Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hjemkomst Center

Today we explored Fargo's twin town - Moorhead MN.  The Red River is the separation of the states and that natural divide creates 2 towns.  Over in Moorhead, we went to the Hjemkomst Center.   Such a great place to see.

****Once again - shameless plug for reciprocal memberships!!!!!  Our Tellus Membership (ASTC) got us free admission into the Hjemkomst Center!  So seriously - if you have a membership anywhere.... check to see what great perks it might get for you in another city/state!***

It was a fun day exploring the girls Scandanavian heritage.  Tom's family hails primarily from Sweeden (with some English thrown in).  This area of the country was settled by large numbers of immigrants from Sweeden and Norway.  Which is the land of the Vikings!

So - we learned that Vikings NEVER had hats with horns on them!  Megan asked our tour guide what their horns were made from...  yeah - no, never.  It would impede them in battle.  So why do we always associate Vikings with hats with horns on them????  Artists in the Romantic Period (1700-1800's) confusing cultures in their artwork.  Evidently no one was really keen on being historically accurate - cause Vikings never drove chariots either (as some artwork shows).  Actually most archeological finds put horned helmets near Germany - not Scandinavia.

What they were known for, however, were their amazing longboat Viking ships!

Seriously, this thing is amazing - big, beautiful, and sea worthy.  how do they know?  Well the guy who built it (by hand), had a dream to build a ship to honor his ancestors and then to sail it back to his families homeland - Oslo Norway.  And in 1982, he set sail!  If you want to look up the story of it's sailing - the name of the boat is the Hjemkomst (hence, the centers name).

 Look at that rudder.

Once we had our fill of the Hjemkomst, we took a tour of a replica of a Stave Church.

 This is a replica (hand built) of the Hopperstand Stave Church, located in Vik, Norway.  It took 5 1/2 years of woodworking magic to recreate this amazing church.
 "Stave" means staff - or pole - hence the look of the church - it's made with poles - staves.
Back in the day, the Vikings were converted to Christianity, and were learning the "rules" of the church (Catholic at the time).  The Bishops had told them that to be a true church you had to have a row of windows.  Now if you've seen the Basicalla in Rome, or other churches of that time period (1000-1100), they all have rows of stained glass windows.  But if you live in an extremely cold climate like Norway, and in a place where the people did not know how to make plate glass yet... we'll you didn't really have a way to make that happen - so they made tiny little windows to satisfy the Bishops demands.
 This little window was the window available for sick people to come get a blessing or ask for forgiveness (if they couldn't come into the church due to illness).
 In the 14th century an alter was added for the common man, and it depicts the Christmas story.
 While in the Stave Church - we got a lesson on the REAL armor of the Vikings.

 One of my favorite parts was the history lesson we got of how the Vikings went from being a culture with tons of gods, to being a devout Christian culture.  I'd like to read a book on it!  Anyway - on the front door of the church, it is surrounded by the most detailed woodworking that tells the story (in generic terms).  I tried to take some pictures but it's covered to try to protect it from the North Dakota elements...
In the bottom corners, there is a lion... the lion of Judah..
Coming out of his mount is a vine...  Christian growth
 The vine shoots up and begins to choke out the many dragons all over the side carvings.  It's believed that each dragon probably represents a specific god of the Vikings - like Thor or Odin.
 And honestly - it's just a majestic piece of work!

We didn't spend a lot of time talking about the Viking stories of middle earth - with trolls, goblins, and elves.  But we did enjoy these friendly looking guys....

The Hjemkomst center also hosted some hands on learning activities.
The girls favorite was the area where we learned about the development of Braille (and all the forms that were used before Braille was officially adopted as the written language of the blind).
 The girls got to try their hand at writing their names in Braille.
 Then we went to the hands-on art exhibit.
I cracked up when the very first exhibit was a phone!  A good ole - this is what we had when I was your age - phone.

So the art medium was "touch and sound" - and it was set up to let the kids dial up old "a joke a day" sites and "tell me a story" lines.  I had as much fun as they did!

 Nicole and I had fun polishing the shine me art....
 Then the girls found the "carving station"..... I wasn't sure I was going to be able to pull them out of there.

We've been packing in a lot of trips around town, but we love having downtime at the hotel as well.  The mornings have been great to get school work done (since we are up since we take Tom to the office), then some chilling out time, some time at the pool, etc....

But my favorite is when we are in the room and the girls create their own games.  Today while I was working on a few things, the girls created a spaceship....

They were dying when they realized I took this picture - it was just so fun!  I'm so glad they have the imaginations to find the joy in chilling in a hotel in North Dakota.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Day in Wahpeton ND

We girls decided to head out on a little road trip to Wahpeton ND - about an hour south of Fargo.  I have to say, I am so blessed that my girls travel so well!

Our main stop was at the Chahinkapa zoo!  (Good luck trying to pronounce that one)
****Shout out to Zoo Atlanta and AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) - with our reciprocal membership we got in for half price!

We LOVE going to zoo's in different places - they are all so unique!  The Chahinkapa Zoo had some of our favorites (terrapins, tigers, kangaroos, river otters, etc...) but also had some we certainly don't have at home - like camels, grizzly bears, and bison. And a few others that you'll see in photos (I'll label a few in case you don't know what they are - I didn't).....

 Loved the tamarans!
In that same area, they had a great "inquiring minds" education stop.  The girls jumped right in to learn a little more about these guys.

 a fossa

My girls were in love with the peacocks - they were everywhere!!!!  And so beautiful!

a beautiful Bengal Tiger 

They even had a fun "excavation site" where kids could dig up bones.  Of course, we had to give it a try!

CAMELS.......  the girls were so amazed to see the camels.

Now - what makes this zoo sooooooo cool is that they have 4 animal trainers.  These keepers are trained in how to train the animals - for check ups and such.  But during the zoo hours, they are making their rounds doing training exercises - right next to you!!!!!!   So it's like a behind the scenes tour to learn about the animals and see them up close - every 30 minutes or so.  It was awesome!

Who knew camels could be trained.....  they did exercises like "ear" - where the camel would lean his head against the fence, or "open" and he'd open his mouth, and "follow" where they would walk next to the trainer (they are outside the fence, he's inside), and "spray" where the camel would look up so they could spray him with fly spray.  Seriously - cool!

Oh - and we just stuck with the trainers to see them work with the Cougars (aka mountain lions)....

 "stand up".....
 And then this guy said - I'm over you and walked away and started clawing his log.... yeah, I don't think I would've pushed him either.

We also got to see a real eagle's next.  It had fallen from a tree in a storm and they brought it in and reassembled it so that people could get an idea of it's actual size.... wow.

snow leopard 

We spent some time watching the playful river otters....

 Megan tried her hand at otter training. 
We also got to watch the trainer with the gibbons.... (look at that baby!)

 This guy was not behaving - he tried to grab the trainer through the fence - which ended that training session.

But they also spent time on a training session with the spider monkeys...  They were so fun to watch - they have an amazing tail - totally a 3rd arm.

Now - this sweet zoo has a resting gazebo in the middle of it.... and we found it.  Low and behold - it also has a little library.  So my girls up and sat and read books for a bit before traversing through the rest of the grounds.

oh - and we did find some peacock feathers....

Now - the girls had 2 favorite parts that were just not something they get to do in GA....
#1 - Turtle Town.... yes - they have a big ole area full of turtles and you get to go in and play with them....

 And for #2 - I'm linking these together....
There were the feeding areas and barnyard....

we fed the ducks and swan....

 the chickens....
 the goats, miniature horses and donkeys....

 My brave girls.... she was so terrified to try to feed the goats until one licked the daylights out of me.  She thought it was so funny and realized it doesn't bite.  For the rest of the time - that was her goat!

We had a hard time pulling ourselves away from the zoo... it was a fun day!
But when you are in Wahpeton - there is something you MUST do before you leave.....

 Go see the Wahpeton Wahpper!!!!  The world's Largest Catfish!!!!

Obviously it's not a "real" fish..... but I must admit I'm a "Roadside America" junkie.... I'll stop to read a historical marker, or see the world's largest ball of twine any day of the week (all while Tom laughs at me).  I think the journey is the best part of the adventure!!!!

So I was counting up and today we've been on the road for 19 days..... wow!
That means we are half way through our colossal trip! (sniff sniff)

We had another stop on the agenda for today - but a few road closures stopped me from getting there.  In case anyone wondered what driving in North Dakota was like....

Sometimes the road looks like this.....

Sometimes it's like this (gravel, in case you can't tell)....
 And sometimes you see this.....

Note that there is NOBODY on the road with me!
And YES.... that says speed limit 75!!!!!  Guess when it's this flat and straight - speed is not an issue.