Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Big Dance in Ku:pk

For those of you who know my church going habits, you're probably wondering why I'm making such a big deal about this year's Ge'e Piast.  I've written about my beliefs before, you can read about it here: Carrying Traditions With a Smile On Your Face.

The road to Ku:pk
My uncle, Lu:ga spent his time straightening this road to perfection especially for Ge'e Piast.
(And yes, I fully stopped my car to get this photo) 

First of all, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Ge'e Piast, it literally translates to "The Big Dance."   

This is an event which has blended O'odham Culture and Catholicism together into one giant event. 

The Agenda, should you decide to join us. 
10:00 Mass with Father Alfonso Ponchi Vasquez OFM
11:00 Welcome Pisinemo District Chairman, Stanley Cruz
St. Francis Committee Chair, Margie Lopez
11:30-12:30 Bayou Ceco Fiddler Band
1:00-1:30 Singer, Shania Manual
1:30-3:00 Waila Band Big John
3:00-4:00 Hunter Family Hopi Dance Group
4:00-6:00 Waila Band Cruz Band
6:00 Procession followed by Exchanging of Ribbons
8:00pm-6:00am- Dance
Music by Native Creed and Native Thunder

Feeding begins after Mass until food runs out

Pascolas, Deer Dancers, Mathchina Group and Rosary Groups @ the St. Francis Food Booths, Arts and Crafts and Bingo

Drug and Alcohol Free Event!!

Each year on October 4th, there is a big feast for St. Francis Day on the Tohono O'odham Nation.  Each year, a different community is chosen to host the dance.  There is a St. Francis Committee, who organizes the events, and the host community simply provides the space. 

For years and years and years, my Hu'ul Ke:li-bat (My late, great-uncle) was a part of the St. Francis Committee.  He was a very active member and he submitted a request for Ge'e Piast to be held in Ku:pk, the community where our family is from, probably before I was even born.  I remember he and my Hu'uli-bat (my late grandmother) talking about it when I was a little girl of maybe only 5 or 6 years old. 

It's been many years now since my Hu'ul Ke:li-bat made his journey to the Spirit World, but this year, the St. Francis Committee is honoring him by hosting Ge'e Piast in our community!

Left: The Seal of the Pisin' Mo'o (Pisinemo) District
Center: The Church in Ku:pk
Right: A statue of St. Francis

Vincent JoseMaria -My Hu'ul Ke:li
The nickname literally translates to "Grandma Man"
He was the younger brother of my maternal grandmother, which, in mainstream culture would make him a "Great Uncle." But I don't like referring him as that, because it makes him seem less important in my family, when in fact, he was simply our grandpa.  I didn't realize there was a specific definition to "grandpa" until I was an adult. 
Ku:pk is very tiny village of maybe 5 or 6 houses, a church, feast house, dance floor and a cemetery.  It's one of my favorite places in the world.  My grandparents and my late brother, Adrian are buried there, and the one thing that brings me a sliver of comfort is that it is a beautiful place.

The church in Ku:pk
Inside the church in Ku:pk
This is what it looks like all the time. (Not for special occasions)
It's a little on the dirty side, because of the preparations going on.
When I was a kid, my Hu'uli-bat and Hu'ul Ke:li-bat had a mud house there.  We used to stay there in the summers.  My Hu'ul Ke:li-bat had a garden that I wasn't careful enough to be in.  My Hu'uli-bat constantly had a fire (or just coals) going outside so she could cook our meals.  Sometimes I helped. 
My Niece, Hu'ul Ke:li-bat and Hu'uli-bat in Hu'ul Ke:li's house. 

We had metal frame cots that we used both indoor and outdoors.  We'd sleep on blankets and large pieces of canvas.  Hu'uli had us roll them up during the day to keep them clean.  We didn't have electricity, but we did have running water (due to a generator).  We were still careful with how much water we used.  We used to have a basin and pitcher to wash up in.  The dirty water was splashed on the dirt wherever it was needed, to help pack the earth down. 

There was always plenty to do each day.  We'd walk to the wo'o, look for usap, walk along the trails that the cows made, help Hu'uli grind corn, sweep the dirt floor, refill the kerosene lamps with oil, watch Hu'ul Ke:li skin rabbits, help Hu'uli cook, sit under the mesquite trees and listen to the wind, watch the stars come out.  My favorite thing to do was to shower outside, though we didn't do it everyday, and Hu'uli didn't let us waste water. 
Hu'uli's mud house is gone now.  One year, the monsoon winds and rains blew off the tin roof.  The rain washed away the mud.  Each year, the storms and the winds took more and more of the house away.  There was nothing left but a heap of dirt and a few forgotten items. 

The last of the house was cleared out in preparation of Ge'e Piast. 

We expect to have people walk to Ku:pk from wherever they're from on the Tohono O'odham Nation.  Not everyone does this, usually people who are asking for special prayers, or giving special thanks for a granted blessing.  A lot more people will drive.  The dance will go on into the morning.   

On October 4th, there will be mass and food will be served.  There will be entertainment and lots and lots of music.  

My cousins have been working on this event for over 2 years.  They did fundraising.  They had a dance floor installed.  They brought in electricity and so many other things, that it's really incredible.  

I can't wait to be there and see everything and visit and laugh with my family.  I can't wait for the delicious things to eat and the music that will go until the sun comes up the next day.

If you find yourself there, think of my Hu'ul Ke:li, say a prayer for him and most definitely, dance a cumbia in his honor.  :)

I thought this map of Arizona, with Ku:pk highlighted was interesting.  Please note that my iPhone doesn't outline the Tohono O'odham Nation.  Dammit, Apple!

Ku:pk is LITERALLY on the map!!!
(Just spell it without the colon)

According to my iPhone, you should go "the back way" if you're coming from Tucson.
I'm assuming the road is clear that way by now, BUT, historically, it's been a rougher road, and especially after the rains, you should plan to drive through Pisin' Mo'o (You can put "Pisinimo" in the map app and it'll pop up.)

For very specific directions which include going through Pisin' Mo'o, click here: Rez Directions (Ku:pk)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Baking with my Daughters

Recently, I did some baking/cooking with my daughters for a school project.  I've been thinking about it a lot so I thought I'd write about it and preserve it in time. 

First off, I was having a really bad day.  I had been out of town for work for a few days.  I came home to a sleeping house at nearly midnight on a Wednesday night.  I woke up at six the next morning, before anyone else was awake and dragged myself to work. 

Needless to say, I was exhausted and grumpy all day and although I was looking forward to seeing my children after almost four days without seeing them, the last thing I really wanted to do was bake. 

After work, I managed to get into an argument with my husband (the result of limited communication opportunities while I was away) and I angrily went to three different stores to pick up the required ingredients for the recipes that we were going to be using. 

It was raining.  I was trying to navigate through grocery store aisles as I looked at my phone for the recipes my husband was sending me and I was getting phone calls on top of that.  I love the rain, I view it as a blessing, but generally not when I'm trying to keep a sack of flour dry as drivers who've suddenly forgotten how to drive, splash through grocery store parking lots. 

This was what I looked like coming in from the rain.
(Add in a big chick, subtract the crocodile.)

I came home grumpy and completely unconcerned with what we were going to have for dinner and immediately started baking with my daughter, Si:baƱ. 

She had chosen to make Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti.  I had never made biscotti before, so I had no idea what we were in for.  I hadn't even seen the recipe before we got started.

I sat across from her, ready to answer any questions she had, as she slooooowly mixed the ingredients together. 

A friend of mine was texting me, mostly about my bad day.  I decided to send her a video of the agony I was going through as my daughter sloooowly mixed the ingredients. 

I made a Youtube of the video I sent her: http://youtu.be/DCkarYwXBAA
(And yes, you can hear me tell my daughter, Ani, to "shut up.  Do your powerpoint."  I was joking.  She laughed.)

My friend responded to the video with, "I would've taken over.  Or told my kids, follow the directions, I'll be in the shower."

As much as I would like to do that, it's not even an option in my household... yet. 

My mom didn't often tell me or show me how to do things in the kitchen.  I don't think it's a coincidence that I don't like to cook.  I learned about baking from reading recipe cards that came in the mail.  You were supposed to be enticed to buy a binder to put them in, then you'd get more in the mail, but my mom never bought them.  So I just read about frosting cakes and making candy (though I didn't actually ever make anything). 

I want my daughters to be able to do things by themselves and feel confident about them.  I hated my mom's impatience when I was a kid.  I always dreaded asking her for help or for her to explain something to me. 

I learned by making mistakes, but the mistakes weren't simply accepted.  They were questioned, "Why didn't you do it like this?!"
"Um...cause... no one told me to do it like that..." 

My daughters and I have come a long way with our baking.  They've learned how to read measurements and follow a recipe, and I've learned how to appear patient and positive.  

Please note that I don't always feel patient or positive, but I've learned that it's important for me to wait for them to ask for help.

When my daughters bake, it is both a high and a low for me.  I feel great when we pull the finished product out of the oven and I can see the pride and delight in my daughter's face that she accomplished something.  The low comes both before and after she pulls the finished product out of the oven.  The low comes as I'm sitting across from her as I coach myself into being more patient and loving.  I feel awful each time, wishing I was a more patient person.  The second low comes when I see her finished product and know that I had to push myself to be positive about something that clearly makes my daughter happy and proud. 

Each time I bake with my daughters, they do a little better, and I do a little better too.  I feel like it's a test of my parenting.   

One cool thing is that they choose to make things that I never would have thought of.  Sometimes, we learn together. 

My husband and I are currently obsessed with biscotti.  I had never made them before in my life, and probably never would have thought to look up a recipe for them, but since this project, I've made biscotti twice and just bought more ingredients for another batch to make tonight.  If it hadn't been for this project, my life would be biscotti-less. 

It's a terrible fate.

Here are Si:ban's

Biscotti dough.  I was worried that her classmates would be grossed out by the green pistachios, but they loved them.
The dough was really thick. 
This is when I thought she'd ask for help, because the ends were breaking off a little.  But she didn't want my help.
I know this photo looks like it came straight off of Martha Stewart's website, but it didn't.  These are my Si:ban's, made start to finish all by herself. 

Here are Ani's blinis, which we made the same night as the biscotti, above: 
The beginning of blini batter.
A mini blini.  Made, start to finish, by Ani.
A close-up of the mini blini.

Here's a video of how we made Ani's blinis: http://youtu.be/Pw_1-H2LEA8?list=UUZhqA5TAQZlXxy_CQZR-cFw
She says something about an onion, because in the directions, it said you could use a piece of onion to grease the pan.  We skipped that suggestion and used a pastry brush.  (No, we don't use it for painting)

I'm not using this blog post to ask for a pat on the back or a pep talk.  I'm simply recording where I am as a parent, and where my daughters are as bakers.  I think we tend to not make a big deal of the small accomplishments of teenagers, but I once wrote a blog about my daughter learning to tie her shoe, and reading it years later, when we're closer to the year they learn how to drive, rather than the year they were potty trained, brought me to tears.