After two weeks of happily walking around the streets of Spain, I am back in West Chester, PA, grumbling about school.

I have learned an incredible amount of random things during this Senior Project. I know more Spanish than I had at the start of this Project. Postres means desserts, and cerveza means beer. I learned that when you ask for water, you get an entire 1.5L bottle and you have to pay for it. And on the topic of food and drink, the quality of both is infinitely better than that of the United States.

Generally, Spanish people seem to take their time and enjoy the little things in life, like beer. Except for rainy days, in the early afternoon, I would always see cafes open with people sitting at little black tables drinking glasses of beer. Occasionally, there would be a coffee drinker, but coffee seems to be a morning beverage for the Spaniards. If that’s wrong, let me know!

Looking back to the trip specifically, I think I went to churches and cathedrals the most, followed by museums. I visited churches that were more than 300 years old and churches that are still under construction. My favorite is still the Sagrada Familia. The colors from the stained glass differ depending on the time of day. I easily spent about three hours walking around there.

I have learned a bit about traveling in general though. A lot of time was spent waiting in line to purchase tickets. Online ticket-buying is a must. Also, I didn’t allot enough time to simply wander around the city. Much of my time was bogged down in tourist places. While that did allow me to see the more famous side of Spain, I was not able to engage with the local culture.

Even so, I believe this was a very worthwhile trip. This project has encouraged me to go beyond my comfort zone and pursue areas of knowledge that I previously knew little to nothing about.



Xi’an, From Ancient to Modern

Day 4:

The wake up call was super early, 4am to be exact, but it was okay because we had to catch our flight from Beijing to Xi’an, the first capital of China.  The hotel prepared boxed breakfasts for us that we ate a few bites of on the way to the airport.  Around 1 in the afternoon, we finally arrived in Xi’an.

It was a rainy day so we had to move our itinerary around a little bit but it all worked out in the end!  Directly from the airport, we went to the Muslim Street which is this hectic street market.  The Muslim Street looks just how I pictured China looking and smells just how I pictured China smelling.  There are thousands of different food being prepared in carts scattered around the street and countless different stores selling everything from cigarettes to counterfeit handbags to rice.  Joanna, Kamryn, and I went around on the street and tried some of the different “street meats,” my favorite had to be the lamb on a stick!

After the Muslim Street, some of us decided to go get a massage.  In China, massages are a fraction of what they cost in the United States so this was an opportunity that I could not pass up!  The massage place was somewhat sketchy but it was definitely a fun bonding experience.  After the massages we all went for a dinner and a show at the Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show.  It was some of the best food that we had and the performers were amazing.





Day 5:

Our wake up call was super early today as well.  We all went down to the lobby for our breakfast before we loaded up onto the bus to go and see the Terracotta Warriors.  From the way it was described to us, I thought that the warriors were in the city, but oh was I wrong.  In reality, the warriors are a two hour drive outside of the city.  After this excruciating drive, we finally arrived at the Terracotta Warriors Museum.  The warriors were amazing to see.  The Warriors were buried in the ground, and there are THOUSANDS of them, so the area is still very much an archaeological site.  The different pits, the holes where they are digging up warriors, are covered by massive buildings that look like airplane hangers.  Inside the hangers, you can see the thousands of warriors that are being rebuilt by archaeologists.  While the site was really cool at first, after a few hours I was very ready to move on to our next event.  After the warriors, we had a traditional noodle lunch.  It was really cool to watch the chefs make the many different kinds of noodles that we got to try.   After lunch, we got onto the bus for the ride back into Xi’an.

When we got back into the city, we went to an art museum where we took a tour and then had a traditional Chinese calligraphy lesson.  I am very non-artistic so I didn’t enjoy the calligraphy all that much.  Then we went to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda which is a massive Buddhist temple. We climbed the seven stories to the top of the pagoda and the views of Xi’an were amazing.  After we climbed, I went to the gift store to buy Buddhist prayer beads for my family.  After the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, we went to the ancient city wall where we were supposed to ride bikes on the wall.  We got to the wall and Kamryn and I decided to take out a tandem bike because she just had ACL surgery and couldn’t bike by herself.  It was a terrifying experience but was super fun as well.  The Festival of Lights was still going on so a part of the wall was covered in massive lanterns.  Kam and I walked through the lanterns and ended up being super late to the bus but it was 100% worth it.  After this we went back to the hotel for a hot pot dinner.  On day 6, we are off to Guilin and Yangshuo!

Intersecting Paths and Gaudí’s Imagination

March 15, 2018

At the top of the Passion Towers of the Sagrada Família

I began my first day in Spain by simply wandering around the hotel where I was staying. In a span of only a few minutes, I stumbled across the Palau, its full name being the Palau de la Música Catalana. The pillars were decorated with tiles of contrasting colors. Above the entrance was an extremely impressive array of statues and busts of various composers. My curiosity peaked when I saw a baby grand piano in one of the large glass windows, so I walked around the hall to find a way in without having to pay for the guided tour. (I’m cheap, I know.) The side of the building was covered in glass windows and so had a decidedly more modern look than the front. The interior reverted back to the typical style of the bourgeoisie, complete with gilded stairs and high, elegant arches. In the center, however, was a charming little café area with yet another piano. An old man dressed in a rumpled black coat and a large striped scarf was seated at the piano and playing Mozart’s Sonata No. 16 in C Major. The music filled the area, lending a nice juxtaposition to the quiet chatter of people milling around. To my surprise, once he finished performing the composition, he simply collected his keys, which were lying on the stand, and left after acknowledging the scattered applause. After questioning a guard standing nearby, I learned that the piano was there for public use, for any person to come and play if they wanted to. After some seconds of internal debate, I decided to play a piece, despite weeks of avoiding practice.

Once I finished, I was reminded acutely of Westtown’s South Room. Anybody can go in and play, and the main purpose, as I see it, is to find some respite in the middle of a busy day. It is by no means a formal performance, which I tend to strongly dislike. As I walked out of the music hall, I was filled with a similar sense of glee I had felt when I first played in the South Room four years ago. I also felt something new. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also once said, “Music is the universal language of all mankind.” This was the first time I understood this sentiment. When I had glanced up after performing, there was no sense of awkwardness when I addressed my audience. I felt connected to the people listening.

Recording of my playing in the Palau. Check it out, if you want!

In the afternoon, I began following my itinerary with visiting Casa Milà, or more commonly known as La Pedrera. It is currently in use as both a place of both residency and business. However, it dates back to 1912 when it was designed by Antoni Gaudí for the Milà family. The architecture was different from any other that I had seen before, in that I could not find a single right angle. This characteristic remained constant as I went through my tour of Casa Milà. The courtyard had an ovular shape, with the open sky overhead. Some surfaces were splattered with faint hues of blue and green. Even with this show of eccentricity and my knowledge of the pictures on Google Images, I was not prepared for what waited on the roof. Shapes that resembled bodies and faces lined up one after another in the middle of the curving tiled path. Some had white tiles stuck on them, others were left blank. As cliché as it sounds, if I could not see the city roofs around me, I would have believed I stepped into another world. Continue reading “Intersecting Paths and Gaudí’s Imagination”

Feeling Affirmed

It’s been healing and comforting to be surrounded by people who affirm my identity. At Westtown, I’ve struggled with coming to terms with my identity in a space that is overwhelmingly white, cis, and straight. While Westtown is in some ways a progressive and open-minded community, it isn’t one in which there are many other people like me.

At the museum, I am being surrounded by queer people of color, their art, and their energies. My boss Lindsay is genderqueer and black! So are a lot of the teens in the programs I’ve been helping with over the past week. I’m so grateful to be spending time in a place with people who are so empathetic and passionate.

And the people I work with are similar to me outside of our shared identities; we’re all passionate about art! I’ve been engaging in amazing conversations with my supervisors and other teens alike about what art means to them, especially in relation to social justice. This is one of the few times in my life where I have not been the only one, and I am so happy.




The Final 72 – Cooking with a James Beard Award Winning Chef.

Monday March 12, 2018 10:33 P.M. EST

Friday began quite early again due to us getting home early from a restaurant  opening that I talked about in the previous blog. So the plan was to get up and work out early after dropping chef’s daughter off at school.  The only real reason that I went was to swim at the gym that I thought we were going to. Instead we went and made some desserts for the restaurant. Yiheng made a flour-less chocolate cake that is matched with a round piece of chocolate Ganache. Once that was done we had a quick breakfast across the street, and went on a shopping trip.  We went to visit the local Cutlery store called Ambrosi Bothers. They service almost all of the chef’s knives in the entire city of Kansas City. It was amazing to see all of the different gadgets, and knives to use in the kitchen. I already have a few chef’s knives but I did purchase a new slicing knife. This will aid me when I need to cut prepared meats and other cooked objects. After this fun, we began running our errands for the day. This included dropping off  catering supplies to the company that we made lunch for that past Wednesday, and making a run to the apple store. Once that Happened we went back to the restaurant to start our prep for service. It was quite busy that evening due to the large college basketball tournament taking place down the street. At one point during the night we had hit a rush where we sold 20 burgers in about 15 minutes.  There was also an group that came into the restaurant for a special dinner where nothing was ordered off the menu. One of the starters that we made was salmon tartar.  This was a lot of fun to make because it allowed me to learn the proper way to filet a fish. Chef Tio made it look so easy.  Once we filet the salmon she took a small piece of the fish and chopped it up very fine and adding all of these amazing ingredients to it, like an artist adding layers upon layers of color to their work. She also knew that I had never ate raw fish before. So pictured below was the first raw fish I have ever ate before in my entire life.


Below is one of the other menu items that we made for the group which was pan seared scallops with blanched potatoes that were then pan fried, with homemade chorizo, and pickled red onions.


Shortly after this dinner was done we made our dinner, and headed home for some well needed rest.  The next day would also be my last day at the restaurant. Unlike most days we slept in pretty late and enjoyed it very much. This was a major day for getting prep work done for the next week of the three month catering contract that Chef had just received.  Once all of the shopping was done Chef took us to a really cook place for lunch in which she called ” fun Chinese food.” This place was called Blue Koi and it had some great dumplings, and roasted duck. We all got hit with all of the dreaded food coma and we all went back to the house and took naps. We all got up and rushed over to the restaurant to begin prep work. I chopped lots of squash, and eggplant for Monday’s vegetable dish for the catering event. Since we had all of these vegetables around Yiheng wanted to make what is really called vegetable byaldi, but is better know from a famous Disney movie which is called Ratatouille.  Here is one of the ones that we made before it went into the oven compared to the one from the movie

IMG-0825.JPG     Image result for ratatouille movie dish

So with that we also made a few other dishes for fun with some of the salmon and potatoes from the night before. It was great to see all of our minds come together to see make some amazing food. For dinner that night I made a pan roasted salmon with a maple bourbon glaze and the same potatoes as the scallop dish the night before. It was such a hit that I didn’t get a picture of it.  So to wrap up my time at the restaurant I took pictures with some of the people I worked with. In the first picture is Keith who ran the grill in the kitchen. In the second picture are Daniel, and Jake, who are probably the funniest and most enjoyable bartenders I’ve ever met.



Finally here are some of the pictures of the restaurant and kitchen.

IMG-0827 – The Dish Room

IMG-0828 The Kitchen: Small but Mighty

IMG-0822 – A map Showing Westtown township including Westtown’s Campus.

IMG-0823 The restaurant from the view of a comfy couch as I rest my feet briefly.

Sunday was a nice day to end my adventure out in Kansas City. After Sleeping in and packing we went to a donut shop for breakfast and then went around town on a street car, and took a few final pictures before I got to the airport.

The First picture below is me standing exactly in both Kansas and Missouri at the same time.


And the final picture taken of course was with Chef herself at the belfry before she took me to the airport so I could catch my flight home.

IMG-5633 Thank you for reading the blog, and I will be writing a shorter blog in a few days with a reflection of my time out with Chef Tio.  Until next time!




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The museum’s One Basquiat exhibition is amazing. It is only one painting in a mostly empty room, but somehow that connects you to Basquiat even more deeply than if there were a whole collection of his work. There is something amazing about a painting that allows you to time travel into the exact setting of the artist. It was a deeply emotional experience for me to view the painting as I’ve always loved Basquiat.

The work was donated by Yusuku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire and art collector who bought the it for $110 million dollars.The purchase made history as the most expensive American painting ever auctioned, so it was a huge deal in the art world when he bought it. Since I keep up with art news, I remember hearing it about it on one of my favorite podcasts! The purchase was a huge deal not only because of the price tag, but because Basquiat was a black artist in a largely white art world. On Friday, Mr. Maezawa came to talk to teen staff about how the education department was using the artwork!

It’s been a great first week and I’m feeling extremely grateful and inspired by the art around me.



At the Base of the Mesa (Day 6)


We left Farmington this morning for Chinle, where we would take photos for the Johns Hopkins’ unit there. After driving back through the Red Valley to Chinle, we met with employees of the unit and Ed photographed a shoot for their motherhood-planning program. Soon afterwards, we returned to Canyon de Chelly, this time at its floor, to photograph a mother and newborn for the same program.  We were then given the opportunity to read to elementary school students at the local elementary school. We stopped for lunch, and departed for another shoot, this time in the home of a Navajo family. The mother began to dress her two daughters in traditional Navajo outfits, and the two girls then made traditional food for us as well. We then travelled to the base of a local mesa to shoot them, where another family met us. After the sun set and the shoot ended, we went to a Pow Wow being held in a convention center in Chinle, and then drove 3.5 hours back to Albuquerque.

Continue reading “At the Base of the Mesa (Day 6)”

Lukachukai – Lucky Chucky (Day 5)


Today we woke up in Gallup and headed to Shiprock to work on the Navajo reservation with the Johns Hopkins Team stationed there. Part of their efforts to prevent early childhood obesity is providing clean drinking water to families with children ranging from 6-9 months. Clean drinking water is hard to find on the reservation; the tap water isn’t clean and buying water gets expensive. This leads families to go look for cheaper, less healthier options. In order to create healthier options, the center delivers water weekly to families in the reservation. Today, we started in the center helping out fill water jugs and than we were fortunate enough to be able to help bring the water to two different home visits. There we were able to meet two different and lovely families and see some beautiful scenery along our way.


Our first water delivery was to a family that lived near the Johns Hopkins Center. It was to a single mother of two adorable boys, living in a house sanctioned for lower income families. We were bringing them two jugs of water and to get some photos for Johns Hopkins. The mother had a boy that was two years old and a 8 month old baby. They may have been the cutest thing that I have ever seen. ever. When we initially got there the mother  was a little hesitant to engage but once Ed showed her one of the shots he had taken of her, she opened up quite a lot. She started staging the boys, posing with them, laughing a lot, and engaging with us as well. I think at first she was very wary of these outsiders entering her space but once she felt our energy of good intention and absolute love for her kids, she started to relax. Once she had relaxed, I could finally relax. I was worried that we would be invading these people’s lives and disrupting the flow, I needed her approval to feel okay with our presence. The younger boy was constantly bringing different toys out to show and give to us. He showed us so many of his toys ranging from a red chair, fake cellphone, dog rattle, and his bell. He had this long gorgeous hair that his mother was growing out. He loved the camera and was the most well behaved child that has ever existed. ever. His brother was as well. He had just woken up for a nap and was so content. Never in my life have I seen a child be woken up from a nap to go engage with a bunch of strangers and be so happy. But what pulled my heartstrings the most was how they interacted with each other. The older boy was constantly holding his brother, pushing him around in his playtoy mobile and making him smile for the camera. This experience may not have been the deepest nor the most eye opening but it definitely taught me something about family. I know that as long as those two boys stick by each other like they are doing now, and they stick with their mother who clearly cares about them very much, than they can handle anything life throws at them.




At 11, we were told we were going on another outing to photograph the water distribution program. Members of the staff implied that we would want to bring out cameras on this outing, as we would be able to visit Shiprock from a closer perspective. When taking the headshots, one of the founders of the program recounted the history of Shiprock. Once a volcano the soft rock had eroded to form the staggeringly large structure, leaving behind the hard volcanic rock. On either side of the rock, two expansive ridges also remain from the base of the volcano. We were told that from above, the ridges look like wings expanding from the rock itself. Traditionally, Navajo people called it Tsé Bitʼaʼí, or winged rock, to honor this resemblance. When the area was colonized, however, it was renamed Shiprock, as that is what the colonizers first thought it was. The name is now ironic on many levels, primarily because New Mexico is landlocked and most Navajo people had no idea what a ship was. The name remains on the reservation to this day, though some Navajo have begun to reclaim its original name.

As we neared Shiprock on the way to the water delivery, we took an abrupt right off of the highway onto a dirt road sprawling towards the rock itself. After about fifteen minutes of almost off-roading, we stopped at the base of the Shiprock, all gawking at its sheer size. This was one of the most incredible moments of the trip, standing in the grasses and shrinking next to Tsé Bit’aí.

As we continued on our journey to the next home, I experienced the most swift and dramatic change in scenery of my life. At first, everything was tan: the shrubbery, dirt, and Shiprock exploding from its flat and dusty surroundings. As the road spread out before us, suddenly the world became red with rocks and sand, as if moving along a natural gradient. Just as soon as we entered Red Rock Valley, where horses walked along the highway and everything was tinted pink, the road began to incline and twist, launching us up and over the mountain blocking the road. We chugged up the sharp turns, and trees started to accumulate. The ground snow suggested we were entering a ski resort in the middle of Arizona, though the undeveloped land proved otherwise. At the top, the pines opened before us for a brief moment, revealing the valley for all its beauty, resembling a grass sea behind the red sand. I begun to understand why the white colonizers called Shiprock a ship. On the other side of the mountain, the red returned, in the form of enormous boulders and cliffs with sunken caverns.

I felt like a child playing in an oversized world, leaving a sense of insignificance and yet wonder instilled within me. The beauty of each detail, the small wash, the red coves in the cliffs, the snow-topped mountains, spiritually captured me in a way I thought unimaginable.


Our second water delivery trip took us from Shiprock across the Red Valley and through the mountains to the small community of Lukachukai. The landscape was magical of course, but the most special part of the journey was the family we met at its end. We had a bit of difficulty locating the home we were supposed to bring the water to, but when we finally did, we were greeted by two llamas, a sheep, a rooster, a group of dogs and goats, and a turkey named Thanksgiving. This eccentric group of animals is cared for by the family of an extraordinary young woman who was kind enough to welcome us into her home. She began by taking us around her yard and letting us pet her animals, which she explained that she owns more out of her love of animals than for their practical use. The bond she has with the animals became clear when Ed photographed her with one of the llamas, which she adopted from a friend who had to give them away. She told us that when she first got the llamas – a mother and her baby – she had no idea how to take care of them and had to look up information on her phone after they arrived. Nonetheless, over two years later, they are clearly healthy, happy, well cared for.

After Ed finished taking the llama photos, the woman showed us her family’s hogan – a traditional Navajo dwelling. She told us that her wedding had taken place inside, indicating that the building has played a very important role in her life and that of her family. When Ed asked her if there was something she could hold while being photographed outside the hogan, she went inside her house and brought out her adorable eight-month old daughter. My heart melted watching as the baby, just woken up from a nap, grew more aware and came alive in front of the camera, smiling at us and hugging her mother.

When the photoshoot was finished, we were able to go inside the hogan, where the woman’s parents and older daughter sleep. The interior was a mix of traditional and modern, with all the typical components of an “ordinary” bedroom combined with a sense of Navajo history and a powerful feeling of closeness to nature. Inside the hogan, we heard about the woman’s extended family, including her brother-in-law in the army and her nine-year old niece who has already been engaged in autism awareness activism for several years.

Finally, we went inside the house, where we met the woman’s younger sister, who cares for the animals while she is at work three hours away in Ignacio, Colorado. There, she works five days a week as a pastry chef at a casino, having studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale. In addition to this, she weaves, makes children’s costumes, and creates and sells accessories made out of sacks of Bluebird Flour. The amount of drive and energy required to do all of this is astounding and inspiring. And perhaps most extraordinarily of all, she showed no indication of being stressed or tired and was gracious enough to spend her time showing us around her home and sharing her stories with us. Her dream is to open up her own pastry shop, hopefully sometime in the next two years. With her talent and work ethic, I can’t imagine anything that could possibly stand in her way. Meeting her – a woman who embodies feminine strength to the core – was an indescribably moving experience and one of the highlights of my trip.


Things Got Very Busy Very Fast- Cooking with a James Beard Award Winning Chef

March 8th 2018  9:09 P.M CST

So the last four days have been quite crazy to say the very least. Monday was a day starting to do prep work for what was to come on later in the week. Going into the later half of the week there was multiple events going on later in the week.  After Monday’s prep we went into service not knowing what to expect the crowd would be like. It just so happened that it was quiet, and we were able to leave early. However, Chef Tio told us that the next morning we would be leaving in the morning when she does and follower her for the whole day. This meant not sleeping which I was able to do for the past few days. The day included going to the gym,breakfast, food shopping,and beginning to prep for a catering event for Wednesday. The cool part about Tuesday was that Chef Tio had a speaking event at Sprint’s headquarters which are just over the state line in Kansas. She along with two other successful women from the Kansas City area to talk about empowering women in the workforce. This was ahead of  International Women’s Day which was on Thursday. It was amazing to hear her talk about her experiences as a women chef in a male heavy profession. This was because she showed all of the power and tenacity needed to get to where she is today. That event took up most of the night. IMG-0811  – Chef Tio speaking at an event at Sprints Headquarters.

Continue reading “Things Got Very Busy Very Fast- Cooking with a James Beard Award Winning Chef”

Knife City (Day 4)


We started our day off by returning to Fort Apache and finishing up the work we started on the Etsy shop yesterday. However, by 11:30, we were on the road again, heading to Gallup, New Mexico. Although it was mostly a travel day, we did see some interesting sights, especially the ghost towns along Route 66. This route, which stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica,  flourished when it served as a major path for westward travel and migration. However, beginning in the 1950s, it fell into decline after being replaced by the Interstate Highway System. Today, the communities which were once made affluent by the heavy traffic along Route 66 have either fallen into disarray or been abandoned completely.



Driving through Holbrook, AZ and the surrounding area today, it was so strange to see the decrepit buildings set against the backdrop of one of the most incredible landscapes I have ever encountered. The grassy fields stretched far beyond the remnants of human life, turning into mountains and cliffs, silhouetted against a purple evening sky. My experiences on this trip so far have shown me that the earth itself contains so much spiritual power. Even in the environment of immediate dreariness which we drove through today, I recognized that it paled in comparison to the immense beauty just beyond. However, there were indications that the power of the land was often forgotten in this area. This was shown most clearly by the several large, hand painted “land for sale” signs we saw standing in open fields. At first, I didn’t give much thought to the signs beyond the fact that I had never seen land advertised so explicitly and casually. However, Ed seemed moved by the sign and stopped to photograph it. This prompted me to think more deeply about the meaning of the sign in relation to the work we have been doing on this trip. Soon enough I realized just how wrong it is to be selling land for profit. To begin with, this is not our land to sell, as it was stolen from the native people who have lived here for thousands of years. Furthermore, I have been learning and experiencing the spiritual value that the land holds in the eyes of native people. To them, and in a variety of spiritual traditions, the land is sacred and should be revered for sustaining our lives. Therefore, at least according to my own interpretation of native spirituality, it is not something that can be possessed by one person, but rather all the land is home to all humans. It is not meant to be bought or sold, but honored and cared for. This is easy to forget in the fast-paced, materialistic, profit-driven society we live in – a lifestyle embodied by Route 66. However, now that the money has gone away, nature has begun to reclaim the terrain, restoring the beauty and spiritual power of the landscape.



In our travels between reservations, it could feel like there was nothing around us – only our car and the highway. Just when the road seemed too long and we began wondering whether we’d ever see civilization again, another car came sputtering down the road, or we’d find a gas station or abandoned motel. These often vacant rest stops were found on the historic Route 66, parallel to the main highway, I-40. Each miniature stop had a separate theme, whether it’d be the petrified forest gift shop or, as we saw today, Knife City, a town named for its tourist knife shop. Each sign was a weather-worn relic from the 1920s – 1960s, painted onto the billboard or building itself when Route 66 was still a highly-frequented road and major tourist destination. A particularly large and rusty town we encountered was Holbrook, AZ, where most of our photos were taken. Continuing with the theme, many stores there perpetuated the cultural appropriation of Native people, despite the fact that a quarter of Holbrook is Native. It’s easy to write off these appropriative stores as outdated and artefacts of history preserved in abandoned towns, but that does not take into account why these Native gift shops are still open today. In addition to this disgusting appropriation, each town was filled with enormous, tacky, and wonderful dinosaur replicas, meant to honor the expansive dino fossils found in Arizona. Walking through the towns felt like entering an abandoned theme park whose imagery suggested that Native people and dinosaurs roamed the area at the same time.

At one photo stop, we encountered a supposedly abandoned motel, whose open doors and mattresses on the floor told a different story. Even in this vast expanse of nothingness, there are people everywhere. People live in these abandoned buildings. People shop at Native appropriation gift shops. People work at dinosaur gift shops 40 miles from all surrounding homes or communities. People live in these preserved towns of a past America.



As we made our way from White Mountain Apache through Holbrook towards Gallup, we saw an odd mixture of beautiful and rugged landscapes that called us to explore and document them through photos. However, these impactful scenes and moments were mixed with more images that continue to perpetuate the romanticization and commercialization of natives. We stopped at the Wigwam Hotel in order to take photos. The Wigwam Hotel rooms were each individual tipis (photographed below) surrounded by old cars in the parking lot. At first, my attention went to straight to the vintage cars, and then to Maggie’s obsession over the the replica of Mater from the movie Cars, but afterwards I took a closer look at where I was. The Wigwam Hotel’s name implies that they use the traditional image of a dome home structure known as the wigwam or wikiup. The Wigwam Hotel used the typical image that is often seen in most displays of Native culture, the tipi. Tipis were not used in this part of the country but rather in the great plains and parts of Canada. It would be more accurate to use wigwams since this type of dwelling is used in this particular region. The hotel is using a traditional place of dwelling as a tourist destination. Its main attraction is the exotic experience of living as the natives did, which perpetuates the idea of us versus them. It is businesses like the Indian stores and the Wigwam Hotel that commercialize and romanticize Native Americans that are causing these negative stereotypes to impact perceptions of the modern native. As I was leaving the White Mountain Apache reservation, nothing was more apparent to me than that the modern native narrative is complex, diverse, and cannot be summed up by a tipi or a derogatory image. The modern native narrative is a product of history, past and present.