Hidden amidst an enormous, dry desert is a place of beauty. A place with the power to skip heartbeats, to inspire youth, and to leave viewers speechless. The magnificent display of nature’s masterpiece comes to life in the most unlikely region imaginable – Arizona. To the north lies the majestic Grand Canyon, concealed from the scorching desert heat. Surrounded by voracious vultures and crouching cacti, the Grand Canyon is indubitably a wonder of the world. I have hiked to Phantom Ranch, Havasu Falls, and along the North and South Rims numerous times. Each time I discover something new, something more exciting than before: the refreshing vanilla scent of ponderosa pines, a chipmunk scampering underground at the sound of my intruding feet, the gentle descent of snowflakes brushing against my skin.
True, the Grand Canyon serves as a genuine trademark to Arizona, but how many people know of the exotic hummingbirds at Ramsey Canyon, the native palm trees in the Kofa Mountains, or the peaceful woods of Portal? My passion for the natural beauty of Arizona has taken me to every corner of the state. The amazing presence of life in such an arid climate shows that Arizona is truly a unique state.
An important aspect that has kept Arizona so beautiful lies within its history. Long before industrialized cities and cement roads, Native Americans were the sole inhabitants of the state. The Anasazi Indians resided in cliff dwellings in Eastern Arizona and mysteriously disappeared around 1300. Their unique mountainous community and impressive survival are important cultural facts that bring a powerful, rich tradition to the state of Arizona. A number of other Native American tribes lived throughout the state, but it wasn’t until 1871 that white men settled in Arizona. They relied on the Colorado River not only as a water source, but they also began mining for copper and silver.
Copper mining was extremely successful in Arizona, and quickly became the nation’s leading producer of the mineral. The copper star in the center of the state flag also symbolizes the significance of copper. Several other symbols have importance to Arizona, each with an important and unique history. I am a proud citizen of Arizona and believe that everyone should appreciate the history of the place they call home.
Arizona’s landscape is another part of the state’s positive aspects. Beyond the boundaries of nature, a sense of community is present within Phoenix city life. Also known as the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix is the home to many benevolent neighborhoods. The neighborhood I grew up in eighteen years ago serves as a perfect example of the exceptional society in Phoenix. During my childhood, I had a network of friends on my block, all of whom were raised to respect, appreciate, and serve the community. Our families frequently attended fundraisers, such as the annual Back to School Clothing Drive, in which we stuffed backpacks with school and hygiene supplies for impoverished children. Another similar experience was the Christmas Shoe Box Event. We filled shoeboxes up with gifts for children in Papua New Guinea, Mexico, and Serbia. As I grew into a young adult, these traditions did not end; they simply took on different forms.
As a Boy Scout, I achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. I taught disabled schoolchildren how to play musical instruments and provided storage units as well. I raised the funds through car washes and lead a group of 30 Scouts in the process. The Scouts, who ranged from seniors in high school to fresh, new 6th graders, were incredible to watch. They were kind and patient with the children, and they made me think how special my community really is. The staff at the school was tremendously grateful, and I believe that even one helpful deed like my Eagle Project can go a long way, because there are always people in need and improvements to make in a community.
My community goes above and beyond the call of duty, making my town a wonderful place to live. Everyday in the paper, I read about the generous acts of people enhancing the city. Volunteering is a common occurrence in my community. From high school fundraisers to Christmas caroling to repairing nature trails, Arizona is a unique state, serving as a home to many compassionate citizens. I know that no matter where my life takes me, or where I end up, I will always remember my true home: Arizona.
West Papua and PNG Unite in China for Cultural Dance 2015 (Part 2 – Iwalingoto by Junior Insects)
This is Part 2. On the 23rd of May 2015, during the Central China Normal University 2015 Cultural Festival, the West Papua and Papua New Guinea University students of Wuhan (China) combined to perform two cultural dance items – one West Papua and the other PNG. The outcome was unbelievable and with tens of thousands in attendance, the ‘New Guinea’ profile in China was raised to another level. It was an honor for me to shoot and publish this great memory!
Amanda Mek (for her camera)
Ferdinand Paisei (for his camera)
Song: Iwalingoto by Junior Insects (credit to Cyclone Digital Studios)