Wonderful In Wichita: A Few Highlights from a Kansan City

 

Aida's in Wichita, KS
Aida’s in Wichita, KS

Almost one year after the first time my husband and I drove to Wichita, Kansas, we were back again. What brought us is business, same as last year, specifically my husband’s duties for the Halal preparation—and by preparation I do mean slaughter—of cattle. The Halal process involves precise steps as meat is prepared for human consumption, especially for those humans who follow Islamic tradition. Halal means permissible in the Arabic language, similar to the Jewish term kosher (meaning fit; foods fit for consumption by a Jewish person), and refers to foods, objects, or activities permissible to use or engage in by Islamic standards.

In the halal method of preparing animal goods, a prayer, Bismillahi Allahu Akbar (In the name of God, God is the Greatest), is recited before the slaughter of each animal to express gratitude for sustenance and to offer a blessing upon the animal. The animal must be alive and healthy, the throat must be cut through with the single swipe of a blade, and the blood must be drained from the carcass. It is a strictly ritualistic process, and one I give my husband credit for taking on the responsibility of considering the sense of sadness he feels for the cows–and which I would imagine every farmer or slaughterer feels to some extent. Even though I admit to being omnivorous, and I grew up in the Midwest near a slaughterhouse and in the vicinity of farms raising everything from swine to bovine to fowl to meet their fates (unbeknownst to their innocent little souls) as providers of sustenance to the human race, animal slaughter isn’t something I would have the capacity for. All a cow would have to do is slip me a sideways glance and I’d happily return it to an open field, tearing up as it ran, or ambled as cows so often do, free.

Though I found myself once again starting my morning at 5AM in a hotel room in Kansas by saying my own prayer for the sweet-eyed cows I could imagine being marched one by one into the factory, I was at least fortunate enough to spend the work days away from this aspect of the journey. On the brighter side, this year we found time to take a couple of afternoons to explore Wichita in more detail. We were happy we did.

Wichita, the 49th largest city in the United States, is scenic, clean, calm, and provides comfortable spots to spend evenings and afternoons. If we could have seen more, I don’t think we would have been disappointed; as it is, the university grounds, botanical gardens and the Old Town district we visited were more than enough to go back home with a satisfied feeling of having gotten to know a new space in the world a little more, and appreciating its beauty. While people often think of the bigger, coastal hotspot U.S. cities when considering vacation adventures, the Midwestern region has an appeal of its own; the charming ambience of slower-paced living mixed with the same modern culture and glamour traditionally associated with New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, or Chicago. Wichita might not be a place you have considered for your list of must-sees, but give it a chance and it might end up on your would-love-to-see-it-again list.

Welcome!

Botanica, 701 Amidon St., Wichita’s botanical gardens. There are paths to take you through a peaceful realm of various flowers species; fountains; ponds of koi and miniature, melodic waterfalls; sitting areas perfect for a picnic (outside food allowed); the music of an occasional flutist drifting with the butterflies; squirrels, birds, and insects going about their business; a butterfly house; a working train model; and a children’s garden offering plenty of color and (climbable) sculptures.They also offer reservations for candlelight dinners on the main patio. A Fall Festival and Halloween activities are coming up.

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Shakespearean quotes on metal sculpture, lit with sunlight.
Shakespearean quotes on metal sculpture, lit with sunlight.

In the children’s garden:

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Climb up a fort, cross a suspension bridge, climb down until you find yourself inside of the smile.
Climb up a fort, cross a suspension bridge, climb down until you find yourself inside of the smile.

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A mama spider crossing the path. How could we tell she was a mother? By the babies she was backpacking along for the stroll.

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After the gardens, a trip over to Seneca Street, recommended by an employee in the Botanica gift shop after we inquired about finding lunch. There we found Wichita Fish Company, 1601 W Douglas, “Wichita’s best kept secret” according to its website. Casual, friendly, with fun sea décor inside, and a patio to make the most of a sunlit October afternoon.

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The Lotus Leaf Café, 251 North Washington Ave. We didn’t actually purchase anything, we stopped in during a search through the Old Town District to satisfy my craving for iced coffee, but an employee informed us that Lotus Leaf isn’t a coffee café and pointed us in the direction of nearby coffee shops. The interior of Lotus Leaf Café was lively–bright colors that infuse you with energy–and the menu looked worth a visit for next time.

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Aida’s Silver Jewelry 920 E 1st St N was the shop we found around a corner. It’s a sweet combination of a jewelry and accessories shop, with a café upstairs. We had an opportunity to talk with Aida, who started her business about twenty-five years ago after moving from Mexico City. Aida makes an awesome iced latte and superb raspberry tea, and she and family are super friendly. You’ll feel at home.

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The Ulrich Museum of Art 1845 Fairmount St., on the campus of Wichita State University. Admission is free, making it great for a family outing, and the campus is a  pleasant mix of bucolic and urban with its away-from-the-city-feel nature scenery and art sculptures dotted along the landscape. Like Botanica, it’s worth an afternoon of your days.

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A game of king, or queen, of the millipede awaits. Amazing sculptures.
A game of king, or queen, of the millipede awaits. Amazing sculptures.

 

May I Blog A Little Peace Into Your Day?

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I ask because I’ve found not everyone is willing, or maybe just not ready, to accept a peaceful message or gesture, a kind word, a token of love. Would you accept? My hope is that if you are reading, you’re feeling enthusiastic about the idea, maybe even saying to yourself, Well, of course you may! Who wouldn’t want a little of that? This I hope, as I curl up in the safe, diverse, friendly space of the blog universe, a place where I haven’t yet encountered a hostile comment placed on me or others. Where I can sit with my cup of warm tea in my comfortable home and feel shielded from the negative energies drifting–or even howling furiously along–outside.

Whew! It sure does feel good to step into a comfortable space and be surrounded by a respite of cheerful, positive thoughts.

The past few weeks have been an experiment and a lesson for me. I’ve been disheartened, surprised, confused, and left wondering What should I do next? What should anybody do next? I’ve discovered that while in the minority, there are a number of people in the world who have curiously hurtful thoughts against others and little reservation in using words to make them known. I’ve also learned that if you want to dedicate yourself to being among the voices to speak up for unity and social awareness, you would be better off joining a speakers bureau, organizing a community event, or writing a book. Discussions on news and public figure websites are not really the place to initiate adequate change.

So I’ve decided that after my much needed refuge in the kind little corner of the blogosphere I’ve been fortunate to find, I will continue to take my own advice and focus on more productive places to put healing intentions and energies. I will also do my best to Keep Calm and Laugh It Off, as my husband encourages me to do. Below is a brief exchange in one conversation regarding current events. It’s one I could at least muster up a humorous feeling for, and, I believe, a fine example of how not to effectively communicate each other. If anything, I hope I can be an inspiration, a reminder that time and words are precious, and that while sometimes it’s worth a try to speak up, other times it turns out to be waste of precious energy.

What we should do next is simply relax, take in a breath of the beautiful day, and offer a friendly word or two to all those we cross paths with.

And the comment that started it was:

James, you don’t have to accept Islam, you just need accept your fellow humans who are doing nothing to harm anyone. That’s the greatest thing we can all do for this world. Don’t feel sorry for me, no reason to. I sleep at night in good conscience and with happiness because I know I’ve done as much as possible each day to be respectful and kind in this world. I wish you and everyone the best regardless of your opinion of me. What you think of me isn’t important, it’s not about me, it’s about being as good as we possibly can in an existence that flies by in the blink of an eye. Why waste the time contributing to negative energy, supporting the idea that there is an entire group of people who are all evil and want to harm the world and should be treated as inhuman? Isn’t that what led to the Holocaust and the genocide of Native Americans? Words have power, be careful how you structure them into an idea.

Followed by one supportive remark, from Dalia, whoever she may be. Although her comments received no likes, it was appreciated, at least by me.

You go girl ♡

Followed up by:

sorry but the way I see it, Stephanie == Head in Sand, Rainbows and Unicorns sprouting from anus. Islam needs to be outlawed like it is in China.

about an hour ago · Like · 4

As you can see, he received 4 likes. Not too bad. And this was followed up with a comment from Graham:

whoah … what and what comin outa where? that’d be a sight indeed … lol

I liked this one. It was innocent enough, and I appreciate humor. Next, I tried my best with what I thought to be an effort at peacekeeping, but perhaps it was too sarcastic. No likes received for:

Rainbows and Unicorns? Head in the sand? Call it what you like, but I grew up in a very diverse family and have seen the beauty of coexistence and dedicate my time to supporting this idea.

And the concluding remark:

The concluding remark by, posted by someone I imagine to be an angry-looking man with and serpents for hair and a gaze that could turn me to stone in a matter of seconds, involved the word “kill,” so I thought it best to leave it at walking away perplexed by the amount of bullying that we, as adults, are capable of.

If I, or anyone, were to judge ourselves by numbers of likes on a social networking site, on insults directed at us by others attacking safely from the security of their unknown locations on the other side of a computer screen, or by other peoples’ drives to bully, we would lose the strength to stand up for ourselves and others; we might start to believe the lie.  It can get vicious out there. So keep calm, and don’t forget to laugh. Even when it doesn’t help it certainly doesn’t hurt.