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.
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.
In the children’s garden:
A mama spider crossing the path. How could we tell she was a mother? By the babies she was backpacking along for the stroll.
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.
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.
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.
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.