unoriginal

EmilyIf a bunch of musical theater people and advertisers got together to birth a city it would be called New York City. Now, for some people this sounds awful, but as a dancer/musical theater friend, I am in love.

It is also good for me to factor in that my own analysis of a city is based on mood and community feel. I have at least seven friends who live in New York, so I automatically loved it because my support system there. Also, the fact that I see the love that people I love have for a city, is always a plus to knowing a city- through someone else’s eyes.

Now upon my arrival into the city, my main objective was to see Broadway anyway I could afford. After failing to be drawn to win a cheapened lottery ticket for “In the Heights,” Cory and I were determined. I decided I would rather pay twenty dollars for a show that I wanted to see and stand rather than pay over thirty for one I cared nothing about. Thus, we got standing tickets for seven o’clock show.

Continue reading "I Love NY: I Know Its Unoriginal" ...

July 06, 2009

Cleveland - Mistake by the Lake

EmilyWe should have knocked on wood yesterday when discussing our luck with weather. Cleveland began slowly with a downpour. Instead of attending the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum first, the group started with a brunch and class discussion.

By discussing the sociology of Detroit, transitioning into Cleveland felt a smooth upgrade. As far as economy goes my research on Cleveland informed me that it tasted the bitterness of the decline in the car industry in the 60s while Detroit experienced this beginning in the 80s.

Walking down the streets of Cleveland not a sound filled the air. The videos online laughed at Cleveland’s lack of tall buildings downtown, and the soundless streets yelled to us that this was not Seattle, Portland, or Chicago. Cleveland’s atmosphere seemed what it might be like a bomb had gone off ten years ago and this is how far the city has come - dreary but thriving. After seeing the city, I realized how the city’s history with the citywide fire, industry decline, and poor sports teams has affected it.

Continue reading "Cleveland - Mistake by the Lake" ...

July 05, 2009

Bahstun: Day 2

JenniAlthough we never officially finished the Freedom trail we set out today to knock another chunk off of a place overflowing with history. Again we saw cemeteries dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries and got to see places that we've been reading about in our history books. We also came across a chilling memorial for Holocaust victims- that consisted of several glass towers with the numbers of people that died written in white on it. There were quotes from several survivors and man holes that kept the place looking constantly eerie with smoke. One of the quotes that will stick with me told this story "Ilse, a childhood friend of mine, once found a raspberry in the camp and carried it in her pocket all day to present to me that night on a leaf. Imagine a world in which your entire possession is one raspberry and you give it to your friend."

Continue reading "Bahstun: Day 2" ...

July 04, 2009

Days 27, 28, and 29 - Boston

ShirahBoston is the place to be on the 4th of July, and nothing was going to stop us from experiencing it in all its glory. We had heard from several sources that we needed to arrive very early at the Esplanade in order to procure free wristbands for the Neil Diamond/Boston Pops concert and fireworks.

So, at the crack of dawn on Independence Day, four of us crept quietly out of our bunks to start the 1.8 mile trek to the bus station. I got up around 5:30 to have a little time to relax and get ready for the big day; just as I pull my cinnamon swirl instant oatmeal out of the microwave Jenni walks into the kitchen, still half asleep and rubbing her eyes. No louder than a whisper, I hear her say, “The British are coming!”

I love how Jenni always has a broad perspective. There are a lot of times that the group gets into different discussions about certain issues, focusing on details and picking everything apart; it’s really nice to have someone around to help pull back and look at the issue in context of the big picture. Her coming into the kitchen that morning and talking about the British set a reflective tone for my thoughts throughout the day and kept history in the foreground. It’s really easy to get caught up in the flag t-shirts, barbecues, flip-flops, fireworks, and crowds; it’s so easy to forget what we’re celebrating—the birth of our country as a result of several men and women’s boldness in the face of a tyrannous king.

Continue reading "Days 27, 28, and 29 - Boston" ...

July 03, 2009

And on the 22nd Day,

HeatherIndianapolis was a quiet day for us as a group. The time changes and late nights in Chicago brought on some heavy exhaustion, so we opted for a lax day in Indianapolis. Most of the group slept in a little later than usual, and had plenty of time to get ready before our tour of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

After the tour we grabbed a bite to eat and headed to Butler University for showers, then out to the Broad Ripple area to do some laundry and have dinner before heading back to the bus.

I wish we could've had more time in Indy, more of a picture of the city culture, but in a way, we really did. Indianapolis is a larger city in the scope of Midwestern America, but it's still a city in the Midwest on a Sunday. There's a huge tradition to Sundays, especially in the Midwest. The morning church service, the big family dinner, the family nap in front of the chosen sports event, the evening chores and miscellaneous errands needed to be done to prepare for the week. It's how I spent my Midwestern childhood, and how most people I know spent their's.

Continue reading "And on the 22nd Day, " ...

July 01, 2009

Relax. Breathe in the Good.

ElisabethNiagara Falls, New York - Do you remember grade school? You would go and the days were long but great fun. You got to partake in all these new and great things, but since you were still a beginner in the whole education process you did not immediately recognize that while doing all those great things you were learning very valuable life lessons... Well, that is kind of like what we are experiencing on this trip. We are having all these great adventures but since this is still a class experience we are also learning and stimulating our minds in ways that we don’t even recognize at first sometimes.

If you continue down memory lane for a bit longer you will also recall the thrill that any kind of break held for you. No matter if it was a week for Christmas or just an early release/ half day. Today was one of those delightful days for the crew. A break! We slept in later and some of us even ate a real breakfast! Later on we visited Niagara Falls and had class in the shade of trees where we could still feel the mist at times. It was a nice change for us mentally and physically.

Continue reading "Relax. Breathe in the Good." ...

Chicago-Rediscovering Home

CoryMost people don’t get the opportunity to visit their homes. I mean really, how can one be a stranger to a place that you already know? It’s hard to be a visitor in the place that you live. However it’s not impossible, because I can say that I was blessed with the chance to see my hometown of Chicago from the perspective of a visitor several days ago. Traveling with my class across the city put me in place where I couldn’t help but look at Chicago with new eyes. Looking back on the time spent there, I think that Charles Dickens put it best when he said: “Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.” As I traveled throughout the Windy City with my group, introducing them to places that I been introduced to long ago, I kept noticing strange feelings of pride bubble up inside me. These were feelings that I never knew that I had before and I wondered where they had come from.

Being at the Taste of Chicago reminded me of summers in the past where my whole family would travel downtown in order to taste the food that vendors were offering. But it was never just about the food for us, or any other family really. We went for an adventure, and more importantly we just went to celebrate the summer, because that’s what summer in Chicago is about: going out, seeing people, having fun, and enjoying the weather. I think that one of the many great things that Chicago offers is summer festivals. Whether it’s the Taste, the Chicago Arabesque festival, the African Street festival, Pride Fest, or Lollapalooza, there are always several opportunities for the diverse groups of people in Chicago to mix and mingle. The fact that Chicago is even diverse satisfies me on a certain level, but to see Haitians, Koreans, Puerto Ricans, Ukrainians, Indians, and other races sharing the same space in peace touches me in a way that I feel is rare to Chicago.

Continue reading "Chicago-Rediscovering Home" ...

June 30, 2009

Built Ford Tough.

HeatherI was going to write about hopelessness in Detroit.

After 23 days of unified hope throughout the U.S. we hit a city that looks like this. Houses in total decay, factory after factory left empty, entire neighborhoods silent. I had images of Hazmat suits walking down the main streets after deadly virus had run its course, scenes from zombie films and that old "Twilight Zone" episode where the soldier walks into a completely desolate town and everywhere he goes it looks like someone just left. Post-industrial wasteland is the perfect setting for a film.

It was hard to see, really. Detroit, birthplace of modern America, icon of car culture and industrialization...so quiet. Wiped out by corporate greed and economic recession, a city supported by a single industry can't stand when the industry collapses. The economy in the area crumbled to the point that people were forced to just walk away from their homes because it would them more to try and sell it.

Continue reading "Built Ford Tough." ...


HeatherThe tourist versus the local. It's been a major theme of this trip for us as we've planned our destinations and driven through the larger half of our route. Every place we've gone to has been either been dubbed cliche tourist attractions with gift shops and scary tour guides, or slices of local culture.

Everywhere we've gone (tourist trap or local eatery) we've tried to identify what it is that makes a place one or the other. Typically the answer comes down to the number of local visitors to the attraction, as well as the variety of shot glasses available in the gift shops. And there are always gift shops.

Because the tourist destinations tend to leave a sour taste in our collective mouth, I couldn't help be but a little bit nervous about our approach to Minneapolis/St. Paul, which houses the world-famous Mall of America. After all, it's a mall which boasts 35-40 million visitors every year. That is more than the number of visitors to Graceland, Disneyland, and the Grand Canyon, combined. That is more than the entire population of Canada. And it's all for shopping. I'd say it's the Mecca of Consumerism, but Mecca only gets 2 million visitors every year, so that doesn't quite cover it.

Continue reading "Minnesot-ahhh" ...

June 24, 2009

We're on the News!

JenniOur day had an exciting start with a T.V. interview with the local news in Rapid City, South Dakota. Watch it at http://www.newscenterone.tv/default.aspx. Its cool to have some media interest in our trip!

Following the interview, we continued on with a day full of monuments, beautiful prairie scenery, and some harsh history lessons. Because we packed Mount Rushmore National Monument and Crazy Horse Memorial in the same day it was really interesting to compare the two projects. Beginning a little more than 20 years of each other, the monuments although seemingly opposite, share a lot of similarities.

Continue reading "We're on the News!" ...

Into the Wild

HeatherWe’ve encountered a lot of “wilderness” so far on this trip. The Southwest desert in Navajoland, the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, the Redwoods….We’ve spent a lot of time in cities along the way, and venturing out into country to see nature has been a soothing balance for our tired, over-stimulated heads.

Two days ago it was time for Glacier National Park. We loaded up on a breakfast of eggs and hot chocolate, bought all of the necessities of a proper cookout and headed into the park. It was cold and rainy, and a few of the other campers weren’t exactly eager to share their site with twelve boisterous people, but the park was beautiful, the water still, and the air refreshing.

Continue reading "Into the Wild" ...

June 23, 2009

Day 15 and 16: Seattle and Portland

ShirahEven though I’m from Medford, only 5.5 hours south of Portland, I haven’t spent much time in our state’s biggest city. Every athletic Oregonian kid goes up to Portland for at least one sports event: I’ve done my share of swimming and gymnastics meets there, too. But I’ve never really gone out and explored the city.

We only had one day in Portland, and one in Seattle, so we didn’t have much time to see different areas of either city, but I thought it would be interesting to spend most of the day in one area and become somewhat familiar with it rather than jet all over the city with a brief stop here and there.

I saw Voodoo Doughnut featured on the Travel Channel and even though I guessed it would probably be pretty touristy, I decided that it merited a visit for our Saturday morning brunch. As we drove by the storefront, searching for a parking spot, I heard a lot of comments from the back seats about how the 35-person line out the door and down to the street corner resembled the one that forms in front of Nashville’s famous “Pancake Pantry” every weekend.

About 30 minutes later we stepped over the threshold to be greeted by a long list of sexual innuendo-laden doughnut choices. Their slogan, “The magic is in the hole,” is available on t-shirts and underwear. The doughnuts turned out to be average, and the prices were too. $1.50 isn’t bad when you think about the average cupcakes that are sold in Nashville as specialty items for upwards of $3.00! Voodoo even offered an entire 5 gallon bucket of day-old doughnuts for only 8 bucks. It was nothing extravagant, but people loved it.

Continue reading "Day 15 and 16: Seattle and Portland" ...

I Don't Miss a Beat...Just Notes

JenniIdentity is a million dollar world in my life right now. I mean I'm on a 40 day journey attempting to "rediscover america" while, according to Erikson, I should be seeking my own personal identity. At each stop that we've been to, we try to grasp what we can of either the identity a city is selling or if we are lucky an authentic view. Seattle was no different. We came into Seattle with several pre-concieved adjectives--progressive, green, fishy. And left with some interesting questions...

One of the highlights of the day was the underground tour. What began as a corny pun-infested tourist trap, turned into a very insightful cultural experience. Diedrick our second tour guide was quircky, witty, and not aftraid to tell the whole story. Instead of the somewhat idealistic view of history that we got at the Alamo, Graceland, and Clinton Library, Diedrick told us about the ugly side of Seatle's orgins--mainly its poor urban planning. Seattle was usually the butt of most of his jokes which made him seem refreshingly credible.

Continue reading "I Don't Miss a Beat...Just Notes" ...

June 22, 2009

Just Visiting

JenniThe Wilderness Act of 1964 defines wilderness as "an area where man himself is a visitor who does not remain...with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable." As I think back on today at Glacier National Park and the first 17 days of our journey I realize how much of our trip has been wilderness to us.

We started the day off at Night Owl Restaurant where we had a delicious and cheap hot breakfast. It was interesting to see the way we stuck out as a group of outsiders in a crowd that seemed to be predominantly local. Several times throughout the meal I felt the familiar discomfort of intrusiveness that I remembered feeling in other places like the church service in Little Rock and Fort Bliss in El Paso. In a way, all of these places mentioned were wilderness to us in some way or another and it was up to us to decide the way in which we were gonna survive. Did we possibly carry with us some metaphoric bear spray to keep enough of the wild out of these adventures to maintain our current beliefs?

Continue reading "Just Visiting" ...

June 21, 2009

Resting Among Giants

KenIt is Friday morning in the Universe. I am sitting on a rock in the Redwood Forest about 30 feet from a small stream. The trees around me are easily one hundred feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide. Today is our day to relax and reflect. I am not sure where to begin this post. I hope that those of you who have been following our blogs posts have gained a bit of insight into this excursion. Perhaps we have even inspired you to go out and explore our country.

For me, this class has embodied all of the possibilities of the educational experience. I have summoned ten young, eager and inquisitive souls. I have asked that they embrace this journey and make it theirs. I have further asked that they share their stories with you. I was always taught that education comes with a certain responsibility and I think that it is important to share this experience with all of the people that made this journey possible. Certainly Belmont University took a chance by allowing me to turn this crazy dream into a reality, but also our many friends and family members that have met us along the way, cheered us on behind the scenes, offered support and advice, and even directions when our navigational instruments have failed us (I maintain that I am ‘eagle eyes’ with an incredible sense of direction).

Continue reading "Resting Among Giants" ...

June 19, 2009

just beat it...

RashinaSo I was awoken at 3:00 this morning by Ken, telling me that the bus was breaking down and that we were going to have to turn back to Los Angeles to get it fixed. This was immediately followed by the words: “We might have to skip San Francisco all together.”! By 7:00 I was still trying to process what exactly was occurring and I started making phone calls informing the people whom we were supposed to meet with throughout the course of the day that we weren’t going to be in the city until at least 2:00 pm. However, given the stressful nature of the hours of re-planning, the morning was speckled with incredible music, conversations, card games and just an overall stillness of being awake without running off the bus in the usual fashion of this trip.

After reworking our plans and realizing that we weren’t going to have a rental van, we decided to take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) across the city. Regardless of the fact that we had to pay for transportation, riding public transportation all day (in a city that advocates living “green”) thoroughly excited me.

Our day began at the airport, where we jumped on the BART to 16th St Mission. This stop was about ten blocks away from the Castro district, wherein the majority of San Francisco’s gay population resides. As we walked up towards the district from a less-safe area of town, I noticed the gradation from working-class restaurants and shops to higher end locations, surrounded by Gay Pride rainbow flags and a slue of ethnic restaurants and stores.

Continue reading "just beat it..." ...

June 18, 2009

Los Angeles

ChrisWe started out our first day in Los Angeles with a tour of CBS Studios in Studio City, CA, where they film shows like Entertainment Tonight and CSI: New York, while in the past other shows like Seinfeld and Gilligan’s Island. Entertainment Tonight’s Canaan Rubin showed us around many of the sets, studios, productions rooms, editing bays, and all the people that come together to make a show go on air.

This experience helped us get insight into the human hands that go into the finished products we see and experience throughout every day of our lives. Before our eyes, we were meeting the people and watching them edit a cultural artifact that would be sent out very shortly thereafter to many corners of the world. I will pick back up on this discussion further down on this blog, as I need to get into the rest of our time in Los Angeles.

Group ETFrom Studio City, we hopped on the 101, took the Malibu Canyon Road exit, and within half an hour, we had reached coast number two on this trip. Weaving around the mountains on the two-lane road, we came around one corner to just barely make out the deep blue in the distance. We barreled through a tunnel and a few seconds later, we were staring at the Pacific Ocean. It was a sight of much relief for all of us. By Day 11, we had reached the West Coast. We stopped of for a few minutes to rest, talk, and meditate (for me, with the accompaniment of Sigur Ros’s “Með Blóðnasir”, a two-minute song that has walked with me through many experiences over the past few years).

Continue reading "Los Angeles" ...

June 16, 2009

Las Vegas, Nevada: Neon Lights and even Brighter Ideas

ElisabethI decided to have Vegas be my first city because it is a place that I have already been to and I had fond memories of being there with my family. When the class got to scouting around the city though I realized that both the great, big city and I had changed. We both had grown and learned some stuff. No longer was I able to see this place simply as a tourist destination; instead I continued to find my vision of it clouded with all that I have gained thus far in my education.

We began the day by going to the Las Vegas Convention Center. I thought it would be interesting to get an inside look at one aspect of the biggest industries in the city, county and even state: tourism. The tour shed light on ideas that are known about Vegas but are not always recognized within the public. Take for example the branding of Vegas, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” The branding of this city is second only to that of Google! With branding a person must once again reflect on consumption in America. Why is it that American’s wish to escape from their daily lifes to places where morals are not recognized generally or even expected? I believe that this mindset speaks of a greater issue within American society that I have yet to truly define. In fact, I am not sure one can define such a mentality until you fully understand what it means to be an American. So with that in mind let’s get back to the day.

Continue reading "Las Vegas, Nevada: Neon Lights and even Brighter Ideas" ...

June 15, 2009

Salt Lake City: Free to Be

CoryYesterday our bus was late heading into Salt Lake City, which was great because it put our group in the position to be able to see the city we were headed towards, rather than just magically wake up there. It was interesting to watch as we rolled into Salt Lake because we were literally in the middle of nowhere for the longest time, and then all of sudden the landscape of a city came into view. It didn’t appear to be too big or too small, but just the right size with tall buildings, an oil refinery and billboards waiting for us in the distance. Noticing that the mountains were situated around the city, it occurred to me that Salt Lake City is as unique as the grand body of water that it is named after.

Cory in Salt Lake City, UTAfter showering at Westminster College our group headed to lunch at Tony Caputo’s Deli downtown. It too was just the right size for a Sunday afternoon. The rustic little restaurant was very welcoming as we ordered our various sandwiches and salads. I couldn’t help but feel like this restaurant, and even the entire block did not belong in Salt Lake City, at least not the preconceived image of Salt Lake that I had in my head. I wasn’t expecting Utah to have a grid system that was easily navigational, and I wasn’t expecting such progressive, cultural restaurants either. We later found out that this deli was rated America’s Outstanding Specialty Restaurant for 2009, and none of us were surprised at all. Inquiring more about the restaurant I stroke up a conversation with two employees by the names of Andrew and Evan. Andrew informed me on the Caputo’s history that goes back about ten years. According to Andrew, “You wouldn’t come to this side of town ten years ago.” But apparently Tony Caputo did come, and he built his restaurant here and because of his restaurant that the entire neighborhood began to improve. As Andrew and I talked, he pointed out Mr. Caputo as he entered the deli. I caught him headed towards the back of the store carrying a painting that was wider than his frame and I wasn’t surprised at all to see what seemed like a forward thinking man bringing value in the door with him. Lunch at Caputo’s was a nice way to start off the day because it put a good taste in my mouth (literally) concerning Salt Lake, especially with the chocolate. There was a specific section in the deli that served fresh gourmet chocolates (all made from Mr. Caputo’s recipes), and they were good. Several of us bought different pieces and I think we all enjoyed them. The restaurant also featured chocolate called Amedei, which is the #1 chocolate in the world. Supposedly only 14 places sell it, and we all tasted a piece. Let’s just say it was pretty awesome. It had a very rich chocolate flavor and because of that it was a little overwhelming, but completely enjoyable.

Continue reading "Salt Lake City: Free to Be" ...

June 14, 2009

Day 8 - Grand Canyon

ShirahMy favorite moment yesterday was seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. We entered the park and were driving along; the scenery around us hadn’t changed at all for 50 miles, when, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of the opposite side of the red-, orange-, purple-, and yellow-striped canyon wall. Both vans immediately pulled over and we piled out at Mather Pt., completely in awe of the great crevice and the ledge that dropped off inches in front of our toes. The North Rim, at 8,800 feet, loomed 1,800 feet above us as we stood at the edge of the South Rim. The Colorado River raged 6,000 feet below us.

The whole experience seemed surreal; my sense of depth-perception was non-existent. It was as if someone had hung a sheet in front of me and painted a colorful, hazy horizon, a breathtaking illusion.

Grand Canyon GroupI was bold at first, clamoring around rocks and tourists to get a good view on one of the broad ledges. But as some hung back in fear, it started to hit me that this wasn’t an illusion; just one wrong step and I could be well on my way to the bottom of the canyon. I sat down on a sunny rock and tried to minimize my movements. My muscles started shaking uncontrollably; my voice became quiet and wavered softly. I watched groups of thrill-seeking visitors step confidently to the very edge of the outcropping, turning their backs to the canyon to pose for pictures that would be the pride of their vacation. When they recounted to their friends the dangerous nature of their recent escapades they would not be exaggerating. To sit at the edge of a 6,000 foot ledge and dangle one’s feet into a canyon, leaning over periodically to view the raging Colorado River below, requires a grave malfunction of the amygdala or a serious case of misinformation about the law of gravity.

Continue reading "Day 8 - Grand Canyon" ...

June 13, 2009

Day 7 - Navajo

EmmaWhere to begin? I’m am completely overwhelmed by trying to convey in a few short paragraphs what this day meant to me personally, and how I think it affected our group as a whole. We had no idea what to expect from our day that would be spent on a portion of the Navajo Reservation of New Mexico and Arizona. We met up with our guide for the day, Leland Silversmith, at the reservation’s visitor’s center outside Gallup, NM and across the border into Arizona. For those who may not be familiar with the Navajos, I’ll attempt to give a very brief history of the land and people based on previous research that I, as the “ambassador” for this destination, had to undertake and information we were taught while on the reservation.

nav_int_sm.jpg “Navajoland” encompasses an area of approximately 27,000 square miles in Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. The area lies within what the Navajo people consider to be four sacred mountains, called the “Four Corners.” The Navajos are the largest Native American tribe with a population of about 320,000, of which about 200,000 live on the actual reservation. The Navajo government is the most sophisticated American Indian government, with the same three branches as the U.S. government. The tribal government was formed in the 1920’s to facilitate the sale of rights for American companies to excavate natural resources like coal, minerals, uranium and natural gas. These resources provide money for tribal land funds, as well as jobs for the Navajo people. However, we heard while on the reservation that they were continually short-changed for the price of their coal, and had they been paid full market price for it, they may have become one of the wealthiest peoples in America. The main trade for this tribe today on the reservation is shepherding and raising cattle.

Continue reading "Day 7 - Navajo" ...

June 12, 2009

Roswell, New Mexico

PierceWhen I was a kid, I used to look out my window up at the North Carolina sky every night. We lived 15 minutes from the airport, and the direct path to the main runway seemed to go right over our house.

Tucked away tight in my covers, I’d look up and see large objects with flashing lights. All logic suggests that these objects were airplanes-but try explaining that to a superstitious 9-year-old.

To further investigate my suspicions, I used to check out a UFO book from the elementary school’s little library. I didn’t need the Dewey Decimal System-I could walk blind-folded to the exact spot where that book rested.

Alien on the StreetFast forward 10 years and I’m on the streets of Roswell, New Mexico-a small town of 70,000 people that has fully accepted alien, UFO, and extraterrestrial culture. The McDonald’s playground is shaped like a flying saucer, and the Arby’s sign reads “Welcome Aliens.”

We’ve been asking the same questions all trip long-what makes a city unique and what draws people to come here? Well, as someone who is an “unexplained” junkie, I didn’t have to go far for that answer.

For me, the mystery and possibility behind UFO’s is the real draw to Roswell. Science can’t prove that aliens don’t exist-but they haven’t been able to prove that they do either. Do I believe aliens exist? Not necessarily-but the topic is intriguing.

Our first stop was the UFO museum-and things were a little hard to follow right off the bat. We weren’t treated to breathtaking visuals, but rather one giant poster board presentation that spanned across several thousand square feet. (Luckily, plans are in the works for a more impressive facility.)

Continue reading "Roswell, New Mexico" ...

June 11, 2009

Crossing Over

EmilyApproaching El Paso, everyone in the group continued to think this day would give us a rest because it has a reputation as Podunk town. Eventually we would find this is far from the case in a border town. The scene of the area as we drove down the highway produced a visual distinction between Mexico and America as each landscape lied on either side of our van. Even though some areas from each country proved to be completely different with America’s vast developments and Mexico’s great poverty, other areas of the two countries looked frighteningly similar in poverty. This was the first among many aesthetics that point to the fact that El Paso seems to live up to its name which means “Crossing Over” as it proves separate from America and in fact a part of Juarez, Mexico.

Beginning at the El Paso Museum of Art downtown the class began to explore paintings, sculptures, prints, and more that were created from a heavily influenced Mexican-American or El Paso perspective. Sculptures such as Frances Bagley’s The Portrait portrayed a womanly structure made of wire filled with rocks; a place with structured gates filled with pavement and construction. Directly adjacent to this was another sculpture called Border Patrol by Suzanne Klotz which stood about five feet tall. On one side, the statue pictured American flags and graves while its other side was of praying hands and Mexican icons. As I watched each student become more and more involved with the artwork and analyzing it, I grew to see how much art is necessary in life.

Continue reading "Crossing Over" ...

June 10, 2009

San Antonio, TX

PierceTexas and pride. Those two words go together like steak and chili. Or rice and refried beans. But what exactly gives Texas that sense of pride? And more importantly, how does that play into being an American?

That was one of the things we set out to discover in San Antonio-home of the Alamo. Surrounded on all four sides by hotels, souvenir shops, and a Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the Alamo is the symbol for Texas pride.

In 1836, 162 Texans stood tall against Santa Anna’s Mexican army. They held down the Alamo for 13 days, fighting only for pride. They could have fled. Instead, they chose to die for Texas.

“Remember the Alamo” became the battle cry as Texas defeated Mexico and claimed their independence.

Of course, it’s important to remember that’s the story the Alamo tells us. It doesn’t mention how several Texans were possibly killed on the grounds outside the Alamo-running for their lives. And they don’t say anything about how slavery was a central issue in the conflict between abolitionist Mexico and slave-heavy Texas.

(We’ve seen several other glaring omissions on this trip as well-the lack of any Lewinski reference at the Clinton Library, and no details on Elvis’ death at Graceland.)

Continue reading "San Antonio, TX" ...

June 09, 2009

Day 3 – New Orleans

ChrisAfter a pretty late wakeup from everyone, we rushed over to the St. Bernard Community Center to serve the Ninth Ward community for a little bit. The Ninth Ward was one of the hardest hit, if not the hardest hit, area in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. Driving out there from the hotel, we passed a house after broken down house, empty, boarded up KFC’s and convenience stores, and quick cash-n-loan stores, all speaking of the tragedies of the past few years, telling us stories of a place forgotten by its own government, a place where the opportunities are simply not equal for them, yet a place where hope and love still thrive.

This seems to be one of the key themes I am learning about our country – that is, our capacity for our personal altruism and hope. Whether this altruism is real or false is irrelevant, because, you can really only look at a person’s actions and not into their minds or hearts. That is why I say perceived personal altruism – simply working a 9 to 5 to keep your head above water and food on the table for friends and family is more than enough; for others, it’s traveling to Thailand to stop human trafficking. These choices are much more an evidence of our class background and not dedication to humanity, a distinction that is beginning to give me clearer eyes as I navigate my path and look at other people.

Continue reading "Day 3 – New Orleans" ...

June 08, 2009

It Never Dies

CoryTraveling in a foreign city is a difficult task on its own, but when you are traveling with eleven other people and you’re solely responsible for the day’s activities it can be quite daunting. As I sit in the back of our bus contemplating the day’s events Little Rock, I would like to think that I accomplished this task in to some extent.

While it’s still fresh on my mind, I can’t help but think about the evening worship service that we attended at Awareness Center International in the city. The music played during praise and worship was enough to evoke joy from the dullest congregation. At moments I questioned whether I was at church or a rock concert because of the energy, but the honesty in what the worship team was doing assured me that it shouldn’t be mistaken for a simple performance. One of the main things we all agreed on about the church was that it was clearly genuine and that people were very intentional about the type of community that they have developed. There were two separate parts of service where we stopped worship in order hug someone, and it was great because it reminded us of “what a real hug actually felt like,” according to someone in the group. Although there were moments that challenged us, we ultimately left service having observed a special type of community taking place there.

Continue reading "It Never Dies" ...

June 06, 2009

And so it begins…

Rashina - GracelandI awoke, as I had expected, in somewhat of a confused daze this morning… as I opened my eyes to a convex wall on one side and a closed curtain on the other, it took a few seconds to understand that this adventure had finally become actualized. A feeling of excitement simultaneously swept over and seeped into me, and as I lay attempting to embrace a feeling that I am sure to have for the next thirty-nine mornings, I suddenly felt familiarity replace the strange excitement I had awoken feeling. Then it hit me… the beginning of my adventure across an unexplored nation began with my hometown of twenty years…

The contradicting nature of this first stop is simultaneously interesting and frustrating. Having lived in Memphis, TN my entire life until coming to college, the idea of exploring a city whose traditions and structures already felt so intrinsic to me failed to initially satisfy my wanderlust. Nonetheless, the day was ours and mine and I knew that there were experiences to be had.

We started discovering Memphis at the famous and original Peabody Hotel, known for its marching ducks. For those of you unaware of this historical tourist attraction, the Peabody hotel marches five ducks along a red carpet to a somewhat ornate fountain each day at 11:00 a.m. Though I had experienced this strange and short-lived viewing multiple times, I eagerly walked with my other eleven colleagues into the hotel, up the stairs, and positioned myself up against the banister. And then we waited… As I glanced across the gathering of over the hundreds of tourists in the lobby – the conservatively dressed businessmen, the older couple whose hawaiin print t-shirts perfectly exemplified their ‘touristic’ intentions, and the young girl playing with the stuffed animal- they seemed eagerly patient, waiting for the chance to experience what their families or friends must have boasted about seeing in years past. As the ‘duckmaster’ stepped into the scene, the crowd silenced itself, awaiting instruction from the man with the walking staff. He began to recount a history of the duck march, using a bellowing tone of voice and pausing for dramatic effect so perfectly that I felt slightly nauseous. Finally the doors opened and five waddling ducks sprinted to the fountain in about five seconds flat. The audience began to applaud the event as the ducks jumped into the fountain, and immediately the expression on each student’s face around me changed from eager to disappointed. While the duck march embodied specific aspects of tourism that fully supported the archetypal tourist, a part of me felt satisfaction in simply Recognizing the construction of this tourist attraction that promoted itself through historic tradition yet displayed itself in a three-ring circus fashion.

Continue reading "And so it begins…" ...

May 30, 2009

Just Kicking the Tires

Preparations for the Belmont University, Re-Discovering America adventure are wrapping up. This blog will be LIVE on June 6, 2009. At this point we are testing sites, blogs, and social media applications to make sure that everything is functioning as it should. Just so you'll know, our official hashtag on Twitter is: #40states.

Stand by :)

Belmont University

Recent Posts




  More Images: 40 States in 40 Days - image pool