Scarves, Somali Tea and the Polar Vortex

Shamso outfits me with a scarf.

Shamso outfits me with a scarf.

Shamso reaches around my neck to reposition a fringed end of the gold trimmed navy scarf that she picked out for me. The scarf, made of soft cotton, feels surprisingly heavy after she wraps, rolls and tucks the material into place just above the collar of my puffy black winter jacket.

Standing back with her hands on her hips to assess, and in her own vibrant fuchsia and gold print headscarf, she squints. It’s not quite right. Shamso leans in and gently tugs at the fabric above my forehead. She nods, smiles and says something in Somali to Maryan, who also seems to approve of my new East African look.

I'm flanked with Shamso on the left and Maryan on the right.

I’m flanked with Shamso on the left and Maryan on the right.

When I suggest a photo with the two women I have just met, Shamso reaches in her pocket, whips out her iPhone, holds it out with one hand and then snaps a few photos while we smile and lean in together with a backdrop of fluorescent light panels and the vibrant inventory of shopping stall 137, which includes hanging scarves, as well as neon animal, striped and floral print gowns, skirts and leggings.

It’s an “I’d-like-to-teach-the-world-to-sing-in-perfect-harmony” moment, and I’m on a giddy global high. About 30 minutes earlier, I had trudged with my dad through the sloppy, tire-churned-up Uptown snow toward Suuqa Karmel, a Somali market in Minneapolis. The powder blue concrete complex with colorful murals of dessert scenes, including a camel caravan and palm trees, definitely seems out of place since snow banks jut up from the sidewalk leading to the entrance.

Suuga Karmel

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The Travel Ahh….Life on a Frozen Lake

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota. In many cases winter represents an end to something: like an end to fall, an end to warm weather, an end to the year, an end to a life cycle. It can be a bit depressing, really. Consequently, I’m not a fan of winter or the cold, but when you travel back to Minnesota for the holidays, that is what you will get. This year I decided, however, to appreciate winter, in particular, the beauty and the mystery of a frozen lake.

© Stephanie Glaser

Seaweed in the ice © Stephanie Glaser

A frozen lake is just another phase of a life cycle. Actually, you see quite a bit of life, albeit some of it cryogenically preserved. Sensory details keep it interesting as well whether it is the crunch of snow, the cold on your face or the bright glare of the sun reflecting off the ice.

A somewhat unsettling, but cool, sound occurs when the ice contracts and expands, making noises like a whale or a thick wire reverberating. My favorite description is from my son Eddie, who noticed the ice sounded a stormtrooper firing his blaster in “Star Wars.” So really it’s like whales playing laser tag. Fortunately, this is normal activity for a frozen lake and while there are cracks that happen way down in the layers of ice, water seeps in and refills the cracks.

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