October 8, 2006

Rara Avis

The dictionary defines a phenomenon as something that can be percieved by the senses, something unusual or inspiring. The word carries a slightly different connotation for me.
My younger sister, Tracie, is autistic.
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She is 17, has brown hair, brown eyes, and tan skin most of the year. She is also about 5'3" and 110 lbs.
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Her body functions just like an average person's body. The systems are all the same: muscular, endocrine, digestive, skeletal, etc. The only difference between my sister and the average person is the structure of her brain. All of the other frameworks that make up the human physique are normal.
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Every day with Tracie is like a clockwork. Since she's autistic her environment needs to be static. Every morning she has to wake up at the same time, eat the same foods at the same times, and participate in the same activities at the same times. Her schedule is invariant. Any deviation would cause confusion for her and she would get upset. Said confusion might even cause seizures. Every day and every event in her life is a framework fixed in an invariant cycle. Therefore her lifestyle is a clockwork.
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I believe that the things that my sister is capable of doing with her mental disability make her a walking phenomena. When she was younger the doctors told my parents that there was nothing that could be done for her mild to severe autism. They said that we would always have to feed her, help her walk, and never know what she wanted; the claimed that she would never gain any independence. Now she can feed herself without any assitance at all. Tracie can walk independently, load the dishwasher, even put DVDs in the DVD player and hit the play button. She can ask when she wants something and even convey her feelings with simple verbal communication. Though her world is completely uniform, she manages to make progress in her communication and motor skills. She is a phenomenon.

October 3, 2006

Seclusion

My favorite part of this campus is probably the Mississippi River. A while back, I took my camera and my bike out for a little spin, hoping to capture some of the beauty in the area. I rode my bike up and down the East River Parkway, wet my feet in the river, and even followed some small rodents into the woods on slightly worn paths. When I got to the Westbank, however, I found a little enclave next to the bike path. It seemed completely intentional-- there was a set of stairs leading down to it and a little slab of concrete were a bench might have been.
Another set of stairs led down further and then the path just stopped-- cut off by branches and bushes.
The whole area was beautiful in an odd, morbid sense. There was graffiti on the once white walls and plants had begun to take over the area.
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September 25, 2006

The Peace House

A few weeks ago my sculpture class took a fieldtrip to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. We all piled into cars and hoped that the classmate driving wouldn't get us lost. On the way there, I noticed a little building with a colorful mural on the side of it. It said "Peace House" on the front.
The mural had made m curious so I checked it out on the net later. Apparently the Peace House is a building for anyone to go to who needs help.
They serve a free lunch and offer discussion groups to help people talk through their problems.
I really think that a place like this is a good way to help the community. Not only are the people in the Peace House helping those in need physically, they are helping them mentally and spiritually.
It is only when we try to help a person as a whole rather than as a corpse (which is what they are if you ignore the mind and the soul) that we can really make a difference.
Instead of just putting a roof over the heads and food in the mouths of the needy, the Peace House is nourising the minds of the impoverished with intelligent discussion; the workers are helping the people to learn how to shelter themselves by educating them and teaching them to stand up for their beliefs.

Food and Monetary donations can be sent to:
Peace House
510 E. Franklin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55404

September 19, 2006

Midtown Market

As a native of a small town in Wisconsin, I hadn't gotten much exposure to different cultures before I came to the Twin Cities. One of the reasons I came here was so that I could experience different cultures and ways of life through both direct and indirect means. I was pretty excited when I was told that I had to go to a place like the Midtown Market.

There was a sense of continual motion in the Market. The torrents of people, in addition to the various banners and flags hanging all over the place, created a flow that was hard to break away from. This flow of energy brought each person past the different cultures/booths at a pace slow enough for them to take them in as separate entities; however, the pace was also quick enough that each booth seemed to meld into the next, creating a continuity and a sense of unity within the entire complex. Once you step out of the flow of people the energy created by it is still evident. You can still hear the chatter of the individuals walking by, but it's a bit subdued as your concentration shifts to each individual booth. You feel separated from, yet connected to, the people outside.

The general atmosphere in the Market was one of unity and friendship. Everyone that I encountered was cheerful and friendly. Everyone was open to the experience and the people involved. Friendly chatter filled the air and music drifted in and out of the booths.
The vibrant colors made me wish I had brought a sketchbook or a camera along.
I also wish that I would have brought more money so that I could have sampled more of the foods and wares offered at the Market.
I look forward to going there again some time in the future.