Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pool Pals to Pen Pals

Today the Komatke center was steady. The community is on spring break and most of the families have better things to do than to come to be seen in the clinic. We have seen a steady decline in the number of patients while the acuity has gone up. The population is presenting with more severe health problems to a clinic with no lab, radiology or other diagnostic capabilities. It has made for an interesting process of shipping the sicker people to nearby emergency departments. The surrounding health care services have been accommodating in taking patients.

At home we celebrated St. Patrick's Day with corned beef and cabbage, soda bread, and Guiness druaght. Shane decided to try a taste of the draught. He tilted the bottle several times, each time leaning the bottle a little deeper until a molecule of beer grazed his tongue. He quickly set the beer down and grabbed his milk to clear the taste from his mouth. His facial expressions revealed a strong dislike of the heavy brew. Thanks to cousin Sally for sharing the recipes. I was able to take some corned beef and cabbage into work and share it with some of the other employees who had never tried corned beef and cabbage. They really enjoyed the meal remarking they liked the flavor of the cabbage but had to add chili pepper flakes to bring it up to their tastes. It was an extreme change from the chicken in mole sauce they had shared with me the week before.

The children have made some new friends at the pool. The temperature topping 90 degrees over the past few days had drawn out several of the children in the apartment complex. It looks like each of our children has a counterpart his or her size except Savannah. She plays with all of them often creating games and mischief and directing the action. The pool is a popular place. We have exchanged addresses in hopes to have future pen pals for the kids to write to.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Back to the 70's

I went to the grocery store after work today to get some essentials and fixings for corned beef and cabbage. Traci has promised to prepare the traditional Irish dish in celebration of the holiday St. Patrick presides over. Traci's dad will usually make corned beef and cabbage and he may still this year but he is in Illinois and we are in Phoenix. He does a fine corned beef and cabbage.

My first day back to work after a three day weekend was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It is the middle of the month, the native community is on spring break and business at the clinic was steady. I have begun saying prolonged good bye's realizing I only have nine days left here. The Komatke center is my new work home and some of their employees worked down in Ak Chin with me. Komatke is the Tohona O'Odem word for mountain. The building is 90,000 square feet of health care provision. All of the services have not come on line as the community waits for the budget to come through from the federal government. No one is holding their breath.

Our trip home from Sedona was a little less exciting. We knew we were sending our good friend home the next day, we were all tired, there were too many hours in the car after traffic and missed navigation points.

We woke Saturday to a blue sky only littered with white puffy clouds. The town was having their St Patrick's Day parade directing all the foot traffic across the town away from the business district for the morning. We took advantage of the emptied out streets to shop around for healing crystals, t-shirts and ice cream. We had a nice lunch at a little ice cream/coffee/diner counter. The kids ate an eighth of a giant hot dog burrowed into a small loaf of bread. We promised ice cream after a hike so we headed off to find a hike worthy of our Saturday.

I pulled off the road near a bridge spanning the oak creek canyon. We stepped out walked around the trail and snapped off a few pictures. It was beautiful weather.
After taking two steps on the trail the kids began a relentless campaign for the promised treat and we wound our way back to town for some ice cream.

We piled back into the car and trailed off to I 17 south toward Phoenix. We drove through a little rain, up and down mountains and made a detour into an urban experiment known as Arcosanti.

I have no business remarking on Arcosanti because I don't understand it. A dusty two and a half mile gravel road leads out to a concrete structure off the interstate. There is a visitor's center and a tour. We approached the concrete structure housing the visitors center while two women were heading toward the parking lot. They stopped and gushed how wonderful the tour was, how it was definitely worth the money, ten dollars. We resolved investigate finding the next tour was an hour away. We dawdled in the visitors center, reading the posters and eyeing the crafts without fully understanding what the experiment was all about.

The few facts I took away was the area was designed for communal living within a self sustaining fabricated environment, greenhouses to provide food, solar panels for electricity.
The project ran out of funds somewhere in the seventies and was left in a state of half finished limbo. People reside there today. I can't tell you what they do or provide for themselves. I don't know why the buildings are nearly all half domes. The tour may have helped explain some of this but the next one didn't start for another hour, we had three tired hungry grown ups and three curious energetic children who had recently spent two hours strapped to a leather seat inside the van. We couldn't guarantee any one's safety or sanity for a full hour. The tour then lasted an hour putting us back in Phoenix later than we wanted to be. We walked out onto a visitors path and found ourselves in the middle of the complex where we were gently redirected, due to liability (something anyone from Madison County Illinois understands and appreciates with a finer distinction), to the exit.

The gentleman who designed the space still lives in Phoenix and visits his creation several times a year. See for yourself

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Red Rock

I feel a little tired and swollen today. We finished off some Chinese food last night and the sodium content has left its fair share of water retention. The food is great, we get it from a chain that is a spin off of another more expensive chain with really tasty but expensive dining. The spin is the smaller chain has a smaller price tag in the menu, this works well for us.

I'm tired from the run we took up I-17 to Sedona with our dear friend Colleen. She was full of information from our little hometown in Illinois. It was just nice to see her again and spend some time together. She didn't even mind our crazy little voyage into Sedona.

The trip started with a late arrival Thursday night. We woke early Friday, Colleen being two hours behind on her circadian clock woke around 5 a.m., and we made ready for a weekend in red rock country. The children were relatively cooperative, being excited to visit Sedona again. We packed the car, headed straight to a big retail store and bought batteries for the wireless headphones in the car.

The wireless headphones allow the children to watch TV or listen to their DVD while the grown ups chatter with a reckless abandon. This has bothered me a little, our reliance on digital media to soothe the monotony of long distance travel. I still believe there may be a lesson in patience or tolerance or mind numbness in forcing children to occupy their minds while having a small physical space to operate in with an ever changing scene flashing past their windows. We will turn off the various electronics here and there if the scenery outdoors changes and four seconds into this exercise they have each other crying, kicking, slapping, and sometimes spitting. The crux of this problem is when the children have their attention on their various media Traci and I can have a conversation, real uninterrupted conversation. This opportunity rarely arises, where we can talk with minimal interruption. The kids are quieter, we can converse and the trip becomes more enjoyable for the grown ups. If there was a lesson in long strapped down car rides without electronic devices my children have missed it. A trade off I have to accept.

Our first destination was Montezuma's Castle. Sophia immediately asked if a princess would be serving us lunch. We offered a native princess may have once lived in the castle but today there would not be a meal with royalty. The castle is a 600 year old ruin built into the side of a cliff. The cliff overlooks a stand of sycamore trees leading into the beaver creek. The ruins are designated a national monument with an interpretive trail and visitor's center.

The temperature was around mid 60's with white puffy clouds dotting a blue sky over head. The pale bark of the sycamores brightened the area while the rush of water in the nearby stream provided a calming soundtrack.

We piled back into the car and drove to the corner lot where a member of the Yavapai Nation was selling fry bread. He patted the dough and threw it onto the hot oil with white smoke from the frying dough surrounded his head. He put them on paper plates, one covered with powdered sugar and two with cinnamon and sugar. We started back out onto the highway eating the warm fry bread before it could cool.

We came into Sedona greeted by a long stretch of slow moving cars backed up in road construction. The slowed pace of travel built gave us time to admire the red spires of rock towering in the distance with dark dripping clouds moving toward our location. Our last trip to Sedona had been cut short due to rain and it appeared Sedona was going to be equally cruel on this day. The rain slowly marched our direction. Colleen pointed out most of the clouds were producing rain but the rain wasn't reaching the lower parts of the atmosphere. We snailed into our hotel parking lot and unloaded under ever clouding skies. We made our way into uptown Sedona via the free trolley service and ate some BBQ for lunch all under the threat of rain.

We loaded up provisions left the hotel and found a hiking trail behind the hotel. The birds were becoming more active with hummingbirds, cactus wren, hawks, buzzards and something resembling a dark cardinal visiting us along the path.

Another path resident paid close attention to Savannah as she was apparently threatening its survival. Savannah wore a pair of capri jeans covering her legs to just below her knees. During one of her trail antics, either waving her arms in the air like a gangsta rapper or twirling around chasing her brother she happened to back into something that had been weilding its own natural defenses. She yelped, hopped, and started a new dance with arms waving. This dance had no urban hip hop flair. This dance stated urgent need for intervention as her previous laughter was replaced with cries of "get it out" and a slightly fear and tear tinged "Oh No. Oh No!!" She was grabbing her leg at the calf. Closer inspection proved several cactus needles had warded off her potential attack on a nearby prickly pear cactus. The prickly pear had stood its ground while Savannah had images of her foot becoming gangrenous and falling off. She had confused the needles of the prickly pear with the spines of a mesquite tree. Our horse riding guide had gruesomely described a the ability of the mesquite tree's spine to produce an oil which allows it to slip deeper into the dermis the longer it is left in the skin. The combination of the burrowing spine and the oils sets the stage for gangrene and possible amputation. Savannah's fear was rooted in these images of a gangrenous leg falling off below the knee. Traci applied first aid with a couple of band aids covering the wounds. We reassured Savannah her leg would be intact and pressed on.

We met three dogs, Lochi, Blanca, and Zoey, their owners happily trekking through the forest. Lochi and Zoey's owner advised us we could venture over and climb onto the lower levels of one of the nearby rocks so we directed off trail toward this intention. The children had decided they had seen enough of the trail and wanted to return to the hotel to swim. Their feet were sore, they were tired and the only cure for their ailments was a romp in the hotel pool.

The red rock tower was easy to climb on offering panoramic views of the surrounding area. The looming grey clouds held back their rain even parting at times to allow the sun to sneak through. The previously trail weary children found new strength and stamina on top of the rock, running, climbing, jumping and giggling. Their sore feet found new purpose in exploring this alien terrain. The adults enjoyed the view and adventure. Resuming the trail back to the hotel meant resuming little cries of "my feet hurt" and "when will we get there?" No rain fell and the hike was nice.

We rounded out the trip the next day with some driving , hiking and shopping. We came back to Phoenix to see Colleen off on Sunday. I hope running her all over during her brief stay doesn't scare her off from future visits. We really enjoyed having her visit