Re-Blog: Ancient Survival Skills


(Originally posted 9/5/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

The gringa’s been thinking a lot about survival skills lately. Not only do I wonder what might happen to the average person’s way of life should nuclear war break out (thanks to the bad behavior of Trump and Kim Jong Un), I personally have survived several natural disasters. 


The gringa survived Hurricane Allison. There was a terrifying moment in a motor vehicle, faced with rising waters, when, as I performed a hasty 3-point turn-around to beat a quick retreat, the gringa wondered if she would be forced to choose swimming to safety with her 6-year-old son tucked under her arm and leaving behind her mother to fend for herself who couldn’t swim.


I also survived an earthquake in Los Angeles when visiting friends. It was the scariest natural disaster I have ever experienced. Tornadoes and hurricanes usually provide advance warning. You at least have a chance to get to a safe place. Not so with an earthquake. BOOM. It just happens. It’s a roll of the dice if you are in a safe place or not. No amount of planning really matters. 


I was one of the many evacuees finding safe harbor with friends, family and various hotels for almost a month after Hurricane Katrina. Although Houston didn’t get the brunt of the storm, suffering like New Orleans, we got severe wind damage. This meant rolling black-outs off and on for about a month.

The gringa, a single mom at the time, lived with a mother who had high blood pressure. No A/C in the middle of a Texas summer can be deadly for older individuals with high blood pressure. So, we stayed here and there for a few days at a time over the course of a month, so as not to wear out our welcome. After all, we were a traveling troupe of an old lady, 30-something gal, a child, 4 dogs and a rabbit.


Then Hurricane Ike came along and the gringa hunkered down with the caveman and kids, watching as 30-40′ pine trees bent over horizontal to the plane of the yard as the storm blasted through our neighborhood. We were basically cut off from civilization by floodwaters with no electricity in our neighborhood for nearly 2 weeks. 


We cooked out on the grill in our neighborhood from our hurricane food stores not knowing how long we might need them to last. Although we had a battery back-up pack that we used sparingly to listen to news on the radio, eventually it ran out of juice and we, along with our neighbors, new nothing about when or if to expect rescue or help.


Now, the gringa has most recently survived Hurricane Harvey. The caveman, our children and I are some of the luckiest people in the world. All we got were floodwaters hemming us into our respective apartment complexes. No loss of life or property and only about 5 hours without electricity. 


As the gringa woke in the morning to a raging storm, no electricity and warming coffee water over a few candles, I wondered just how long we might be inconvenienced and if our inconvenience might become dangerous. Over the course of the next week I watched news broadcasts 24/7 to see if we might get a mandatory evacuation order, witnessed the courage and generosity of so many come to the aid of my fellow Houstonians, and battled depression as I saw the lives lost.


Needless to say, the gringa has now been mulling over survival skills. I know all about having a hurricane kit with backup necessities and supplies. However, as I talk to neighbors and hear them mention how secure they feel because they have a generator, the gringa can’t help but think how that is a false sense of security.

After all, Harvey shut down all of our refineries. The entire city and surrounding areas were out of gas within a couple of days. And there is little hope of keeping gas resources readily supplied on the scale the city needs. To really survive a disaster, one must be able to do it without gasoline. And, in case floodwaters require you to flee, a survival kit must be portable. That means no bulky stuff. 


Most Americans may think that they simply can’t live without the technology that makes their current lifestyle possible. Trust me, thousands of generations of indigenous people throughout history have done it. Some are still living in such a way. 

Shelter, water and fire are the first survival necessities to secure. Here are some old survival secrets modified for modern survivors:


Shelter: Think about all those indigenous North Americans who were nomadic, taking their tepee shelters with them.

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A modern survival shelter needs to be waterproof yet still provide plenty of air circulation during warm weather. Keeping out insects is also a must. A tarp roof and mosquito netting walls are perfect. In colder weather additional tarps can replace mosquito netting.


Skip the bulky, heavy commercial tents that include a frame that adds weight and bulk. Instead, add lots of rope and clothespins. Then, all you need is to find a place to hang everything. Some nice shade trees are the perfect location. It’s easier than you think to create a shelter.

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Water: The most common advice is for people to stock up on water. That usually means survival minded folks find themselves stashing a supply of bottled water. But bottled water has an expiration date. If you wait until a natural disaster is imminent, you usually arrive at a store to find there is no water left. 


Even if you have a supply laid aside that hasn’t expired, it is rare that you have set aside enough to meet your needs for the long haul of a few weeks. For hydration, cooking, hygiene and cleaning purposes, about 3 gallons daily are needed per person. That’s a lot of water to tuck away into a closet in the event you are cut off from regular water supplies for a couple of weeks.


If municipal water is contaminated or a tap has actually run dry, what are the options? Collecting rainwater or using natural resources like rivers and streams like they did in the good ol’ days. And you need to do more than boil the water to make it suitable for use. Having a portable carbon filter is a necessity in addition to water purification tablets that kill micro-organisms. Having other options than boiling water are necessary when it is important to conserve precious resources like firewood.


Rather than stock up on bottled water, fill up your bathtubs, even your washing machine, and any suitable vessels on hand to store water. But also have some buckets for the express purpose of harvesting rainwater or toting supplies from a nearby river or stream. You may be inclined to set-up a dedicated rainwater harvesting system for your home. But, again, don’t let that create a false sense of security. Have portable buckets on hand should you need to evacuate and setup shelter in a safer place.

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Fire: Fire serves to keep you warm and make it possible to cook your food when in a survival situation. Fire, in essence, is an energy source. Modern survivalists often replace the fires of old with a gas-powered generator. They use this generator to energize all their essentials that require electricity. They may rely on gas grills for cooking. Again, reliance on fuels that will become scarce in a disaster is a false sense of security.


To cook, lay aside plenty of charcoal briquettes that are safer to store than propane tanks. Charcoal also has a longer shelf life. Also have a healthy stock of firestarter sticks. Don’t forget about portability. If you have to evacuate, you will not want to be towing a barbecue grill with you. For evac purposes, pack a stainless steel pan and a lightweight stainless steel rack that can rest on top.


Instead of a generator that will become useless once there’s no gas for sale, why not put your trust in the Sun? Portable solar power generators can be packed and taken with you if you need to evacuate. Not so with a monster-size gas-powered generator. There are lightweight, fold-away solar generator kits that will keep you connected no matter where you setup camp.

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Although the gringa will leave first-aid kit details up to the dear reader to decide, I will offer one tip. Don’t overlook one key first-aid kit item that is rarely mentioned on the average tip list. One thing every survivalist needs today, especially considering the banter between Trump and Kim Jong Un, is a supply of Potassium Iodide tablets that will last for a couple of weeks.


Good luck and the gringa hopes that you will never need to use your survival kit. But if you live in an area prone to natural disasters like the gringa, it is a necessity that you will likely dip into from time to time.


Image Credits:


Bubi Bottle


DW Milhorne


The Bush Craft Cave


Parkway Partners NOLA


Powerenz


Video Credit: Blade HQ

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The Mayans Wrote Books, Too


Mention the Mayan civilization and you probably think of strange celestial calendars carved in stone, Meso-American pyramids and human sacrifice. You probably wouldn’t think about an ancient library book. Well, the gringa says, “Think again.” And what scholars have translated from the pages of this 17th century Mayan book might have a plan of strategy for those Americans engaged in the Trump resistance of today. Who knew?!

During the time the manuscript was written, European colonialism and Christian religious oppression was in full swing over the indigenous people of pre-Columbia America. Although the entire manuscript is comprised of entries by different authors, it does open a very revealing window to how the influence of Pope Urban IV affected the Mayans.

The manuscript itself is a map of linguistic evolution. Four different languages are represented. It would be only natural to find Latin and Spanish. But two native tongues of the Mayan Empire, K’iche’ and Kaqchikel, are also part of this written record.

The K’iche’ language was already thousands of years old by the time European invaders arrived. But the K’iche’ dialect was what was commonly spoken between the Spanish speaking Europeans and the Mayans. Even today K’iche’ is still used in parts of Guatemala and Mexico by more than one million people, although the influence of Spanish and Latin can be detected in the most current versions. Thousands of immigrants to the United States also speak this ancient language.

The existence of this language into the modern age is a testament to a people who vehemently resisted the Catholic Church’s attempts to convert them and the efforts of Europeans to assimilate them. K’iche’ eventually lost status as an official language in Guatamala. Priests tried to convert Mayans through catechisms and confessionals performed in Latin and Spanish. But the Mayans wanted none of it.

By refusing to assimilate to European customs and the Catholic religion, Mayans were able to preserve their culture. They defended their beliefs by adapting certain elements of their public spaces.  This compromise, a public recognition of the political and cultural sovereignty of the Europeans and the Catholic Church, created a buffer, allowing the resistance to live wholly Mayan in private, unmolested.

The religion practiced by the K’iche’ speaking Mayans evolved over time. It eventually became a hybrid with indigenous and Christian elements easily recognizable in their tenets, documents and art.

One example is the most fundamental concept of sin in Christianity. No such concept existed within Mayan beliefs. Dominican missionaries introduced the concept through a play on words. The K’iche’ word “mak” literally translates “will”, as in personal desire or impulse. The missionaries used the idea of personal impulse to illustrate sin because man is not to follow his own impulse but, rather, the will of god.

Even today, when visiting a Catholic church in Guatamala one will find a very different religious environment than a traditional Catholic setting. The effectiveness of the Mayan religion was a heritage that has reached far, even into our own current era.

To satisfy the Church that they were being compliant, the K’iche’ speaking Maya simply picked and chose the elements of Catholicism that seemed interesting or agreeable. Visiting Catholic officials would see an amalgamation of rites and rituals, many they easily recognized, and would go away satisfied. It was a resistance perpetrated through  appearing to appease the oppressor.

Many people, especially Catholics, prefer to visualize the Catholic Church for its many charitable works it performs today. It is easier on the Catholic conscience to overlook the history of cruelty and brutality. But the reality of violent measures to mandate conversions are the reason the Church was met with such virulent resistance. Who wants to love and serve a god who is represented by something like that?

And it wasn’t just a cruel example of god that turned off the Mayans. The Europeans enslaved them. They, a proud, free and dignified people, a wealthy empire that had built massive monuments were forced into labor, slaves for their invaders. To refuse to serve their taskmasters and worship their overlord’s god often meant imprisonment, torture and, eventually, death.

Although the need for a slave class prevented the physical genocide of the Mayans, a cultural genocide was attempted as a means to force their religious conversion. Prized artifacts and relics were destroyed. Sacred shrines desecrated and razed to the ground. Any written text burned. So, it isn’t that ancient Meso-Americans intelligent enough to build pyramids were illiterate. It’s that their conquerors were effective book-burners. But one amazing book escaped their fires.

If you want to see it in person, it can be perused at the National Museum of History. Or, a digital version can be enjoyed online.

Sources:

Smithsonian

History.com

Britannica

Peoples Of The World

World Atlas

Image Credit: Smithsonian

Video Credit: SmithsonianNMAI

Incredible Incas, Chapt 1, Pt 3


We continue to follow the journey of author Loren McIntyre across the land of the Inca Empire. We reach La Paz, the sacred Lake Titicaca and hear stories of Viracocha who created humanity and walks on water (sound familiar?).

Let’s discover the ancient Incan Empire together at “Read With The Gringa”!

Image Credit: Bhakti Anandas Collected Works

 

Incredible Incas, Chpt 1, Pt 2


We continue following the account of the journey through Peru of author Loren McIntyre in the first chapter “The Silent Strings”. We follow him thru Lima, old temples, Nazca, Cuzco & Bolivia while we learn history along his travels of the Pan American Highway.

 

Let’s read about the Incan civilization together!

Image Credit: Cruising From Stockholm

 

Incredible Incas, Chpt 1, Pt 1


We follow author Loren McIntyre on his fascinating journey through the history, culture and archeology of Peru’s Incan Empire. In the first part of chapter 1 he talks about all that gold!

 

Let’s discover Peru’s Incan Empire together!

Image Credit:  PBS

Soil, Water & Pure Air


(Originally posted 3/7/17 on Read With The Gringa)


The gringa proudly considers herself a treehugger. As a female treehugger, I can count myself among legendary treehugging heroes. Have you ever heard about the the Chipko movement? It is a group of women from India who have been protecting the forests of their native country from deforestation since the 1970s. They link their efforts to an ancient Indian legend about a courageous young girl named Amrita Devi. First, the gringa will tell the dear readers the legend and then you’ll find out about the Chipkos.


Long, long ago, before there was Internet, a Maharajah sent his tree cutters to chop down the trees surrounding a small village. He must have needed lots of furniture, houdahs (saddles for elephants), and firewood. Amrita knew that her family, including her old, beloved grandmother, would die from hunger and cold if they had no firewood. She rushed out and wrapped her arms around a tree, refusing to let the woodcutters chop it down. 


Now, here is where the story really gets interesting. If you have a person like the gringa telling the story, you hear a fantastic ending where Amrita prevails, saves the forest and is rewarded by the Maharaja for her bravery, wisdom and loyalty to family. However, if the caveman gets to butt in and tell the ending, he will say that Amrita got her head chopped off by the woodcutters axe when they went ahead and felled the tree. But, she became a martyr and her village revolted and refused to let any more trees get cut down, setting aside a lovely little grove in her honor where her body and head were buried. The dear reader can pick their own ending.


As for the Chipko, regardless of the ending of the story, they are still inspired by Amrita’s story. In the 1970s these rural village gals made their own brave stand and took their place in history and created a lasting legacy. You see, in the 1960s India was blazing a trail of economic development that meant massive deforestation that the government called progress. Although burgeoning city and industrial growth may have been welcomed by many, for those whose lives were wrapped up in the harmony of life in the forests, subsisting on the crops they planted and the natural resources that surrounded them, such progress was devastating.


For rural communities progress meant crops were ruined, homes torn down, erosion destroyed farmland and flooding ensued. Basically, as centuries-old Himalayan forests were cut down, the culture and and environment supported by these forests disentegrated. Many of these villagers pushed further up mountainsides looking for fuel, water, clearings to plant crops, and materials to construct new homes. 


Finally, like most strong women, many of these matriarchs had had enough. They began engaging in “Chipko”. This is a Hindi word which means “to cling to”. The Chipkos would literally hug trees, refusing to let go so they could be chopped down. The official origins of this method of protest is recorded in a 1973 incident. A contractor had been dispatched to bring down 3,000 trees that were allotted for construction of a sporting goods store. Much of the surrounding area was already barren from prior deforestation efforts. 


When the woodcutters arrived, women began sounding the alarm throughout the village. The gal who was considered their leader was a widow in her 50s. She mustered 27 other women to her side and they rushed out to face off with the woodcutters. At first their brave leader tried to plead with the contractor. Then she attempted to reason with him and educate him on the consequences of deforestation. The response was insult and abuse from the contractor and his crew. 


The women channeled their inner Amritas and flung their arms around the trees and vowed to die before letting go. The men were so taken aback by their actions they surrendered their efforts and returned to the sporting goods jobsite empty-handed. So much for sneakers for everyone!


As the movement proved effective, it grew. New ideas were also integrated into the Chipko’s practices. A cultural practice that symbolized brother-sister relationships was put to good use, tying sacred threads around trees marked with the wood-choppers symbol for its future fate. Crewmen would understand those threads as meaning Chipkos were willing to die on behalf of that tree.


In 1987 the Chipko movement was honored with what might be considered by many a recognition as meaningful as a Nobel Peace Prize. For being a small women’s movement with the purpose of saving trees, the women were given the “Right to Livelihood Award” honoring the many moratoriums and battles won to save a precious natural resource. 

The gringa will close with a Chipko folk song:

The contractor says, “You foolish women, do you know what these forest bear?Resin, timber, and therefore foreign exchange!”

The women answer, “Yes, we know. What do these forests bear?Soil, water, and pure air. Soil, water, and pure air.”


Source & Image Credit: Women In World History

Video Credit: DD News

Poor Mary, Tired To Death


A Winston Churchill quote is one of the greatest sources of inspiration for the gringa when it comes to historical research:

“History is written by the victors.”

 And the funniest thing about the truth of this quote is that Winston Churchill, whom a World War II victory would not have been possible without, did not even originate this quote, yet he always gets the glory. Perhaps it is because he is a victor!

With that in mind, the gringa would like to look at some annals of history comparing the words of the victorious with the words of the vanquished.  As an American, I will begin with my own country’s origins, the arrival of Europeans upon the soil of North America. What is the perspective of American history as told by traditional American historians compared to what is preserved by the indigenous people these European invaders eventually overpowered? Of course the stories vastly differ. But there were more people vanquished by the white men who arrived on the Atlantic shores of modern day Pennsylvania in the 16 & 1700s. There were also women, considered chattel and property. They, too, tell a different history of America than is traditionally recounted by the pre-dominantly white male historian.

Mary Cooper (1714-1778)

At the ripe, old age of 54 Mary Cooper began her diary, re-telling the events of being married to a Long Island farmer. Her personal record spans the years of 1768-1773, ending five years before her death. Poor Mary died childless, all of her 6 children passing on long before her: 2 died in infancy, 2 as young children, and 2 died in adulthood. Her tale is a story of struggle, tragedy and perseverance of a new life in a foreign and hostile land. Was it really worth the sacrifice to be part of a colonial invasion, laying claim to land that belonged to others? Would it have been more wise to remain within the confines of the existing British empire rather than seek to expand it at the expense of indigenous peoples, scratching out a meager existence in an undeveloped country? Dear reader, you read Mary’s words and decide for yourself.

On November 17, a Thursday in 1768, Mary notes how tired she is from a day of cooking and washing dishes. The gringa finds this sad. Women and men alike often consider cooking a joy, even a hobby. Back then, for poor Mary, it was hard labor. Washing a day’s worth of dishes was a task of hard labor as well.

The colonists are almost always depicted as pious Christian folk. We are regaled with stories of church gatherings. Their fervent religious beliefs even inspired the notorious Salem witch trials where young women and old crones were tortured and murdered for superstitious reasons. Yet Mary recounts a Sabbath day in November as being anything but a religious observance of the day of rest. She claimed that amidst a raging rain and snowstorm that she had not a single minute of rest. Keeping her home dry and warm was demanding work.

About one month later, two days in a row leading right up to Christmas Eve, poor Mary was quite miserable. Cleaning house as the northwest wind blew snow all day long made her “tired almost to death”. Christmas Eve, traditionally thought to be a time of gay celebration, also had Mary “tired almost to death”. Why? Because she had been drying and ironing clothes from sun up to sun down. The gringa hates to iron. I don’t purchase a single stitch of clothing if it has to be ironed or sent to the dry cleaners. The gringa believes that Spandex is the single greatest invention on this darn planet. I would have been one of the worst dressed colonists. That’s for darn sure. Poor, poor Mary. What an awful holiday memory.

But maybe Mary enjoys entertaining guests. The gringa knows many women who jump at the chance of being the hostess with the mostest. Maybe having company will cheer up poor, dear Mary.

Let’s see, January 7, 1769… it’s a Saturday! Perfect day for company, right? Wrong. Poor, poor Mary records that she is “tired almost to death” from waiting on her visitors. What about Christian hospitality? Mary’s spirit is a little lacking in such feelings because her feet ached as if her bones had been “laid bare”. Egad! Poor soul! Mary claimed she had no rest at all throughout the week. The gringa’s guess is that it must take that long to prepare for a single afternoon of company.

Dear readers, I believe I would have become a hermit or an eccentric old woman to keep company at bay rather than suffer the likes of what poor Mary endured! All the extra work to prepare for guests meant that she didn’t even have time to take care of cleaning and ironing her own clothes! What a horror! Throw a party and then not have a single thing to wear the following week! Who knew?! Poor Mary couldn’t believe there was possibly a single person who had such a miserable life as her own… “Did ever poore creature [have su]ch a life before.”

On February 12, a day the gringa would look forward to with romance only 2 days away, poor Mary was miserable again. So miserable and on the Sabbath as well. Once again, no rest on the Sabbath for Mary. She pens, “I hoped for some rest but am forst to get dinner and slave hard all day long”.

A week later, on the next Sabbath, the gringa’s insight into Mary takes a dark turn. Perhaps Mary’s life is not really all that bad. Maybe the problem is with Mary, or at least her religion. The gringa thinks Mary lives in perpetual stress due to the “fear of God” nature of her religion and the demands she believes it makes of her. Consider her words:

“I went to the Newlig[ht] meten with greate delight and offer[ed] my self to be a member with them. [They] seemed to be very glad but I was sudingly seased with a great horr[or] and darkeness. E[ven] think darkeness as migh[t] be felt. O, my God, why has thou forsaken me… I came home before the worship began, most distrest.”

Things weren’t any better for Mary the next day. She writes that she is still “in greate darkness still”. The following Sabbath she was still too troubled to attend her religious meeting. Her emotional and religious crisis stretches on into March.

On the 12th of that month she wrote that she was trying to get her clothes ready to attend the meeting despite the fact that she felt “as much distress as my heart can hold.” Two people came to visit her and she recorded that “I am forced to get diner and cannot go to metan atall. Alas, how unhappy and meresabel I am. I feele banished from God and all good.”

The gringa just feels for poor, poor Mary. I remember feeling miserable. It was called an unhappy marriage. The gringa just packed up and ran away from home. As the gringa reads Mary’s words of suffering my mind is screaming, “Run away, Mary! Run away!” But, back then, where would she go? How would she survive?

In April the gringa finds out what happens to naughty women of Mary’s time. Friday, Mary has some visitors. One of her guests is a woman named Tabthea. Mary writes that Tabthea quarrels with “our peopel”  and “Semon Cooper turned her out of doors and threw her over the fence”. The gringa thinks, “What in the world was wrong with those people?” I mean, the history I was taught was all about the generosity and goodness of the early American colonists, their goodness related to their religious beliefs. But here you have a woman who argues a point and then a man tosses her, not just out of the house, but OVER A FENCE! Outrageous!

Throughout April and May, a time when the gringa would be celebrating the arrival of Spring, poor Mary talks over and over again about her distress. It is all related to how much trouble she has with the labor demands of keeping her clothes cleaned and ironed. Things got so bad that on a Saturday, trying to prepare for the Sabbath, she records that she is simply “dirty and distressed as ever”. By the time Sabbath arrives there are “No cloths irond” and she is simply “freted and tired almost to death”.  The next week was no better. Poor Mary had “Much hard worke, dirty and distrest.” She later receives a lady guest who is having problems with her sons. Mary’s perspective is that “We seeme to have little or no sence of any thing but our troubels.” It seems Mary’s depression was the common plight of the female American colonist.

July 13, 1769 is an anniversary of sorts for Mary. It marks the 40th year since she married and came to America with her husband. And how does Mary feel about this? Yes, the dear readers have guessed it, morose, little Mary is not reflecting with gladness… “here have I seene little els but harde labour and sorrow, crosses of every kind. I think in every repect the state of my affairs is more then forty times worse then when I came here first, except that I am nearer the desierered haven.”

The gringa thinks that it’s safe to say that American historians have romanticized a history that is anything but romantic. The colonists could have done themselves a favor, as well as the indigenous people they ended up massacring, by just staying home across the pond!  And that’s enough of poor Mary for now! The gringa is thoroughly depressed and needs a walk in the park because I’m darn sure not doing any laundry anytime soon!

 

Source: nationalhumanitiescenter.org

Image Credit: roleofwomenincolonialtimes.weebly.com