…Well, not Manhattan, Kansas as I thought. It’s Merriam Kansas, and more specifically Shawnee, Kansas. Shawnee is the name for the tribe of indigenous people who used to live here before it was overrun with European settlements (signs are everywhere indicating where this “pioneer” or that “pioneer” once crossed here–hmmm…sound familiar? This language of the “pioneer” is the same settler-colonial language used by the Jews who colonized Palestine), strip malls, and people who find it necessary to build their communities so that they have to drive everywhere. We have a day off today so Paul and I decided to take a walk to a cafe where we imagined we could drink some coffee, have a snack, and do some work for a while. The closest spot was a two mile walk away. On our way there we were given the finger by drivers by at least three times (perhaps my End the Occupation t-shirt was what led to this neighborly gesture). We kept thinking that if we were in some small village in Lebanon everyone would have been pulling over, asking us if we were okay, if we needed a ride or directions, and would have given us plenty of tea or coffee to drink. No one was on the street (okay, we counted ten people) walking around and shops and things were seemingly deserted. We did find one particularly disturbing sight along the way:
I’ve never seen something so strange in my life. In small town America it is apparently important to have a Red Cross flag over a doll store and an ambulance to fix broken dolls. Odd.
We escaped this downtown Shawnee area and tried to find a bus. It turns out that the buses only run at night. We called a taxi company. They told us they have no cars. So we walked a bit until we got to a mall. Huge shock. We went inside to get some juice and then called Bill to rescue us with the Wheels of Justice bus.
Truth be told yesterday was far better when we were actually speaking. We went to a local Methodist Church and spoke in between services. The church took the old historic part of the church with beautiful stained glass windows and made it into a coffee bar, which was beautiful.
The crowd was not as lively as the previous night, but it was larger and people listened attentively. Afterwards I got one question that was a bit odd, though I suppose expected given our context. An elderly man asked me about the Israelites. Either his context is entirely biblical and he doesn’t understand that the Jews who colonized Palestine are not in any way related to the Israelites in the Bible or he’s attended the local political science classes here where Palestinians are referred to as the biblical Philistines by at least one university professor. Most of the audience seemed interested and took the informational materials from us at the conclusion of the lecture.
We spent the time after church getting lost yet again, this time trying to find a Kinkos to copy some more flyers. One would think that this would be ubiquitous in suburban Amrika, but it’s not. We finally found one, but after staring at the Kansas map for hours I realized that we’re not far from Leavenworth Federal Prison where political prisoner Leonard Peltier has spent most of his prison sentence. I think he is in Terre Haute, Indiana now, but I find it interesting as my students are watching the film Incident at Oglala this week while I’m gone.
So…all of this would have been posted earlier but I had to have one last adventure on the bus. My computer keyboard decided to die today. Thankfully, in nearby Missouri there was a Mac store where I could diagnose the problem (though not enough time to fix it…) and get a new keyboard which resolves the situation for the time being. I have to say that this yuppie-ville place where the Apple store is seemed quite different than everything out here. The architecture was Moorish with some really beautiful mosaic patterns and gardens in between the different sides of the road.
So one last bit here before we take off for South Dakota tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully there will be no more mishaps along the way.