Upon digging through my subconscious, I remembered a high school trip to Pella, Iowa, and, several years before that, a trip to one of the Amish settlements in Iowa. I don’t have pictures from either, which is why I didn’t remember them. And to make things worse, I’m not entirely sure where in Iowa the Amish settlement was. I’m almost certain that the actual place we were visiting was a Girl Scout camp in the Rock Island/Moline/Davenport/Bettendorf area.

Actually, looking at the map, I think we were in Iowa City, which means that the Amish community was probably Kalona? And Kalona does have guided tours of the Amish community, which sounds like what we did.

Now, is there a Girl Scout camp in Iowa City? I don’t see one, but we’re talking about, oh, dear God, how long ago was that? 1979? 1978? I dropped out of Girl Scouts before the 1980/1981 school year, so no later than early 1980. A lot of things may have changed in the Iowa City area in 37 years.

The only thing I really remember about the camp was inside of the cabin we slept in. I guess I’m going to spend some time looking at photos of Girl Scout camps in Iowa. If I can ever figure out where in Iowa we were, I’ll be able to tell you which Amish community it was. And if I can’t, I guess I’ll just make a post “Amish Community, somewhere in Iowa” someday.

I really don’t know if I’m getting any better at all at this, but I’m putting a pretty decent amount of money aside this way.

So far, I’m up to Duolingo levels: 15 in Spanish, 13 in Italian, and 11 in German. And in 16 more points, I’ll be at level 12 in German (so tomorrow night, probably).

In Rosetta Stone Vietnamese, I’m just a little more than halfway done with the whole course. Halfway is the end of Unit 2 of Level 2 and I’m about halfway done with Unit 3 of Level 2. It took me six months to make it this far, but I haven’t hit the wall yet, which surprises the heck out of me.

In Rosetta Stone Mandarin, I’m at the Milestone for Level 1 Unit 3. I’m trying to keep Mandarin quite a ways behind my progress in Vietnamese because I’m afraid of getting the two languages confused. I’m pretty sure that I won’t, because I’ve been working on my Mandarin for nearly 10 years now, but the languages have some commonalities. Both languages have “measure words,” for example, which go before countable nouns. Like in Mandarin, “a dog” is “yī zhǐ gǒu.” The “zhǐ” is the measure word. In Vietnamese, “a dog” is “một con chó” and the “con” is the measure word. As a result, the structure of the courses are pretty similar.

Finishing both Rosetta Stone courses should bring me somewhere in the Bs of the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). I’ve heard that a three-level Rosetta Stone course takes you to the end of B1 and that it takes you to the end of B2. One thing said that it only takes you to the beginning of B1, but whichever way you slice it, I should have made or at least be ready to make the leap from Basic to Independent User stage.

I bought El Leon, la Bruja y el Ropero (the Spanish-language translation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) as an ebook from Amazon.com, and while on a road trip yesterday, I made it through 22% of the book.  Since that’s a 200-page book (give or take), that 22% was 44 pages, so I paid myself 44 cents. I also found a translation error. The room that contains the wardrobe is empty except for the wardrobe and a dead bluebottle on the windowsill. The translator made bluebottle into “botella azul,” which is a blue bottle. A bluebottle is a kind of fly.

And I spoke Mandarin to a patient today. I only gave her the amount of her change in Mandarin, and it took her a few moments to assimilate the fact that the pharmacy technician had just spoken Mandarin to her, but I did it. And someday, I might actually be comfortable with this. I’ve already made that leap in Spanish at work. Now, will I ever get my courage up enough to speak Vietnamese to my Vietnamese patients?

I’ve tried a new-to-me site called Language Zen, and it has me pulling my hair out. Almost literally. You can only study for 15 minutes then you have to stop for three hours unless you want to pay money, and every time I go to the site, I have hundreds and hundreds of words to work on (right now, I have “less (sic) than 580”) and I get the same damn questions every time. I fully accept that las noticias apenas duran unos segundos. I really do. Stop asking me. Part of why I have so many words and keep getting the same questions may be because I don’t spend much time there. But I don’t find it particularly rewarding. I’ve been doing the questions in another tab while writing this, and I now have “less than 575 words” to practice. I need to give myself a whole lot more than 30 cents (which is my current top payment, for a Rosetta Stone core lesson) to make me come back to that site more often than I have to.

So far, I’ve saved up more than $180 from this project and been paid a whole $0.64 in interest. I’m not going to make my fortune at this this way, but just maybe the profit motive will be enough to keep me going until I can turn this into a skill that I can get paid a decent amount for and I’ll make my fortune that way.

I finally made it to exactly one Fiesta event this year, the Fiesta de los Reyes at Market Square. The “Reyes” of the title is, specifically, the Rey Feo (literally “ugly king,” but some of our Reyes Feos have been quite attractive in my opinion). From what I can gather, the man who becomes Rey Feo is the one who raises the most money towards a scholarship program.

The Fiesta de los Reyes came across as a pretty standard street festival. Fortunately, I love street festivals. There were several stages set up (one under Interstate 35, one on San Saba Street, and at least two down Produce Row).

Okay, you’re going to need some kind of a map. I may have zoomed in on this a bit much, but here it is:

1908 San Antonio Map of the Market Square area

Map of San Antonio from 1909 (and thus in the public domain) showing where Interstate 35, San Saba Street, and Produce Row are (also Houston and Santa Rosa Streets and Milam Park, for reference).

Interstate 35, of course, wasn’t there yet in 1909, because the Interstate System wasn’t even authorized by Congress until 1956. The US Numbered Highway system (things like US Route 1, US Route 6, US Route 30, etc.) wasn’t even in place yet in 1909.

Probably St. Anthony, Market Square, San Antonio 2017

I’m pretty sure that this is St. Anthony. I’ve been to Market Square a couple of times in the past, but never noticed that little alcove up there before.

The bands that were playing when we were there in the early afternoon were a Mexican group called Dynastia Moreno (unfortunately, I’m not that familiar with Mexican musical styles to be able to identify their style of music. They sounded good, though), a Christian gospel/blues band called, well, Rev. Blues (they’re Texans, but blues bands always make me homesick for Chicago), a cover band of what looked like teenagers that was playing “Enter Sandman” as we walked past, and some other band at the Santa Rosa and Produce Row end of Market Square on a stage on the steps of the old Museo Alameda, which is now the Centro de Artes of Texas A&M – San Antonio. Unfortunately, it was too crowded for me to be able to read the signs giving the names of those groups. I figured I’d be able to look them up later, and I’m having no luck at all with that yet.

The Museo Alameda was an experiment on the part of the people at the Smithsonian. The Museo Alameda was a museum for Latin American art that was a full affiliate of the Smithsonian. It didn’t really catch on, unfortunately, and only five years after it opened, the Museo Alameda closed its doors. San Antonio still has a Smithsonian affiliate, though. Since 2014, the Witte Museum has been a Smithsonian affiliate.

That reminds me, the new upgrades to the Witte are done and Alex and I visited it and took even more pictures. I have to post that soon.

An overhead view of the crowds at Fiesta de los Reyes, 2017

See what I mean about the crowds?

And, as I said before, Market Square was packed with people. It was a lovely day in the mid- to high 70s, so Alex and I had more energy than we do during the summer months, but it was even a little crowded for me, and I generally love the hustle and bustle of public festivals. So we walked once around and got a little of the fiesta spirit, took some pictures, and then went home. The “walk once around,” by the way?  Took an hour and a half.

 

Fiesta is the biggest party of the year in San Antonio and I’m afraid that I haven’t fiesta-ed nearly as much as I should have as a travel blogger.

I guess we probably should go back to the beginning. Well maybe not all the way to the beginning, because that’s when groups like the Apache, the Comanche, the Caddo, and the Coahuiltecans were the only humans in this area of North America, and that’s beyond the scope of this post (I may share some of that part of the history of the area when I write about the various mission).  In the 17th Century, the government of Spain decided to expand New Spain, which was located in what are now Florida and Mexico, into the mainland of what is now the United States.

In 1810, Mexico (which included most of the southwest of the United States, which included parts of Colorado and Wyoming) began an 11-year process of gaining independence from Spain.

Well, once Mexico had its independence, Texas apparently decided that this was a pretty good idea, and so they fought a roughly six-month war against Mexico from October of 1835 until April of 1836 (you see that April there? we’ll be coming back to it in a minute).

The first major battle was fought in San Antonio on October 28, 1835. This was the Battle of Concepcion, so called because it was fought on the grounds of Mission Concepcion. The Mexican soldiers took comparatively heavy losses and retreated, making this a win for the Texians (yes, that “i” is intentional — it was the demonym for Texas back then).

Things wouldn’t go so smoothly on March 6, 1836. This was the date of the Battle of the Alamo, in which somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 Texians  were killed and Mexico was declared the winner. Most of the bodies of the slain Texians were cremated on pyres near the site of the battle. The exact sites have been lost to history, but I have heard that the place where the San Antonio Fire Museum is currently located may have been one, and others may have been along Commerce Street.

Then, on April 21, 1836, the two armies faced off for the final battle of the war near present-day LaPorte. Ultimately, the battle, known as Battle of San Jacinto for reasons that I can’t quite get confirmation of, took 18 minutes. The Mexicans retreated and the Texians reportedly chased them down, killing as many Mexicans as they could. Nobody ever said that the Texians were good winners.

In the late 19th Century, the city of San Antonio decided to mark the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto with, well, a party. Originally called Fiesta San Jacinto, the centerpiece of Fiesta was the Battle of the Flowers, which was sort of like the Tournament of Roses Parade, if people would rip the flowers off of the floats and throw them at each other. Look, I’ve lived in Texas for 24 years, as of next month, and sometimes I suspect that I’m no closer to being able to explain Texans now than I was back in 1993.

Fiesta San Antonio decorations, 2014

Plastic papel picado decorations on the River Walk, Fiesta 2014

The name was changed to Fiesta San Antonio in 1960 and Fiesta is now ten days long, beginning the Friday before April 21 and ending not that next Sunday, but the Sunday after that, so an entire week and two weekends. The day of Battle of the Flowers Parade is a day off for many, including all teachers, staff, and students of the schools of San Antonio.

In my 24 years here, I’ve never gone whole-hog for Fiesta. I’ve been to Fiesta events at the Botanical Gardens and I think maybe the zoo once. My mother and I went to Fiesta San Fernando, which is music, dancing, and food in Main Plaza one year, I even attended the Battle of the Flowers Parade in 2014 (it was a parade; except for the Fiesta princesses on some of the floats, it didn’t look much different from the Fourth of July parade in my Chicago suburb home town), but not much else.

I began writing this post on April 28, which was Battle of the Flowers Day, but it took several hours to compose and so now it’s Saturday. Later today, if I can get the energy up to do so, I hope to rectify some of my Fiesta non-participation. I hope to make it to Market Square for their Fiesta event and if I can hack the hour walk there and back, I might check out the King William Fair, as well.

But, before I can even consider doing any Fiesta-ing, I’d better get some sleep.

I think I’ve updated y’all on the plans. At first we planned to go to Europe this year. We planned to fly into Amsterdam, then visit Rotterdam, then into Germany, where we would go to Berlin, Munich, and Heidelberg (stopping at Neuschwanstein just because). After that I had hoped to visit Brussels before going back to Amsterdam for the flight home. In my dream version of this trip, I hoped to stop off at Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau, the two towns of Belgium and the Netherlands, respectively, that are sort of intertwined with one another.

Late in 2016, we scaled that trip down to a trip to Canada. The plan was to fly into Toronto, then drive a rental car to Quebec City, where there is going to be a tall ship regatta this summer. But Alex made a friend in California and really wanted to visit there, so early this year, we scaled it further back to a week in Southern California.

I just realized this last week that one of our traditional July trip destinations is a national park. In 2011, we went to the National Mall; in 2012, it was Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park; in 2013, we had Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the Wright Brothers National Memorial, *and* Cape Hatteras National Seashore; in 2014, it was Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio; in 2015, it was Statue of Liberty National Monument; and in 2016, it was Golden Spike National Historic Site and, of course Yellowstone.

But what to do in Southern California? I was hoping to get to Catalina Island while I am in California, since I’ve never been to Catalina before, but it’s expensive. Channel Islands National Park is less expensive so it was tempting, but apparently you have to pick one island, and the closest island is still an hour away by boat, and the boats leave from Ventura, which is an hour from our hotel. So that’s a four-hour round trip. And apparently there’s not really anything to do on the islands unless you like to kayak, which doesn’t seem like my sort of thing. There’s not even a place to take shelter from the rain on Anacapa, which is the one that’s only an hour-long trip.

If the boats traveled more like the ones at Statue of Liberty National Monument, where you could take one boat to Anacapa, then another in an hour or two to Santa Cruz, and so on, it might be worth it. Take a boat to one island and be stuck there for the rest of the day is less exciting for me (oh, and apparently the seagulls are nesting on the island in July, so it’s apparently noisy and smells like seagull poop). This means, of course, that if I want to go to an island, I’m back to considering Catalina.

In contrast, our hotel is about two hours away from Joshua Tree National Park. I’ve been looking at pictures and doing some reading, and you can see the San Andreas Fault from there, and there are a couple of oases in the park.  So if I’m going to spend four hours in a rental car to get to and from a national park, Joshua Tree gets my vote.

So we’ve been doing the insulin shots for just about a week now. I say just about because we had a bit of an adventure. I gave Kiliamo his first shot on Saturday, April 1, at 7:00 pm. Then I got up at 7:00 am on April 2 and gave him his second. While I was showing Alex how to draw up the insulin, he bent the needle of the syringe and we had to start over. Somehow, we ended up knocking the vial off of the counter and it shattered.

So I called the vet to leave a message asking for a new vial and we had to just hope that another 13 or so hours without insulin wouldn’t cause any damage. Monday morning, I got a message from work asking if I would come in an hour late to cover that shift instead of my original shift, so I planned to get up whenever the vet called and get the insulin. When they hadn’t called by 9:30, I called. The new vial was ready, so I went to get it. While I was driving back from the vet’s office (the only way to make it easily back from the vet’s is to continue down that street, turn at the next corner, and come back up a different street), I get a text asking me to come in right then. Well, I hadn’t eaten, or showered, and still needed to give the cat his insulin. I said I couldn’t be there for less than 45 minutes (and that would have required me to eat while I drove), and someone else offered to come in instead. So I was back to the later shift.

By the time the cat got his insulin, though, it was after 10. When you move a cat’s insulin dose, you’re supposed to move it in half-hour increments. Moving it half an hour at a time, I would have ended up late for work on Wednesday. So I ended up moving it in 35-minute increments, and now he’s back at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.  I’m going to have to move the doses again in June, because Alex stays with his dad for the month and so I’m going to have to work only the late shift and give him his dose at 10:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. for the duration.

Well, it’s definitely been an experience.

In other news, I am often after Alex to take pictures of things and places that he thinks is important or memorable, because they won’t be there forever. I’m having that kind of experience on two levels right now. I was just at North Star Mall getting my pedometer steps in and I remembered that the mall has a basement. When my now-ex and I moved here, it was an Oshman’s Sporting Goods store. And as I walked around the mall, I could not remember where the escalator to the basement was. I think I’m pretty close, but still not quite enough.  I wish I’d thought to take a picture, if not of the escalator, of the spot where the escalator had been once it was gone.

The other thing is that the Santa Anita Derby horse race was today. I’ve been past Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. The first time my now-ex and I went to California, I borrowed the rental car while he went to work and we agreed that I’d find a pay phone and call him at some specific time (I think it was 3:30?) so we could arrange when I’d come pick him up. I passed the racetrack at pretty close to the time we were supposed to talk and I went to a supermarket to make the call.

There was a brief pause there while I gave my cat his insulin. Where was I? Ah, yes, Santa Anita.

So I’ve looked for a supermarket near the racetrack a few times and can’t find anything. This summer, Alex and I will be staying in that part of the Los Angeles area, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to find that supermarket again. I’m certainly going to try. It was more than 20 years ago, so the area has probably changed irretrievably (?), but just maybe I’ll get lucky and find that store again.

So I’m getting a new one in the next few weeks — giving a cat insulin.

One of my cats has had inflammatory bowel disease since 2011. In 2015, his IBD got a lot worse and we ended up putting him on prednisone, a move that I had put off as long as possible, since prednisone can cause cats to develop diabetes.

Last week, nearly two years after we put him on the prednisone, my vet did some blood work on him and found that his blood sugar was elevated. I brought him back in so that the vet could check his urine on Thursday of this week. The vet examined him and he was alert and his coat was shiny, and his liver felt good (cats who have diabetes tend to be lethargic, have ratty-looking coats, and have enlarged livers), so she told me that she didn’t think he had diabetes.

Well, there was sugar in his urine. So we’re going to have to take him off the prednisone and put him on a new anti-inflammatory medication and also put him on insulin. There is a greater than 0% chance that the diabetes may to into remission, assuming that the diabetes was caused by the prednisone.

The new anti-inflammatory is likely to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 per month, and so will the insulin. This is going to eat into my travel budget. I will probably have to economize on lunches and such (looks like I’ll be making tea for my lunch for the foreseeable future) in hopes that I can keep both the travel and the cat. If it comes down to it, though, the travel will be the thing that has to give.

I may eventually give in and put some Google ads on this page or something, in hopes that I’ll get enough money from that to make up the difference. And this may be the thing that leads me to start promoting this blog.

On the other hand, perhaps this will drive me to curl up in the corner in a fetal position and just hide there for a while.

I am really conflicted about this one. Stone Mountain is really a lovely park, and the monumental sculpture on the face of the stone is very impressive, but the entire park (at least the two times I’ve been there) really does glorify the Confederacy, and the Confederacy is sort of the exact opposite of my political leanings.

The centerpiece of Stone Mountain is the stone itself, a quartz monadnock and is a natural landmark. And some of the sculpture on the face is the work of the same man who created Mount Rushmore. It is also the location where the current Ku Klux Klan was formed, back in 1915. But I didn’t know about this part when I developed my fondness for the park.

Okay, now I’m having a memory of something that happened on my now-ex’s and my 1992 Florida trip and I’m pretty sure it was at Stone Mountain. There was a bobcat in an enclosure of some sort and it was looking at something very intently. My now-ex and I followed the cat’s line of sight and saw a frog. The frog seemed to be twitching strangely and as we were puzzling it out, one of the workers there came by and pointed out that the frog’s leg was inside the mouth (and, of course, the, you know, esophagus and probably stomach) of a garter snake. The employee said that no one was going to win this one, the frog leg was too big for the snake to actually eat, and so he put his hand on the back of the snake’s head somehow, making it let go of the frog, which hopped off. Then the employee picked up the snake and handed it to my ex. We took turns holding it for a while and watched people reacting to us holding it. The best one was a family with a little girl and the girl wanted to stop to pet the snake. Her parents were horrified. If you’re still out there, little girl (you’d probably be in your mid-30s right now), you made a fantastic impression on us. You rock, as it were.

We did the laser light show at dusk both times I went to Stone Mountain and it was very “the South shall rise again,” and all, but I was very impressed with the way that they made the carvings on the mountain seem to actually move.

After the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, there was quite a bit of discussion of whether the South Carolina flag should still have the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia on it and whether that flag, or any other sign of pride in the Confederacy should be displayed on government property. And while I agree that they should be removed from governmental buildings where people have to go to do business (courthouses, the DMV, and so on), I get hung up on things like Stone Mountain, because it has actual artistic value. Aside from being the largest sculpture of its kind in the world (a title that it may someday lose), the initial carvings were done by Gutzon Borglum, who is famous for being the man who made the monument on Mount Rushmore. Those carvings were later erased, I guess, though I swear that I read something about how some of his carving is still there. I’ll publish this now, but come back and edit it later if I can ever find that reference.

As a result, I expanded my idea so that areas that have Confederate memorabilia that has genuine artistic and/or historical value can move them to a park or parks where those who want to see them can, but those who don’t want to see them can avoid them.

Sorry about the delay in posting. I’ve been opening that post on Stone Mountain and staring at it on a fairly regular basis, but I’m still not quite sure what to say. I think I’ll probably end up winging it.

In other news, my mouth finally doesn’t hurt (I had a little discomfort on the other side the other night and was all, “Oh, no. Not again!” but I have felt fine since then). I’m still waiting to see what, if anything, my insurance will pay for.

It looks like the Witte Museum is finally done. Alex and I went there today and I took lots of pictures. Expect an updated post on that soon-ish.

And I’ve passed the $100 mark on paying myself to study my foreign languages. I’ve actually passed the $125 mark and am heading for $130. It’s not enough to consider myself rich, yet, but I’ll get there. Eventually. Maybe.

Well, back to staring at that post some more . . . .

So apparently there was an abscess in my tooth, but it was too small to see on February 20 when I went to my regular dentist. A week later, when I went to the endodontist, it was clearly visible.

So, yesterday (March 2, 2017), I had a root canal. My mouth is still a little sore. It’s more or less like a bruise, where it only hurts when I bite down on it. I’m mostly treating it with ibuprofen and soft foods. It looks like it could hurt for another few days. Maybe a week.

Apparently, if you hurt before you get the root canal, it increases the possibility that you’ll have pain afterwards, because it takes a while for the area around the tooth to adjust to the new status quo.

I’m still going to be visiting parks and things while I convalesce because moderate exercise can help wounds heal faster and I have a doozy right now. Someone just scraped out the entire contents of my tooth and filled it with porcelain, after all.

Also, I’m out of eggs in Pokemon Go and I need to replenish my supply.