Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Maira's NMAI diary entry

News about a trip to the American Indian museum made our class happy. I met my classmates at the museum. I got on the metro alone and changed trains at Metro Center. As I waited for another train, I asked an American family with children what metro station I needed to get off at for the American Indian museum. They explained everything for me. It took half an hour to get there. What did I see during the metro ride? I usually read or do exercises in my grammar book, but for a while I looked at the people in the train. They are different and interesting, I remember nobody on that train, except for the American father with teenage sons, and he was kind and polite. The walk to the museum was shot, but windy after two blocks I could see an unusual building.

The building of the museum is a real gift from modern American citizens to the American Indians. The architecture is majestic and beautiful. I liked the walls like old natural rocks, they were undulating and beige, my favorite color. People called the building The People Way. It is true, it looks like the uneven rough way of people through life. Probably, this is the beginning of the history of a big country today and their principles, many of them came from American Indians, such the preservation of the environment and freedom.

We went to the fourth floor, looked at exhibits, and wrote something; Kim took pictures. My first impression from seeing the inside of the museum was a giant quiet area to relax in. I saw people sitting there around a long ancient wood boat. However, I was late and hurried to the fourth floor to learn about the Mapuche. I visited their exhibit in “Our Universes.” The Mapuche live in small communities in southern Chile. Their lives are guided by spiritual leaders, called machis, and political leaders, called longkos. They struggle to keep their traditional lands and culture. The Mapuche are healers, spiritiual leaders, counselors and servants of their communities. They do not choose their calling; it comes to them in dreams. They are mediators between gods and people, ancestors and the living, sickness and health. Their language is Mapudungun, which means “speech of the land.” I saw objects for rituals: male belts, masks, dolls, blankets, pitchers, cups, bowls and medical plants such as wild cinnamon, laurel and bamboo. Machis play kultrura (drums) during many rituals. There are many lines. Each line has a special meaning like south, north, east, west. The lines intersect in the center, where the Mapuche live. Their basic belief is positive events come from the south and negative events come from the north.

After lunch I went to the third floor, where I watched a short documentary film about the life of modern American Indians. They use new tools to move and to catch fish. They live in small houses. An old man told about difficulties, social and political states, and the climate in the north.
In the Mitsitam Café, we enjoyed Indian national food. There were a lot of new names of dishes, so it was difficult to choose something to eat. I bought the nation fry bread, which looks like Kazak bread and a salad from wild rice with vegetable oil. All of us sat together at one table: Nina, Ozgecan, Eman, Boram, Nary, Lun, Ali and I. I noticed water falling from upstairs through a window, but at that moment I didn’t think of the museum’s landscaping.

After the museum visit, I decided to take a bus to see the downtown through the bus window. I still can be disoriented in the city. It took one hour to get home. I was sleepy and tired, but I was happy have discovered a new interesting place in Washington and to learn so much about American Indian. I had a really good time with my teachers and classmates.

Hello Maira, what a wonderful long narration of your day at the American Indian Museum. I loved the way you described the atmosphere when you were riding the train and how you focused on people around you. Wonderful descriptions. I also appreciated the information on the Mapuche from Chile. I had never heard of them before. I am glad your field trip was such a successful event and hope to read more about other trips in your future.
Warm regards from an EFL teacher in Caracas, Berta ;-)
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