No, this is not a joke. I'm back from Iowa and because wickednerd came and helped out over the weekend, she (who is Irish) our Roma friend who is our good friend I stayed with this past week, and I really did enter a local grocery store repeatedly. Since we were volunteering at a local living village in Cedar Rapids, and we were always busy, we kept going to the grocery store and restaurant in our full regalia/ outfits. It was a great way of promoting the Usher's Ferry historical village. Our dress would spark questions and conversation and proved to be a fantastic way of teaching. So while There I taught three days at Usher's ferry. The other days I was working with my friend on a project with her university. She is the Romani woman I mentioned who revolutionalized Romani studies in the midwest United States. I learned a lot while staying with my host family. They follow their people's traditions so I had to learn how they do things from cooking tow ashing clothes. The more we talked the more we found that the traditions between my friend's culture and mine are shockingly similar, right down to certain religious ceremonies. While I have known my friend and her husband for 12 years I have never stayed with them. Staying in her home it struck me just how amazing she and her family are. They have been through so much and yet they never give up. She is amazingly brilliant and when I met her professors at Iowa University I could tell they were so impressed with her. Well her university gave us the complete go ahead and support on our project. The project will take years to complete (it involves researching a lot of obscure resources, and writings, some we will have to send off for in other countries) but we are both up to the challenge. I am also impressed with Usher's Ferry. They are struggling right now, largely do to the floods that took out s much of Cedar Rapids and Iowa city, but they continue working to preserve artifacts, old homes, and historical documents. I agreed to work with them on building a small Native American event next year. I have less than a month to get enough people to agree to help so they can put it on the program and get the proper funding so they can set up. this is the first time I have done anything like this since college. I dropped all my activities like this after my car wreck, then my parents and sister became ill and.... wow I miss this. I feel like my old self when I'm working on these. I got to tour the museums. the Czech village was soooo cool!! I fell in love with the architecture, the people, and their artwork. there is a large Czech population in cedar rapids. One store owner how ever disliked my friend and host being in her shop when she learned my friend is Roma. It surprised me but my friend is a very peaceful person and shrugged it off. She said it is rather common. She even bought a gift for my mother from that shop. I asked her why and she said that despite the owner's feelings she believes in supporting local artists and small business owners and she said the art work she purchased is unique and wanted it for my mother. I was angry on her behalf (she is one of the most honest people i know) but my friend stressed I should let it go. She and her family Built a traditional Romani wagon and had fun facts and information installed into it like a mini touring museum on her people. They carry it around to history demonstrations and festivals. Since she is a published writer she stresses the importance of documenting the past. he wagon is impressive. when I was teaching basic powwow social dances to some children and their parents at Usher's Ferry, I had just finished showing them the potato dance and my friend jokingly said "if you bring your potato to Nica (which is what my friend and host calls me) she will sign it for you. She thought people would laugh and that would be that but EVERY child brought me their potato. I said I didn't have a pen and most of the parents produced pens immediately . I tried to sign the potatoes but only got through one before every pen I used jammed and wouldn't write any more. We all got a good laugh out of that. My friend said " now you're famous! You've autographed a potato!" We had a lot of fun. When WickedNerd finally arrived the three of us completely "nerded out". We're big history lovers so we spent all of our time volunteering, touring museums, and debating history books while playing cards. Oh btw, never play cards while using M&Ms as chips. We kept eating all of our "chips". We also good naturedly teased each other mercilessly. Things were not so great when I got home though. I learned that Sunday night my sister had to run an errand and asked our step father to put the chickens up..... He didn't. During the night I lost half of my adult breeding flock and several of the juveniles to predators. Including my head rooster who is also my nephew's pet. We have no idea how we are going to tell him. My sister was crying when she told me. She felt so bad. Also one of the birds was injured on the head so sister had the little hen inside so she could heal up. My sister did a good job on doctoring the wound. *sighs* at least the trip was great.