holiday

  • Hidden History: Slavery Struggle in the North & Brooklyn’s Underground Railroad

    Sure, we get a day off from work today- but we must learn to remember to focus on the reason. My guess is the most Americans take the day off for granted without acknowledging what the significance is of this particular national holiday for freedom and human rights. Today is dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and by pure coincidence, this week’s episode of the “ArchaeoVenturers Project” is about Brooklyn Heights and the Underground Railroad. The Abolitionist Movement was a precursor to the Civil Rights Movement, headed by Dr. King and an inspiration and platform for millions in America. 


    I wanted to have an episode about slavery in Brooklyn because just down the street from where I grew up in Brooklyn Heights, now known for its scenic and private views of Manhattan, is Plymouth Church, which is a National Historic Landmark on the National Register for Historic Places. According to the National Park Service, Plymouth Church, founded in 1847, was considered “one of the nation’s foremost centers of antislavery sentiment” in the late 19th century. I went there several times as a child on field trips, exploring the basement used in the Underground Railroad, seeing where Lincoln sat in the church pew, and I distinctly recall seeing a freedom ring that was given to a enslaved child (Plymouth’s website enlightens that the child’s name was ‘Pinky’ and the ring was given to her when her freedom was purchased by the congregation- Henry Ward Beecher declared “With this ring, I thee wed to freedom”). Also, as a result of visiting Plymouth church, I learned about Sojourner Truth, as she had been one of the famous abolitionist speakers featured. She was born into slavery, freed when New York State abolished slavery in 1827, and became an outspoken antislavery abolitionist and advocate for women’s rights. Her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech (recounted below) brought tears to my eyes as a child and although I can’t remember what grade, I performed her monologue several times in one year and ended up writing several middle school papers on women’s rights as a result of her influence.

    (As recounted by Frances Dana Gage, in 1863) Ain’t I a Woman?
    Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
    That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
    Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
    Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
    If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
    Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.

    Everybody thinks that because the North was against slavery, that everyone in the North was by default against slavery, but that wasn’t the case at all. Although New York citizens were legally obligated to manumit their slaves in 1827, many people found ways around the law, even by sending them back to plantations in the South, as many Brooklyn businesses had dealings invested in them. Also, despite the abolished slavery law, it was still illegal to harbor fugitives, hence the prominence but secrecy of the Underground Railroad. Brooklyn’s own harbor was used on the Railroad, as runaway slaves hiding on cargo ships made their way into Brooklyn, often through Plymouth Church, which was called “the Grand Depot” on the Underground Railroad. Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin) and founding preacher of Plymouth Church, was a tireless abolitionist, despite hate and featured such prominent speakers like Sojourner Truth, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass as part of his antislavery efforts at Plymouth. He was even outed as being a leader on the Brooklyn Underground Railroad by The Brooklyn Eagle in 1872, along with many others in his congregation. One of the most memorable actions of Beecher’s was that he would hold mock auctions at the churchyard, showcasing the horrifying aspects of slavery while he simultaneously urged parishioners to bid for the freedom of escaped slaves. President Lincoln himself worshipped at the church, just a day before his infamous speech declaring his antislavery ambitions that is said to have won him the nomination for the Republican presidential bid. 


    It’s quite cliche to state the obvious, but we must make a concentrated effort to not only engage in topics that make us squeamish as a nation on days where it’s appropriate, like today for example. We need to make it part of the national everyday conversation because there can be no healing or catharsis from ignorance and secrecy. The new Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture will ideally be a platform for these ongoing conversations, and be a safe place for reflection and interpretation. There is a new exhibition called “Brooklyn Abolitionists: In Pursuit of Freedom” at the Brooklyn Historical Society (running through winter 2018 so GO!) which explores a dark chapter in my home borough. There is so much to say about slavery in Brooklyn, and I hope to have more opportunities to highlight the courage and efforts of those involved in its abolition at future opportunities. 
    Highly recommended for further reading 
    – “Brooklyn’s Plymouth Church in the Civil War Era: A Ministry of Freedom” by Frank Decker
    – Plymouth Church Website (http://bit.ly/15qOogg)
    – 10 Stops on the Underground Railroad in NYC (http://bit.ly/1CHAMIs)
    – Slavery in Brooklyn (http://bit.ly/14YoaB7)
    – The King Center (http://bit.ly/19AAcCv)
    – Donate or Become a Member of the New Smithsonian Institution African American History and Culture (http://bit.ly/1DUT8cQ)
  • HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM ARCHAEOVENTURERS

    Greetings from the ArchaeoVenturers team! This holiday season, we wanted to share our own special holiday traditions from each of our families with you all! These past 3 months since launching #AVProject, we have gotten so much support and received all kinds of positive feedback from people trying to accomplish similar things in life, that we just wanted to say a resounding THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS! SEND IN YOUR holiday family traditions with us!
    The Digger:

    For so many of us, our most memorable Christmas traditions come as children. My sister and I would impatiently wait at the top of the stairs until mom and dad would get the camera ready to film our faces as we came down and saw what Santa had left. Waking up and waiting for what I am certain was forever, is one of those memories that stand out so clearly. But as I have gotten older and our traditions have evolved I find so much more solace in our recent memories. As kids it was all about the presents – but as adults it’s about the people. I am very fortunate that my family attendance at holidays has remained constant with all of my grandparents, all four of whom were born and raised in Canton just like my parents and myself. Waking up now means straight to the kitchen for a morning mimosa with mom and dad rather than making a mess opening presents. The activities change but the people have not, which is probably the best thing about Christmas. Even though I have broken the family chain of Canton-residency, returning home and having the same atmosphere and company to enjoy year after year is what has made the most important Christmas traditions for me – home is where the happiness is. 

    The Diver:
    I wanted to share a small special tradition that went on for years when I was a young child. My parents, although divorced, lived across the street from one another and this is a very special set of memories that I recall them working together on to make it believable. Every year for weeks leading up to Christmas, my parents would ask us what we wanted Santa to bring us so that they could give the message to our family elves. Now, since we had two homes, my dad’s apartment and my mom’s apartment both had their own set of twin elves (usually with alliterated names like Peter and Penelope) that collaborated with one another. At night, after being tucked in, we would pretend to be asleep and listen at the door for them on the phone. We would hear them secretly on the phone with the elves, telling them how good we had been (or naughty in some cases I’m sure) and what presents we wanted. Then, on Christmas morning, the elves and Santa always delivered. It truly wasn’t until many years later that I realized the ruse that had been played on us as kids, and yet it’s one of my fondest memories. This is one holiday tradition that I plan on continuing one day… 

    HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
    Katie & Justine
  • Happy New Years from ArchaeoVenturers!

    The year 2014 has been a blessing in so many ways for Katie and Justine — We launched ArchaeoVenturers, #AVProject, traveled together for the first time, and have received so much support and advice, both personally and professionally, which has meant the world to us. 2015 seems like it is shaping up to be a year of success, education, exploration, and discovery. We have so many new plans for next year, that it is killing us to keep it secret!! Please join The Digger and The Diver in 2015 and get ready for an adventure!! Thanks for getting dirty with us in 2014!

    Sending You All a Happy and Healthy New Year!!! 

    New Years Resolutions from the ArchaeoVenturers:

    The Digger:
    Like so many of us this year I will of course be making the obligatory “resolution” to get healthy, work out more, etc. But let’s be honest, we all just tell ourselves that to feel less guilty about the abundance of food we have eaten over the past few months. So, my resolution outside of the obligatory health quest, is to do something I must admit I’m not always good at — listen to the other side of an issue.

    As much as I seek to change things happening in the world, I have to learn to be able to change myself and grow first. I’ve always made it a point to view the world through the eyes of the people it concerns – embracing a non-ethnocentric perspective in any nation I go into. However, I have realized that i rarely apply that mentality to issues within my own country. I tend to take my political or social stances on an issue – and when I feel like I have taken what is deemed the “right” choice, I tend to ignore arguments to the contrary. For instance, I support same sex marriage, I believe that for true equality we all must have access to the same rights, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, color, or religion. As such, I tend to ignore the nay sayers, this day in age those still vehemently against same sex marriage are likely not to change their minds, so I have always assumed I shouldn’t bother. But right or wrong, ignoring the other side of any argument only stunts your ability to uphold your view even against the most ignorant of nay sayers. Aristotle once said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Therefore, good or bad, I will be making a much greater effort this year to entertain the other side of any issues I choose to take a stand on – social, political, or scientific.

    The Diver:
    For this new year of 2015, I would really like to appreciate and understand the fundamentals of life more… if that makes any sense. I feel like the last few years, I have put other obligations ahead enjoying the fruits of my labors, having a life outside of work, making time for my friends and family, not checking my email every five minutes as if the world will crash around me if I make someone wait for a response. There are so many little things that I seem to take for granted that I think I will have time to enjoy later on, but I hope that this year, I don’t allow that to happen. When I travel, generally there tends to not be this ‘grind’ that people live by, and it is truly admirable in a sense. I believe we should all work hard and push towards our goals for family, career, etc.. but I think in this new year, I would like to make an effort to ‘stop to smell the roses’.

  • Global ArchaeoVentures: The Diver Travels to Cambodia: Chapter Three

    Chapter 3 of “An ArchaeoVenture in Cambodia” begins just after our lunch stop with our guide, Mr. Raty. There were three distinct places that we visited after Angkor Wat that morning, in the order of Ta Prohm, Bayon Temple, and Phnom Bakheng:

    • Ta Prohm (1186 CE): Originally named, Rajavihara (Royal Temple), is one of the most visited temples in the religious complexes, most likely for its unique look of ruined beauty mixed with invasive natural elements (in this case, ever expanding jungle trees that thrive amidst the native temple architecture and encapsulate the historic remains). The word “Ta” means ancestors and “Prohm” originates from Brahma, Hindu god of creation. As an ode to inaccurate archaeological depictions, which Katie and I talk about in the #AVProject (), I must not forget to mention that the famous Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie was filmed here, one of the only Cambodian sites depicted with accuracy in the movie- and I must have heard at least 30 different tourists mention it in the hour we wandered around. Our guide said that after the movie came out, there was certainly a larger influx of questions about the temple’s role in the movie, how it was filmed, if Angelina Jolie had been there, etc…, and that many of these questions were still asked today. Because Ta Prohm’s beauty literally lays in ruin, there is a major restoration project being undertaken all over the UNESCO World Heritage Site, as you can see in the video. This restorative conservation is a partnership project of the Archaeological Survey of India and the APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap) that has been ongoing since 2004. It is said to be a difficult task as the teams are avoiding vegetation removal, which is used to illustrate “how the trees and the complex coexist.” Oddly enough, Ta Prohm has also been at the center of creationist/evolutionary debate in recent years as a ‘stegosaurus’ has been discovered (see below image) amongst the depictions- judge for yourself! 
    Mr. Raty with Hannah & Me at Ta Prohm
    Jungle Overtaking Temple
    Stegosaurus? Rhino? Boar? Heffelump? 
    Restoration
    Temples for Days
    • Bayon Temple (dating from the 12th century CE): Bayon was the very center of Angkor Thom (Big City), which was the capital built by King Jayavarman VII. It’s position is the manifestation of the intersection between heaven and earth. The many faces of Buddha is how I recall this temple site- Mr. Raty said there are over 2000 large faces carved on the 54 towers! He mentioned that many people point out that the Buddha’s look as though they are smiling and that some have made comparisons to the Mona Lisa’s cryptic smile. There is a tourist stop here that no matter how hard thou doth protest, you must take a rubbing/kissing nose photo with this one Buddha, reminiscent of those timed photos taken at the leaning Tower of Pisa. Between 1995-2001, UNESCO and the Japanese Government Team for the Safeguarding of Angkor (JSA) conducted an extensive research and conservation project at this temple. The World Bank warns that Bayon, and other temple towers, are sinking into their sandy foundations as the hospitality industry drains underground water reservoirs- something to seriously consider as a foreign visitor.
    ‘Smile of Angkor’
    Perfect Positioning
    Hannah & I Trying to Read One of the Bas-Reliefs
    Bayon Central Tower

    View of Heaven & Earth
    • Phnom Bakheng (Built at the end of the 9th century): Known as “sunset on the hill,” this is where to be when the day comes to a close- and you know you’re in the right spot as suddenly hundreds upon hundreds of people have the very same interest in watching dusk fall from the top of the temple mountain. And it’s certainly a hike up, and at the top you realize why- it has an unrivaled view of the valley of Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples. I’ve never seen more selfie sticks in my life until that moment waiting for the sunset- so many selfies to be had in the twilight of evening (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em)…. However this popularity comes at a steep price: the World Monuments Fund puts Phnom Bakheng is one of the most endangered of all the complexes. More than 3,000 tourists push their way to the top, up the narrow stone staircases every single evening (myself and friends included).
    Clambering for Elbow-Room at the Top 
    The Art of Squeezing Into Tight Spaces
    What did I say? #sunsetselfie
    At Dusk
    A huge bonus at the end of our time in Siem Reap, was that I was able to take a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the temple complexes (although that morning the wind had a different plan in mind). While we were supposed to go over Angkor Wat, we ended up flying over several other smaller temples on the way, and after over an hour in the air, we overshot our landing site three times because of tall trees. While we flew over many little villages, the children and adults would yell from below (even before the sun was up) and our handlers would give us handfuls of candy to toss overboard. I still have mixed feelings about this because it seems like a very unnecessary practice to feed into, but then, what do I know anyway- when we finally landed in a random rice paddy field (complete with ankle-deep water and fire ants!), all those nearby children ran up begging for candy but then all whipped out their smartphones to take pictures of the balloon that many were claiming to never have seen before. Moral of the story- hot air balloons are always worth it, despite wet pants and bug bites on your toes…
    Unknown Temple From the Air
    Unknown Temple Being Restored From the Air
    Giant Hot Air Balloon on the Exodus Across the Rice Paddy
    NEXT UP VIETNAM MONTAGE!! 
    Please stay tuned for Chapter 4 and Final in “Global ArchaeoVentures: The Diver Travels to Vietnam” also known as “An ArchaeoVenture to Vietnam” where a montage of travel and scuba dive footage await.
    Check out “An ArchaeoVenture to Cambodia: Chapter Three” on YouTube

    WATCH AGAIN:
    An ArchaeoVenture to Cambodia: Chapter 1 on YouTube
    An ArchaeoVenture to Cambodia: Chapter 2 on YouTube
    An ArchaeoVenture to Vietnam: Chapter 4 on YouTube

    Further Reading:
  • Global ArchaeoVentures: The Diver Travels to Vietnam: Chapter Four

    “We come to it at last, the great battle of our time.” – Gandalf the White

    I’m hoping that most of you just read that line in Ian McKellan’s voice but regardless, we do come to the end of the first installment of the “Global ArchaeoVentures” series. At this point, my travel companions have expanded to include 4 additional people for our beginning adventures in Vietnam!
    Vietnam started off slow as our journey out of Phnom Penh, Cambodia turned from an anticipated 4 hour journey into a delayed 6 hour journey, resulting in our missing the one(!) afternoon ferry from Ha Tien (a border town in Vietnam), thus having to spend Christmas Eve in an unplanned location. When you’re with beloved friends, you can even make a $12/night hotel a special holiday experience (the iced coffee really does make a huge difference)! We did end up making the early ferry which is delightfully called the Superdong VI (FYI Vietnamese money is called Dong), to Phu Quoc Island in south Vietnam.

    Bus/Sardine Ride to Ha Tien from Phnom Penh 
    The Fastest Speedboat in Southern Vietnam
    Sweet Condensed Milk and Coffee w/ Glass of Ice
    Deck the Halls w/ Boughs of Holly

    The style of this video is less interview-esque and more of a footage montage, owing to the fact that Vietnam had more of a vacation-feel, whereas at Angkor, everywhere I looked my archaeological radar went crazy.  I think you’ll gather from the video what I thought was most apparent about this small island in the south, known for its tourism and pearl industries, which is that there is this sharp contrast between the rapidly growing infrastructure and a traditional Vietnamese landscape. If you watch the footage of us just riding the motorbikes around the island, you already see a marked difference between what Cambodia looked like on that original drive in from the capital to Siem Reap. But on Phu Quoc itself, which has a booming tourist industry, you can see the remnants of what old Phu Quoc looks like, and then you see the amazing amount of road building going on all across the island. When I went scuba diving (which you can see footage from at the end of the video), my dive buddy who worked with Rainbow Divers, told me that there had been a 50% increase in hotel and road building in the last year alone! I don’t know how accurate that figure is, but it isn’t hard to see in the roadside landscapes, with new half-built roads and lots the size of a supersize Walmart complex. The problem it seems, and I know that Katie and I are going to do a further in-depth ArchaeoVenturers #AVProject episode on it, is the lack of communication and awareness between the local people and those invested in the tourist industry. Nothing is more apparent then on the beaches all around the island- in front of the resorts, perfect white sand beaches, but step 25ft to either side of the resort beach, and the whole beachfront is covered in trash, to the point where it’s impossible to walk sometimes. I’ll leave this discussion to our planned episode, but it is noteworthy to point out that I heard one of the scuba instructors also say that the dive industry in Phu Quoc could be easily gone within 10-15 years because of the serious overfishing problem, dying coral reefs, and unparalleled trash buildup- and if the dive industry goes, a serious chunk of foreign tourism goes with it…

    Did I Mention Vacation?
    Para-para-paradise
    Tranquility 

    You will also see in bits throughout the montage, is when we landed in Ho Chi Minh City, and visited the Cu Chi Tunnels outside town. I have to be honest here, I had very mixed feelings going into this and even more so on the other end. The Cu Chi Tunnels were an elaborate network of underground tunnels used during the Vietnam War by the Viet Cong. These were used for hiding, living, and guerrilla warfare, which is unfathomable if you realize how small they actually are, and how they’ve been widened for tourists (I barely fit and I’m only 5’3″!). I didn’t add more of the footage beyond my going into the tunnels, which they let you do at the end of the tour after they let you fire AK-47s at a makeshift gun range, and I really could say it’s the closest I’ve come to feeling like I was in an archaeological tomb in Egypt (I also felt that way in the Catacombs in Paris). It was very scary to realize that people lived and died in those tunnels, but at the same time, the entire tour consisted of basically bragging rights about all the ways they managed to kill Americans during the war. Not making this a political statement, but I came out feeling very queasy and eager to depart for the nighttime bars in the backpacking district of Ho Chi Minh.

    Descending into the Cu Chi Tunnels
    Hideout Spot
    Torture Traps Used During Vietnam War

     Lastly, and I already mentioned it, but you’ll see some footage from my two scuba dives with Rainbow Divers on Phu Quoc in the northern part of the island. I am told there aren’t any shipwrecks close enough to dive on with tourists, so that was slightly disappointing but I find it hard to be somewhere now and not take the opportunity to dive. The visibility wasn’t up to what I am used to, having most of my dives in the FL keys (and I know, my friends in the Gulf will laugh at me) but what was most apparent again was the lack of significant sea life- that, and also somehow in 15ft of water, my GoPro bit the dust. I managed to salvage the memory card but what a devastating (and pathetic) end to an illustrious camera companion *bows head*…

    Bright and Early on Dive Boat!
    That Leisure Boat Life Though
    Cutting Sea Urchins for Scuba Lunch Break
    Rice Fail

    Check out An ArchaeoVenture to Vietnam: Chapter 4 on YouTube

    THANK YOU FOR STICKING AROUND FOR ALL FOUR CHAPTERS OF “An ArchaeoVenture to Southeast Asia” with me, The Diver of ArchaeoVenturers!
    WATCH AGAIN:
    An ArchaeoVenture to Cambodia: Chapter 1 on YouTube
    An ArchaeoVenture to Cambodia: Chapter 2 on YouTube
    An ArchaeoVenture to Cambodia: Chapter 3 on YouTube

    THANKS FOR GETTING DIRTY WITH US! 

    Leaving On a Jet Plane!
    Grizzly Bears Are My Life- What?!
    Further Reading:

    CNNGo in Ho Chi Minh City: From secret wartime hideouts to vintage Vespas

    Hidden tunnels of the Vietnam War