Post Tagged with "Texas"

Irma from Dallas, Texas

Irma Meyers-Donihoo and I play tennis together in Dallas, Texas. She graciously agreed to answer a few questions about herself and her daily life. Thanks, Irma!


Tell us something about yourself. Where do you live? Were you born there?

I was born in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, England.  My father was English and my mother from Dallas, Texas.  They met in Dallas.  For a time they backpacked through Europe.  I was conceived in Spain, gestated in Amsterdam and Copenhagen and born in England.  We moved to California and my parents divorced a couple of years later.

My mother brought my brother and me back to Dallas to raise us.  I graduated in a suburb of Dallas, Farmers Branch, and worked in Dallas.  For a time I worked for Arista Records in the promotions and marketing dept. That was an remarkable time.  Met many famous people and travelled a great deal.  My husband and I moved to Chicago in the mid-90’s and then back to Texas and finally settled in Plano, Texas.

What languages do you speak? Do you ever use a language which is not your mother tongue? (If so, how often?)

I speak English (and try to stick with the Queen’s English rather than Americanisms when I can).  I took French in high school, which living in Texas is a fairly futile thing to do.  I can read French better than speak it.  And through the years I’ve picked up a smattering of Mexican Spanish.

If you could travel abroad, where would you go and why?

My top travel spot would be Australia, New Zealand.  I think to swim in the Great Barrier Reef and climb Ayer’s Rock and see Alice Springs and then to travel in NZ would be an marvelous memory to have.  Next, I want to see the Scandinavian countries.  I admire their countries so much and would love to see the architecture and enjoy the food.  And then back to the UK, where I would live if I could.

Would you like to live abroad? If so, what stops you?

Yes, I would.  My family is not of the same mind set.  Also, the economy isn’t the greatest and there’s the comfort of the familiar.

What do you love about your country?

I’m very critical of my country.  There are many imperfections about America that I dislike and feel embarrassed about.  And that’s really the greatest thing about my country; that I can feel like that and can disagree with my politicians and not feel fearful of repercussions (although that has been changing of late unfortunately).

I also love the many different cities and environments you can find here, from beaches and deserts to prairies and Great Lakes to mountains and swamps, plus great cities like New York, San Francisco, New Orleans and Chicago.

What is a typical day for you? (eg what time do you get up, what hours do you work, what do you do in the evening, what do you eat for lunch etc)

I’m up early, around 6:30.  After getting my daughter off to school, I’ll either stay home to do chores and run errands or go play tennis.  I love to see first run movies in a theater.  I meet with friends for lunch at various local spots.  I also volunteer weekly at my daughter’s school.  My husband works out of town every other week, so evenings when he’s gone are more loose…usually just dinner for my daughter while I snack.  Weekends are times when we see friends and family, go out to dinner and theater, and maybe take in a special event that’s happening in town.


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A German-American family in the USA

Spanish Missions in San Antonio, Texas

A blended family in a blended city


August 9, 2012 1 comment

Spanish Missions in San Antonio, Texas

In the 17th century, Texas, along with most of the southern part of what is now the United States from Florida to California, belonged to the sprawling Spanish Empire. Since France possessed modern-day Louisiana and showed a keen desire to expand her territories at Spain’s expense, the Spanish Crown decided to establish six missions along the San Antonio River to stop the French.

The missions served as forts, schools, villages, farms and ranches. The Franciscan friars converted the native Coahuilans to Catholicism and taught them to behave as Spaniards. The missions also helped maintain Spanish control over the frontier.

Five of those missions thrived and can be visited following the Mission Trail signposts around the city of San Antonio. Four of the churches are still active parish churches. When we visited the Missions, there were weddings at two of them!

Mission San José is the biggest and, in my opinion, most beautiful and better preserved. This is a view of the church, closed to visitors day day because there was a wedding.

A view of one of the gates to Mission San José. Cacti grows everywhere in Texas!

Mission Concepción church, wedding-free that day. The interior has some original frescoes.

Mission Espada, with a modern Franciscan friar, a common sight in the last three centuries

Nit much remains of Mission San Juan except fro the church, which was undergoing repairs when we visited

Not many people know that the famous El Alamo used to be another Franciscan mission!

Photos: Ana O’Reilly

Visit San Antonio Missions National Historical Park for more information

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Photo Essay: Texas Wildflowers

US, Russia: The Flying Balalaika Brothers Bridge Cultural Gaps in Texas

Picture Postcards: an All-Texan Lunch

August 8, 2012 4 comments

Picture Postcards: A Fridge in Texas

Here is our contributing editor, Ana’s, fridge at her home in Texas. She points out that you get to see her husband’s birthday cake which is a strawberry shortcake.


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Argentinian Customs
20 June: Flag Day in Argentina
More Argentinian Customs

July 9, 2012 Comments disabled

Photo essay: Texas wildflowers

Spring has officially arrived in Texas. Here are some pretty wildflowers that grow in the Lone Star State, including the state’s official flower, the bluebonnet.

Coneflower prefers low, moist, often clay soils, especially in prairies and flood plains.


March 28, 2012 3 comments

US, Russia: The Flying Balalaika Brothers Bridge Cultural Gaps in Texas

Like many of their compatriots, musicians Zhenya Kolykhanov and Sergey Vaschenko emigrated from Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. They have since established themselves in Texas, USA, and through the formation of a band called the Flying Balalaika Brothers and a non-profit called Musical Connections, they work to bridge cultural gaps by exposing Texans to international art.

Along with providing readers with a daily calendar of performances, music videos, and sound bites, the group’s official website elaborates  on how the Flying Balalaika Brothers got established in Austin, Texas:

The Original Flying Balalaika Brothers were formed in Los Angeles in 1995 by Zhenya Kolykhanov (a.k.a. Z Rock), the former lead guitarist of the Russian surf/rockabilly group Red Elvises. The group started as a street band and later transformed into the group Red Elvises; which had a large history of performing for clubs, motion pictures, and tv shows in California.

After Zhenya set up shop in Austin TX, he reestablished The Flying Balalaika Brothers. The band represents a blend of traditional world music and original musical pieces. The group has found a home in the musically rich culture in Austin TX.

NowPlayingAustin Blog, an affiliate of a 35-year-old non-profit devoted to promoting the arts in Central Texas, assessed the Flying Balalaika Brothers’ style in an announcement of an upcoming performance:

Russian, Roma Gypsy, Ukrainian and foot stomping original songs get hands clapping and feet dancing in a crazy blend of rock, bluegrass and traditional folk music from around the world. Now front man for the Flying Balalaika Brothers, Zhenya Rock was a founding member of the Red Elvises and penned some of their biggest hits including “Red Lips Red Eyes Red Stockings,” the full soundtrack for Six String Samarai and the full album “Bedroom Boogie.” William Michael Smith recently wrote in the Houston Press, “Austin’s Flying Balalaika Brothers are to Russian folk music what Béla Fleck is to bluegrass: Outside-the-box, no-boundaries, take-no-prisoners innovators. The FBBs combine jaw-dropping virtuosity with a masterful sense of mixing up genres ranging from rock to Russian folk to bluegrass; if that sounds weird, it’s also cool as hell.”

In May 2011, The Flying Balalaika Brothers appeared on 90.5 FM KUT, an Austin-based radio station. The Daily Grackle Blog posted a video of their live performance:

Coastal Bend College Blog discussed Mr. Kolykhanov’s and Mr. Vaschenko’s educational and professional backgrounds, including Mr. Vaschenko’s eligibility for Grammy Awards in 2003 and 2008:

Kolykhanov graduated from Tchaikovsky Music College in Vologda, Russia, in 1984. He later came to the United States to study critical thinking, reading and fine arts at the University of Delaware. In addition to the balalaika, Kolykhanov plays guitar, composes songs for television, and creates art for commercials.

Sergey Vaschenko earned a bachelor’s degree in conducting and balalaika from Lysenko State Music College in Poltava, Ukraine, in 1980 and a master’s in orchestral conducting, teaching and balalaika performance from the Mussorgsky Ural State Conservatory in Sverdlovsk, Russia, in 1985. Vaschenko’s experience includes: Dean of the Faculty of Arts for Perm State Institute of Culture in Perm, Russia; guest soloist for the Latvian Chamber Orchestra in 1989; music educator in Russia, Latvia, Spain, Dallas and Austin; and guest conductor for the Houston Balalaika Society. He won an international award at the music festival in Segovia, Spain, and was a contender for a 2003 and 2008 Grammy award in the world music category.

The post went on to elaborate on the group’s outreach efforts in area schools:

In addition to touring and performing, they began successfully presenting educational programs in three languages (English, Spanish and Russian) to students of Texas public and private schools, celebrating the arts in all its diversity by providing a unique approach to studying both the profound similarities and distinctive differences of people throughout history and around the world.

Mr. Kolykhanov and Mr. Vaschenko have formed a non-profit organisation called Musical Connections in order to fund and facilitate educational opportunities for young people. Musical Connections and The Flying Balalaika Brothers have a symbiotic relationship in that the non-profit provides an administrative foundation for the band’s artistic objectives, while the band personifies the non-profit. The non-profit’s official website articulates its mission:

Musical Connections is a Texas domestic nonprofit corporation, organized to promote a greater understanding of the music of the world through performances, cultural exchanges, musical history and heritage, and by educating the public about the multitude of music produced by cultures around the world. The founders believe that many people in this country fail to appreciate the great variety of music produced in the world today principally because they have not been educated about that music, or have not had chance to hear it performed.

Russian pianist Valeri Grohovski  performed in Austin on January 20, as part of a Musical Connections concert series , playing jazz interpretations of works by Bach and Mozart.

Russian pianist Valery Grohovski played jazz interpretations of Bach and Mozart in Austin, Texas, on January 20, 2012. Photo by Donna Welles.

Russian pianist Valery Grohovski played jazz interpretations of Bach and Mozart in Austin, Texas, on January 20, 2012. Photo by Donna Welles.

Article first published on Global Voices:

Written by Donna Welles

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Images from the edge of Russia
Show me the way to Russia
Russian tea time

January 31, 2012 Comments disabled

Chili con carne, the official dish of the state of Texas

Chili con carne is a spicy stew not without controversy. The basic ingredients are ground or chopped beef, garlic, onions, cumin and chili peppers. Sometimes tomatoes and beans are added. Here ‘s the first controversy: many people say “there ain’t no beans in chili”. Personally, I like my chili with kidney beans.

My first pot of home-made chili

The second controversy is about the origins of this dish. Was it the Spanish who introduced it -or at least the ingredients? (more…)

January 13, 2012 2 comments