Today’s post is 1655 words, 15 photos, a 7 minute read. Enjoy!
In this post, published a few days after Thanksgiving here in the U. S., I’ll introduce you to a few of the many interesting people I met this year. Meeting new people and learning their stories is one of the most interesting benefits from travel whether it’s close to home or on the other side of the world.
Terry and Cory at the Dane County Breakfast on the Farm
In early June, my Traveling Partner and I attended the Dane County Breakfast on the Farm. After parking, a woman called out to us asking if we wanted a ride. We saw a wagon pulled by a John Deere tractor coming toward us picking up passengers as they drove along. We said to the woman: “Yes!” Later, we figured out it was our gray hair that prompted her to offer us a ride. Terry is her name. She grew up on the dairy farm hosting the breakfast. We had a delightful chat with Terry as she drove across the bumpy, recently harvested rye field. It was a pleasant introduction to the event.
After seeing all the exhibits and two trips through the ice cream line at the Breakfast, we started walking to our car. Again, our gray hair attracted this young fella, he offered us a ride. My Traveling Partner and I were wearing “Teach Ag” shirts. Cory Brown asked us if we were involved in teaching agriculture. We gave him at little of our background and then he shared that he was involved in FFA during his high school year. He served as a state FFA officer for a year. Cory told us he lived on a dairy farm but they had to sell their cows last December. He’s now doing electrical work. We had a great chat with Cory and wish him well.
Breakfast on the farm is held the second Saturday in June and is organized by the Dane County Dairy Promotion Committee. Click here to check out their website for the 2023 date and location.
During our month long stay in Door County, we made several trips around the county. One day when we found ourselves in Sister Bay, we parked near the Mill Road Gallery, home of artists Tom Seagard and his wife Brigitte Kozma. As I was browsing around the gallery, Tom came up to me and started talking. Our conversation went on for nearly a half hour, my Traveling Partner came looking for me or I’d might still be standing there talking with this interesting fella.
Tom has been an artist since age 19 when he was studying art and design at UW-Milwaukee. He told me he was injured as a young man, nearly crippled but he turned those injuries, particularly to his hands into opportunities. His current work is of Native Americans. The medium is brown paper, like a grocery bag, stretched over a piece of masonite. He uses traditional art materials as well as common items like bleach, coffee mixed with Windex, and food coloring in his work. Tom has quite a story to tell. Stop in and check out his work. I enjoyed my visit with him. Here’s a link to his gallery webpage.
When I asked Tom if I could take his photo, he hesitated for a second but then consented. He leaned against a counter and I positioned the American flag in the photo to add more interest.
In this photo, Tom is showing me one of the pieces in his Native American series. The detail he creates on the brown paper bags is amazing.
In September, my Traveling Partner and I spent two weeks in the Willmar, Minnesota area volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and Restore of West Central Minnesota. Our main contact at Habitat was Marybeth Nelson, Executive Director. We found her to be helpful, flexible, engaging, and attentive to our needs during our volunteer time. We enjoyed working with her and appreciate her willingness to host two green Habitat Care-A-Vanners. Check out volunteer opportunities at your local Habitat affiliate. You’ll be glad you did.
Second Cousins – Taryn, Ann, and Tracy
During our time in Willmar, my Traveling Partner and I drove to Alexandria, Minnesota to meet up with three of my second cousins. One of those cousins and I connected not long before the pandemic began. We kept in touch and when we found out we’d be nearby, we set a date to meet up to share family history. None of us could remember meeting each other in the past. If we did, it was a long time ago.
My Dad’s mother was born and raised on a farm near Nelson, Minnesota, located about five miles east of Alexandria. Grandma’s parents, Edward and Johanna Olsen were of Norwegian and Swedish respectively. Grandma would always say she was the result of a mixed marriage! Grandma had two sisters and a brother. The cousins I met up with were the grandchildren of her two sisters.
After my Grandmother earned a teaching certificate in the early 1920s at St. Cloud Teachers College, she was offered a teaching job in North Dakota. It was there she met my grandfather, married, and lived the rest of her life.
When I was growing up we didn’t have a lot of contact with our Minnesota relatives. They would come to North Dakota periodically with their parents to visit family members. On a few occasions my Dad would travel to Minnesota to attend a wedding, anniversary, or funeral. For me, the visit to Alex was a golden opportunity to get acquainted and learn more about our shared ancestors.
We spent a few hours poring over photos, letters, and documents. I brought a couple of Grandma’s photo albums that my Dad acquired after she passed away. A few of those photos triggered more discussions as I tried to understand all the familial connections. Soon my head was full of Olsens, Olsons, Nelsons, Johnsons, Andersons, and similar surnames of our many descendants.
It helped to sort it all out when we took a driving tour. First, we stopped at a cemetery in Alexandria where many of my Dad’s uncles, aunts, and cousins are buried. Then we made the short drive to Nelson where we stopped at the church where my great-grandparents were early members.
We also visited the Nelson Cemetery where they and other family members are buried. The Olsen Farm was nearby this cemetery but is no longer in existence.
At the end of the day we took a family photo. From left to right: Taryn, me, my Traveling Partner with the sunglasses, Ann, and Tracy, Taryn’s sister and next door neighbor. If you look close enough at the four of us that are related, I think you see a resemblance. Again, it was a great day with my second cousins. I hope there are more to come.
Meet Bekbolat, Bek for short. Bek is from Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan. There he is a doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and a chiropractor. He was in the U.S. as part of a seven member delegation to learn about Emergency Management and Disaster Planning. This delegation was sponsored by Open World, a program of the Open World Leadership Center funded by Congress. This center provides promising young leaders in former Soviet-bloc countries learning opportunities on issues of importance to their country. In the photo below, Bek flashes the W symbol after a tour of the Wisconsin State Capitol that was conducted in Russian.
The Kazakhstan delegation was hosted in Madison by the Friendship Force of Wisconsin-Madison. MyTraveling Partner and I are members and I served on committee that planned the weeklong program. In addition to the formal program, delegates experienced cultural learning by staying with host families. We hosted Bek and learned a lot about him and his country. His first language is Kazakh, his second language is Russian, and he’s learning English. There were times when we had to use Google Translate to communicate. In the photos below, we stopped at an apple orchard for coffee and fresh cider donuts. Later, we hiked part of the Tumbled Rocks Trail at Devils Lake State Park.
When our club was offered the opportunity to host a group from Kazakhstan, most of us had to Google to find out more about this Central Asian country. Then we read Apples are from Kazakhstan by Christopher Robbins. With scientific certainty, wild apples did originate in this country as did tulips. We learned that Kazakastan is rich in mineral resources and a leader in oil and gas production. It was under the thumb of the Soviet Union for nearly 300 years until 1991 when it became an independent country. We learned that Kazakhstan is the 9th largest country in the world and the largest landlocked country. It shares its long northern border with Russia and eastern border with China. The Kazakh people were originally nomadic moving their herds of cattle, sheep, and camels the Steppe. They were the descendants of the Turks and Mongols. After getting to know Bek and the other delegates, we hope that one day we can visit this interesting country.
We had a lot of adventures in our short time with Bek. Early in his stay, he came down with a sore throat so I took him to Urgent Care where he experienced the U. S. medical system. While in their care, they used an interpreter service to communicate with him. Bek got great care and only missed one day of the program while recuperating.
Too soon, he had to return to his country and family. We enjoyed hosting him, he was polite, kind, and thoughtful. At our farewell dinner, he tried a Wisconsin craft beer, Spotted Cow.
I hope you enjoyed getting to know a few of the many interesting people I met this year. It’s one of the best parts of traveling.
Until next week, happy travels!