May 31 – Exploring Explorers

Posted on May 31, 2017

Exploration - traveling to unknown places - requires a kind of bold courage. 

Exploration usually also requires a lot of very particular skills. How to sail, how to survive off the land, how to predict and survive storms - these are just a few examples of skills an explorer might need.

Exploration almost always requires money! Money for vehicles, equipment, food, a crew...

Today we celebrate several birthdays of men involved in the history of exploration:

On this date in 1469, Manuel I was born into Portugal's royal family. When he became King Manuel I of Portugal, in 1495, he chose to support his nation's further exploration of the world. 

That meant that he paid for expeditions such as Vasco de Gama's sea journey, which established a route to India, and Pedro Alvares Cabral's journey to the "New World," which resulted in the "discovery" (by Europeans) of Brazil.

We now look at the imperialism resulting from European nations' voyages of discovery and establishment of trade routes, and we shudder. We know how much slavery, misery, death through illness, and war resulted from this imperialism. But at the time, Manuel I's investment in exploration paid off in increased wealth and knowledge.

One this date in 1852, an Argentinian explorer named Francisco Moreno was born. As a youth, Moreno studied science and collected fossils and archeological artifacts (thingsmade by ancient peoples). 

After graduating from his formal schooling, Moreno launched several scientific expeditions, and he mapped out previously uncharted territory in Patagonia. I gather that it was on the basis of knowledge he gained in his travels that Argentina was able to set up a boundary with Chile.

Above and below: Patagonia

Moreno learned about the native peoples who lived in the lands he explored - although he was taken prisoner by one group and was condemned to death; he escaped one day before his scheduled execution. Moreno continued to collect prehistoric artifacts and skulls. Later, he founded an archeological museum.

On this date in 1863, a fellow named Francis E. Younghusband was born in British India. He grew up to serve in the military, to travel and climb mountains, and to write about it all. Some of his expeditions to the Far East and Central Asia were journeys of exploration, and Younghusband's books were able to describe these exotic lands.
Younghusband, like most of these explorers, was involved in some very problematic events caused by (again) imperialism. The worst was Younghusband's participation in an invasion of Tibet and a massacre - British soldiers killing Tibetan monks and other Tibetan people!
Above and below: Tibet

On this date in 1937, Vladislav Ivanovich Gulyayev was born in Russia. He grew up to become a cosmonaut - specifically, a flight engineer. 

Even though Gulyayev wasn't the first human (or even the first Russian) to go to space, space travel is still very dangerous, and to a huge extent - whether a flight is a success or a failure - we learn with every spaceflight.

Also on this date:

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May 30 – Parliament Day in Croatia

Posted on May 30, 2017

Originally, May 30 was considered Statehood Day - a "day off" for most Croatians. But since 2002, Statehood Day was moved to June 25.

Still, May 30 is the anniversary of the nation's first multi-party parliament, in 1990.

The Croatian Parliament is called the Sabor.

Since I just went to Croatia on the best vacation ever, a couple of months ago, I am highlighting my top favorite things we did in Croatia:

Of course, Plitvice National Park. It's truly extraordinary! We hiked in this watery wonderland for five joyful hours.  

My daughter called it Shangri La!

Before we got to Plitvice, we were entranced by Slunj. We thought it looked like Dinotopia!

I also loved the sea organ of Zadar, and the nearby Greeting to the Sun.

Rovinj was our favorite part of Istria...

...although we enjoyed seeing the Roman ruins at Pula, as well.

We didn't get all the way down to the walled city of Dubrovnik, but we enjoyed checking out other old, walled cities, such as Trogir.

We had a great time checking out the Easter decorations in the capital city, Zagreb.

We particularly enjoyed this historic church in Zagreb:

Speaking of churches, Easter Sunday at Marija Bastrica was pretty cool.

Also on this date:

Water a Flower Day  

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May 29 – Truth Speaks Truth!

Posted on May 29, 2017

Who, in the mid-1800s America, was even less powerful than black men?

Black women, of course!

Born into slavery Isabella Baumfree, Truth experienced most of the miseries of slavery - being sold, being mistreated, being beaten...

Possibly even worse than beatings: being being torn from those she loved, being forced to marry against her will, being promised freedom that never comes...

Isabella Baumfree walked away from her master in 1827, and she became a preacher and a human rights activist. She changed her name to Sojourner Truth in 1843, and she worked in both the anti-slavery and the women's rights movements.

During the Women's Rights Convention, held in Akron, Ohio, on this date in 1851, several white, male Christian ministers argued that women didn't deserve the same rights as men. They gave the following reasons:

1) Women are weaker than men. 
2) Women had less intellect (in other words, were less smart) than men. 
3) Jesus was a man, not a woman.
4) The first woman, Eve, sinned. (This is from a story in the Abrahamic religions - of course there was no one "first woman.")

Sojourner Truth hadn't prepared a speech to deliver that day, but she rose up to answer the ministers' arguments. Some of the white women at the conference started to protest, to hush her, thinking she was going to talk about the abolition of slavery (and they didn't want to get distracted away from women's rights), but Truth forcefully began to address the conference, anyway.

And she quickly destroyed each of the ministers' arguments.

Here is the most famous portion from Truth's unplanned speech:
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman?

Look at me! Look at my arm! I have plowed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman?

I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman?

I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Read her entire speech here. Or check out this video.

After Truth was done with her short, impromptu speech, almost all the conference attendees rose up on their feet and applauded wildly.

(By the way, there is more than one account of what Sojourner Truth said. Since there were no audio or video recordings of her remarks, of course, we cannot be sure exactly what she did or did not say. Check out this website for another version of Truth's speech.)

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the first successful climb of Mount Everest

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