Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Lesson for the Teacher

This Florida-girl-turned-Maryland-School-Teacher has had to learn a thing or two in order to keep up with the new Southwestern sights, sounds, spices and styles surrounding her in little Las Cruces, New Mexico. She... I, rather... am adapting well to the change, and in my defense, there are legitimate regional differences that continue to trip me up and keep me two steps behind the curve. So, I thought I'd share my newfound, New Mexico knowledge. Who knows? Maybe you will acquire some new Southwestern wisdom too and become better informed on this one-of-a-kind and somewhat confusing culture.

Kokopelli- is a fertility deity, usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player (often with a huge phallus and feathers or antenna-like protrusions on his head), who has been venerated by some Native American cultures in the Southwestern United States. Like most fertility deities, Kokopelli presides over both childbirth and agriculture. He is also a trickster god and represents the spirit of music. You can find these figures on key chains and t-shirts in just about every Cruces gift store. They're plastered on backyard gates and even serve as decoration adorning the front of many homes. At first I thought the figures were just whimsical, dancing, flute players. Harmless, right? When I found out that they were fertility gods, I vowed to stay as far away from those things as possible. Although my suspicions have yet to be confirmed, I'm betting the homes with Kokopelli decorations likely house large families with many, many offspring.  

Oryx- Oryx is one of three or four large antelope species of the genus Oryx, typically having long, straight, almots-upright or swept-back horns. Two or three of the species are native to Africa, with a fourth native to the Arabian Peninsula.  Small populations of several oryx species, such as the "Scimitar Oryx," exist in Texas and New Mexico, USA as captive populations on wild game ranches. Oryx gazella were released at the White Sands Missile Range and have become an invasive species of concern at the adjacent White Sands National Monument. I have yet to spot my first oryx, but in the name of Steve Irwin, I am determined to track one down. And when I do, I'll leap for joy yelling, "I found one mate... I finally found one!" And depending on my mood, I may throw a couple of "crikeys" in the mix. We'll see how things go.
Las Cruces- Las Cruces, also known as "The City of the Crosses," is the county seat of Doña Ana County, New Mexico, United States. The population was 74,267 as of the 2000 Census, and was estimated at 91,865 as of July 1, 2008, making it the second largest city in the state. Las Cruces is the economic and geographic center of the fertile Mesilla Valley, which is the agricultural region on the flood plain of the Rio Grande which extends from Hatch, New Mexico to the west side of El Paso, Texas. Las Cruces is also the home of New Mexico State University (NMSU), New Mexico's only land grant university. The city's major employer is the federal government on nearby White Sands Test Facility and White Sands Missile Range. Recently the city has been home to many of the retired from across the country. The majestic Organ Mountains, ten miles to the east, are dominant in the city's landscape, along with the Doña Ana Mountains, Robledo Mountains and Picacho Peak. Just like Orlando is termed "The City Beautiful" and NYC is nicknamed "The Big Apple," Las Cruces is called "The City of the Crosses." Personally, I think the name "The City of Cacti" is more fitting, but that's just me.
The City of Mañana- Las Cruces, often termed "The City of Mañana," embraces the idea that tomorrow is just as good a time as today, if not better. All things will get done... eventually. If not today, then mañana. I picked up on this one really quickly when realtors, potential employers and various members of the professional community failed to return my phone calls. Let's just say I'm used to the fast paced D.C. lifestyle.

Arroyo- An arroyo (literally brook in Spanish), also called a wash, is usually a dry creek bed or gulch that temporarily fills with water after a heavy rain, or seasonally. As such, the term is similar to the word wadi. Arroyos can be natural or man-made. The term usually applies to a mountainous desert environment. In many rural communities, arroyos are the principal roads, and in many urban communities they are important multi-use trails for recreation, pedestrian and equestrian travel. Oh-boy-yos check out all of those arroyos! They're everywhere in Cruces, even our backyard.  

Kiva Fireplace- The kiva, or bee hive fireplace, is a rounded, plastered adobe fireplace, typical of southwestern design. It is usually placed in the corner of a room and contains a narrow opening. I think these fireplaces are very unique and artsy looking! We have two at our place, a gas one in the living room and a wood-burning one on the back porch. We can't wait to use them once the temperature drops. And by drops, I mean plummets.
Mule Deer- The mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) is a deer whose habitat is in the western half of North America. It gets its name from its large mule-like ears. Adult male mule deer are called bucks, adult females are called does, and young of both sexes are called fawns. The black-tailed deer is considered by some a distinct species though it is classified as a subspecies of the Mule Deer. Unlike its cousin, the white-tailed deer, mule deer are generally more associated with the land west of the Missouri River. The most noticeable differences between whitetails and mule deer are the color of their tails and configuration of their antlers. The mule deer's tail is black tipped. Mule deer antlers are bifurcated, or "fork" as they grow rather than branching from a single main beam (as with white-tails). Instead of running, mule deer move with a bounding leap (stot), with all four feet coming down together. We spotted our first mule deer while hiking one Saturday morning. Although I'm no seasoned deer hunter like Kyle, I recognized that these deer were different from what I was used to seeing in Maryland. Mule deer, or Cruces deer, as I like to call them, have huge, over-sized ears, and their movement looks more like a hop than a run. Hopping deer... Weird, right?

Swamp Cooler (evaporative cooler)- An evaporative cooler (also swamp cooler, desert cooler, and wet air cooler) is a device that cools air through the simple evaporation of water. Evaporative cooling differs from air conditioning by refrigeration and absorptive refrigeration, which use vapor-compression or absorption refrigeration cycles. In the United States, the use of the term swamp cooler may be due to the odor of algae produced by early units. Evaporative cooling is especially well suited for climates where the air is hot and humidity is low. For example, in the United States, the western/mountain states are good locations, with swamp coolers very prevalent in cities like Denver, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, El Paso, Tucson and Fresno where sufficient water is available. We had to become familiar with the differences between swamp and refrigerated air during our house hunt. We were informed that swamp air can only make your house 20 degrees cooler than the outside temperature. So, if it's 110°F outside, it's not gettin' any cooler than 90°F inside your home. Hence, we decided to go with the refrigerated air since all the cool kids were doin' it.

Aggie- Aggie is a diminutive form of Agricultural, which forms part of the name or historical name of many schools. New Mexico State University’s teams are called the Aggies, a nickname derived from the university's agricultural beginnings. Since I am applying to be an employee and student at "The Home of the Aggies," I figured I should get some idea of what an Aggie is exactly. P.S. Watch out Lobos! The man with the lasso and mustache looks very fierce. Go Aggies!

Tarantula Hawk- The tarantula hawk is a species of spider wasp which hunts tarantulas as food for its larvae. Up to two inches (50 mm) long with a blue-black body and bright rust-colored wings, tarantula hawks are among the largest of wasps. The coloring on their wings warns potential predators that they are dangerous (Aposematism). Their long legs have hooked claws for grappling with their victims. The stinger of a female tarantula hawk can be up to 1/3 inch (7 mm) long, and it delivers a sting which is rated among the most painful in the insect world. Didn't you think the Tarantula Hawk was going to be some ferocious spider-eating bird? I know I did. In fact, I would have laid money on it... Which is why I ain't no bettin' woman. I stick strictly to Kemps and Go Fish. Crazy Eights is about as wild as it gets around here.

*Let's hear a hearty hooray for Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia,
for supplying the definitions for today's lesson.

*The purple and rather useless commentary is compliments of Roadrunner Sims.