Saturday, September 01, 2007

Join Fitness Walk across Portage Lift Bridge on Labor Day

The Portage Lift Bridge will be the scene of Portage Health's Bridge Walk for fitness on Labor Day, Sept. 3. (Photo © 2006 Gustavo Bourdieu)

HANCOCK -- Once again, you don't have to go all the way to Mackinac to join the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. Portage Health is organizing a Bridge Walk at 9 a.m on Labor Day -- Monday, Sept. 3 -- as part of the Labor Day Community Walks that are held throughout the state in conjunction with the Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Walk.

In support of "Getting Michigan Moving," these walks link communities together in the name of health, fitness and active living, just as the Mighty Mac links Michigan's two peninsulas.

This year, the walk begins at the Kestner Waterfront Park Pavilion in Houghton and proceeds over the bridge to Hancock and back to the pavilion, mapping a route of approximately 4 miles. The event is FREE. You can register in advance (forms available at Portage Health, near the cafeteria) or register the day of the event at the park. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the walk begins at 9 a.m. Refreshments will be served at the finish, and participants will have the opportunity to enter their names in a drawing for prizes. Dress appropriately for the weather, wear comfortable shoes and bring your friends and family. Participants might want to carry a water bottle.

Friday, August 31, 2007

"Two Songs for Labor Day" film clip pays homage to U. P. workers

CALUMET -- The 1913 Massacre Film Project by the Center for Independent Documentary has posted "Two Songs for Labor Day," a clip from the film in progress, on The clip features songs by Calumet musician Oren Tikkanen and friends as well as Arlo Guthrie. The film project is named for the song "1913 Massacre" by Arlo's father, the late Woodie Guthrie, and includes interviews with local Calumet residents, former miners and their descendants. Visit YouTube for the film clip and read more about the project and how you can support it on the 1913 Massacre Web site.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Photo contest deadline extended to Sept. 7

Keweenaw sunset with freighter. Photo taken near Keweenaw Tip on Isle Royale Queen IV during Reading the Landscape cruise June 30. (Photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)

HANCOCK -- Readers, Keweenaw Now is extending the photo contest through Sept. 7, 2007. Just in case you capture that great view of Lake Superior during the Labor Day weekend, it will still be eligible! Here again are the rules of the contest:
1. By entering the contest, you give us permission to publish your photo on this blog with your name (or a nickname, if you prefer). Email the photo to by midnight, Sept. 7, 2007.
2. Email your photo as a jpeg file of 1.5 MB or less. We may publish a smaller version of the photo with a click to the larger version. Send us the larger one.
3. The photo should express a personal, environmental, economic or spiritual connection people have to Lake Superior in one of the following 3 categories: wildlife, landscape or stewardship/education (e.g., cleaning a beach, leaving it cleaner than you find it, learning about the lake, etc.) Photos of local beaches ecologically connected to Lake Superior -- such as Hancock, Houghton or Chassell on the Portage Canal -- are acceptable as entries.
4. Please send only one photo for one category (You may submit up to 3 photos if they are in different categories.)
5. Do not post your photo on the blog. Email it to us. Only the 6 best photos will be posted, two in each category. The prize is having your photo posted on our new Keweenaw Now Blog.
6. Professional photographers are not eligible to enter.
7. If you have questions, comment on this post.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Maple Sugar Folk to present French Canadian song, dance in Chassell Aug. 30

In August of 2006, in the Chassell Heritage Center, local international folk dancers helped visitors learn traditional French Canadian dances to the music of the group of singers and musicians now known as Maple Sugar Folk. They will perform here again from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30. (Photo © 2006 Gustavo Bourdieu)

CHASSELL -- Maple Sugar Folk will perform Traditional Music and Dance of French Canada from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 30, at the Chassell Heritage Center. Singing, dancing and fiddling by local performers offer you a taste of some of the cultural traditions brought to our area by French Canadian settlers. Start "warming up" to celebrate the French-Canadian "Festival Joie de Vivre" to take place in Chassell at this time next year!

The audience will be invited to sing along on the chansons à répondre, and Hester Butler will teach traditional folk dances accompanied by live music.

Monday, August 27, 2007

MTU to host authors of book on Lost Boys of Sudan Aug. 29

HOUGHTON -- Benjamin Ajak and Judy Bernstein, co-authors of the book, They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky, will speak in Michigan Tech's Rozsa Center at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 29. The book is the true story of three Lost Boys from Sudan whose village was attacked in the Sudanese Civil War during the 1980s.

Their talk should be of special interest for MTU's first-year students, who have been reading the book this summer as part of the Reading as Inquiry program and who will discuss it Wednesday morning in their Orientation teams. MTU faculty and staff members will lead the group discussions on campus. Two students, an Orientation Team Leader and a Residence Life student staff member, will assist with each discussion group.

The Lost Boys who are the narrators in this book are now young men living in the United States. Benjamin Ajak and his two cousins, Benson Deng and Alephonsion Deng (two brothers) join in recounting the harrowing adventures of small boys struggling to survive the dangers of enemy bombs, land mines, disease, lions, insects, hunger and thirst as they flee their village, mostly on foot, across the Sudan to refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. Co-author Judy Bernstein encouraged the boys to write down their stories, which soon became this book.

The Reading as Inquiry program is sponsored by the Michigan Tech Department of Humanities and the Center for Orientation, Mentoring, Parents, and Academic Student Success (COMPASS).

The selection of They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky for the Reading as Inquiry program is a follow-up to a previous visit to MTU by one of the Lost Boys of Sudan and another book on this fascinating subject.

Last spring, students in some MTU classes read What is the What, by Dave Eggers. This book is a partly fictional account of the experiences of another of the Lost Boys, Valentino Achak Deng, who visited MTU and spoke to students in their classes and in a public lecture in the Rozsa Center. What is the What relates Valentino's experiences in the United States as well as his memories of fleeing the violence of that same civil war. (See April 2, 2007, article on Keweenaw Now)

Last April MTU student Nicholas Deming wrote an article about Valentino's visit and the book What is the What. We are publishing it here since Valentino's story has many affinities with the stories in They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky, the subject of Wednesday's lecture.

A Visit from Valentino Achak Deng: April 2007

By Nicholas Deming

On Tuesday, April 3, Michigan Tech, through the efforts of Professor Matt Seigel, received a visit from Valentino Achak Deng. Mr. Deng is a refugee from Sudan, who now resides in the United States and is also the real-life hero in Dave Eggers’ new novel, What is the What. This book tells the story of Valentino Achak Deng’s trip across Sudan to Ethiopia and then his trip back into Sudan and on to Kenya during the second Sudanese Civil War. To better understand the book, one should first take a look at the actual experiences Deng had in Sudan.

Valentino Achak Deng (Photo courtesy Valentino Achak Deng Foundation)

Deng was born in the Sudanese village of Murial Bai in 1980. He lived here with his family, growing up as any child would -- helping his parents around the house, going to school and playing with neighborhood friends. In 1985, the Murahaleen, now known as the Janjaweed in Darfur, attacked and burned Murial Bai three times. In 1987, Murial Bai was attacked again separating Valentino from his family. He fled, not knowing the fate of his family for 16 years; nor would he return for many more years.

It was then, at age seven, he joined many other boys led by elders on their way to Ethiopia. Having no idea of the distance, Valentino assumed it would be only a few days before they arrived. However, as he soon realized, this trip would turn into many months as the boys trekked for thousands of miles. There were many of these groups like the one in which Deng traveled. The boys in these groups became known as the "Lost Boys of Sudan." During this migration, Deng would endure traumatic event after traumatic event.

He would go weeks with little food and days without water. He would be under attack from the bombs of the Khartoum government forces, lions and other creatures of the Sub-Saharan Sahel, the diseases that run rampant throughout Africa and the mental strain from these circumstances. As a result of this endless barrage, Deng would lose many close friends and see many others whom he did not know fall to the same fate. He somehow pushed forward.

Upon his arrival in Ethiopia, where he expected food, dry beds and school, he found everything the same. In time, that place became the Pinyudo refugee camp. For three years Deng resided at Pinyudo. In 1991, Pinyudo fell under attack and he was forced back into a chaotic Southern Sudan. He endured another hectic trek, this time on his way to Kenya. He suffered the same hardships as before although the trip was shorter.

Upon the arrival in Kenya, Deng entered the Kakuma Refugee Camp where he would spend his next 11 years of his life. During his time at Kakuma he was able to attend school, where he became involved in drama. He participated in educational performances aimed at teaching refugees about HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. His involvement in drama led him to become a youth leader at the camp -- a position where he led 5000-6000 youths. Then, in 1999, the US began accepting refugees from Kakuma. It was still two more years before Deng would begin his journey to America -- another journey that would prove to be a test of endurance.

On September 9, 2001, Valentino flew into Nairobi on his way to New York. He was scheduled to arrive on September 11. It was then he learned that America had been attacked and he would not be going. He would spend two more weeks in Nairobi before flying into the U.S. and eventually ending up in Atlanta. Here he received three months of paid rent and then had to begin fending for himself. In 2003, Deng began speaking at colleges and high schools in the Atlanta area. A nationwide tour is what brought him up to Michigan Tech.

What is the What

What is the What is a book describing in vivid detail the hardship, perseverance, determination, elation and sadness that was required of Valentino Achak Deng over the course of his life. What is the What is split into two books. The first begins here in the United States at his Atlanta apartment as he is being robbed at gunpoint. Valentino is held captive in his own home for an extended period of time while it is ransacked and looted. In the novel, the protagonist, who is based on Valentino, tells the robbers everything they do not know about his previous life in Sudan and his present life in America. Although directed at the robbers, the stories are not spoken out loud, but just played through in his head. The second book is set up in the same fashion. In the waiting room of the hospital and at the desk where he works, he tells his story the same way to his friends and people he does not know.

While on campus, Valentino spoke and answered questions about the novel by Dave Eggers and about the current Darfur conflict, which is an offshoot of the civil war that he lived through. Although the book is a novel, he explained that only 10% of What is the What is fictional and that the remainder recounts his experiences as he remembers them. One reason it was decided to make the book a work of fiction was that Valentino believed the vast number of names that enter into his story would have made a work of non-fiction confusing and hard to follow.

One issue that he brought up -- which many of us here in America do not understand -- is that the civil war that began in 1983 has lingered on into the Darfur region of Sudan today. Over four million Sudanese are currently displaced in the country, while one million Sudanese have been forced out of Sudan.

Valentino believes that if the U.S. became politically involved in Sudan there might be a hope for peace. He is not asking for a military presence, but rather for the White House to apply pressure on Khartoum to stop supplying the Jangaweed militia.

Many students at Michigan Tech were impressed by the vast knowledge this man held about Sudan and even the world. This knowledge extended far beyond what he experienced and what he understood while he lived in Sudan and the refugee camps. Valentino’s harsh reality of life and how he handles what is thrown at him left audiences in awe. His perspective on life in general is one that should be revered by many.

Valentino's long-term goal is to work for the United Nations. He is also currently working on an autobiography and a book on the future of women in Sudan. He plans to return again to Murial Bai in Southern Sudan to begin work on a complex, which is planned to feature a library, a women's center, a youth activity center, a community-gathering center and a sports program through the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation. The proceeds from the book What is the What will go to Sudanese in America and Sudan.

Editor's Notes: In July 2007 Valentino did return to his village of Murial Bai in order to meet with the community and local officials about his plans to build an educational center in the village. Read more about this and other projects of Valentino's Foundation and see a slide show with photos of his trip to Murial Bai on his Web site:

For a map of Sudan visit

Nicholas Deming, the author of this article on Valentino Achak Deng, is from Saint Charles, Mich. He wrote the article while in his first year at Michigan Tech, where he is majoring in Civil Engineering. Nick's activities include MTU Army ROTC, Pavement Design, Construction and Materials Enterprise.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Houghton County Fair visit: part 1

Photos by Gustavo Bourdieu and Michele Anderson, as indicated.

Inside the Houghton County Fair Exhibit Building, Sean Godmere, 3, son of Shane and Michele Godmere of Centennial Heights, tries his steering skills at the Toddler Driving School -- in the company of Houghton County Fair Queen Genny Gierke of Chassell. (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

HANCOCK -- From kids' fun to prize-winning tomatoes to tough, competitive horse-pulling, Keweenaw Now captured some highlights of the Houghton County Fair on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2007, at the Fairgrounds in Hancock.

These Prize-winning tomatoes were among the local garden produce on display in the Exhibit Building at the Houghton County Fair, whose theme this year was "Locally Produced, Locally Enjoyed!" (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

Winners in the home canning exhibit included many jars of quality fruit preserves -- a traditional County Fair exhibit. (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

Entertainment on the Indoor Arena stage Saturday afternoon included music, song and dance by talented area young people like Emily Oppliger of Hancock, pictured here. (Photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)

Elizabeth Flynn of Hancock was one of several volunteers working at the Houghton County Democrats' booth in the Indoor Arena. Local organizations and businesses displayed information in booths at the fair. (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

The weather cooperated this weekend so that fairgoers could enjoy the many outdoor activities and rides. (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

The giant slide is popular with kids of all ages! (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

Volunteers from the Women's Mission Outreach of Zion Lutheran Church serve homemade pies and beef and lamb sandwiches at their booth in the Indoor Arena. "All the money that we raise goes to the missions," said Cheryl Hendricks, center, of Hancock. Also pictured are Hendricks' sister Debbie McCuskey, left, visiting from Novi, Mich., and Debbie Stimac of Hancock. (Photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)

Another popular food booth offered such tempting aromas that it was hard to pass it without trying a Greek Kabob of lamb, chicken cooked in olive oil or seafood followed by a traditional dessert of tasty baklava. Chefs Dimitri Sakerlaraitis and Luz Perez traveled here from Toronto to participate in the fair. (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

This blue-ribbon-winning duck is from the Askel Hill Farm in Pelkie. (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

It's siesta time for this contented piggy! (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

Driving these high-stepping draft horses are Terry Lane, left, of Sundell, Mich., and Lauri Vanelsacker of Northland, Mich., who participated in the Parade of Horses Saturday afternoon. (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

A variety of draft horses and wagons line up for the Parade of Horses. (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

Copper Country Riders and their horses parade in the Main Event Arena. (Photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)

Many volunteers and sponsors make the Houghton County Fair a success. Visit the Fair's Web site for the names of sponsors. Watch for photos of the Draft Horse Pull competition, coming soon.