Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Marvelousness of Madison

 Sun sets on a beautiful summer evening
at the UW Memorial Union Terrace
It's the perfect place to have a beer and a brat
and mix with all ages while listening to live music.

 I thought I would devote one post to describing what life in Madison, Wisconsin is like because I enjoyed myself so deeply there during my 10 months back in the States.  Madison, Wisconsin has everything I personally need to be happy. Sharing what I find valuable in the States shows what I also value when I travel. Here is some of what made my time there so fantastic.
 I lived on Lake Wingra
A quiet undeveloped lake
Adjacent to the Arboretum
 The Kayak & Boat Rental Dock
At Lake Wingra
 Soaking up sunshine on the dock
 The gorgeous Wisconsin
State Capitol
The Saturday Farmer's Market
is consistently chosen as the best in the nation.
  It's arrayed around the WI State Capitol building.
This is what the promenade of shoppers
looks like from the Capitol Rotunda balcony.
Lake Mendota is in the background.

Beautiful homegrown
flower bouquets for sale
 Morel mushrooms
at the height of the season.
Someone in America is out there in the forest
hunting these but it wouldn't occur
to most Americans to go out and look for these
themselves like it does to Czech people.
 Rhubarb for sale.
What are you thinking?
Pie, muffins, ice cream sauce?

It's impossible not to turn into a foodie in Madison.
Literally, Madison has access to the finest produce
and cheese I have ever seen in my entire life.
The Hmong immigrants from Laos sold the best produce
and the Amish had the best baked goods.
Here the Amish express their
freedom of religion by
serenading shoppers with hymns.
Some people resented this on their carefree Saturday morning.
I cherished the mixture of political and religious expression
at the Farmer's Market. It's what makes America great!
I never took so many pictures of food in my life
as I did in Madison.
Cooking is such an exciting creative endeavor there.
Here, my exotic spinach salad made with tropical fruits
like papaya, kiwi, mango, and strawberries.
My first ever homemade Caprese Salad
 My first-ever Zucchini-Basil Lasagna
Bubbling hot and scrumptious
My first-ever Moroccan Lamb Stew with Dried Apricots
Me and my gal pals out to hear
Ayaan Hirsi-Ali
chosen by Time Magazine as one of the
100 Most Influential People on the Planet

Residents of Madison are political animals.  All of the world's top intellectuals eventually come through the UW Campus. I went to hear and was exposed to many thoughtful and beautiful minds. I loved being able to hear Ayaan Hirsi-Ali, one of my feminist heroines and a woman of extraordinary ovaries (courage) for stating her personal truth. It was standing room only. I had read all of her books.

When Michael Pollan spoke, over 8,000 people showed up to hear him.  He's another one of my heros.  Michael Pollan advocates that all of America get to eat the way Madisonians get to eat: locally grown food, mostly plants in extraordinary variety, and hopefully, not too much.  I can not recommend his books highly enough. They will change forever how you think about the food you consume and food systems. Madison feeds both the stomach and the mind!

 Madison-area bumper stickers

Another way Madison political awareness shows up is in bumper stickers.  No where in the world have I seen the amount and variety of bumper stickers that exist in Madison, Wisconsin.  My personal favorite which I didn't capture on film because I was driving when I saw it was "How many Iraqi babies have to die so you can drive that SUV?" Kind of goes to the heart of the matter, doesn't it? The local newspaper publishes a different bumper sticker in the paper ever week.

I thought the bumper stickers on the car above
showed extraordinary political range.

The people of Madison are MASTERS at organizing themselves for anything they believe in whether it be a neighborhood association, a festival, or a cause. I remember the first neighborhood association newsletter I read when I moved into the Monroe-Dudgeon neighborhood in Madison.  First, I marveled that it was 12 pages.  Then I counted the number of names I could find of people who were involved in the creation of the newsletter or involved in some other association activity.  There were 48 different leaders! And those were just the people doing the work, it doesn't even count the people who came to the programs and participated.

 New Orleans showman
"Trombone Shorty"
created incredible excitement
at the Orton Park
Neighborhood Festival

Beyond their neighborhood association newsletters, there were different neighborhood association festivals that brought in national-class performing acts.  Not only was attendance at these neighborhood festivals free, the festivals raised thousands of dollars for neighborhood school activities. Imagine how well you know your neighbors when you all work on a big project like that and then enjoy presenting it to the community together.  What satisfaction!

I went to the Willy Street Neighborhood Festival and heard an amazing band from San Francisco called "Rupa and the April Fishes", I went to 'La Fete de Marquette' and heard a haunting woman from Milwaukee singing in French (I will forever carry her rendition of "Dance Me to the End of Love" in my mind), but best of all was hearing "Trombone Shorty" from the Treme neighborhood in New Orleans.  Trombone Shorty says he learned his showmanship playing for tourists outside the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.  He would work to make his act so compelling he could get tourists to stand there for 45 minutes without moving on down the street. What a showman! I went home with spirits higher than a kite from that evening.

Madison even had a bit of the Czech Republic.
When I saw this sign I knew it had to be a Czech-owned tea house.
It was! They also have a location on Wenceslas Square in Prague.

My very favorite thing in all of Madison
was this bus sign.
A great message in a college town.

Imagine ladies,
how our lives would be different
if this was a globally-held idea.
We could travel to any country on Earth.

The people of Madison
  pride themselves on promoting progress.

Here are some other posts about Madison you might enjoy:


Kim said...

What a wonderful tribute to my favorite city on Earth! Thanks for this! It made my day so much brighter!

Anonymous said...

Great pics, especially the bumper stickers. I live in Amsterdam. The food you can find here, as well as religious choirs. But what you don't see are bumper stickers. Great stuff!!


lykophile said...

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to live here. Thanks for reminding me.

wedel.lori said...

I loved reading this, Karen. Thanks!

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