Friday, April 1, 2011

New Mexico, Day 2: Culture, Beauty, Letters

One of the main things my wife and I wanted to do on this trip to New Mexico was to take in some of the local history and culture. And so, on our second day, we took a road trip up to Taos to visit the Taos Pueblo, a Native American community comprised of multi-storied adobe buildings that have been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years.

The drive up to Taos is beautiful. We took the route known as the “High Road to Taos,” a scenic road that winds through mountains, deserts, forests, small farms, and tiny villages.

Taking the scenic route is nice, but the trip took almost four hours on the way up, including some missed turns and stops for pictures. And for our son, taking four hours to get somewhere is about three and a half hours too long. I tried to explain, “The trip is not just about getting to our destination; it is about enjoying the ride. Look at the beautiful scenery!” He responded that he already looked at the scenery and just wanted to get to Taos already.

Still, the portable dvd player kept him occupied much of the time.

I feel somewhat like a bad parent – here we are in New Mexico; he should be looking at the sights, not watching some video for the 700th time. But, this is one of those tradeoffs you make as a parent. You let your kid watch a movie so that you can enjoy the trip yourself.

We finally got to the pueblo. We were worried that Kai would not have much interest and would want to leave right away. That worry dissipated as soon as we received a map that labeled every building with a letter from “A” to “W.”

Kai made it our mission to visit every building. And that allowed us to see the entire pueblo, which was great.

What wasn’t so great was that he kept asking, “What letter is this building?” And rather than taking in the building we were at, he wanted to rush over to the next letter.

His preoccupation with the letters was embarrassing at times. We would be in a shop talking with the Native American proprietor and Kai would ask if this was building L or M. I wondered how this person felt about their community being reduced to alphabet letters.

We tried to instill a bit of the culture of the place so that Kai wouldn’t simply think of everything as letters. “This is the church.” “This is a home.” “These are the racks where they dry meats.” I don’t know how much sunk in. For his Spring Break journal that he has to keep for school, he wrote that he went to Taos; but for the accompanying picture, all he drew were the letters A through W.

Still, we were happy that we were able to see so much of the pueblo. And, some of the culture had to sink in, right?

* * * * *

After we had a late lunch in downtown Taos, we visited some art galleries and shops. In one shop, as I tried to wrangle Kai before he cost us thousands of dollars in damaged pottery, the owner came over to talk with him. No, she did not scold him. She engaged him in conversation. She talked to him about dinosaurs, and then explained the different gemstones to him.

It turned out that in addition to running this shop, she is a special education teacher. Her daughter has autism. She had recognized that in Kai right away. She could see how bright he is, and spoke to us encouragingly about his future. We found a little treasure in that shop, and it had nothing to do with the jewelry they sold.

* * * * *

Afterward, we drove a few miles out of town to see the Rio Grande Gorge. At 650 feet over the Rio Grande River, it is one of the highest bridges in the United States, with a spectacular view that rivals that of any bridge in the world. We parked just prior to the bridge so that we could walk across. My wife made it about a quarter of the way before the height was too much for her and she turned back. Kai and I went all the way out to the center. He got a little scared when we were in the middle, but more from the strong winds than the height, I think. Still, he was able to smile long enough for a photo.

We made the long drive back to the hotel after that, tired, but happy with all we had experienced.

We are loving New Mexico.

Tomorrow: Taking another scenic route

If you missed part 1, check it out here.

Photos of our trip can be found on our Facebook page.

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