Thursday, June 23, 2016

The America You Don’t See on CNN

Anytime I think of the United States, what comes to my mind are the following: a beautiful and charming country where skyscrapers surrounds the cities and towers are used as fences, a country where children don’t see sand except in their school labs, a country where everyone has equal opportunities and poverty is not an issue, a country without challenges, a country filled with milk and honey flowing all over the streets for everyone to savor.  This is what CNN and Hollywood show us.



On April 23, 2016, I was fortunate to visit the Puye Cliff Dwellings, “a place where the rabbits gather,” in Santa Clara. I know some of you reading this will quickly think differently and put on your travel gauge of the United States.  Hold on!  I am not speaking of Santa Clara in California; this is Santa Clara somewhere in northern New Mexico. It is a place where so many Americans who live in America have never visited.

The Puye Cliff Dwellings is the ancient settlement of the Native Americans.  It is the home of the ancestors of today’s Santa Clara Pueblo people, the Pueblo Indians.  The early houses built from volcanic rock, “tufa” block masonry, and what they call original Harvey House are amazing architecture.  To me, it looks like clay houses found in my birthplace Talata Mafara.  Well, what is more interesting to me is that some of these “clay” houses are multi-storied buildings that are not even six feet tall.  The houses are too stunted and short that I wondered how the inhabitants enter the houses, eat in the houses, sleep, share family ties, and do every other thing that is done in homes.  Well, I was informed that the ancient ancestors of the Santa Clara Pueblo are not that tall, hence, they know their way around their dwellings.

There was also a set of cave dwellings constructed like palace chambers called the “Kiva” man’s cave, which is rounded because it represents the moon, sun, and circle of life.  It was a place for dignified people in the dwellings to meet and discuss important issues for the community.  It looks like the palace chambers in the southern part of Nigeria popularly called the “Ozi Obi” in Igbo language.  It is more fascinating that the dwellings are sited on a hill with a stunning panorama of the valley.  It is so chilled, clean, and filled with living and unpolluted air.  I felt the freshness of the environment and healthiness of the dwellings.  However, these dwellings are no longer occupied by anybody after a series of forest fires.

The present day Santa Clara Pueblo people now live away from this ancient dwelling, leaving the architecture as a historic landmark to teach the young Pueblo people and the rest of world on the life and times of their ancestors.  Sincerely, I enjoyed the lovely and beautiful tour, but I was stroke in surprise when we met the “Khapokido,” the Santa Clara Pueblo Youth Council.  The youth council is led by dynamic young people who devoted their lives to changing the narratives of their community.  They still live in their community despite the relative high level of poverty and low levels of education in their community and state.  They stick around and engage other young people, helping them to learn and grow.  They also teach their fellow young people their culture, including their language, known as Tewa, which is gradually going extinct.  It is even more fascinating that these fantastic young minds have devised a slogan known as “innovation by tradition.”  They organize seedling drive projects, conferences for tribal youth led by RezRiders, and so many other youth programmes on civic participation, including visits to the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C.

Jeremy Oyenque, the president of Khapokido, said “there is no goodbye in the Tewa language,” hence, we cannot say goodbye.  I was stroke by this statement and I said to myself, “I will never say goodbye. I will continue to engage, engage, and engage to make my community better, and make my fellow young people more proactive in every endeavor they find themselves.”
 

Thanks to the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria for this lifetime experience known as International Visitor Leadership Program.


This blog submission was written by Runcie C.W. Chidebe, Cancer Control Advocate and Founder of Project PINK BLUE, and a 2016 International Visitor Leadership Program participant.

13 comments:

  1. Fantastic adventure from you there from the America shore and i am hoping to be involve some day. well done my brother!

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    1. You will find your heart desires. We appreciate!

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  2. Runcie Chidebe is a champion always.

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    1. Thank you so much Semiye Michael. We appreciate.

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  3. Great read. You brought it to life.

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  4. Great read. You brought it to life.

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  5. Great experience indeed.....I love Nigeria, I love America

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    1. Thank you Mr. Joseph. We appreciate your comment.

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  6. I'm always motivated by your write ups and personality. Your ideals and perception about life empties your mind from trivialities that trouble so many youth of our time. This I believe, makes life very interesting to you and people that associate with you. I really enjoy reading this piece. Kudos, Runcei!

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