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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Seeing White in Greenland

I won first place in a Flickr photo contest with this image today.

I took this photo a few years ago while on the way home from Iceland. The captain announced that we were flying over Greenland, but the view out my window was a vast sea of white.

Amazingly, the small islands peaking out above the snow and ice are mountains that reach 10,000 feet in altitude (the highest peak at 12,139 feet is Mount Gunnbjorn). At it's thickest point, the snow and ice covering the country is almost two miles deep.

Three years ago, Air Greenland launched the first-ever commercial flights from the United States from Baltimore, but the route proved too unprofitable. However, the number of visitors who are attracted to stunning icebergs, glaciers and wide open spaces have doubled since 2002.

But visit before it's too late. Scientists report that melting of the ice sheet has accelerated nearly 16 percent since 1979 due to Global Warming. That equals to nearly 50 miles of ice per year.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Coke Conspiracy

The hot topic on my most recent Continental flights was, believe it or not, Coke Zero.

I happened to spy one on the drink cart as it came down the aisle of the Embraer Jet. The flight attendant told me that thee cart is stocked with only one can per flight. On my return flight, another flight attendant said some Embraer jets have TWO whole cans. The way to tell, she said: look for the curved wing tip out the window. That means the plane has a bigger galley and thus room for two drink carts.

So, on your next flight, realize that you have more beverage options, but if you want a Coke Zero, you may have to fight for it, especially now that the secret is out. Continental has advertised that it offers Coke Zero on its napkins (as Lucky shows us on the One Mile at a Time blog) and the caper of the Coke Zero can even has its own topic over at FlyerTalk.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A glimpse of pueblo culture on Three King's Day

Many of the 19 Native American pueblos in the state of New Mexico welcome visitors (with some restrictions) to witness everyday pueblo life and even special ceremonies. Three King's Day, which falls each year on January 6, is also know as the Feast of the Epiphany, the traditional Catholic celebration of the three wise men's visit to the baby Jesus. The pueblos use the holiday to inaugurate newly elected officials.

I was fortunate enough to witness the Buffalo Dance at Taos Pueblo, which is part of their Three King's Day celebration. The only pueblo listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Taos has a well-preserved multi-story village, which looks much the same as it has for hundreds of years. With the sound of beating drums and chanting, watching a traditional ceremony, like the Buffalo Dance, transports spectators back through the centuries.

A processional of drummers, dancers and chiefs made their way through the village, stopping to perform in front of residents' homes. As dancers approaches, the pueblo's women would call out in a very high-pitched trill. It was an awesome sound when heard in unison from different spots around me.

Cameras are not permitted at the event, so I had to pay close attention to the details. Most of the male dancers wore entire Buffalo heads (cured and used throughout the participant's lifetime). They wore a variety of kilts adorned with a red sash that depicted a mountain and sun. Their bodies were covered in a sacred red clay, as well as white blotches (as if someone shot them with paintballs). Among the approximately 50 dancers, there were three men dressed in deer pelts with canes in each hand to represent the legs of the animal. While the buffalo dancers spun around them, the deer dancers stood almost motionless except for a slight bobbing of the head to the beat of the drum.

I only wish I could describe the significance of the event, but it's considered sacred and only the Taos puebloans know the true meaning of the celebration. While I'd like to know more, I am happy to have been able to seen it.